Branded earphones tend to have one thing in common, besides an inflated price, and that's bass. A fat low-end is the currency of most these sets. And for many listeners, that's exactly what's wanted. Analysed with a more critical eye though, this sound signature is often problematic, as big bass needn't cost big bucks.
The House of Marley Freedom Zion Mist (now there's a mouthful) earphones do gravitate towards this trend, but not as badly as some. There is a disproportionate bass emphasis, but it's kept pretty low down the frequency spectrum. As such is provides the meaty thud many people lust after without muddying the sound too much. Analytical these earphones are not, but neither are they sludgy.
Up top, the performance isn't too bad either. Some of the impact of the treble is spoiled a bit by the bass's big booty, but the Zion Mist handle trickier sound well. Splashy cymbals rarely sound harsh as the top-end is accomplished enough to cope with harsh or sibilant source material without dimming detail much.
The mids are what let these earphones down. Ideally, you want a mid-range that's smooth and warm, to give vocals body and weight - especially important when contending with an artificially-enlarged bass, as heard here. However, the Zion Mist mid-range is a bit coarse, leaving voices that should sound silky smooth sounding a little bit gravelly. They won't turn Katie Perry into Marianne Faithful, but will make her voice less easy on the ears.
A failing in this part of the frequency spectrum is common in earphones that offer "ear candy" rather than accuracy, as sparky highs and a big fat bottom-end will impress more quickly than a more considerate, balanced tone. This is a problem for the Zion Mist set though, because, at £100, better performers are available. Quite a few, in fact.
The Phonak PFE 012 deliver less bass, but are better in other respects, and are the much better choice for discerning ears. Then there are the dynamic driver Shure SE215 earphones, which have a removable cable and much better mids. However, it's on shop shelves that the House of Marley headphones are most likely to do battle with rivals, so the Monster Beats Tour are perhaps their biggest rival. Cheaper than these big-name buds, the Zion Mist don't fare too badly in comparison, especially as they're significantly more comfortable to wear for long periods.
The House of Marley Freedom Zion Mist are earphones laden with conspicuous good intentions. They're made largely from natural, recyclable materials; their maker makes a point of giving to charity; and the memory of Bob Marley is plastered all over them. However, in reality they're not far removed from the Dr. Dre Beats range that arguably inspired them. There's solid bass and treble performance here, but the coarse mids mean you can get much better for your money.