We’ve seen mobile-accessory companies try their hands at headphones more than a few times, and the result is usually disappointing. So, when Moshi approached us with a prototype of its first high-end headphones at CES earlier this year, we reacted with cautious skepticism. Moshi makes great products, fusing functional and beautiful design with premium materials, but that doesn’t mean they’re cut out to make great headphones.
Fast-forward to present day, and we’re feeling a little sheepish about ever doubting Moshi. The Avanti, a strikingly minimalist on-ear headphone, incorporates very good sound quality as seriously as any other design element, and pulls it off.
Out of the box
Moshi’s product packaging is exactly what you should expect from a product you’ll probably purchase from Apple. You get the thick-gauge cardboard box with invisible magnetic clasp, a simple-yet-informational graphic on the inside cover, a high-quality compact carrying case, the headphones, a headphone cable, and a modicum of paperwork (thank you!).
When you hold the Avanti in your hands, it’s immediately apparent that a great deal of time and effort went into their design, right down to the materials at use. The Avanti are unapologetically minimalist – they do not look big and bulky on your head, but they will turn heads thanks to their handsome stainless steel frame and eye-catching color scheme.
Fit and comfort
The Avanti, with cable attached, weigh in at a mere 166 grams — about 5.85 ounces – ensuring they will never be a burden on your crown. Their moderate clamping force is just tight enough to keep them in place, even if you’re the type to bob your head along with whatever you’re listening to. Seriously, it’s great to feel how light these headphones are, yet never be concerned about whether they’ll hold up in the long term.
The more we listened to the Avanti, the more we came to enjoy them.
Since the Avanti sit on your ear, the padded leatherette ear cushions do tend to make long-term listening sessions a bit toasty. That’s our only complaint in the comfort department, though. In the end, we often listened to the Avanti for two or three hours of time with no notable problems.
Don’t be off-put by the ultra-slim amount of padding on the underside of the headband. It may not look like much, but it does the job – again, thanks in part to the headphones’ super light weight.
The little things
We may have described the Avanti’s overall design as minimalist, but there are plenty of little details worth noting.
For one, we enjoy how tightly the Avanti fold up for compact storage. This keeps the case small and more manageable for travel. We also appreciate that Moshi didn’t toss a tiny carabiner in just because everyone else does – cheese factor averted.
We also like the Avanti’s headphone cable quite a bit. It may only sport a single-button in-line microphone, but it’s a nice one, and it’s attached to a silicone-covered cable that feels good and resists tangles. The cable splits toward the top, and terminates with two tiny gold-plated plugs which lock into place at the bottom of each earcup. We’re pleased with how secure this little connection is, which never once broke free during our evaluation.
The Avanti adjust for size easily enough, but we do wish we they pivoted more. We felt like the cans were constantly perched forward, though security was never a problem.
Finally, and this is a rather important point, the Moshi Avant need to be placed back on the head just slightly to get the best sound quality. Placed too far forward on the ear, treble and upper midrange sounded seriously shrouded. But with the headphones moved back just a bit, the cymbals, brass, and strings jumped to life.
The more we listened to the Avanti, the more we came to enjoy them. Their most striking sonic attribute is their ability to produce instrumental texture – the gut of a cello string, the zing of a trumpet, the wooden clack as a drumstick attacks a ride cymbal. But as we continued listening and our ears relaxed into the Avanti’s signature sound, it became apparent that the entire treble and upper midrange region was vibrant and full of life. Sure, it’s a little on the bright side, but the brightness is refreshing, like a like a perfectly balanced, ice-cold lemonade on a sweltering summer day. We never had any problems with harshness or sibilance – cymbals just seemed to have more verve than usual, and brass instruments an added measure of zing, for example.
The DT Accessory Pack
The midrange goes mostly uncolored, rendering clear, intelligible vocals with just a bit of forward presence in the mix.
Bass was the hardest sonic attribute to judge at first. Straight out of the box, the bass seemed a bit lean, but to be fair, we’ve been listening to bass-forward (sometimes flat-out bass-heavy) headphones for weeks on end now. It’s easy to lose perspective with those sort of listening conditions. Over time, it became clear that the Avanti have a good amount of bass present, just without the in-your-face attitude. Bass goes deep enough, and there’s just the tiniest little bit of punch which lends itself well to defining a kick-drums character. We rarely found ourselves wanting more bass, even though it was a far cry from what we’ve been listening to for a while.
In the end, we found the Avanti to be an engaging, energetic, and entertaining set of headphones, suitable for those with sophisticated taste in sound.
Moshi’s Avanti prove that high-style headphones need not sacrifice sound quality. We’re not intimately familiar with Moshi’s earbuds, but we’re pretty sure the Avanti are a pretty big leap into new sonic frontiers for the company, and it seems it has landed securely on both feet. For anyone who wants a slick-looking pair of cans with a premium feel and sound quality to match, we think the Avanti are a perfect fit.