As a life long Iron Maiden fan I was both intrigued and slightly annoyed when I heard that Onkyo had partnered with the Irons legendary founder and bass player, Steve Harris, to produce a pair of Iron Maiden branded headphones. On the one hand I was sure the result would be great, but at the same time I couldn’t help but think that Steve+co were now simply pandering to music execs and lining their own pockets, after all he’s not the first music personality to cash in on their brand and release music accessories (I’m looking at you, Dr. Dre).
Thankfully, I will hold my hands up and say I was completely wrong. After looking at the project page and reading the blurb on the work involved and Steve’s thought process I was intrigued. The ED-PH0N3S are designed with rock and metal in mind, which means that Onkyo have worked with Steve to ensure that the mid-ranges (where guitars tend to sit) were pushed to the front of the mix while not losing the overall crispness and clarity of the original recording.
To do this Onkyo chucked a total of 60 different drive unit designs, 14 cable arrangements, 22 Onkyo engineers and probably a few Trooper Ale’s at Mr. Harris before he was finally satisfied with the noise coming out of them and signed off on the overall design.
But that’s not to say that they’re ONLY good for listening to heavy music, right now I’m listening to a remastered version of Bridge Over Troubled Water and hearing it in an entirely different way. It’s interesting to say the least to listen to a song you’ve heard a thousand times before and pick up subtleties that you’ve never experienced before. Art’s vocals sing as highly as ever but the orchestra is now chomping at his heels like never before.
At all volume levels the ED-PH0N3S are exceptionally clear, though at higher volumes you may find it gets a bit crowded in the mids and they can, depending on the music, overpower the highs slightly.
It would be impossible to review these headphones and not mention the rather vulgar design (and that’s coming from an Iron Maiden fan). Personally I’m not too offended at the design and it wouldn’t stop me wearing them in public. In fact I’m typing this sat in from of Gate 6 of New Delhi International Airport waiting for a flight and I’m wearing them proudly. But I could understand why some people might be concerned about the appearance. They’re certainly not for everyone though the argument could definitely be made that they’re in keeping with Iron Maiden’s rather in-your-face persona. I can’t help but think if Onkyo had toned it down ever so slightly, perhaps just including the Iron Maiden logo in its traditional font, they might well be selling a few more units.
That being said if you can live with the fact that it’s not you that has to look at them then the Maiden Audio ED-PH0N3S are an excellent set of cans for the price, especially if you’re a fan of rock and metal music. Buy with confidence, you won’t regret it.