Despite its relatively low price, the Positive Vibration has much in common with other Marley headphones we’ve tried. It features the same rasta-hippie-ish styling, and is crafted using copious amounts of recycled or recyclable material. It’s available in three color schemes, all of which looked, to our eyes, more interesting than what you see on most headphones in this price range.
The aluminum side pieces of the sealed-back ’phones conceal 50mm drivers, which is a lot of air-moving capability for a $59 headphone. For $20 extra, you can get a version with an inline volume control/microphone; HoM says the volume control works with iOS devices and the mic with most smartphones.
All of the panelists found the Positive Vibration comfortable. The earpieces tilt up and down, and there’s enough flex in the assembly to allow a few degrees of side-to-side movement.
Someone at HoM has great skill and/or taste in headphone voicing. Like the Exodus, the Positive Vibration generally won over the panelists. Howard and I ranked it #1, Lauren and Joe ranked it in the middle. “It has a very good tonal balance and a nice ambient quality that sounds genuine, not falsely created,” Howard enthused, and I agreed. I also thought the mids and treble sounded especially smooth, with a decent amount of detail. As with most great low-cost audio gear, the sound wasn’t what you’d call refined, but the Positive Vibration didn’t seem to emphasize or muffle any specific frequencies or make any other “sonic mistakes.”
Lauren and Joe — both younger listeners with better high-frequency hearing than Howard and me — thought the sound was pretty good but that the Positive Vibration buried the mids a bit. Lauren also commented that the drivers seemed to be overwhelmed by music that has instruments covering a wide range of frequencies. Specifically, she said, “When I was listening to Feist, it sounded good when she was singing and playing guitar, but when the orchestra came in it got muddy.” I actually had to agree; I found that the Positive Vibration did only a so-so job of sorting out the sonic barrage of heavy rock tunes like Mötley Crüe’s “Kickstart My Heart.”
Measurements: The Positive Vibration’s frequency response measurements aren’t noteworthy except for their lack of anything unusual. It’s a fairly flat response (for a headphone). Switching to 75 ohms output impedance on the source kicked up the bass by +1 to +1.5 dB below 60 Hz. Total harmonic distortion (THD) is a tad high in the bass, hitting 4% at 20 Hz at 80 dBA and 19% THD at 100 dBA. Impedance is nearly flat, measuring 40 ohms except for a bump to 48 ohms centered at 55 Hz. Isolation is a little lower than average, measuring -10 to -25 dB above 1.5 kHz. Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 1 mW signal at the rated 40 ohms impedance is 102.6 dB.
Bottom Line: Headphone sound is very much a matter of taste, and we can’t ever promise that you’ll like any set of headphones, but the Positive Vibration is the safest recommendation we can make of the six ~$59 models tested here. We can’t imagine you’d hate it, and there’s a very good chance you’ll love it.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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