I want to thank The House of Marley for allowing me to review their headphones. For those who aren't aware of The House of Marley go check out their website! They are partners with the 1LOVE movement to spread peace.
Pros: Wood, aesthetics, iPhone/iPod remote/mic
Cons: Slightly bloated bass, congested soundstage
Slightly busy, but very "hippie" looking. On the front there's a picture of the Redemption Song IEMs sitting on a hemp or canvas background with Rastafarian colors on either side and the House of Marley logo on top of it. This cover lifts up to reveal a mission statement as well as a plastic window showing the IEMs and remote. On one side a blurb about the 1love movement is written in English and various other languages on the other side a QR code is shown with "Noise-Isolating, Eco-Friendly In-Ear Headphones" is written with the product name and collection listed. On the back there's product information such as material information, driver size and model name. It's a bit busy on the back for my liking, but that's mostly due to all the information being presented in multiple languages.
The box opens, oddly, on the side and everything is placed in the plastic housing. Included is a set of mushroom tips (S/M/L), a set double flanged tips (S/M), warranty information, product information and a rather durable feeling canvas carrying pouch. The packaging is definitely a step up from the People Get Ready IEMs which didn't have double flanged tips and the carrying case was of lower quality. Everything arrived securely as well, no complaints here.
Overall the packaging is a bit busy for me but most of that is because The House of Marley includes multiple languages in almost every bit of text on the box. The accessories are definitely on par with most IEMs in the price range, it was actually a nice surprise to see double flanged tips, even the quality of the carrying pouch is very durable feeling.
Design and Build Quality
Beautiful is the first word that comes to mind. These are very beautiful looking IEMs. The dark wood into the black plastic just works well and the little R/L on the inside bottom of the IEMs is subtle, but easy to find. The House of Marley logo is unobtrusive, it actually fits very well into the design and the back of the IEMs are mesh giving them a nice pleasing addition to the already beautiful aesthetics. The housings are very light, very sturdy feeling despite being made of plastic and wood. The mesh grill at the nozzle seems like it will block out a lot of dirt and wax from getting inside the IEM. This is a good thing. The stress relief is my biggest complaint as it's very short.
The cable is black cloth with red, yellow and green dots. It seems better quality than the cord of the People Get Ready, it seems more flexible at the very least. There's some microphonics when the IEMs are worn down, but they are nearly gone when worn over ear. The y-splitter is the black plastic remote and mic. It doesn't feel entirely durable but the buttons are very responsive when used with my iPod Classic. The cable terminates in a flat 90 degree angle plug with "MARLEY" imprinted which looks to be higher quality than the People Get Ready IEMs, still though the stress relief is a bit short.
Once in the ear they feel similar to any other similarly shaped IEM with stock tips. They're neither uncomfortable nor comfortable. They do feel rather secure in my ear though, I have no worries about them falling out due to their semi-deep insertion. Isolation is about average, it blocks out about 50%-60% of noise when no music is playing, but only loud noises are heard with music playing.
Overall the build quality is solid. The Redemption Song takes almost all of my complaints about the People Get Ready and throws them away. Nearly every aspect has been made better and these definitely have a more professional/sleek look to them from the color scheme to the cable termination.
As always I've given these 50 hours of burn-in before listening and making any judgements on sound.
Some may have written these off instantly due to the branding (capitalizing on a popular icon), due to previous reviews (People Get Ready IEMs) or because they are fashion IEMs aimed at the mass market. I mean, how could a headphone using Bob Marley's branding and aesthetic oriented appeal sound good? Well, they do sound good. The Redemption Song IEMs are a part of the Freedom Collection which is aimed more towards those who want to combine good looks with a good sound as opposed to the Jammin' Collection which is more bass oriented headphones based upon looks. Does that mean the Redemption Songs aren't bass heavy? No they're definitely on the warm side, but they're surprisingly balanced.
The overall sound is warm with slightly bloated bass, but is surprisingly rather balanced with good clarity. The bass is the focus here, there's no denying that, even on the product page they say "Every note is heard just as it was intended, especially the bass." The bass though extends rather well and carries some nice weight and impact to it. The bass is slightly slow and bloated though, making it less than ideal for fast paced music such as drum and bass. For other genres such as reggae or jazz though these sound good.The mids are decent, they're slightly recessed but surprisingly rather clear. Alternative rock loses some energy to it though as the bass pushes the mids behind it causing the guitars to have less weight to them. The highs are slightly rolled off and are usually the first to get lost in congested parts. The highs simply don't extend enough and roll off too early to make an impression on me. That isn't to say the highs are terrible, they sound good when by themselves, but the mids and bass push them out of the way when it comes to congested parts.
The music is presented in a rather congested way as well. It's as if I'm in a small room. This makes things a mess when there's complex parts or many instruments. It feels as if the instruments are very close together and causes some confusion when there's a lot going on. The sound is definitely presented in an intimate manner, in other words a rather small soundstage.
Let's test some songs:
The Beatles - Ticket To Ride
I chose this as it's a rather clean and balanced song with good mastering on it. The bass is showing it's presence in the left IEM and is slightly bloated drowning out the tom hits of the drums slightly. The vocals actually sound rather decent though, slightly forward, though this is a mono mix so they should be. The tambourine sounds very clear while the guitars are simply pushed back more than I like. The song sounds decent through these, but it loses some detail and clarity it should have and the bass is a bit too present.
Air - La Femme D'Argent
This song has a beautiful atmosphere to it along with a prominent bass line. The bass line is definitely the stand out here, as it should be. Unfortunately it is pushing out some of the ambient atmospheric elements of the song taking away some of it's depth. The keyboards sound excellent though, warm and fuzzy as they should be. The drums are a bit pushed back thanks to the prominent bass line unfortunately, but are still heard. Overall the song sounds rather good on these, but unfortunately sounds a little two dimensional through the Redemption Songs.
Herbie Hancock - Chameleon
A classic fusion song with a beautiful sound to it. The bass sounds a bit artificial, which is a shame as it's a prominent part of the song. Thankfully the bass doesn't sound bloated here though, nor is it pushing any instrument out of the way. The drums sound wonderful with each hit on any section sounding clear as if it were in front of me. The guitar on the left sounds great until the keys slightly push it out. The keys on the right sound excellent though, slightly back as they should be, but clear enough to make them out. The horns come in and take the focus without any frequency being pushed out of the way much, though the sound is starting to get a bit congested here. Thankfully though it doesn't get much more complex than this in the song. As I get further and further in I am slowly nodding my head more and more, the drums simply sound fantastic with a lovely fantastic feel to them. Herbie comes in with his first key solo and while the keys sound a bit pushed behind the drums and bass it still sounds sharp and clear. I must say the song sounds great through these.
Bob Marley & The Wailers - Redemption Song
Right away the guitar has a warm fuzzy sound to it, not in a bad way either. Bob's voice comes in and I honestly think this may be the best I've heard them. They're smooth, warm and reverberate as if he were singing in front of me live. The Redemption Song IEMs are definitely doing the song they are named after justice.
Duo Infernale - Lost In the World
A nice up-tempo atmospheric drum and bass track to test for speed. As I said earlier the Redemption Song simply don't have the speed for fast paced drum and bass tracks, this is true. The hi-hat line sounds not only artificial, but behind the temp. The rolling bass line is a bit thick sounding, pushing the atmospheric sounds to the background when they should be coming in and out of focus giving a 3d feel to them. Overall the song sounds decent on these, but sounds a bit flat due to the main focus on the bass and a bit slow.
Feist - The Water
I like to use this song to test for sibilance as well as female vocals. The stand up bass sounds thick and warm, a bit pushy, but not enough to interfere with Feist's voice. Her voice sounds a tad artificial but there's only a hint of sibilance which is good. When she sings "The Water" it sounds powerful and intimate. I like how her voice sounds through these.
Will these satisfy audiophiles? Probably not. These are still aimed at the general public to have a good looking IEM with decent sound. I would recommend these to the right people though as they're beautiful with a decent sound to them. The House of Marley has not only made the build quality much better than their People Get Ready, but the sound is much more balanced. The Redemption Songs have made me very hopeful for their upcoming Destiny line which is aimed even more towards sound.
At $80 there are better price to sound quality IEMs, but considering the aesthetics I can only think of one IEM that's better looking and better sounding and that would be the Dunu Ares. These are certainly IEMs I wouldn't feel bad buying for a friend for Christmas if they wanted something based on looks.
Check out more photos of the Redemption Song here!