If looks aren't everything to you, you should keep hunting: The Layla underemphasizes notable swaths of the midrange, which muddles important details in your music.
Boy, what a looker!
The headphone industry has taken a very sartorial turn in recent years, and Frends is well ahead of the crowd in that regard. Rose-gold ear plates and sleek white bands? Yes please. Well done, Frends. Way to make everyone look better!
Unfortunately, the level of comfort isn't so impressive. Folks with sensitive ears won't be keen on dropping $150 for on-ears. The design applies steady stress to the outer ear, causing significant aching with extended use. The narrow band isn't the sturdiest thing in the world, sliding about with a shake of the head.
As with most headphones these days, a three button mic/remote is present to help you take calls and control beats. We wish the 4.2-foot cable was removable, but alas, no. To keep your hardware looking flawless, Frends does include a handy white carry case, so be sure to use it.
Feast your eyes, avert your ears
Much like the Frends Taylor, the beautifully designed Layla headphones have some significant performance flaws. If you have refined audio taste and you're on the lookout for balanced, detailed sound quality, these on-ears won't suit you at all. Keep on shopping.
Unlike many popular consumer headphones, the Layla does not blast bass, a fact that audiophiles would rejoice in were it not for the performance that follows. Sound continues in this flat, even manner all the way into the midrange—so far, so good! But then the Layla drops the ball: High mids (which constitute upper notes on vocals, percussion, brass, strings, and pianos) absolutely plummet in volume! So while listeners will easily hear the meaty middle notes on every instrument in the book, they'll have to crank the volume to hear the beautiful high notes with the same clarity, and by that time everything is annoyingly loud. To boil it down, the middle range will sound twice as loud as the upper mids. Listening to opera on these things is not fun (true, said activity is never fun for some, but you take my drift).
Testing was not without some high points. Headphones frequently struggle to maintain equal loudness in left and right speakers, but the Layla balances volume very well. Distortion isn't much of an issue either—only very skilled ears will hear errors in the bass range. High-pitched sound pollution shouldn't bother you either, thanks to effective noise blocking; so if you're stuck in a minivan with chattering siblings, the Layla has you covered, reducing that noise by as much as nearly 1/16 its original loudness.
Absolute beauties, but they don't perform to their price
For many buyers, $150 is no small sum. On the design front, boy does Frends deliver: The Layla easily out dresses most of what you see on the market. Good sound quality just isn't there, though. These headphones rob listeners of proper emphasis throughout the upper midrange, causing music to lose pretty details like high notes on vocals, strings, and more.
Despite being the prettiest gal on the block, the Layla just doesn't live up to its $149 price tag. If you care anything about great sound quality, stay on the prowl for something better.
Instead of telling you what we think about a pair of headphones, we let our numbers do the talking. The Layla's data is anything but impressive: The frequency response shows heavy underemphasis in important portions of the range, which diminishes important musical details.
Dropping the high midrange ball
From the get-go, the Layla's frequency response actually gets off to a great start. Instead of blasting bass, as with many hip consumer models, these on-ears produce a very flat response—at first. Sound carries on nicely in this way right until the 2kHz mark. At that point, the volume begins its 9dB fall from grace: The decrease is such that the bass and midrange will sound twice as loud as upper mids, causing you to strain to hear the uppermost notes on vocals, strings, and other instruments.
Distortion tests produced fair results: Though the sub-bass range is absolutely riddled with problems, that portion is also the least perceptible. Where we really criticize things harshly is from 100Hz and up. While there is some measure of distortion in the bass range, these levels never reach 4%, so only very seasoned listeners will detect these errors.
Even at the hazardous level of 124dB, distortion stays under 3%—but don't listen louder than 100dB. You could hurt yourself.
Quite the balancing act
Tracking performance deals with how balanced a headphone's left and right speakers are, in terms of volume. This is often a great challenge for headphones, and on-ears especially. While I did get great results for the Layla on-ears, bear in mind that finding the perfect fit can be a bit tricky.
Volume does waver between left and right channels, but luckily the variances aren't discernible. Errors never travel above 2.3dB, so volume should sound very balanced across the board.
Meet the tester
Checking our work.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.Shoot us an email