California Headphone Co. Laredo Review
The Laredos are the first outing from the "Kickstarted" California Headphone Company.
Borne of a Kickstarter campaign, the California Headphone Company has churned out its first line of headphones, and among them is the Laredo. While their appearance is indeed slick, their audio performance isn’t quite where it needs to be just yet in order to compete well. However, because the Laredos are still at an entry-level price point, you could do much worse for the money.
Comfort Design & Features
The Laredos are "portable enough," and even with a low clamping force manage to be passably comfortable.
Once you slide the Laredo on your head, you’ll enjoy the soft leather cupping your pinna, and not suffer from excessive clamping. Few, if any, comfort problems were reported from those with differently-sized heads, but comfort is largely subjective, so see if you can find a pair of these to try on if you’re unsure about purchasing them. Over time, the fit of the Laredos really doesn’t change that much, so what you feel when they first cradle your noggin is basically what you can expect for the rest of your listening session.
With a standard 1/8th inch plug, you’ll be able to use your Laredo with a smartphone or media player no sweat. This plug also means that the Laredo wasn’t really built with an amplifier or older hi-fi set in mind, but if you’re looking to connect these cans to a mobile device, you’re all set. Most of the way down the cable is an auxiliary jack that allows you to share your music with a friend if they have headphones of their own. All they have to do is plug in, and they can listen in on whatever you have on at the moment. If you’re into sharing your music with your friends, this is a useful feature if you don’t want to buy and subsequently lose a headphone jack splitter.
Despite the fact that the Laredo are a little on the large side for portable headphones, they can be taken out and about with reasonable allowance for bulk. While we don’t recommend you shove them just anywhere, they’d fit well in a messenger bag or backpack if you need to stow them.
For the most part, the frequency response of the California Headphone Company Laredos is actually quite decent, until you get to a really bizarre muting of some high mid tones.
We found a rather significant spike in distortion, but a relatively okay performance all around only if you ignore the one huge, glaring distorted spot. It'll be tough to listen to these cans as they drop emphasis drastically for some pitches, and their distortion (fuzz) sound spikes up in its place. A pretty bad result, really. As for tracking, we found wild shifts in preference from one speaker to the other, so the errors in your music will be very noticeable and distracting, especially in the high end.
We’re not entirely sure what could possibly be the cause of the error present with these cans, as we’ve tested these cans 10+ times. It’s always there. We tried reaching out to California Headphone Co. and received no answer. Our best guess is that this particular pair may have something wrong with it, or that something is touching the drivers on the inside. Either way, while most of your music will sound okay, there will be a few instances where you can’t help but notice a complete gap in some sounds, and the effect is jarring.
For all their shortcomings in other areas, the Laredo actually block out a considerably high amount of outside noise in comparison to most other on-ear headphones. Not only do they cut out high-end noise like car horns and the like, but they also manage to block out a tad more low-end sounds like car engines. Very cool.
There are some definite advantages here, but the Laredos could have benefited from a little more cook time in CHC's labs.
Given that this is one of a first round of headphones from a brand-new company, it feels a little out of place to be harsh, but there are some notable problems with California Headphone Co.‘s Laredo headphones. For example, there is a really bizarre issue right at 3kHz that looks like the headphones can’t even produce that frequency sound in any capacity.
However, as we’ve pointed out in the comparisons, even the big companies get it wrong sometimes too, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that the headphones are irredeemable. In fact, there are some pretty significant bright spots to the Laredo: they isolate extremely well for on-ears, and they look absolutely sick with their brushed metal casing, not to mention the durability that comes with the hard material.
It’s hard to complain too much with a price point under $100, but there are some issues that may convince people to buy other cans. However, if you’re looking for a pair of headphones that isolate well, and survive a decent amount of casual abuse, you could do a lot worse for $99.95. Just make sure that the Laredo’ strengths match up well with what you want in your headphones, lest you be stuck with something that isn’t ideal for you.
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