By Kirk Hiner
My favorite aspect of the Hinge Wireless on-ear headphones is one that won’t apply to everyone, because not everyone has a head as large as mine. Those who do, however, know the feeling of having on-ear or over-ear headphones squeezing your head for hours at a time. It’s not a pleasant, but it’s the sacrifice we must often make for quality audio.
This is not the case with the Polk Hinge Wireless headphones, which open wide enough to sit over your ears without squeezing them. The leatherette padding on the cans is soft and comfortable, as is the lightweight aluminum band over your head. This is the first set of on-ear headphones I’ve used in years that I can keep on at the office for more than one album at a time.
And that’s a good thing, because with the audio quality, you’ll want to use the Polk Hinge Wireless headphones a lot; you’ll look for excuses to use them. Polk’s website tosses out terms such as “Dynamic Balance plus POET system design” and “Polk Optimized Electro-acoustic Tuning” to describe the audio, but to most of us this simply means you’ll get a decent range of audio for a full, clean listening experience. The lows burst through without being overpowering, leaving room for the mids and highs to shine. With a lot of the trendy, bass-heavy headphones, you have to crank them in order to hear what’s really going with your music, creating an uncomfortable listening experience. With the Polk Hinge Wireless, you can hear what you’re supposed to hear at lower volumes, and they don’t distort or become muddy when you do need (or want) to crank them up. This is especially true for music, but I found them adequate for iPad and iPhone gaming and movies, as well. The Hinge Wireless headphones didn’t seem to know what to do with the music and audio effects of my New 3DS XL games, but few headphones ever do; that’s apparently not something engineers considering when balancing audio.
Before we move on to functionality, here are the audio specs for those who want to see them:
Electrical – Max Sensitivity: 107dB
Electrical – Nominal Impedance: 32 Ohms
Electrical – Total Frequency Response: (-12 dB) 10-21 kHz (+/-5 dB)
Headphone Specs Transducer – Diameter: 40mm
Headphone Specs Transducer – Type: Active Dynamic Balance.
You can see the full specs at http://www.polkaudio.com/hinge-wireless/d/1244.
Now, you’ve got the option of using the Polk Hinge Wireless headphones via aptX and AAC Bluetooth (with NFC) or via the detachable cable for passive listening. When going wireless, the Lithium-ion battery will get you around 12 hours of power before it needs a recharge. This is done via USB and takes only a couple hours to reach full capacity. The cable allows you to listen on a depleted battery, however, so there’s no need to put your music on hold if the power goes out mid-album (or playlist, I guess).
The cable is also helpful for devices that don’t have Bluetooth, obviously, but it’s especially useful for iPhone users with its inline control system. You can receive calls with the push of a button, pausing your music and switching over to the phone. Polk’s SoundClear Technology helps your voice cut through without the interference of ambient noises, and the person on the other end will sound great through the Hinge Wireless cans.
Pairing the Polk Hinge Wireless headphones with your Bluetooth enabled device is a simple matter of pressing and holding the volume button/dial on the right can, then selecting Polk Hinge on your device of choice. The volume button/dial also serves to power on/off the headphones, with ascending/descending tones, respectively, to let you know when this is done (and when the Bluetooth pairing is complete).
Now, as much as I’ve enjoyed my review period with the Polk Hinge Wireless headphones, I do have a couple design complaints. First, the LED that indicates battery status and power is hidden away around the mini-USB port for the charger. It’s solid white when powered on, and amber when it needs a charge. That’s fine, expect you have to go out of your way to see it. And in well-lit areas, it’s difficult to determine if the white LEDs are even on. I’d rather there be a small indicator on the side of the cans, not beneath them.
Speaking of the cans, the leatherette cushions are fine, but they’re also a bit rigid and don’t completely conform to your ears. As such, some outside noise will get through and bounce around with your music. This makes the Hinges better for home/office use than for travel (although they do come with a nice travel pouch).
Honestly, I’d rather have to deal with outside noises than with headphones that squeeze your ears through brain in order to block them out.
And finally, when I first put the Hinges on, the left can felt a bit heavier than the right. This didn’t create an uncomfortable experience, and it’s easy to ignore after time, but it’s not something I’ve noticed in headphones in this price range ($199.95, although you can save $50 until September 7, 2015, by using code HW50 at checkout).
Those complaints aside, it’s easy to recommend the Polk Hinge Wireless headphones to those seeking a comfortable listening experience with tremendous audio (and are comfortable spending $200 to get it). The less you notice your headphones are on, the more you can enjoy your music, and the Hinge Wireless headphones manage to get mostly out of your way whether you’re using them with the detachable cable or via the freedom of Bluetooth…and despite the size of your head.