Hands-On With California Headphones: A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock ‘n’ Roll

Stop pretending to be a rap star. That’s the note on the front page of California Headphones’ website and the driving philosophy behind the company’s Laredo and Silverado headphones. You see, these headphones, much like Beats By Dr. Dre, are targeting a specific demographic with clear marketing and unique styling. But these headphones are more than just looking the part. They’re tuned to better match the musical style of rock and country, with less pounding bass and a heaver investment in mids and highs.

California Headphones is onto something here and has turned to Kickstarter to help advance the cause. The lifestyle headphone market has long focused on the urban culture. Since these headphones are tuned to match rap and R&B’s style, they often do not reproduce rock or country accurately. Sure, there are always the great standby options of Sennheiser, Shure and other traditional audio companies, but more often than not, the styling is anything but inspiring. There’s nothing wrong with wanting good looking headphones.

The headphones play the part very well, too. I found the audio and build quality to exceed the norm at their respective price points. The $199 Silverado’s are built very solid, with large foam surrounds and a comfortable over-the-head leather band all held together with a sturdy metal frame. The 40mm driver is clearly built to focus on the mids and highs, but the bass is sufficient as well (the large foam surrounds help a lot). The imaging is very good and the headphones have a very large virtual soundstage.

The $99 Laredo is probably the best bet, though. Hitting at $100 less than the over-the-ear Silverados, the on-ear Lardeos are a better value, feel a little better on the head and have most of the audio quality found in the more expensive model. Unfortunately the less expensive models do not fold up, kind of negating the draw of owning smaller headphones.

Tim Hickman, CEO of California Headphones, tells TechCrunch that Kickstarter allows the company to ramp up production quicker than through traditional means. Rather than placing small orders, waiting for them to sell, receiving payment, and then repeating, the $100k they hope to receive from Kickstarter will eliminate the need to place separate orders. Plus, with Kickstarter, the company gets to interact with hundreds of buyers prior to the product’s release.

California Headphones turned to Kickstarter for its first round of units. As of this post’s writing, the company has raised $35k in pre-orders. If successful, backers will get a set of headphones at a significant discount from the eventual MSRP. Pledge $65 to get a Laredo or $135 for the Silverado.

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