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These high-quality headphones can final years longer than Sony and Bose alternate options

Photo of Jada Jones wearing Fairbuds XL in green

Jada Jones/ZDNET

Fairphone, the corporate behind a number of the most sustainable tech merchandise, simply launched its first over-ear headphones, the Fairbuds XL. Naturally, what units these aside from different over-ear headphones is that they’re fully modular.

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That is proper; you possibly can take the Fairbuds XL aside with none instruments and change any of the 11 components your self — together with the battery. And regardless of each part of the Fairbuds XL being detachable, they’ve an IP54 score, making the headphones water and dirt resistant. 

I get pleasure from listening to music, and I actually get pleasure from listening to music with headphones that may totally immerse me within the music I am listening to. So, with the Fairbuds’ deal with sustainability, do they ship simply as a lot worth in audio output? Let’s discover out.

Photo of Fairbuds XL in green on a black headphones stand


Fairbuds XL headphones

Arguably essentially the most sustainably designed headphones, just about each a part of the Fairbuds XL could be replaceable.

View at Fairphone


The Fairbuds XL are available black or inexperienced, and the ear cups are adorned with Fairphone’s signature speckles. The headphone wires are seen the place the headscarf meets the ear cups, however that was possible crucial for the self-repairing side. 

Photo of Fairbuds XL ear cups on a wooden table

The inexperienced variant of the headphones.

Jada Jones/ZDNET

On the precise earcup of the Fairbuds XL is a joystick, a pin-sized mild, and an oval-shaped button. The joystick is my favourite a part of the button design as you possibly can long-press it to pair Fairbuds XL to a number of units, short-press it to play or pause audio, and slide it to the left or proper to replay or skip a music.

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The mechanic is rather more useful (and fewer annoying to fiddle with) than typical ear cup buttons that require a number of presses to skip, replay, play, or pause songs. 

The ear cups and headband cowl are product of 100% vegan leather-based, which feels and appears nice and is, after all, higher for the setting. With the leather-based texture, the ear cups really feel safe in my ears; they do not give the impression of being too free and are comfy to put on for a number of hours.

Generally, on-ear and over-ear headphones could be too constricting and put an excessive amount of strain on my head, inflicting me to take breaks about an hour or two into use. It is worse while you’re carrying equipment like earrings.

However I used to be in a position to sit at my desk and put on the Fairbuds XL for so long as 4 hours at a time, no breaks wanted. 

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For consolation alone, the Fairbuds XL are perfect for working at a desk, taking walks, or using in a automotive, practice, or airplane. I would not put on these for a heavy raise day on the gymnasium or on a miles-long run, although. They’re fairly cumbersome and heavy, weighing greater than the Beats Studio 3 and Sony WH-1000XM4 however 55 grams lighter than the AirPods Max (which I additionally do not suggest for strenuous train).

How do they sound?

Briefly, the Fairbuds XL sound nice, however they will not high our greatest headphone picks. Nonetheless, I preferred that the bass was deep and distinguished sufficient to present me chills after I listened to “Cannot Say” by Travis Scott, but it surely did not rattle me too profoundly to make my head damage or muffled the vocals.

Photo of Fairbuds XL in green on a black headphones stand

Jada Jones/ZDNET

These are ANC headphones, too, and the noise-canceling function throughout the audio system works effectively with the headphone cushions to seal within the music and block outdoors noises. Does it beat extra audio-centric choices from Sony and Bose? Undoubtedly not. However the ANC is nice sufficient to place extra deal with the audio than what’s taking place round you.

Additionally: How do noise-canceling headphones work?

Adjusting the Fairbuds equalizer settings within the companion app to a preset referred to as “Tokyo,” actually helped with audio output. There are 4 presets in whole, however Tokyo’s deep bass, clear background vocals and instrumentals, and full-bodied sound made it my new default preset when listening with the Fairbuds.

Sustainable by design

As I discussed earlier than, the Fairbuds XL are 100% modular, so if and when something breaks on the headphones, you possibly can simply restore and change the half as a substitute of shopping for a brand-new pair.

photo of Fairbuds XL partially taken apart on a wooden table

Jada Jones/ZDNET

And normally, even when one a part of a tool could also be damaged, different components nonetheless work. These components comprise valuable metals and reusable parts, and when they’re thrown away, they’re sorted as e-waste in landfills.

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As a result of repairability and sustainability go hand in hand, the previous is a central theme to Fairphone’s mission. A Fairbuds XL battery prices solely €19.95 ($21.42), a less expensive value than shopping for a brand new pair of headphones. 

Plus, when you possibly can restore a tool your self, you should use the gadget for for much longer. Though the Fairbuds XL could be taken aside by hand, it is actually not for the faint of coronary heart. 

Once I tried to pry, twist, and pull the detachable components, particularly the ear cups, they have been so comfortable I used to be typically apprehensive I would break them. Alas, every thing was modular as described.

Backside line

The draw back of those €249 (or $266) headphones — or any product from Fairphone — is that they are not accessible within the U.S. 

So, as a lot as I really like the initiative of the headphones, and would not thoughts snagging a pair over less-sustainable alternate options, I can solely suggest them to customers who reside in Europe. 

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