Brookstone Cat Ear Headphones Review: Cute, But Not $150 Cute

axent wear cat ear headphones
The Axent Wear cat ear headphones manufactured by Brookstone. VIA: Axent Wear Tumblr

The Axent Wear cat ear headphones from manufacturer Brookstone could not have found a more sympathetic consumer in me. I’m their target audience: I watch an absurd amount of anime, I like cute things and flashy lights, I have a robust collection of Hello Kitty beanie babies and Pikachu is my favorite Pokemon. I was in every way disposed to look favorably on the Axent Wear cat ear headphones from Brookstone , even though (read: because) they are ridiculous to look at and even more ridiculous to wear for anyone who’s not a 16-year-old Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

axent wear headphones blue
Axent Wear's cat ear headphones in blue. Photo: VIA: Axent Wear Tumblr

Unfortunately, despite holding every positive feeling towards these absurd headphones that it is possible for a single heart to harbor, I cannot recommend them without first warning of some serious caveats.

 

The manufacturing quality is inconsistent: are you getting a lemon or a keeper?

 

The first pair of headphones I lifted out of the box starting showing signs of flawed manufacture almost immediately. I charged the headphones via the charger included, and after about two hours, I turned on the LED lights. The lights on the left headphone cup were bright and steady, but they flickered on and off dimly on the right headphone cup.

axent wear headphones in blue
Cat ear headphones in blue. Photo: (c) Axent Wear Tumblr

This problem, which occured straight out of the box before I had so much as worn the headphones, presaged a continual dwindling of function on the right side of my headphones. The problem was so pronounced that within a month of normal use, the right side of my headphones was totally non-functional. The LED lights on that side didn’t work and neither did the audio. The only solution which revived function for a very brief time was to either slap the headphones on a table or flatten the headphones as far as possible by taking hold of the cups and stretching them upwards until the band was almost level.

Needless to say, these are not strategies you want to be taking with a pair of $149.99 headphones. I mean, even the wrist bracelet on the sturdy-looking carrying case fell off after a month. For the price, shouldn’t everything stay copacetic for, you know, longer than that?

axent wear cat ear headphones green
The Axent Wear cat ear headphones in green. Photo: VIA: Axent Wear Tumblr

Fortunately, Brookstone encloses a slip inside the box hawking its Brookstone Protection Plus warranty. But you do have to pay for that : a product in the $100 to $149.99 price range costs $14.99 to protect for a full year and $19.99 to protect for two years. All I can say is, get that warranty if you seriously want these exact headphones and won’t be satisfied with a refund.

The second pair of headphones I received has worked fine so far, its LED lights unflagging and its audio steady on both sides after a month, but I’m still wary. Once you’ve nicked a consumer’s trust, it’s hard to get back. And this manufacturing issue isn’t an isolated case. Reviews on Brookstone’s own website as well as the product’s Amazon page indicate that plenty of customers have struggled with manufacturing defects that rendered their headphones nonfunctional.  

 

The bells and whistles fall flat.

 

The microphone that is included with the headphones means you can use the Axent Wear cat ear headphones as a gaming headset, but why would you when there are cheaper headsets that do the job more reliably? The mic doesn’t have so much as a foam cover. The stem of the mike has a little flex in it, but it hardly keeps to whatever position you flex it into, so you’ll find the mic slowly migrating away from your mouth as you game.

The cat ears serve as speakers so that you can share your music with your friends. But in order to use the speakers, you have to be playing music from the earphones; they aren't independent of one another. If you are playing music via the earphones, you must be wearing the headphones, right? So you are presumably encased in a cocoon of sound even as you are sharing your music with friends. But the idea of sharing your music with friends isn’t to blast them with your hot EDM tracks while you sit unable to engage in their company because you can’t hear them. So what is the purpose of the speaker function?

axent wear cat ear headphones red
Axent Wear headphones in red. Photo: VIA: Axent Wear Tumblr

Then there are allegedly in-line controls, but press upon them as I may, I still have not worked out how it is these in-line controls are to be accessed. Do you activate them with Konami code? Roll chicken bones under the full moon and await the instructions of your cat-eared deity? According to the instructional booklet, you’re supposed to just press them and they work, but no. The in-line controls are thus functionally useless to me.

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A diagram of the cat ear headphones. Photo: VIA: Axent Wear's IndieGoGo

The buttons for the LED lights, the speaker toggle, and the volume for the speaker audio are all located by the right ear cup on the headphones themselves. Unless you are gifted with a near-photographic memory (which I am not), you will have to remove these headphones over and over again just to play with the much-vaunted functions of the lights and the speakers. Shouldn’t these buttons be on a functional in-line control?

And these headphones are heavy. They just are: how could they not be with those huge cat ears on top? So prepare for your earring backs to press into the flesh of your neck. The cushioning around the audio cups is reasonably comfortable, but two hours into your Spotify playlist you’re not only going to be feeling the weight of your aesthetic, you’ll have a fascinating dent in your hair that’ll take some doing to undo.

The ear cups extend and swivel, but it takes a sturdy yank indeed to extend them. They’re not even Bluetooth. So ultimately, what am I paying for?

 

The aesthetic, though.

 

cat ear headphones live model axent wear
Axent Wear's cat ear headphones on a live model. Photo: VIA: Axent Wear Tumblr

Dude, they’re light-up cat ear headphones. To the right person, these headphones sell themselves. They are cuuuuute! They are truly, deeply cute. They look great when you wear them on livestreams with the LED lights on, the audio quality is sufficient for everyday gaming and music needs, and they’re cute. (Really cute.)

But are you willing to pay $149.99 to look oh-so-kawaii? How about $129.99 (since they’re on sale now )?

 

Specs

 

Headphone Audio

  • 20Hz-20KHz frequency response

  • 32 Ohm impedance

  • 40mm drivers

Cat Ear Speaker Audio

  • 200Hz-18KHz frequency response

  • 4 Ohm impedance

  • 32mm drivers

What’s In the Box

  • Cat Ear Headphones

  • Detachable gaming mic

  • 4’ detachable headphone cable (3.5mm)

  • USB recharging cable

  • Protective carry case

 

Is it worth the price?

 

If the raver anime girl aesthetic is the reason you want these headphones, then buy them: there’s nothing else on the market to sate that thirst. But if you are first and foremost looking for a reliable gaming headset, look elsewhere. The advertised bevy of bells and whistles don’t really amount to much and the audio quality both in headphone and speaker mode is just adequate. The manufacturing defects are a serious and disappointing issue. Even at the $129.99 sale price, that’s just too steep for a pair of headphones whose major selling point is ultimately just that they’re really, really cute.

I understand that these headphones are the result of a successful IndieGoGo campaign from a passionate and invested team, so I do hope that the manufacturing issues see improvement. Even if they do, though, the price for the value won’t work out for me.

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