Performance audio brand, Kicker, is perhaps best know for their high-quality and powerful car audio systems. If you pop the trunk of any vehicle owned by someone who is serious about upgrading their car’s stock stereo system, chances are you will be looking at a Kicker subwoofer. Bottom line: the brand is trusted in the market. Increasingly, Kicker has been expanding on their business to include home and personal audio products, as well. The latest of which is a well-crafted pair of Bluetooth-enabled headphones.
“When Bluetooth enters the picture, nine times out of ten audio performance just as quickly exits,” says Steve Irby (president and co-founder of Kicker).
If you are worried about wireless sound quality, don’t. Kicker’s Tabor Bluetooth Headphones come with some impressive numbers. They are marketed for personal use, but could easily stand against professional studio-quality headphones for musicians, producers, and engineers. With a frequency response to cover the full spectrum of human hearing (20Hz to 20kHz) and a maximum output of +118dB, Tabor leaves little to be desired in terms of performance. A tabor is a small drum, which is an appropriate name for compact over-ear headphones, but don’t let the name fool you as Kicker’s Tabor headphones are more than just drum and bass. In fact, they are not nearly as bass-heavy as a pair of Beats by Dre. That’s not to say the mix is lacking in low end, though, in fact many audiophiles would likely prefer Tabor to Beats. Lower frequencies usually inhabited by kick drums and basses sound fuller – not overly punchy, not too boomy. All the while high end sounds are crisp and brilliant.
There are a few places Kicker could improve Tabor’s overall design, particularly for those with longer hair. The wonderfully plush, leather-wrapped ear pieces swivel 90° outward on either side for a flat profile, which fits neatly in the included soft-touch carrying pouch. They also turn 90° to face straight down for presumably for comfort when wrapping the perforated leather headband around one’s neck. However, it’s the latter movement which may prove problematic for some as the ear piece can easily catch and clamp down on loose hair, which could make taking them off a painful and embarrassing experience.
The ear pad itself is circular, which those with smaller ears may find quite comfortable, but others would benefit from a shape slightly more oval. Regardless of ear size, the headband must be adjusted appropriately while wearing. Otherwise, the unit will either sit and pull down on the top of the ear, or pull up on the lobe (which is again uncomfortable after a period of time, especially for those with pierced ears).
Connecting Tabor to any Bluetooth-enabled smartphone is quick and easy. All of its buttons are on the right ear piece, including an easily accessible blue LED-lit power/action button that may be pressed during audio playback to pause or play. It flashes when not connected to Bluetooth, but is steady when paired. There is also a pair of pronounced rocker-style buttons on both the front and rear facing sides of the ear piece. The former is primarily for skipping forward or back through a playlist. However, because it is positioned vertically, it’s not initially clear which button does what; it takes some getting used to. The volume buttons on the back of the unit are more intuitive. The top button turns volume up, and the bottom button turns volume down. There is a microphone built-in for phone use, but be careful when talking on the phone, because Tabor has some pretty solid sound isolation going for it and you may find yourself talking louder than you probably need to.
Of course, if Bluetooth isn’t an option, Kicker includes a standard 3.5mm stereo auxiliary cable. The headphone controls don’t work when connected with the cable, but the microphone and multi-function button imbedded into the signature yellow cable performs all of the above tasks just the same. Beside the auxiliary input jack, a micro USB port is also built-in and may be connected to a computer for charging via the included cable. Kicker claims Tabor’s battery life to clock in at ten hours of use. This author has been using the headphones approximately 25-minutes per day for the last three weeks (8.75 hours) and has not yet needed to charge them.
Kicker’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for their Tabor Bluetooth Headphones is $179.95, but you can buy them directly through Kicker’s website (or Amazon) for $129.95.