Review: Beacon Audio “Orion” Headphones

Beacon Audio "Orion"

Beacon Audio “Orion”

The first impression of the Beacon Audio Orion on-ear headphones is that they look great. They’re presented in a pretty luxurious-looking bed inside of the box, which is nicely designed as well. The headphones themselves are simply a single metal band, with attachments for the ear-cups and the padding at the top — overall beautifully simplistic. The cable is the flat, tangle-free type with a 90° jack, both nice features.

First trying on the headphones, they were a bit too snug, but after sitting stretched over the computer tower for a couple days they were perfectly snug without being too tight. I found that I could leave them on for about 45 minutes to an hour without really noticing them. The headphones run a bit on the smaller size (presumably to keep a low profile with the minimalist design), but they just barely fit my admittedly larger cranium when set to the largest possible size.

The Beacon Audio Orion headphones fully disassembled.

The Beacon Audio Orion headphones fully disassembled.

Despite looking great and being fairly comfortable, I wasn’t happy with the sound. I really wanted to because of the great design, but I couldn’t make it happen. (Note: I only listened with rock music, though that ranged from acoustic to metal and everything in between.) No matter if it was highs or lows, when there were isolated frequencies or distinct, detailed music (solos, slower songs, etc.) the audio was crisp, clear, and more than adequate. However, the headphone just wasn’t up to the task of more complex music or anything that wasn’t isolated. Overall, the audio was very muddy and pretty disappointing. Because of the distinct difference, and because I did really like the design and fit, I decided to see if it was due to the design of the headphones themselves and if so try to “fix” the issue.

Removing the cover and soft foam padding, I noticed that the plastic front case had very few holes and was keeping the drivers mostly encased. Thinking this might be causing the sound to essentially bounce back and forth between the driver and case (thus muddying up the sound), I used a Dremel to bore out several more holes in each.

Left: The original headphone front case. Right: The modified case.

Left: The original headphone front case. Right: The modified case.

I also put some insulation behind the driver between it and the plastic back case to try and help prevent the same thing from happening there as well. In the end the modifications did help out the sound, but not completely, meaning maybe it’s more than likely a combination of the design and the quality of the driver itself. I tried a few different combinations of mods, but unfortunately nothing really cleared it up.

There also was one other major drawback. The headphones themselves are adjustable up and down by sliding in a plastic channel through a slot in the metal band. I noticed that after a while, when you move your head and the headphone shifts, it makes a very audible clicking sound as the back rattles in the housing. It’s very loud and very noticeable, and there was nothing to tighten or adjust to fix it.

Whether you should purchase or not will depend on what you’re looking for. These are definitely stylish, but you’ll probably notice the muddiness of the sound, especially when you first put them on. At a suggested retail price of $99 they come with a carrying pouch, and newer versions include an inline mic as well. For rock music listening though, we wouldn’t recommend them.

Listening was done with a Rockboxed iPod Classic both with and without a FiiO E7 DAC/amp combo, and via desktop computer with and without an amp. All music was from HQ lossless FLAC files.