House of Marley Smile Jamaica Review: Bass on a Budget

House of Marley Smile Jamaica Review: Bass on a Budget

We've noticed that people tend to only consider earphones/headphones that cost less than Rs. 1,500 if they want to replace the ones that come bundled with their smartphones. It goes without saying that a vast majority of people use smartphones to play their music. There is no dearth of options, and good ones at that, available in this price range. We particularly like the Creative EP630, Soundmagic PL11, Cowon EM1 and Xiaomi Piston.

Entering this fray is the House of Marley, with its Smile Jamaica earphones that promise good sound and build quality at a price that doesn't require you to break the bank. Read on to find out how they sound.

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Design, fit and specifications
Staying true to the House of Marley's commitment to making environment-friendly products, the Smile Jamaica is made using recycled plastic. It looks unique and we think the design is understated when compared to some of the flamboyant options from Skullcandy. The plastic earbuds are painted to look like wood and feel pretty tough as well. The version of the Smile Jamaica that we received for review didn't have an in-line microphone. A more expensive version with an in-line mic is also available as an option.

The House of Marley only bundles two sets of eartips with the Smile Jamaica, which is fewer than the options available with some competing earphones in the same price range; for example, the Xiaomi Piston. While the Smile Jamaica is pretty light at 82g, we felt that the fit wasn't optimum with the bundled tips. We replaced the bundled tips with third-party Comply Foam tips. Not only did the fit improve drastically, but so did the sound quality. The House of Marley has used two 8mm drivers with impedance ratings of 18Ohms, which means that the pair can be driven by most smartphones.

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The standard 1.3m cable is sheathed in fibre and ends in an L-shaped gold-plated 3.5mm plug, which is great. In our time with the Smile Jamaica, we didn't feel the cable developing any kinks or tangles. It seems as though the earphones can handle quite a bit of stress. We found that the Smile Jamaica is one of the toughest pairs of budget earphones we've tested so far.

Performance
For most part of our review period we used the bundled tips to listen to our test tracks and found that our ears started hurting after long listening sessions. We also perceived a sort of electronic interference from the left earpiece.

The very first thing we noticed was that the bass quite evidently overpowered the other frequencies. The Smile Jamaica could get really loud, as a result of which noise isolation was pretty good at higher volumes. We aren't surprised because the demographic that the House of Marley is targeting demands this kind of a sound signature. We played a wide range of songs with emphasis on low frequecy sounds. The bass is on the boomier side but it is not as bad as some of the budget Skullcandy earphones we've experienced.

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The Smile Jamaica doesn't have a very open sound but for a budget pair of earphones, the soundstaging is decent. In fact, all the instruments that are layered on top of each other in Bernhoft's C'mon Talk are clearly audible. However, we weren't pleased with the quality of the mid-range sounds: Ingrid Michaelson's voice in You and I sounded flat and lifeless. The treble was decent but once again the bass overpowered it. We tested the Smile Jamaica with an Apple iPhone 6 and a FiiO X1 reference audio player, and by virtue of its superior performance the earphones sounded much better when used with the X1. We played a few video files but weren't really impressed with the sound because of the sub-par mids.

Verdict
The bass-heavy sound signature of the House of Marley Smile Jamaica might not have gone down very well with us but we know that many will like it. At Rs. 1,040 (the current discounted price on its official e-commerce platform), the Smile Jamaica is a great pair of earphones for EDM aficionados. If you want a more neutral sounding pair we'd suggest the Cowon EM1. Even the Xiaomi Piston is a great alternative to the Smile Jamaica, with its more exciting sound signature.

Price (MRP): Rs. 1,040

Pros
  • Great build quality
  • Good bass response

Cons

  • Silicon tips are uncomfortable
  • Mids don't sound good

Ratings (Out of 5)

  • Design: 3.5
  • Performance: 3.5
  • Value for money: 4
  • Overall: 3.5
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