WESC Banjo Headphones

What happens when trendy street fashion gets crossed with headphone design? Nothing less than WESC (WeAretheSuperlativeConspiracy) Banjo headphones. WESC is a Swedish clothing company that sets itself apart by creating its own design trends. Extending its reach to the burgeoning headphone market, the firm recently launched a range of headphones for consumers that want to listen to their tunes in style. Banjo ‘phones represent a modern twist on traditional designs and are unlike most models you see on the street.

The Banjo clearly embodies simplicity, as the headphones are very minimalist and available in a variety of bold colors. My review sample came in Hot Orange, which appropriately describes the 80s throwback color. These are headphones that definitely scream, “LOOK AT ME!” Build quality, however, is average. The earpieces are an on-ear design and modestly comfortable, but the cushions could be softer and plastic coating a bit thicker. The materials feel budget, but for $54, you are not going to get Rolex quality. Intuitively, the headphone cord comes in two pieces and can be shortened so listeners don’t have to deal with any excess cord. Also, WESC included a pause button on the cord, so users can turn off their music without digging out their iPod player–a nice feature given the growing size of handbags and backpacks.

Sound quality is what you might expect for the price. The Banjo uses 40mm power drivers in a closed-back design. Sonics don’t fall in the hi-fi category, but they aren’t of stock Apple earbud variety, either. Listening to “Doll Parts” on Hole’s Live Through This yielded a presentation that fell somewhat short of natural-sounding. The headphones are far from grainy or harsh, but their overall sound is slightly processed. Courtney Love’s vocals lacked the realism afforded by hi-fi headphones. However, I was impressed with the transparency, and clearly heard all the instruments. It helped compensate for the uneven natural sound character, seemingly a result of degradation most likely caused by poor crossover design or budget-made drivers.

Changing pace, I tossed on Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” from Thriller and was taken with the treble. The guitar solo possessed satisfying detail, and the highs sounded crisp. Ditto for Jackson’s upper register, which sounded extended and smooth. Unfortunately, this track suffered from the same problems encountered with Hole, the presentation just slightly off and unnatural. Keeping with the Jackson theme, I listened to OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson” from the group’s breakout Stankonia and came away very satisfied with the headphones’ ample bass. My nitpick is that it wasn’t very tight and controlled, and thus, verged on boomy. The opening drums also lacked definition, showing again that the bass was sufficient but lacked desired control.

I wasn’t blown away by the Banjo, but for the budget consumer looking to upgrade from their flimsy iPod ear buds, the WESC represents a fine option. The Banjo has several pluses–as well as definite minuses. Capable of smooth, extended highs and decent transparency, the headphones lack the natural sound that’s a must for realistic sound reproduction. A middle-of-the-road model, the Banjo is better sounding than stock earpieces but doesn’t have the chops to compete with genuine hi-fi headphones. If you can spare a little more money, for around $100, you can find substantially better headphones–even if they don’t come with the stylish “wow” factor the Banjo delivers. — Kevin Gallucci

WESC Banjo Headphones

MSRP: $54