LSTN Bowery review: budget earphones for die-hard EDM fans

Overall rating: 7/10

That the smartphone business is fickle and fast-moving is a given. Phones come and phones go, and it is hard to keep track. The same cannot be said about the audio accessories industry; change faces resistance. When Apple decided to get rid of the headphone jack, the audio nerds were up in arms against the decision. And, rightly so! 

The main reason for the uprising is that, even today, you can get a kickass pair of earphones or headphones terminating at a 3.5mm jack. In fact, my favourite IEMs (in-ear monitors) are the 6-year-old Shure SE215s. Those things are as old as my career as a technology journalist. Evidently, even older audio products get their due. Heck, the fact that vinyls are making a comeback in a big way should be proof enough. 

And this is why I didn’t bat an eyelid when Headphonezone decided to send across a review unit of the LSTN Bowery recently. These earphones were launched way back in 2013 globally, and have only recently entered the Indian market. 

It doesn’t hurt that LSTN, as a corporation, is also socially conscious. Here’s the business pitch: “Proceeds from sales of all LSTN products go towards giving hearing aids to people in need worldwide through our charity partner, Starkey Hearing Foundation.” Isn’t that wonderful? 

I used them as my primary drivers for over a week now and am convinced the Bowery are tailor-made for EDM fans.

LSTN Bowery design, build quality, and fit: woody goodness

Taking a page out of House of Marley’s design language, the Bowery earphones are made from reclaimed wood. However, the Bowery ditch the Rastafarian looks of the House of Marley products and go for a little more refined approach. I like the nylon cables. In my time with the Bowery, I found it to be tangle-free too. 

There is an inline remote control with an attached microphone. Despite being flush with the control unit, the buttons are decently tactile. That said, the volume buttons refused to work with my iPhone 7 Plus. Also, you might want to take note of the fact that the earphones themselves jut out of the ears. This means you will have to contend with the discomfort that comes along with earphones that do not offer a flat profile. 

On the flipside, I found an easy seal with the default medium-sized tips. You shouldn’t face a problem with the fit mostly because the Bowery come with three differently-sized tips. The Bowery are not small earphones as such but are not uncomfortable for long listening sessions either. So, no complains there for me. 

Overall, I think the the Bowery can withstand some amount of tension, which is vital if you travel by a crowded public transport daily. 

LSTN Bowery sound signature: unapologetically loud and bass-heavy

I am not going to turn a blind-eye to the fact that electronic music has a massive audience. From Daft Punk to Nicolas Jaar, even I have a fair share of dance music artists I listen to frequently. I allude to this fact because the Bowery are perfectly suited for bass lovers. 

The Bowery have a typical U-shaped sound signature made famous by brands like Beats and Skullcandy. But thankfully, unlike these brands, LSTN has tuned the sound  well. There is an emphasis on the sub-bass and mid-bass frequencies. You actually get a big, loud sound that tries to replicate the feel of a headphone. As a matter of fact, I like my music loud and not once did I go beyond 60 percent of the maximum volume. Although, interestingly — for the audiophiles reading this review — using a dedicated DAP didn’t make much of a difference in the sound quality. 

What I like about the Bowerys’ sound signature is that it is rather detailed for its asking price. None of the frequencies interfere with the other. However, the bass does sound muddy in songs with a heavy emphasis on low-bass frequencies like Jai Paul’s BTSTU. Also, the soundstage is average at best and the Bowery sound really dark like most commercial IEMs out there. But most of my friends and family are clueless about soundstage and don’t really care for it much. It is not like I don’t try to educate them but generally the amount of low end punch (doesn’t necessarily have to be tight bass) defines the sound quality of the audio equipment for non-audiophiles. In that regard, the Bowery finds a nice balance between good bass and other frequencies.

In short, it offers a sound that is immediately likeable. 

Should you buy it?

Considering LSTN’s altruistic outlook and unique collaboration with the Starkey Hearing Foundation, the marketing pitch – “So the world may hear” – feels on point. In fact, it feels like the sound signature of the Bowery closely follows that pitch too. Because, the world already hears bass…might as well provide them with what they want. 

At Rs 2,999, the Bowery is definitely a great buy and definitely worth a choice; especially if you love bobbing your head to thump. I don’t, so I will give this one a skip and stick to my trusty KZ ZS6 instead.

Ershad Kaleebullah

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?