Review: Funko Darth Vader Headphones

Star Wars headphones! Star Wars headphones! Star. Wars. Headphones. STARWARSHEADPHONES. I know what you're thinking. You're thinking "OMG WTF this is the most amazing thing ever!"

Wait, it gets better. They're only $22!

And you're not going to believe this, but sound actually comes out of them. I KNOW. And wouldn't it really be something if these greatestheadphonesofalltime actually sounded good too?

Well, yes, that would have been something.

The first line of the marketing for these headphones is "These Star Wars Darth Vader DJ Headphones are among the best audio equipment the Empire has to offer." I have to figure the copywriter was being ironically accurate, given the end of Jedi. Since these are, in fact, headphones, Brent measured them (and tried them out). For a third I had Phil Metzler, keyboardist for Just Off Turner, give them a shot too. There were no Wookiees available to test them, but no Wookiee would be caught dead wearing Darth Vader headphones, so the point is moot. Funko also offers a Storm Trooper version (sadly not named TK421), and I think it's safe to assume they sound the same, except white. 

In case you haven't figured it out, these over-ear headphones from Funko have Vader's head on each side. Not just a sticker, it's a molded plastic, like the man/LightBrite himself. For a $50 headphone that regularly goes for $22, the construction is fairly sturdy. Don't get me wrong, they're definitely light plastic, but the "leather" feels soft, and the earcups swivel and fold.

Place them on your head, and again, they're not bad for $22 (I keep using that figure because that's what I paid for them. Yes, I actually bought these). They're fairly light, and though the clamping pressure is a little uneven, they're not uncomfortable. Not great, but I've certainly tried worse.

Brent didn't agree, "Uncomfortable, at least on my large ears. The pads - do they even deserve to be called pads? - mash down on my ears." Phil was in between, finding them "moderately uncomfortable," and wasn't impressed with how bulky and cheap they felt.

I tried to get everyone to use only the Star Wars Disco, but was rebuffed. Physically. (By the way, you are so welcome for that link and the song now stuck in your head.)

Brent started his listening with Olive's "Falling." He was sort of impressed. Sort of. "WOW. These are kinda like the most bass I have ever heard in my life, but the highs and mids are not as buried as in some bass-heavy 'phones. Very, very ambient sound; it exaggerates the reverb."

I picked M83's "Midnight City." My first thought was, "Huh, not terrible." Brent's right, they're certainly bass heavy, but there isn't a lot of deep bass. The low end that's there isn't particularly sloppy, which is a surprise given the price. It's sort of like a cheap, but not terrible, subwoofer. I've heard a lot of high-end headphones with worse bass than these. Ok, every headphone is "high-end" compared to these, but I think you get my meaning.

Phil said the first thing he noticed was how boxy the sound was, and that the deep bass response felt week. Brent, using Motley Crue's "Kickstart My Heart," clarified his take by saying they were "fairly muddy in the low end," and "a little crude-sounding and harsh in the mids."

Brent's next track was Steely Dan's, "Aja" and again he came away not unimpressed, "I have heard a LOT worse. Vocals are somewhat colored, maybe there's a peak/dip combo around 1 or 1.5 kHz, and maybe another one up around 3 or 4 kHz, but it's really not bad. I'd call it average. Treble is a little steely - especially in the lower treble - but the higher-pitched percussion sounds decent." Knowing Brent, the pun was intentional.

I've been rediscovering bands I used to dislike, and Oasis is my latest. "Round Are Way" is their usual wall of sound style, and the Vaders don't handle this track well. The vocals are buried, some of the percussion is a little hot, but some is a little low. Phil felt there wasn't a lot of stereo separation, and I noticed that too, especially on this track.

The live version of James Taylor's "Shower the People" was Brent's last track. "Same apparent peak/dip problems in vocals. Minimal sibilance, though. Lower midrange (in this case, piano) sounds somewhat muddy and recessed. But again, I've heard much worse. Not what I'd want to listen to every day, but better than a lot of what's on the market"

Phil found the Vaders very fatiguing, finding he couldn't listen to them for more than 5 minutes. On some tracks, I agree with him. It depends on what you're listening to. Radka Toneff's "Moon is a Harsh Mistress" is my go-to track to check aspects of the treble that I find many headphones butcher. There wasn't a lot of sibilance, which is a common cheap-headphone problem. The highest notes on the piano, though, were more piercing than I'd want in a headphone, and caused me to do the fatal "reach quickly to turn down the volume." But... well, I'll echo Brent here, I've heard much worse.

Bottom Line

When it comes down to it, using the Dark Lord of the Sith isn't much different from any other celebrity endorsement. They're surprisingly not bad, not unpleasant, not entirely objectionable, and they're really cheap. Honestly, I can't say the Funko Vaders are that much worse than the Bieber Beats, which are 10x the price. I guess the takeaway from this review is, pretty definitely, you can do worse.

That said, they're certainly $22 headphones. Not bad doesn't mean "good." But as a novelty gift for someone special in your life who knows you love them, sure, why not. As far as gifts go, the Funko Vaders are better than an Ewok hairball, but not quite as awesome as a tauntaun sleeping bag.

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