The Good: The XLBT headphones have a nice design, are well made, comfortable to use and their sound will make bass lovers happy.
The Bad: The bass will feel heavy for many people, and sound overall could do with more definition and clarity.
The Bottom Line: If bass is your thing, the House of Marley XLBT headphones are a good and affordable option. Great design, build and sound in one package.
A very distinctive eco-friendly design
At first glance, House of Marley’s Liberate XLBT headphones (selling for under £140 on Amazon now) share many of the design characteristics you see on the older, wired Liberate headphones Mark reviewed back in 2014.
You’ve got that signature eco-friendly design with FSC certified wood panels on the outside of the ear cups — branded with their logo of course — and recycled materials including that REWIND fabric they use around the earcups and headband.
The XLBT’s headband is made out of metal which gives it a nice and solid feel, but don’t worry, they’re not any heavier for it — I’ve found these headphones to be lightweight and portable. If there’s one caveat of the metal design, is that it’s prone to scratching; throw the XLBT headphones into your rucksack without its protective pouch and you’ll likely see some light scratching.
I’ve been pleased with the build quality of the hinges on the XLBT headphones. There’s a good amount of resistance when you fold them in or out and when you do, there’s a satisfying click to let you know the hinge is fully extended. House of Marley struck the balance between a suave movement and a solid, resistant hinge.
Using the ear cup controls
All of your Bluetooth controls are found on the outside of the right ear cup. You can initiate Bluetooth pairing, skip or rewind a track, and adjust volume with these small buttons positioned around the central wooden panel. House of Marley even include four LEDs to let you know how much juice is left inside of these headphones, which is a very nice touch.
The buttons are strong and responsive, and although your muscle memory will eventually remember where they’re placed, I would have liked to see them laid out more intuitively. (e.g. Something like tap on the right to forward, left to rewind, up to increase volume and down to decrease volume.)
How do the Liberate XLBT headphones perform?
When it comes down to sound, I can comfortably say that House of Marley’s Liberate XLBT headphones are tailored for people who prefer bass. It isn’t overpowering as such, but the considerable thump you feel means you’ll enjoy listening to them more with Hip Hop, RnB, Reggaeton and Rock.
That said, I tested them out with classics like Lighthouse Family’s Ocean Drive and still found the audio performance reasonable. The sound isn’t quite as clear/defined as I’d like — it feels a bit muddy at times and the bass still takes centre stage — but for a bit of casual listening I’ve been happy with them.
In short, I think I’d only recommend these headphones to someone with a taste for bass-orientated music. For those looking for a more chilled out listening experience, you’ll want to look elsewhere.
House of Marley Liberate XLBT headphones: Final thoughts
Audio equipment is one of those things that’s so subjective; you might prefer less bass where I prefer more. You like Hip Hop, I like Heavy Metal.
With the House of Marley Liberate XLBT headphones I can safely say that if you love bass, their quirky, eco-friendly design style and don’t want to pay an extortionate amount for good headphones, these are worth your attention. I’ve found them nice and comfy to use, they’re built well, come with some nice add-ons and sound great.ORDER FROM AMAZON U.K. ORDER FROM AMAZON U.S.