Phil Jones Headphone review
A few weeks ago Phil Jones posted a contest on his Facebook wall. ID all of the bass players in the photo, and the first one would win a pair of his headphones. I won. I have played bass guitar for many years, and even sold guitars and basses for a number of years. Through that job I have met a number of amp designers, and bass builders. As a rule they are very knowledgeable, and passionate about what they do. Phil Jones was no exception. I met him at McMurray Music when he brought in a couple of early models of his amps and cabinets to the store I worked at. They were and still are pretty unique to the world of bass amplification. The general rule is bigger is better. Mr Jones tends to go the other way, and build smaller. I’m with him there, and agree. Smaller speakers are faster and thus more responsive and accurate. Putting several together means you get more moving surface area, that responds more quickly, and moves more air than a traditional speaker cabinet design.
His headphones are designed to be more accurate compared to others, and they are also fairy reasonably priced. Phil Jones Bass is based in the St Louis area where I have lived for most of my life. This meant that the headphones arrived very quickly for me. They were mailed Monday and I picked them up from the Post Office Tuesday after work! They came in a box that was well packed and in good shape. Inside was the box for the headphones. It had nice looking, but simple artwork. The headphones were neatly packaged, and seemed like they were very secure, which is great for preventing damage in shipping. In the box you will find of course the headphones themselves, a 2 meter cord with 1/8″ plugs on both ends, and also a 1/4″ adapter. To me, the removable cord is one of the smartest things ever.
No matter how good or bad the headphones I have ever used, the weak point was the cord. At some point the cord will break, and you have to go buy a new pair of headphones. Now, I can run to Radio Shack, Guitar Center or anyplace else that would sell a cord with 1/8″ stereo plugs on both ends. If I decided I wanted longer, I can get that too. One end of the cord that comes with them has a slightly different shape which allows it to lock into the headphones. You just push them into the hole, and give them a twist. Clever!
I don’t have a lot to compare them to unfortunately. My previous benchmark for headphones was the Sony MDR-7506. It has been several years since I have been able to use those for extended periods. (I was introduced to them when I worked at KRCU, the NPR affiliate at SEMO, where I attended college.) I really liked them, but I never had the need to purchase a pair of headphones like that. Aside from that, lately most of my headphone use has been in the form of ear buds, which are notorious for not having good sound. My current ear buds are JVC, and they beat out a pair of Skullcandy ear buds. I find ear buds to be somewhat uncomfortable, and after wearing them for a while they are actually irritating. I decided that in order to really review these I needed to put them to use in a variety of listening situations. The short answer is that they do sound really good. I haven’t found anything that they didn’t work well on. Pandora through my cell phone over Wi-Fi (Cell phone is an LG Google Nexus 5) as well as watching Netflix movies on my phone both sounded great. My iPod (generation 6 iPod Nano, with a pretty wide variety of music, and no problems. I even played a few computer games on my laptop using them, and was surprised to hear things that I never had before. When I was deciding between the ear buds, and also when I was putting these to the test I try to listen to things that will really test them. I generally want to hear as much of what is happening as possible. I like to listen to Bjork for this. Her music generally has lots of little things going on that get lost when the low end is emphasized by cutting mid range frequencies as seems to be done on a lot of ear buds. The headphones seemed to respond evenly across the frequency range.
Next I plugged them into headphone out of my trusty bass practice amp. A late 80’s Peavey Microbass. I also plugged in my favorite (at the moment) bass. A Chandler Continuum. Think early 60’s Fender Jazz bass, but with a fretless ebony fingerboard. This yielded the tone that I always expect out of this bass. It sounds like what it looks like. A Fender Jazz. That does mean that you get to hear the noise of a buzzing single coil pickup when you dial one of them down a bit. I also got to hear just how sloppy my bass playing has become with the minimal practice that I do lately. Still, the headphones present an accurate picture of what I am doing, good and bad. They left me wanting one thing though. I would love some sort of mixer to play both a CD or MP3 player and my bass through into the headphones. I’m sure that is out there somewhere, but it isn’t something I have. If I am not mistaken the Bass Buddy, would fill this need nicely.
I suppose the short answer to the question, is these headphones sound great. They are comfortable, and sound great. They also include some pretty clever ideas. I would recommend them to bass players as well as anyone else looking for a good sounding pair of headphones. My understanding is that you can find them online for around $100. I’m not sure of the exact price, but they would certainly be worth it!