Link: Allen & Heath – Price: $49/€54/£49
DJ Mixers. Production mixing desks. MIDI controllers. Allen & Heath is a company with immense reputation in audio circles. A relatively new foray into the headphone market spawned the XD-40s and XD2-53s for pro DJs, which garnered great feedback, including ours. The press release for the xone XD-20 in-ear headphones gives them a RRP of around £50 and claims they are for ‘track browsing and replay’. So… for your iPod then!
In the box
There isn’t much to greet you when you get in there. The headphones only come with small, medium and large silicone earpieces. It’s a bit disappointing that there’s no little bag to keep them safe, considering which company they come from.
These days, in-ear monitors come in a wide range of sizes and shapes. The XD-20s stand out not only by sporting the Xone branding, but by providing a shape that fits the ear canal. Allen & Heath helpfully tell you which bud goes in which ear, not that you can put them comfortably in any other way. Bottom line: they look like IEMs… made by Allen & Heath.
On first inspection, the IEMs feel light, with very thin wires. There’s none of that fabric-covered wiring that prevents tangling (as an aside, why the hell is that not standard on all headphones?!). Having used them as my main headphones for a few of weeks, I’m confident they’re able to take the usual knocks, yanks and twists of everyday commute. Although as with anything… look after your cables and they’ll look after you!
Before this, my daily drivers for on-the-go have been my trusty Sennheiser CX300-II gold editions with a frequency response of 19-21,000 Hz. The XD-20s have a range of 20-20,000 Hz, technically taking the edges off the sound. Side by side, there is a very slight difference but this part of the review is so subjective that in busy everyday life, I doubt people will notice.
Compared to the Sennheisers, which basically act like earplugs, the xone XD-20s aren’t as snuggly fitted inside the ear canal. This is due to the way they are designed to sit. Fortunately, it isn’t a huge issue and they still keep out the everyday noise.
These IEMs sit well in your ear. Some earbuds fit really tight in the canal, causing discomfort. Not the 20s. They sort of half fit in, half rest in the hole. I’ve had them in for hours at a time during journeys quite happily. People with mutant ear lobes may struggle with them, but you’d have to ask them.
The XD-20s are a departure from what we come to expect in Allen & Heath… These aren’t designed for monitoring or production, but they still carry the Xone logo with pride. So, have I replaced my trusty Sennheisers with these? I’m not sure yet. Had I bought these first, I’d be a happy camper. Allen & Heath, affordable, secretly sturdy. These are great ear buds at a great price. It would just have been nice to get a bag, and maybe replacement earpieces.