House of Marley Positive Vibration XL headphone review: Eco-friendly, good features, good sound
If you're a thoughtful consumer, these headphones deliver good sonics using sustainable materials.
By Jon L. Jacobi
TechHiveDec 30, 2019 3:00 am PST
Image: House of Marley
At a Glance
Created using sustainable and recycled materials
Good sound for the price
Mid-range could use EQ
Lacks support for aptX and aptX HD
Only sustainable and recycled/recycle-able materials are used in these comfortable over-ear headphones. They’re nice-sounding for the price, though the mid-range could use a scoop to aid in definition and ward off ear fatigue. Kudos to House of Marley for the corporate ethics. All companies should be so responsible.
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I’m a huge fan of the way the House of Marley does business, minimizing its environmental impact by using recycled/recyclable and sustainable materials to build its products. The Positive Vibration XL over-ear headphones are a prime example: leveraging reclaimed aluminum, steel, and plastic to deliver good sound with hardware that won’t add to a landfill at the end of its useful life. You can read more about the materials used at House of Marley’s website.
Design and features
The Positive Vibration XL are available in three color combos: all-black, blue and black, and copper and white, each of which costs $100. Okay, black-on-black isn’t really a combo unless you count the FSC-certified wood inserts in the cups with the House of Marley logo. Regardless of literary license, all three schemes are attractive and thoughtfully bling-free.
The packaging is also minimalist, with none of those peel-off plastic protective sheets that make me wonder about the sanity of the human race and doubt the ethics of corporations. Even the included audio cable and USB Type-A to Type-C charging cables are tied off with recyclable string. Sweet.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best headphones,where you’ll findreviews of competing products, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping.
You’ll find multi-purpose controls on the right-hand ear cup: power/answer/play/pause, next/up, and previous/down. There’s also a tiny reset button, and a microphone that’s not mentioned in the accompanying documentation. The USB-C port and audio jack are on the left-hand cup.
The Positive Vibration XL feature Bluetooth 5.0, but not aptX or aptX HD, which would provide higher-resolution wireless streaming and provide low enough latency for TV use, assuming your TV supports it. Just an aside, some pricier TVs automatically compensate for Bluetooth lag.
Sound and comfort
Eco-friendly means nothing if a product doesn’t perform. The Positive Vibration XL are good, if not great-sounding headphones to my ears. At lower volumes, the listening experience was very good, but the mid-range became a bit crowded once I cranked things up a bit, making it a tiny bit harder to delineate instruments and adding a slight graininess to some material. I’m being extremely picky and a second listener noticed none of that.
The balance between bass, mid-range, and treble is otherwise largely spot on. That is, unless you’re looking for that little extra low-end bump that so many listeners like. The Positive Vibration XL are more accurate to the original mixes in their bass rendition, but if bump is your thing, it’s only there in the standard degree.
I found the Positive Vibration XL very comfortable to wear—more so than the recently reviewed, sonically superior (and somewhat more expensive) Cleer Enduro 100, if not quite on the level of Sony’s higher-end products. The Positive Vibration XL’s cup pads are deeper than those of the Enduro 100, and the extra padding inside the top of the band was most welcome. Put another way, the Positive Vibration XL rest on your head as easy as they do your conscience.
Battery life was very good, somewhere in the neighborhood of the 24 hours that House of Marley claims on a full charge. And 10 minutes charging was good for nearly two hours of use; again, as claimed.
The Positive Vibration XL’s are very good headphones for the price; however, I wish House of Marley would step up their sonic game a notch to prove that environmentally friendly doesn’t mean sonically average. With that last 10 percent, I could trumpet these to more than the average listener.
That said, if I were king, all companies would market only sustainable products—period. I have one simple justification for that: We all live on this one planet, so don’t trash your living quarters. Good on ya’, House of Marley.