Pros: A great combination of perfomance, value, comfort and value. And did I mention value?
Cons: Low and high end have a tendancy to become unhinged. Mid-range clarity has a tendancy to vanish.
To give my thoughts some context, I wouldn't call myself an audiophile. I have an eclectic taste and appreciation for music, which I listen to on an iPod Classic. The most "hi-fi" audio equipment I've ever owned is the pair of Ultimate Ears Super.f1 5 Pro earphones that I'd still be enjoying happily if the right 'phone hadn't developed an annoying buzz. I can rarely discern an audible difference between songs encoded in 320 kbps formats and their lossless counterparts, but, the inferiority of sub-320 kbps files is often very apparent to my ears.
That said, I do enjoy well-presented music. It might very well be my favorite thing in the whole world.
After doing some light reading about headphones, I began my search for new ones with a conscious decision to avoid even auditioning open-air headphones. I've never tried them, and I became convinced by my reading that I'd likely fall in love with all of the qualities that seem to have made them the consensus choice for audiophiles around the world, and I feared I would then end up spending far too much money (for me) on a pair of "36-24-36" Sennheisers or others like them. The majority of what I read on the subject seemed to indicate that closed headphones offer the best value for the money, so that's the route I chose.
Please keep all of this in mind when judging my use of the superlatives that are bound to follow. I may not use certain words the way others who are more experienced in this realm may use them. Just bear with me on that.
These are fine headphones. It's really as simple as that.
They provide full-bodied bass that never loses its natural texture. Whether you're listening to music in which the raw tactility of the bass tones is just as important as the notes being played or music that features a delicate and measured response, these headphones don't just reproduce those sounds, they reproduce them very, very well.
Mid-range tones are loud, clear, and so readily apparent that they're never muddied by the bass tones, no matter how far the two may occasionally overlap within the same sonic space. They remain distinct at all times, moving freely within the mix whenever the music requires it.
I feel like these headphones really shine - pun semi-intended - when it comes to the high-frequency tones, even though my inexperience may prevent that from being a truly accurate statement. I think it's easy to forget sometimes just how important those highs are to music. Hi-hats and ride cymbals are, in fact, a major driving force. Crash, trash and splash cymbals are, indeed, important punctuations. Each singular stroke is just as important as the next, no matter how quickly it may follow. And these headphones just do it every time with highs that are loud, clear, distinct and never harsh.
Perhaps most impressive of all is the ability of these headphones to expose the natural character of the instruments within the music, an effect far too often lost when listening to them through the many layers of any recorded media. I believe that's referred to as transparency.
A snare drum being struck no longer sounds like "just" that; what you hear instead is the complex interaction between the drum stick, the drum head, the snares and the shell, components whose construction and combination were expressly chosen by the drummer, being used in concert with his talents and technique to produce a desired effect only achieved with that singular formula. You hear that with these headphones. By the same token, guitars and basses become the glorious sum of the various woods, hardware and amplification chosen by musicians utilizing their myriad skills to play them rather than just the notes they chose to play. I've found this quality present in every piece of music to which I've listened through these headphones, and the effect is positively magisterial.
When all of these elements are combined as harmoniously as these headphone combine them, I can't describe the joy I get from the music I hear, even that which is as familiar to me as the back of my hand. These headphones are a revelation.
And for the price? They're worth more than what I paid for them, especially when judged against others at the same price point and even those priced considerably above it. I did that, and these headphones won with ease every single time.
I think the often-seen criticism that mid-range frequencies are recessed in these headphones is more rooted in the fact that mid-range tones are the easiest to reproduce and most headphones and speakers generally tend to get that part right. However, low and high range sounds are an altogether different beast, and, as a result, aren't often presented correctly. I think it's easy to merely perceive the mid-range to be lacking when sandwiched between low and high ranges that are not.
And I suppose it's only fair that a review also include any perceived negatives. To that end, they have a nasty tendency to expose poor music production and mastering, but what can you really do about that? They're also not the best-looking headphones I've ever seen. In that regard, I guess it's good that they're headphones and not a hat or something. And they do tend to warm my ears a bit. Just a bit, though. (But, they're nonetheless very light and comfortable, and I've found that the range of articulation provided by the swiveled cups, a feature often derided, is actually quite helpful for maintaining constant and even contact while wearing them.)
I awarded "only" 4.5 stars to these headphones for Audio Quality out of consideration for my lack of experience. I didn't think it would be fair to give them a full five since, admittedly, I haven't listened to everything offered. I honestly hope I don't ever hear something better, though, unless I can also afford to buy it, as I think such a tease would be equally unfair. Luckily for me, I think these headphones are going to be extremely difficult to top.
UPDATE: Burn-in can be an evil mistress. I'll elaborate later.