The vast majority of headphones being purchased these days are wireless, which is what most people want for their cell phones and other portable devices and perhaps even their TVs. To this day, though, even the best forms of Bluetooth are not lossless at anything above CD resolutions, and the forms of Bluetooth capable of even that don’t have much widespread support on the headphone side and almost no support on the mobile device side. Music lovers who rely on their mobile devices for music can up their sonic game by using a wired headphone connected via an external DAC or DAC dongle, though. So, the days of wired headphone are not over, and if you are one of those folks whose music comes primarily from their mobile device, a wired headphone might be your easiest path to better sound.
The Apos Caspian are the first, and so far, only headphone offering made exclusively for the Internet retailer Apos Audio and branded with their name. The well-established term for such a product is a “house brand.” This is a product only available through one retail source because it is proprietary to that retail outlet. Usually, a retailer will contract with a manufacturer—in this case, Kennerton, apparently—to build a model based on the retailer’s particular requirements and price range.
What Makes the Apos Caspian Headphone Special?
For $499 you have lots of excellent wired headphone options. And each headphone has its own particular version of an overall frequency response curve. Some brands like the Dan Clark Audio, employ the “Harman Curve” which simulates the in-room frequency response of a loudspeaker while giving the bass a bit of a boost. Other brands aim for something a little more distinctive. The Caspian choses a unique solution: “…we introduced a series of dips between 2K and 7 kHz that protect sensitive parts of your hearing from fatigue.” Apos’ design goal was to deliver a headphone that was easy to listen to even with aggressive music.
Why Should You Care About the Apos Caspian Headphone?
- The Apos Caspian headphones are sensitive at 115 dB per 1mW, and also relatively low-impedance at 32 ohm, so they will be easy to drive even with the sometimes-limited power offered by a portable DAC, DAC dongle, or even a mobile device that has a legacy headphone jack.
- The Apos Caspian employs a 50mm Kennerton driver with a Graphene layer on the surface. The driver is also physically decoupled from its wooden housing to increase its rigidity and is tuned for optimum performance.
- The Caspian has a replaceable cable that uses mini-XLR to connect to its capsules. At the time of purchase, you can select either an XLR, 4.4mm, or 2.5mm terminations with either red or black colored cables.
- Instead of a useless presentation case, the Caspian comes with an impressive soft-lined pleather case that could double as an executive lunchbox. I imagine that Apos could sell plenty of these cases for other uses, as they are that nice.
Some Things You Might Not Like About the Apos Caspian Headphones
- The supplied cable is on the stiff side. It does not lay down easily and won’t coil tightly for pocketing the extra length.
- The Caspian’s clamping may be a bit high for those with larger heads. It’s great for those who want a firm fitso the Caspians will stay in place despite rapid head movement, but that additional clamping force could be fatiguing for long-term listening.
- The finish on the Oak wood capsules is not smooth. It has a definite “orange peel” surface finish that is usually the result of less-than-perfect sanding, sealing, and finishing of the wood.
- The Caspian’s unperforated sheepskin earpads are not removable and no vegetarian/vegan options are available. Also, unperforated pads can get hot and sticky in hot and damp weather.
Listening To the Apos Caspian Headphones…
Bonnie Raitt’s latest album, Just Like That (buy at Amazon), is a sonic mixed bag. Some cuts, like “Something’s Got a Hold of My Heart,” has had their dynamics compressed to make the music more “radio friendly.” But there is one cut on the album that sounds better than your average commercial cut: “Blame it On Me.” It has excellent dynamics and the organ behind the vocals spans the entire width of the soundstage. Through the Caspian, it’s nearly impossible not to be sucked into the music and Ms. Raitt’s intimate vocals will seduce you.
Mike Posner’s latest single “Turn Up” on Qobuz (buy at Amazon) features a bouncy rhythm that’s reinforced by the bass line. The cut also features some raucous choruses that could be rather rude on a “peakier” sounding headphone. Through the Caspian, the bass sounds big yet clean and the rad voices remain listenable.
More wired headphone reviews are coming soon from HiFi Man, Sennheiser, Audeze and many others…
Does the Apos Caspian Headphone Hold Its Value?
Yes. While you can’t expect a pair of used Caspian to go the same price on the resale market as a new pair, with a 45-day return period and a two-year warranty, Apos has given potential purchasers a wider window to make sure they like their purchase and a longer warranty period (which infers that Apos believes that the Caspian will hold up well to abuse). These factors make the Caspian a better option than many similarly priced headphones that have shorter return and warranty periods.
Who Is the Competition for the Apos Caspian Headphone?
If you look at Amazon’s headphone listings you will discover over 300 different options listed priced between $300 and $500. For slightly more than $300 ($309 to be exact) the Meze 99 Classics (buy at Crutchfield) offers a replaceable cable and earpads, less side-pressure—which makes them more comfortable for larger heads—and slightly better attenuation of outside noise.
The long-running Sennheiser HD 650 ($399) (buy at Amazon) is not as comfortable for most people, does not have an easily replaceable cable (but it can be replaced), and has a plastic, less polished look and feel.
The Focal Elegia ($399) (buy at Amazon) have the slickest, most high-tech looking fit and finish of any competing headphone. Its fit may or may not be to your liking, though, and it has less attenuation of outside noise.
Another headphone worth consideration is the KLH Ultimate One ($349) (buy at Amazon), It has wooden cups like the Caspian, and a similarly sunny overall tonal balance, but if you have larger ears, they may be cramped by the Ultimate One’s smaller ear space.
Final Thoughts on the Apos Caspian Headphones
While for much of the world wired headphones have become a thing of the past, there remain a passionate few who want the lossless connectivity and lack of fuss you get with wired ones. Yes, wired headphones are less convenient, and they do require some kind of external DAC/headphone
to mate with most current-generation smartphones, but there are several small portable DAC dongles available from reputable manufacturers that are priced around or under $100.
The only way you will get to hold a pair of Caspian headphones in your hands is to purchase a pair, since they are only available via Apos Audio’s website. Depending on the size of your head and the Caspian’s fit, you may find them too tight (I doubt anyone has a head so small as to find them loose). And fit is critical to your enjoyment of a pair of headphones. That’s where Apos return policy and 45-day return period will be valuable. If they don’t fit you right, return them.
The Apos Caspian has a lot going for it. It is a well-made and carefully designed offering that delivers a unique sound that should especially appeal to listeners whose musical choices tend to be more aggressive and sometimes hard-to-listen-to tracks.