Audio awesomeness: Aedle’s VK-1 headphones reviewed

People who love their sound like they love their children won’t probably bat an eyelid at spending serious dough for seriously good headphones, and Aedle’s VK-1 hopes to twist an arm here and there with some of the loudest cans we’ve ever heard.

Features

Built for those who love their audio, Aedle’s VK-1 are the only pair of headphones the French brand Aedle makes. In fact, they’re not just the only pair of headphones Aedle makes, they’re the only anything that Aedle makes, with the company taking the time to engineer what it believes are the best headphones possible.

Could this really be the case?

High grade materials help to make this idea a reality, with a titanium diaphragm and neodymium magnets used by the headphones, aluminium for the earphone casing, manganese steel for the headband, and cushions made from protein foam.

Both the headband and ear cushions are protected by lambskin leather, and the entire headphone is assembled, not by machine, but rather by hand.

The driver for the headphone is sized at 40mm, and the headphones take a 3.5mm cable, with one included in the box.

The included cable is built with Aramid Fibre, a material similar to Kevlar which handles frequencies differently and has been known to create more natural sounds in the speakers that rely on this material.

A few other accessories are included with the VK-1 headphones, such as an aircraft headphone adaptor, a 6.25mm amplifier jack adaptor, a cleaning cloth, and a soft bag for keeping the headphones in.

Performance

The VK-1, also known as the “Valkyrie,” may well be Aedle’s first headphone, but the company treats this pair of headphones better than most products from other companies.

They are $599, after all, but the experience of owning a pair of VK-1 headphones seems to start from the box, where you’re treated to a thick box that looks premium, with a moulded casing built to match the headphones, accessories fitting neatly in a small cardboard box, a furry little pouch made to keep the headphones in good condition, and a metal card printed with your limited edition number on them.

Already, that’s a good start to a pair of premium headphones, but we’re not interested in the box. No, we’re interested in the headphones.

Take the VK-1 headphones out of the box and you’ll see a pair of simple and elegant headphones, with aluminium encasing the cans, steel for the headband, and ear pads and the material covering the headband both made from tanned lambskin leather.

It’s a simple look of brown and silver that is hard to ignore, and looks a little like you’re wearing a comfy brown leather jacket on your ears.

Put them on the first time and you’ll likely find the headphones are a little tight. We’ll mention more about this later in the review, but the VK-1 headphones can hug your skull and make your ears hurt.

There’s a fix for this, with a solution involved from reading the manual or wearing them for a few weeks — whatever comes first — but if you take them out of the box and plant them on your head, expect a little pain for a few days, at least.

Plug them in, though, and your mind will be taken from the pain, moved instead to the music coming from your music player.

Our usual playlist includes a combination of jazz, rock, and electronic, and the general feeling we had from the VK-1 was one of balance and warmth, with the sound inviting us to turn our headphones up for a proper immersion.

With Dave Brubeck’s “Maria,” there’s an obvious separation between the instruments, and a tonality reminiscent of vinyl. The bass wasn’t overpowering at all, with the sombre tone of a double bass being plucked with precision noticeable across the mids and lows.

John Coltrane’s “Blue Train” was also insanely balanced, and gives off the feeling you’re there, with a clarity to the track that reminds one of a live performance, with bass just humming underneath while John’s sax calling out over the top, and Lee Morgan’s trumpet humming at the top of its lungs.

We’re used to seeing this sort of performance with headphones amps, so this is an impressive sound without one and plugged straight into a phone.

If the headphones shine in jazz, it’s highly likely they like rock as well, and for that, we turn to “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones. In this track, the mids tend to overpower the highs slightly, with the guitars singing out over Jagger’s voice, but there’s just enough of them in there to make the music sound collected.

Over to something more modern, and Muse’s “Supremacy” has a heavy bass line with the orchestral performance in the background still relevant, just not as loud. The lead singer, Matthew Bellamy, can still be heard even in the mids, but the bass is the more prominent section here.

Still, it comes together better than a lot of cans we’ve heard in the past.

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