Review: House of Marley TTR Destiny Noise-Canceling Headphone

When I first encountered the Exodus from House of Marley, during our test last fall of celebrity-branded headphones, I didn’t expect much. I assumed the company had put all its effort into the Exodus’ stunning styling, and little into sound quality. I assumed the branding was there purely to add pizzazz to an otherwise mediocre product.

Was I (and I) wrong! The Exodus sounded better than any of the other on-ear or over-ear headphones we tried. We loved its look and feel, and when we complained about the comfort, the company responded by redesigning the headband. A few weeks later, I encountered a House of Marley crew at my local Fry’s and was delighted to find that the company’s other headphones sounded pretty good, too. Even the seeming conflict of using an anti-establishment icon to sell headphones faded when I found you could snag a pretty darned good pair of HoM ’phones for just $59.

The new $299 TTR Destiny noise-cancelling headphone raises that conflict issue again, though. Thanks to Bose’s success with pricey NC headphones, we tend to associate the category with well-to-do frequent flyers who relax to Diana Krall while sipping chardonnay in the first-class cabin, not with bohemians cranking reggae or Rage Against the Machine while they’re riding the bus.

Although the TTR is, like other HoM products, made in large part from recycled or recyclable materials, its look and feel are more mechanical and less crunchy-hemp-granola than most of the other Marley stuff. A large knob on the left side activates the noise-cancelling circuitry, and a tiny blue LED tells you it’s on. The headphones don’t work at all with the NC switched off, and there’s no auto-power-off circuit, so if you leave the TTR on accidentally you could be flying home in silence. Bring extra batteries.

Twisting the matching knob on the right side opens the battery compartment, which holds two AAAs. We found that it’s a little too easy to mistake the battery compartment for the on/off switch, a blunder that can result in the batteries falling out if they’re not firmly inserted.

The TTR comes with a nice leather-trimmed, canvas-covered hard case. Two cords are provided. One, for home use, measures 10 feet long. The other measures 54 inches and includes an inline mic and a push-to-answer button, which to my surprise worked fine with my Motorola Droid Pro. Most of these things work great with Apple devices but poorly if at all with Androids. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised that a brand named after a spokesperson for the oppressed would assure that its inline mics work for Droid users.

Each cord is wrapped in black fabric with green, yellow, and red accents, the color combination that represents reggae, or Jamaica, or Africa, or maybe all three, I’m not sure. The cords look great, seem tough, and resist tangles.