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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 among 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 substitute any of the 11 components your self — together with the battery. And regardless of each element of the Fairbuds XL being detachable, they’ve an IP54 ranking, making the headphones water and dirt resistant. 

I take pleasure in listening to music, and I actually take pleasure in listening to music with headphones that may absolutely immerse me within the track I am listening to. So, with the Fairbuds’ give attention to 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 probably the most sustainably designed headphones, nearly each a part of the Fairbuds XL might be replaceable.

View at Fairphone


The Fairbuds XL are available in black or inexperienced, and the ear cups are adorned with Fairphone’s signature speckles. The headphone wires are seen the place the scarf meets the ear cups, however that was possible mandatory 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 appropriate 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 gadgets, short-press it to play or pause audio, and slide it to the left or proper to replay or skip a track.

Additionally: The most effective over and on-ear headphones

The mechanic is rather more purposeful (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 manufactured from 100% vegan leather-based, which feels and appears nice and is, in fact, higher for the atmosphere. 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 might 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 whenever you’re carrying equipment like earrings.

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

Additionally: The most effective noise-canceling earbuds

For consolation alone, the Fairbuds XL are perfect for working at a desk, taking walks, or driving in a automotive, practice, or aircraft. I would not put on these for a heavy carry day on the health club 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 advocate for strenuous train).

How do they sound?

In brief, the Fairbuds XL sound nice, however they will not high our greatest headphone picks. Nonetheless, I preferred that the bass was deep and outstanding sufficient to provide me chills once I listened to “Cannot Say” by Travis Scott, however it did not rattle me too profoundly to make my head harm 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 characteristic inside the audio system works properly 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 give attention to 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 substitute 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 often, even when one a part of a tool could also be damaged, different components nonetheless work. These components comprise valuable metals and reusable elements, 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 utilize the machine for for much longer. Though the Fairbuds XL might be taken aside by hand, it is actually not for the faint of coronary heart. 

After I tried to pry, twist, and pull the detachable components, particularly the ear cups, they have been so cosy I used to be typically apprehensive I would break them. Alas, every little 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 out there 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 advocate them to customers who reside in Europe. 

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