Pros: Good Detail, Portable, Classy Looks, Single-Sided Cable, Sensitive
Cons: Pricey, Non-Detachable Cable, Too Bright and Metallic
The MS300 was a difficult purchase decision for me. On the one hand, it had almost everything I wanted in a portable -- great looks, single-sided cable, foldable into a small, sleek hard case, great sound. On the other hand, I kept hearing about how great the MS400 was. So why the MS300? Because it had a single-sided cable! The MS400 has the usual y-cable attached to both cups. Coming from the Bose Triport OEs, I found that it was perhaps the perfect portable headphone from a design standpoint.
The Triports were small, light, and foldable, came with a very nice small hard case, had a single-sided and detachable cable, and comfort to die for. The only issues were its possible long term build quality (let me tell you those hinges felt rickety!) and of course the sound is not for everyone... though they were fine for me. The MS300 captures most of that, and gives you killer looks to boot.
The only missing nicety was a detachable cable -- the thin cable doesn't look particularly sturdy and could possibly break in the long run. A detachable cable would have allayed all concerns as well as make it more versatile, letting you swap to a cable of your choice and length. It would also have been nice to have a fully leather-padded headband like the MS400; the MS300 has padding only where your head hits it, akin to the Beyer DT440 or PX100. Clearly a cost-cutting measure, but this is already extravagant desires talking. The important thing is the sound. Yes, the sound!
In a nutshell, the MS300 is a Grado in disguise. The sound gave me a bit of what I was missing in the Bose -- more detail and less veil. The MS300 is a very upfront headphone, unlike the uber-relaxed and laidback Bose. Just how upfront? Grado Prestige Series up front, that's what!
The sound is very in your face, you can feel it centering at your forehead even on more laidback music. The treble extends very far,is very sparkly, too sparkly perhaps, and is very detailed. The mids are strong and clear, putting the vocals right in your ear. The bass is lean and taut, there when necessary and retreating if not called for. The emphasis is definitely on the mids and highs.
I can only call this signature Grado-ish." And the ultra bright nature is very reminiscent of the SR225, or perhaps even the SR325 due to its powerful attack dynamics and tight, thrummingly punchy low end. If the SR325 had a love child with the Bose Triports and asked Ferrari to adopt it, the result would be the MS300.
My main concern with the MS300 is that, even after burn in, it sounds a little metallic and often too bright. On some songs the attack can be too dynamic and powerful, the highs become strident and hurt my ears. On Dave Matthew's Busted Stuff for instance, the snare drums have such a kick in the high end that it becomes unlistenable at moderate volumes. Lowering the volume fixes the issue, so if you listen at low volumes these are fine. These are very easy to drive anyway, and I find myself just listenign with the volume less than 9'oclock on the uDAC's headphone out, or about 25% on my iPod Nano 2G.
I do not like the synergy of these on the uDAC. The uDAC tends to add extra energy and power to the mids and highs, and these have too much already. The result is a very strident, punchy sound that is unwelcome in my typically warm, laidback and bassy realm. They work better just straight out of my Nano, which tends to sound a bit muddy and bassy. The detail and clarity of these cans work well to make the Nano listenable, and at the same time the Nano's muddiness softens the edge on these cans, making them more pleasurable. As this is designed to be a portable, it makes sense to me to use it with the Nano.
Assuming you can live with the treble (and you can EQ it out if it really bothers you that much) the MS300 is a very capable set of cans. I put them through the gauntlet of music I listen to, and found them to be more than adequate for anything I threw at them. They seem to be great all-rounders. It handled everything from Cymande funk, to Eric Clapton singing Tears in Heaven, to some Jpop from Masami Okui, Michael Jackson, new wave, Andy McKee Acoustic, Miguel Migs, John Mayer, The Shapeshifters, Beyonce, it does most everything quite well. It was fast enough to keep up with Infected Mushroom, it was bassy enough to satisfy me with Wez Clarke, and suave enough to keep Ive Mendes sounding sultry and sexy.
Because of this rather bright, forward nature, I think that its best genres are rock, metal, and similar high-energy genres like trance. Though I admit listening to some of the screechier metal on it, I find it too harsh for my taste. But I am not a big metal lover at heart, other metal lovers probably would enjoy it. It can do chill out and smooth jazz relatively fine, but I don't think these are its strongest genres. The great extension on the treble gives chillout some nice air but overall there are better cans for this. I also have not tried these out with classical and country, as I don't listen to those genres much.
All in all the MS300 is almost perfect for what I wanted it for -- a portable I can bring with me anywhere, look really spiffy wearing, and bring me great music while I'm away from my home setups. If only I could fix the highs, it would have been a real keeper. I am sure though that many here, especially the Grado lovers, would love this can. It has the sound of a Prestige Series Grado tucked into the shell of the Bose Triport OE, in a beautifully designed closed-back package.