LSTN Headphones: Giving Back. Amplified.
May 13, 2013 at 6:24 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

kameenadesi

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Hello.

Up until 2 weeks ago, I wasn’t at all familiar with LSTN headphones. I was, however, in the market for a set of closed-back headphones. Portable ones, for that matter. So I turned to a relative of mine (fellow audiophile) for advice, as he is the one who first introduced me into the world of high end headphones. That’s when he brought the manufacturer LSTN to my attention. He hadn’t any personal experience with them, and knew of them only through mutual friends on Facebook. But what turned him on to LSTN was particularly their humanitarian cause, as well as their aesthetics. I didn’t argue with him on those fronts, since I too took appreciation to their cause, and found their products quite pleasing on the eyes. It was, however, quite the departure, since I had my eyes set on much more esteemed manufacturers, such as Sennheiser and Logitech (Ultimate Ears).

Unable to find much feedback with regards to their product line-up, and without the desire to purchase them on a whim (no reviews or listener impressions to base my decision on), I figured I’d try my luck and send them a request for me to demo their product(s). I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were more than willing to send me a sample unit of not just one product, but their entire line-up. Currently, their line-up consists of an in-ear, and two on-ear headphones. I received them last Monday, and am currently in the process of writing a review, as well as burning them in for just over 200 hours. My review will be posted some time next week. Meanwhile, I’ll upload the unboxing images I took as soon as they arrived. They’re pictured exactly as I received them.

All I wish to say at this point is, as far as first impressions go, they’re quite a bargain for what they have to offer.

Bowery (in-ear) : http://postimg.org/gallery/4lp0g1u/
Fillmore (on-ear):
http://postimg.org/gallery/ln9e79e/
Troubadour (flagship, on-ear):
http://postimg.org/gallery/2h4y084i/

Their promo video (plus others on their channel) :

[VIDEO]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=408EYhbosp8[/VIDEO]
 
May 18, 2013 at 5:31 PM Post #2 of 15

kameenadesi

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Equipment: Benchmark DAC2 HGC* > PC

*(currently on loan, belonging to a friend)



The Bowery (in-ear):

Bass: It only makes sense for me to discuss the bass first, since it’s the one aspect that sticks out immediately. Upon first listen, two words come to mind: deep and impactful, and I do mean very, very impactful! It’s the kind of bass one would expect only a dynamic in-ear is capable of producing, and it’s nothing like that of a balanced armature. Instead, it’s the kind you feel down to the lowest frequencies. Those that don’t mind an over-the-top midbass, you’ll want to continue reading. But those on the opposing end, I’m afraid you’re interest simply ends here. There’s what I’d call a healthy (i.e. just enough) amount of sub-bass, down to the lowest of frequencies; but a significantly heftier amount of midbass. Unfortunately, due to its predominating nature, the bass is bound to be perceived by listeners as boomy, bloated and/or intrusive. Despite its apparent flaws, during my time spent listening to them, I found that a shallow insertion (aided by larger size tips) helps alleviate (to an extent) the bass bloat. With the stock, pre-installed medium sized tips, the midbass has a tendency to obscure the lower mids. So, the quickest & easiest remedy is to wear them with a shallow insertion. And so, for the remainder of my listening, I switched over to the large size stock tips, with which there’s a slight improvement in the overall balance between the bass and mids. Even so, the bass is the Bowery’s double-edged sword, as it will only appeal to those in search of a bass predominant sound signature.

Midrange: With the exception of the lower mids, the remainder of the midrange remains surprisingly clear, especially where vocals are concerned. If asked to describe the mids in just a few simple words, I’d characterize them as pleasantly warm and smooth. Midrange vocals are by no means up front, nor are they by any means recessed. Instead, the mids are well placed, with respect to the overall presentation. In other words, there’s just enough midrange presence to remain perfectly enjoyable, and not feel scooped out of the overall mix. While I personally prefer a midrange that’s relatively closer to (or even slightly north of) neutral, I was never left with the impression that they were lacking, or that the predominant nature of the low end compromised the overall listening experience. I found myself simply immersed in the music. No, I don’t feel as though they reach well beyond their price point, but they remain a clear testament to the fact that $50 can earn you a lot of pleasant listening. On the critical front, with their price in mind, I’d say that their performance is up to par. It should be noted that there’s an overall thickness that tends to obscure imaging and transparency. But, I hope I’ve made it clear by now that these certainly aren’t for the critical listener. The Bowery delivers a pleasantly warm & musical, just ‘sit back & relax’ type of sound. In other words, you won’t find yourself picking for, or distracted by the recording’s nuances, that’s for sure.

Treble: Undeniably smooth and very laid-back. There’s quite an apparent roll off, and I’m afraid those with an ear for plenty of high end presence, air and sparkle won’t find it here. It’s evident that the treble is tuned to compliment the overall warm and bass predominant tonality, and subsequently, there’s absolutely zero possibility of listening fatigue. In other words, the Bowery is not afflicted with any apparent harshness or treble peaks, not a chance. Sure enough, the overly treble sensitive will welcome these with open arms ears. As compared to the lows and mids, however, overall high end detail and clarity yields greater compromise. All the while, on any given day, were I to reach for a set of earphones to listen to for hours on end, I can’t imagine a less fatiguing, more suitable set of earphones.

Soundstage: Despite a port/vent (which I’m told id functional, and not merely cosmetic) located at the base of the earphones themselves, the soundstage is relatively narrow, and maybe even a tad congested. That’s not to say they sound muffled, of course. As mentioned, they’re still a most musical and enjoyable set of earphones. It’s just that they won’t impress those paying particularly close attention to an open and expansive soundstage.

Isolation: Below average. At my preferred listening volume, I was still able to hear myself typing as the music was playing. Though in my case, their level of isolation is favorable, as I prefer to maintain some level of awareness during my listening. As they say, your mileage may vary.

Overall Presentation: bass predominant, pleasantly warm tonality, with smooth, laid-back mids, and rolled off, overly smooth, inevitably inoffensive highs.



The Fillmore (on-ear):

Bass: Quite the departure from the Bowery, with respect to Bowery’s predominant and intrusive bass. There’s now an equally healthy abundance of both sub-bass and midbass, and a noticeably greater sense of separation between the lows and mids. In other words, where the Bowery’s low end (even when slightly alleviated via a shallow insertion) had a tendency to obscure the lower mids, the Fillmore’s low end is significantly less intrusive, and allows the mids ample room to breathe. On the other hand, much like the Bowery, the Fillmore’s bass still offers abundant body and impact, resulting in a similarly warm and (now moderately) bass driven presentation. Fortunately, the Fillmore yields a greater sense of control. That said, make no mistake about it. We’re still talking about undeniably dynamic sounding bass, that’s felt all the way down to the lowest lows. However, with the midbass significantly more level with the sub-bass, the low end no longer predominates the overall presentation. This time, it’s the mids that steal the show, as I’ll discuss below.

Midrange: Simply put, the Fillmore is to mids, what the Bowery is to bass. The listener’s attention is immediately drawn towards the mids (especially the upper mids), as it’s the midrange that predominates here, with significantly greater presence. Vocals are significantly more engaging and pleasant, with better quality to boot, in nearly every conceivable way. I’d venture to guess that midrange vocals are now much closer to (and arguably even slightly north of) neutral, with respect to the overall presentation. Fans of an intimate, engaging, lush and musical midrange will be quite pleased. However, upper mids and lower treble presence lacks air and presence, hindering female vocal performance in particular. Despite this, the mids are still quite engaging and most enjoyable.

Treble: There’s certainly a trend here with respect to the highs. As was the case with to the Bowery, the highs are once again rolled off, without any perceivable peaks/harshness. This time around, however, there’s a better sense of detail and clarity, as the entire presentations is grander, if you will. Though, that’s to be expected of course, when going from most any earphone to an on-ear headphone. Said differently, while still overly smooth, polite, and completely inoffensive, let’s just say that it’s much easier to appreciate high end presence with the Fillmore. All in all, I’d say the treble is best characterized as conveying much better presence, yet remaining completely polite and inoffensive.

Soundstage: Unlike the Bowery, the Fillmore also features ports/vents. Only, this time around, there are a total of 5 visible ports/vents above the earcups on either side, making for a total of 10 ports/vents. While this yields a most pleasant soundstage, it favors the overall mid-focused presentation. It makes for a significantly more open and spacious listening experience, as compared to the Bowery. Just don’t expect for it to compete against a full sized open-back headphone. Considering that these are a set of closed-back, on-ears, the soundstage is most pleasant.

Isolation: To my surprise, they isolate very, very well. Definitely above average, that’s for sure. Let’s just say you won’t have to worry about disturbing those around you. They score highly on that note.

Overall Presentation: Reminds me of the Shures, in that it’s a very lush, mid-focused presentation, with better controlled bass (versus the Bowery), and all the while still offers deep and impactful bass, with an equally smooth, rolled off, completely inoffensive high end.



The Troubadour (over-ear):

Overall Presentation: I’m compelled to start with the overall presentation, because that’s where the Troubadour differs most. Gone is the predominating bass (of the Bowery) and/or predominating midrange (of the Fillmore), and there’s now significantly more air between the music, with a noticeably greater sense of balance across the entire spectrum. More importantly, there’s also a noticeably greater sense of transparency, as well as imaging and separation between individual notes. Nearly all aspects sound more fine-tuned, if you will, except one could easily argue that the intimately lush and musical presentation of the on-ears may still be the more preferred sound signature. In my case, on any given day, I’d be equally content with either. But, if I’m to be picky, the Troubadour is undoubtedly the most refined of the bunch.

Bass: The bass is certainly cut from the same cloth, and, as much as I hate to sound redundant, remains just as dynamic sounding as before. Only this time, it’s as though the Troubadour builds upon the sound of its predecessors, solidifying the strengths of either one. Where the Fillmore offered near perfect balance between the two, the balance between the Troubadour’s sub-bass and midbass skews slightly more towards the midbass. Yet, just as before, the lows end is nowhere as intrusive as the Bowery. Granted, the Fillmore’s mid-focused presentation yields slightly greater separation between the midbass and lower mids. On the contrary, the gap between the Troubadour’s bass and lower mids is closer still, but it’s very, very tastefully done, and, again, nowhere near as compromising as the Bowery’s midbass. It makes for a much more even handed, balanced sound, with no particularly noteworthy emphasis on any one area in particular.

Midrange: Not by any means predominating, yet positioned just south of neutral. The moderate lift in the low end lends a warmth to the overall tonality, and the mids certainly convey this warmth in an utmost pleasant manner. I’d venture to guess that the mids are ever so slightly laid-back in order to give a greater sense of space at either extreme, as is commonly found with mildly v-shaped signatures. Aid differently, where the Fillmore brings you closer to the vocalist, the Troubadour conveys a greater sense of distance and space between you and the musician. All the while, I wouldn’t classify these as v-shaped either, since the treble is by no means lifted. Instead, the overall presentation yields a more expansive listening experience. It’s a most welcome change, I’ll say, considering that the mids still remain as clear as one would hope for. All in all, the mids lie in near perfect harmony with the rest of the spectrum.

Treble: The upper mids and lower treble remain relatively laid-back, and there is now a less apparent, yet still perceivable roll off. To no surprise, the treble here is still extremely smooth, inoffensive and non-fatiguing. There is, however, a greater sense of air and presence between the mids and highs. Given their pleasantly warm tonality, I feel as though that these would serve most practical for lengthier listening sessions, and I’d consider their sound the most universally accepted of the bunch.

Soundstage: Nor below average, nor above. As is expected, the Fillmore’s multiple vents/ports yield a slightly more open and expansive presentation. But, the Troubadour isn’t significantly behind either. Where the Fillmore provides a more out-of-head listening experience, the Troubadour provides a more in-your-head experience. Both are equally enjoyable, and will strictly come down to the listener’s preference.

Isolation: Average, at best. Not exactly ideal for absolute silent circumstances, as those around you will faintly pick up on whatever it is you’re listening to. The Fillmore is far more practical for those purposes.

Overall Presentation: Well balanced, warm and silky smooth, with much greater width, equally deep and impactful bass, pleasantly warm & laid-back midrange, and slightly less rolled off, yet extremely inoffensive highs, with zero possibility of any unwanted peaks/sharpness.



PROS & CONS

I feel as though the pros and cons are quite similar between each, so instead of listing each one out individually, I’ll group them as follows:



PROS:

· Very reasonably priced, with respect to their performance

· Every purchase lends itself to a humanitarian cause

· Pleasantly smooth and inoffensive sound signature

· Each offers a relatively unique listening experience

· Deep and impactful low end, which eliminates the desire to ever consider implementing an external bass boost

· Extremely non-fatiguing highs, perfectly suitable for long term listening

· Simplistic yet very attractive approach to design and build quality

· Removable cables (in case of the two on-ears)

· All standard cables feature an in-line mic with push-button

CONS:

· Those with prescription glasses may experience discomfort (with regards to the on-ears), especially during long term listening. For me personally, it only ever became an issue if I listened for very extended periods (4+ hours)

· No R & L indicators on the on-ears themselves (though I’m told that this pertains only to the test units I received)

· Not the absolute last word in clarity & detail retrieval (though certainly above average, with respect to their MSRP)

· Could use a bit more air and separation between individual notes

· Those that aren’t fans of prominent midbass will want to steer clear of the in-ears

· Those in search of balanced armature type speed and control will want to look elsewhere (while the dynamic crowd will be quite pleased)

For more information, please visit their product listing: http://www.lstnheadphones.com/collections/frontpage
 
May 26, 2013 at 3:17 AM Post #8 of 15

Udonitron

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Been waiting for a review!
Thanks man...how would the Troubadours compare to Denon 1100's you think?
Thinking on selling my 50 hours old Denon's and grabbing these.
I wonder if the wood makes a tonal difference?
In theory it should, similar to guitars with an ebony board sound brighter and snappier.
Cherry is a hardwood and Beech slightly softer.
 
Aug 5, 2013 at 10:34 AM Post #10 of 15

HurricaneBill

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I just received the Fillmore, and what a sound, BIG, BOLD and BALANCED! Wonderfull and amazing for the price. It is also one of the very few that does drumsounds right (me being a drummer....). Listen to Jim Keltners drum improvisation for this. All drums and the cymbals sound great. Really amazing for $100. Must be the best $100 I ever spent.
 
Jan 8, 2014 at 3:44 PM Post #11 of 15

Headphonez231

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The entire LSTN line is truly amazing.  Dollar for value this is one of the best headphones on the market. Not just because you get a great quality, great sounding headphone, but because you also get a really unique headphone.  You have something that is totally you and not just a white earbud or beats.
 
Love my Troubadours!
 
Jan 16, 2014 at 3:15 PM Post #12 of 15

HK_sends

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  I just received the Fillmore, and what a sound, BIG, BOLD and BALANCED! Wonderfull and amazing for the price. It is also one of the very few that does drumsounds right (me being a drummer....). Listen to Jim Keltners drum improvisation for this. All drums and the cymbals sound great. Really amazing for $100. Must be the best $100 I ever spent.

Which wood did you pick for the Fillmore?
 
Cheers!
beerchug.gif

-HK sends
 
Jul 12, 2015 at 2:05 AM Post #14 of 15

The Plaidypus

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Great review! Very well articulated. 

I saw these at a store once and thought they looked very cool. 

If I can find a pair to audition for a while, I'd love to add this to my collection. That is of course, if they sound good enough to warrant the $150 price tag. What can I say? I'm a sucker for wooden headphones. 
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