by Joshua Emmons
So many things about the Mo-Fi Blue seem obvious in hindsight. For example, instead of hanging headphones from hooks, maybe they should stand on their own? And, I mean, powered speakers and monitors have been around forever. Why aren’t powered cans a thing? And while we’re on the subject, why don’t all headphones have independent double-wishbone suspension?
Blue is a trailblazer in all this and more. The question is, how does it all come together in their first entry into the headphone market.
On some level doesn’t it just make sense that a microphone maker would be good at headphone design? They’re essentially the same thing from the standpoint of making bits of film dance in a tiny electro-magnetic field, after all. And Blue’s been at the top of that game for two decades now.
Except, as sterling as their reputation for mics is, they’re not really known for their mic pre-s. And as nice as the Mo-Fi is, I don’t really know if I’m sold on its built-in amp.
It sounds good, and it definitely boosts listening levels beyond anything I can hear with passive headphones alone. With the MoFi in “passthrough” mode, plugged directly into my iPhone, I had to crank the phone’s gain to around 75% to get a listenable level on the show floor. Turning on the amp let me drop the gain to around 33% while keeping the volume more or less constant.
The amp also has a third mode called “on+”. This engages the amp and boosts bass. It’s not my cup of tea, but it’s really something to be able to dynamically turn your headphones into a pair of Beats (and, maybe more importantly, to be able to turn them back again).
The problem for me is that the headphones sound good even without the amp. And using the amp means remembering to charge the amp (via standard micro USB). Given I often forget to feed myself, I’m not confident the amp will every be available to me should I choose to use it. Thus I wonder if I wouldn’t prefer the reduction in weight and cost of an ampless variation.
You know this just from looking at it, but the Mo-Fi feels unlike any other headphone you’ve ever had on your head. Its ingenious headband is literally inspired by the suspension of Formula One race cars, and just as shocks and struts serve to keep their tires glued to the road, the Mo-Fi’s suspension keeps its pads gripping your face.
The isolation this provides is astonishing. And the articulation is such that, if I want to play DJ and expose an ear, I simply slide a cup down. When I wear them around my neck, and get that “strangled by pads” feeling, I just extend the cups out. Everything still grips. Everything stays in place. It’s really something you have to (and should!) try to get a feel for.
But the grip is also the Mo-Fi’s fatal flaw. It feels pretty snug. At first, this is warm and reassuring like a hug. But over hours of listening, I can imagine even my narrow head starting to ache. There’s a tension control on the band, but with it turned all the way down the squeeze is still apparent. This is probably great news for active people who have trouble keeping headphones on their heads. But to a delicate sloth like me, it’s a bit much.
The Blue rep at the table assures me that the Mo-Fi is just the first in a line of headphones from Blue. And it’s worth keeping in mind that, as a first effort, the Mo-Fi shows a heck of a lot of promise.
As a proof of concept, I think “powered headphones” are an idea whose time has come. And the Mo-Fi’s headband suspension is simply amazing. It just needs a little refinement to be a total game changer. All and all, I like the Mo-Fi okay and really like where it’s going.