Review: Norwegian sound of silence

Review: Norwegian sound of silence

DJ Kygo makes headphones as well as he makes music, says Noel Campion.

Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll, better known by his stage name, Kygo, is a Norwegian DJ, songwriter, and record producer. He earned international recognition with his remix of ‘I See Fire’, by Ed Sheeran, and his single, ‘Firestone’. However, he also has his own line of headphones. I’ve been testing the KYGO A11/800s and it’s clear that Kygo knows more than just how to make good music.

The A11/800 headphones are from the KYGO premium Pro Line and feature active noise cancelling (ANC), Bluetooth 5.0, AAC, Qualcomm aptX, NFC pairing, and touch controls.

The A11/800s look and feel premium. In terms of design, these are the closest I’ve seen to the Sony WH1000X line and that isn’t a bad thing. Similarities don’t just stop at the headphones, but include the shape of the case supplied with the A11/800.

In the box, you’ll find a 3.5mm cable and a USB-C charging cable. The carry case is solid and offers good protection. You can fold either side of the headphones and this makes the case a tidy size.

KYGO A11/800s
KYGO A11/800s

I was sent the black version of the headphones for this review, but there’s also a white model.

The foam padding underneath the headband and ear-cups is soft and allows for a comfortable fit. I had no problem wearing the headphones for long periods. The ear-cups are wide enough and deep enough to encase my ears with good, passive noise isolation. The headband is fully adjustable to allow a wide range of size-changing to fit any head.

Thankfully, the micro-USB port is almost dead and the A11/800 features the newer USB-C port. This makes finding a spare cable easier if you lose the one supplied. And, of course, thanks to the supplied 3.5mm cable, you can also use the headphones even if the battery dies, albeit without ANC.

The USB-C port is on the left ear-cup, while the right has the 3.5mm jack port, buttons for ANC on/off, power on/off/Bluetooth pairing, and ambient and awareness modes. On the back of the right ear-cup are the swipe touch controls for volume up/down and skip a track, back, or forward.

You can also tap the centre of the right ear-cup to pause/play a track. A double-tap on the centre will summon Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri — it will ask you to choose if you have more than one option.

Another nice feature is the use of its proximity sensor, which will automatically pause/play music or video. This works by pausing when you take them off and starting again when you put them back on.

Although I love this feature, I would have liked to be able to turn it off, as an option.

The battery has an impressive 40 hours of playback time with ANC on, which is excellent.

There’s also a free KYGO companion app, which offers additional features, such as customising your sound by moving a dot towards four cities (Los Angeles, Bergen, New York, and Ibiza). These have a personal connection to Kygo’s music journey.

Move the dot towards Bergen for acoustic/piano, closer to Ibiza for electronic/house, Los Angeles for a deeper sound-stage image, while New York is more for hip-hop and urban rhythms.

The app will also tell you the battery percentage and allow you to turn on a bass booster, noise-cancelling, awareness mode, and ambient mode.

The latter is excellent, allowing you to hear your surroundings by enabling the external mics. What’s impressive is how natural it sounds, making it easy to hold a quick conversation without having to take off the headphones. You can also upgrade the firmware via the app.

The active noise cancellation is good, but not class-leading. It will do a good job of dramatically reducing the sounds of aeroplane or train engines, which is where most of us like to use ANC headphones.

With ANC on and listening to music at a normal volume, it’s hard to hear much of anything around you. I found that most of the time, other than travel, I didn’t need to enable ANC.

One annoyance is the power button. You have to press and hold it for three to four seconds to turn it off.

However, if you only hold it for two or three seconds, it will go into pairing mode. That’s not a deal-breaker, but a little frustrating at the start, nonetheless.

Overall sound quality is stellar and it’s clear that these are tuned headphones.

The sound is bright with good, but not overpowering, bass and the mids are warm.

These are capable headphones that will do any genre of music justice for the price and the extra bass boost adds the oomph that makes them excellent for watching movies and playing games alike.

Available now from brownthomas.com, €155 (RRP €299).


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