Frends Ella b Review
The bold and the beautiful
Finally, more glittering goods for disciples of decadence. When the Ella b (MSRP $99.99) by Frends arrived at my office last week, I did a double take: Are these headphones? Earrings? I immediately swept the little beauties into the lab.
That's right, Frends, waify supermodels and their sun-kissed bosoms can't save you now. The golden-maned gals on your homepage may seduce lady shoppers, but they can't melt the hearts of our stone-cold robots. Only stellar performance can do that.
A beauty with good guts
In the lab, the dainty looking Ella b turned out to have the heart of a bass-boosting lion. Studio listeners and audiophiles will want to graze in flatter pastures, but the average consumer should have a blast with these earbuds—literally. Talk about booming bass.
The consumer headphone market has shown an appetite for big bass, and the Ella b serves it up in piles. These in-ears also over-emphasize portions of the middle and high range—to the point that I found myself turning my music down a bit because cymbal crashes and high vocals bothered my ears. In fact, some will find that these headphones are actually a bit too loud overall. In any event, frequencies are balanced in such a way that instruments like guitars, pianos, snare drums, and the rest aren't lost in the big-bass bash. I'll end the discussion on a key point: since mid and high notes are boosted in order to keep up with the loud bass, songs without much bass can sound grating—so just bear that in mind.
As far as the bad news goes, there isn't much. Apart from the fact that music consistently favors the right speaker, making sound slightly louder in the right ear, there just isn't much to hem and haw over.
Testing ended on happy notes: The Ella b did an excellent job blocking outside noises, and it barely leaked any sound at all.
Features & Handling
Va va voom
The Ella b is fit to satisfy even the pickiest sartorial shopper. Buyers can choose from pink-champagne or yellow-gold metals. The pretty, metallic cages that guard each speaker mimic the look and feel of earrings. The four-foot white cable lends a clean, finished feel. In a word, these in-ears are just plain pretty.
Movers and shakers will benefit from the light, collapsible build, the included carry case, and the mic/remote. With the press of a shiny plastic button, users can skip songs, take calls, and control volume. Low sounds like construction site noises or passing engines will no doubt interfere with listening, but high pitched pollution is effectively blocked—so even the most dedicated Chihuahua will be quieted to a satisfactory degree. Nor will your neighboring Chihuahua be bothered; the Ella b barely leaks a peep of sound.
Now, about the fit: Can the Ella b compare to the decadence of a cushy over ear? Not at all. Yet it does ship with four different sized silicone covers to suit a range of ear shapes. Surprisingly, these in-ears proved moderately comfortable, even with extended use. Would I consider them a great substitute for over ears? Absolutely not, but if you need comfortable earbuds, these are certainly an agreeable choice.
The Frends Ella b put up a valiant fight in our audio lab, proving that they're more than just a pretty case. These in-ears don't have what it takes to steal an audiophile's heart, but lots of shoppers don't want flat, studio-quality sound; many desire sound like what the Ella b produces—massive low notes with mids and highs that break through the bassy fray.
Is the Ella b the fairest of them all? Not in terms of price. Shoppers can find comparable sound for less with a bit of comparison shopping; but given the quality sound and the dazzling design, $99.99 does not at all seem like an unreasonable asking price for this product. In fact, it's hard to think of something better than the Ella b for anyone searching for quality, fashionable earbuds—especially if you can find them marked down.
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