That's right, Frends, waify supermodels and their sun-kissed bosoms can't save you now. The golden-maned gals on your homepage may seduce lady shoppers, but they can't melt the hearts of our stone-cold robots. Only stellar performance can do that.
A beauty with good guts
In the lab, the dainty looking Ella b turned out to have the heart of a bass-boosting lion. Studio listeners and audiophiles will want to graze in flatter pastures, but the average consumer should have a blast with these earbuds—literally. Talk about booming bass.
The consumer headphone market has shown an appetite for big bass, and the Ella b serves it up in piles. These in-ears also over-emphasize portions of the middle and high range—to the point that I found myself turning my music down a bit because cymbal crashes and high vocals bothered my ears. In fact, some will find that these headphones are actually a bit too loud overall. In any event, frequencies are balanced in such a way that instruments like guitars, pianos, snare drums, and the rest aren't lost in the big-bass bash. I'll end the discussion on a key point: since mid and high notes are boosted in order to keep up with the loud bass, songs without much bass can sound grating—so just bear that in mind.
As far as the bad news goes, there isn't much. Apart from the fact that music consistently favors the right speaker, making sound slightly louder in the right ear, there just isn't much to hem and haw over.
Testing ended on happy notes: The Ella b did an excellent job blocking outside noises, and it barely leaked any sound at all.
Va va voom
The Ella b is fit to satisfy even the pickiest sartorial shopper. Buyers can choose from pink-champagne or yellow-gold metals. The pretty, metallic cages that guard each speaker mimic the look and feel of earrings. The four-foot white cable lends a clean, finished feel. In a word, these in-ears are just plain pretty.
Movers and shakers will benefit from the light, collapsible build, the included carry case, and the mic/remote. With the press of a shiny plastic button, users can skip songs, take calls, and control volume. Low sounds like construction site noises or passing engines will no doubt interfere with listening, but high pitched pollution is effectively blocked—so even the most dedicated Chihuahua will be quieted to a satisfactory degree. Nor will your neighboring Chihuahua be bothered; the Ella b barely leaks a peep of sound.
Now, about the fit: Can the Ella b compare to the decadence of a cushy over ear? Not at all. Yet it does ship with four different sized silicone covers to suit a range of ear shapes. Surprisingly, these in-ears proved moderately comfortable, even with extended use. Would I consider them a great substitute for over ears? Absolutely not, but if you need comfortable earbuds, these are certainly an agreeable choice.
The Frends Ella b put up a valiant fight in our audio lab, proving that they're more than just a pretty case. These in-ears don't have what it takes to steal an audiophile's heart, but lots of shoppers don't want flat, studio-quality sound; many desire sound like what the Ella b produces—massive low notes with mids and highs that break through the bassy fray.
Is the Ella b the fairest of them all? Not in terms of price. Shoppers can find comparable sound for less with a bit of comparison shopping; but given the quality sound and the dazzling design, $99.99 does not at all seem like an unreasonable asking price for this product. In fact, it's hard to think of something better than the Ella b for anyone searching for quality, fashionable earbuds—especially if you can find them marked down.
Time in the audio lab produces a mountain of numbers, and we like to share our findings. Pretty looks aside, the Ella b was no sissy during testing. Take a look at the numbers and see for yourself why these earbuds scored so highly.
No instrument left behind
Studio listeners won't find the flat response they're looking for with the Ella b, but lots of consumers will. The Ella b handles sound rather like an equal loudness curve—which equalizes frequencies in loudness for the human ear.
Starting with sub-bass and zipping all the way into the uppermost notes, sounds follow the ELC curve quite closely, though there are several deviations along the way: For example, sub-bass is overemphasized—but since mids and highs receive the same treatment, music still remains balanced overall. Literally speaking, this means that even though music is bass-heavy, mids and highs are such that they won't be lost in the shuffle.
Wow. This is an incredible test result—there is practically zero audible distortion, not even in the sub-bass range, where we practically always see audible errors.
The distortion is so low that it warrants skipping discussion of Perceptual Harmonic Distortion—just don't turn your music up too loud. If your tunes rise above 109.97dB(SPL), you'll be stuck with more than 3% distortion—but you shouldn't be listening above 100dB for safety reasons anyway.
Tracking trials deal with volume between left and right speakers. Often, a set of headphones favors one channel over the other, and that goes for the Ella b.
Throughout practically the entire range, the right speaker is louder than the left, but the error isn't particularly egregious. The worst instance occurs right in the mid range at 700Hz, when volume becomes nearly twice as loud in the right channel. Music spikes in loudness in the left ear for a change right around 2kHz, but it flip flops again at 7kHz and again at 9kHz, which sort of evens the effect. In other words, the errors in the highest portion of the range aren't very perceptible. In fact, none of the tracking errors even reach 4dB, so users shouldn't be too bothered unless their ears are quite practiced.
Meet the tester
Former Managing Editor@
Virginia is a former Managing Editor at Reviewed.com. She has a background in English and journalism. Away from the office, Virginia passes time with dusty books & house cats.
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