The headphones are sturdy, with an emphasis on retro styling, a silver aluminum body and a beige, black or white faux leather headband. These aren’t the lightest cans in the world, but the weight is at least well balanced and the thick faux leather keeps them flexible. I wore them for two or three hours at a time and found them quite comfortable on my head when placed just so.
I’m not the first (nor the hundredth) person to point out how much of an affectation VU meters are. You can’t see them unless you have a few mirrors and a bent neck, so they’re not the most useful for seeing if your music is too loud. They’re calibrated to EU listening standards, so they only start bouncing when the audio hits semi-uncomfortable levels anyway. However, they’re sensitive enough that the audio is muted, they jump quite far when you have a small coughing fit.
Meters says their interest beyond fashion is to help parents see if their children are listening to their music too loudly. (Who knew there was a market for parents to buy luxury headphones for their kids big enough to support an entire business?) Really, it’s an easy way for you to tell the world that, you know, you really care on the music, Yeah?
There is an RGB LED hidden behind each VU meter, and you can change the backlight color from yellow by default, as well as the brightness. In terms of the extra frills, that’s fine, but you’ll soon notice that the other shades don’t really go with the retro styles of the ensemble. In fact, after scrolling through the colors, I realized that the default yellow had been put there for a reason.
The counters made a big deal out of including Qualcomm’s QCC5124 SoC, which offers low-power Bluetooth 5.0 connections and 24-bit audio. The resulting sound is ruthlessly clean and clear, making it ideal for songs that aren’t too aggressive, with subtle highs and vocals tracks. Go for something a little more meaty, with plenty of bass, and things stay quite polished and clean.
I switched to a high resolution audio player and played a few studio masters in FLAC, the strengths and weaknesses of Meters are even more exposed. Throw classic or delicate songs like spider silk to the OV-1-B-Connect, and you will be treated with beautiful songs reproduced beautifully. He excels at playing delicate music, but this milquetoast reproduction is at odds with his rock-and-roll style.
With the rear ear cups closed and the ANC, you can muffle out an awful lot of ambient noise with these things. Since we are not able to fly at the moment, I instead sat down and asked my two kids to scream, jump and be generally awful in my general direction. And I could barely hear anything while listening to something sweet, enjoying the happiest Zen moment I’ve had in weeks.
All is not perfect, however. One of the biggest objections with the previous version of these headphones was the fixed ANC and EQ modes, controlled with a physical switch. To address this, the company launched Meters Connect, an Android / iOS app that lets you dynamically adjust the equalizer (and change the backlight of the VU meter). To say I had issues with the app is an understatement, with regular connection drops slowing firmware updates.
When I was able to play with the equalizer, however, I found that one could either make the songs excessively, unpleasantly crisp, or sissy, but still relatively flat. In fact, it’s one of those options that probably makes sense somewhere, for someone, but seems less than useless for general use. Perhaps the professional musicians and producers that Meters consults with (and uses in their promotional materials) benefit more from the technology than I do.
While I’m nitpicking, I would add that this is a brand new pair of headphones at $ 349 that still come with a micro-USB cable for charging. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it does mean that, if you live in a USB-C world, you still can’t ditch the legacy cables from your carrying case.
Basically, Meters had a lot of fundamentals in place, with a nice, well-made pair of headphones and a unique statement feature. But I find it difficult to really connect to this device in the sound itself, which to my non-audiophile ears seems to be more difficult than necessary. When you ask for that kind of money, you don’t just have to be good – which it can be – you have to be better than Sony’s class leader. WH-1000XM4. Unfortunately, we are not quite there yet.