Samsung Level Over Headphones Review
Noise cancellation, wireless, detailed audio—is there anything these Samsungs can't do?
The new Samsung Level Over headphones (MSRP $349.99) aren't shy and modest: These sizable headphones are pricy, brimming with zippy features, and armed with well-crafted audio.
Use them wirelessly, or not. Equipped with Bluetooth and a removable cable, the Level Over headphones offer users a choice. Flip a switch to actively block noise. Download a specialized app to tailor your own sound profile. Control music using a touchpad remote on the speaker back. Wear them for hours—they're as comfortable as they come.
The Level Over isn't the best product we've ever tested in terms of sheer audio performance, but these premium headphones are sure to please many a buyer in 2014 and beyond—especially Galaxy users.
Detailed and distortion free
In terms of sheer audio performance, the Level Overs are very strong. From emphasis, to balance, to distortion, I found one positive result after another. But before I dive into the details, two crucial notes: If the battery dies, you can still listen to music (unlike some active noise canceling (ANC) sets); and regardless of whether you're listening with ANC or without, the sound profile stays the same.
Overall, expect well-balanced, detailed audio. The way a product emphasizes various points along the audible spectrum is very important. Some headphones are very bassy, for instance, while others overemphasize high notes—which can sound abrasive. In the case of the Level Over, I found a skillfully balanced soundscape that handles bass, middle notes, and high notes in a way that retains lots of musical details.
Bass notes don't blare or boom, for example, though you'll certainly enjoy a healthy share of bump bump bumping low tones. Meanwhile, much of the midrange receives enough volume that the pluck of a guitar string or the thwack of a wooden stick on a metal rim will sound forth with gusto. Some overtones lack emphasis, however. Occasionally, you'll find yourself ticking that volume up to hear high vocals more clearly. The main drawback is that very, very high notes occasionally ring out too loudly. Here and there, a high cymbal crash may give you a bit of a jolt if you're listening at a high volume. This is less of an issue if you're listening with Bluetooth, however.
From there, the results are all sunny. When I ran tests to measure distortion, I could barely find any. Added mechanical noise and clipped harmonics just aren't an issue here, so get ready for pure, clean music listening. Volume is very balanced, too, so that music generally sounds very even in the left and right speakers.
Last but not least, the Level Overs offer pretty good active noise cancellation. For the best results, listen to some music and flip the feature on—this blocks out a bunch of outside noise. If you just want golden silence, the results are good, not great. Without any music, I flipped the switch on to drown out voices in my office; although the noise seemed more distant with active noise cancellation engaged, it certainly wasn't silenced. The Level One will lessen bass and midrange noises, but these headphones can't eliminate those sounds nearly as powerfully as other models we've tested.
Bountiful bells, bows, frills
I'll sideline the fancy features for a moment and cut to the chase: Thanks to the sizable build and plush parts, Samsung's Level Overs offer a supremely comfortable fit. These things are over-ear headphones in the truest sense, with cushy speaker pads that fit completely over top of your ears. The band sports plush faux-leather along its interior, and the whole rig is lighter than it looks.
In short, these headphones can provide hours of comfortable listening.
Don't expect modular or portable design, however. Nothing folds up or closes down; these are bulky headphones that slow you down during travel. The glossy plastic speaker backs are very pretty, but may collect ugly marks over time. Then again, I managed to avoid any unwanted scrapes or dings throughout a week or more—a good sign.
Extras! Extras! Read all about them!
As for the extra goodies, they're pretty rad. From touchpad controls to wireless listening, these headphones offer plenty of handy features—just remember to keep your battery charged in order to use them.
If you're at your desk or moving around your house, listen wirelessly for added flexibility. Start with a fully charged battery, and then sync your personal device to the headphones via Bluetooth. You can even sync a music device to the Level Overs with a simple tap if your player has NFC (near field communication) capabilities. Just note that while this is a great extra, you should expect less overall volume and degraded audio quality while listening via Bluetooth. Samsung claims you can listen approximately 32 feet from your music player. I tested this claim and maintained a strong signal from about 36 feet, with several walls in between—pretty impressive!
Samsung's active noise cancellation is a welcome addition to the package, as well. After charging up the battery using the included micro USB cable (this takes less than 30 minutes), flip on the power and press the ANC button on the bottom of the right speaker; immediately, high-pitched and midrange noises become quieter and more distant. The function works nicely, though we've certainly tested better ANC in the past.
The list of shiny bells and whistles doesn't end there: While the Level Over includes an inline remote and onboard mic, Windows, Android, and iPhone users alike can also alter volume, pause/skip songs, or answer calls with the swipe of a finger—because the back of the right speaker is actually a touchpad. Double tap to answer a phone call or pause a song; tap and hold for three seconds to reject a call or launch voice commands (Samsung's S Voice, Apple's Siri, etc); swipe up or down to alter volume; swipe forward/backwards to skip songs. Just note that you need a charged battery to use this functionality, and some commands won't work when using programs like Pandora or Spotify.
For audiophiles and hobbyists with compatible Galaxy devices, there's some very tasty icing to top this scrumptious cake: Head to the Google Play store or Samsung Apps to download the Level app, which grants access to a full EQ, sound modes for everything from pop to jazz, and text-to-speech functions.
A+ comfort, detailed audio, and fancy extras come at a hefty price.
If you just want to spoil yourself with spiffy features, plush design, and above-average audio, the Samsung Level Over headphones (MSRP $349.99) are a terrific way to go. They aren't king of the over-ear mountain, nor are they the best noise blockers we've ever seen, or even the most handsome set on the block—but the Level Over is built to satisfy nonetheless.
So if they aren't the best at everything they do, why does this review sound so positive? Basically, it's very hard to find active noise cancelers that also deliver sleek design, premium extras, and great audio. Usually I find good noise cancelers with poor audio and disappointing design, or great noise blockers that are uncomfortable to wear.
By combining dashing looks, A+ comfort, great audio (even when the battery dies), and active noise canceling, the Samsung Level Overs are really onto something.
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