Home Tech The Orka Two are the most elegant headphones that exist

The Orka Two are the most elegant headphones that exist

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Two side-by-side white over-ear headphones with gray ear canal pads

Founded in 2018, Orka Labs feels like a bigger, more established headphone company than it is, with polished hardware that’s now in its second edition.

The Orka Two is something of a hybrid between prescription and over-the-counter hearing aids. The devices are registered as prescription aids, but are sold online as over-the-counter products. Professional medical consultations and adjustments are available (and included in the price), but are not necessary if you decide to go it alone.

The hardware has a traditional shape, a behind-the-ear model with receivers that are inserted into the ear canal using flexible cables. But while they’re a little big compared to similar designs (and quite heavy at 3.8 grams each), they’re distinguished by their bright white AirPod color and curved, teardrop-shaped design. The units do not carry physical controls, which further enhances their elegance. In the case of behind-the-ear headphones, these look as good as you would expect, and much better than the usual industrial gray headphones that are now so common.

As with most headphones, I found the units a little difficult to put on and required a lot of fiddling to get them positioned correctly in my ears. Included in the box is the usual collection of open and closed ends. While I usually find the medium sized tips fit me perfectly, all but the smallest ones seemed uncomfortably large to me.

Photography: Orka

In keeping with its hybrid design, Orka offers two ways to configure the units. There is a smart hearing test built into the app, which can be used to quickly make the appropriate adjustments. Alternatively, if you have a professional audiogram, you can take a photo and upload it via the app. Orka’s in-house audiologists will then fit your hearing aids accordingly (within one business day). Any adjustments can be made by emailing or calling Orka for adjustments, although the company notes that its “remote consultation” feature, where you can schedule an appointment directly through the app, is currently being revamped and is unavailable .

The Orka app is simple to the point of being idiot-proof, with two main modes of operation. “Normal” is the low ambient noise mode that is based on adjustments made using the audiogram or on-site hearing test, while “In Noise” is self-explanatory. Here, Orka gets more aggressive with settings, using an AI algorithm to adjust its settings dynamically in response to its environment. A beam setting option in In Noise mode lets you focus your hearing on a single person or “everyone.” The volume can be adjusted universally or individually for each ear.

As noted above, there are no physical controls on the units. Unusually, the hardware controls are located on the charging case (which holds about three charges). Here you’ll find a program button that cycles through the two operating modes and another pair of buttons to adjust the volume. Pay close attention: Paradoxically, volume up is the button on the left and volume down is on the right. Despite the contrary, I ultimately found the case-mounted buttons to be much more convenient than searching behind my ears to find the correct buttons. For users with mobility issues, this could be a game changer.

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