At the moment, there is a bit of a dearth of affordable noise-cancelling headphones that don’t sound terrible. There is also a massive environmental problem with the sheer amount of ewaste from everything, but particularly headphones, given the trend of unrepairable and (often) un-recyclable headphones, with true wireless being the worst culprits. That’s why I was intrigued by the new Our Pure Planet Signature Bluetooth Headphones.
The company makes some very bold claims around carbon neutrality and audio quality, and the small Australian brand has been willing to stump up a bunch of cash to get English Soccer captain Harry Kane to wear and promote them. It’s about time another small Australian company made an impact in the headphone space, but I have to admit that my hopes coming into this review were low. True carbon neutrality, good audio quality, and noise cancelling for under $250 is a difficult thing to achieve. So, I was very pleasantly surprised when they didn’t just not suck, but were actually pretty damn good for this price point.
Headphones released in Australia are often accused of over-egging the bass. Just shoving as much bass in there as possible to distract from everything else. No one could accuse the Our Pure Planet of overdoing the bass.
That makes them ill-suited to my metal and dance test tracks, but because the high and mid-tones are decently clear, more delicate songs sound fantastic. ‘Life Being What It Is’ by Kaki King is as hauntingly beautiful as I would want it to be. ‘All In My Head’ by Missy Higgins retains its quiet devastation. Going back to Kaki King, her cover of ‘I Think She Knows’, if anything, retains more of its power because the beats on the body of the guitar don’t overwhelm the sound of the strings, which I do sometimes find on some more bass-prominent headphones. On a poppier song like ‘Shake It Off (Taylor’s Version)’, the lack of bass is overwhelmingly obvious to my ear, there is a real blank space there, but the rest of the song sounds great.
Bass-heavy songs like ‘Future Starts Slow’ by The Kills are missing some of their punch, but all the pieces are there enough to get a good experience. Going to ‘New Heaven’ by Conquer Divide, the lack of bass just creates a weird, fuzzy space between me and the song, which I hate a lot.
It really comes down to your preferred music styles. If you love hip-hop, metal, or drum and bass, these are not the headphones for you. But if you’re a pop, folk, classical, or higher-toned experimental fan on a budget, these are a good fit.
Active Noise Cancelling
As a general rule, noise cancelling on headphones under $400 is generally garbage. So I was really surprised when there was a real, noticeable difference. The ANC obviously isn’t as good as the Sony XM5, or even the Sennheiser Accentum (though the difference between the Accentum and Signature was much less than I expected), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard another pair of headphones for $250 have ANC this effective. Heck, aside from the Accentum, I don’t think I’ve heard $300 ANC this good.
A lot of this is down to the 6-microphone array. Our Pure Planet had to choose between a larger woofer and having a better microphone system. I’m not entirely sure they made the right choice, given how bad some genres of music sound without the bass, but it has boosted the ANC more than I’d expect from this price point, and that’s going to be important for a lot of people.
But are the Our Pure Planet Signature Bluetooth Headphones comfortable?
I’ve gotta admit, when I was pitched a pair of “carbon neutral” headphones, I was not expecting to see this much black plastic. But that is the overwhelming vibe of these headphones: Black plastic in varying textures.
It’s got a tighter fit, which will need some breaking in for people with bigger heads, but it is a good fit for people with smaller heads.
The protein leather (which is a material that appears to include neither protein nor leather, but ok) feels plush and luxe, though I did also find it very hot, which became uncomfortable after long stretches. But that’s more of a personal preference (and something to keep in mind).
Our Pure Planet makes big claims about the Signature Bluetooth Headphones’ environmental chops
You will have to forgive me at this point for being sceptical about any company that claims carbon neutrality, given most companies “achieve” that neutrality through carbon credits schemes that give them plausible deniability when it turns out it was a scam. Carbon neutrality claims are also sometimes achieved by some companies underpaying workers in third world countries to fish plastic out of the ocean and then move it to landfill. Or you’ll just hear a lot of claims about recycled packaging, hoping that’ll distract you from buying a plastic gadget filled with rare earth materials, with a battery that isn’t user replaceable and will last only a couple of years before needing to be thrown out.
Our Pure Planet makes a lot of claims that are extremely impressive for such a small company, and unfortunately I can’t verify any of them. According to a press release and their website, the company removes 200% more plastic from the ocean than they use in their products. They also say that the products are made out of 80% recycled plastics and metals, and the packaging is made from “100% FSC sustainable materials”.
That all sounds really great. Unfortunately, the website doesn’t give any more information about how the plastic is being retrieved from the ocean, or where they put it once it’s back on land. Their PR representative sent through this statement when I asked for more details:
“Our Pure Planet is the only electronics organisation that tackles plastic, carbon and paper issues in the category. Taking a 360 approach to ensure all aspects of sourcing, creation and delivery leave not only no impact on the planet, but the planet better than how we found it. This is achieved through 3 initiatives:
1. Plastic regenerative
Our Pure Planet works with the Plastic Collective, a leading global agency in plastic offsetting and repurposing. Currently we work with them to ensure we are 200% plastic regenerative. This means, for every 1kg of plastic used making our products, we remove 2kgs from entering the ocean. This removed plastic is then sorted and recycled to be re-purposed. In partnership with the Plastic Collective, we are building a recycled plastic supply chain. In coming years, Our Pure Planet will be the first organisation to use 100% recycled plastic in all products produced.
2. Carbon neutral
The Carbon Reduction Institute (CRI) which is the leading offset organisation for carbon in Australia. Our Pure Planet ensures all carbon associated with sourcing products, manufacturing them, shipping them and storing them is offset. We also offset any and all operations associated with our business so we leave no carbon footprint.
3. Sustainable packaging
All product packaging is fully FSC certified. This means that only recycled and sustainable materials are used in our packaging so we do not have any negative deforestation effects through using virgin cardboard. We also use water-based ink on our packaging so when it goes into landfill it can decompose and not affect water or soil quality. Finally, Our Pure Planet is audited across all of these aspects and provided with certifications to show our customers we are fully compliant. We ensure what we say, we stand behind to give our customers confidence in our planet protection efforts”
Making these kinds of commitments and actually following through with them is huge for a small company, particularly one that sells so many plastic-based products at such affordable prices. Should their claims be as good as they sound, despite the lack of concrete detail, Our Pure Planet should absolutely be applauded.
I will say that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle is written in that order for a reason, and I’m really disappointed that a company whose focus is on the environment didn’t make a commitment to easy repairability. When I spoke to a company spokesperson earlier in the day, he said that storing all the parts in Australia would be a challenge for such a small company, and the brand has instead opted to have a generous warranty policy. If your headphones break under warranty, you can send them back. Your pair will be recycled and you’ll be sent a new pair.
It does seem like a missed opportunity to reduce waste by making sure it was easy to replace ripped ear cups or dead batteries without creating any unnecessary waste. However, it also seems unfair to expect more from a small company than major companies.
Though, if your entire brand identity is going to be environmental friendliness, I would expect you to consider the full life of the product and how that can be extended.
Our Pure Planet Signature Bluetooth Headphones: Verdict
I would not be running out to buy the Our Pure Planet Signature Bluetooth Headphones based on their environmental claims alone. However, if my budget was $250, and you let me (a headphone nerd) into a store to buy a pair of over ear ANC headphones, these would be my pick. They punch well above their price point, and although they don’t excel at any one feature, they are a true Jack of most trades. I’m really interested to see what Our Pure Planet does next and already look forward to seeing what they do in the future