If you’re venturing into sub-$35 territory for headphones, here are some reasonable expectations: They will distort at higher volumes, will likely feel uncomfortable, and, by definition, be cheaply made. It’s not that the bizarrely named Scosche Lobedope SHP451M defies these stereotypes, it’s that it manages to make them seem relatively insignificant. Why? Because at $34.99 (direct), these headphones offer some of the deepest bass we’ve ever heard below $50—and while they distort, it’s only on tracks with seriously deep bass, and only at very top volumes. At moderate volumes, the Lobedope offers a full sound, and enough crisp midrange and highs to keep things relatively balanced. Considering that the Lobedope comes with an inline remote control and mic for mobile devices—something competitors often include at extra cost—the audio performance seems, in all its modest glory, like a $35 miracle, earning it our Editors’ Choice award.
Offered in a pleasing spectrum of colors—seven in all, including bright green, red, and blue—each Lobedope is uniformly one color, save for the black Scosche logo on each ear. The Scosche logo is also etched into the plastic headband. The headphones look cooler when you’re not wearing them, as the earpads are made from an opaque fabric that allows sound through but looks thick enough that it wouldn’t. It’s an optical illusion if you look closely—underneath a thin grille cloth there’s a typical circular earpad. Regardless, it’s the most interesting thing about this budget, ho-hum, on-ear (supra-aural) design—and unfortunately, it can’t be appreciated while in use.
One thing we can’t really test in the labs for any product is durability over time; we have to make educated guesses. So, my educated guess is that the Lobedope will break pretty easily if mishandled—the headphones look, feel, and fit just like cheap, plastic headphones should. They are not exceedingly uncomfortable, but in terms of build, they look and feel their price.
The inline remote control is of the single button variety, so you can’t adjust volume—it only controls playback and track navigation, depending on how many times you tap the button. But you can also answer and take calls using the inline microphone, and at this price, it’s unreasonable to expect much in the way of extra features to begin with, so this is a plus. (The Lobedope is also available without an inline remote and mic for $29.99.)
If you are expecting accessories at this price, adjust your expectations.
On tracks with serious sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the Scosche predictably distorts at top, unsafe listening levels. But lower the volume a bit, and the distortion disappears—and even more impressive, there’s a tremendous amount of deep low-end here. Bass response is getting easier to bring to cheaper headphones, but this is still a laudable amount of low-end for a budget pair, particularly one that isn’t in-canal, as those models can create a heavier sense of bass merely by creating a secure seal in the ear canal. There are no good tricks like that in the on-ear department; the modest 40mm drivers the Lobedope packs have to muster the deep bass all on their own.
On Bill Callahan’s “Drover,” his baritone vocals receive a nice richness in the lows, but also plenty of high-mid treble edge to keep them out in the forefront of the mix. There’s some serious bass-boosting here—the drums get a heavy helping, probably more than they need—so the sculpting in the high-mids and highs is crucial. No purist will ever tell you that these headphones sound great, but no purist audiophile will ever shop in this price range. This is likely some of the best sound, no matter how heavily sculpted it may be, one can hope to attain with a measly $35. There’s a lot that goes into making a functional pair of headphones, so this price is amazingly low for what these drivers manage to pump out.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” gets enough low-end through the Lobedope to add a full-bodied, rich sustain to the kick drum loop, which also gets enough high-mid edge on its attack to slice through the mix. The sub-bass synth hits are also delivered with a deep, menacing presence, and yet the vocals remain clear, the commanding force of the mix. At top volumes, this track doesn’t distort, even at uncomfortably loud volumes.
On classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” the Lobedope adds some bass presence to the lower register strings, while allowing the higher register strings and percussion to remain crisp and at the forefront of the mix. It’s not an accurate flat mix, but it’s got plenty of body—a powerful sound that adds a little excitement to the proceedings.
Typically, this is where I tell you about some less expensive options, but this is about as inexpensive as it gets without being unlistenable—all I can do is tell you about a similarly priced in-ear option that is solid, and that’s the RHA MA150. If you have more room in your budget, of course you can improve on the audio experience here—some of my favorite sub-$100 options include the Griffin WoodTones Over-the-Ear Headphones, the bass-adjustable Skullcandy Crusher, and the Sennheiser HD 429s. At $35, however, these are inexpensive, somewhat flimsy headphones that distort on deep bass at maximum volume…and then blow your mind at moderate, rational listening levels. The Scosche Lobedope is by no means sonically perfect, but every time I hear its competent low-end response, I do a double-take at the price. So, I have no choice but to give this unfortunately named headphone pair our Editors’ Choice—what more could you expect?
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc