Torque Audio t402v: Headphones are Fun Again!

Most of the time, when I get headphones in to review, it’s a pretty standard experience: unbox, burn in, listen, evaluate. While I still get excited when a headphone sounds really fantastic, it’s rare that I get jazzed before I even open the box. Modular tube amp fans will know what I mean; that giddy glee like a new box of LEGOs on Christmas morning: a feeling of potential and playtime. Something to open, adjust, and make your own. And I miss it. So as I grabbed my kitchen shears to crack open the shipping box for the new Torque Audio t402v (customizable headphones several years in the making), I was surprised to find I was smiling, and giggled to myself. Holy crap, I’m actually excited to play with some headphones! Don’t worry, I did well in kindergarten. I’ll share.

First, what are the t402v? They are over-ear, as well as on-ear, adjustable bass frequency headphones. How they work is this: the Bio-Cell diaphragm drivers are permanently affixed to the headband. The inner chassis surrounding the drivers are magnetized, and it’s to this inner panel that the filters and earpads are affixed.

There are two different sets of earpads to choose from: over-ear and on-ear. These filter/pads each have four different filter settings that adjust the amount of bass response. To change the filter, you simply remove and rotate the square-shaped earcup. The filters are color-coded with black being the closest to flat frequency response, then ranging to blue, then red, and finally up to yellow offering the most intense low-end boost.

What’s interesting about testing the t402v is this: usually my headphone evaluation process is not just deciding if I like the sound, but determining who the potential market might be, and if they might like the sound. Generally, I like a flatter frequency response for my personal listening, but I also have been known to appreciate a well-formed and defined boosted bass sound, and can recommend those to bass-heads. Sometimes I have to evaluate headphones that are a tad intense in the high end for my own taste, but I still am able to appreciate and refer them as an option for those who like extra sparkle up top. With the Torque Audio headphones, all that goes out the window. You can decide what works for you, track by track, day to day.

It’s an undeniably cool idea. What’s an even nicer surprise is that it’s not just a gimmick. The t402v actually sound really good. The mids are clear and detailed with a touch of spacious depth of field, and the highs, while a little bit on the icy-sounding side, are clear, crisp, and delicate on both attack and decay. When on the black (flattest) filter, the lows are lush and present, but unobtrusive.

Of course, as you rotate to other filters, that bass increases in volume, all the way up to yellow, which is definitely intense. On the yellow setting, the bass just barely escapes boomy territory. For my ears, the yellow bass filter can start to muffle the lower mids. But here’s the great thing: if that’s not your speed, you can literally just dial it back.

The pads themselves are very soft and comfortable. Even the on-ears feel as though they could be worn for long listening sessions without causing outer ear fatigue. The over-ears are a bit large for smaller noggins as my own, but with a little fiddling I was able to get a seal, even with their unique square shape. The removable cable has a three-button remote, and is mylar-shielded which reduces the cable noise. Overall, the entire build feels solid, luxury, and modern.

While yes, there are other over/on-ear headphones available in this price range that are more likely to appeal to the traditionally-minded audiophile (The Oppo PM-3 come to mind), there is nothing on the market that is nearly this versatile, especially on the go. So if you are the sort of person who has a favorite sonic profile that changes based on the source material, enjoy tinkering with your audio equipment, or maybe you just really liked Transformers as a kid, check out the Torque Audio t402v. They’re more than meets the eye, and just plain fun.

The t402v are currently available as part of a Kickstarter, and later for purchase on Torque.Audio