In a time when smartphone makers are trying to entice users to upgrade to the latest and greatest models on a yearly basis, Fairphone made a name for itself with an Android smartphone designed to be easily repaired and upgraded to extend its useable life for years, and now the company is applying that same ethos to a pair of wireless headphones.
This isn’t Fairphone’s first audio product. That honor goes to its True Wireless Stereo Earbuds, which promised to be a more environmentally friendly option in a product category considered to be one of the worst examples of e-waste. The nature of typical earbud design requires batteries with a limited lifespan, and earbuds are usually assembled using glue instead of screws, which makes them nearly impossible to disassemble and repair. Although the Fairphone True Wireless Stereo Earbuds were made from “30% recycled plastics” and claimed to be “100% e-waste neutral” by the company, they’ll still suffer the same landfill-y fate as other wireless earbud products when their batteries no longer hold a charge.
The new Fairphone XL over-ear wireless headphones are more in line with the company’s Android smartphones. The company claims they’re “among the most sustainably designed headphones on the market” and feature 100% recycled aluminum for their structural elements, such as where the headband connects to the earcups. 100% recycled plastic is also used “in all parts it can be used in.” As eco-friendly as recycled plastic might be, it loses some of its strength and flexibility during the recycling process, and isn’t ideal for all components, like a headband that is constantly being flexed.
The Fairphone XL can also be easily disassembled without the need for a brain surgeon’s skills, and allows parts that inevitably wear down with use to be easily replaced, such as the ear cushions or even the headphone’s 30 hour, 800 mAh rechargeable battery.
They may not be breaking new ground when it comes to headphone performance and features, but the Fairphone XL do seem like they offer everything we’ve come to expect in wireless over-ear headphones. They pack 40-millimeter drivers, active noise cancellation with an ambient sound boosting mode, a multi-point Bluetooth connection for easily switching between two devices, a folding design, audio tuning by Sonarworks, and IP54 weather resistance. That last part means a little rain won’t hurt ‘em, but a complete dunking would require most electronic components to be swapped out. Fairphone has even developed a mobile app allowing users to make EQ adjustments, download software upgrades, and even order replacement parts as needed.
The Fairphone XL headphones are available starting today in two color variants: green speckled and black speckled, for €249 (there’s no official US pricing as Fairphone’s products aren’t directly offered by US retailers), which works out to about $275.
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