The normally quiet world of audio tech has been noisily shaken up recently with a cross-over of brand names from the music world.
So far this has been mainly from the megastars of hip hop, with the likes of Dr Dre (Beats Audio), Ludacris, RZA and 50 Cent sticking their celebrity bling brands on various audio ear warmers.
Now one of the world’s biggest Heavy Rock bands has jumped on the head-bandwagon. See: Headphone reviews
Enter the Motörheadphönes. Forget the Germanic old guard of headphone makers, such as Sennheiser and Maestro, these fellas have two umlauts in their name, even though they’re actually made by Swedish audio brand Krusell.
The idea might have started out as a jokey pun (can we soon expect some prog-friendly Radioheadphones? Er, probably not...) but this is no one-gag gimmick. There is a whole range of Motörheadphönes, and, like the band itself, they deliver where they’re supposed to.
In the padded over-ear variety there’s the heavy-duty Motörizer (promising “smooth warm bass, bombastic drums and clear mid-range plus distinct high end”; on-sale from January 2013 for £129.99); Iron Fist (£99.99; “they pack the bass without losing the clear mid-range and distinct high frequencies”, and reviewed here); and lighter-weight Bomber (£79.99; “big guitars, fat drums and rumbling bass”) models.
The in-ear series for iPods and smartphones features the £49.99 Overkill and £39.99 Trigger models – each available in leather-jacket black, deaths-head silver, and guitar-plug brass colours.
There’s even a set of Motörheadphöne cases available, from £29.99: Burner, Metropolis and Capricorn.
Hands-on head-on review: Iron Fist
We tested the mid-range Motörheadphönes Iron Fist, which is said to pack the hardcore punch of the high-end Motörizer with a more compact size that won’t have you laughed at on the street.
Motörheadphönes Iron Fist are robust. Indeed Motörhead drummer Mikkey Dee calls them “unbreakable” even if you “smack your producer” with them. We didn’t test that claim out.
Macho metal codpieces don’t get a look in when it comes to actually listening to these headphones. They have a big, spacious sound you could drive a tour bus through. Placed over the head, the drivers to each side are set relatively distant from the ear, giving a wider than usual sense of stereo spread.
Tonally, they’re surprisingly neutral. That’s quite unlike boutique brands such as Beats Audio that are aligned to a misguided view that means mangling the sound to suit just urban music.
Those ultra-trendy rap and R’n’B headphones typically distort the frequency response to make a muddy, bass-heavy balance with dull treble.
In contrast, the Motörheadphönes Iron Fist headphones have an even-handed approach, giving little unwarranted emphasis within the main divisions of bass, mid and treble.
There is a little lift in the deep bass that gives them more slam and low-end punch. Thankfully, that’s a fast and well-timed effect rather than any dreadful slow and bloated bass.
It’s not quite a metallic iron fist down there; but if it is, it’s well cushioned in a particularly satisfying velvet glove.
Mid-band may even be neutral to a fault. Rather than try to lift mid-range vocals clear of the mix, the Motörheadphönes Iron Fist headphones are just perceptibly recessed here. Which means screaming guitars remain easy to listen to at higher volumes without numbing your ear drums.
Smooth is another way to describe the overall sound of the Motörheadphönes Iron Fist, particularly when focusing attention on the top-end treble reproduction. It’s crisp and incisive, minus the heightened lift that can sound initially impressive – then lead to listening fatigue after an hour.
These are also monsters of detail. Given the right acoustic live or multi-layered studio recording, you’re likely to hear the finer points of music that had previously passed you by when listening through loudspeakers.
Our main gripe is not about the sound, but comfort. While the plush cushions envelope the ear nicely and the head band doesn’t have the vice-like grip of some such headphones, there’s no way to manually adjust the size to the head. This might cause some problems if you’re a massive handbanger.
We checked with the Motörheadphönes people, and apparently they’re designed as ‘one size fits all’.
In this listener’s case, they drooped a little low below the ears, and we would have appreciated a way to resize the headband and pull them up a little higher.
The headphones don't have wires from one side to the other. The signal is passed though the metal, which should make them them less prone to damage. Having the cables independent of the headphones (see above) also prevents common cable rip.
We did notice some noise leak from these headphones, so I’d be wary about turning the volume up on the bus. But we suppose if you’re wearing a set of headphones with the dripping War-Pig horned skull & chains and spikes logo on them you might not be too bothered about other people’s feelings.
Unlike the Motörizer and Bomber over-ear models, the Iron Fist headphones don’t come with the smartphone-ready Controlizer that – depending on your make of mobile device – you use to adjust volume, pause, play, play forward, fast forward and rewind, fast rewind, answer, hang up, put on hold, switch between calls, voice control, take photos and videos.
Motörheadphönes Iron Fist headphones come with both a detachable 1m woven cable for mobile music players and another 2.5m cable for listening at home in the comfort of your rocking chair or the back of the tour bus.
They come in a cardboard replica tour-case box, so would make an ideal gift for the headbanger in the family.