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A Purrfect Pair: Axent Wear Cat Ear Headphone Review

Updated on April 20, 2016

Indiegogo Promo Video

Production History

Axent Wear was started by UC Berkeley Alumni Wenging Yan and Victoria Hu. They got the idea for the headphones while producing a short animation. Roughly a year later, after much design work, they polled for color choices and the Indiegogo campaign was launched in October 2014. The idea proved very popular and funding went so well they achieved their target of $250,000, TWELVE times over. Brookstone was decided upon as the manufacturer and a few form factor tweaks were made. Fast forward to today and the first batch of headphones are finding their way into the hot little hands of the backers - including yours truly.

My Background

While I don’t consider myself a headphone connoisseur, I am a little picky about my headphones and feel as though I’d be remiss in my duties as a reviewer if I didn’t explain some of what informs my views. I prefer headphones to earbuds as the latter tend to hurt my ears and the former also make good makeshift earmuffs in the winter and keep your hat from blowing off (college student lifehack FTW). That being said, my favorite earbuds would have to be either Apple’s earbuds or Microsoft’s Zune earbuds. As far as headphones go, I’ve owned Skullcandy Lowriders (circa 2008), Hesh (circa 2010) and G.I. (circa 2011), Koss DJ100 (circa 2011), PDP Afterglow Universal Wired Headset (2013) and Neon Astro A40s (2014). Of these, the Koss DJ100 and Astro A40s were the standout models.

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Headset Specifications

  • Power Output (Headphones): .240mW
  • Power Output (Speakers): .2W
  • Headphones: 40mm driver
  • Speakers: 32mm driver
  • Frequency Response (Headphones): 20Hz - 20KHz
  • Charging Time: Approximately 2.5 hours
  • Weight: Approximately 413g
  • Dimensions: 171.48mm(w) x 70mm(d) x 193.98mm(h)

*Specs as listed in user manual

LEDs

The headphones are presently available in a black body with a choice between four different LED accent (or should I say “axent”?) colors: Red, Blue, Green and Purple. Said LEDs are housed in the cat ears and the rings on each cup. My pair is purple and I’m pretty satisfied with the brightness. It’s a warm glow that’s pleasant to look at. It isn’t as bright as the PDP Universal Set, which is to be expected, as it’s LEDs aren’t covered by clear plastic, and ultimately for the best, as PDP’s set was blinding. I would’ve killed for these in college so I wouldn’t have bothered my roommate so much.

Cat Ears

The cat ears aren’t just for aesthetics as they hold, in addition to the LEDs, another set of speakers for external listening. It’s like speakerphone for your headphones. It’s great for sharing music with people in a radius of a seat or two around you. I personally just keep the headphones around my neck, which puts the ears right behind my own. That way I can bob my head (and headbang) all I want and also hear any far off sounds. It’s comparable to blasting music through my phone speakers, but without the fear of blowing them out and much less awkward.

Working Prototype
Working Prototype | Source

Boom Mic

Unfortunately, I’m a square that doesn’t chat much (read: ANY) in games or online, so the detachable boom mic is a nice bonus that’s practically wasted on me. So, instead, I use it for phone conversations. I’m understood clearly, so it still serves its purpose. Your milage may vary.

Sound Quality

My Astro A40s are my babies. I love them to death and what I get out of them is my present benchmark. These won’t be replacing them as I feel the audio I receive from my A40s is a little bit clearer, but the audio quality is still solid.

Form Factor

Let’s be honest about these headphones: they’re big. But I like them big. I generally prefer my tech to have some heft to it. The ears are fairly large, so the overall package is a little top heavy. They may slide some if you bob your head a bit and you’ll definitely need to take care not to smack the ears on anything. I’m used to big headsets so I was comfortable wearing them for a few hours at a time. If you aren’t, then you may not want to use these for long listening sessions. The ear cups aren’t as puffy as I’d like them to be, but they can be rotated to fit comfortably.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m pretty impressed. Cat ear headphones are the type of things that, until recently, has been exiled to either DIY mods for existing headsets or cosplay props. They could’ve easily ended up just being some geeky novelty item. But Axent Wear and Brookstone came together and made a solid addition to the market. Aesthetics aren’t all you’re getting so you don’t have to struggle to justify buying these to your social circle (and yourself). Presently, they are available for preorder at $150 a pair through Brookstone, including shipping, which is the sweet spot, in my opinion, for a product like this. These are a great debut for Axent Wear and I pray they keep producing awesome ideas like this in the future.

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Closing Note

One of the things that initially drew my eye when it showed up on Facebook and Tumblr was the art. For those who may not know, Wenging Yan is the artist. Their illustration name is Yuumei. Go check them out!

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