By Don Lindich
Week 13, 2016
Q. A few months ago I saw your column about the $39.99 Riot Audio headphones and thought about buying them. Since then I saw an ad for the JLab Flex headphones, which look the same and sell for $79.99 including a case. Have you tried the Flex headphones and are they worth the extra $40?
-Jeannie Prouty, San Jose, CA
A. When I was at the Consumer Electronics Show in January I saw a large newspaper ad featuring the JLab Flex headphones. I also noticed the similarities and purchased a pair so I could compare them.
First of all, the comparable JLab Flex headphones are $69.99, not $79.99. They include a soft case, a removable universal microphone cable with volume control, a lifetime warranty and a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
The Riot Audio headphones include the same universal microphone cable, but no case. The warranty is 24 months and they include a 30-day satisfaction guarantee including paid return shipping. They sell for $39.99 each or two pairs for $75.
Looking at the headphones next to each other, they are exactly the same except for the logos and branding. The materials and workmanship are high quality and it is easy to imagine they sell for over $100, not tens of dollars. I compared the sound and could not hear any differences. As for the sound quality itself, it is extremely competitive for a $69.99 headphone and exceptional at $39.99. Though the bass is slightly exaggerated, the crispness and resolution are excellent and they are extremely comfortable to wear as well. Even without considering price I prefer them to $300 Beats headphones.
For only $39.99 with free return shipping if you are not satisfied, the Riot headphones are an easy recommendation and I am confident you won’t find better construction or sound under $50. At $69.99 for the Flex, you get the same product with a case and lifetime warranty. Outside of the Riot option the Flex is a good value, though there are headphones I prefer for about the same price. For example, for $79 you can buy Grado’s wonderful SR60e open-back headphones. They are not nearly as solidly constructed as the Flex and they do not isolate you from the outside world, but the Grado’s sound is definitely superior. You could also add $5.01 to the Flex’s $69.99 price and get two pairs of the Riot headphones. A second pair for $5.01 more would definitely be worth it for me.
Summing it up, no matter the branding I think these headphones are worth the money, even at $69.99. You just have to decide if the warranty and case merit paying 75% more, or if you want one pair or two for about the same money. See them at jlabaudio.com and riotaudio.com.
Consumer Electronics Show Report: A positive trend I saw at the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show was the continuing development of OLED TV from many manufacturers. Though LED-LCD technology has come a long way, even the best 4K sets still have not matched the beautiful, natural picture quality of now-discontinued plasma. OLED is the only flat-panel television technology that can match or exceed plasma’s picture quality, and I hope we will soon see more affordable OLED TVs, as well as screen sizes bigger than 70 inches. I will be a buyer myself once they crack the 70-inch barrier!