Review: House of Marley TTR Destiny Noise-Canceling Headphone Page 2

Jammin' With the TTR

I spent a couple of weeks of quality time with the TTR, listening to it at home and during bus and subway rides around Los Angeles. Then I recruited two of our regular headphone test panelists - L.A. voice actress Lauren Dragan and S+V contributing tech editor Geoff Morrison - to give me their opinions of the comfort and sound. All of us tried driving the TTR with our smartphones and with my Rane HC 6S professional headphone amp. Because the amplification is all-internal, the TTR can be driven from any phone or MP3 player or computer without ill sonic effects.

We enjoyed the comfort of the soft, leather-covered ear cups, and all of us found the clamping force of the headband just about right to keep the TTR firmly in place without becoming uncomfortable. The earpieces move up and down a few degrees and twist 180 degrees side-to-side, so they adapt well to different head sizes. Lauren did note that the cups kind of swallowed her face and placed too much pressure around the hinge of her jaw, so if you have a small face the TTR might not be a good fit.

I rode L.A. Metro downtown wearing the TTR the whole time, and found that the headphone was just starting to feel a little tight after the 90-minute trip. But most headphones feel a little confining (if not completely intolerable) after that long.

The noise-cancellation feature's effectiveness was typical, reducing the bus noises substantially but still allowing a little rumble to get through. Geoff and Lauren both liked the isolation provided by the NC feature and the good seal of the leather-covered ear cups.

All of us immediately noted the TTR's main sonic characteristic: a lot of bass. However, our opinion of that characteristic varied. Lauren called it "overwhelming"; Geoff called it "not overwhelming." The bass has a somewhat "high-Q" sound - a little boomy and not all that well-defined, as if there's a strong resonant peak somewhere in the response. I suggested to Geoff that the low end sounded about 4 dB too loud, and he agreed.

Once you get past the pumped-up bass response, the TTR sounds pretty fantastic. I thought voice reproduction was superb, very clean and smooth whether I was listening to Diana Krall, Bob Marley, or any of the other vocalists whose music resides on my phone. The only vocalists that the TTR editorializes are deep-voiced males such as my favorite Hawaiian singer, Rev. Dennis Kamakahi; baritones tend to excite the TTR's apparent bass resonance, so they can sound a bit boomy.

The treble is appealingly smooth, perhaps just a tad rolled-off in the top octave but absolutely never grating or edgy as it is with many headphones. "There's none of that nasty 3 kHz sibilance that so many headphones have," Geoff noted. When I listened to my favorite acoustic guitar recordings, such as Rev. Kamakahi's Pua'ena - Glow Brightly or Larry Coryell and Philip Catherine's guitar duets album Twin House, the treble sounded just about right, with plenty of detail but never too much, and a nice sense of space and ambience.

In fact, with bassless recordings like Twin House, the TTR Destiny starts to sound like a real high-end headphone - smooth, fairly airy, and appealingly neutral. The more bass in the music, though, the more the treble and upper mids start to sound a little dull.

Recognizing this trait, I tried using the Droid app PowerAMP as my music player. PowerAMP includes a 10-band graphic equalizer, and by pulling down the onscreen 62 Hz slider a bit, I mostly tamed the bass problem. Bass lines sounded considerably tighter and no longer overwhelmed the midrange and treble. I could still hear a bit of boom, but no more than I hear from a lot of pretty well-regarded headphones.

Bottom Line

The TTR Destiny is a very nice headphone with one peculiar characteristic: somewhat heavy, boomy bass. If you're a total bass freak, we could probably recommend it as-is. If you're not a total bass freak but you're looking for a distinctively different noise-cancelling headphone, we can recommend the TTR if you use it with a smartphone app or computer-based music player that has a multi-band graphic EQ. Just pull that midbass down a few dB and your favorite tunes will catch a fire.  

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On the Measurements

I measured the TTR using a G.R.A.S. Type 43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio FW audio analyzer, and a Musical Fidelity V-Can headphone amplifier. I experimented with slight differences in position of the ear cups to get the best seal of the headphone on the cheek plate and the most representative frequency response curves.

The frequency response measurement shows surprisingly little deep bass response below the big peak centered at 75 Hz. But it's obvious from that peak that the TTR's driver/enclosure has a strong bass resonance, which is why it sounded somewhat boomy to us. The mids and treble seem, from this measurement, to be fairly well in balance with the overall amount of bass; it's probably just that strong resonance that makes this headphone sound overly bassy. I'd like to hear this headphone with more work put into the bass tuning, because it seems to me that a little tweaking might make it a Bose-beater.

When I added 70 ohms output impedance to the V-Can's 5-ohm output impedance to simulate the effects of using a low-quality headphone amp, there was almost no difference in response, just a boost of +0.5 dB at frequencies below 100 Hz.

Measurements show fairly low total harmonic distortion (THD), although pushing the level up to 100 dB (measured with pink-noise, A-weighted) shows a big distortion peak (35.7%) centered at 23 Hz. Fortunately, outside of a few organ recordings, there's very little content that low in most music.

Impedance is nearly flat, averaging 100 ohms. Isolation is average for an NC headphone. You can see the effects of the NC feature between 100 and 600 Hz. As is typical for over-ear headphones, isolation measures -10 to -25 dB above 1 kHz.

Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 0.179 volts RMS signal is 107.8 dB.