ORA Sound GrapheneQ Headphone Review

Posted on 6th April, 2020

ORA Sound GrapheneQ Headphone Review

Jay Garrett declares this to be one of the best pairs of Bluetooth headphones that money cannot buy. Yet…

ORA Sound

GrapheneQ Bluetooth Headphones

£379 (Estimated once in production)

Ora Sound GrapheneQ Headphone Review

Based in Montreal, Canada, ORA Sound first launched its headphones on the IndieGoGo and Kickstarter crowdfunding platforms, smashing goals as it went along. As the name suggests, the main selling point of the GrapheneQ Bluetooth headphones is the exclusive in-house designed 40mm drivers – which use a form of this latest wonder material.

Ora Sound GrapheneQ Headphone Review

Graphene is a big deal because audio that’s clear of distortion across the entire band of human hearing demands a supremely stiff and incredibly light transducer material. ORA Sound has developed GrapheneQ which is claimed to be less expensive to produce than full-fat graphene – because it’s 95% graphene (by weight) in a laminate structure, bonded by oxygen and several other elements. Apparently, this helps with lightweight speaker membrane design in terms of shape and tuning, while retaining graphene's properties of lightness and strength. Furthermore, it also costs far less than exotic materials such as beryllium and CVD diamond, hitherto used to achieve similar goals.

It’s not the first graphene-related product on the market – Creative's Outlier Air True Wireless earbuds sport drivers that are graphene-coated – but it’s certainly unique. This £375 design joins an ultra-competitive market led by large and established brands, so however clever the engineering is, it’s still an uphill struggle.

ORA Sound GrapheneQ Headphone Review

That’s why the GrapheneQ ticks all the other boxes – including Qualcomm aptX HD and AAC Bluetooth, plus touch controls on the right earpiece. There’s a USB-C socket for charging and, should you run out of juice, there's a port on the left-side to hardwire the cans to your source. Also on the left earpiece is a multifunction button that takes care of forward, reverse, pause and call answering, as well as power on and off duties.

ORA Sound GrapheneQ Review

I really like the look of these headphones; the grey brackets are metal, and the ear-shaped earcups are accentuated with a tortoiseshell effect which I am informed is actually Arboform, better known as 'liquid wood'. Whatever you call it, I think the finish lends these wireless cans some cachet. The gesture controls work well, and Bluetooth pairing is faultless. ORA says the soft earpads are covered in lambskin leather; they’re comfortable, breathable and offer good passive isolation. The headband adjustment is notchless but extends enough for my noggin. Additionally, the clamping force was adequate, even though I’d have preferred more.

SOUND QUALITY

ORA Sound GrapheneQ Review

Initial reactions to the ORA Sound GrapheneQ headphone was how impressive its soundstaging is – open-backed designs can sleep safely in their beds at night, but still this closed-back model served up a surprisingly big sound, with precise imaging too. Connected to my smartphone via aptX HD, using TIDAL and Qobuz as a source, it was clear that there’s lots of speed and detail too. It’s not as relaxed and natural as – say – DALI's I0-4, but there's a taut eagerness to the sound that’s addictive.

Also, bassheads will enjoy the extra-helping of bottom end that’s been dialled in. This, along with the punchy slam of the upper bass, works well with contemporary tracks from Billie Eilish, London Grammar as well as classic electronica from the likes of Jean Michel Jarre and Kraftwerk. The only downside to my ears, is the headphone’s handling of upright, fretless bass which tends to bloom, obscuring its natural warm, woody tone and natural decay.

Ora Sound GrpaheneQ Review

There appears to be a slight dip in the midband and a nudge in the upper frequencies, which aids clarity but accentuates things like guitar harmonics. Those in Roundabout by Yes, for instance, lack a little bit of body but are extremely clear. They giveth, and they taketh away, so we say. However, even with that upper-range nudge, this pair of headphones never come across as obviously harsh or bright. Indeed, for the most part, I would say they're on the darker side of neutral in character.

ORA Sound GrapaheneQ Review

THE VERDICT

ORA Sound's new, yet to be released GrapheneQ headphone is an interesting and enjoyable sounding product that should find many friends. It sounds detailed, fast and articulate, with enough punch and presence to see you through your daily commute – or indeed whenever you want to shut the world out. Currently being delivered to campaign backers and available to pre-order, it’s certainly one to watch – and indeed hear.

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Jay Garrett

StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

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Posted in: Headphones Headphones Over / On Ear Bluetooth / Wireless
Tags: ora sound 

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