MenSyleFashion Meets Ashdown

Menstylefashion were recently invited to attend a launch event for a number of high end technical products in Soho UK. In amongst the stalls promoting their wares of dog shaped speakers (where the base tweeters were in the dogs backside!), ‘Wilam’ headphones, human head shaped speakers and wireless modular wall lights and not being hugely impressed (other than the free bar and great food), we stumbled upon the guys from Ashdown Engineering.

What first took my eye was the immediate warmth and familiarity of the look of the earphones. Kind of like the look of the ones my parents neighbour had had as part of the high end 80’s family stereo system with all the dials and monitors. My neighbour only let me wear them under strict supervision and on a Sunday. As the evening went on and the light in the room got darker, I noticed that the headphones were actually lit up on the ears, with a built in VU meter in each earphone. Very Unique. As I approached, I was immediately met with a friendly handshake and smile from Mark and Dan Gooday, the father and son team behind the OV1’s.

Being a bit talked out, but at the same time enthused by the guys warm approach, I cut to the chase and asked to try the headphones on. I requested Mark to stick a reggae tune on – he politely but firmly refused and suggested he chose a track for me. As the foam and protein leather ear cup softly cushioned my whole ears, I was immediately taken in to a silent world. The chatter and sound dissipated as my ears felt like they were in a warm ear muff heaven. Or feather down duvet.

Then the sound. I was immediately transported next to a speaker at a festival or concert but without the pain. I literally had goose bumps as the bass and funk reverberated around my ears. The sound immaculately clear, the instruments, drums and vocals coming from all directions. As an avid gig goer and festival attendee, I know when the sound engineer is good. This was like being at one of the best gigs of my life but with supersonic sound. And on my own.  Proper silent disco.

Being so impressed with the quality of these earphones and the enthusiasm from Mark and Dan, as well as being intrigued by the heritage and names these guys have worked with, I invited myself up to see them at their HQ in Colchester, UK.

Mark has designed and built guitar amps since 1982 and his son Dan has been a part of the company since an early age, helping to build the early guitar amps in the family living room.

Ashdown Engineering’s Facility

Driving through the beautiful Essex countryside and after a few wrong turns, I came across the farm like structures that comprise Ashdown Engineering’s facility.

Upon first entering the first building, the workshop, I was met by Dave. Long haired and bearded, this guy looked like a proper roadie. He was sat at a computer designing circuitry for guitar amps for some famous artist, while his wife was sat across the room soldering the circuitry for a bespoke guitar pedal. The walls filled with technical equipment and stacked to the rafters with past and present works in progress.

I was then given the grand tour by Mark and Dan. As they talked enthusiastically and pragmatically about the development of the OV-1, it became clear where the inspiration and quality behind the design comes from.  The walls and shelves were filled with previous and current projects and concepts, as well as signed guitars from grateful artists along with signed Gold discs adorning the walls – The calibre who these guys have worked with clearly evidenced.

So, given the success of this side of the business, I posed the question to Mark Gooday, Director ; ‘What prompted the move in to developing earphones?’

“The big thing was that our own AMP world has been in decline since the appearance of the I phone.  So if sales are going elsewhere we needed to look ourselves. So the mad idea from years back made sense. 

We are good with sound and when you think of the massive percentage of music you have listened to since the mid to early 80s that has an amp in it that I have built or designed, it was a natural progression to develop the OV-1s  Then with our artist friends help we should be able to make a Headphone they want to use as well. This has come off nicely for us with great feedback from Travelling artists who love the SOUND and the ANC, which they say is better than the so called BEST out there today. Great to get this feedback”

With this heritage, knowledge and expertise you would expect the OV-1 earphones to be something pretty special. I was not disappointed

Quality and Fittings

As well as engineering the hell out of the sound, Ashdown have taken the same approach to the build quality. The headphones come packaged in a robust easily open able cardboard box, fully covered with graphics. Within the packaging is a beer mat with the Meters logo (a nice little touch), a warranty card and obviously the headphones themselves. The headphones are snugly placed in a high quality pod like Zip case and come with all of the leads you would require to plug and play on pretty much any device, as well as a USB charger for the EQ and ANC settings. The colour options are Black, Tan and for the more feminine, Rose gold and pink. These headphones are solid, yet lightweight. Chunky, yet elegant. Robust and sleek. The ear pads easily un curl from the carry case position and the adjustment for head size on the head seat is effortless. Everything adjustable clicks in to position cleanly and doesn’t move. Even plugging the jack lead in is a pleasure. The lightweight alloy steel frame and protein leather perfectly complement each other in terms of quality and design.

On the left earphone is a three way switch with options for passive use, noise cancelling and an EQ setting.  All of these settings made a difference to the listening experience. The ANC setting particularly made you feel like you were in your own little escape capsule. The EQ setting being more raw and real. Pretty much like the sound at a live gig.

Road Test 

At the time of receiving the earphones, the Godfather of Drum and bass, Goldie, had just released his latest album, ‘Journey Man’. A great opportunity to properly test these out. Right from the first Track, the crystal clear sound and definite drum beats, complemented by the punchy bass. The various instruments, samples and vocals coming from all directions. Like being in a vortex of sound. The rising and falling of the melody and clarity even of percussion instruments, passes from left to right ear and vice versa effortlessly.

As I switched to Goldie and The Heritage orchestra playing a live version of ‘inner city life’ to experience a more classical type of music, the ANC setting really came in to its own. As I closed my eyes it was like I was there. I could even hear the clear chatter and wolf whistles of the audience as the track slowed before a crescendo of drum beats filled the venue. I was air drumming like a mad man.

As part of my alter ego, my crew and I are part of an outfit that organise parties, primarily to raise money for charity and using professional DJs. We took these earphones down to one of the parties hosted by The English Disco Lovers, on Brighton Beach, UK, to get a review in a ‘working’ environment.

In short, the DJ’s appreciated the build quality, sound isolation and the comment that the sound comes from every angle and travels from ear to ear was familiar. As one of the Djs played the classic disco funk track, Todd Terjay , ‘Inspector Norse’ prior to the party starting he was lost with his eyes closed  for the full 6 minute track in a world of silent disco.  As the party ended for the night, I had to wrestle them off of him.

The History

Ashdown engineering have been at the forefront of sound engineering, earphone and guitar and Bass amp technology for the last 40 years. This company have  provided bespoke Bass amps, Guitar pedals and acoustic amps  to the likes of U2, Bastille, The 1975, Biffy Clyro, The WHO, System of a Down,  Green day, Arcade Fire, Black Sabbath, The Blockheads, Alter Bridge, Foo Fighters and even Rick Astley.  The company was established by Mark Gooday in 1997 and was built on the success of his former Amp production company, Trace Elliot.

Mark has designed and built guitar amps since 1982 and his son Dan has been a part of the company since an early age, helping to build the early guitar amps in the family living room.

Conclusion

Although I have tested a few earphones from other manufacturers, I am yet to offer a formal comparison. However, compared to other products out there. One thing I would say is this: these guys are not just endorsing a product:  they live, breathe and eat sound. The OV-1 earphones take you In to your own world of sound.

If you’re a serious music fan or just want to look uber cool, get a pair. Whack the volume up full to your favourite track and you will hear things unheard of before. I dare you not to smile.

The OV-1 earphones retail at around £280.00 per pair and are currently available on Amazon.

 

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