Some of the most enjoyable reviews I get to do for Pro Tools Expert are those where I just get to listen. I get to listen to some amazing speakers and headphones and hopefully enjoy what I am listening to. These are however are some of the most difficult reviews as it is impossible for me to let you hear what I am hearing. So as a review I have to do my very best to describe what it is I enjoy about the sound, tonality, and usability of a product.
EX-29 Extreme Isolation Headphones
Let's get it out of the way first. The EX-29s also come in good old-fashioned plain black. I asked for the white ones as in my studio, white is much easier to see and hence quicker to find.
From a design point of view, these are not the most innovative looking headphones I have ever put on my head. The closed back design is however comfortable and the black rubberized replaceable ear cups totally covered my ears and this, of course, is where the EX-29s real party piece comes into play. More on that shortly.
One particularly nice feature is the colour coded felt inserts. The Red felt insert indicated the right channel. No looking around for a tiny little R or Right on the side of the plastic molding. Sadly the finish to the EX-29 headphones is nothing to write home about. Some of the plastic parts still have swarf marks on from the manufacturing process. This has no effect on the operation, it just looks ugly. Not what I would have expected from headphones with a price tag of $140 USD.
The feel of the headphones is very good. They feel solid in your hands and great on your head. The band at the top is nicely padded and can be adjusted to fit most head sizes.
The EX-29s are quite obviously aimed at those who may frequent a loud musical environment such as drummers and trumpet players. I used the EX-29s on a session with a trumpet player (who shall remain nameless) who is singlehandedly responsible for the demise of 3 pairs of my studio headphones as she needed the level so high to get over her own volume. The EX-29s are quoted as having 36.7 dB of passive attenuation. I have no real frame of reference for this but I do know that 1) The headphones were able to stand up to even a trumpet players volume demands and 2) the same trumpet player said it was one of the best mixes she had had for recording.
As a drummer and engineer, I demand a lot from my headphones. I want to feel the weight of the kick drum but also enjoy the shimmer of the ride and crash cymbals. I found the EX-29s to be a little bass light for my tastes. There was plenty of clarity in the top end but the bass end was a just not where I wanted it to be. I had to boost the kick drum in the mix to the point where the aux send on the desk was a maximum. However, along with not letting the sound of the drums in, the EX-29s also do a great job of not letting the sound out. There was no click bleed what so ever on the tracks I recorded. I do like to have the click as a fair volume. Not taking my head off but I like to know that it is there and when I'm locked in.
The Direct Sound EX-29 Extreme Isolation headphones are good headphones. They would serve you well in a loud studio environment where you want separation from a loud environment or loud instruments around you. You can have your own mix and not worry about it being affected by external sound or affecting the sound around you. If you are looking for a pair of headphones to mix on I would not advise the EX-29. In my opinion, you should not try to mix on closed-back headphones. Open-back for mixing, closed-back for tracking. But the EX-29s are not designed d for mixing they are designed to be in the thick of it, on stage on in the studio. If you like it loud, and so does everyone else in the band, then try the EX-29s they might just save you a trip to the audiologist.
Thanks to Paul and the team at Universal Acoustics for providing the EX-29 Headphones for this review.
Type: Dynamic closed type headphones with closed back speakers
Passive Attenuation: 36.7 Db
Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
Drivers: 40 mm, closed back
Impedance: 32 ohm
Sensitivity: 114 dB at 1 KHz 1 mW
Rated Input Power: 1000 mW
Weight: 11.5 oz
Warranty: One year
Universal padded, fully adjustable headband
Foldable for storage
Environmentally responsible natural passive isolation – no batteries required
Made in the USA