The new ED-PH0N3S from Maiden Audio are designed with both an accurate and punchy sound in mind, perfect for axe-shredding solos and bone-shaking bass riffs. So for those looking to get the very best out of their rock collection, will these beasts deliver a monstrous performance?…
As a lifelong Iron Maiden fan, you can bet your last pound I was first in the queue to give these a listen. Given my excitement, you’d understand my high expectations for the Ed-Ph0n3s. I was determined to give them a thorough test, to run through hours of music to hear how good (or not so) they really are.
The audio hi-fi and home cinema specialist Onkyo’s engineers have spent the last 9 months developing what has become the Ed-Ph0n3s. Iron Maiden’s founder member and bassist, Steve Harris, was heavily involved, fine-tuning the product to exact specifications and requirements. His standards were so high, he used them to mix Maiden’s most recent album, The Book Of Souls. It’s no surprise then that The Book Of Souls was the first album I decided to listen to.
Anyone familiar with Maiden will instantly recognise both the name and image of Eddie the Head, or Ed for short. The zombie has been the band’s official mascot since their inception and his creation by artist Derek Riggs. The giant character now lends his name to the eponymous headphones. (Ed-Ph0n3s… headphones… see what they did there?)
The headphones themselves are a closed back design, ideal for keeping your music in and external noise out. Eddie’s face adorns the headphones in a cool blue. Those familiar with the 1986 LP Somewhere In Time will recognise the time travelling version of Ed from the vinyl release side 1 label. The headphones themselves are a lightweight design, which makes them incredibly comfortable for extended periods of listening – which is great, as I’ve given them many hours of use for this review.
(Virtually) spinning the Hi-Res digital version of The Book Of Souls, I’m treated to a beguiling cloud of distortion and rumble, wrapping itself around the unmistakable vocals of Bruce Dickinson. The guitar and drums then kick in. My initial thoughts are how open they sound for a large closed back design. Lively and exciting, with plenty of punch in the bottom end. If anything was going to get the most out of this album, these were literally designed for the job!
They struck me as “punching above their weight” in the initial attack. For example, the thump of the drum – you can quite easily separate the initial hit, the reverberation and the lovely sustain of the drum tone. And all of this over the full-throttle flow of the band. Impressive stuff.
Next I dug out some classic rock – Led Zeppelin IV, recently remastered by guitarist and producer Jimmy Page. The similarly recognisable Robert Plant’s iconic falsetto starts off proceedings with “Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move. Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.” Then the guitar kicks in. A cymbal, a kick drum and the back up bass guitar move things along with said groove. The rhythm and pace was so enjoyable and involving that the track had ended before I suddenly thought “I should be taking some notes here!” Luckily enough, track two Rock And Roll brings out some of the best features of these cans. Pacy open treble, lively drum intro, followed by the tones of guitar and bass having a bloody good time. Rhythmic, punchy, exciting and lively!
Out of sheer curiosity I played some more “civilised” music. Xiu Xiu, the brainchild of singer/songwriter Jamie Stewart, have had a varied approach to recording music over the years. 2014’s Unclouded Sky strips back a lot of the noise synonymous with Xiu Xiu and presents a chamber-like vocal performance full of vibrato and strong emotion. The bright, clear pitch of the treble highlights the guitar picking. The headphones also do great justice to the powerful vocals, even on the most stripped back of tracks.
For a touch of the heavier stuff I dug out two modern classics. Neurosis’ Times Of Grace starts with a challenging array of strings, embellished drone and low frequency rumble. At no time does the track appear muddy and track two, The Doorway, soon grates into full flow. A relatively clean set of vocals appear layered over the heavily distorted guitar tracks. Even at full blast in the guitar tracks the separation of the layers is clean and involving. I’ve heard this album on many systems since its 1999 release, and each time it brings out something new. I came away from the Ed-Ph0n3s with a sense of experiencing a live performance, which is surely the end-game for any music producer. That’s no small feat, considering the complexity of the album in question.
Speaking of complexities, the last heavy album I put on was 2006’s Blood Mountain by progressive technical metal gurus Mastodon. If I could get away with a one word review… WOW! Much like Rock And Roll by the ‘Zep, the album starts with a furious drum intro. Still, separation was clear, even as the headphones shined with a pacy performance, keeping up with every beat of the music. Open and thumping metal at its finest. I couldn’t help but nod along.
The Ed-Ph0n3s look as fun as they sound. With a great design, lightweight feel, closed-back design (ideal for out and abouts), these deserve to be on many present-wish-lists. They are punchy where it matters, bring out the best in rock and metal music, and put a smile on my face. Because that’s what music should do. Now I really don’t want to give them back! I think I’m going to run to the hills with this set. They’ll never find me there.
Author – Ian, Support Office