Taking Zagg headphones head to head

By , Feb 23, 2013

ZAGG Logo

I am a big fan of quality headphones. Listening to music is completely different when you have a solid pair of well crafted speakers pumping beats directly to your ear drum. Of course my audiologist, Dr. Manning, advises me to keep the roar to a minimum, but I just cannot help rocking. Thus, having crisp sound and solid bass are important to the perfect audio experience.

Today, I take a run at two pair of ZAGG headphones and give a general consumer perspective on their pros and cons. As a disclaimer, I am no audiophile, but I do have particularly refined preferences in the headphone world and continually seek the perfect set of headphones…

As we all know, ZAGG leads the industry with iPhone skins, covers, and screenies. The first screen cover I bought was for my 1st gen iPod touch in 2008. Their primary market is the screen protection world, but ZAGG is now branching into other forms of the mobile industry, especially after the iFrogz acquisition. Recently, ZAGG released two new headphones. The ZR-SIX is an earbud and the ZR-LE Wooden is an over the ear design. Naturally, there are inherent differences in the design and I intend to simply skim over explaining obvious difference like packing size.

ZR-SIX

ZAGG ZR-SIX

The first thing I noticed when pulling the ZR-SIX from the package is the flat cord and metal speaker housing. A bold yellow, black and silver design set them apart from more basic models and competitors, unless you are a big fan of Skullcandy, but I’ll assume we are all adults. Additionally, there is an in-line mic and single button control, but it does not allow volume control, which is truly aggravating. Personally, I am tired of headphone companies copping out. Go the extra mile and make it fully iOS compatible.

So what makes the ZR-SIX different from any other ear bud? ZAGG is in the middle of patenting the new Reflective Acoustic technology utilized in this model. Reflective Acoustic technology is described by ZAGG as, “advanced audio technology that formulates sound based on the fundamentals of human hearing. The high-quality driver reflects sound off a micro acoustic panel to magnify sound waves. Sound is then delivered to you with accurate tonal balance, even dispersion, natural clarity, and a rich, dynamic range.” A proper ear seal for best sound quality is determined by three sized silicon ear tips, which are included.

ZR-SIX diagramBeing completely confident in their new secret, ZAGG promises a 45 day money back guarantee if the ZR-SIX is not the best sounding earbuds you have ever heard. We could really stop the review here. Why not just buy a pair and try it for yourself? Honestly, it is worth it.

ZR-LE Wooden

As the name suggests, the ZR-LE Wooden is made of wood. Depending on your color preference, bamboo or ebony wood is used for the ear pieces and “ZAGG” is burned into each side. The headband is a soft faux padded leather and the smaller accoutrement are a powder-coated plastic. The ZR-LE lack an in-line mic of any kind but have matching wooden tips on the headphone cords.

When I pulled the headphones from the package, I noticed the gold tipped cables were covered in some form of white film, almost as if they had been handled too much. The film whipped off easily on a cloth, but it is worth noting because build up on the connectors, even when gold plated, can cause sound loss.

ZAGG ZR-LE

The fit is reasonable, but not tight: good and bad. A loose fit means plenty of external noise works into the ear cup. A tight fit often means painful ears after extended sessions. Personally, I prefer a tight fit to ensure the best possible tonal experience. The ear cups will rotate a complete 90 degrees, for you studio folks, and makes slipping them into a pack a little easier.

“Why wood?” is a good question. According to ZAGG, wood is the chosen material to create a “deep, smooth, and crystal clear sound experience.” After all, concert halls use wood for acoustic reasons, argues ZAGG in their product description.

Head to head

A battle royal went down in my home office between the ZR-SIX and ZR-LE. ZAGG vs ZAGG. Earbud vs over the ear. Below is the result of my unofficial tests.

Classic Rock – ZR-LE: After a few cycles through Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Free Bird, the LE’s pulled slightly ahead of the SIX because of the mid range sounds. The LE’s sounded warmer and a little more rich than the buds.

Rock – ZR-LE: During my time rock test with the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, I, again, found the LE’s to be just a touch above the earbud competitors.

Pop – ZR-SIX: A glutton for terrible mainstream music, Taylor Swift took the challenge between the buds and headphones. The pop-like “I Knew You Were Trouble” was an easy win for the SIXes. While the headphones put up a good fight, this was clearly won by the SIXes ability to mainline a “swift” pop beat straight to the ear drum.

Dub-step – ZR-SIX: Nothing says dub-step like some Skrillex, my go-to for headphone tests. This was another easy win for the SIXes. I could really feel the music this time, mostly because dub-step is so bass heavy and the buds give your ear the extra pounding straight to the drum. Again, the LE’s were not far behind.

Classic – ZR-LE: Clear winner here with the LE’s. All of the instruments in Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony Number 95 in C minor were well balanced, light, and proper.

Conclusion

As listed above, the LE over-the-ear headphones outperformed the SIXes in more categories. However, I’m not sure I would recommend them over the SIXes. While they may perform slightly better in some categories, the SIXes were always right behind them. I still feel like the LE’s offer a hallow sound, lacking some richness that I would expect to experiences at $130. The SIXes have size going for them and the in-line mic. Personally, I like to rock and pop the most, which is best suited for the SIXes at a very fair $60.

Thanks to ZAGG for sending over a pair of each for review. If I were to consider purchasing headphones from a company that is primarily known for its skins, I would chose the SIXes and make sure I paid attention to the 45 day full-refund policy. While these are both decent headphones, there are actual audio companies hitting the same price points with more well-crafted options.

As we have done a few headphone reviews, what songs do you think I should use in future reviews? Do any of you have a slick pair of headphones we should look into reviewing?

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  • Dan

    I’ve been using Zagg earphones for a while and can’t complain, great sound and they don’t come out when you’re running (gym). They usually are on the expensive side (50$) but they often have sales and bring them down to 15$, really worth it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Arthur-Ribeiro/100000334723179 Arthur Ribeiro

      Here in Brazil headphones like that will cost at least 200U$ or more.

  • NoBrainer

    You should probably try out the Bowers & Wilkins P3 headphones. I love them. Best quality when it comes to sound and design in my opinion.

  • http://twitter.com/tamanzi Tammy Zink

    Thanks for pointing out the lack of volume control in the inline control on the Six. I bought these headphones and although they sound great, they’re going back. The lack of inline volume control is a deal-breaker. Zagg’s own website, on the audio landing page, still states the Six has inline volume control, despite my pointing out the error to them yesterday. They’re sorry, they responded, that *I* am confused! “Copping out” is correct.

  • Spook

    You want quality you either get the Shure 535 Special Editions or the Westone 4r. Both are audiofile grade Universal In Ear Monitors. My preference is for the Shure’s but both are beyond anything produced by Bose, Beats or Bowers.

    • David

      I personally love my Westone UM3X RC. Sure they are not as good High and Mid wise but that bass is oh so wonderful! But all of these are over $100 so these may not be the most economical choices.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000061961790 Ian Jackson

    I’m relieved that they have no inline volume control, My Zagg SmartBuds keep breaking because of it. I’ve been through like 6 pairs winthin a year..

  • http://twitter.com/JailBreakFiles Jailbreak101

    I tried them and I found that the new iPhone headphones work the best!

  • kokeropie

    Does the ZR-SIX has Noice Cancellation or Noice Reduced capabilities?

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.e.patterson Todd Patterson

    I just finished a couple hour review with these headphones… After trying several types of Audio files (different types & compression formats) I also watched 30 mins of an action film. I’m very impressed with both the feature and as they said, if there not the best, that’s a pretty tall order, but I have to admit in this price sector these are a clear winner. Dynamic response on an action video is what it took for me to hear a CLEAR difference! I’m in 100%!