Audio

Sticking to the basics does it for Klipsch

The thick padding of the Klipsch Reference On-Ear II provides a tight seal around the ears to block off most ambient noise.
The thick padding of the Klipsch Reference On-Ear II provides a tight seal around the ears to block off most ambient noise.PHOTO: KLIPSCH

The Reference On-Ear II is nothing fanciful, just solid build and good music playback

Klipsch's Reference On-Ear II is a modest upgrade on the popular closed-back on-ear headphones released last year, featuring cosmetic and audio-performance improvements from the original.

The no-frills headphones are unapologetically basic, with none of the fancy bells and whistles other brands are pushing in order to differentiate themselves in a crowded market.

Instead, Klipsch stuck to the basics, with solid construction and good music playback.

If aesthetics matter just as much as audio quality to you, the Reference On-Ear II won't disappoint.

It oozes class, from its plush earcup padding to brushed gun-metal headband. A two-tone, detachable tangle-free flat cable completes the look.

  • TECH SPECS

  • PRICE: $329 (non-Bluetooth), $399 (Bluetooth)

    DRIVER DIAMETER: 40mm

    FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 20Hz - 20kHz

    WEIGHT: 232g

  • RATING

  • FEATURES: 3/5

    DESIGN: 5/5

    PERFORMANCE: 5/5

    VALUE FOR MONEY: 3/5

    OVERALL: 4/5

While these aren't noise-cancelling headphones, the plushness and depth of the earcups add a surprising amount of noise-cancellation, as the thick padding provides a tight seal around the ears to block off most ambient noise.

The thick padding also makes the headphones luxurious-looking and comfortable to wear. I often find on-ear headphones uncomfortable because of how they don't cup the ears fully, but the Reference On-Ear II's padding - thicker than those found on most other headphones - makes a world of difference.

Despite the Reference branding name, these headphones aren't reference headphones as understood in audio parlance - which refer to equipment that reproduce sound that i s balanced and close to the original studio mix of audio tracks.

Instead, they have a very distinct sound signature, featuring a very pronounced warmness and a deep bass response.

The generous amount of bass these headphones add to songs is not, however, muddy or murky, but is pleasantly robust and full-bodied, giving additional colour to rock and electronic tracks in particular.

These are headphones for those who prefer a bassy, warmer sound signature, but wouldn't want to venture too far into basshead territory.

The original Reference On-Ear headphones suffered from poor midrange tones that resulted in flat vocals and dull instrumentation.

Its successor, however, rectifies the worst of these problems. Midrange is now clearer and cleaner. The thumping bass also doesn't drown out vocals any more, even when played loudly.

While these are great performers, they are priced to match. Their going prices of $329 and $399 (for the Bluetooth variant) put them almost in the range of active noise-cancelling headphones.

• Verdict: Great bass depth and thick earcups make these a stylish and comfortable option for those seeking headphones that give oomph and body to their tracks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 21, 2016, with the headline 'Sticking to the basics does it for Klipsch'. Print Edition | Subscribe