Review: Marley Liberate XL Wired Headphones

Written by Alex Zaharov-Reutt      17/10/2014 | 00:00 | Category name i.e.SOUND

Bob Marley is alive and well in brand status only, however his reputation as a brilliant musician lives on in his son's consumer electronics Company which today sells and markets an impressive range of gear.

Review: Marley Liberate XL Wired Headphones
Recently I reviewed the new range of Marley headphones and portable wireless and I was surprised by not only the quality of the product but the quality of the fidelity.
Bob Marley is a man remembered for his memorable music and fiercely Jamaican attitude to life, he loved the simple raw things from his raw reggie music to the instruments he played. Now his son has taken his passion for quality natural products and crafted them into some clever new products that are proving a hit at stores like JB Hi Fi.
For those just catching up with the development, which took me by surprise having been out of the tech journalism game a while on a personal sabbatical, there is good news: Marley's name is definitely not being taken in vain.
The House of Marley sent us "three little birds" for review - two surprisingly good-looking Liberate XL and Liberate XLBT headphones and a very stylish portable Bluetooth Liberate BT speaker, which is where I discovered the Marley name actually referred to Bob Marley.
That's when it was time to unpack everything, get it all going and start treating my ears to a new aural adventure, which started with the Liberate XL this review focuses on - an "on-ear" set of headphones available in brown or black, with an adjustable aluminium metal headband with holes going over your head and connecting to each earpiece.

Click to enlarge
The House of Marley's Liberate XL headphones.
The metal headband covers what is canvas fabric made from recycled materials that looks almost jeans-like, under which is very soft leather padding to cushion the headphones onto your head, with the headphone cups able to fold into the arch of the headband when placed into the carry case for transport, as you'd expect with headphones of this type.
The same leather padding is used to cushion your ears, with birch and walnut wood with the Marley logo laser engraved on the outer panel of the left and right ear cups for a classy, refined look that is unmissable, while a small tricolour strip of Jamaican green, yellow and red serve as an additional reminder this is a Bob Marley product you now own and are using.
The earphone cups also contain 50mm drivers which help deliver the rich bass that you should always stand up for your right to listen to, with Marley's sales blurb describing the sound as "Marley's 'Signature Sound'" delivering "smooth, powerful bass, stunningly precise mids, and an energized high-end", enhanced by "custom engineering and tuning by the best ears in the business" so your "music is delivered with ultimate sonic clarity".
Dr Dr? and others would undoubtedly argue otherwise, but it's clear to see the Liberate XL wasn't just thrown together in a Chinese factory but has had some serious work done on it to deliver a quality audio product with noticeable design at competitive pricing.
Being a wired headset, the detachable cable also includes an inline remote control with microphone, answer/hang up button and volume up/down buttons. Designed for use with iOS devices, the volume buttons didn't work on the Android tablet I'm currently listening to, or on a Samsung Galaxy S5, but the answer/hang up button worked as a play/pause button.
Naturally the buttons work exactly as intended when plugged into an iPhone, which is no surprise given they come with the official "Made for iPod, iPhone, iPad" certification.  
Reaching over for the Asus Memo Tab 7 I'm also in the midst of reviewing and comparing to the iPad Mini with Retina, I fired up the Google Play store, headed to the music section and found a selection of free tracks ready to download and listen to.
First up was Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" track, which made me get up, stand up and start dancing.
Other free tracks to download from Google Play Music store on the day of review included John Farnham's "You're the Voice", Rage Against the Machine's "Killing in the Name Of", The Fugees' "The Score", Delta Goodrem's "Born to Try", The Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready To Make Nice" among others, so I downloaded them all and started listening.
Firing up Bob Marley's greatest hits on YouTube was also a mandatory listening experience given the Marley branding, and while YouTube's audio encoding obviously isn't studio quality, cries of "No Woman, No Cry" and various other classic Marley hits danced to different beat of my eardrums. 
I compared the Liberate XL to a set of iPhone in-ear headphones and a set of Beats Studio noise-cancelling Bluetooth/wired headphones in wired mode.
Going from the Liberate XL to the iPhone headphones, you immediately notice how much richer the sound is on the Liberate XL - deeper, richer sound with a bass the iPhone headphones will never be able to match due to the fact they're an entirely different style of headphones.
The comparison with the Beats Studio headphones is more evenly matched than against in-ear headphones, although as a set of Active Noise-Cancelling (ANC) headphones, it should come as no surprise the Beats produced an even nicer sound than the Liberate XL, but at more than double the price for Beats Studio, it's a fight you'd expect the Beats to win, which it does.
Testing a set of ANC Beats against a set of headphones without ANC isn't exactly a fair test, but even so, the Liberate XL's ear cushions did provide a lot more isolation from sound that in-ear headphones can. 

While obviously not able to cancel noise like a proper pair noise-cancelling headphones, the Liberate XL's sound is no slouch, leaving me jammin' with positive vibration and the feeling I could enjoy any audio from these cans, be it roots, rock, reggae or anything else.
Various other reviews of the Liberate XL online also expressed surprise at the great quality of the sound and construction, which was good to see as they validated my own review findings. 
So, with the sound quality at the affordable price leaving me asking "Is this Love?" and leaving me dreaming of ending up in a headphone pimper's paradise where the sun is always shining, what else makes Marley's Liberate XL stand out?
It's another element of design that I touched on above. 

Specifically, it is the fact that Marley has used what it titles a "singular blend of high-tech and eco-conscious design", meaning some usage of recycled materials. Marley says it uses "responsibly-sourced materials, 'exclusive' REWIND fabric, cotton and canvas textiles, recyclable metals, bamboo and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified woods', with "responsibly harvested" birch and walnut, and "the enclosure, dock, and trim rings" all being "made from recycled plastic".
The packaging is also made from recycled paper, plastic and other "earth-friendly materials" which customers are encouraged to "please recycle".
Both of ends the detachable connection cable feature gold plated connectors and subtle Jamaican tri-colours and is covered in tangle-free fabric, which is a handy and ultimately time-saving touch, for we've all had to go through the hassle of unpicking unintended knots of headphone cabling.
There's also a very sturdy, tough-feeling canvas fabric carrying bag made with the same REWIND recycled canvas fabric, complete with a tiny print of Jamaican tricolours to remind you and everyone else just whose headphones it is you're grooving to. 
Priced at $199.95, The House of Marley's Liberate XL is a great set of cans that definitely warrant the consideration of anyone looking for a new pair of quality headphones.

Top Ranked Reviews

Pros & Cons


Great design at competitive prices, quality original and recycled materials, attention to detail and great sound. Comes with an in-line microphone transforming the headphones into a microphone headset - an essential multitasking capability for headphones in today's wired and wireless world. 


Beats Studio headphones with noise-cancellation sound better but at more than double the price. Made for iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch means the full suite of in-line headphone controls only works on iOS device, however Android and other devices still get access to pause/play music and to answer/end calls using the in-line microphone.