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Review: Definitive Technology Symphony 1 Headphones

by Paul Strauss
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When you think about headphones these days, the first thing that comes to mind is those silly little earbuds you attach to your iPhone. But serious audio junkies know that proper over-the-ear headphones can sound better than loudspeakers, providing an immersive, dynamic and personal listening experience like no other. Definitive Technology’s Symphony 1 Headphones aim to do just that, while including features like Bluetooth wireless connectivity and active noise cancellation.

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Going on looks alone, the Symphony 1s mean business. From the premium styling of their packaging materials, to the substantive build of the headphones themselves, it’s clear that that lots of thought and effort went into their creation.

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The headphones come packaged in an elegant padded case with cutouts for their accessories, and a carabiner for carrying. For times you don’t want to travel with something so big, there’s also a microfiber carrying pouch.

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Build quality is exceptional, using materials like aluminum and leather, yet despite their substance and size, they’re quite lightweight and comfortable. They also have some handy features, like a built-in microphone for calls, and buttons for controlling tracks.

Naturally, the most important thing about headphones is how they sound, and these don’t disappoint. Musically, they’re quite clean, offering smooth and natural sounds. They’re ideal for tracks where sonic purity is desired and aren’t boomy or shrill in the least.

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The Symphony 1s have an extraordinarily wide and flat frequency response, and are rated from 8Hz to 28kHz. Those looking for artificial emphasis of bass or other frequencies should look elsewhere. That said, I think they’re best for jazz, classical, rock and electronic music.

Their large padded earcups do a good job mitigating ambient sounds, but if you plan on wearing them on an airplane or other noisy environment, their active noise cancelling technology goes further to decrease background noise. While they didn’t totally drown out my library of test sounds (airplane, vacuum cleaner, buzzsaw, subway car), the feature decreased their volume enough to make listening to even quiet music a pleasant experience. I particularly like how they adapt to the ambient noise level, and they don’t have that annoying hiss that so many noise cancelling headphones during quiet passages. Keep in mind that enabling this feature decrease battery life from about 15 hours down to 10 hours, so you probably won’t want to leave it on unless you’re somewhere noisy.

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Sound quality is very good both over Bluetooth and wired connections, though I did find that the sound was even more impressive over the included 3.5mm cable – something to keep in mind if you want the absolute best sound quality, and with the added bonus that you can listen without using any battery at all.

If you’re looking for a pair of versatile, high-end headphones, you can’t go wrong with the Symphony 1. They’re impeccably built, comfortable, and offer extremely good sound whether over wireless or wired connections. They’re available to order from Definitive Technology for $399(USD).



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