Sharkk Bravo hybrid electrostatic headphones full review
Electrostatic headphones are extremely expensive headphones - they use a different method of producing sound and require external power in order to output sound waves. An example, is the STAX SR-009 headphone that comes in at a cool £2500-4000 price tag. Conventional headphones use a coil and magnet and can be used without the need of additional power.
Sharkk saw the potential to bring electrostatic headphones to the mass market through their (now funded) Indiegogo campaign of the Bravo, a hybrid electrostatic headphone that uses a conventional 3.5mm headphone jack to power its drivers.
Sharkk Bravo hybrid electrostatic headphones review: Price and competition
The Sharkk Bravo comes in at £249.99 on Amazon UK and $249 on Amazon US. Prices do fluctuate and at the time of writing, it can be found for £199.99 on Amazon UK.
At its price range, the headphones have competition from the Oppo PM-3 at £349, the Denon AH-MM400 at £209, and the Sennheiser Momentum 2.0 at £199. Of course, when compared to these traditional headphones it is worth mentioning electrostatic headphones come in at eye watering prices (upwards of £1500) - where the Bravo headphones are a combination of both technologies in one.
Sharkk Bravo hybrid electrostatic headphones review: Build quality, design and comfort
In our review sample, we found the headphones to be coupled alongside a soft carrying pouch (with zip), and a set of extra ear pads. There was no 1/4" adaptor included in our review sample.
The cable that connects to the headphones (on the left-side driver) is around 1.35m in length and is terminated by a gold-plated right-angled 3.5mm jack. Its jack is very low-profile, making it ideal for smartphones. The cable is non-removable and has a good thickness. Unfortunately, there are no mic controls - something we would have liked to see, given that the headphones are aimed at commuters too.
The headband is very flexible, where you won't have to worry about them breaking. The headphones rock a black and red colour coding, making it a stylish headphone to look at - especially with its red stitching on the contours of the headphone.
A left and right indicator can be found within the headphones, where there is a very thin cable going from the driver to the headband assembly.
The drivers' cups have an elegant design, with a padded leather material on the face of the driver and a small leather-type strap holding the drivers in place.
Despite having 40mm drivers and soft ear pads, over longer listening sessions we did find the headphones uncomfortable to use with reading glasses. This comes from the headphones having a tight clamp. You won't have to worry about the headphones falling off while you do your work-outs - as they'll stay firmly on your head.
The headphones don't weight too much, at only 294g, they're lightweight, especially in comparison to full-sized electrostatic headphones. Despite its tight clamp and issue with wearing glasses, the headphones are comfortable to wear (especially if you have smaller ears), although we would have liked a little more padding at the top of the headband. On the plus side, you can interchange the pads, with the extra set found within the package.
Sharkk Bravo hybrid electrostatic headphones review: Sound quality
The main question a lot of people want to ask themselves is: How do these sound versus conventional dynamic driver headphones and most importantly, are the Sharkk Bravo headphones comparable with full-sized electrostatic headphones that cost an arm and a leg to purchase?
In comparison to some of the electrostatic headphones we've heard in the past, the Sharkk Bravo doesn't stand a chance in any department, apart from it being affordable and can be connected through a regular 3.5mm jack that doesn't require extra power.
However, in comparison to traditional headphones, we can hear the 'cleaner', less distorted sound that the Bravo's output (thanks to its Total harmonic Distortion being less than 0.5%) - this is due to its hybrid electrostatic driver, where the headphones output sound in a different way.
Listening more closely at the headphone's drivers, we found its sub-bass to extend well, although hear a cut-off as they try and extend into the lower-end section of sub-bass frequencies.
The Bravo's are mid-bass heavy, but lack that finesse and control. The mid-bass is a little wobbly, but has a good slam. Unfortunately, this does leak into the mids, making the headphones sound recessed, with the mids being pushed back. Nevertheless, the mid-range reproduction is accurate and provides a warm sound signature.
The highs are disappointing for a headphone that is advertised as an electrostatic headphone, as they're known to have fantastic highs that offer unparalleled detail. We found the Bravo's rolled off at the top end with a lack of extension and sparkle.
The soundstage has a good depth and width to it, although we did find it slightly closed, but this is due to its constricted physical size, whereby the drivers don't have the space to produce a more open-back sound. We were impressed by its tonality and imaging capabilities.
Overall, the Bravo's are a good set of headphones, but at its relatively high price, there are other headphones that are either more portable (such as the Bose QuietComfort 35) or have lot better sonic capabilities, such as the Final Audio Design Sonorous III.
We don't feel these should be compared to electrostatic headphones that cost a lot more - as the Bravo's simply cannot compete. They do use a hybrid electrostatic technology, but just like many other hybrid earphones and headphones - it comes down to how effectively a company has utilised two different technologies and combined them into one. Sharkk have done a good job, at least as the first company to be doing it - but there is still room for improvement.
Sharkk Bravo hybrid electrostatic headphones: Specs
- Driver diameter: 40mm
- Driver type: 4030 e-stat + 40mm dome-type
- Type: Circumaural over-ear
- Frequency response: 6-45,000Hz
- Nominal impedance: 32 ohms
- Sensitivity: 118dB/mW
- In-line remote: No
- Mic: No
- Extra tips: N/A
- Carry case: Yes
- Cable length: 1.35m
- Weight: 294g
- Warranty: 1 year
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