At a party recently I bumped into my old friend Ben, who turned out to be quite a fan of this page. But when we got to talking about headphones, he professed himself somewhat sceptical. “Are they really any different from one another?” he asked. “It’s just that you often say one pair is the best you’ve ever used, and I wonder if that means I have to throw away the ones you recommended previously and get the new model.”
I had to sympathise. But I am glad to say that I rarely look back and find I’ve changed my mind on my original recommendations. Flicking through past headphone reviews, prompted by Ben’s slight incredulity, I stand by them all.
However, technology and performance do move on. And, as well as being one of the most crowded and growing product categories, headphones are one of the most personal. That said, I defy anyone to disagree that the Aëdle VK-1 design, hand-assembled in Brittany, is exceptional in every way. As soon as Aëdle’s 28-year-old co-founder, Raphaël Lebas de Lacour, took them out of the box for me and I saw the hand-stitched lambskin, the milled and crafted look of the metal parts, the springy, tangle‑free aramid-fibre-coated cable and the carrying bag that looks as though it should contain jewellery or some incredible shoes, I just hoped that the sound would be equally refined. And boy, it certainly is. There’s no audio processing in the product at all, no noise reduction, no Bluetooth connection. These are headphones pure and simple, offering a true hi-fi audio palette that spans effortlessly from richly dark and sensuous to light and twinkly. They are, quite simply, beautiful.
Aëdle, by the way, is a play on the Danish word for “noble”, a reference, Lebas de Lacour explains, to the high quality of the materials used. No matter how close you get, the VK-1 headphones look like a high-fashion item and I think they will appeal equally to women and men. In terms of comfort, those possessing a large head (like me) may feel a mild clamping sensation, but this can be forgiven because of the knockout sound – and the admiring looks the headphones get wherever you wear them. The price, by the way, could be double what it is and they would still be worth it.