Blue's Lola headphones nix features in favor of comfort

Blue's latest headphones don't have a built-in amp, but they're still solid cans.

When it comes to headphones, comfort is at the top of my list of demands. It even edges out sound quality. Blue's Mo-Fi headphones were announced last year, and while they offered great sound, a built-in amp added an uncomfortable amount of bulk. Thankfully, the company announced a lighter version, the Lola, just before the end of the year. These new headphones weigh less, but that's because they don't have that on-board headphone amplifier. The new model is $100 cheaper, but is it still worth the investment without the fancy tech?

If you're having trouble spotting the visual differences between Lola and Mo-Fi, don't fret; the design is nearly identical. Aside from the weight difference, Lola also has a slimmer headband that's meant to be more comfortable. As a tradeoff, the new, slimmed-down band is missing the tension adjustment wheel that was included on the Mo-Fis. I rarely used that feature on the older model, and it's not something I crave here either.

Speaking of tension, let's talk about that headband design in more detail. Like its predecessor, the Lola features a multi-hinged band rather than the semi-circle you're probably used to. This ensures that the earcups remain parallel to each other even if they're stretched as wide as they can go. For someone with a big head like myself (I wear a 7 ⅝ hat), the hinges keep the headphones from feeling like they're pinching your skull. You can make the headband fit as tight or as loose as you want rather than having to solely rely on a length adjustment. Both of Blue's headphones offer a cozy fit, but the Lola in particular is comfy thanks to the lighter weight.

My one gripe with the Lola in terms of wear is a sentiment that I share with fellow Engadget editor Jamie Rigg, who spent time with the Mo-Fi. The earpads on these new headphones are too soft. They're plenty thick, but they have too much give when you put the headphones on, which makes them not quite as comfy as they could be. Because of this, you can start to feel the rim of the earcup when you wear the Lola for more than a few minutes. It never gets to the point where it's uncomfortable, but it's not as cushioned as I'd like.

Without the the built-in amp, I expected the overall sound quality to suffer on the Lola. I was pleasantly surprised, then, to discover that it doesn't. The Lola's cans are well-tuned, offering a level mix of highs, mid-range and bass tones throughout. While going through the playlist I typically use to test audio gear, Blue's headphones handled all genres well, even bassy hip-hop and metal songs. If Blue was going for the same sound as the Mo-Fi when you have the amp turned off, it's done a good job.

I do have one issue with the overall sound, though: volume. I could use more of it. When plugged into my MacBook Air or Moto X, Lola is decently loud, but it's just below the level I typically like to work with. Thankfully, I have the Apogee Groove DAC/headphone amp lying around to remedy the issue. Of course, that just takes the tech that Blue included in the Mo-Fi and puts it on my desk. Also, that solution won't work for a mobile device due to its USB connectivity. More often than not, I found myself settling for Lola turned up to 11, and I managed to get by just fine.

In an age of wireless headphones, you can pick up a capable pair for the price of the Lola. At $250, it isn't a huge investment compared to some of the other models (the $400 B&O H6, for example) that offer similar sound quality. For me, what sets the Lola apart is the combination of design and audio. Blue has a knack for retro aesthetics that don't go overboard on the nostalgia and the hinged design fits snug while staying cozy. These cans remedy my main issue with the Mo-Fis and manage to keep excellent sound without all the bells and whistles. The company has been in the pro audio game long enough that I can trust it in the audio department, too. Increased comfort and comparable sound quality make the Lola easy to recommend.