If you’re not familiar with Blue as a company, they’ve been in the audio business a long time. In the industry they are more known for making high quality microphones for professional use and more recently, microphones for consumers. In the more present they’ve started creating some very interesting and unique headphones, just like the Sadie that I have for review. But do they offer enough to stand out from the premium headphone crowd?
In the box
Included in the rather nice packaging you get
- The headphones
- An ultra svelte carry bag. Its got a soft inner lining to prevent scuffs and the outer fabric feels great. Its also slightly padded too, which adds a little extra protection.
- 1m USB charging cable
- 3.5mm to 6.5mm adapter
- 3m audio cable
- 1.2m with Apple iPhone controls and microphone
Design and Build
- Weight: 444g (15.67oz)
- Outer dimensions (closed): 21cm x 14cm x 12cm (8.27” x 5.51” x 4.72)
- Outer dimensions (open): 18cm x 29cm x 12cm; 7.09” x 11.42” x 4.72”
At first glance these are a striking pair of headphones, they blend old school charm with modern flourishes really well and it does make them stand out.
The first thing that really catches your eye is the Blue logo, this is centered in the housing and looks very stylish. The logo is surrounded by a crescent esque circular pattern. This not only looks great but it allows the subtle illumination to glow through. I’ll talk more about that later on. Its surrounded by a really nice Silver accent too, it just a little touch breaks up the finish, but yet doesn’t cause design incohesion.
The left side of the headphones is where you’ll find the 3.5mm input and USB charging port. Its not ordinary 3.5mm though, its surrounded by a solid metal dial. This dial allows you to switch between the different modes available, but again more on that later. The dial does have a little wobble to it when used, its nothing to be of concern, but not something I was expecting at the price point.
The right side features the same design aesthetics of the left, minus the 3.5mm and charging port.
The main housing shares some resemblance to an oval but its slightly elongated, its made from metal and coated with a high grade finish, it feels premium and reassuringly solid. In certain lighting you can also see that the finish has a slight sparkle and shimmer to it, its over the top and in my opinion it adds a certain charm to them.
Onto the arms and these are metal, but they need to be. These are the regions that are supposed to be made solid and well they really are. The metal is very reassuringly durable and robust. The craftsmanship in this area is superb, the blend of curves and angles is lovely and for support arms they’re more art worthy than they look functional. Don’t get me wrong they are extremely functional, but they’ve done it without sacrificing the design.
The headband next is again just so well designed, usually you get curved strip of metal covered in plastic or possibly all metal but this is so elegant in its approach. Again its made from metal and feels strong. Its made in multiple sections to allow its unique movement, but I’ll cover that later. It halso has some very subtle branding on top too.
The cable I used was the 1.2m version for mobile, this will only work fully with Apple products. I used it with my LG G6 and the middle play pause button worked fine, but the volume control did not. The mic works on Android too and is great. The controller is solidly made and the buttons have a very satisfying tactile response.
The top section of the cable is like nothing I’ve ever seen and will only work with the Sadie. Its specifically designed to be used with the headphones and if it breaks, you would need to go to Blue directly as I have yet to come across third party ones. The bottom 3.5mm features some Blue branding and has decent strain relief.
Onto my only grumble about the design and that is the size of them. They are very large headphones and on a smaller sized head, look very out of place. They’re wide too and this just makes them look bulky. This however is a personal issue and of course we are all different so it may not even affect you.
In a nutshell I simply love the attention to detail, the fusion of old school design and newer technology and I really do like the way these look. They’re extremely well made too, so I honestly only have one real issue with the design and no issues at all with the build.
The comfort of the Sadie is a mixed bag. The earcup padding is very generous, supple and very smooth. Its lined with a synthetic leather and filled with memory foam. To be honest the padding is great, its extremely plush and doesn’t cause any fatigue. So there is no real issue there. Well, apart from the slight heat build up after a few hours use, its not massively severe, but it is noticeable after 3 or so hours of listening. But if you have little breaks every now and then, they are fine.
Its also not the headband padding either. This again is plentiful and features the same great stuff that makes the earcup padding so good. It also does a fairly decent job of spreading the heavy weight across your head. I did however notice a little bit of fatigue on the the top of my head after a few hours use. This is more likely due to the weight rather than the padding.
The clamping force is a little too strong for me as well, they are a little bit tight, squeeze a small amount and although the compression isn’t massive, it is noticeable and again can cause fatigue after a few hours.
The Sadie do have something quite different and its something I’ve only ever encountered on Blue headphones and that is the multi-jointed headband. This takes influence from Formula One car suspension design and it honestly moves like nothing else I’ve ever seen. The open extremely wide, so if you have a broader head, then that is no problem. But they also manage to compress really small too. So if you have a less broad head, they manage to fit great. Usually headphones accommodate one or the other, but Blue have found a way round that.
They also have another great addition too and that is the adjustable arms, usually on headphones you get a sliding mechanism to adjust for taller heads, but the Sadie arms actually extend and quite far too. So if you do have a really tall head, then these will be able adjust to fit you.
Its honestly the most unique way of adjusting the headphones that I’ve ever seen and it works. My only gripe is the lack of swivel. The earcups have only a slight amount of movement, this is done with a rubber membrane that moves with you. It just doesn’t move much.
Onto the final point of these and I have touched on this a little and that is the size and weight. These are big headphones and heavy too. That is two things that when added together create comfort issues. I mean huge props to the design team for what they’ve accomplished, but they are still too big and too heavy and its this, that ultimately makes them uncomfortable for long term use. For short stints its manageable, but after a while they just become a burden to wear. But if you take regular breaks then it does help alleviate this. Also this is my personal experience and if you’re used to heavy headphones, then they won’t be as big of an issue.
The battery life of the Sadie is quite impressive. The quoted time the battery is supposed to last on power is 12 hours. I managed to achieve an power on life of 13 hours 30 minutes at 65% volume. This was on the first amp setting which is essentially “On”. The battery indicator, which is a subtle light pulse started at around 13 hours. Its a nice way to warn you about impending battery depletion, but in reality you can’t actually see the subtle glow when wearing them.
In then tested them again via the second amp setting which is “On+” here I tested them again at 65% volume and managed to achieve a life time of 13 hours 50 minutes. I was a little surprised that this mode lasted longer, but that I what I experienced. Keep in mind this time will vary depending on the volume you have them set to.
They also have a few battery saving tricks up their sleeves, one of those is the ability to play and pause your music by simply opening and closing the headphones. This is great for extending battery life. Keep in mind that this feature only works when the amp is active. They also have an auto power down feature that turns them off when not in use.
Charge time is quoted at between 3 to 4 hours. My testing gave me a time of 4 hours 3 minutes to charge fully. This was done via my Anker Powerport 5. This time of course will vary depending on what you use to charge them.
The charging port though it a little awkward. Its flush with the body and set at an angle, this is great for aesthetics but if you’re trying to charge them it can be a little fiddly to insert the cable the first time, every time. So some patience maybe required. Again this might just be me.
Finally, you can also listen to them in passive mode. So if you’re on your travels and the battery runs out, you can switch the amp off and keep listening. But getting 13 hours plus on average will give you plenty of time to enjoy your music and say if you listen to them on say a 2 hour train journey, you could do that journey 6 and a half times before needing to top them up
Noise isolation and Leak
Noise isolation is in one word, impressive. As always I test these whilst commuting and they coped very well with all that the world had to offer. I tested them with the Amp off at around 70% volume and they blocked out a lot of noise. Even with no music playing they did a good job. This is because they sealed real well around my ears and passively blocked out the background noise. Of course they aren’t on the same level as dedicated noise cancelling headphones, but they are good.
Its the same for leak, its very minimal. Even when in close proximity they barely are audible. Again at 70% you’d only real hear them if your sat right next to someone, but even then its a minimal leak and not overwhelming. So in a library situation you’d be all good.
- Driver style: 50mm, fiber-reinforced dynamic driver
- Impedance: 42 ohms
- Frequency response: 15Hz – 20,000Hz
- Amp output power: 240mW
- THD: 0.004%
- SNR: >105dB
- Noise: <20 uV
For my testing I listened some regular bitrate MP3 tracks (256 or 320kbps) and some more heavy duty FLAC files. I tested them at between 65 to 80% depending on the volume of the track. All testing was carried out on my LG G6.
Usually at above 75% volume you start to hear the cracks in some headphones and some even become unbearable to listen to. The Sadie however don’t conform to this trend at all and they actually really come into their own at around 70%. Of course this varies with different devices, but with my test LG G6 this is what I experienced. I’m not saying that below this volume they’re bad, not at all. But turning up just really changes them.
At this magic volume they completely came alive and went from really good to really great. Honestly I was surprised at what just a jump in 10% could do. There is no noticeable distortion at this volume and they seem to really thrive on that extra volume. No of course listening at this volume is not great for your hearing in the long term, but when your favourite track comes on, its hard not to turn up the volume and experience the song in a new light.
All what I experienced above was with the integrated audiophile amp switched on.
So now I’ll break down what I experienced with regular MP3, FLAC, the amp off and of course how the amp made the music sound and if it offered any improvements.
The Sadie are fairly quiet at my usual volume, but thats thanks to the 42 ohm impedance. My G6 is not exactly an underpowered phone and its still fairly quiet. On my Mi5 its even quieter but that doesn’t have the best onboard audio solution.
If you’re willing to turn up the volume a bit then things improve a lot. Of course this puts more strain on your phones amp, so I wouldn’t really advise it too much. The sound however is great.
The bass is deep, clean, has bags of detail and plenty potency. Its also extremely well judged and never imposes on the rest of the sound. It only acts to complement the sound. Blue have done a great job of keeping it tight and controlled and its honestly never wayward even in the most bass heavy on tracks.
The mids are packed full of detail and even manages to draw ever ounce of quality from a regular MP3. Honestly going from my Sony to these, its amazing how much of the minor details you miss and these really do a fantastic job of highlighting them. The mids are also well balanced and neutral they balance nicely between bright and cool and just sit almost perfectly in the centre. In sound separation is superb and you can easily distinguish what is happening in each layer. Soundstage is great too, its open and airy and breathes really nicely.
The vocals are lovely, they’re natural, detailed and the tonal quality is excellent. They are plenty powerful and again like the rest of the sound, well judged. They’re clean, clear and expressive. The Sadie will definitely do justice to your favourite artists. I listen to a lot of Rag N Bone man, Likin Park and Adele and honestly these did them justice. They just manage to capture the emotion and power that these artists deliver and honestly they never faltered
The highs are crisp, clean and clear. They are never too overwhelming and manage to add to sound as a whole. I usually don’t care much for a prominent high, but when done properly, it only adds to the experience.
So I’ve established that these sound great without the Audiophile grade amp, but how do this amp impact the sound. Well. The first thing you’ll note is the volume increase, its not massively dramatic but it is noticeable. The increase is there and it means that I can reduce my phones volume from 70% to around 55% and it’ll still be as loud as it was at 70%.
But how does it affect the quality? Well honestly I was a little skeptical at first, but after switching between of and on and the difference is there and its impressive.
The bass doesn’t see any major improvements in outright quality, but it does get a little deeper and a fair bit more powerful. Its still as clean as it was before, just now more a bit more potent and fuller.
The mids see a decent improvement, they become a little more dynamic and they open up more. This brings forth even more detail and more essence from your music. You can more prominently pick out the minute details and it gets out pretty much all MP3 has to offer.
The vocals again gain a bit of a power boost and become from forward. This is great for me as I love strong vocal. The tone pretty much stays the same as does the detail, but the power gain is very welcome. It makes them more exciting and more enjoyable to listen to.
The highs see a little boost too, nothing too great, but they are still kept in check and just fill out the sound up high nicely.
This mode is supposed to mimic the performance of Hi-Fi, I will say that its close to Hi-Fi, but still not quite on a par. But the amp does improve the quality as a whole and if you want more from your music, this is a great way to do it.
This mode is supposed to bring to life those tracks that were mastered in the era of vinyl. It doesn’t use any DSP tricks and its all analog. Just the way it should be. But this mode is great. It adds a overall depth and even more body to the sound.
The bass becomes a little more heavy and weighty, it just gives an overall nice boost to low frequency. But some how they’ve managed to do all of this without tarnishing the quality of the bass. Its brilliant. So you pretty much get what I mentioned above, but with more potency.
The mids do lose a bit of that sparkle as it makes it a little denser sounding. Don’t get me wrong the mids are still great, but they are just not as airy nor as open as with just the “On” mode active.
The vocal doesn’t see much of a change apart from a bit of extra depth. The tone still remains fairly true but just now a little more husky. It doesn’t suit all artists, but you can always switch between this mode and “On” depending on who you are listening to.
Finally I loaded up some FLAC albums and these transformed again. On every mode what I described above was heightened. But that’s thanks to FLACs lack of compression. If you have some FLAC albums and your device is capable of playing them, you really should. These love some FLAC and just open up even more. Off mode doesn’t see as big of an improvement, but turn the amp on and wow. Honestly I was highly impressed by what these were capable of. Everything is more detailed and crisper. Its like going from 1080p to 4K. The difference is there. The trade off is bigger file sizes, but SD cards are cheap now and if you want the most from these headphones, then FLAC is the way to go.
All in all, whether you listen to MP3 or FLAC, these are a very impressive. They bring the most out of your MP3s and really deliver for lossless too.
How to describe these headphones. Well the design is the perfect blend between some old school influences and modern engineering, the build is superb, the battery life is great, the noise isolation is impressive, the leak is well handled and the sound is exemplary. The only real downside is the comfort, they are too heavy and too bulky and honestly do dampen the experience as a whole. I get that they are well made and full of tech, but for me they are just to heavy. Its a shame as it does tarnish the experience. Again this is just me and you may have more experience with heavier headphones, so the weight might not be so bothersome. But it did take away from the enjoyment.
So should you get some, well for the price of £389 they aren’t exactly cheap. But I think they are good value. No I’m not going mad, if you think that a pair of headphones that sound as good as these are around £300 and then add an audiophile grade amp, the value is there. Plus its all in one, so you don’t have to worry about another device. They also manage a feat what not a lot of other headphones like this do and that is to make your smartphone more like a dedicated DAP (digital audio player). So not only do you not need a dedicated amp, you can breathe new life into your existing device.
Yes these do have their drawbacks, but as for value for money, these are great. So I’ve rattled on enough, my definitive answer is, take these into serious consideration. They have so much going for them and if you can live with the downsides, then they are highly impressive set of headphones.
Pick up a pair here via Amazon UK
Blue Sadie Premium Headphones with Built-in Amp