I’ve been testing out a pair of LSTN Troubadours ($150) over the past week; if you’re just looking for a quick recommendation and you have a fat stack of cash burning a hole in your pocket, then I say: they’re pretty great. Go buy ‘em.
Need a bit more to go on than that? Not a problem—I have nothing but good things to say about these bad boys.
LSTN, who’s only been on the scene since 2012, is all about reclaimed wood. That’s their thing. If guitars, violins, pianos, and other musical instruments are made of wood, why not headphones? Wood is known for its acoustic properties—here’s a Wikipedia article to that effect, and if that’s not enough detail for you, here’s a bona fide study published in the Journal of Botany explaining why different types of wood have different musical applications.
I tested the cherry wood version of LSTN’s Troubadours, but they also make beech, ebony, and zebra wood versions. And, in case you were wondering, they source their wood sustainably, using scraps left over from flooring and furniture companies.
So, does using wood to construct headphones make them sound better? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist. However, they do sound better than, say, ear buds. Any ear buds. Or most other headphones. Like, the vast majority of other headphones.
I plugged my new Troubadours in and loaded my copy of AC/DC Live, expecting to just listen to “Thunderstruck” before moving on, and I ended up listening to the whole album. Without multitasking, either—listening to AC/DC on my new headphones was the most pleasant thing I did all day. The bass in these headphones is thunderous, the strings are crisp, and the sound has a warmth that most other headphones lack.
For the record, I also tested the headphones on more than just Australian classic rock. I put them through their paces on something twangy (Turnpike Troubadours seemed an appropriate choice), on something with a wide range of voices (for which I used Roomful of Teeth—pretentious link warning), and on Led Zeppelin, for no other reason than I felt like listening to “Rain Song”. Depth of the bass is the element that stands out the most, but higher frequency sounds are nice and sharp too.
Plugging in good headphones for the first time is a bit like the first time you drink good tequila—you’ll wonder how you ever settled for something inferior for so long. If you haven’t had the pleasure, go and do so right away. And, if you need a little more convincing, LSTN makes a donation to the Starkey Hearing Foundation; for every pair of headphones purchased, one person has their hearing restored. So there you go—buy a sweet pair of headphones, and enjoy them with the knowledge that someone else gets to hear too.