Hey guys! It’s been a while, but time for another segment on Anime and the Love of Headphones! In this installment, we take a look at one particular pair of headphones featured in the first ending theme of the Spring 2017 anime Sakura Quest!
The truth is, all of the heroines in this show are seen sporting some form of ear-wear; some quite recognizable, such as Yoshino’s pair of Beats by Dre, but others a little more obscure owing to generic housing designs. But there’s one particular pair of headphones I’d like to focus on in more detail — and that’s the Blue Microphones headphone worn by Maki Midorikawa:
These headphones, similar to the AKGs we’ve discussed in the past, are quite distinctive due to their unique headband design. They were designed primarily for studio use, as can be seen by their single-sided, detachable cable design; but the headband design serves more than just look and aesthetic, as we will get into in a bit.
Unlike earphones (this term referring to buds that you place directly on or into your ear), headphones (the ones that have a band running across your head or behind your neck) require a certain amount of clamping force to prevent sound from leaking outside of the cups. You can imagine how sound tends to get distorted from speakers when you wave your hand above the speaker ports of your laptop, for example. Quite similarly, any small space for sound to leak out causes a distortion in sound, which becomes detrimental to the listening experience. To prevent this, headphones need to press down their cups quite considerably on your head — this, of course, comes with the tradeoff of comfort since having too much pressure can cause a headache.
For this reason, some people flex the headbands of their headphones several times before using, or place it over a wooden mold to make it accommodate to a certain head width between listening sessions. Alternatively, a manufacturer can improve the comfort by introducing design elements to reduce or redirect the clamping pressure away from certain areas of the head that could lead to discomfort during extended periods of usage. For AKG, their design involved using a dual-wire design with a elastic band retraction system to keep the transverse band as close to the head as possible. In the case of Blue Microphone headphones, they used a multi-jointed design that transfers the clamping pressure towards the back of the ear. This design also made for a collapsible frame design, making them much more portable than typical studio headphones.
These headphones come in several different variants that are collectively called MoFi headsets (meaning “mobile fidelity”): The consumer-oriented LOLA, the pricier SADIE, and the audiophile-grade ELLA. Each has their own unique color scheme and runs through a price range of $250 to $700, so yeah there’s something for everyone there. Maki’s headphones seem to be a mix between the color palettes of SADIE and ELLA, so it’s hard to say which is which, but either way these headphones have built-in amplifiers, so they’re fine to run with even just a cellphone — something even the AKG K701 or Yamaha HP-1 can’t possibly hope to achieve.
So as higher-end headphones, they’re actually quite reasonable to bring around on the commute — if you’re confident in flaunting about a $700 headset. They’re reasonably good and have a nice, well-rounded sound to them that doesn’t sound too “clinical” like the AKG K701. That said, you’ll be able to enjoy a wide variety of musical genres with these headphones, and they may very well be the last pair you’ll own if you aren’t already tempted by the allure of even higher-end audiophile gear. Me, personally, I’d go for the ELLA, simply because I prefer the sound of planar magnetic headphones compared to the dynamic drivers of SADIE (see my discussion on the different types of headphone drivers for more details).
And that does it for this installment of Anime and the Love of Headphones! Any lovely pair of cans you’ve seen in animuland that you’d like identified? Do let me know in the comments below. Until next time, ciao!