House of Marley Stir It Up review

Nicely made from high-quality materials but bass can be bloated and treble sharp Tested at £150

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

Individuality can carry a product only so far, and these don’t have the audio chops


  • +

    Nicely made from high-quality materials

  • +

    reggae-friendly low-frequency presence


  • -

    Bass can be bloated, detail is in short supply

  • -

    overall sound is unnatural

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The House of Marley must be a pretty substantial property, because the range of headphones it's home to is extensive. Have a look at

if you want to take the tour – after a lengthy viewing we decided to go with these Stir It Up on-ears. They're part of the Freedom range – and yes, all the different ranges and models are named as laboriously as this one.

Nice look, but that's where it ends
You make your own mind up about the red/gold/green motif, but there's no doubting House of Marley's commitment to premium materials – the Stir It Ups are a tactile combination of sustainable beech-wood, aluminium, canvas and leather.

They feel weighty, and are very comfortable as long as you don't mind the grip on your head inching towards the vice-like. These are headphones that feel expensive even if they don't automatically look it.

The braided cable is slightly clingy, but it does feature a three-button Apple remote/mic, and despite their grip, they don't make your ears too hot even after a long session.

Mind you, for a closed-back design they leak sound quite profusely, so
as a train proposition they aren't ideal.

With an uncompressed file of the slavish Marley facsimile Handsworth Revolution by Steel Pulse provided via iPod Touch, the Stir It Ups deliver a compact, tight presentation with a completely unsurprising emphasis on the lower frequencies.

Fierce treble at high volumes
Bass is deep and reasonably well defined, though it could be a lot tighter. Voices in the midrange enjoy decent separation, occupying the front of the stage and projecting well, while treble sounds are crisp-going-on-splashy, and the more volume you wind in the fiercer they become.

At no point are you convinced that you're hearing all the details of a recording, though, and the big-boned bass drags at tempos.

The real elephant in the room, though, is the Stir It Ups' overall tonality: 'funnelled' doesn't begin to describe it.

Music sounds like it originates from a sea-shell - a recording of Beastie Boys' Sure Shot features the 'hands cupped around the mouth' effect from the bottom of the frequency range to the top.

In light of this overarching colouration, the relative shortage of detail, the lethargic bottom end and their confined character all seem rather trifling.

As we said before, there are plenty more headphones and earphones throughout the House of Marley – so we're not about to write off the entire range on the basis of the Stir It Ups' shortcomings.

But these particular headphones are less than the sum of their carefully selected parts, and that's a bit of a disappointment.

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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