LePlus Rigel Headphones
The LePlus Rigel ($360, Amazon) is one of the best on-ear headphones on the market for listening to Hi Res files (available from hdtracks.com). They deliver phenomenal performance and compare favorably to conventional audiophile brands such as Bowers & Wilkins and Sennheiser. Hopefully US distributors will pick up the brand, and begin to carry their headphones in stores and online. The most impressive aspect of these ‘phones is their frequency range which spans 5 to 40 kHz which exceeds the average range of a human being which is only 20 kHz.
The LePlus Rigel headphones arrive in a sturdy box with a clear plastic front, providing a nice initial display of the product. Inside the box, the headphones are nestled in a velvet-covered, plastic holster, which ensures the safety of the headphones in transportation. The Rigel model offers a clean and modern take on the on-ear headphone design. With a metallic texture on the exterior of the ear cups, and supple padded foam on the interior, the headphones look at once, both classic and cutting edge. The headphones come with a detachable chord (approximately 1.3 meters), which is covered in nylon. Using these headphones regularly for about a week now, I’ve found that the nylon exterior of the chord is a nice feature, as it has proven to be tangle resistant. So far, I’ve plugged the headphones into my iPhone (with cover) and my Macbook Pro, both without any problem. I have yet to try these headphones on an airplane, but the plug on the end of the chord has enough length that I believe it should fit universally.
The Rigel design has easily adjustable arms, which are made of metal and covered with padding. The ear cups seal with the same padding and are both extremely comfortable and excellent with sound leakage prevention. Because the ear cups pivot and rotate with a wide range of motion, I am confident that they will seal properly onto any size and shape of ear. Not only does the seal shut out ambient sounds amazingly well, but also the material of the ear cups provides lasting comfort. After extensive use, not once did I experience a hot spot, or discomfort of any kind. In fact, I found these headphones to be so comfortable that I was able to listen to hours of music at a time and completely forget they were even attached to me.
My first musical foray with these headphones was a track from "The Melody of Rhythm," the fusion brainchild of three great instrumental masters - Béla Fleck (banjo), Zakir Hussain (tabla), and Edgar Meyer (bass). Babar, the first tune on the album, begins with an extended solo for the upright bass. This opening is improvisatory in nature, alternating between melodic gestures and capricious, virtuosic flourishes. Because of this, I was curious to hear how the LePlus headphones would respond to the need for both depth of sound in the melodic moments, and clarity of articulation in the faster passages. Right from the opening gesture, I felt that these headphones transported me into one of the world’s finest concert halls. They superbly highlighted the rich profile of the bass’ sound, especially in its lowest register. The articulation in the faster flourishes, though perhaps not quite as crisp as one would hear in an intimate or dry setting, sounded as clear and as full-bodied as would be in an acoustic hall. Next enters the banjo and then the tabla. The tabla is an instrument whose wide array of articulation is meant to mimic syllabic sounds. Thus there are many varieties of timbre, attack, and decay that the instrument can produce. I was delighted to hear that the Rigel design brought out these subtleties quite well in all the instrument’s registers. The sheen of the tabla’s graphite center, the gulping depth of the dagga (the lower sounding left hand drum), and everything in between, had both individual clarity and blend with the other instruments.
Bubbles, the second track on the album, is a charming tune that is all about articulation. It opens with pizzicato in the upright bass, and is joined shortly thereafter by the tabla. This is a particularly interesting combination of sounds because both sit in the mid to low pitch registers, but also require real clarity of articulation. With the bass pizzicato, the LePlus Rigel headphones brought out a richness in sound quality, which is an element often missed in pizzicato generally, because of its short-lived resonance. At the entrance of the banjo, I was surprised by how full the sound quality was of this sometimes-twangy instrument. Because of this, I was able to hear the banjo as sweetly melodic. No doubt, part of this experience was the result of Béla Fleck’s mastery and control of the instrument. However, I do think that the LePlus headphones were able to highlight this quality very nicely. Often times, I am only able to listen to short stints of banjo music because of the instrument’s extreme natural brightness. With these headphones however, I ended up listening to the entire album, and enjoying every moment.
Next up, I listened to several songs from Stevie Wonder’s classic album, "Songs in the Key of Life." I’ve always been attracted to the combination of pureness and depth in Stevie Wonder’s voice. To me, these two qualities of vocal timbre are unusual in combination - often singers have one element or the other, but rarely both. When I listened to the song, Ordinary Pain, the LePlus Rigel headphones were very gratifying, highlighting both the glorious smoothness and the richness of Stevie’s voice. When the female singer enters about half way through the song, the headphones place in relief, the contrast between her more textured vocal-type with the pureness of Stevie Wonder’s voice. As these headphones favor the base, the bass guitar on this track was particularly rewarding, as well.
"Isn’t She Lovely" was the next tune that I listened to. This song is simply joyous, both in lyrics and in musical character. It seems sensible then that the band includes many instruments, often playing densely in raucous merriment. Because of this, the song is all about blend. Even in the extended saxophone solo, there is a lot of sound mass coming from the rest of the band. In this context, these headphones are truly in prime form. The separation of the solo sax was clear, while the rest of the band blended in a lively and invigorating way.
In a variety of musical settings, LePlus’ Rigel headphones provided an excellent balance between exhilarating resonance and clarity. Not only do these headphones handle the bass extremely well even at high volumes, but also they bring out the fullness of middle and high ranges. Especially if you are a listener who enjoys a rich bass and the blend one would hear in an acoustically engineered concert hall, these are the headphones for you. With their lasting comfort, isolating seal, and superb sound quality, I will certainly be enjoying the LePlus Rigel headphones for years to come. I can highly recommend them to anyone wanting a resonant and full-bodied, Hi-res listening experience.
TYPE: Overhead / Sealed type
● Driver: Φ 40 mm
● Reproduction frequency band: 5 to 40 KHz / ● Impedance: 16 Ω / ● Output sound pressure level: 104 ± 4 dB / mW / ● Maximum input: 1000 mW
● Weight: Approximately 283 g (excluding cord)
● Plug: Φ3.5 mm gold-plated stereo mini plug / ● Cord length: about 1.2 m (detachable type)