Nick Jennison reviews Vox's VH-Q1 Smart Noise Cancelling Headphones. Designed for practicing your instrument, listening to music or using them for chatting over a Bluetooth device, these high-quality headphones have been developed with the guitar player in mind giving you an adjustable, powerful set of headphones with a great audio experience.
If you're yet to experience the joy of a great pair of noise-cancelling headphones, you're missing out. I get it - guitar players are notorious "late adopters" when it comes to technology. While bass players are rocking up to gigs with ergonomic, body-hugging instruments and featherweight class D amplifiers, we're figuring out how to get that half stack into the family saloon. Keyboard players can cover any session imaginable with just a £100 MIDI keyboard and a laptop, but the mere mention of "modelling" will have many guitar players' toes curling.
I was pretty late to the noise-cancelling party too. I'd endure long haul flights with nothing but earplugs to keep the world at bay, and on tour I'd sleep wearing my IEMs if I was bunking with snoring bandmates. Let me tell you; I'm unbelievably glad I made the jump to a noise-cancelling set. In fact, I'm wearing mine as I write this - blissfully tuning out the world in the delightfully "meta" act of telling you about Vox's new noise-cancelling cans, the VH-Q1.
The VH-Q1 Silent Session Studio headphones are a pair of premium over-ear Bluetooth headphones with a number of features aimed specifically at guitar players. In addition to offering excellent sound quality and noise rejection, they have a very clever feature that Vox is calling "Smart Monitoring". Similar to the "transparency" mode found on many high-end earbuds and headsets, this function brings the outside world into your headphones. The crucial difference is that the VH-Q1 allows you to tune in to the specific frequencies of your acoustic guitar or bass, while still rejecting some external noise. There are five presets to choose from, depending on whether you're looking for a fuller or brighter sound, and the result is very impressive. I found myself playing more dynamically with the headphones on than without, and appreciating the fine nuances of the guitar's tone that might be lost in an imperfect environment.
In general use, the VH-Q1s are great sounding everyday listening headphones, although they're perhaps a bit too "hyped" for use as reference headphones in the studio. The low-end extension is massive and deep but doesn't suffer from "Beats-itis," where the sub lows dominate everything up to and including the midrange. The soundstage is wide and detailed, with good transient response on snares and ride cymbals and clear separation even when listening to dense modern rock mixes. The mids are slightly recessive, but the upper mids and treble are clear without being harsh and fatiguing. I'd hesitate to mix anything on them, but for practicing, listening to music or watching TV, they sound great.
In terms of comfort, the VH-Q1s are on the heavy side at 320g, and my partner Nina did find them a little uncomfortable after a while, but I was personally quite happy wearing them for hours at a time with no discomfort. The foam pads are thick and comfortable with a generous amount of space in the ear cups, and there's enough adjustment room in the headband to accommodate even my massive head (seriously, I struggle to find hats that fit).
The VH-Q1s are a great set of premium-quality headphones that offer some unique features that guitarists will really dig and are the perfect choice for day-to-day use as well. They're rugged, look great (especially the white/rose gold pair) and are priced fairly competitively compared to similar offerings from the likes of Bose, Sony and Sennheiser. If you're in the market for a new set of headphones, you should definitely check them out - even if it means bringing your acoustic guitar to the store with you!
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