Griffin WoodTones Over-Ear Review
A luxurious fit that will leave you pining for a fuller sound.
The Griffin WoodTones (MSRP $99.99) are a very unusual pair of over-ear headphones: They're made of wood! The backs of the cups are carved from sapele, beech, or walnut wood, promising buyers a unique look and sound.
But unfortunately, the WoodTones can't see the forest for the trees.
They provide a very comfortable fit, but sound almost oppressively bass heavy. It's easy to find options with far more clarity and detail for the same price. No matter which way you chop it, the WoodTones underperform, and you could do a lot better for less.
Dr. Dre meets Treebeard
The WoodTones over-ear headphones come in three different, er, wood tones: sapele, beech, and walnut. Our review unit is the sapele variety, which is a medium brown color with a looser grain pattern than the other two. It's easy to get caught up in the grainy goodness that lends the WoodTones their name—they look nothing short of beautiful.
But forget about the wood styling for a moment. In truth, the best things about these headphones are the very cushy ear cups and the supportive band. The fit on these cans is just terrific, hour after hour, and they feel great against the ear.
Another great attribute is how light the WoodTones are, which is surprising considering the material. The cable is durable, wrapped in rubber, and end-capped in a wood color that matches the headphones. Unfortunately, the materials of the band and cups feel a little bit cheap. They look fine, but you may find yourself wondering just how much wear and tear these cans can take. With any luck, they won't break—knock on wood.
Griffin doesn't include any kind of carry case or adapters, either, and the WoodTones don't fold into themselves or make any attempt at portability. I'm also not crazy about the placement of the in-line mic/remote on the cable, as it's literally impossible to see while you're wearing them. That said, the WoodTones are so cushy comfortable, these little inconveniences are worth the trade.
Bass? Check. Middle? Check. Trebles? Not so much.
When it comes to audio quality, the Griffin WoodTones start out strong, but they don't finish so smooth. If you're looking for huge bass boost in the style of a 1990s portable CD player, keep moving: These Griffin cans actually provide a very even bass landscape. Or at least, they try to.
Testing revealed that the WoodTones lack enough support for the upper midrange and high end. Instruments like flutes, piccolos, and violins get absolutely buried by bass and mid-range instruments.
So, while the WoodTones don't actually push emphasis on bass to an abnormal degree, they still inadvertently sound extra bassy due to the feeble treble department. For example, cymbals sound extremely muted, and repeating bass lines obscure drum fills, higher notes on keyboards, and overtones on vocals.
Fortunately, these wooden warriors fight more valiantly elsewhere. I tested a solid balance in volume between the left and right channels, so both ears get a lovin' spoonful of music all the time. These Griffins also do a pretty good job blocking outside, ambient noise—high pitched sounds may not get their due during playback, but they can't get in from the outside, either.
Lastly, we'd be remiss not to mention that all of that rumbling bass comes with an unwanted tagalong: Distortion. Testing revealed a higher-than-average amount of harmonic distortion during playback. These headphones lack clarity due to underemphasis throughout high notes and overtones—as we mentioned—and the presence of distortion in the bass range clutters the soundscape all the more. After about half an hour of listening, I felt like my brain was swimming in molasses.
Browse before you bark up this tree
It's hard to make a definitive call concerning the Griffin WoodTones. While $100 is a pretty awesome price for a pair of over-ears this comfortable, the bass-cluttered soundscape they provide lacks polish, and drops emphasis during some of the most important parts of your music.
On one hand, maybe you only have 100 bucks in your pocket and you're dying for this sleek wooden look and a luxurious form factor. If you're not a choosy listener, these might be your ticket—they're only around $60 online.
Just keep in mind that while the WoodTones fall into a budget price range, quality hunters can buy better overall sound for just a little more cash—these V-Moda cans come to mind.
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