Hands-on review: Orange ‘Crest Edition’ wireless headphones
Image credit: Orange
We peel back the wrapping on a new pair of wireless headphones to enjoy the fresh fruit of Orange Amps' labour.
It's been a surprisingly productive time recently in terms of music production, despite the coronavirus lockdown.
We've been recording and mixing in virtual recording studios; monitoring and mastering on high-end planar reference headphones, and enjoying listening to the high-resolution results on portable HD music players.
Now, here's a product at the confluence of all of the above, one designed to bring together all our favourite things: the Orange 'Crest Edition' wireless headphones, a new pair of quality headphones from Orange Amplification, designed by and for both recording musicians and music lovers, for use in the studio, at home and on the road.
Orange Amplification has been 'The Voice of the World' (in musical terms) since the 1960s, providing thunderous guitar and bass amp backline across the decades for artists ranging from the original Fleetwood Mac to Stevie Wonder, Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Oasis, The Cure, Slipknot, Wolfmother and the Arctic Monkeys.
Accordingly, the wants and needs of hard-working, hard-rocking musicians are always a forethought in the design and operation of any Orange product. Orange knows its customers – and knows that those buyers expect a certain high level of musicality, reliability and build quality from Orange gear. You don't last over 50 years in the music industry without doing things right.
Building on the design work done for Orange's 'O Edition' headphones – the company's inaugural step into the consumer headphone market – the Orange 'Crest Edition' headphones are the result of taking into account user feedback on that first product. Orange has kept the design of all of its products in-house – unlike another famous British amplifier manufacturer, which outsourced its entire 'consumer merchandise' line – to retain closer control over product evolution and customer response.
Orange's 'O Edition' headphones were aimed squarely at musicians, intended to cover all the typical use-case scenarios – rehearsing, recording, mixing and mastered playback – and as such were released as a strictly wired-only pair of headphones, no Bluetooth. When you want the absolute best, most direct and purest sound your headphone can give you, forget about Bluetooth.
The 'O Edition' design spoke of a professional music technology product designed as a studio workhorse, although one that wouldn't also look out of place on your daily commute. With these new 'Crest Edition' headphones, Orange has created a more accommodating design that can work both wired and wireless, giving this new iteration broader appeal.
The look of the 'Crest' is obviously more consumer-technology-oriented, with a style familiar from other folding Bluetooth headphones. The screenprinted Pan and Britannia characters (from the longstanding Orange amp 'crest', you see?) on the black plastic arms here are more subtle than the engraved chrome arms of the 'O', while the matte finish and all-round smoother body styling reinforce the impression of this new silhouette.
Incidentally, while the body of the 'Crest Edition' is mostly plastic, the arms inside are metal where it counts, e.g. the foldable hinges. This instils confidence for longevity. We also appreciated the little touches, like the L and R indicators on each arm being stamped into the metal so they're easy to see and won't wear off over time.
Stylistically, the 'Crest Edition' headphones are unmistakably another Orange product: there's a lot of orange. Accents, mostly – an orange trim around the ear cups; an Orange logo on each ear (bigger on the left, as the right has the controls); orange mesh inside each ear; orange silicon on the underside of the headband. There is also a spot varnish Orange logo subtly in black on the black outside of the headband, as well as the aforementioned Pan and Britannia characters on each arm.
This is no criticism, though: in fact, we'd have been disappointed if Orange hadn't applied its signature branding to these headphones. If you dig Orange amps, you'll love it. It's also no different to, say, Marshall, whose own range of headphones rocks the classic Marshall livery and colour scheme. It's what the customer wants.
Overall, the 'O Edition' look slightly more the part of a pro pair of studio cans, but the 'Crest Edition' won't disappoint or embarrass you in any situation.
The other difference – aside from cosmetics – is that the 'Crest' headphones are 16 ohm, whereas the 'O' were 32 ohm. To be honest, this doesn't make a huge difference using them with consumer gear, e.g. smartphones, laptops, tablets etc. Frequency response is the same for both (20Hz-20kHz), while the 'Crest' have a higher sensitivity (126dB vs 116dB).
Included in the delivery is a branded, zipped, padded clamshell case (nice), a quality braided 3.5mm mini-jack to mini-jack audio cable with a neat right-angle connector (so you can use the headphones as a wired pair) and a USB to Mini-USB charging cable. When using them wirelessly, all of the swipe'n'tap Bluetooth interaction takes place on the right earcup. It all works perfectly well, as you'd expect in 2020. Battery life for wireless use is estimated at 27 hours run time. There's also a built-in microphone for phone/video calling, as well as support for Apple's Siri on iOS and Google Assistant on Android.
Effectively, what we have here is a retuned, remodelled 'O Edition' – in a good way – with the added wireless functionality. The 'Crest Edition' are comfortable, with circumaural earpads that enclose the ear. It's a good seal, not too tight, and while there's no active noise cancellation, the design gives reasonable ambient noise isolation. The earpads can get a bit sweaty if worn in warm places for long periods, although this is fairly normal. It's not clear from the Orange website if the earpads are replaceable.
Listening to the 'Crest Edition' headphones, we really liked their warm, detailed and musical sound. It's a relatively flat response across the frequency spectrum without being overly analytical or over-hyped. The 40mm dynamic drivers appear to have been tuned to deliver an engaging listening experience, almost engendering a 'feeling' to the sound, eliciting an emotional response, like a good vinyl record played back through a quality stereo system.
The soundstage was nice and wide – not super-wide, but a solid sense of panning and precision – and there was plenty of detail to be heard in a dense mix. As a brand well-known to musicians, Orange wants its customers to enjoy using its products and these headphones feel 'sympathetic' to the music – they serve it well. There's no 'stark' digital quality to the sound: everything sounds (subjectively) good, a pleasure to listen to.
The Orange 'Crest Edition' headphones are also very reasonably priced, considering the sonic goods they deliver (talking of delivery, you can order these directly from Orange). These are excellent headphones for music consumption, wherever you find yourself. Wired, wireless, at home or on the road, a pair of these 'Crest Edition' 'phones will keep you happily rocking all day and all of the night.
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