It's been a while since Yamaha has come and gone in the consumer headphone market, but with every man and dog now having their own in-ear range, Yamaha has followed suit and released its own 3 tiered line-up with the EPH-20/30 /50. The EPH-50 looked at here is considered to be the flagship model of the range although at a price range of $79-$99, they are quite reasonably priced. The following are my impressions of them:
I've never liked blister packaging and I never will, and while it is neatly presented and convenient to stock on shelves, it took me over 15 minutes to pry open the plastic to get to the contents most of the time spent thinking if I've accidentally cut the cables within or watching my own fingers. Not to mention very un-environmentally friendly...
Overall, the contents of the packaging is nothing surprising. You get the earphones, 3 different sized silicon eartips (medium ones fitted onto the earphones) and a 1/4" adapter for use with amplifiers which I'm sure Yamaha wants you to use with their amplifiers.
Design and Build quality (4/5)
Despite the plastic build, the earphones are quite well constructed, with matte black driver housing and nozzle, and silver outer housing where the strain relief and cabling connected to. The cable itself terminates at an insubstantial L-plug. The design isn't anything groundbreaking or left-field (in fact quite similar to the Sony MDR-EX85) but it is quite a classy looking IMHO.
One notable feature it has is a cable cinch which is combined with a socket for the 3.5mm plug. Yamaha calls it the "smart cable holder" and the idea is to stop the cables from tangling. It might sound gimmicky but it does come in handy, if anything to protect the plug when travelling.
Comfort and Isolation (3.5/5 and 3/5)
The way the earphones is designed is such that the driver housing sits in the bowl of your ear (like an earbud-type 'phone) while the nozzle extends and delivers sound into your ear canal. While I don't have any issues with fit, others may not be so lucky. If they do fit though, they are quite comfortable to wear, being quite light and reasonably compact.
Isolation is rather average as the nozzle doesn't do all the way into the ear-canal (which is not necessarily a bad thing). Also. the standard eartips are too soft to offer any form of good isolation so it might be worthwhile to swap them over.
Average width with better depth. Layers are better represented than positioning. Sound doesn't extend very far beyond the headspace, but there is enough air to make it not sound like you're in a soundproof room.
Sound Quality (Updated) (6.9/10)
Overall: Other reviewers have found the EPH-50s to be suited mainly for bassheads. While I can see why they say that I personally don't quite agree. The bass is evident but listening to it for long enough you do appreciate the way it approaches "balance". Likewise both midrange and treble can hold its own without being overwhelmed. It has to be said though, the sound is somewhat artificial and cold most evident in the treble. Depending on the type of music, it can be somewhat fatiguing to listen to. The sound signature resembles that of its range of amplifiers which I have always felt lacked that natural sound.
Treble: Good detail and clarity only marred by occasional harshness and over brightness. Lacks sparkle and extension (although that could just be my hearing slowly going XD). (6.75/10)
Mid-range: Vocals are very very slightly forward but is well complimented by the rest of the range. Otherwise, good presence, clear most of the time and is quite detailed as well. (7/10)
Bass: There is no doubt that there is a decent amount bass with good impact, control and extension, but at no point does it overwhelm the midrange and certainly not the treble. Speed and is average likewise is how tight it is. (7/10)
It is neither the best in the price range, nor the worst. The sound it produces is competent though like I mentioned before not only to the bassheads. Classical music is one area which I think it does very well, where as the likes of jazz can suffer the harshness in the treble. At the end of the day, what the EPH-50 represents here IMO is a solid offering in the mid-range, nothing more, nothing less.