or Connect
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Pioneer SE-L40 Review [Update added 1/13/10]
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Pioneer SE-L40 Review [Update added 1/13/10]

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
Being a fan of art, music and headphones, I decided to see if I could find a decent condition pair of SE-L40s for a reasonable price... At the same time I was looking, I saw two pairs go for $250 USD on eBay (on which I commented to myself "F*** that noise!") but upon doing random searches on my off time, I stumbled across a pair for $50 in great condition and a so-so condition box. End prologue.

Upon receiving them this evening, with intents of just displaying them as art, I decided to give a listen to them just for laughs... Well, for one, I don't think my little Travagan's Red could drive them for crap as I had to crank the volume to something that would be ear shattering off my K601s and something surprised me; they really aren't terrible sounding headphones! Even while being apparently underpowered, the instrument separation was definitely more noticeable than my K601s, SRH840s or DT770s and in a good way. They definitely aren't better than any of the headphones I have, but I can't give a full impression until my EF5 arrives which should be able to dish out more than enough power to give them what they need.

The mids were closer to my DT770s than any of my other headphones, good but not amazing and not necessarily life-like. Highs were present and rolled off but bass was more than present giving quite a surprising punch whereas I expected the opposite between the highs and bass.

Construction is of course impressive given the metal frame, interesting metal cup and open design (adjustable), fabric pads and exquisite redish brown leather headband (adjustable).

This is definitely a piece of art from Pioneer, but I'm extremely curious how they'll sound off something that can give them the right level of power -- Shame I can't hook up any of my old receivers right now!


To be continued...
Evan

Photograph (from Google):
post #2 of 24
Thread Starter 
Reserved for impressions upon receiving the EF5 and/or hooking up my old receivers.


Update 01/13/10:

After spending almost a month with my HE-5 and two weeks or so with my EF5, I've become more accustomed to their signature and hear a vast difference while comparing them to my old favorite, the K601s and my other 'phones as well. Given this, I decided once again to try my SE-L40s, this time with the HiFiMan EF5 Hybrid amp.

Initially, similarly with my K601s, the sound difference was very obvious and once again, surprising how these little guys that were once sold for an MSRP of $40 back in the 70s, and recently purchased for $50, stack up against these highly regarded modern headphones. Overall, they're clearly not better all rounders, but boy, that instrument separation still just slaps me in the face. Clarity is much better than I remember it being (initially found that it was slightly muffled) and now seems to have gotten brighter, but keep in mind the initial impressions were done out of a Travagan's Red w/ AD743 opamps; a powerful little guy, but not quite enough for the HE-5s or the SE-L40s apparently. Detail is another impressive factor I've found, albeit not as detailed as the HE-5s, but much more so than my K601 and I'd say on par with the SRH-840s.

I've never had a chance to listen to Grados before, but from the reviews, I would say this almost lines up with their sound signature give then forward mids, mild brightness and light-weight bass. Given that they sound notably better on my EF5 than my Travagan's, I'd recommend going the tube or hybrid route if giving these fellas a listen.

Summary:

Lows: Light in the bottom end, mid-bass is well pronounced with the rest of the mids and shares their detail.

Mids: Warm, romantic, detailed but mildly forgiving (great combination for Sinatra and other jazz).

Highs: Bright, but not shrill.

Overall: Both fun to listen to and beautiful to look at it, you can't go wrong if you're looking for something new and find a pair under $100-- If over $100, I'd hope you're a big fan of vintage headphones, warm & romantic jazz and/or bass light blues. These do not fair too well with sterile and cold music.

I hope this has been helpful to anyone considering picking up these beauties!

- Evan
post #3 of 24
You my friend, are awesome!! I've been thinking about picking these up after reading a vintage headphone thread and thought they looked amazing. Looked everywhere and could not find a single person commenting on them, I honestly think you are the first to review them (the second result on google when searching them).

Thanks, I'm totally going to pick these up now, if only to wear them proudly :P
post #4 of 24
Thanks for the review. Added it to my try list.
post #5 of 24
Nice write up, I enjoyed the read.
post #6 of 24
Good to know there are some retro looking headphones out there that sound great too. I got a pair of Koss Pro4aa's for the looks and wasn't as lucky with the sound...
post #7 of 24
I have seen a old headphone with a pretty corroded cable. Wonder what the condition of a headphone that old is like?
post #8 of 24
Definitely true about the corroded cable. I sliced the cable to my SE-500 to reterminate it, and the copper was green and the enamel coating it was slimy and could be easily rubbed off.

Anyways, I've seen the SE-L40 go for ~$50 several times, I'm really looking forward to your impressions! I'm a big fan of vintage pioneers (if not just for their aesthetic appeal).
post #9 of 24
Nice to see some pioneer reviews here, i was recently looking at some of their products and their headphones intrigued me, however, there were no proper reviews/impressions of them. Even though this review does not satisfy my need, its still a thumbs up from me!
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 
I know these cans definitely have some form of potential I can't get at right now, but before people go hunting down a pair, I want to make clear that off the bat they are not better than any of the cans I have already. For the price though, they are beautiful looking and definitely an interesting listen (very unique signature from the rest of my headphones).

I listened to them for a few hours this morning and I must say they compliment the recording imperfections of music from Sinatra and old blues music quite well. If anything, I'd describe their sound as warm and very forgiving.

There has been some movement on my EF5, so I hopefully be able to provide some better driven notes around this time next week.

EDIT: Jageur; I'm definitely not overlooking the fact that they could have corroded cables or drivers, but the headphone itself seems in excellent and un-used condition (Pioneer's factory cable tie is still on) so my hopes are high for this being a corrosion free review.
post #11 of 24
nice- love the vintage pioneer
post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 
Added an update to the reserved slot.
post #13 of 24
I also was lured by damn good looks and picked up a pair off ebay for $35. My initial impression was...yuck! The highs were rolled off, and the midrange was like the shag carpet this vintage feels at home curled up on. Then I removed the earpads (more like pillows) and the sound really opened up. They still sound velvety, but the highs now receive the most improved award. Ah...a DIY project--I bought some special foam that I'll use to make some custom pads...
post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by bcjohnst View Post
I also was lured by damn good looks and picked up a pair off ebay for $35. My initial impression was...yuck! The highs were rolled off, and the midrange was like the shag carpet this vintage feels at home curled up on. Then I removed the earpads (more like pillows) and the sound really opened up. They still sound velvety, but the highs now receive the most improved award. Ah...a DIY project--I bought some special foam that I'll use to make some custom pads...
Make sure you give them a try on a powerful amp. Off my Travagan's Red, I wasn't too impressed-- I felt they had a very unique sound to them and, indeed, there was quite a muffled tone to them which I originally dumped on the pads or driver corrosion.

After I got my EF5, it was like a slap-in-the-face difference; the SE-L40s went from a beautiful looking headphone with an interesting sound signature to a beautiful looking headphone with a rather attractive and interesting sound signature. The differences I heard between the two were on par with the jump in performance from my HE-5 / Travagan's combo to my HE-5 / EF5 combo.

I'm quite interested to see what becomes of the sound with a change in pads as I could imagine removing the pillows would drastically change the sound like that given their cushy thickness. Please let me know what you discover!
post #15 of 24
Nice to read about Pioneers from the olden days. For some reason Pioneers don't seem to be very loved on Head-Fi while there are good Pioneer headphones. I prefer closed headphones otherwise I would have Pioneer SE-series since you can find them awfully cheap.

Thank you...
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Pioneer SE-L40 Review [Update added 1/13/10]