There’s no shortage of noise-canceling headphones on the market currently, but there’s a definite lack of quality, inexpensive options. At $139.99 (direct), I-Mego’s Walker Junior (no association with the musician Junior Walker intended, it seems) is inexpensive and its noise canceling circuitry is decent. However, while it does an admirable job blocking out ambient noise, considering its price, its relative success in this realm is balanced by distortion issues at high volumes. The Walker Junior is designed well, with a removable cable and collapsible design, and is a reasonable budget option to consider if your top priority is noise cancellation and not audio performance.
There’s something edgy and almost futuristic about the design of the Walker Junior. The all-black, matte surface is graced by a white X on each earcup which, from a distance, looks almost as if it has been stitched into the surface.
The padded headband features a hinge at the center of the top panel—it folds in half at this point, and then hinges above the earpads allow it to fold down flat. This ergonomic design allows for easy storage and packing, and does so without sacrificing comfort—the Walker Junior stays comfortable over long listening sessions.
Unfortunately, the headphones use a AAA battery instead of a rechargeable one. The battery compartment, as well as the On/Off switch for the noise cancellation circuitry, is located on the right earcup, while the cable connects to the left.
The cable is removable, which adds some value to the headphones, as cables are often the culprit when a pair begins to malfunction—replacing a cable is far more affordable than replacing an otherwise functional headphone pair. There’s no inline remote or microphone for mobile devices, but this is fairly standard for noise-canceling headphones.
Also included: a ¼-inch headphone jack adapter, an airplane jack adapter, a zip-up protective pouch which the headphone collapse and fold down into, and the aforementioned AAA battery and detachable cable.
On songs with deep bass, like The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Walker Junior struggles at top volumes with distortion. These top volumes are too loud to listen to for long periods of time, however, and at high—but not maximum—levels, the distortion begins to disappear. At about 75 percent volume on an iPhone 4s, there was no distortion at all, and the sub-bass frequencies of the synth kick drums were delivered with plenty of low frequency presence. This was with the noise cancellation activated.
With the headphones in passive mode (the power switched to off), the headphones lose a significant bit of volume, as well as what feels like a little brightness. The same track from the Knife, however, does not distort at top volume in passive mode, and there is still a decent sense of low frequency response.
Tracks with less challenging low frequency content, like Bill Callahan’s “Drover”, still suffer from some far less noticeable distortion at top, unsafe listening levels, while at lower volumes, there’s no hint of anything but clean audio. At these levels, with the noise cancellation engaged, the sound signature seems a bit muted, as if it could benefit from a bit of added brightness or crispness in the high-mids. Callahan’s vocals are missing the treble edge that lends some gravel to his baritone delivery here. The lower frequencies are a bit more gracefully represented, with the drumming on this track receiving a nice bit of low-end thump, without things going overboard and the drums taking the focus away from the vocals.
Similar characteristics are highlighted by Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild.” The kick drum loop that starts the song off, as well as the vocals, could all use a bit of high-mid edge to them, to add more definition to the mix. The sub-bass synth hits underneath the drum loop, however, as well as the sustain of kick drum, have a nice, round bass presence to them—nothing overwhelming, but a good level of power (at moderate volumes). Both the Callahan and the Jay-Z/Kanye West track would benefit from a slightly brighter, crisper presence from the high-mids and up. The mix is not muffled, but it does lean more to the lows and low-mids.
As for its noise cancellation performance, the Walker Junior does a good job of eliminating a fairly wide band of ambient noise, but like most noise cancellation circuitry in this price range, it also delivers this noise reduction with an audible high frequency hiss. It’s not very loud, you won’t hear it when you’re playing music, and it sounds like very faint tape hiss, so it’s nothing really that unpleasant. It’s a sign, however, of lower quality noise reduction circuitry than you’ll find, say, in a Bose QuietComfort 15.
If quality noise reduction—and no hiss when there’s no music playing—is a top priority, the Bose QC15 is probably the way to go. However, unlike the Walker Junior, the QC15 cannot be used in passive mode, when the circuitry is turned off. If excellent sonic performance is your main priority, but you don’t want to miss out on quality noise cancellation, the AKG K 490 NC remains a premium option—both pairs are pricier than the Walker Junior.
But that’s just the issue: You’re not going to find high quality noise cancellation paired with great audio performance for $140. If you can spend a little more, the Logitech UE 6000 doesn’t suffer from the same distortion issues and offers some serious bass response, and the in-ear Phiaton PS 20 NC offers strong audio performance—but you have to be okay with going the in-canal earphone route, rather than with headphones. For the price, the Walker Junior delivers solid noise cancellation, but it’s not on-par with better pairs mentioned here, and in terms of audio performance, it’s also outmatched. Its greatest assets are its price, its detachable cable, and the ability to use it in passive mode—but the distortion will be an understandable deal-breaker for some.
|Active Noise Cancellation||Yes|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc