In December last year, a representative of Puro Sound Labs offered me a review sample of the company’s flagship Bluetooth hybrid headphones. Her time could not have been better – I had planned an operation on January 8 that would put me on the couch all day, every day, for two consecutive weeks with nothing to do but watch movies and TV (ideally without driving my wife and children insane).
Puro Pro is an over-ear design that can be connected to audio sources via Bluetooth 5.0 pairing or a simple headphone cable. It offers just about any function you could dream of for a pair of headphones: security volume limitation (can be configured for either 85dBA or 95dBA), 30+ hours of battery life, content control via the buttons on the left can, active noise reduction and even a built-in microphone for phone calls .
At $ 200, the Puro Pro costs more than I would normally spend on a pair of headphones to watch late night TV and fly on the occasional flight (my two primary uses). But after spending several hours a day with Puro Pro for a couple of months, I wanted to drop the money with a heartbeat.
How I tested
Puro Sound Labs PuroPro Hybrid active noise canceling headphones
Most of the time I spent with Puro Pro was on my couch watching content from YouTube Music, Amazon, Hulu and Netflix, along with some locally stored TVs and movies. Both the Roku Premiere + 4K UHD media player (for streaming content) and my custom-built HTPC (for local content) are connected to my Denon AVR-S510BT receiver and from Denon’s headphone jack to a low latency Boltune Bluetooth 5.0 transceiver.
This setup was my main test scenario for the headphones, but I also gave them more demanding tests of musical accuracy by connecting them (wired) to the Scarlett Solo preamplifier I use in my podcasting studio. Scarlett Solo is connected to my workstation; the main “work” function is to provide an XLR input for my RE230 microphone, but it doubles as the system’s main audio output interface, via the 1/4 “headphone jack – normally connected to a pair of Sennheiser HD 280 Pro studio headphones.
I should be very aware that my testing is subjective—I actually used the headphones and compared them to several sets of reference equipment, and I share my impressions here. With that said, I am a pretty demanding listener; I grew up with a broadcasting engineer for a dad, and I’ve spent the last 30 years buying personal audio equipment that spans the line between “this is some of the best you can buy” and “this is wallet-draining audio file nonsense.”
I’m a night owl, but my wife is an early riser, so quiet late-night movies and watching TV are important in the Salter household. Wireless earplugs proved to be a no-go for me. I tried several models that I liked the sound of, but – while I found them comfortable initially – all led to repeated ear infections after prolonged, daily use. Battery life was also less than ideal – the LG Tone HBS-510 earbuds I used the most only got about eight to ten hours of playing time, with similar results for a number of lesser-known brands.
Then I tried a set of Monodeal Bluetooth headphones on the ear – for $ 35 they are an incredible value, and I ended up getting a pair for my wife (who also loved them). But I still had comfort issues; after several TV episodes in a row, the on-ear design would be a bit tough. Battery life also left something to be desired, around eight hours – not bad for the price, but not long enough to get you through flights across the continent without careful farming.
Finally, I used a $ 200 pair of JBL Live 650BTNC Bluetooth headphones over my ear. Their over-ear design was far more comfortable for long-term use than the Monodeal pair, and the playing time of 20+ hours was a huge improvement. The sound quality was also slightly better than Monodeal. They were still not 100 percent comfortable for long-term use, but due to weight, balance problems and the combination of very firm padding and significant squeezing pressure on my head.
Although the JBL headphones were not perfect, they were usable enough that I was not really in the market for a replacement.
Evaluation of Puro Pro
For my wide range of uses – watching TV and movies late at night on the couch without disturbing my wife – the Puro Pro headphones are far from the best I have tried. I also found them great for listening to a wide variety of musical genres, including classical, acoustic, capella and hip-hop.
The only flaw I could find with them – apart from the charging port not being USB-C – is an annoying background music object produced when the headphone volume is at max and a staccato sound (for example, “clicked” when you shift focus on the Roku interface from one element to another) is produced. That error can be easily solved: just turn down the headphone volume with a single click and no more buzzing.
The padding is extremely soft and comfortable, and the headphones provide just enough clamping pressure to hold on without getting tough after a few hours.
Although the weight of the JBL and Puro headphones is the same, the balance is different. This is not something I notice immediately when I put on both headphones – but after several hours of episodes of a binged show (or a Lord of the Rings The JBL phones leave my neck a little strained, while the Puro Pro phones do not.
The lighter squeezing pressure and softer padding on the Puro Pro headphones also gives me significantly less “sweaty ear” feeling after several hours of prolonged use than I got from the JBL headphones – or for that matter from my Sennheiser HD 280 Pro studio. phones after recording a podcast.