Pros: lots of bass, durable build
Cons: sub par sound for the price, uncomfortable
The Pro40 is Munitio's first foray into full sized headphones. The manufacturer is well known for their range of iems, though I haven't heard any of those so I carried no expectation of “brand sound” at all into this review.
So let's start off with outward appearances. The box is pretty standard: Nice picture, specs are listed, feels solid and probably something you could wrap in paper and mail to somebody without worrying about it getting crushed. Pop open the box and you'll find the protective case and the headphones inside.
The travel case
The case is a semi-hard shell covered in a nylon-like material that seems reasonably scratch resistant. There's a rubber badge on the shell that says “SOUND PRECISION // MDR-01... SPEC.MIL-GRD” which I suppose means the product name of the shell is the MDR-01. No confusion with Sony there. As for military grade, well, no. It'll keep your Pro40 nice and neat, and the zipper seals up tight, but that's about it. Actually a note on the zipper is that it almost looks like one of those waterproof kinds, but it isn't. Please don't try sailing your headphones on a river.
The insides of the case aren't anything special. There's no foam cutouts or supports. Retract the headband all the way and the Pro40 sits very snugly inside. You might even have to prod just a little bit to get everything to slide in. There's a netted pouch on one side for you to stow the extra cables and adapters and maybe a small dap (like a Sansa Clip), but you'll have to wiggle the contents to the middle of the pouch otherwise they'll impede the headband and you won't be able to zip up the case.
Overall build feels fairly solid on the Pro40. The headband adjustments slide on rails on the underside of the headband and feel quite sturdy. There is no pivot or rotation here, which often makes for a weak joint on other headphones. The literature says aluminum and polymer construction. I'm guessing the aluminum must be the framework inside. On the outer surface it looks to be all plastic, but there's a bit of extra weight to the headphone.
The cups are actually not connected directly to the headband. The headband ends in a pair of large rings, and the entire driver and earpad assembly pivots on a gimbal system within this ring, giving free movement in two axes to fit the earpads to your head. It's rather akin to AKG headphones. It's not a huge amount of movement (maybe +/- 10°), but it should be sufficient for most people.
The earpads are very nice, made of a protein leather and feel like they will last a long time. The materal feels thick, and there's good padding inside (possibly memory foam, but I'm not sure). The headband stretches quite wide and feels strong enough and can probably take a couple drops on the floor, but I wouldn't bend or twist it like a V-Moda headband.
I wanted to take the Pro40 apart, but honestly can't find a good starting point. There are no visible screws, and the earpads are quite firmly glued down and held in with small tabs. Pad rolling does not look to be an option for this headphone. There isn't much padding on the headband to speak of. Instead, the entire underside is a soft-ish rubber. It appears to be a custom formed piece that wraps around a small lip inside, rather than glued.
The provided cables are nice and thick. The cloth cable is a bit thinner and comes with remote buttons; it's light but kinks a little. The coiled cable is rubber and thicker/heftier. Both feel solid and capable of withstanding a little abuse. Both have straight 1/8” jacks on one end (for plugging into the Pro40), and a straight threaded 1/8” jack on the other to fit with the provided adapter.
Given the stiffness of the headband, clamping force is rather high which ultimately limits the long term comfort of the Pro40. While the soft pads help, I have a rather wide head and a particularly wide jawline, which results in pressure beneath the ears that become uncomfortable over time. Those with narrower heads may fare better here.
My ears are average sized and just fit inside the pads. There's some decent depth in there and my ears do not bottom out on the grill inside. However, those with big ears might have to squeeze them in. Comfort on that aspect will be highly dependent on the individual. The pads themselves are a very nice protein leather and do not feel overly sweaty or warm after use.
There is no real headband padding. As mentioned earlier, it's just a rubber undercoating. Not super stiff, not too soft, it does the job. Most of the weight will be held at the ears anyways, so you don't notice much on the top of your head. While the rubber does have a slight stickiness to it, it won't tug on your hair like some other headphones with similar headbands.
Portability around the neck is decent. The cups are small enough to not squish against my neck/chin.
The isolation on the Pro40 is really just average for a closed headphone. There's decent attenuation of the treble, but there's a rather bad resonance in the midbass that reminds me of the Skullcandy Aviators. The result is an actual amplification of noise in that band, like a weird form of specific superhearing. With no music playing and sitting in a quite household, I find I can easily pick up the sounds of my furnace blowing air, and the sounds of traffic outside.
For portable use, it's not going to block out much noise on a commute and might in fact make it worse with all the engine noises, but should at least cut out some of the human chatter. On the flip side, for someone walking around it might mean you won't get hit by a car I suppose.
Well right off the bat, these are far far from neutral. They've got what I could call a “typical consumer headphone” sound. Basically starting off with a strong bass and sloping downwards into the treble.
The bass is quite emphasized with very good subbass extension. While I can be a bit of a basshead at times, it's almost too much of a good thing. I find on certain electronic tracks that the pressure build up from all the bass rumbling becomes quite fatiguing. There's lot of rumble here for all those synthetic tones, but not so much impact if you're a fan of kick drums. The bass definition is average for a closed can; not bad, no great, I was hoping for a bit better in this price point.
The midrange kinda hits a brief shelf after the downwards slope from the bass. So the response here is relatively flat, but with all the excess coming in from the midbass things are unfortunately a bit blurry. The caveat here though is that this is where trying different amplifiers produced the greatest amount of change in the sound. Coming off my Nuforce HDP, the music was bloated and ill-defined. The Nuforce uDac-3 and FiiO e17 fared much better, and coming off my iBasso D10 was probably my favourite of the bunch giving it some of that needed punch and improving clarity (and before you ask, the dac used for all the above was the uDac-3 feeding analog input into all the others). I have a suspicion that there's an impedance peak in the midbass and what I'm hearing is interactions with amp output impedance.
There's a bit of a dip in the midrange somewhere around the 800Hz range, which unfortunately takes away from some vocal and instrumental definition. Above this the response slopes back up and gives us our first upper-mid/low-treble peak. I find this gives a bit of immediacy with strings and brass, which is perhaps their saving grace in what is otherwise just an average presentation.
Moving into the treble is like stepping down onto another shelf, albeit a wobbly shelf typical of virtually all closed headphones since the cups produce the characteristic resonances in frequency response. To the Pro40's credit, the wobbles here are much less pronounced than other closed cans. The overall treble presence is reduced quite a bit from the bass range and rolled off at the top, so the energy here is quite low. It's better than the TMA-1, but that's not really a great comparison. There's little to no sibilance to speak of, even on harsh recordings, so if you're very sensitive to that sort of thing then this could be a plus. I actually prefer a downturned treble tuning, but this is a bit further than I would take it. Strings and brass might have presence, but lack in that “shimmer” aspect. Cymbals fall quite flat as well.
Overall detail is meh. It's there, but hiding. Bass has thump, but isn't quite visceral beyond the oomph. Vocals within a specific range (tenor?) sound ok, strings and brass are ok, woodwinds lack air, drums have energy but are clumsy, cymbals hit but don't shine. If you're not adverse to EQ, playing around with some treble boost really opens things up. The treble EQ on the FiiO e17 did a pretty good job here actually.
In terms of staging, well with recessed midrange and treble there isn't much staging to speak of. It's rather muffly and closed in feeling. Sometimes closed headphones offer this illusion of openness; like the directionality is present but you still feel like you're in a box. The Pro40 doesn't do this, which is neither a good or bad thing. At times I felt like the stage was artificially wide or I was stuck right in the middle. The whole transition area in between would be missing. Again, that's pretty much what I would expect from a recessed midrange and is similar to what I've heard in other closed headphones of similar sound signature. The wideness was a bit odd; I could almost see it being useful for gaming.
Sensitivity is very high. Portable amps with modest power outputs work just fine, but stronger home amps are just too much. The FiiO e17 had a suitable range that I could use on the pot, but even the uDac-3 which isn't a particularly power amp I could barely turn it up before it was beyond comfortable levels.
Ok so maybe I've been a bit harsh on the Pro40. My primary headphone is the HE-6 which is really just an utterly unfair comparison. As Munitio's first headphone, I think they did a commendable job on the build quality and aesthetics, but veered too far into “consumer bass heavy” sound. The closed headphone segment in the $300 bracket is crowded. There's a lot of stuff that's come out in the last year that I haven't heard yet, but I've owned or heard a lot of the “standards” from previous years and have reviewed and/or compared before. Just to give a sample so you know where I'm coming from:
So how do I feel the Pro40 competes against these? I'm afraid it doesn't. At the $300 mark you've got the likes of the Pioneer HDJ-2000 and Shure 940 (which are easy to find even cheaper) which trump the Pro40 on sound and comfort and portability. Even the Audio Technica M50 which you can find on sale for a third of the price is better in nearly every category.
Were the Pro40 in the $150-200 bracket I could see it being more competitive, but in the $300-350 segment I think it bit off more than it could chew. It's pretty obvious what demographic you're targeting when you've got a bass heavy headphone and you slap a $300 price tag on it though. So is it better than Beats? A hundred percent yes in every category. Is it better than all the other stuff that's better than Beats? Nope.