As a home worker, I end up working in coffee shops a few times a week. Sitting in the same office solo all the time just wears on me so a change is needed to stay fresh.
One of the big draw backs about working in a coffee shop for me is the noise of human voices. I can deal with music, it just fades in to the background, but 2 people talking at the table beside me constantly steals my attention.
To combat this I carry a set of headphones. My go to pair for a while has been a set of Ultimate Ears 500vi in ear headphones (on Amazon). The sound quality is great on these, and they cancel noise well but when I’m wearing them for hours my ears get tired. Since I’m pretty much always wearing them for hours my ears get tired lots.
So I started looking for a set of over the ear headphones as a replacement for most of my coffee shop working. I made a list of things I was looking for (in order of priority) that you can see below.
- All day comfortable
- Decent sound quality
- Inline mic for iPhone, iPad
The Philips O’Neill Stretch headphones are really comfortable and have sound quality I like. The built in mic works as expected. If you need a really long cord get something to extend these, otherwise I highly recommend the purchase.
The Philips O’Neill stretch come packed neatly in a large attractive box. You really only get 2 parts.
Like many headphone cables now, the one provided with the Stretch headphones is wrapped with a material so it makes them less likely to tangle. That doesn’t mean they don’t get in knots, it just means that they don’t get really tight and terrible.
As I listed in my headphone requirements, my top priority was fit. The 500vi headphones make my ears tired and any over the ear headphones I’ve ever owned have had very uncomfortable head bands. They all seem to put way too much pressure across the top of my skull so my head actually hurts after an hour or so.
Happily the Stretch headphones suffer from none of those issues. Instead of the hard plastic bit sitting directly on your head, there is a soft band that actually touches your head. The band is very comfortable all day. You don’t even really notice that it’s touching your head.
Next up is weight. They are light. I’ve got a wireless set of gaming headphones and while they’re fairly comfortable, the extra weight they carry with the battery makes them sit heavy on the top of my head. Again, the Stretch headphones are really light and don’t suffer from this at all.
Finally we take a look at the ear cups. I’ve tried on-ear headphones before and my ears ended up feeling tired, just in a different way from the 500vi in-ear headphones. The Stretch ear cups are over-ear, meaning they sit against your head and your ears sit inside them. I find that the ear cups fit nicely around my ears. They sit tight on my head without any pressure points.
So as you can guess, I find the Stretch headphones very very comfortable.
The undoubted king of judging sound quality is the community over at head-fi.org. If you want to take the time and comb through all the posts on the stretch, here is a link. Overall the verdict is that the sound is okay, a bit ‘muddy’ but fine. Almost everyone did say that they were the most comfortable headphones they’ve ever tried.
The Stretch headphones are passive sound isolating. That means they fit tight and have some ‘insulation’ or ‘padding’ that damps the outside sound. Active headphones actually take batteries and analyze the outside sound, producing a soundwave in the exact opposite pattern to cancel out outside sound. The general consensus is that active headphones suffer from poorer sound quality than can be found in passive headphones. I find that the passive damping does a great job of killing enough outside sound that I really don’t notice it. The voices at the table next to me end up as a barely noticeable sound. I certainly can’t make out what others are saying when I’m listening to music with these on.
For sound quality, I find it to be great. I may not be a huge audiophile like many of the members of head-fi.org so maybe I’m missing something. I don’t mind missing anything though, since I think they sound fine that’s all that matters.
Whether I was listening to my coding playlist, which is a mix of electronic and heavy beat type music, or my reading playlist, jazz and piano I never felt that I was missing anything. I was able to sit and enjoy the music in peace.
This is more of a yes/no feature. It has an inline Mic, but what does it sound like? Below I have 2 audio files. The first is recorded with my Blue Snowball USB (on Amazon) mic. The second with the inline mic plugged in to the audio jack if my 13″ MacBook Pro. No processing was done on either file.
Blue Snowball Test Audio -download
Philips O’Neill the Stretch inline mic
Philips O’Neil THE STRETCH test audio – download
Not surprisingly the Blue Snowball sounds much better than the Stretch headphones. The headphones are certainly good enough for calls and some quick screencasting on the go, but they won’t be replacing your podcasting mic.
This was my last requirement and the Philips O’Neill the Stretch headphones simply don’t meet it. They are a corded headphone, which is one of the reasons they are so light. If they had to pack a battery on the headphones somewhere it would easily double the weight. I love to have no cords on things but the other stellar features of these headphones means I didn’t bat an eye at the fact they are corded.
Now as good as the headphones are, there are a few things I’d like to see improved upon in a future revision.
First off the cord feels pretty short. It measures up at 50″ from the tip of the connector to the headphone cup. Much of the time it’s a decent enough length, but when I want to use these at my desk, it is about 2″ to short leaving me sitting just a bit forward to stop the cord from pulling a bit. Any time I’m out working remotely with my laptop the length is no issues.
I also wish there was a case that came with the headphones, or at least some way they thought of to deal with the cord. Yes these are only $80 headphones but I’d add $10 easy for a case. Currently I detach the cord all the time and wrap it up on it’s own to go in my bag. In theory a case would have a spot for the cord to go. Undoubtedly the case would make carrying the Stretch headphones harder since it would by definition increase the size of the headphones to fit around them. I’d be happy to put up with that to be able to grab one thing instead of the headphones, then fish the cord out a pocket.
The final verdict after 2 weeks with the Philips O’Neill the Stretch headphones, I really like them. Certainly worth $80, and really even more. I admit that I may not be able to travel with them all the time because they are larger than in-ear headphones. In that case I’ll deal with my Ultimate Ears 500vi and miss the Stretch headphones. I would love it if they had a case to protect them a bit more, but I could just be careful instead.
If you’re looking for a new set of comfortable over-ear headphones, I’d say you can’t go wrong with a pair of Philips O’Neill the Stretch headphones.