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Review: Griffin Woodtones over-the-ear headphones (vs. Shure SRH440)

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hey gang,

 

Haven't posted on here before, but I spent a long time reading through the forums when searching for my last pair of headphones; now that I have my hands on a new (and infrequently-reviewed) pair, I figured I should post a review! So without further ado, here's my review of the Griffin Woodtones over-the-ear headphones (http://store.griffintechnology.com/woodtones-over-the-ear-headphones):

 

SUMMARY:

The Woodtones are uniquely stylin', and extremely comfortable. The earpads fit comfortably with only modest clamping force, and there's a small cushion over the driver that prevents your ears from being pushed against any hard metal/plastic. They're lightweight, and have an elastic headband mechanism that's easy to use and quite comfortable on top of your head. They come with a detachable cable with a built-in mic and single-button audio controller (allows you to play/pause/skip/talk to Siri, but not to change volume as far as I can tell), which is great for $100 headphones.

 

After only an hour or so of listening (and comparing to the Shure SRH440), I feel the sound quality is very good, but not comparable to the 440. Clarity is fairly good, but the Woodtones do miss some of the details picked up by the crystal clear 440. I'm happy with the level of bass (I'd say it's... medium?) but it can be a bit murky and provide less oomph and detail than than the 440. On the plus side, I think the Woodtones have a more balanced soundstage than the 440. To my ear, the 440 tends to push sounds to either dead center, far left, or far right; the Woodtones spread things out a bit more smoothly - for this reason, I actually preferred the Woodtones for songs with a lot of diverse instrumentation.

 

All told, I think the Woodtones are good headphones. Their sound quality does not entirely match up to the 440, but that's really not a surprise - they still sound pretty good, they just don't capture the same detail as the 440. The Woodtones absolutely shine when it comes to comfort, style, and features - a solid headphone for $100, methinks.

 

 

LONG REVIEW:


Description: I ordered the Woodtones in sapele (it's the lightest color of the three woods they offer). I think they look great - nice combination of black plastic/metal and blonde wood. For more on the appearance, check out HiFiGuy528's unboxing: http://www.head-fi.org/t/667263/new-first-look-griffin-woodtones-headphones-unboxing
One feature I love is the detachable cable with microphone. In my experience, the cable is always the first feature to break on a pair of headphones; with the detachable cable, you can just spend 10 bucks on a new cable, swap it with the old one, and your headphones are good as new. The cable has the standard portable audio player jack on both ends, so you don't even have to buy a replacement from Griffin if you don't want to. One note: the mic has only a single button, so I don't think you'll be able to use it to control volume, though you can use it to pause/play/skip/go back/talk to Siri.

 

Setup: As mentioned above I ordered these headphones with sapele wood - to the extent that other woods will impact the sound, you may have a different experience. If you're someone who believes in "burning in", be aware that I didn't burn these in at all - straight from the box to my ears to this review. All listening was through an iPhone 4S without any changes to the equalizer settings or additional hardware. For comparison, I listened to my Shure SRH440, which I've had for about 18 months and have spent thousands of hours listening to.

 

Comfort: The Woodtones are super comfortable! They're sufficiently lightweight that you can forget they're on your head - the moderate clamping force helps in that regard as well. The earpads are comfy and well-sized, and there's a few mm of neoprene cushioning between the drivers and your ears - no painful spots on your ears from being pushed against hard plastic/metal (this is a problem I have off and on with the 440). The pads swivel around a few different axes, so they'll adapt well to whatever bizarre orientation your ears happen to be placed in. The headphones have an automatically-adjusting elastic headband - just pull the phones over your head and the band will stretch to accommodate the size of your melon. I have an incredibly large head (seriously, I've never met anyone with a more massive noggin) and these just manage to fit me when fully stretched - so I sincerely doubt that anyone will find these to be too small. Due to their light weight and elastic band, they stay on the head quite well - I can shake my head back and forth or lean forward all the way without the slightest slipping. This is not the case with the 440 - the band will slip forward if I lean over. One downside of the Woodtones - I don't find them very comfortable to wear around the neck. Due to the elastic band, they can't be extended unless they're on your head, so they can be a little tight when worn around the neck - not awful, but you can definitely feel a little pressure.

 

Sound: I'm not hip to all the lingo regarding highs and lows and tonality and such, so I'm not gonna try to write a sound review from that perspective. Instead, what follows will be a narrative comparison to the SRH440 with some assorted ramblings on what I like and do not like; should I ever approach something that sounds like educated audiophile discourse, you may consider it an accident. YouTube links are there so you can have some vague sense of what I'm talking about; the author does not encourage listening to music via YouTube as a general practice.

 

Man Man - Life Fantastic

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJgNjW0vyaU

I've listened to this album hundreds of times, and it's actually one of the few instances where I feel let down by the 440; their extremely balanced sound doesn't differentiate between all the different sounds here as well as some old Sennheisers of mine. And confirming my pre-existing bias, I think I prefer the Woodtones for this album! While the 440 is crisper and more detailed, I think the Woodtones mix all the sounds in a bit better. The soundstage helps: I feel the Woodtones have a more balanced soundstage than the 440, which tends to place sounds either dead center, far left, or far right. That said, when listening to the Woodtones, I do feel that I'm missing a bit of the visceral punch that comes with the better-defined bass of the 440.

 

Soundgarden - Superunknown

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyNi-wjAs6w

This one is no comparison. Soundgarden sounds effing incredible on the 440, and effing acceptable on the Woodtones. Vocals sound pretty good on the Woodtones, but all that guitar growl just doesn't come through with nearly the same immediacy or clarity as it does on the 440. A lot of the low guitar work tends to blend together and get a bit fuzzy on the Woodtones, compared to the 440. Again, still sounds pretty okay on the Woodtones - but if I was gonna listen to Soundgarden all day, I'd go with the 440 even if they weighed 10 pounds.

 

Sigur Ros - Agaetis Byrjun

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xow2gnVTUjs

Sigur Ros have some fairly "wall of noise"-y compositions on this album, and I think the Woodtones handle them well. Svefn-g-englar sounds wonderful, and I think the bass comes through well. Listening on the Woodtones, I don't get the same... depth?... that I do on the 440, but they make up for it with a soundstage that I prefer more here. Cymbals and snares can sound just a tad harsh on the Woodtones.

 

Tania Maria - Come With Me

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SU935j99UQc

Woodtones sound great for this album; as mentioned numerous times above, they have less clarity than the 440, but the low-end comes through pretty well when it's not as complex as Soundgarden's. And I think the Woodtones give this album a bit more warmth than the 440 does, which I like.

 

Overall, I like the sound of the Woodtones, but I doubt anyone would find them to be superior to the 440. They sound best with more laid-back music, and feel a bit lacking in precision and bass clarity with more aggressive tunes. My verdict: good, not great.

 

Isolation: Here's what I did: I started playing some Wynton Marsalis in the headphones, turned it up to a comfortable level, then turned on Judas Priest on my laptop. I gradually increased the volume on the laptop until I could just hear Judas Priest. This threshold turned out to be at a volume of 25 with the Woodtones and 35 with the 440. Based on this extremely rigorous and well-controlled test, I have come to the conclusion that the Woodtones don't isolate sound as well as the 440. Some day, one of those geeky sites will actually test this a bit more scientifically, but until that day, you're stuck with me and my laptop...

 

Taste/smell: These headphones neither taste nor smell particularly appetizing. Why would you care about that?

 

Overall: In total, I think the Woodtones are solid headphones. For $100, you get pretty good sound quality, and excellent comfort, style, and features. For commuting, for wearing while you're out and about, or for wearing around the office, I think the Woodtones are an excellent choice - if I had it to do over, I might buy these instead of the 440, even with the knowledge that the sound quality won't quite measure up (bought the Woodtones as a gift, so I'll only be playing with them this once).

 

 

So, I hope this has been useful! If you have any questions, ask away - I'll compare the two phones on whatever metric you'd like, though I can't promise to be knowledgeable about it...

 

-E

post #2 of 5
Thank you for the review smily_headphones1.gif I found it very useful. I was contemplating the Woodtones myself, but unfortunately I think the sound won't be quite right for me as I'm looking for something with a bit more clarity/crispness and speed/separation.

Thank you again for your review, it's one of only two or three on the entire internet (to my knowledge).
post #3 of 5

I could not agree more with what EazyE has to say about the Griffin Woodtones. I discovered these when I bought their 3.5 mm male to male 3 foot extension cables on Woot about 6 months ago. I got them because the normal metal/plastic piece that covers the plug was made of a beautiful wood (Beech, Walnut or Sable). It wasn't until 2 weeks ago that I Googled the company and saw they made headphones. On their site the phones are $99.99. I was tempted at the time to order a pair, but I had already have way too many phones. Just last week I got a "flash" from Newegg that they had the Beech (lightest color wood) phones for $42 delivered so I jumped. Boy am I glad I did! Sennheiser and AKG could learn something from these guys about having good phones made in China. The wood is beautiful, the plastic used of very high quality/finish, the rectangular ear bads very comfortable and the sound is fantastic for the price. Now I am not going to say that they rival my Beyer DT 990s or my AKG 702s, but they are down right great at their regular price of $100. For $42, they are a steal. Their literature actually says the lows and mids are accentuated (obviously to be maximized with portables) but I did not find them offensive at all last night as I listened to all of Jurassic Park 2 through my Harman Kardon Receiver. They use a moving coil neodymium magnet, 50 mm drivers and are rated at 20 hz - 20,000 khz. Their sensitivity is 108 dB (+/- 3dB) and 32 ohms (+/-15%). They come with a 3.5 mm plug that can be unplugged so that you can use them at home with a long extension cord. See EzEs review if you have questions about using the supplied cord with portables. That is not my thing. I will say I plugged them into an old Phillips CD portable I have and they were great. The plug socket on the phones is not one of those skinny recessed ones that makes you go and have to hunt for an extension cord that will fit. They don't fold in, so packing them in a small bundle doesn't work, but the earpads do swivel so the phones can lay flat in a briefcase or knapsack. As for sound, I to am not a "golden ear", but I know good sound and these would be a good buy at their normal $100. They are all over the internet from $42 - $55. The sound is clean, well soundstaged and there does not seem to be anything annoying that I could hear during my 2 hour movie last night. I like them so much I am going to buy 2 more pair today. Note that the Beech is the lightest color and most readily available on line. Walnut is the darkest and my least favorite because it almost looks black (and who needs another pair of cheap black headphones?). Sable is very pretty (like rosewood) but hard to find. These would make great gifts for anyone and you really can't go wrong with them  


Edited by dabtpa - 3/27/14 at 3:12am
post #4 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by dabtpa View Post

I could not agree more with what EazyE has to say about the Griffin Woodtones. I discovered these when I bought their 3.5 mm male to male 3 foot extension cables on Woot about 6 months ago. I got them because the normal metal/plastic piece that covers the plug was made of a beautiful wood (Beech, Walnut or Sable). It wasn't until 2 weeks ago that I Googled the company and saw they made headphones. On their site the phones are $99.99. I was tempted at the time to order a pair, but I had already have way too many phones. Just last week I got a "flash" from Newegg that they had the Beech (lightest color wood) phones for $42 delivered so I jumped. Boy am I glad I did! Sennheiser and AKG could learn something from these guys about having good phones made in China. The wood is beautiful, the plastic used of very high quality/finish, the rectangular ear bads very comfortable and the sound is fantastic for the price. Now I am not going to say that they rival my Beyer DT 990s or my AKG 702s, but they are down right great at their regular price of $100. For $42, they are a steal. Their literature actually says the lows and mids are accentuated (obviously to be maximized with portables) but I did not find them offensive at all last night as I listened to all of Jurassic Park 2 through my Harman Kardon Receiver. They use a moving coil neodymium magnet, 50 mm drivers and are rated at 20 hz - 20,000 khz. Their sensitivity is 108 dB (+/- 3dB) and 32 ohms (+/-15%). They come with a 3.5 mm plug that can be unplugged so that you can use them at home with a long extension cord. See EzEs review if you have questions about using the supplied cord with portables. That is not my thing. I will say I plugged them into an old Phillips CD portable I have and they were great. The plug socket on the phones is not one of those skinny recessed ones that makes you go and have to hunt for an extension cord that will fit. They don't fold in, so packing them in a small bundle doesn't work, but the earpads do swivel so the phones can lay flat in a briefcase or knapsack. As for sound, I to am not a "golden ear", but I know good sound and these would be a good buy at their normal $100. They are all over the internet from $42 - $55. The sound is clean, well soundstaged and there does not seem to be anything annoying that I could hear during my 2 hour movie last night. I like them so much I am going to buy 2 more pair today. Note that the Beech is the lightest color and most readily available on line. Walnut is the darkest and my least favorite because it almost looks black (and who needs another pair of cheap black headphones?). Sable is very pretty (like rosewood) but hard to find. These would make great gifts for anyone and you really can't go wrong with them  


 



....I will concur daptpa about the woodtones...I have all of the mid priced and some upper echelon phones and these are one of my favorites...they really got so many things right about these phones it's pretty remarkable...something about the tonality of these is just teriffic...I often wonder if the different woods sound different and I have approached Griffin about this possibility...I have the sapele and it is IMO the best looking one by far and it's sounds spectacular using a sansa clip+ and a nuforce music pump amp...the comfort I think takes more time than some people are saying...I think the pads need to soften up a bit with use and these "ratchet" a bit until they get broken in with movement...everything is in the right proportions and places where I prefer them...some think they are bass shy but with an amp no way!...I believe many sources and bloggers have been lazy on the reviews on these and are much better than many have given them credit for...

...I, however, go beyond great lengths and have built a storage case integrating the original molded case they came in...I feel this is best way to make sure they don't get damaged...I know they are cheapies but they are still one of my favorites and Griffin seems like a very good company when it comes to customer service...don't know just something about those Tennessee companies that I trust....I paid below $60 as well and I think they are a steal!...I will not buy anything from now on without a detachable cord and these seem very well made although too long for on the go portable listening...I have also noticed these are one of the least sibilant below $100 phones I have ever heard even with compressed music...we all have too many headphones so go ahead and grab a pair for $40 or $50 bucks and you won't be sorry...hope they wear well with time but from my experience talking to Griffin if you take care of them Griffin will more than likely take care of you even beyond the warranty period...just the vibe I get from them...happy listening....and yes I would choose them over the Shures as well....
post #5 of 5

I didn't even know there was a thread about these on Head-Fi.  They are actually a fantastic pair of headphones for their price...  They compete well with the SR-60i I have on hand (just something in a similar price range and known somewhat on Head-Fi). 

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