The modular nature of the Fairphone XL is a welcome change in nowadays of obvious deliberate redundancy in merchandise. It’s not nearly that although, as they ship strong audio efficiency with the added bonus of respectable noise cancelling.
Fairphone is a model often related to ethically and environmentally pleasant smartphones. These units, such because the latest Fairphone 4, buck the present development of irreparable handsets that dominate the tech panorama – or ought to that be landfill? – by making them modular, permitting just about every thing to get replaced.
It’ll even promote you the spare elements immediately so that you don’t should scour eBay or AliExpress for affordable knockoffs which will or might not match.
Now, the model is popping its consideration to the over-the-ear headphone market with its Fairphone XL – the title a play on the phrase excel fairly than denoting an additional massive measurement. So, do they sound pretty much as good as their intentions? Let’s have a pay attention.
Design & Construct
Intelligent modular building
Stitching a bit messy
Fairphone gives the XL in two distinct liveries. There’s the usual black that adorns most headphones, however if you happen to’re feeling just a little extra colourful, then there’s the inexperienced pair like those I’ve right here.
In addition to the general two-tone impact, there’s additionally some black, crimson and white dapples on the skin of the ear-cups, including just a little Jackson Pollock to proceedings and a sign of the eco-friendly building. It’s all neat and fairly cool if you need one thing extra attention-grabbing than flat black.
The scarf and cushioning are coated in vegan leather-based, as are the cups. It’s tender and comfy, though the outer stitching is a bit messy the place the headscarf meets the steel bands that home extendable arms. This might be down to those being pre-production examples although, so remember to examine this space if you happen to intend to purchase these headphones.
The arms themselves are plastic, as are the outer chassis of the ear-cups, however they really feel sturdy and don’t flex in ways in which would alarm. The precise cup is house to the controls, that are made up of a button for switching between the varied ANC and pairing modes.
Beneath it is a gold mini-joystick management which will probably be very acquainted to anybody who has ever seen or used sure Marshall headphones, such because the Marshall Monitor II ANC. This may be pushed both up or down to regulate the amount or left and proper to skip tracks, whereas urgent it in and holding to energy on or off. It’s an effective way to pack a number of choices in a tiny house.
You’ll additionally discover a USB-C charging port on the underside of the cup, plus a couple of indicator lights to let you already know if the battery is operating low or when the XLs are in pairing mode. Sadly, there’s no 3.5mm jack, so if you happen to had been hoping to make use of a wired connection you’ll want a unique set of cans.
The arms are hinged although, so you may fold the headphones for storage within the supplied waterproof bag.
In fact, the primary promoting level of the Fairphone XLs is the modular building. With these headphones, just about any piece might be changed, which means that you simply received’t have an costly set of cans grow to be unusable simply because an affordable plastic half fails. I can inform you that this is a superb strategy, as my very own Marshall Main III headphones suffered this precise destiny.
Even after contacting buyer providers a number of occasions, all seeking a small bit that may have price subsequent to nothing, I used to be instructed that the corporate didn’t promote spares, and that I ought to principally purchase a substitute set of headphones. Appalling service from the Marshall headphones crew, however this shouldn’t be a problem with Fairphone.
The headphones might be disassembled with a small Phillips-style screwdriver, and the cable that attaches to the cups has a USB-C connector at every finish, making it a easy job to plug and unplug.
Checking the Fairphone website, evidently the costs are honest certainly, with issues just like the arms that connect to the cups costing round €20 (all costs are listed in that forex), the batteries are the identical, whereas the most costly half is the best speaker module at €80 because it additionally homes the controls.
Fairphone makes a giant deal of its dedication to the surroundings too, with the corporate utilizing 100% recycled aluminium and plastic for the development. To not point out that it pays its employees a dwelling wage, which isn’t one thing that might be mentioned for many outsourced processes in tech corporations.
So, they’re good high quality headphones, which shouldn’t make you’re feeling responsible about their manufacturing which is refreshing nowadays. Oh, and I ought to have talked about that they’re additionally IP54 rated, so that they’ll survive the rain with out trying out.
Sound High quality & Options
Ambient mode can wrestle in windy circumstances
In fact, not one of the moral practices will probably be value that a lot if the product isn’t any good. Fortunately, that isn’t the case with the Fairphone XL.
The headphones they maintain on fairly tightly, which could be a little uncomfortable for many who put on glasses and intend on lengthy listening periods. However, the upside is that you simply get an enclosed house during which to listen to your audio content material, with little in the best way of noises from the encircling surroundings.
Sound high quality is excellent, with a pleasant steadiness of frequencies throughout the board, all emanating from the 40mm drivers inside every speaker. If I’m being super-picky, then the higher mids really feel barely much less outstanding than others, however that might be extra as a result of guitar-heavy music I hearken to which requires these frequencies to actually come out.
It’s marginal, so don’t let that put you off, I nonetheless loved the music and benefitted from the wealthy tones of the Fairphone XL. Plus, my ears have spent a few years only some toes away from enthusiastic drummers, so it might be me fairly than the headphones.
There’s an accompanying app, referred to as Fairsound, which supplies you entry to 4 EQ settings, however I didn’t discover an enormous distinction between all of them. Sadly, you may’t modify the settings manually, so that you’re caught with what Fairphone has selected the presets.
Quantity will get up loud sufficient to do some injury, so possibly go simple on that half if you happen to don’t need to be mistakenly mis-hearing frequencies later in life like some individuals. However, there’s no must deafen your self to drown out nearby-noise, because the Fairphone XL options lively noise cancellation (ANC).
Merely tapping the button on the best cup will interact the know-how, with a notification letting you already know what mode you’re in. The ANC is respectable, though you shouldn’t anticipate absolute silence if you happen to’re in a very noisy place. Saying that, it’s going to take the sting off the din and provide you with some blessed aid, which is par for the course at this value level.
The ambient mode makes use of the microphones on the headphones to introduce a low stage of sound out of your environment, making it helpful if you happen to’re ready for an announcement or simply need to pay attention to what’s happening round you. It really works properly however, as a result of microphone placement, it does wrestle when it’s windy. Naturally, you may change the ANC off at that time, and change it again on once more as soon as the climate improves.
The Fairphone XL does assist twin connectivity with units (being actively paired with two on the similar time) however it may be just a little clumsy in getting it going. Principally, when you’re related to at least one system, press and maintain the ANC button to re-enter pairing mode.
Though it says it has disconnected to the primary one, that’s not true, and when you pair the second system you’ll be capable of change between them simply by simply hitting the play button on both system. Hopefully, this will probably be made a bit tidier by way of a software program replace.
Battery Life & Charging
800mAh detachable battery
As much as 30 hours listening time
Cheap recharge occasions
Fairphone suits an 800mAh battery within the XL, with the added bonus that it’s replaceable if it ever develops an issue or reaches the top of its pure lifespan.
The capability additionally delivers an extended quantity of play time, with the corporate promising as much as 30 hours of playback with out ANC, with that determine dropping by about 5 hours if the noise cancelling is enabled.
Clearly, I couldn’t take a look at that in a single sitting, however throughout my two weeks with the headphones I solely needed to recharge them as soon as, which sounds about proper as I used to be utilizing them about two or three hours a day.
Getting again to 100% took round an hour, so that you received’t have to attend too lengthy to get them again in motion.
Worth & Availability
Fairphone launched the XL headphones on 11 Might, though they’re solely obtainable in mainland Europe and the UK, so US clients would wish to import them from any collaborating retailer.
Costs are consistent with different high quality over-the-ear headphones with ANC, at £219/€249 (approx $277).
This places them within the vary of the wonderful Razer Opus which you’ll choose up for round $269/£200 or the Sennheiser HD 450BT headphones ($200/£150), each of which function ANC however not the moral benefits provided by Fairphone.
Try extra choices in our greatest headphones and finest noise cancelling headphones charts.
In purely sonic phrases, the Fairphone XL won’t be capable of duke it out with different premium headsets, however they nonetheless ship pleasing audio that may please most customers.
The ANC is nice, if not class-leading, and the battery life is nice. It’s a pleasant bundle that delivers properly on its ambitions.
What it’s essential to issue into the pricing right here is the flexibility to repair just about something that goes fallacious. In the event you’re the sort of individual that desires to make use of the identical tech for years, then Fairphone might be one of the best headphones for you, particularly if you happen to’re searching for an moral choice, as they’re skinny on the bottom.