The Wearhaus Arc and the Nintendo 3DS XL may seem crazy to compare, what with one being a pair of headphones and the other being a portable game console. Bear with me. Each of these devices are plain enough to get lost in the always-evolving sea of emerging tech, but there's something innovative about each of them that I love, that gives me a good reason to stick them in my bag long after they hit retail.
The Wearhaus Arc shines like the Nintendo 3DS, where one its biggest draws is how it turns a private and isolated experience, into a fun, social event that I can participate in just by heading out the door every morning.
Set to ship out in 2015 (no price announced as of this writing), the Wearhaus Arc is a pair of Bluetooth headphones that work just fine as a standalone pair, but are uniquely equipped to broadcast curated stations with music from any app, including Spotify, SoundCloud, Pandora and more via Bluetooth. When other Arc users join your station, they'll be able to hang out, listen to what you're listening to, and have a text chat with you about your great taste within the app.
My demo was limited to using one pair of Arcs, so I wasn't able to test out these social features. I'll be able to give you a much more detailed look at the app's features and the station functionality in our full review.
The design of the Arc's sturdy plastic frame is simple and pleasant. The model I was able to test was white, with metallic accents near the charging port, 3.5mm auxiliary jack for wired listening, and the hard-to-find power button.
Pressing against the ears are two on-ear, memory foam-padded ear cups. The tight seal around your ears is made comfortable with soft leather coating the foam. These materials do a good job of directing music straight to your ears.
After all, noise leakage from headphones isn't the kind of "social experience" the person next to you on the bus wants to participate in. I'm interested to see whether these headphones get active noise cancellation before launch.
What makes the Arc pop comes is a ring of clear LEDs rimming each ear piece, where a customizable strobe of color emanates from. With an early build of the app, I was able to change it to a good handful of basic colors. It's a fun perk that does nothing more than help to personalize your set of Arcs, but is nevertheless welcome. I noticed a ton of people staring at me while I was wearing these lit-up headphones on the subway. Thankfully, I had nothing to be embarrassed about – these cans look great.
The only embarrassment I encountered was trying to make adjustments with the touch controls embedded in the right cup. At times, touch felt like more work than changing the song manually on my phone. I experimented with the tips of my fingers, the sides, and the middle of them. I just couldn't find the sweet spot to activate the touch sensor.
In its unfinished form, the Wearhaus Arc headphones show signs of lasting appeal in a competitive market. Problems exist with its current build, but with a promising app concept, this niche attempt at making your music social could actually catch on.
If Wearhaus manages to fix some of the more nagging issues here, namely the touch controls and recessed power button, the company will have crafted some seriously premium cans. Of course, it's also crucial that the social features meet a similar level of quality. So, stay tuned for our full review to see whether Wearhaus's tweeters are worth liking.