Over the past year – or so – I’ve grown quite fond of Samsung and their endless possibilities when it comes to product innovation. My tag cloud on the right proves just that; majority of products, gadgets and story features here are all Samsung related or give reference to a Samsung product one way or the other. Truth be told I’m a sucker for all things minimalistic, wow yet straight to the point. So when Samsung released their Level range of sound devices it was only standard procedure that I was to get my hands on a pair (or two) for review. The reps from the South Korean tech giant were only pleased to send over the LEVEL On headsets for a test run.
The level range consists of appropriately-named options for over-ear, on-ear, in-ear and Bluetooth speaker listening. I had my share of fun with the Level On-ears’. While mostly plastic, these cans do have some nice faux-leather ear cups and a nicely finished headband and wear comfortably. There are some silver accents, too. In fact, I’d argue this keeps up the premium appearance a lot better than some of Samsung’s other devices, which, rightly or wrongly, have earned a reputation for feeling chintzy. That’s not the case here, though.
The Level On has the usual bulkiness you’d expect from wired over-ears, but once I got used to the weight (my usual pair isn’t nearly as light), they’re actually quite comfy. They don’t feel like they’re pinching my head, and the ear cups and headband are both nicely padded. What about the audio? Well, I actually prefer the Level On than to my sponsored Beats (I’m hiding). There’s no escaping the fact that Samsung is positioning the Level Ons directly against the Beats Solos — both headphones are on-ears, with similar sized earscups, both are made largely from plastic with a rubber padded underside to the headband, and both models fold up for easy storage. The Level On headphones, while a bit far from the best I’ve heard, provide clear tones and are capable of a blistering volume (if you can handle it) without distorting when plugged in. Those who scoff at Beats’ bass-heavy tuning will find solace here, but I tend to prefer a bit more bump than the Ons have to offer. Treble and the mid-range are instead favored, and it’s particularly noticeable when streaming hip-hop tracks, like the last Kendrick Lamar LP, for example. Even better when you have AKA’s Run Jozi on repeat.
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They’re not a set of headphones that will turn heads when walking down the street — the Beats logo on the side of the Solo 2s at least attempt to add some cred. The white model – which I had for review – with its two-tone effect, has more going for it. The cord is removable — meaning it can safely pop out of the headphones themselves when you inevitably get it caught on a door handle — and features an inline remote, with media controls. Annoyingly, the controls are designed to work mainly with Galaxy phones, and will only work to an extent with other Android phones.
Pairing the headphones with a MacBook Air, iPhone 5s and Moto X didn’t produce a max volume that I’d think some would favor — it’s somewhere close to the middle when the unit is plugged in. The black plastic design of the Samsung Level On headphones may be rather plain, but they’re inconspicuous and the folding mechanism makes them easy to pop into a bag. Fans of electro and rock are sufficiently catered for in their sound quality, although audio purists won’t be too keen on the muddy low end or the lack of clarity and sparkle in the high end.
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The total lack of iPhone support kills the Level On headphones’ appeal for non-Android users, and they need to be quite a bit cheaper for their uninspiring audio quality to be acceptable. With so many other great on-ear headphones in the same price range — such as the superb Beat Solo2, to name just one — the Samsung Level Ons are tough to recommend to anyone but die-hard Galaxy fanatics. After about a day and a half, I was looking.
The Level Ons retail for R1800 at DionWored