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Shinola Canfield Over-Ear Headphones Review: All-American Sound, Premium Price


Reviews By Photo by Hunter Kelley
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Shinola continues its march into premium audio with the Canfield collection, featuring an in-ear monitor (in partnership with Portland-based Campfire Audio), on-ear and over-ear headphones. We tested their top-of-the-line Canfield Over-Ear Headphones, which weigh in at a hefty $595.

The Good: Is there such a thing as “Detroit” sound? If so, it seems that Shinola Audio engineers have sculpted the sound of their new Canfield headphone lineup in a way that feels American: robust and relaxed. Bold and mid-range forward, a touch lazy on the very top and bottom range – a smile shape on a tone curve – a bit like a good ol’ American small block V8 engine, or in this case: Beats. There’s not much in the way of technical proof for the “tuned and balanced” in Detroit aspect, but these headphones definitely like to rock and roll and rap. The design and build-quality are outstanding. Low key premium touches like gold-plated contacts, top grain leather components and lambskin ear cushions up the sophistication quotient.

Who It’s For: If you’re caught up in the swirl of the Shinola brand and eager to try their audio products without venturing into their higher priced wares like turntables, you’ll love the Canfield Over-Ears. They’re a fantastic alternative to Master & Dynamic (great sounding American audio) with a distinctly bold American sound. Like their watches, there a bit of romance and nostalgia with these headphones, but it’s worth noting that these headphones are assembled in America, but not manufactured here.

Watch Out For: The price. You’re paying $595 ($650 for PVD black) for the Shinola experience with audio performance at about 2/3rds of that. We don’t mean that condescendingly either. Experience matters to many consumers. Elsewhere, a split cable seems rather “last-gen” for new headphones, but we get that Shinola probably chose to do this to “honor” the spirit of heritage audio devices irrespective of the inconvenience. The cable, while nicely braided, also seems a bit unbalanced in robustness to the headphones themselves. The higher end of the audio spectrum (18kHz-20kHz) gets a bit lazy as does the very bottom of the base range for this reviewer’s tastes, but the mid-range performance is impressive.

Alternatives: In terms of dollar for dollar performance, you should consider Audeze EL-8 ($629), Bowers & Wilkins P7s ($345) or even the Sennheiser HD1s ($350) at a lower price level. If you need noise-canceling or wireless you should move on though I imagine a wireless pair is not long behind. Shinola has a lot of market share to erode away from Bose consumers.

Pro Tip: There isn’t an extraordinary amount of range in the sizing. If you have a massive head you may find that these headphones won’t make it all the way around (about 15mm of adjustment total). I’d recommend trying on a pair before making the purchase. For the other 90-percent of you, you’ll be fine. Also, watch out for the magnetic ear cups, they fall off easier than you’d expect.

Verdict: If you’re looking for crisp, bold mid-range forward sound, have no interest in Beats or Bose, and prefer a different design than Master & Dynamic then you should consider the Shinola Canfield Over-Ears. They’re an alternative entry into the premium audio market, but they’re not for everyone’s tastes. The headphones are sensitive at 105db — a good thing for people who will power these through their iPhones and MacBooks – which means your Apple device can play these headphones loudly without too much obvious distortion. A headphone amp certainly improves matters. The design and build are as handsome and robust as you’d expect from Shinola, but be ready to pay for the brand.

Test Playlist:

What Others Are Saying:
• “From a design standpoint, the headphones look amazing and feel good initially, but can start to make their presence known during long listening sessions. From an audio perspective, you get an accurate representation of most mixes, but some listeners may find they lack that $500 headphone sound, particularly in the low-frequency department.” — Tim Gideon, PCMag

• “I never found a music genre where the Canfields lived comfortably though they fared better with hip-hop than most. They do not have the soundstage or highs required by classic rock and jazz is a sloppy mess. It was hip-hop where they finally started sounding the part.” — Matt Burns, TechCrunch

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