Jecklin Float electrostatic headphones

These are some of the most lusciously transparent-sounding headphones we've ever put on our ears, but we doubt that they will every enjoy much commercial success, for a couple of reasons.

First, and probably foremost, they are just downright uncomfortable for most people to wear. They feel as awkward as they look. Their width is not adjustable, so they either press uncomfortably against your head or flop loosely all over the place, depending on the fatness of your skull. Also, if you have a short neck, or like to sit hunched down in an easy chair while listening, the bottoms of the 'phones or their protruding cable get hung on your shoulders.

Sonically, they are extraordinarily good (fig.1), except for two little hitches: They have virtually no deep-bass response; and they have a slightly vowel-like "eeh" coloration that seems to have something to do with the cavity between the headphones and the sides of your head.

Finally, and this may turn out to be the most important consideration after all, the Jecklin 'phones are exceedingly intolerant of excessive signal levels, and have acquired a reputation for pooping out without warning when severely overloaded for even a moment. One of our review sample's drivers went out after an hour's use, and we were not listening at anywhere near the manufacturer's rating of 110dB sound-pressure-level.

If these headphones cost $90, we could recommend them without reservation. At $300, they are just out of the question.

Incidentally, Mark Levinson informed us that there may be some changes made to the product. Whether or not his firm continues to import the Jecklin Float will depend on the effect these changes have on its performance and durability.—J. Gordon Holt

888.jecklin.fig1.jpg

Fig.1 Jecklin Float headphones, subjective frequency response.

Bill Sommerwerck wrote about the Jecklin Float in December 1987 (Vol.10 No.9):

My description of the Jecklin's headband as of "tar baby" construction likens it to Br'er Fox's bituminous homunculus: "he jus' sits dere." Although there's a foam-padded hole in the top (to accommodate the crown of the head), and the sides subtly press the skull, there is really no specific design feature to keep them in place. Amazingly, they stay put, without any sense of impending disaster. A pair of foam pads at the rear keeps them from dropping off when you lean forward. (This is odd, considering the Floats were designed for studio work. The only reason for leaning forward is falling asleep at the console. In which case, the 'phones would hit the panel first, quickly followed by your head, with the final relative positions of 'phones and head repeating their pre-drop locations. If anywhere, the pads should be at the front, to keep the Floats in place if you lean back to stretch.) They are to hi-fi what a strapless bra is to undergarments.

At first listen, they seemed awfully good, with a real chance of giving the Stax Lambda-Pro a run for its money. Unfortunately, the more I listened, the more the problems piled up.

The Floats are far from uncolored. Violins have a "woody," boxy sound. Brass is somewhat nasal, as well as being dark and "hooded." This "hooded" quality in the upper registers is especially apparent on audiophile recordings. (The generally excessive brightness of commercial disks tends to mask this problem.) There is too much top octave, producing the strange effect of violins that are dark-sounding and wispy-tizzy at the same time. The overall balance is decidedly "lumpy," as if there are lots of little bumps and dips in the response. The Floats give no sense of being truly flat, as several more- and less-expensive 'phones reviewed in this issue do.

On the positive side, the Floats have less midbass and more low bass than the Stax electrostatics. This gives them better low-end balance on most material, and more of a kick on material with deep bass.

There are, however, at least three 'phones at the price with better sound. If the cosmetics of the Float Electrostatics appeal to you, listen long and hard before plunking down your cash. There are cheaper ways to look like you're wearing Dale Arden's Art-Deco crash helmet.

Eyeglass compatibility: None. Eyeglasses push the headband well away from the head.—Bill Sommerwerck

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COMMENTS
1audio1's picture

I'm sorry - I can't stop laughing. Please post photos of anyone who would buy these. Thanks.

thomasrhee's picture

A bit early for April Fool's, don't you think?

mjazz's picture

These sound really good. Especially the new ones made by Quad Germany. [url deleted by Moderator -- did not work)

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