The Haymaker review: A good-sounding headphone buried in bling
at a glance
Excellent music listening—at least when ANC is turned off
Physical switch controls on/off and noise-cancellation settings
Pulsating RGB lights make a statement
Engaging the lights introduces audible hum
Engaging ANC negatively impacts audio performance
Giant case makes these impractical as a portable option
Garish RGB lights will seem silly to some
Aimed at PC gamers, The Haymaker is a pretty good, pretty expensive headphone that’s heavy on bling and long on battery life
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The Haymaker is a headphone designed for gamers, but its manufacturer believes its audio reproduction can compete with similarly priced competitors designed primarily for music listening. Peak Audio, LLC declares The Haymaker is “the only headphone you’ll ever need.” So, how do these $330 headphones stand up when evaluated as a premium home audio product?
What Peak Audio delivers is a sound profile that’s a step up from budget cans, with bass-forward-tuning that’s not a surprise from headphones originally designed for gamers. The design aims to make a statement with a glossy finish, a distinctive pattern on its frame, and its brand spelled out in LEDs across the top of its headband. Whether they’re a good choice for you depends on your reaction to the design and whether its features appeal to you.
This review is part of TechHive’s coverage of the best noise-cancelling headphones, where you’ll find reviews of the competition’s offerings, plus a buyer’s guide to the features you should consider when shopping for this type of product.
Peak Audio LLC
The Haymaker headphones use Bluetooth 5.0 and are compatible with the A2DP, AVRCP, HFP and HSP profiles. They support the aptX, aptX HD, aptX LL, AAC and SBC codecs. The designers engaged Swedish audio company Dirac, best known for its room-calibration software, for final tuning of the headphones.
The Haymaker features 40mm dynamic drivers with a frequency response from 20Hz to 20KHz. They present 32 ohms of impedance, so any mobile device should have no trouble driving them. A pair of condenser mics are used for active noise cancellation.
controls and lights
The headphones turn on and off and engage noise cancellation with a physical switch on the back side of the left-hand earcup. It’s easy to find and gives a definite click as it slides into each position.
The touch controls are also consistent once you get a feel for them. Double-tap the center of the H on the left earcup to play or pause. Swipe up to increase volume or down to decrease it. Swiping back-to-front skips to the next track and swiping front-to-back goes back to the previous track. A triple-tap on the center of the H on the right earcup engages or disengages the ambient sound function, which lowers the volume but allows the audio to continue, a helpful feature when someone else in the room wants to hold a conversation.
Peak Audio, LLC
The instructions are a little fuzzy on the subject of controlling the RGB lights, but I finally landed on the fact that the lights only consistently turn on and off when the headphones aren’t on your head. This makes sense because you need to see the lights to decide which color setting to use, and you can’t do that when they’re on your head.
One severe drawback was a slight, high-pitched hum I experienced after turning the lights on. That hum is obliterated when there’s audio playing through the headphones, but serious listeners will know it’s there and that it’s affecting the playback. Serious listeners, on the other hand, might not be the type to engage the lights in the first place.
Battery life and accessories
Peak Audio promises The Haymaker can deliver 26 hours of Bluetooth playback on a charge if you have active noise cancellation turned on, but the lights turned off. Turn off both features and battery life jumps to 43 hours. Using the lights drops battery life to 12 hours, or you can use the auxiliary cable with noise cancellation to get 30 hours of playback. Finally, there’s no battery required when you listen using the auxiliary cable with ANC turned off.
There’s also plenty of room for an alternate pair of earcups. The Haymaker comes with a set of faux leather earcups attached, and a second set that have a diamond-pattern fabric covering. The cups attached via magnet and are remarkably easy to swap out. The top half of the case has two roomy zippered compartments for the USB-C charging cable, a 3.5mm audio cable for wired used, and a gaming controller cable for use with a PC.
Peak Audio LLC
Peak Audio urges PC users to install the Dirac HD sound software. That experience requires a PC running Windows. Once the sound profile is installed, the included PC controller cable plugged into a computer USB port to experience a choice between 7.1 sound or stereo. As I’m neither a gamer nor a Windows user, there’s no evaluation of that experience in this review.
The PC controller cable has a button that allows the user to mute the cable’s microphone during a gaming session, volume-up and -down buttons and a sound effect cycling button that switches the audio between stereo and the Dirac 7.1 surround effect.
What is unexpected is how well they handle the new recording of Bartók’s Violin Concerto No. 1, Sz. 36 by the Berlin Philharmonic with Frank Peter Zimmerman and Alan Gilbert. Without the exaggerated low end, the detail in the higher registers of the violins is impressive.
The tight drum sound on a track like Free’s 1970 hit “All Right Now” gets amped up a bit much, so that it detracts a bit from the guitar crunch that made the song such a huge influence during the era. Fast-forward a quarter-century to the heavily processed drum sound on Def Leppard’s 1987 “Pour Some Sugar on Me” and those issues disappear. The aggressive low-end tuning just makes the track sound even more huge.
These evaluations are based on listening with the noise-cancellation turned off. Engage the ANC and the Haymaker introduce a layer of compression that substantially alters the experience. The noise cancellation works well, but it sacrifices most of the audio reproduction strengths the headphones display with the ANC turned off. They still sound good but they’re no longer trending towards outstanding.
At its best, The Haymaker offers very good value for money. As a pair of straight Bluetooth headphones with the ANC turned off, they’re versatile and sound great. Buyers must decide if they want the patterns, lights, and lack of portability that come with that excellent sound.
James has worked in music as a producer, A&R executive, music publisher, manager and record store clerk. He writes about music, technology and movies from his home in Georgia.