AXPONA 2014: Obravo Headphones


David Teng of Obravo sat behind a sparse table at the Ear Gear Expo, adorned only with only a couple of tidy boxes and two pairs of headphones. That’s what caught my eye, actually. The headphones. Not because they were the only colorful thing on the table (which they were), but that they were so colorful — all natural, organic colors mixed in with polished metal. Tasty.

The plates on the headphones’ ear cups are a disc of natural, air-treated wood (no worries about humidity issues here0, settle into a closed-back arrangement. The band is a little odd as it’s rigid and there’s only just so much give to slip it over the head. Kinda reminds me of the Abyss AB-1266 headband, actually, only a tiny bit more flexible. The cups themselves move rather freely in the hand, and the fit on my head was loose, not too snug. The pads are soft and feel sueded. Comfortable, all told, but a little odd.

There are two models on offer, though they appeared nearly indistinguishable as both are kitted out with the same pads, stitched-leather band and brushed-metal bits. Both are two-way headphones, which may sound odd in a dynamic-driver speaker. Okay, maybe that’s just me. The difference happens when we talk about the tweeter. The $1,600 HRIB-1 has a ribbon tweeter. The $1,900 HAMT-1 has an air-motion tweeter. Both are 56Ω. 

Both the headphones are remarkably light on my head, especially given all the metal and leather. The sound quality, using an iPod and the tiny 160mW (into 32Ω) $399 Obravo HPA-1 battery-powered amp, was very not-headphone sounding. In fact, when I say that, what I want you imagine that there’s all this headphones-as-compromises stuff going on as an underlying assumption that suddenly wasn’t happening with the Obravos. The sound quality was very good, and while I didn’t spend enough time with it to sort it out against the other fine cans on display in the EGX room, I was impressed by that initial listen. The music selection was all Chinese instrumental, so I wasn’t really able to compare with familiar tracks, but detail and tone were good, and nothing stood out. Extension was what I expected in an expensive unit and there was that very welcome sense that I was listening to a real stereo.

Differences in sound quality weren’t all that apparent to a casual listening session, and I unfortunately never had time for more, but I admit to being extra-curious about that AMT implementation. That is neat tech.

First take? Color me impressed.