Review: Marley's Liberate XLBT Bluetooth Headset

Written by Alex Zaharov-Reutt      09/09/2014 | 12:05 | Category name i.e.SOUND

The House of Marley has produced a quality on-ear Bluetooth headset with controls with included optional connection cord, taking the best of the wired Liberate XL headset and making it better!

Review: Marley
Headphones are one of today's affordable "luxury" items that are a far cry from the very basic orange padded headphones that were once synonymous with Sony's Walkman. 

From Apple's $3 Billion buyout of headphone maker Beats through to supermarkets selling on-ear headphones at low prices, headphones aren't just for listening to music, but have become a real fashion statement for some people. 

So, with such technological and fashion emphasis placed these days on a pair of portable speakers that sit on your head, it's great to see that The House of Marley has put some real effort not only into engineering great sound with its Liberate range, but also into making a modern product with quality design that you'll appreciate - and everyone else will notice. 

The first thing to understand about Marley's Liberate XLBT is that it is virtually identical to the wired Liberate XL model, which we reviewed here, but adds Bluetooth, an internal rechargeable battery and the usual suite of Bluetooth controls to play, pause, skip tracks and change the volume up or down. 

There's also a power button which has four tiny white lights that display when the button is pressed, showing you how much battery life is left. 

The Liberate XLBT works with any Bluetooth enabled tablet, smartphone or computer, we tested it with an iPhone 5s and a Samsung Galaxy S5 without issue, with pairing an effortless process as you'd expect. 

The design is just like the Liberate XL - 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. 

The metal headband covers almost jeans-like canvas fabric, under which is very soft leather padding to cushion the headphones onto your head, with the same "collapsible design" for the headphone cups which fold into the arch of the headband for easy transport in the supplied canvas carrying bag. 

The same soft leather padding cushions your ears, with birch and walnut wood with the Marley logo laser engraved on the outer panel of the left and right ear cups along with the aforementioned Bluetooth controls, while small tricolour strip of Jamaican green, yellow and red are there to remind you this is a House of Marley product you now own and are using. 

The earphone cups contain 50mm dynamic moving coil drivers with neodymium magnets, which Marley says delivers "serious sound", and as I type this review with music pumping through my cranium, I can hear they're right. 

The Bluetooth connectivity within offers "advanced APTX and AAC" wireless technology which is described as delivering "all of the performance of a wired connection with the freedom of Bluetooth". 

Taking Marley up on this assertion, I tried finding any difference between music playing over Bluetooth, and listening to the same music playing through the 3.5mm corded connector that comes in the box. 

I had expected the corded connection to sound a little better, but after listening to tracks on Bluetooth and then by corded connection, and back again, and it seemed to me as if the Bluetooth audio actually sounded the tiniest bit richer than the corded connection. 

Simply put, audio delivered over Bluetooth sounded as good if not a smidgeon better than using the detachable 3.5mm headphone cable, which backs up Marley's claim. 

Then I needed to compare the sound against a pair of Apple's iPhone headphones and an unfair test against Active Noise Cancelling (ANC) Beats Studio headphones, unfair because ANC-equipped headphones generally sound better than non-ANC headphones.   

The result was the same as with the wired Liberate XL in that the Liberate XLBT had noticeably better sound than Apple's wired in-ear headphones, as expected, but was beaten by even better sound from the noise-cancelling but much more expensive Beats Studio headphones, meaning the XLBT more than passes the sound, design and value test - especially as this model has no ANC. 

We will be testing an ANC-equipped pair of Marley headphones in the future so we can test like for like, but in the meantime, we definitely were impressed by the XLBT's sound, even against the ANC-equipped Beats. 

The XLBT also features the same eco-friendly design, various recycled materials and recycled packaging as the XL, and the same tangle-free fabric covered 3.5mm cable with additional microphone and answer/hang up button. 

If you want a pair of stylish, fashionable Bluetooth headphones with a bit of Bob Marley's rebelliousness without paying the higher prices some of those shiny headsets sell for, these headphones are definitely worth putting on the short list. 

The House of Marley's Liberate XLBT headphones retail for $249.95. 

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Pros & Cons


Just like the Liberate XL but better with the inclusion of APTX-enabled Bluetooth which works with any modern Bluetooth-enabled device. Great sound, great quality, great design, original and recycled materials used in the headset and packaging. Also works as a Bluetooth headset for smartphones. Also comes with a 3.5mm cable letting you use the headset in wired or wireless mode. 


No noise cancelling. The Beats Studio with noise-cancelling (but no Bluetooth) produces an even better sound, but at nearly double the price, you have to ask yourself whether outlaying the extra cash for Beats is worth it for a relatively minor audio improvement, or not.