Portable devices aren't exactly known for their high quality audio, and we're increasingly a culture that is listening to music on our laptops, phones and other devices. Blue wants to improve that experience a bit with the Mo-Fi headphones, a set of imposing-looking ear cans that boast a built-in amplifier and a rather retro design.
Blue sent us a sample of the hardware to try for a few weeks to share our impressions.
The headphones retail for $350, and they deliver the quality necessary for that price, but their weight and size means you'll likely want to keep them at home.
The trick is the Mo-Fi headphones come with an internal, powered amplifier, offering much more power than your devices without having to connect an external amplifier. It's all in one package and, while this means you need to keep them charged, the headphones also work in standard mode when the batteries are dead. Don't worry, I was able to get two or three days of long sessions out of each charge, and the headphones shut down automatically when you take them off.
This feature is made possible by the interesting, and likely divisive, design of the headphones. They weigh over a pound, and open and close via joints on the top of the headset. The cups themselves are at the end of articulated arms that can be adjusted to fit snugly over your ears.
It feels rigid and uncomfortable, at first. With a few minutes of fiddling and adjustments I was able to get a good fit and the padded top allows you to forget about the weight, more or less. The headphones are made of aluminum and "plastic composites" and they look great, but these aren't the light, bendable headphones you may be used to.
What's the upside?
The sound quality more than makes up for any inconvenience with the size of the device.
Having a built-in amplifier means you can increase the volume of the music without adding distortion, and high-quality sources of audio came to life through the headphones. I heard more detail in the songs I was listening to, even when streaming compressed files, and lossless music files sounded incredible.
Connecting my Vita and turning the amplifier on allowed me to get lost in the game's audio, and I also used the headphones with the Gear VR. Despite the size and weight, these headphones sound significantly better than any non-amplified headphones on the market, and don't require the use of a secondary piece of equipment for that amplification.
The process is the same on every device, from your phone to your laptop: Connect the headphones, turn everything down, turn on the amplification through the side deal, and slowly bring the volume up on your device until it's comfortable.
You'll find much more power at lower relative volumes on your device, while the sound remains crystal clear. Keeping the amplifier in the headphones might make the headphones heavy, but the convenience of powered audio in every single device you own is hard to overstate. It was like upgrading every piece of electronics I used to listen to audio.
Many people may be turned off by the size of the equipment, but the trade-off is constant, on-demand powered audio on tap. The $350 package is a pretty large investment, but when you consider most small, personal amplifiers for home audio cost at least $130 on top of the normal cost of a good pair of headphones and must be connect individually, you begin to see the value.
I turn down most opportunities to try or write about audio equipment due to the fact so many products are similar and audio quality is so subjective, but the pitch of a set of headphones that would increase the quality of all my portable devices was hard to put down. When discussing things for the Hardware section of the site I like to use them for a while, and for around two weeks these have been my headphones for music and gaming during my work day.
It's going to be hard to go back.