Frends Layla Review
Winning looks, but without superior sound quality to match
The Layla (MSRP $149) by Frends doesn't mess around on the design front—these are some of the best-looking on-ears in town. But the audio quality isn't as golden as the sparkling ear plates.
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.
Design & Features
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.
A Final Look
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.
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