Review: Blue Lola Headphones
Sometimes it makes sense to reinvent the wheel. Some things should be reworked, reimagined, or rebooted. Blue, a company known for their excellent microphones, believed that headphones were one of those things ready for a reinvention. We recently tested the Lola ($250), the passive/unamplified version of the previously-released Mo-Fi, to find out if Blue was right. The Lola is indeed a high-quality headphone, but the ergonomics of its redesigned headband can feel like more like a gimmick than a revolution.
The Lola comes with a nice complement of accessories. A faux-suede carrying pouch, a 1.2-meter cable with iPhone controls, a 3-meter cable, and a 1/4” jack adapter are all included. We like the flat tangle-resistant cables, though they are a bit prone to deformation — round fabric-sleeved cables would have been a better fit here. The Lola is an over-ear closed-back headphone, and its ear pads are well-cushioned, provide a high degree of isolation. They’re big enough to envelop most ears. The Lola is visually striking, with a multi-link headband design mixing curves and angles, and a beautiful pearlescent white finish that demands an emotional response (there’s also a black version). The Lola’s chromed plastic accents feel a bit out of place on a headphone, but are in line with Blue’s overall retro-futuristic aesthetic.
With Lola, we’d like to address sound quality first: the headphone sounds good. We tried the Lola with a variety of different tracks (including high-res), sources, and genres, and it performed well in every scenario. Detail retrieval was very good, although not at a level unique to the Lola. They are sensitive enough to be driven well by an iPhone, but also sounded good from our reference DAC/amp setup. The Lola’s sound signature is definitely bass-forward, but not to a point where the lows are overpowering. It’s a fun, warm sound that shines with modern recordings. If anything, the Lola’s high end suffers a bit. We wouldn’t say that it’s dull, just a bit less sharp than it could have been. Blue says that these are useful for recording — we’re used to studio monitors having a more neutral sound signature, but we’ll leave that call to the artists.
While the Lola’s sound is very agreeable, we are sure that most will find its headband mechanism much more polarizing. Most headphones use slight variations on a simple headband design: the ear cups are suspended from a single band, pivoting on two axes and resizing up and down at the point where the cups meet the headband. While not every headphone fits every head, most can find at least one headphone with the traditional headband setup that feels comfortable and sounds good. The Lola, by contrast, has a much more complex mechanism. Height and width, adjusted with nine plastic pieces, are connected by at least 14 spring-loaded joints, and the ear cups have a small degree of float to fit the contour of your head.
Lola’s design seems to suggest that it would be extremely adjustable, we didn’t find the fit to be any better than other headphones we have owned and tested. To the contrary, we found that the backward positioning of the ear cup joints actually pushed the headband towards the front of the head. This might not have been a problem except for the Lola’s substantial weight. At nearly 0.88 pounds, the Lola is up there with some of the heavier headphones on the market, but is substantially less comfortable. By contrast, the excellent Audio-Technica ATH-MSR7 weighs about 0.64 pounds. We also found that Lola’s many links don’t always move in unison, making it difficult to center the mechanism on the head. To make matters worse, we heard creaks from the headband’s joints when we moved.
Blue justifies its unique headband design by claiming that “ordinary headphones have the same old spring loaded headband that you’ve seen a zillion times. They’re uncomfortable and they kill sound quality.” On this point, we disagree. A bad fit will ruin the sound of any headphone, but Blue goes too far by suggesting that traditional headband designs “kill sound quality” and that its headphone is the only solution. The Lola’s overly complex headband design was by far the biggest detractor from our experience, adding weight and discomfort for no good reason. In short, we have heard better headphones with traditional headbands.
Blue’s Lola is a very good set of headphones, but we feel that they may have overdesigned the headband mechanism. We would understand if this decision was partially motivated by the need to differentiate the Lola and establish the Blue brand in a super-saturated headphone market where nearly every manufacturer promises magically perfect sound. Blue has created a nice set of cans here, but we think that a little less complexity in the headband could have made them lighter, cheaper, and easier to use. While its headband design may or may not be for you, we do think the Blue Lola is worth checking out nonetheless.