Pros: Good allrounder, Smooth pleasent sound, sub-bass extension, non fatiguing highs, detail retrival, not picky about amp and source
Cons: Loose headband, Price in EU, Soundstage and imaging is not on par with the best of it's price range
Build and comfort:
These headphones are built with quality materials. Original msrp of 149$ can clearly be seen here. A lot of metal is used. It doesn't work as well as it looks though. Part's that connect the hinges can be squeaky at times. It is caused by the spring inside the cups and metallic build emhasizes the sound. Headband is propably loose for most people. It is really huge. If Jabba The Hut was buying headphones, he would propably choose Pioneers. Luckily clamping force can be increased with easy headband mod. It is explained here. Just don't go over board with that mod and bending the headband. Too much clamping force will increase the bass but will make the sound worse in general. Cable is 6(!)meters long, good for use with home theater but too long for everything else. When portability is not a concern I prefer long cable. I rather roll up the excess wire and tie it than use extension wires when wire is too short to begin with. Plug looks like high quality with strain relief spring. Pads are nice and good quality but I don't like the material that connects the pads to the cup. It is made of that stuff that peels of over time. If you have to take the pads of very often tearing might occur. Even though the pads are nice there is a problem with the stuff that protects the driver. It touches my ear and causes discomfort with long listening sessions.
I didn't know what to expect when I got my pair. These seem to be highly polarizing headphones. It is common that people disagree over sound quality and price/quality ratio but these are really something else. Some say these are similar to Sennheiser hd650, some say these are not that different from AKG K701 and others say these have similarities to Grado.
My pair of Pioneers was bought used so no burn in was necessary. Immeadiately after plugging these in it was evident that these are highly capable pair of headphones. Sound is smooth and effortless. Despite the smoothness Pioneers have nice dynamics and deliver even aggressive music with authority and punch. These would make a great open back alternative for people enjoying Creative Aurvana Live! headphones. Talk about polarizing headphones. What I'm hearing is complete opposite to what Tyll Hertsen had measured here.
Bass on these headphones is impressive. I can't understand how people think these lack bass. These have less bass than Somic MH463, less mid bass than Takstar HI2050 but are signicantly bassier than basslight headphones such as AKG K501 and Renkforce cd-340. Bass control and impact with kickdrums and such is not out of this world but lowest of lows are very good. Bass extends really low and rumble is really nice for a open backed headphone. I'm not saying these are suitable for bassheads because these definately are not. What I mean is that these have sub bass extension that all neutral headphones should have but unfortunately most fail in this regard. On pioneers website it says that these were designed for home theater use. Bass is definately capable of producing those low end rumbles required to make action scenes involving. Cups are built with care so there are no resonances even with the most extreme bass notes playing. These are however quite easy to drive to the point of distortion. With normal use that is not a problem even with bass heavy music but if you really like to put your headphones to the limit with bass test tracks some caution is recommended. Once you pop the voice coil, game is over.
Mids are a pleasure to listen to. There is a hint of warmth but overall coloration is not that noticeable. If you pay really close attention and have higher end headphones for comparison it can be heard that Pioneers lack some clarity and resolution. For me personally it is only a minor issue and clearly audible only with some very high quality aqoustic music recordings. Seperate guitar notes are not always perfectly distinct and stuff like that. Most of the time the live like sound and organic tone is just perfect. These are simply beatifull headphones for listening live recordings. These have the important ability to really connect the listener to the music. These sound excellent with all kind of music. Definately one of the best allrounders around.
Highs are polite and detailed. Not as much emphasis on highs as with Takstar HI2050 or Somic MH463. Highs sound about the same as on Digitech(Jaycar) Pro Monitors. I really like how the highs sound. I'm a big hater of sibilance and I was happy to notice Pioneers are excellent in that regard. There is a peak somewhere in the upper frequences but most headphones have it and most headphones have it way worse than pioneers. I also like how polite highs leave more room for the finer details in music. As much as I enjoy the smooth highs little more attack would be good with some music. I decided to do a little experiment and removed the cloth and foam covering the driver. Results were disappointing. It brought up the highs more but it also revealed that the drivers are covered for a reason. With fully exposed driver the highs sound very thin, unnatural and kind of tizzy. Also some bass bloat appeared from somewhere. Propably because two holes covered with paper were also hidden behind the cloth. Now bass reverbs have clear passage back to the ear. Needles to say I glued the cloth and foam back on.
Many people have complimented Pioneers for it's soundstage. I think it's ok, good at best but not excellent. Most cheap headphones have limited soundstage debth and unfortunately Pioneers are one of those headphones. That also makes imaging less accurate.
All in all these are truly magnificent headphones for the price and beyond. These don't force themselves and their abilities to the listener but insead let the music do the talking. Price in europe is high and it's definately out of the budget category. That is why I can't give it the highest value rating. It is still a worthy buy though. I compared these side by side with similarly priced akg k242hd, which I consider to be a fine product for it's price. Both are well balanced headphones without evident flaws. In most areas these are very evenly matched but pioneers have that better clarity without being considerably brighter than akg's. Also pioneers top akg's in detail retrieval. Akg's might not be the top contender for it's price but it is definately one of the better headphones in the 100+ price range, and there for excellent reference point for pioneers. Of course pioneers are also considerably easier to drive so thats a definately a plus. There is still one thing that needs to be answered. That is of course how these compare against similarly priced and highly praised Takstar HI2050?
Pioneer se-a1000 vs Takstar HI2050
Comparing these two headphones is bit tricky. Only thing these have common is the open structure. Takstars are tilted towards the bright side and Pioneers have more smooth, relaxed sound. There is no objective way of determining which headphone is better because it depends so much on listening preferences and the source and amplification used. I'f you're considering these headphones I would decide upon following three factors.
1) Preferred sound signature: Clear, bright sound of Takstars or smoother sound of Pioneers. It's a classic Beyerdynamic dt880 vs Sennheiser hd600 scenario all over again, but with less money involved.
2) Comfort: Pioneers are more suitable for large heads. Takstar headband has limited room for adjustment. For me Taktars are more comfortable and I think that is the case with most people with average or small heads.
3) Source and amping: I'f you are unable to make a decision based on soundsignature and think you would be comfortable wearing either of the headphones final decision can be made based on the gear you will be using the headphones with. I compared both headphones with few different sources and amps. Here is what I found out.
As a portable gear I used only one available to me. Few years old htc phone with spotify. I was impressed how much detail pioneers were able to deliver despite the poor source quality. Really nice smooth and detailed sound. It could have been louder and bass would have definately benefitted from amplification but it wasn't bad. With decent portable gear I suppose pioneers would be really nice. My htc is not definately a final word in portable head-gear...far from it.
Takstars also sounded good out of HTC. Highs were not a problem. There was occasional sibilance, but not much. Bass was more detailed and more textured than Pioneers, but bass amount was lacking. Pioneers with HTC seem to lack bass control and takstar could use more juice to presenting the bass with more force.
If I had to choose, I would propably go for Pioneers here. HTC is unable to bring up Takstar's soundstage and imaging abilities. In fact it seemed like pioneers have larger soundstage than Takstars. I guess Takstars really need an amp to shine. I also be vary of potential sibilance issues, even though it wasn't a big problem with my test tracks I'm afraid it might become a problem with poorly recorded material.
When headphones were directly plugged in my LG television, I wasn't able to get either of the headphones really loud. It was decen't but I would have liked to have about 20% more volume. Pioneers sounded distant with very veiled highs. I preferred Takstars because with them the highs were there, atleast barely.
Pc with Startech soundcard
When using my pc's bad quality Startech soundcard the sound was complite opposite to my experiences with LG tv. Highs were exaggerated badly. Pioneers were still listenable but I couldn''t listen to takstars more than a minute when listening to stuff like AC/DC.
With low end gear it is highly important to know how your source sounds. Using Takstar's with bright gear might lead to a allmost painfull listening experience. On the other hand pairing Pioneers with a source that lacks upper end might leave you with barely any highs. If you are unaware what kind of source you have, Pioneers are a safer bet. Atleast it is listenable with everything. Choosing headphones based on your gear is even more important if you have no change to use an equalizer!
Moving on to more capable gear...
Xiang Sheng Dac-01a
Both headphones work very well with Dac-01a. This dac/amp emphasizes the different sound signature of these two headphones. Takstar's sound airy and spacious, Pioneers remain smooth. Now that we have proper gear it is clear that Takstar has Pioneers beat in soundstage and imaging. However Takstar's bass becomes slightly boomy, highs can get fatiguing and also sibilance can be an issue with certain tracks. I'm on a fence here and can't really pick a favorite. Depends a lot on the quality of the recording.
Schiit Modi + Lehmann Rhinelander
With 6db gain both headphones sounded extremely good. I don't like the way Rhinelander sounds on low gain. It feels like it boosts the bass and all in all sound is less transparent so I did not try that. I never use it with low gain, on high gain amp is silent even with low impedance headphones.
I preferred Takstar's by some margin. With Rhinelander highs were not fatiguing, allthough a bit hot at times depending on the recording. Takstar's just do everything slightly better than Pioneers. Most notably bass control was better with Takstars. Bass is really fast and accurate without loosing impact. Pioneer's bass was also great but a notch behind.
Schiit Modi + Schiit Vali
I've always been impressed with Vali's soundstaging abilities and Takstar's definately benefitted from it. Also the highs were slightly more smooth than on Lehmann Rhinelander and definately less fatiguing than on xiang sheng. Takstars brightnes is definately a good match for Vali.
Also Pioneers took advantage of Vali's expansive sound but they still can't match Takstars. Pioneers bass did also sound clearly better with Rhinelander. Vali doesn't have same bass control as Lehmann. For some reason it wasn't that much of an issue with Takstars but with Pioneer's it was more evident.
Pioneers are more sensitive and have smaller impedance but to my ears there was no audible difference between the hiss level with vali. There is a slight hiss, but it is definately not a problem. It was bit difficult to compare the level of hiss because I had to wait a while before trying another headphone because of the vali's ringing.
All in all I preferred Takstars with modi+vali.
Hegel HD10 + SPL Phonitor
At this point it's not a even a matter of preference anymore. Going into details is just a waste of time. Takstars outperform Pioneers in every area. Performance with this gear is of course irrelevant. Nobody looking for these headphones for their main can's would not be using this kind of source and amp. Interconnects alone cost more than both of these headphones combined.
When using low end gear Takstar are bit of a hit and miss due to the brightnes. Pioneers are more solid performer. With better gear Takstar's scale up more than Pioneers. When using decen't gear Pioneers top Takstar only in sub bass performance and finding hidden details in music.Ability to find small details, squeeks of a chair, turning the page of a notebook is quite even but sometimes with Takstars you just hear that there was some sort of a noice in the background but Pioneers are better defining what that noise was. Pioneers less emphasised highs might be the cause for this. I think that with Takstar highs there is always so much going on that details sound less defined. Pioneers have the rare talent of being detailed but also forgiving of a bad source.
I know there are many people who disagree with me on this one but I stick by my statement. For those people believing these are revealing of a bad source I suggest comparing these to something generally considered as analytical and revealing. In the past few months I've done a lot of listening with headphones such as Beyerydynamic dt880 600ohms, Beyerdynamic T1 and lately with Audio Technica m40fs. Those kind of headphones are the one's that truly reveal bad sources and source material.
To finally wrap things up my conclusion is that when comfort and soundsignature preferences are put aside, I recommend Takstars, if you have decent gear or plan on getting one soon. If you plan on using your headphones mainly with onboard soundcard of your computer to play low quality mp3's or youtube, Pioneers should be on top of the list.