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LSTN Troubadour Review
UPDATE [January 2022]: Meanwhile, LSTN has retired this product and replaced it with the Troubadour 2. We’d like to refer you to our list of eco-friendly headphones, as well as the best wireless headphones.
Usually when we buy something — in this case headphones — we’re thinking of ourselves, or at least the recipient in the case that it’s a gift. Buying a piece of audio gear usually doesn’t do anyone else any good. With the LSTN Troubadour headphones, as well as anything else the company makes, that isn’t the case.
Not only are the company’s headphones made using wood from sustainable sources, but for every purchase, some of the proceeds go to the Starkey Hearing Foundation, which provides hearing aids to people in need. So it’s been established that picking up a pair of these headphones helps someone else’s ears, but what about yours?
What’s In The Box?
You’ll get a peek at the headphones through the little window on the side, but to get a good look at them, you’ve got to open up the box. First you’ll find the headphones mounted in plastic, with the removable cable tucked in the center. Underneath you’ll find the woven drawstring carrying bag.
Build & Design
Usually headphones come in a few different color options, but LSTN goes a step further here, offering the Troubadour in different wood varieties. We’re looking at the Beechwood model in this review, but they’re also available in Cherry, Ebony and Zebra models. It isn’t likely that these do much to change the sound, but every option looks nice in its own way.
The ear cups have an odd triangular shape that extends to the ear pads as well. The entire back of the cup is wood, while the rest is made of metal, as is the headband. The metal and wood look very nice together, giving the headphones a look that is clearly inspired by both modern and classic headphones.
While photos might lead you to think that the Troubadours are heavy, they’re actually far from it. I was surprised by how light they felt when I pulled them out of the box. This has its pros and cons, but it does make cause for some concern over the durability. I’m sure the headphones would survive a drop, but I wouldn’t trust them to survive a long trip in a backpack with only the cloth carrying bag for protection.
The thin metal headband may have you concerned about its comfort, but surprisingly that wasn’t a problem. The ear cups, on the other hand, did have their problems. At their size, they seem to be somewhere between over-ears and on-ears, and while they were comfortable at first, they did lose comfort fairly fast.
Connectivity is provided in the simple form of one removable cable with an included mic and remote. The remote is of the single-button clicker variety, and while this ensures the headphones will work with any device you plug them into, it limits the remote’s functionality to pausing and resuming playback and answering and ending calls. The mic is fairly good, and calls sounded fine using the headphones.
While the cable is removable and therefore replaceable, its split TS 3.5 mm jacks on the headphone end will certainly make it harder to find a replacement cable than if these headphones used a standard 3.5 mm TRS connector on a single earcup.
If you’re planning on using these with a mobile device, it’s worth knowing that any phone should power these just fine. While using a dedicated headphone amp will increase the detail and sonic depth, these sounded just fine on both an iPhone 5s and Nexus 5.
The bass is heavy and booming, though not particularly accurate when it comes to low end detail. The bass and drums in Public Enemy’s “Rebel Without A Pause” were well represented, but quickly played bass notes in other songs weren’t as well articulated.
Listening to Red Fang’s “Hank Is Dead,” the higher mids made for plenty of snap in the drums, but lower mids added a bit of mud to the guitars. This actually sounds good, but makes it clear that these headphones are more intended for listening to music for enjoyment than they are critical listening.
For the most part, highs are represented very well. On the aforementioned “Rebel Without A Pause” the hi hat in certain sections could be grating, but the hats and cymbals on Refused’s “Summerholidays Vs. Punkroutine” never wandered into the realm of harshness.
Soundstage is decent, though it’s much better when listening through a headphone amp (I used the built-in headphone amp in the Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 audio interface) than through a mobile device. The Troubadours handle volume well, and my ears gave out before I could push the volume high enough for the sound to break up.
The headphones do a decent job of isolation noise. Nearby conversations were barely audible with music playing, even at lower volumes. Sound leakage is somewhere around medium. It’s nowhere near open-back levels, but turn up the music loud enough and those around you will hear it.
The LSTN Troubadours are nice headphones, and if it wasn’t for the fit and comfort issues, they’d be even nicer. That said, they’re definitely worth trying out if you get the chance. Everyone’s ears are different when it comes to both fit and sound, and especially if you’ve got smaller ears, you might find these are for you. No matter what, LSTN is a great company and not only are we big fans of what they’re doing now, we can’t wait to see what they’ll do in the future.