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Reviewed: AOpen HP-590 Headphones
Author: Michael Ahlf       Date: February 16th, 2002
Page: 2

Headphones need to do three things: cover the ears, be comfortably light, and produce full, rich sound. 

For part one: The AOpen HP-590's speakers are definitely large enough to cover the ears. This is actually an important part of comfort: headphones that don't properly cover tend to be itchy, or pinch the skin around the ears, and get irritating to wear after a short while. They also let in noise from outside, something that is useful for speakers when walking around but when sitting down to a laptop or a computer just means distractions. Weight-wise, they're pretty light, and they come with the added bonus of a foldable design and carrying bag for easy hauling (and, of course, to keep the cord from fouling with other gear in your backpack, briefcase, or laptop bag).

Buyers of the initial run of the unit may find the cord a bit short, as I did. AOpen has since confirmed that newer units are being given an extended cord, and the latest units to leave the warehouse include a 1/8" jack extension cord. So, while the initial units had trouble reaching the back of a computer comfortably, the trouble in that regard seems to be resolved. 

On to the data: AOpen's tech sheet on the product goes as follows:

Taking a good look at the specs, there are a few things to go over. First of all is the requirement of a AA battery. The AA battery is required to power the bass-enhancement feature (Vibration Bass) that makes these headphones so impressive. After looking at the product, there really wasn't a good place to put a power adapter, especially for a AA battery. Also, AOpen's estimates on operation indicate that the battery will work for 250+ hours (or 10 days of completely, 100% continuous use with bass-intensive sources), something my stress testing bears out. After two months of frequent use, my battery's still good. 

The other part is that these are probably the first headphone units to feature a double set of speakers. The Vibration unit isn't a force feedback unit as one might think from the name. Instead, it's a bass enhancement unit. Previously, bass enhancement was based on the theory of amplifying the bass signal somewhere in the lines to compensate for headphones' poor bass response. Amplifying these signals can only do so much, because a 30mm speaker simply can't put out signals whose wavelength is so much larger very well. Hence the Vibration feature; instead of trying to reproduce the bass vibrations in the speaker, the HP-590 headset vibrates the entire headset. The result? Amazingly clear bass. 

In most regards it's nearly a perfect design, with only one major complaint. The battery component was placed to hang around waist-level on users, and even has a clip for hooking to pocket or belt. It also has the bass on/off and intensity controls, which users might want nearby. Unfortunately, if not clipped, it dangles and tugs on the headphones. A slight change in placement, or perhaps locating the controls on the headset itself and the battery compartment nearer the 1/8" jack, would have been better.

The best part of the HP-590 speakers? Actually, as great as the sound is, the price is almost as good. Wireless and noise-canceling headphones start around $40 for a good pair; the HP-590s come in at $34.99 suggested retail, which is a bit less than models without the vibration bass feature cost. 

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Added:  Saturday, February 16, 2002
Reviewer:  Michael Ahlf
Page: 2/3

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