In this review, I will be looking at the Incipio f38 Hi-Fi Stereo Headphones in-depth, examining their design, comfort, value, and most importantly, sound quality. I will be using these headphones to listen to ten albums of varying subgenres, moods, and release dates (all in .FLAC quality) in or related to the rock genre to help determine which subgenres and/or styles they’re best used for, and whether or not I’d recommend them to you, the reader.
The ten albums I will be listening to help determine the headphones’ quality are the following:
Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010)
Courage My Love – Becoming (2013)
Bush – Sixteen Stone (1994)
Sleigh Bells – Treats (2010)
Ought – More Than Any Other Day (2014)
The Books – Thought for Food (2002)
Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet (2001)
The World Is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever (2013)
Nirvana – Nevermind (1991)
65daysofstatic – We Were Exploding Anyways (2010)
The f38 Hi-Fi Stereo Headphones come to us from Incipio, a company mostly versed in fields including device cases, chargers and speakers, and the f38’s happen to be the only headphones the company produces. The f38 headphones are priced on the official website at a modest $49.99.
The f38 Stereo Headphones come in a sleek plastic-protected box whose colour matches the headphone colour you choose. The headphones come in turquoise, black, hot pink, Espresso (white and dark brown), and white with a bit of grey. Mine are the hot pink colour, but every colour available helps to compliment the simple, retro design of the headphones.
The headphones themselves are very comfortable to wear. The earpieces jut out considerably. While I usually prefer them flat, as I sometimes enjoy using headphones whilst lying on my side, the f38’s fare just fine using them like this. The cups themselves are somewhat small, which may alienate those with bigger ears than I, but I find them to be a very pleasant fit, and the somewhat tacky-looking adjustment bars ensure they’ll fit your head, no matter how big. The headphones also come with a carrying pouch that you’ll never use and a quarter-inch adapter, so you can plug them into an amplifier.
When it comes to the design and aesthetic of the headphones, I think they’re great. They’re comfortable and nonintrusive on your head, and speaking after a number of months of using these headphones, I can tell you that they don’t begin to irritate your head after several hours of constant use like other over-ear headphones can. In this department, I like the Incipio f38’s a lot.
With that said, when it comes to the sound of the headphones, the Incipio f38 Hi-Fi Stereo Headphones fall flat in a lot of instances. Nobody expects headphones priced at 50 dollars to be powerhouses or anything, but when listening to certain musical styles, the sound can be muddled, sharp and unpleasant, even with the highest audio quality out there.
When listening to anything loud with contemporary high-end production, the feedback from the f38’s can tend to be fuzzy and blaring, and not in a complimentary way, and while this isn’t so bad when listening to something like Sleigh Bells, which was obviously intended to be overwhelming on the ears, the releases from Vampire Weekend and Courage My Love I sampled sounded harsh any time the songs went for a more upbeat approach. That is to say nothing of Andrew W.K.’s I Get Wet, which, through these headphones, sounded like I was listening to it through a drive-through speaker.
One thing I found disappointing about the f38 headphones was the lack of any gripping bass. Although I think that too much bass can severely hamper a song’s clarity without some serious balancing, even the most bass-heavy songs I listened to on them really lacked any punch to them. If you’re looking for cheap headphones with considerable bass to them, these aren’t for you.
Despite the wishy-washy sound of loudness through the Incipio f38’s, their quality is leagues better when listening to down-to-mid-tempo music. The quiet discomfort of the Books’ Thought for Food fared just fine on the headphones, as did the mid-tempo endeavour of 65daysofstatic. They’re also great for ambient electronic artists such as Baths and Jon Hopkins. If you mainly listen to quieter rock albums, you may want to consider the Incipio f38 headphones.
Similarly, if most of what you listen to is rock music from the 1990s and before, I could also recommend to you the Incipio f38 Hi-Fi Stereo Headphones. Due to the dated production of Sixteen Stone and Nevermind, not much was lost in the feedback, and I thought they fared just fine. I myself don’t listen to much pre-21st century music, but these headphones do older music justice, I think.
When you get right down to it, the Incipio f38’s sound quality ranges from average to bad, depending on what you’re listening to. The lack of any sort of biting bass may turn off a lot of listeners, as will the sharp nature of louder music. I think the f38 headphones sound good when playing slow, quiet music and older rock tracks, so they do at least have some sort of good use to them. It all depends on what you listen to, but I find the Incipio f38’s sound to be somewhat underwhelming on the whole.
I picked up my Incipio f38 Hi-Fi Stereo Headphones off of the company’s official website with a discount and free shipping, for a total of a little over 42 dollars. It was most definitely a budget buy, but they have been a reliable pair of headphones for the duration of the four or so months I’ve had them now. I use them to listen to music, watch YouTube, play video games, watch movies and TV shows, etc., and I’ve found them to be a versatile pair of headphones.
Would I recommend them to another consumer? I probably wouldn’t at their face value, no. If you’re mainly looking for a pair of headphones for music-listening purposes, I’d recommend shopping around for other $50 pairs of headphones, because you’d probably be able to find something that caters more to your specific tastes than them. If you can find them discounted, like $40 or $30, then I think they’d be more worth the price then.
TL;DR: The Incipio f38 Hi-Fi Stereo Headphones are an okay pair of headphones, but there are better options out there for the same price. The bass is subpar and the headphones are not best used for loud music, though I find they fare decently with slow, quiet music. For $49.99, they aren’t worth the price, but if you can find them for $40 or $30 dollars, maybe add them to your list of budget buy options to consider. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend them.