The conductor Otto Klemperer said, “Listening to a record is like going to bed with Marilyn Monroe’s photograph.” Klemperer died in 1973, but while listening to these new headphones from Swiss startup Luzli, I wanted to say to him, “Have a listen to this, mein freund, and tell me if that’s still your view.” To be fair, there was some decent hifi around in his lifetime, but to be listening to music on the move would have required a pre-Walkman cassette player and some stenographer’s headphones. I, meanwhile, was playing 24-bit HD recordings (each track bigger than the entire hard drive of a 1990s laptop) on the £1,999 Astell & Kern SP1000m player I featured last month, paired with Luzli’s extraordinary Roller headphones. (The smaller silver pair sells for £2,880, the larger for £3,840, which makes them among the world’s costliest.)
Luzli’s headphones are amazing on two counts. The first is their physical form, which is unique. The headbands are reminiscent of an oversized aluminium link watchstrap, and I learn they are indeed made on a premium Swiss watchstrap line. The mechanical quality is superb. They roll up into a sort of dense, metallic croissant. The smaller, MK01, retracts to an 8.4cm diameter roll, weighing 206g; the larger, to 10.7cm at 334g. This means that you can fit audiophile-quality over-ear cans into a (albeit fairly capacious) pocket, or if you go for the MK02, a corner of a travel bag. And the audio they produce would cause Herr Klemperer to drop his baton. It is nothing short of stupendous for what is effectively a travel headphone. One caveat: don’t waste your time plugging them into a phone – their quality will make ordinary recordings sound like mush. Either use an HD player like A&K’s, or a sound-enhancing amplifier like the £399 ifi xDSD I reviewed last November, or a Chord Hugo. Oh, and let the Luzli “run in” for a couple of hours. Mine were mushy for a while, but they soon loosened up to unleash their gloriousness.