Pros: Inexpendable value, dynamic, great feel and look, decent sound
Cons: Shrill highs at high volume, can distort, mids recessed, muddy and slow, weak sound stage
Before i get on to the sound, I will give you a summerized box reaction. Looking at these through the plastic box, they have an almost ikea asthetic about them, sort of a minimal hipster look. They have a funky way of sitting in the box and i couldnt help but hope they didnt sound as minimal as the looked through the box. However, as soon as i pulled them out and felt them in my hand and got a better look, i almost soiled myself. The headband and pleather pads are just about some of the comfiest things ive ever put my hands on. They just looked like they were MEANT to be worn and loved.
After seeing them in a 360 degree view, they just looked beautiful. Pictures do not do justice to the beauty of these headphones, but with a poor quality camera and some poor camera work, i tried :)
I couldnt help but sneak them on my head after fondling the pads with my hands. They felt DECADENT!
So, naturally, i have far too much curiosity at this point to not give them a listen before burn in, so i plugged them straight into my ipods headphone jack and hit shuffle.
3 words: Muddy, distant, recessed mids :( I thought i might have been sent a dud or that they needed a lot more power than they might have assumed with their low impedence. So without further adue, i will move in to a thorough description of my first impressions.
Low Volume: Bass seemed a little muddy, voices noticeably more recessed than the rest of the sound signature, and i NEVER though i would be a stickler about voices. It is so blatantly apparent that even my relatively untrained and non-analytical ear became frustrated by it. Sound seems very "in front of you", but not in terms of distance; i mean in terms of direction. Yep, that means very little sound stage, almost none. I have 50$ IEM's that have better sound staging than these, however that might be preferred for some people to have a more center focused and distant sound. The distance feels as though your at least 15 seats back from the front stage. You feel as though your in the same room as the music, just very far away from the speakers. Very little sound stage. You definately know your wearing headphones. Snare doesn't have correct timbre.
High volume: Snare and voices more natural sounding but definately "behind" the lead guitars and bass guitars when listening to rock. I would never consider myself a guy that would notice recessed vocals but it was just so obvious that it made it uncomfortable and certainly not balanced listening. I know for a fact that the vocals were not that recessed in the recording. It wasn't horribly bad, it just sounded like the vocals were playing at a different volume level than the bass guitars and lead guitars and percussion. Guitars in high notes sound shrill and extremely bright with some distortion.
Fit: comfortable, sturdy, very nice fit for my head at the stock settings. However, after about 10 minutes of listening i already could feel my ears sweating to the point where the pleather was actually sticking to my ears! Clamping force was noticeable but i liked it, sort of like they were giving you a nice big bear hug. I could see how it might bother some people, but i like it. Rest assured it could be easily fixed by stretching them out over a box while burning them in.
Overall verdict of first impressions: i just wasted $150 bucks, hugely overhyped
After 100 hours of burn in: Much better sounding! All the previous querks still noticeable but are far more tolerable, bass is very nice and strong hitting on any low frequency range thrown at it, but definately not overpowered. Maybe slightly emphasiszed, but not overpowering. Bass in these will only sound overpowering if you bought them after listening to a bass-less headphone like the akg 701's. Highs are still shrill and bright and painful to listen to, however the distortion issue is gone. Mids are still indeed very, very recessed.
These headphones, even in their best genre which i would argue to be electronic, feel way to far from the source of music for my liking. I stated earlier that they feel about 15 rows back from the stage; thats being generous. I feel like i'm sitting in an auditorium designed to house very loud volumes and heavy rock bands, but hearing a highschool band play on a fer marshal amps sitting right next to them up front on the stage, very far away. However, the sound that is coming from very far away and very centered, is a very balanced and high quality sound.
In order to get the engagement I want from these headphones, I am constantly motivated to turn them up to extremely high volumes, because that brings me much closer to the stage and the instruments start to tune up and come alive at high volumes. However, even at the highest volumes, the mids are still noticeable recessed even to an undiscerning ear. Also, the trade off is that in order to get the volume and engagement and louder vocals, the highs become unbearable (atleast to me) at high volumes on some types of music, especially rock with high pitched guitars. A guitar solo is too painful to hear and its sad because guitar solos are some of my favorite parts of music to hear.
Verdict: They have a great balanced sound with emphasis on the low end, very little sound stage, seems "far away", slow and hard to keep up on complex music with lots going on (sort of like if you had a balanced steak dinner with a side of green beans and mash potatoes, and someone took them and mushed them in a blender and poured the result into a soup bowl and handed it to you), with bright and sometimes painful highs. Certainly a capable headphone with its own personaility that may fit some types of listeners, and is a high quality headphone worth its price. If you like to feel close and engaged with your music, dont buy. It just isnt worth the ear damage you will inevitably get trying to compensate by turning up the volume extremely loud.
It is worth the plunge for anyone to try who hasnt really decided what type of music listener they are. This is for a relaxed listener who wants to keep its distance from the music, with warm bass and harsh and engaging highs, with recessed mids. At this price, these are a steal and if you decide you dont like them, they are a great reference phone to compare other headphones in the future should you choose to upgrade. They are balanced but distanced.
LET THEM BURN IN BEFORE YOU JUDGE!
Peace, love, happiness, and a good pair of headphones to all !