Pros: very comfortable, incredible isolation, excellent sound quality and sensitivity
Cons: painful with glasses
I recently picked up an X-Series Walkman and wanted to replace my old Sennheiser PX200 'phones that I used to listen to my A-Series Walkman with. A friend lent me his FiiO E11 for a day and I bought one immediately. The difference in the Sennheisers was spectacular but I decided there and then that I would need something a bit better.
After discovering this site and scouring the forums and reviews for a few days, I decided to go out with my player and newly arrived amp, and test some headphones.
As I listen to a vast variety of music, I wasn't sure whether to go with open or closed back cans so I tried the ATH-ES5, the Shure 440, Grado SR-80i, and the Sony MDR-X700.
Test tunes that I used were Money by Pink Floyd, Bad Boy Bass by Gaudi, Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli (off Disney's Fantasia), and some twisted-to-buggery psychedelic trance, all in 16 bit WAV format at 1411kbps.
I hadn't yet discovered the FiiO LOD cable, so was using the 3.5mm jack-to-jack connector to connect the Walkman to the E11. I had no EQ or sound processing turned on.
The Audio Technica ES5 'phones sounded lovely. The only fault I could find with them was the imperfect isolation.
I didn't like the Grados at all. I found them far too harsh in the midrange and, of course, they leak like crazy. Now, I'd read that they leak like crazy but reading it and being able to lip-synch across Tottenham Court Road are two different things...
I didn't get on with the SRH-440 cans at all. They kept feeling like they were sliding off my head, though the pads were dreamy soft and the sound quality was lovely.
Then I came to the Sony headphones.
Audio heaven! The bass was perfect - full-on and punchy when it should be, but never overpowering. The mids are lovely and clear, nice and bright. The highs, again, were just so. Nothing was overpowered, nothing was overpowering. Overall, the phones had a lovely sound and they were the most comfortable of all the ones I'd tried, so I bought them.
Since then, I have given them 24 hours of white noise, and then listened to them every chance I get. As the pair I bought have gradually burnt in, the sound has attained some depth and warmth; they were considerably flatter than the ones in the shop but this was to be expected.
I can't comment on soundstage; it sounds fine to me but since every recording is different, who's to say whether it's big or small? The classical recording has every set of instruments placed in a different spot, and you can even hear the orchestra turning pages. Again, in the Floyd tune, all the instruments are placed individually - I couldn't tell you how far apart though. It sounds like stereo. LOL.
Isolation is superb. I don't need noise-cancelling 'phones on the train - I have a pair of Sony ZX700's. They are driving my wife insane! From outside the office door she can't hear any leakage, and I can't hear her...
The earpads are lovely, so long as you have 20/20 vision or contact lenses. I'm afraid that after a while, with glasses on, glasses have to come off and lenses go in, or eyes get shut. That's the only downside for me, really. I like to read with my tunes on, and I don't always want my lenses in. Ah, well; compromises have to be made, eh?
I have found, as the days pass and I use the cans more and more, I have been using any sound processing on the Walkman less and less. Unless it's a particularly poor recording or low bitrate, I've found the unprocessed sound through the 'phones preferable. The E11 provides plenty of bass and an extra richness to the sound (and more volume if needed), and the Sony kicks out an excellent signal to begin with.
Overall, I am extremely happy with my first "real" audiophile headphones and I've been digging out tunes that I haven't played for years. Get some; you won't be disappointed.