If I were reviewing Motörhead’s video for “Killed by Death,” it would probably get five stars, an Editors’ Choice, and a Lifetime Achievement Award for its embodiment of everything that is righteous and good about loud guitar rock, tight pants, motorcycles, and sticking it to your boring parents. Alas, we’re here to talk about headphones. In the latest installment of celebrity musicians selling you their audio expertise, we have the awesomely named Motörheadphones Motörizer. At $129 (direct), it’s relatively affordable in the celebriphone universe, but can it deliver the pro-quality, DJ-friendly audio the Motörheadphones website promises? To a point, definitely, but this headphone pair isn’t without its flaws, either.
Normally I begin by describing the overall look and feel of the headphones, but the cables deserve mention first. The detachable cables, of which there are two, are awesome—possibly the best cables I’ve seen included with a headphone pair to date. They’re thick, cloth-woven, and sturdy, and one comes with an inline remote and microphone for mobile devices. The thickness of the cables should keep them from tangling much, if at all, and the build is sturdy enough that it seems unlikely to suffer much wear-and-tear damage over time.
Now, let’s tackle the overall look and feel. If you can see the images accompanying this review, it’s obvious this is not a subtle design, which makes sense—these are Motörhead-branded headphones, so petite and discrete won’t do. The Motörhead logo (along with the separate word “phones”) graces each earcup in metallic, raised lettering, as does an image of a beast’s head. Not sure what this beast’s name is, but its got vampire canines from hell, terrifying horns, some slobber, and a chain necklace with skull charms on it. (Mother’s Day is just around the corner!) I have no qualms the visual concept here—if you’re a Motörhead fan, this is the look you’re after, and the all-black surface with the prominent logo works well.
What doesn’t work well, from a design standpoint, is much of anything else. Most of the material used looks like cheap plastic with a faux leather grain surface. The ear pads are a dust-collecting black felt-like material. Perplexingly, the headband, which is made of the aforementioned plastic and thick, flexible rubber, is divided in half, as you can see in the images, supported by a semi-flexible hard plastic frame. Most of the materials look and feel cheap, almost as if these are toy headphones instead of the real thing.
The Motörizer is “designed with DJs in mind,” according to the Motörheadphones website, with earcups are “turnable.” These earcups turn away from your head about as easily as a typical pair of semi-bulky headphone earcups do, which is to say: Not terribly easy. Sure, you can free an ear up, but while the Motörizer’s earcup swivels away from the ear, the right earcup can be tilted away to the side, but not very far away from the ear. There’s no forward range of motion in the headband, either, which lacks the hinges or supreme flexibility to move the earcups forward or backward gracefully, unlike most current DJ headphones. Compared to an actual DJ headphone pair in the same price range, like the Numark Electrowave, the range or ease of motion is not even close.
From a comfort standpoint, the circumaural ear pads are fairly neutral. They don’t seem to get too hot or put too much pressure on your ears and head over time, but they’re not exceedingly plush. The real issue is the rubber underside of the headband. It lacks any real padding, and a secure fit will likely eventually feel uncomfortable on the top of your head. Even if it doesn’t, hair gets caught on the rubberized surface easily, especially when moving the earcups.
The look of the actual headband is perplexing as well. Not just that it’s got no middle section, but the plastic and rubber parts fit together to be flexible, yet this seems to contribute nothing in the way of comfort. And if you bend the flexible parts too far, the plastic covers easily pop off the rubber base. This is cheap design; there’s no other way to put it.
While the cables, which I truly do like, are detachable, they connect to a dangling connection point on the right ear cup, rather than connect directly to the earcup itself like most headphones, professional or not, do. This eliminates much of the advantage of having a detachable cable in the first place, as the areas that receive the most stress from use and abuse over time are the ends that connect to the ear cups and the sound source. If the roughly inch-long connector on the ear cup fails, you’ll have to send the Motörizer in for repair, or replace the whole thing. A plastic accessory snaps onto the connection point, ensuring the cable never comes loose from the connection—a less graceful example of the locking mechanism that can be found on many DJ headphones.
The Motörizer ships with the two aforementioned cables and snap-on cable-stabilizing plastic piece, a ¼-inch headphone jack adapter, and a large black drawstring pouch with a huge Motörhead logo, identical to the design on the ear cups.
Call clarity through the inline microphone is par for the course in the world of cellular fidelity—not terribly clear, but you and your call partner will be able to understand each other.
The good news is that the headphones sound much better than they look or feel. The Knife’s “Silent Shout,” a song with tremendous sub-bass content, can be blasted at maximum, unsafe listening levels without the pounding synth kick drum loop distorting at all.
The sub-bass synth hits that sit underneath the drum loop in Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” are delivered with an appropriate amount of thunder—nothing too over the top, but there’s plenty of rumble. Meanwhile the attack of the kick drum in the loops has a nice treble edge to it, complemented perfectly by its low-mid sustain. Too often, boosted bass is not met with similarly sculpted high-mids and highs, but that’s not a problem here—things are bright and crisp, without ever losing the roundness of the bass response.
Vocals on this track sounded overly sibilant however, meaning that some of the high-mid/high boosting could have probably been dialed back. I’ll take a little sibilance over lack of definition in the highs any day, but on certain mixes, it can sound harsh.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” this sibilance again makes its presence known—every “ess” sound that leaves his mouth shines way too brightly. Again, however, this is a track that can often sound muffled, particularly when boosted bass is part of the equation, and here, things sound bright, crisp, defined—the opposite of muffled. The drumming in the background is lent a nice level of low-mid thump, but not so much as to take the focus off of the vocals and the rest of the mix.
Normally, I’d discuss classical music, here. I’ll quickly just say it sounds fine on the Motörizer: a little too bright, but some nice added presence to the lower register strings, and some of the brightness sounds great on high register percussion. Now we can discuss the most important part of this review: How does Motörhead sound on the Motörizer?
Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” and “Killed by Death” are both provided a great amount of clarity in high-mids and highs—the drums sound tight, clear, and excellent, as do the guitars, and the vocals sit crisply in the mix, magically, with no hint of sibilance. It’s almost as if the Motörhead catalogue were the testing suite for the Motörizer. (Yes, that was sarcasm—of course it was.) These headphones don’t really capitalize on the potential low frequency presence the kick or bass could have in the mix, but things sound clear and compelling nonetheless, and much of this has to do with mixes from the 70s and 80s naturally being less bass-heavy than modern rock, pop, hip hop, and electronic mixes tend to be.
These headphones don’t sound quite like a $130 pair, despite not distorting, and there are better options, whether you’re looking for better fit, better overall sound, or bigger bass. For the better overall sound, spend less and get the studio-friendly Sennheiser HD 280 Pro—it’s got the general balance the Motörizer is going for, with a little less deep bass presence, and no sibilance issues. If you’re looking for a better DJ option, the aforementioned Numark Electrowave is a solid, affordable pair, and if you want more bass in your life, the Logitech UE 4000 brings sub-bass into the mix with grace and clarity.
Most of the above-mentioned pairs have lower starting prices than the Motörizer, and all of them regularly sell online for far less. Simply not distorting on deep bass tracks at high volumes is not enough, nor is tweaking the highs for added clarity. Aside from the distortion-free performance, the sibilance is an issue at times, and these are among the flimsiest-feeling and -looking headphones I’ve tested, yet they cost a lot more than a significant batch of better options. Motörhead fans, it’s your money, but I’m not sure this is a must-have item.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc