Sponsor Spotlight: Sudio Headphone Review

Jun 17, 2018

Over the next few episodes, one or two will be selected by Sudio Headphones for sponsorship and whilst I absolutely could just plug the ad in the show and call it a day, I decided to write a review for the product instead. This is mainly for two reasons, firstly, I think anything I advertise on the show should be relevant to listeners and I’m not going to shill you guys any old tat. Secondly, audio is kind of my jam. Music has for a very large part of my life, just been what I do, so headphone ads is not something I’m going to do lightly. If you guys were interested enough by the ad and fancied learning a bit more about what Sudio has to offer before you stump up some money, I got you covered. If you think this is all a bit pretentious or just want a tldr summary, skip to the end.

To explain where I’m coming from, I use a few pairs of headphones almost daily, for different purposes. They range from cheap AKG in ear buds that came in the box with my phone, Beats Solo 2 (RRP £170) and Grado RS2e (RRP £549) and over the years I’ve owned pairs that sit just about everywhere in between. The Sudio Regents sit nicely in that little pile. With a RRP of £79 (about £69-ish with our 15% discount code: DARKHISTORIES) these are priced pretty low for a pair of wireless headphones to be fair.

Design

Touchy subject here but let’s crack straight into it. Some people, especially some audio people, hate the idea of all these fancy new headphone makers creeping onto the market with their colourful, shiny and well designed headsets discarding such buzzwords as “soundstage” in favour of “sexy fuckin’ headphones”, how very dare they! As far as I’m concerned though, i welcome it. I am not ashamed to admit that if I wore my Grado outside (I don’t), then that would also be on the same days I wear a paper bag over my head (I don’t do this either). They are, as far as I’m concerned the gold standard for headphones as far as sound goes but good god, they’re ugly. The Sudio Regents, on the other hand, are not ugly.

Sudio really plug their Scandinavian design roots in the marketing materials. By Scandinavian, that is to say, geometric and minimalist and yes, totally Ikea dahhhling, and the Regents are definitely that. I actually dig their looks. They don’t draw too much attention at first glance, but they have that nice minimalist vibe that’s essentially timeless and more importantly for headphones you might argue, easy to match with an outfit. They are after all, more or less an accessory.

The Regents are small and made almost entirely of plastic and foam with just a few metal pieces on the snapping joints that allow the headset to fold up when not in use and the old skool size adjuster arms. The plastic construction might be a bit off-putting for some at first, but these are not seriously high priced and the materials make for a lightweight, comfortable wear. Also, one word, Grado yo. Okay, that’s two but them fellas love to make headphones out of plastic and you won’t find many complaining. Honestly, like I said, I really dig their looks. They’re really pretty small for on-ear headphones too and it allows them to sit sleekly to the head. My ugly face is real narrow so one problem I always had is that on ear headsets always make me look like some kind of robotic monkey, but these actually look good even on me, so that’s a win right there.

I’m going to sound like a tragically old man here, but these are actually the first pair of headphones I’ve used that are wireless. If, like me, you’re painfully out of date and cling to cables because otherwise just how exactly does the sound get from A > B without magic?! Then prepare for a revelation. I found myself adjusting the way I was doing things to be careful of a cable that just wasn’t there, the level of freedom to get on with things you’re doing round the house or when you’re out and about is pretty awesome. As a plus, they do come with a cable that you can use if you really want, or need to, as well. The battery holds a charge of 24 hours usage time which is pretty sweet and connect easily to your phone or whatever bluetooth device you want (I used them with my PC and Echo Dot too) with a long press of a button that’s on the headset, set in the middle of a volume up/down control that doubles as skip forwards/backwards on a long press.

Alright alright, so they look good then yeah, but what do they sound like, well, I’m bloody glad you asked…

Sound

First of all, I’m going to adress podcast and audiobook listening, since you guys came here from my podcast, i’m going to assume that you listen to them enough. There’s not a whole lot to say here as it’s all quite minimal but vocal narrations and voices sound good. The Sudio Regents sound quite transparent for the most part, at times a little bit harsh on the high-mids but generally good, clear and crisp. Listening to podcasts on these will be a grande experience given the lack of cables and overall comfort of the headset and the vocals will be a step up from any cheap in ear buds you might normally use.

Music is a little bit different. One of the first songs I turn to when trialing a new piece of audio equipment is Kings of convenience – Know how. It’s not that it’s a great song or anything (it is pretty good) but what it does have is impeccable production levels to a surgical degree. It also covers a ton of bases, with a funky, driven double bass for the low end, some clean fingerpicked guitar parts and both male and female vocals and it’s all spaced nicely apart and has plenty of room to breathe. It’s basically an unchallenging track to listen to and if something sounds bad with this song, it’s an instant forget because it’s almost difficult to do that. I cracked it on and yeah, the Sudios performed well as the song opens. The guitars are clean and crisp and the vocals are as airy and ethereal sounding as they should be. The first hiccup came when the bass kicked in, it really drives and pushes this song along and makes the track jump, only it didn’t really do that with the Sudio Regents. It doesn’t necessarily matter in this track, it sounded great, but it definitely gave me something to take note of. As the song broke off and Leslie Feist’s vocals are bought in, the Sudios handled it well. I’ve definitely heard better and on a proper audiophile system, this vocal line has the ability to flaw you outright, but overall as a first crack i was not unimpressed by the Regents.

Almost like an antithesis of the Kings of Convenience song is Bardo Pond – Tommy Gun Angel. This is a track with almost purposefully bad production. It’s a solid wall of sound guitar mash drone, but it does have a dancing, melodic female vocal that weaves in and out of the soaring instruments and the drums underneath it all are big sounding and really help to smash this wall into your face. The Regents handled the guitars well, really well actually and I’ve heard much much more expensive headphones turn into a mushy mess of filth trying to push out these guitars. The mids were well pronounced and I tested a few other tracks out straight off after to see if this might be where they call home, including My Bloody Valentine, Sonic Youth and some more low-key indie stuff like Belle and Sebastian, Camera Obscura and Slint. I thought they handled it all real well honestly. The drums on Tommy Gun Angel were definitely lacking punch, that tricky low-end again, but the guitars were solid, overall I was a bit disappointed with the lack of punch and drive from the drums and really I think this song isn’t really much to write home about without that element but the Sudios did alright overall.

Thinking that mids/high-mids might be these things bag, I tried out some classical with Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No.2. Overall, I was a bit disappointed here though, things were sounding a bit too boxy and constrained to be enjoyable on the whole, burn it, move on.

I jumped over to Jazz next with Avishai Cohen – Life and Death (for which there is no youtube videos wtf..). The regents did really well here I thought. They sounded real nice and showed that they do actually have a good capability for tight low-end stuff. Nothing to shake your eyeballs, but what is there is nice and controlled and just enough to suck you into the track like it should. There is one point where I felt they lacked and that was on the snare hits. If you do know this song you know exactly what snare hits I mean because they contrast so hard with the brushes of the drumming for 99% of the song and are timed to perfection so that you really can’t miss them. These snare hits are, for my money, the thing that ties this whole piece together and the juxtaposition of the sharp crack against the brushes and muted low-key vibe of the trumpet and piano is just an absolute stroke of genius. The reverberation of the drum hit, goddddam. And that is how you should feel when you listen to this track with good quality equipment. If you don’t you have no heart. The Sudio Regents handled themselves well enough here, i really wanted a little more belly to the snare but you can’t have it all at this price I suppose and across all Jazz they sounded real good.

So it was time, let’s check that low end out. Or not because it’s really not there and not what these headphones are made for I’d suggest. If you’re into a lot of bass music, just walk away now. On dub tracks like Perverse – Cross Examination the sub bass is just not there, like, half the song is literally MIA. Low end on the Regents is a complicated one, what is there is tightly controlled and warm, as you can hear on Four Tet –  Two thousand and seventeen, problem is, it’s just often not enough and I’d bet an awful lot that this will come as a huge disappointment to anyone who likes anything where bass is crucial. I’m not a teenager who cranks the bass up to 11 either, just so’s you know, but there were often times listening to the Regents when I kept feeling like I needed to turn the volume up to really push or drive a song and this is wrong. Often when we feel we want a song to be louder, what we actually want is more drive from the bottom, more energy and this is almost always provided by low-end. Except when you listen to music on the Regents, where it’s just not provided. Every headphone has it’s strong and weak points, the Beats that I own are absolutely way too bass heavy and crush mids to a pulp, leaving a slutty mess in it’s wake, which is awesome for music that calls for that, but dreadful for other music, Likewise my Grado are to some, just a bit too transparent and don’t have enough grit and grime. The Regents are just the same, Bass is just their weakness.

As an aside, Sudio take their name from a Phil Collins song, I listened to that on these headphones and it was still shit. (jokes aside though, they do handle synth-pop really well).

At this price point though, I really think they’re a good headphone that looks nice. If you want to mess about a bit, my phone (Galaxy Note 8) has an EQ and whilst messing with an EQ is tantamount to sacrilege, in this case, I gave it a go. Scooping out some of the congested mids opened the headphones up a little and boosting the low end on top just a touch made the sound improve further to the point where honestly they were performing way above their weight class. If you want to test this out and have an EQ with presets, this will almost definitely be your standard “Rock” setting.

Conclusion

Rather than give these a star rating, an arbitrary figure between 85 and 100 or a simple recommendation or not, I’m going to lay this out a little differently. Headphones and audio is such a subjective area and really, depending on what you listen to, it  might be the difference between something sounding top tier or absolute dire. Overall, I’ll say at this price point, which is quite cheap for wireless on ear headphones to be fair, the sound is at times a bit boxy and constrained, but good. They are convenient, comfortable and do look smart. So:

Who are these headphones for?

If you listen to a lot of Jazz, indie, pop, trashy or thrashy guitar music, then I think you can find a lot to enjoy with the Regents at this price point, especially if you want bluetooth.

If you want some wireless headphones to potter about in whilst you get things done listening to podcasts or audiobooks, they’re very comfortable, lightweight and do a solid job with pure vocal content.

If you don’t care about sound and buy headphones based purely on looks. Hey I’m not judging, I’ve done it.

If you have a narrow head and don’t want to look like a robotic monkey then I’d say that applies to all of the above too.

Who are these headphones NOT for?

If you’re someone who listens to a lot of bass heavy music, trap, dub, R&B etc. give these a miss. You would be much better suited to something with more drive in the low end and I can guarantee you’ll not be satisfied with the Regents.

Hardcore audiophiles looking for the very best in clarity to sit at home in a comfy chair, with a dedicated headphone amp, to listen to your best LPs with dewy eyes whilst you consider if the phono cable you recently bought for £200 offers anything new to your listening experience.

You can purchase the headphones here at sudio.com and use the code DARKHISTORIES to save 15%. BOOM. You’re welcome.