Alpine has long been one of the big names associated with car audio systems, but the company has never really made a splash with connected personal audio until today. The company just launched Alpine Headphones that are available in Apple Stores around the world for a suggested retail price of US$299. So how did Alpine do with its first consumer headphone product? Read on for our review.
Weight: 12.6 ounces (357 grams)
Impedence: 30 ± 20% Ohms at 1kHz
Frequency response: 15Hz - 24,000Hz
Sound pressure level: 107dB ± 3dB at 1kHz max
Total harmonic distortion: \<0.1% at 1mW/1kHz
Colors: Apollo White, Onyx Black
Includes: USB to micro-USB charging cable, iPhone audio cable with microphone, carry bag
The Alpine Headphones are stunning. The white pair reviewed by TUAW has a very futuristic design, with a matte plastic band cushioned on the inside with a black matte foam. The earcups are diamond-shaped, with controls on the bottom of the left cup. Those controls are quite simple - there's just a power button. All the rest of the adjustments are made through the companion Level Play app (free).
The app scans your music library, creating an "intensity based" playlist. What does that mean? The app looks at the beats per minute and sound wave frequency of each tune, then organizes the music library into one of three categories. Want a high-energy music experience? You swipe your finger up to the "orange" level. Looking to calm down and relax? Swipe your finger down to the "blue" level. It's a unique way at organizing music, that's for sure.
I was a bit confused about the inclusion of a braided audio cable with the Alpine Headphones as I thought they were Bluetooth. You'll see my confusion when you look at the promo video below, where everybody is dancing around with the headphones on - without a cable in sight.
It turns out the Alpine Headphones are actually somewhat of a hybrid. The actual audio information goes through the cable from your iPhone to the headphones, but the custom settings you make in the app are transmitted to the headphones through Bluetooth LE. No misleading advertising here...
One thing about headphones is that if you listen to a lot of music (or podcasts, for that matter), you want the headset to be comfortable. Alpine did a nice job of making the headphones comfy and lightweight, and although the earcups can be a bit confining, they're perfect for hours of wear. I honestly forgot that I was wearing the Alpine Headphones after a while, which is a testament to their comfort.
When I first started listening to some of my mid-level energy music (the "green" range), I wasn't too impressed as it sounded heavy on the bass end and muddy. However, I knew that the app has a built-in equalizer, so I was able to adjust the high-end to my liking.
While the Level Play app provides a way to tweak your music library so that it sounds great, you're out of luck if you listen to other music sources. Sure, you can use the Alpine Headphones to listen to Spotify, iTunes Radio, or whatever else you like for streaming music, but you won't be able to adjust the equalization to your tastes as the music doesn't go through the Level Play app.
If you're listening to your own music library on an iPhone, then you may want to consider the Alpine Headphones simply for the modern design as well as for the Level Play app and its ability to let you have a modicum of control over five separate frequency ranges. For those who either need a pair of headphones that can be useful with a number of devices, or who listen to streaming video, I'm not sure I can recommend these headphones. For $50 more, you could pick up a pair of top-rated Blue Microphones Mo-Fi amped headphones that sound great regardless of what device you're connected to or what music source you're using.