Every musician needs a good pair of headphones. (Notice I didn’t say ear buds.) On the go, you’re plugging them into different sources—keyboard here, laptop there—all of which have headphone outputs of varying quality. Blue Mics’ first headphones tries to solve that problem by building the amps into the cans themselves. They’re also out to reinvent headphone ergonomics. I’ve been toting a pair for about six months, and here’s how they did on both counts.
In the Tiffany’s-blue box comes the Mo-Fi unit, a charging brick, a mini-USB cable (for charging only), two custom 1/8" stereo cables (one of which has iPod controls) , an 1/8"-to-1/4" adapter, a sueded microfiber pouch, and even an adaptor for those wonky dual jacks in airline seats.
The long, skinny barrel end of either audio cable plugs in to the deeply recessed input on the left earpiece, in a way vaguely reminiscent of jacking that virtual-reality spike thingy into Neo’s skullport in The Matrix. Surrounding that input is a collar with three positions: off (in which the Mo-Fi functions like passive headphones), on, and on with bass boost. That last setting may be there to appeal to people who might otherwise want Beats headphones, but there’s no doubt that the active mode sounds fabulous. Overall, Mo-Fi is so accurate and detailed that I initially thought they had multiple drivers, not the 50mm full-range drivers in the specs. Going between my MacBook Pro, iPod classic, and several keyboards, I did notice a small increase in the noise floor in active mode. It’s not enough to be obtrusive, but you may notice it behind quieter program material.
Verdict on the sound: I’d mix on these without trepidation, and they’ve become the first thing I reach for picking up tunes or wood-shedding sans speakers.
When the ear cups are touching, the amps shut off, conserving battery life. This works so well that I haven’t charged them in a month and they still have juice.
Blue has always been known for bold industrial design, but Mo-Fi really reminded me of this fancy office chair called the Humanscale Freedom: As opposed to having adjustment controls for the seatback angle, armrest height, and so on, it continuously conforms to your body via a series of articulating and jointed parts. Mo-Fi does the same thing on your head. A tension wheel on top sets the squeeze factor to your liking, and the earpieces can flip down out of the way for when the headphones are around your neck between takes. The ear cups are shaped like, um, ears (you actually don’t see that a lot), and made for a nice seal around my own ears. I could move my head around vigorously, as one might when rocking out, and Mo-Fi’s engineering kept the cans solidly planted where they belonged; other parts of the mechanism seemed to absorb and cancel out my bodily motions.
After extended wear I found myself wanting the ear cups’ foam to be a little firmer, though that may be a matter of taste. Also, at a solid pound, Mo-Fi is and feels heavier than many conventional full-sized headphones, but I can’t imagine how you could build in amplifiers and have things be otherwise. I didn’t find the weight a problem, especially given the other comfort features.
Verdict on the ergonomics: pretty genius.
My one big wish is for Blue to have added digital-to-analog converters and USB audio input. On laptops, the subpar D/A is usually the biggest sonic degrader than the output amp, so this would really push Mo-Fi over the top. Plus, a mini-USB port is already present for charging, so much of the needed physical infrastructure already exists in the design template. Maybe if they come out with a “Mo-Fi Pro” with integrated DACs . . .But let’s not ignore a big advantage to them being simply active: You could use them on line-level devices that don’t have a headphone output at all, given the right adapters on the source end of the custom cable. How many headphones can you say that about?
Great sound on all types of sources. Active amplification really helps even the sonic playing field. Ingenious articulating design makes for great comfort and ergonomics. Cool-looking.
Built-in amps also make them heavier than most full-sized headphones. Active mode imparts slight noise floor.
A genuine breakthrough in headphone design, and definitely worthy of a serious noggin-time audition if you’re shopping for a new pair.
$399.99 list | $349.99 street