Orange is the New Black
With a core belief that the one and only thing that matters is sound, Pump Audio headphone give a vibrant aural bang for your buck
Article by Andy Barnham
My first realisation that brand offered headphones were, on the whole, pretty poor and cheap was as a young teenager. Idling my time away with my Walkman listening to Iron Maiden’s Powerslave was pleasant enough, but it was only when I was forced to upgrade the own brand headphones on their inevitable disintegration and Father Christmas deemed me worthy enough for a replacement set higher up the quality range that I realised headphones weren’t just headphones. They were the difference between listening to static or hearing Bruce Dickinson’s wide vocal range in its full glory; there’s a reason his nickname is ‘The Air Raid Siren.’
Now, decades later, I found myself making the same realisation about brand headphones and earphones all over again. Somewhere along my musical progression (or regression?) from modern pop to what is billed as Classic Rock, I found myself moving from one form of device to another at relative speed. CD player gave way to Zune (remember them?) which turned into an iPod and then iPod Mini and now my iPhone all with their own earphones. Why bother buying my own when I was being given them ‘free’? Though with hindsight I suspect the poor own brand headphones helped hide the ever decreasing lack of digital quality. I did once dare buy a pair of urBeats in- ear headphones in an effort to escape the inevitable white Apple freebies, but quickly despaired when then ear bud cushions fell off as soon as they were replaced, rendering them useless as without them, my ears were literally left bleeding. Back to the ubiquitous white Apple earphones, which were multiplying as fast as you can say upgrade.
So what’s changed, why rebel now, years after being a clone? What can I say – white just ain’t my colour. Starting at £30 Pump Audio’s earphones are little more than a pair of replacement Apple ones at £25 (for those who actually want to replace them). A bright orange, Pump Audio’s target audience are dance music lovers; the earphones do a remarkable job on dance music’s thumping beat and while, to this ageing Zeppelin inspired rocker, they don’t show a whole lotta love to more traditional drum kits, I’m happy enough to ramble on with Pump Audio.
The first difference is the noise isolation; used to being able to hear cars whilst walking on pavements, snippets of conversation on the underground and general office buzz, Pump Audio’s noise cancellation works a treat. I can’t hear anything but the music from the earphones which is quite terrifying as I now have to rely on my eyes for to make up for the sensory information I’m used to receiving from my ears. I now have to visually check and recheck, and recheck again for good measure, when crossing the road as I really can’t hear anything above the wailing guitars that caress and soothe my ears.
In terms of build, Pump Audio are designed to survive a beating, presumably in case a raver accidentally drops and then proceeds to absent-mindedly dance all over them. And the wide flat cabling means your pocket won’t find clever ways to re-arrange them into a thick tangled mess when you invariably put them away. If you decide to use them in the gym or go running with them, they don’t fall out at the first hurdle; they’re incredible robust while offering great music quality.
There is however a downside to this musical journey. Relying on crowd sourcing, Pump Audio is now on its second generation of products. Of the initial offering, the Zeus Bluetooth wireless headphones have been discontinued whilst the other products have received an upgrade. A quick glance at Pump Audio’s website shows that despite the fantastic quality (they really are great), Pump struggled to get the £199 offering onto retail shelves. Scores of replies from existing customers show how unpopular this decision has been and even with sales partners agreeing they perform above their price range (apparently the majority of retail buyer feedback was to do with a negative view of the design) Zeus has gone the way of his fellow Greek gods. The new Pump Decks, with more traditional design elements are due out this month at £100. If previous products are anything to go by, the music quality delivered via the new headphones will be outstanding.
If you’re a fan of musical accessories and especially if you’re dance music aficionado, then the chances are you’ve already come across Pump Audio; their last Kickstarter reached 50 per cent of the campaign target in just two hours. With a core belief that the one and only thing that matters is sound, Pump Audio are worth a listen.