Pros: Comfortable, Very Nice Look, Volume/Tweeter Knobs are nice, 'Smooth'
Cons: Can have slight cup resonance issues
The Pioneer SE-50 is quite the unique headphone. Being a two way design, they sport tweeter controls that make the highs more prevalent. This is a good thing, because without the tweeters maxed out, for me at least, the sound is quite lackluster. But, with the tweeters going strong, these headphones pump out sound that surprises me for headphones from the (early) 70s. The have a non-detachable coil cord which is terminated in a 1/4" plug on one end, and a single entry into the left ear cup on the other end. The were packaged with a case that shut and had a latch for safekeeping. They are adjusted by two adjusters on either side of the headphone, marked L and R. The headband is padded well, as the ear pads. The white vinyl covering on the ear cups is nice, although can be prone to markings and other deterioration. As for reliability, well, they're built quite well.
I'll start here. The sound is quite laid back, the emphasis is on the mids, I would say. The mids are extremely smooth, and the highs seem to balance that smoothness quite nicely (when the tweeters are on full bore). In the bass department, don't expect a thunderous bass, but honestly, I quite enjoy the natural bass that these emit. Sometimes they surprise me with their bass abilities. I've listened to a few electronic tracks and these things keep up pretty well for their design and age. One thing is as well, when dealing with instruments such as piano, they can have a tendency to have some resonance issues within the cups. Nothing terrible, but it can get slightly annoying. However, on my first pair, with totally flat pads, this is a problem. With my second pair, with like new pads that actually cover my ear and seal, this is much less of a problem.
With a lot of metal tracks, surprisingly, I really like their sound. They have a laid back sound that really smooths the guitars and vocals. They really have a mellow tone that does not aggravate me at all. Jazz and classical seems to be where these shine, because with the few symphonies I've played through these, they've sound quite nice. They are not detail monsters, obviously, but they have a big sound that is akin to attending a live concert in a concert hall. And with jazz, such as Coltrane, Miles, Paul Chambers, Wes Montgomery, etc, the separation is good, and the bass is just right. Never boomy, nice and natural. With modern pop and rap and things like that, these are not a good choice. I can enjoy them for that, but they are by far the farthest thing that could be considered a pop/rap/electronic headphone, or basically anything similar to those genres.
Here is what changed me the most with these headphones. The soundstage, while not really being insanely deep (but it is quite nice), is quite 'tall'. What I mean is, everything sounds 'bigger'. It's almost as if you're listening to a pair of speakers. I account this to the size of the driver. At 3", or about 76mm, they are pretty big. The instrument separation, to me, was the main thing that stood out. Because the soundstage is so wide (due to the sheer distance of the drivers from your head) the instruments and vocals really had a tendency to be put in their proper place. To me, I always have a real sense of listening to speakers when I put these on.
I love the fit of these. They are loose, don't clamp, the ear pads are soft, and I can wear them for hours. I'm sure to many they're huge, and way to big, but for me, I kind of like it.
Well, since they're old, and I paid about $50 bucks for my pair that is in great shape, I'd say they are a deal if you can get a pair under that price. My other pair was about $20. I think if you can find them (case and all) for a price under $50, you're getting something worthwhile. All in my opinion of course. They listed for about that price new.
In all, I love these things. They have limitations, but I love how they were designed for such an old headphone. And honestly, sometimes they blow me away. True, at other times I want to throw them off my head, but most of the time, these are a good friend of mine. Paired up with my Schiit Asgard, they really start to sing. And at 8 Ohms, they sure appreciate the extra juice the Asgard can provide.
Thanks for reading guys. As always, this review was strictly my experiences, and my opinions. Your mileage may vary greatly, especially when dealing with vintage audio gear.