Alex Reviews a Headphone: The Wonderful Weird Blue Mo-Fi
UPDATE 12/20/17: Since writing this, my amplifier switch has essentially broken, and I’ve decided the weight on the head is irritating to the point of frustration. I no longer recommend these! More here!
I started out skeptical of the Blue Mo-Fi. Blue is known for their fantastic microphones. Indeed, I used one of their famous Snowball USB mics for years and years with great results. Two years ago, they entered the headphone business. Or, I should say “headphone” business. The Mo-Fi takes the basic concept of “Two drivers by your ears on a headband,” and reinvents or refines everything else.
I’ve had them for two months now. And they’ve grown on me. Tremendously.
A couple of months back, I wrote a headphone round-up. I called the Mo-Fi’s a “Weird other thing” that wasn’t like any other headphone. I had owned them for like, four days at that point. Since then, I’ve had the chance to test them against many other headphones. I’ve experimented with different genres. I’ve tried different wearing positions on my head, and different clamping forces (We’ll come to that later!). I’ve used the two different active amp modes, and the passive mode.
The verdict? The Blue Mo-Fi is completely fantastic to my ears, a great headphone for many different applications.
Like other headphones, it still has a headband, ear cups, and a detachable cord. Unlike other headphones, the headband uses a spring-suspension system that keeps the drivers pointed squarely at your ears regardless of adjusted width. The height adjustment is done on separate arms that glide up and down smoothly, for basically infinite adjustment options. It’ll fit any size head without issue. I have a large head and the Mo-Fi doesn’t even blink, giving me plenty of leeway to fully adjust the headphone.
The ear pads are ridiculously thick, rather comfy, and high-quality to the touch.
The holes in them are ear-shaped, which is good, because humans have ears.
Some pads have holes that are circles (What???) or ovals (which is better), but these use a non-standard shape designed to contour around the ear. My ears are slightly larger than normal, and they fit right into the pads no problem. The clamping force of the ear cups on your head is fully adjustable, with a little dial at the back of the headband. Even on the loosest setting, these provide a snug, let’s call it…noticeable fit. Tighter settings slightly improve the bass response and noise isolation, and the adjustment wheel has lots of play on it, again allowing for endless adjustment. They’re a heavy headphone, but the thick padding on the ear cups and the headband does a good job of keeping them comfy.
If you want a headphone that disappears on your head, this is definitely not it. But it can still be comfortable if you get the fit dialed in.
Getting that fit dialed in is more challenging than I expected, but a worthwhile experience. For maximum comfort, I have to wear them a just a little higher and further forward than I’m used to wearing headphones. Still, the adjustment here is unparalleled. They seal perfectly over my glasses. I wish every headphone had this level of user-customization. Sure, it gives up some ease-of-use, but the range of adjustment options more than makes up for it.
How is the sound? Robust. Balanced. Incredibly detailed. It’s fantastic, really. These compare favorably to every other headphone I’ve ever heard, and they’re great at producing accurate, crisp audio. In measurements, the highs look rolled-off, but in practice, the sound is just slightly warm, with plenty of detail and sparkle. I particularly love the way they render acoustic music.
The built-in amp(with 12 hour usb-rechargeable battery), and the matching 50mm custom-designed drivers, are the stars here. Some will prefer the slightly more laid-back sound of the un-amped passive mode, and they’re relatively easy to drive. One flick of the little knob near the cord however, and these explode with detail and clarity. The staging is natural and intimate, and instruments are easy to distinguish. I personally prefer the second notch on the power switch, the “On+” mode, which adds a little bass push at 63hz. This mode was designed for adding life to older recordings, but I like its sound on more modern stuff too.
You’d have to be the most discerning of listeners, or willing to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars more, to achieve better sound than this in a headphone. They don’t have active noise cancelling, so that’s the only area where another headphone might better serve you, but their isolation is pretty impressive. The sound is good for all sorts of applications, from mobile gaming all the way up to mixing. The signature here splits the difference better than any other headphone I’ve tried, making for a true “good for all scenarios” type of experience. It’s not so analytical as to be boring and harsh, and not so warm and bassy as to be muffled and boomy. It’s right in the middle. If you like a bright airy headphone, look elsewhere. If you’re a basshead, look elsewhere. This is nestled right in the center. And it’s great.
The Mo-Fi includes two cords, and a carrying bag. The Mo in Mo-Fi stands for mobile. Yes, these hulking beasts are intended to be portable if you want. They come with an iPhone-compatible short cable, and a longer cable for home and studio use. The included bag is a soft velvet-like material, with a little pouch inside for cable storage. A hard case might have been better, but it would have added more size to the already-large girth of the Mo-Fi’s. They’re not the easiest headphones to carry around with you, but I’ve done it successfully. I’m using them in a cafe right now.
Over the last two months, the Mo-Fi’s have taught me a great deal about audio quality, and my own preferences. The analog amp has a wonderful character to it, and sounds better than other digital amps I’ve tried. I used to think that amps just made stuff louder, but there’s a lot more to it, it turns out :). The thick pads do make a difference in my ability to distinguish instruments from one another in a mix. The adjustment mechanisms put all other headphones to shame.
Yes, they sort of look like a weird sci-fi movie prop sitting on your head, and they’re heavy enough to double as a hammer or doorstop, but they have lots of cool little touches too. The lights on the side that indicate charging/amp power status are subtle and fun. The fact that they auto-shut-off when you take them off is a nice touch. The metal accents look really nice in the light of a window (See above!).
I spent the first few weeks unsure of the Mo-Fi’s, and all the stuff they do quite differently than other headphones, but I’ve grown to love them. They’re cumbersome to carry around, you’ve got to be careful when engaging the amp that you don’t blow out your ears, and they are the beefiest headphones out there. However, the adjustment, the sound quality, and the ruggedness of them more than make up for these sacrifices.
If you like the look of these, but want something a little lighter and don’t need the amp, Blue offers the Lola, a different version of the Mo-Fi released late last year. I’m going to check out a pair of those sometime in the near future. Many folks won’t want such a weird, bulky headphone…but if you want to get A+ grade audio for a fairly reasonable price, and experience a headphone that rethought long-held conventions, run out and get a Mo-Fi!
The Mo-Fi retails for $349, and although that might seem high, it’s absolutely worth it in that category! Sometimes it’s on sale! The Lola is 100 bucks cheaper! Exclamation Point!