Pros: powerful, engaging bass, beautiful vocals and guitars, excellent soundstaging
Cons: bass can be slgihtly sluggish at times, mids may seem slightly recessed
This is a review of the Superlux hd 681 Evo, Version II. It is my first review on Head-Fi, so bear with me. The particular Evo under review here has roughly 40 hrs of burn-in time on it and you should be aware that many knowledgeable Evo users feel the proper burn-in time for these cans is more in the 150-220 hrs range, so keep that in mind when reading this review. The Version II is the newer of the Evo's and comes with an extra set of velour pads and two lengths of cable--one about right for portable players and the other, much longer one, for home use. There is a bag for the cans that seems rather smallish for the very ample HP of their intended joinder. Mine came from amazon and were well packed in a nice box with proper packing materials. I have no complaints with any of the packaging or shipping--they came in three days.
The Evo are a semi-open headphone. This means you can hear the outside world, and the outside world can hear your music--when loud enough. The Evo's bear a striking resemblance to the AKG k240 cosmetically, if not from a listening point of view. The cable plugs into a short length thereof on the right (or left, depending on how you wear them) cup (male). The band is easily adjustable. Construction seems adequate for a can in this price range. They are neither tanks nor pieces of garbage. Somewhere in between the two, I would say. The primary material used seems to be some sort of plastic. The short cable is very nice for those of us who use portable players a lot or primarily. That said, having both lengths is also very nice.
In some thirty-plus hours of listening, I have found the Evo to be plenty comfortable--more so now than when I first got them. Clamp pressure is fairly high on my smallish head and will be more on a larger one. There are several ways to deal with this, including using a box or pillows to reduce the tension (and opening the HP around this).. There are several other ways to reduce clamp pressure also in the forum on the Evo. I won't belabor them here. I would say that some people have found the velour pads more comfy, but I am not bothered by the pleather ones. Cup size is adequate for my ears, which don't hurt after hours of listening. I have had zero sweat issues either.
My first impression on putting on the Evo's initially was "Gosh--these sound pretty darn good." On VH's Judgment Day, EVH's guitar tracks sounded biting and rich at the same time. Still, the whole picture, all brought together, was somewhat muddy and muddled. Sammie's voice had little life to it and the bass was bloated. So, knowing about the burn-in recommendations for the Evo, I set it down and played random continuous rock/country/edm/jazz/bluegrass for about twenty-eight more hours. Then, I listened again. OMG--what a difference! Judgment Day this time had richer, fatter guitars, a snappy snare drum from Alex, and exhilarating vocals from Sammie. Onward. Pat Metheny's First Circle was a tour de force, with crisp, gorgeous vocals with multiple layers of richness and beauty, and just the right amount of bite. The acoustic guitar had punch and attack and clarity. The piano fills the track with percussive loveliness and sonorous layers. The bass is thick and rich, but not excessively so. There is harmonic detail in it. The soundstage is huge, with instruments placed in individual points in space and, at times, layered over one another. Detail retrieval is very good. When compared to my Sennheiser HD 202's, these Evo's are in another league. There is greater detail, a much better soundstage, and way more information delivered. The 202 is excellent for the money, but the Sennheiser veiling is quite prominent in it and listening to the Evo, I am more aware of this congested veiling because it is so absent in the Evo. It has a whole other level of stuff going on. Cymbals sound like cymbals. Drums, like drums. Compared to the Crossfade m100, the Evo has slightly tighter bass, a more detailed midrange, and, to me, about equivalent treble. That's just me--others may feel differently. Lastly, I would say that the two areas I wish the Evo did better in are dynamics (I listen to a lot of jazz and classical and the Evo could do better with dynamics, IMHO) and detail. This (relative to the absolute) reduction in detail can lead mids to seem slightly recessed at times. Compared to my Avalon Eclipses and Magnepans, there is no comparison in the amount of detail delivered. Still, for the money, they are remarkable. Just remarkable.
Summing up, the Superlux hd 681 Evo, Version II is a very good headphone and a terrific value. Do they compete with the best in the $500-$1000 range? Of course not. But they certainly do compete with many cans in the hundred dollar range (my v-moda were many times as expensive and I actually prefer the Superlux!). They are very enjoyable to listen to music on. That's all there is to it. Order a pair--you won't be disappointed.