The Vertu HP-1Vs are the first in a range of new audio products from the luxury British smartphone manufacturer and are available for £490 from Vertu.
- Made in partnership with Bang & Olufsen
- Large 40mm Drivers
- Calf leather headband
- Lamb leather magnetic ear cups
- iPhone/Android in-line remote
Vertu's smartphones have always suffered from a category problem, which is that they're often compared to other smartphones.
This is a bad idea. For starters, other smartphones don't have a starting price tag of £4000 and upwards. They also don't feature full sapphire displays (not even the iPhone 6), and they certainly don't feature a 24-hour concierge service that's accessed by pressing a ruby.
It's like comparing a Mini with a Maserati: you just wouldn't do it.
So now they've made some headphones that are just as expensive, and just as lavishly made, should we compare these with other headphones?
The answer is harder than you might think, because while Vertu's smartphones offer a lifestyle, these are simply the accessories that make that lifestyle complete,. That's a much harder sell, not only for Vertu owners, but also for the general public.
Especially since these headphones cost nearly £500.
Vertu have become masters of packaging, at least. The box in which you get the HP-1Vs is a impressive piece of design in itself. The headphones are firmly nestled in one layer, underneath is the quilted magnetic carry pouch and underneath that are the cables. It just screams 'These products are actually quite a lot of money, please never take them out of this case'.
You ignore this impulse and pull them out and the first thing that surprises you is how light they are. Constructed from aircraft-grade aluminium their design leads you to believe there's some heft, but heft there isn't.
They're incredibly light and the design is -- dare we say it -- almost subtle, and they look all the better for it. They're unassuming but yet when you hand them to someone you immediately see a deep furrowed nod of respect at the craftsmanship.
The cups are made from an ultra-responsive memory foam which is then wrapped in lamb leather for softness, the headband is wrapped in calves leather in order to retain durability.
All in all these are extremely well-built and very good-looking. Does that make them worth £490? Well not really, Philips' L1 Fidelios managed that same level of build-quality and cost less than half the price.
So lets move onto the sound. Vertu isn't ashamed to admit when it's not an expert in something, so much like its smartphones, the company has paired with an audio expert so the HP-1Vs are tuned and built in partnership with Bang & Olufsen.
This is a very good thing, B&O know its stuff and as a result the HP-1Vs feature large 40mm drivers inside a closed-back design.
What this translates into is a very crisp open sound. Speaking to the designers at Vertu it was clear that these headphones aren't going to be for everyone, the sound has been specifically tailored for Vertu's customer base, who predominantly prefer Bach over Bassnecter. Despite this they have a surprising amount of punch in the lower end.
Would we say the sound is worth £490? Probably not.
Is it even fair to ask if they're worth £490? Again, probably not. Ultimately Vertu knows its consumers, and for them, £490 is an amount of money, theoretically, but it's an amount that won't cause them to lose too much sleep.
The problem is that doesn't stop them from being exquisitely-built headphones that sound fantastic. So that's right, we've given them four stars, four stars for the build-quality and the sound, and one less star for being perhaps £150 too expensive.