As a person who makes Skype calls and podcasts regularly, there’s nothing like getting a quality pair of headphones to make the experience that much more enjoyable. I’ve tried my fair share of headphones — mostly earbuds in recent months — and still my trusty AKG headphones from my days as a college radio station employee.
So when Andrea Electronics offered me a pair of its new SuperBeam Phones (SB-405 model), I was intrigued and they sent me a pair to try out.
Once they arrived, my intrigue was soon met with disappointment.
I’m afraid I wasn’t overly impressed with them, although there are some positive points I’d like to shed some light on before diving into why they left me wanting.
What I Liked
The Andrea SuperBeam Phones are definitely lightweight. They don’t feel bulky and can be carried around either in the handsome case they come with or loosely in a backpack and they add very little heft and take up a small space.
You can mute the phones directly on the headphone wire, as well as increase and decrease volume. pretty standard stuff, but handy nonetheless. The ability to plug in either through a traditional line-in/headphone jack or via USB (an adapter comes with the headphones) is useful, especially considering my MacBook Air does not have a microphone input other than through USB. That said, there is an extension you can buy for the SuperBeam phones (Andrea provided me with an adapter to test as well) that allows for the headphone and microphone signal to be used in one jack — ideal for use with mobile devices.
I did like the fact that the phones had a built-in USB sound card that enhanced the sound quality of the phones. The software is easy to install — and also required to take advantage of the built-in card — and definitely improved the overall performance of the phones from an audio standpoint. When using the SuperBeam to make calls and conduct interviews, I didn’t hear any background noise seeping in…and I work at home with two kids.
What I Didn’t Like
The enhanced performance with the sound card is a bonus, but having to download software to take advantage of it certainly isn’t. I understand the need to do so, but it’s something that will turn off plenty of users who either don’t want to go down that road or might be disappointed by the results.
The weight of the phones was what I liked, but they felt, well…cheaply made. The pieces that held the very small earphones to the headpiece felt as if they would break with the slightest abuse (and headphones do get tossed around from time to time, even my old AKG ones). The construction of the Andrea SuperBeam Phones didn’t feel hardy enough for my taste — I expect earbuds to be flimsy, but not headphones — and especially not at the price these are selling at.
Which brings me to pricing. These headphones retail for $149.95 USD, while the earbud version runs $20 less. These do not feel like $150 headphones, nor do I feel they perform as such. Perhaps if the construction of the phones had a less disposable feel to it, then the price would be a bit more reasonable. But even with the enhanced quality that the sound card enables, these are overpriced in my book.
I really wanted to like the Andrea SuperBeam headphones. The craftsmanship that they have put into the software and the built-in sound card is to be commended. I only wish they had put as much thought and craftsmanship into the exterior of the device as they did to the interior — and to the pricing as a result.
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