LSTN makes affordable headphone pairs using reclaimed wood for design accents, and the latest model we’re checking out is the LSTN Fillmores. At $100 (direct), the Fillmores offer a lightweight, comfortable fit and a surprisingly powerful bass response for their unassuming size and price. Although the breakdown of contributions is unclear, for every pair of LSTN headphones sold, the company makes a contribution to the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which helps get hearing aids to people in need throughout the world. Add in a detachable cable with an inline remote control and microphone for mobile devices, and there’s plenty to feel good about here.
Visually, you’ll either love or hate the Fillmores’ look. It’s hard to say anything negative about the reclaimed wood panels on each earcup—they are offered in Cherry Wood, Beech Wood, and Ebony Wood, and they feature the LSTN logo etched into the surface. The earpads are a traditional black, and have plenty of very plush material for a comfortable fit, as does the underside of the headband.
After that, however, we are looking at a very ho-hum headband that is not particularly eye-catching. Its functional, matte black rubberized surface almost offsets the grace of the wood earcups. Regardless of looks, the headband is well-designed from a functional standpoint—the earcups swivel and fold down at hinges that allow for compact storage.
There are wood accents on the connection points of the cable, which features an inline remote control and microphone for mobile devices. It’s a single button remote, so there’s no way to control volume, but you can play and pause, answer calls, and do some track navigation with multiple taps. The cable being detachable adds to the value of the Fillmores—if the cable malfunctions, which is a strong possibility over time with any headphone pair, it’s a lot cheaper to replace the cable than the entire headphone pair, obviously.
The Fillmores ship with a ¼-inch headphone jack adapter and a canvas drawstring tote that is just barely large enough for them to fold down into.
For such a lightweight, unassuming pair, the Fillmores pack a healthy bass response. On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout”, the lows are delivered with power and definition. At top, unsafe listening levels, the Fillmores do not distort on deep bass tracks, though they sound like they are on the brink. That hardly matters, however—from moderate-to-quite loud levels, there’s not even a hint of distortion. Plenty of $100-and-under headphones attempt to avoid distorting on deep bass tracks by avoiding reproducing deep bass frequencies altogether, but that’s not the case here—the Fillmores deliver beefy low frequency presence.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover”, the bass response is boosted enough to give the drums a bit too much low-end presence in the mix. His baritone vocals also receive a bit more added richness than they need, but the high-mid and high frequency presence is also sculpted and strong enough that his voice doesn’t get buried in the thunder of the drums, and the guitar strumming is able to maintain a nice presence. The balance here is definitely shifted to the lows, but not in a way that makes things sound horribly lopsided. Fans of rich bass will probably enjoy this sound; purists seeking flat response will likely find the lows a bit too pumped.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” lets the Fillmores show off a bit. The kick drum loop’s attack is delivered with a nice amount of high-mid presence that helps it stay prominent in the mix, while the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat are never delivered in an over-the-top fashion, though they are definitely noticeable. We can deduce from this that the bass boosting for the Fillmores is focused more on the lows and low-mids, and a bit less so on the truly deep bass realm that subwoofers focus on. Again, things could be a tad crisper, but we have a nicely balanced mix, with clear vocals and powerful bass presence—nothing feels ignored or over-the-top.
On classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances”, the balance remains. Lower register strings, brass, and percussion have a nice richness to them, but the mids and highs remain the dominant force in the mix, so the growls of brass and bowing of higher register strings remain in the forefront. There’s probably a bit more low frequency boost than purists want, but most listeners will find the balance here close to ideal.
So, other than some ho-hum elements of the design, it’s hard to knock the LSTN Fillmores—they deliver lows cleanly and powerfully, and while they may not be the crispest-sounding headphones around, they maintain enough definition in the high-mids to keep most mixes and genres sounding rich and clear. If you were actually hunting for a headphone pair that delivers gobs of sub-woofer-esque bass response in this price range, the Skullcandy Crusher allows you to adjust the bass response yourself, and it can get quite intense. If you like the balance of the Fillmores, but want a more traditional-looking pair, the Sennheiser HD 429s delivers nice balance in this price range, as does the more modern-looking Logitech UE 4000. And finally, if you’re looking to spend a lot less than $100, the Skullcandy Hesh 2 is a solid option for its price—and it doesn’t skimp on bass response. For $100, however, the Fillmores bring powerful lows and clean highs, and add to their value with the detachable cable, making them a solid investment.
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