Headphones are a deeply personal thing. Some people are serious about them and others not so much. Last week I wrote up a review for the very first headphones I used with a built in DAC, and I loved them. This week we’re back with another very different pair of headphones, and my first planar magnetic headphones, the Blue Microphones Ella. Planar magnetic headphones aren’t a new thing, but they have been a pretty pricey luxury and have just recently dropped into more reachable price points. Explaining planar magnetic sound could get complicated and messy in written form, or at the very least this article would be very long. So I thought a short video from Raghav from Headphone Zone explaining planar magnetic sound would be a great way to kick off this review of the Blue Microphones Ella planar magnetic headphones.
The Blue Microphones Ella wired headphones have the following features and specifications:
- Drivers: Planar magnetic
- Impedance: 50 ohms Passive, 10 ohms Active
- Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Output power: 250mW
- THD+N: < 1% (94 dB SPL, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz)
- Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
- SNR: >101 dB
- Noise: < 20 uV
- Battery capacity: 1000mAh
- Weight: 481 g (16.97 oz)
- Outer dimensions (closed): 21cm x 14cm x 12cm (8.27” x 5.51” x 4.72″)
- Outer dimensions (open): 18cm x 29cm x 12cm (7.09” x 11.42” x 4.72”)
What’s In The Box
- Soft case with cable storage pocket
- Blue Microphones Ella
- 1.2-meter audio cable with Apple iPhone/iPad controls and microphone
- 3-meter audio cable
- 1 meter USB charging cable
- 3.5mm to 1/4″ adaptor
The Blue Microphones Ella are nearly identical to the Blue Microphones Sadies I reviewed not too long ago. The biggest difference between Ella and Sadie is the weight. Ella tips the scale at about 1 oz heavier than Sadie. This is likely due to the planar magnetic drivers. The rest of the headphone design is pretty much identical to Sadie so read the quote below to get the gist of the design of Ella.
The Blue Microphone Sadie headphones are not only heavy but they’re physically large. The ear cups are ample, something I love because my entire ear could fit inside the cup keeping my ears from feeling smushed. The size and weight of these headphones may not be for everyone, you will be noticed wearing these in public. That being said, I didn’t mind the size or weight at all. The comfort of the cushions balanced out the size of these headphones for me. One issue I had with our review unit was a bit of creaking sound coming from the hinges when putting them on, not a deal breaker and could have been just the unit I had.
There’s not much in the way of buttons on the Blue Microphones Sadie headphones. On the left side, you’ll find the AUX port which doubles as the amplifier control. Just near that you’ll find the MicroUSB port for charging the internal battery. No, these are not Bluetooth but battery is required to drive the built-in amp. One of the best features included is music pause, the music will pause when you take these off and the ear cups touch together. This is great when you need to take them off for a bit and do something never having to touch your device to pause the music. Once you get them back on, the music starts again.
One area Ella’s design surpasses Sadie is in the quality of the cables. The braided cables Ella uses are just amazing, super high-quality and absolutely beautiful. This pair of Ellas also did not suffer from the creaking I had experienced on the Sadie headphones. The build quality is just a bit better than Sadie and probably should be considering the price.
As I said of Sadie, Ella isn’t going to appeal to everyone in terms of aesthetic design. They’re heavy, have a unique design, and aren’t the most portable headphones you can buy. Still, there are people who will enjoy this design. Just like Sadie, I love the design of Ella. I think they have a nice classic look and the weight doesn’t bother me with all that fabulous padding on them.
Ease of Use
Plug and play and you’re on your way. That’s all it takes to use the Blue Microphones Ella headphones. You should charge them overnight before your first use but once you have that done, it’s just a matter of plugging your cable in. The only control you have to worry about is the amplifier control which has three settings: Off, On, and On+. Off puts the headphones in passive mode so you’re not using the amplifier at all, On turns the amplifier on (which is wonderful), and On+ gives you an extended bass range. Overall, the Ella headphones are very easy to use.
Sound quality. It’s why you’re here and the Blue Microphones Ella headphones deliver some absolutely sweet, sweet sound. As with the Sadies, even with the amplifier turned off and the headphones in passive mode, the sound coming out of these headphones is top quality. Again, as with the Sadies, the sound signature is very balanced with a very slight favoring to the low-end of the spectrum. Everything changes once you flip that amplifier toggle to On or On+. Everything instantly becomes brighter, more vibrant and alive.
Planar magnetic technology is supposed to pull out the subtle nuances of the music making everything much clearer thus giving you a better listening experience. Planar magnetic headphones are also supposed to last longer than traditional headphones due to their construction and materials.
I spent hours listening to many different types of music through the Ellas, and there were some tracks I could notice differences on from using the Sadies. All of my source files were either mp3 or streaming from Apple Music, so no high-quality tracks, just a real-world consumer use case here. I found the sound coming from the Ella headphones was just a step above Sadie, but it never really made me think to myself that I would spend the extra money for them over the Sadies.
Don’t get me wrong, the sound Ella produces is amazing, and I’ve used other headphones in this price range that don’t sound as good. I think the planar magnetic sound is going to appeal to more audiophiles who are listening to vinyl records, FLAC files, and other higher quality media. While there is a noticeable difference in sound between Ella and Sadie, it will ultimately come down to price point and if that extra sound quality is worth the price.
Overall these headphones sound amazing, especially with the amplifier engaged in the On position. There is a noticeable difference in crispness and clarity versus traditional headphones, and I suspect if you listen to higher quality file formats you will get the absolute best out of these headphones.
There is no Bluetooth on these headphones so reception is a non-issue. Call quality is excellent. The large ear cups do a great job of noise-isolation and callers were loud and clear. Callers could hear me loud and clear as well. There was no reverberation or echoing sounds and most would just say I sounded like I was on a good quality speakerphone.
The amplifier battery life is advertised at 12 hours of playtime. Battery life will vary depending on how loud you have the volume. I ran the battery down in just over 12 hours at 60% volume so the battery claims are in line with what Blue advertises. Even if you do run out of battery, these work great in passive mode as well, so you’ll only be left without the amplifier portion of the headphones if the battery does die.
While $699.99USD is a lot to throw at a pair of headphones, I don’t think the asking price is bad considering the technology (planar magnetic) packed into these. I think they’re competitively priced compared to their competition. As for value, you have to decide if planar magnetic is something you really want.
While these things sound great — really great, I don’t think the average consumer will notice the subtle and granular audio differences between planar magnetic and traditional headphones. I do think that the addition of an amplifier makes a huge difference in headphones that is noticeable to even a layman. This is why I would suggest that the average consumer saves their cash and buys the Blue Microphones Sadie instead of the Blue Microphones Ella.
It’s not that Ella headphones are bad, in fact, they’re fantastic, but average consumers will be just as thrilled with Sadie and be able to save a lot of cash in the process. For you audiophiles who are playing FLAC files and are seriously granular about your sound, Ella is a solid choice. Audiophiles will pay for good sound and Ella is most likely worth it to that particular crowd.
*We were sent a review unit of the Blue Microphones Ella headphones for the purposes of this review.
Last Updated on April 1, 2017.
Blue Microphones Ella$699.99 USD
Ease of Use10.0/10
- Amazing sound
- Comfortable fit
- High-quality construction
- Attention to detail
- Unique retro design
- Built in amplifier
- Price is high and Blue's own Sadie headphones are a strong competitor for less money
- Design may not appeal to some