Sharkk is a newcomer in the headphone scene, so naturally, the company will have quite a mountain to climb to get recognition. Fortunately, it’s bursting into the scene with a tremendously promising and compelling device – a hybrid electrostatic over-ear headphone, dubbed the Bravo.
Headphones that use superior electrostatic drivers are typically reserved for the high-end (which often push $1,000 and well over), but Sharkk managed to develop a version of the technology that’s able to bring its Hi-Fi capability to the masses, because the Bravo retails for a cool $249. That’s right, electrostatic headphones for just shy of $200. That is, if you nab an “Super Early Bird” pre-order through the company’s crowd-funded Indiegogo campaign. Let’s find out just how far Sharkk is able to punch above its weight, in our Sharkk Bravo Hybrid Electrostatic Headphones Review.
Available: ETA October 2016
Model: Sharkk Bravo
Summary: The Sharkk Bravo delivers on its promise for audio quality that largely exceeds its price tag. We were also pleasantly surprised at exceptional fit. However, the materials leave a lot to be desired and there’s little in the way of features, especially compared to our list of best over-ear headphones.
What We Liked
- Nice-looking accents and unique design
- Comfortable ear cups and excellent fit
- Stellar sound quality for the price
What We Didn’t
- Lackluster materials in the build
- No features like a detachable cable or fold-able design
Sharkk Bravo Specs
|Frequency Range||6 – 45,000 kHz|
|Driver||Hybrid electrostatic (4030 e-stat + 40mm dome-type)|
|Price||$249 (Early Bird Indiegogo Campaign Pricing)|
We know that the Bravo is exceedingly ambitious on the inside, but what about the exterior? Well, its form is fairly basic, but there are some considerate design cues that help the over-ear headphone stand out. One of those is the premium-like red and chrome garnishes.
The otherwise plain, black head band is turned into a looker via bold, red stitching along both edges. Likewise, the ends of the ear cups are highlighted with a chrome lining. It doesn’t look like Sharkk felt that this was enough, because it additionally threw in a leather strip (also with red accents) on top of the ear cups.
However, at this point, we feel like the designers are trying too hard. The extra leather doesn’t have any practical sense; it’s just for looks. But with that said, it does look great and gives a touch of uniqueness to the Bravo’s design against the sea of headphones out there.
Unfortunately, all these things we’ve described are realized as a facade when you get the Bravo in your hands. Everything is plastic, and cheap-feeling plastic at that. Despite resembling metal in the promo pics, the silver hand band caps and ear cup stems in actuality give off a frail and hollow plastic sentiment (honestly, not too far from what you find on children’s toys). The head band is a little better; it’s a faux leather but is well constructed and supple. The ear pads are the best part of the build – leather-wrapped and appropriately sized.
The Bravo doesn’t have any extra features to speak of, such as a detachable cable, in-line remote/mic, or fold-able design. They’re as basic as an over-ear headphone can be. But we have to keep in mind that Sharkk is a startup. It probably doesn’t yet have the resources to incorporate luxuries. It’s apparent that the company’s effort is a straight shot at what matters most in a headphone – wear and sound quality.
And we can attest that the Bravo are fantastic on the head. Despite not having the lightest weight (294 grams), there’s no discomfort or annoying pressure on the top of the head. The head band does an adequate job distributing the weight.
Additionally, the fit of the ear pads are an accomplishment. They satisfyingly engulf the ears (providing sufficient isolation) and have the perfect amount of clamping force. The leather cushions stay comfortable even for lengthy listening sessions.
Now we get to the meat of any headphone review – the sound quality. Sharkk makes a lot of bold claims about the Bravo’s audio capabilities. It’s risky to start off at such a high pedestal, but no risk, no gain. Does the Bravo’s hybrid electrostatic system deliver? We’re glad to say that our ears our convinced.
The Bravo most certainly punches above its weight. We wouldn’t necessarily say ’10x better sound quality’ like the company states, but it blows away a lot of the over-ear competition in the $200 price bracket. Namely, the balance and detail throughout the spectrum floored us. Lower priced headphones typically do better in some frequency ranges than others, but the Bravo is mostly stellar throughout. And there’s plenty of oomph to satisfy those who don’t fancy a reference-like, flat sound. The Bravo is engaging and fun.
Despite having a strong bass, it’s done responsibly. It doesn’t bleed into the mid-range (nor are the mids recessed). We wish the response would dig a little deeper in the sub-bass region (typical of electrostatic drivers), but still, it should be bold enough to satisfy most bassheads. The detail in the treble is brilliant and present, and instrument separation is captured beautifully.
However, this isn’t a perfect headphone that completely obliterates higher-end offerings. Clarity on the Bravo is good, but it can get better up the price chain; especially compared to open-back over-ear headphones, which also reproduce significantly better soundstage and imaging. Even a couple high quality closed-back headphones give off a more expansive experience. But for the price, we still deem the Bravo a job well done. The detail sets it apart, and the use of electrostatic technology paid off, in our opinion.
In the end, the Sharkk Bravo delivers where it really matters. At the aggressive price tag (especially for electrostatic technology), we expected some compromise. But we’re glad Sharkk handled it correctly. We weren’t impressed with the build, but that doesn’t mean that we think the headphones will fall apart in a couple months. It works, and the design attempts to look sharp on the head. The fit and sound is where these headphones shine, and we feel they accomplish giving similarly priced over-ear headphones a run for their money.