Simply put, these headphones are a tremendous deal. Theyd are available virtually everywhere for $60 or less. Purchased mine for 50 bucks from BH, and they are available online on some websites for just under 40. Some of you may have heard of a headphone called the Superlux 668B or 681. The former especially has recieved some great reviews here on head-fi and some other sites, with quite a few people putting them in the league Sennheiser HD600 and AKG K240. The Samson SR850 are made by Superlux, apparently share drivers with the 668B, and sound very similar.
The SR850 is modelled like an AKG clone, but I couldn't care less about that with sound like this for the price. While I'm not one to like to hype up products against way more expensive products when I barely have experience with those, I can say with full confidence that these headphones easily compete with or even beat headphones much pricier, the likes of the Denon D1100 and perhaps even the venerable ATH-M50.
Packaging, Accessories, and Build: The SR850 come in a nice Carboard box, that's about it. The only thing included in the packaging are the headphones, some papers, and a 1/4" adapter.
The Samson's are imo very well built for their price. They have this dark slightly green coloring about them which isn't particularyl stylish but nowhere near garish either. They just look unassuming. There's nothing too fancy about them, nor any expensive materials, but they make the most of what they use. They feel like they can last me years. They have a long cable as they are meant for monitoring use. I'm guessing about 9 ft.
Fit, Isolation and Leakage: They are very comfortable for me, second only to my Denons, but I have heard they can start to bother people with large heads after a while. Though it doesn't bother me, clamping force can be decreased by setting them over a stack of books or something of the sort overnight. Also, AKG k40 or DT770 pads fit them. Apparently the velour pads from either company will both improve the sound and be alot more comfortable but I haven't tried them.
They are semi-open, so isolation is minimal, though not as bad as truly open headphone; it will still block out some noise. Leakage-wise they paint a mirror image. They leak some, but not as bad as a fully open headphone. Shouldn't be too distracting for others at normal listening levels.
Sound: Time for the juicy stuff. I will be comparing to my Denon D1100, RX700s, Panasonic HJE900(IEM) and vaguely to my memories of the ATH-M50. First some technical specs:
-32 Ohms Impedance
-Frequency Response 10Hz-30kHz
-1/8" inch jack
My source: Diamond Xtreme USB External Sound Card Digital HD7.1 or Rockboxed Sansa Clip+. The Clip+ sounds just slightly better to my ears. All my music files are at the very least 192 kbps MP3s(most 256+), ogg, or FLAC.
They are quite easy to drive and retain quality, my Clip+ providing me with more than enough juice. The will be revealing of poor sources though, and seem to enjoy power although I do not have an amp. My laptop's jack seemed to sound so poor with it compared to the Clip+ that I bought a USB sound card, which helped a lot.
My Samsons have at least 75hrs of playtime on them. They seem to be steadily improving with time. Some say they need 200+ plus hours till they are fully done.
These headphones have a hefty low end that shouldn't leave anybody except real bassheads wanting more(in which case these respond well to EQ). After some burn-in they seem to extend quite linearly all the way down to 20hz, with perhaps a very slight bump in the mid bass. They certainly provide plenty of impact and rumble. Less impact than the Denons and Pannies, about equal to the RX700s. In terms of sub-bass rumble quantity, they only really have less than the Pannies. I can listen to DnB and Dubstep very happily while still sounding just as good with acoustic or classical.
But don't get me wrong, even though I'm comparing to notoriously bass-heavy headphones. I'm comparing the visceral quality of the bass, but it's not nearly as in your face as it is on any of the aforementioned headphones. It doesn't leak into the mids whatsoever, feels very tight and textured. In terms of quality, they are better than the Denon D1100s, which were my previous favorites for quality bass. It's tight, fast, unobtrusive, and very natural sounding. It reminds me most of the M50 from what I can remember. Basica
Very clear, smooth mids, and the best I've heard. They seemed slightly recessed at first, about the same as the D1100, but now they seem well in balance with the rest of the frequency. They may still be slightly recessed, but I have no mid-forward headphones to compare to right now, and I am quite used to mids-recessed headphones. Still, of the ones I have on me, the Samsons are the most forward with their mids, which sound highly transparent and realistic. Vocals are wonderful.
Also the best I have yet to hear, although I've never had any truly treble-oriented phones to compare to, besides the Etyomic MC5 which lost to my Pannies in that area. They are highly detailed, extend well, and are quite transparent. The highs on the Denons (and Pannies, to a lesser extent) feel comparatively messy and uncontrolled. There is absolutely no hint of sibilance or hashness to the treble on the SR850, unless the recording features such qualities prominently, yet it provides me with much more detail than I ever got from any of my other headphones. A bright or bad source might be more abrasive, like through my laptops headphone out, but through the Clip+ and my USB sound card I get no such harshness. From A/Bing, there were quite a few time I heard details I couldn't make out at all with my other headphones, such as the number of "shakes" of a cymbal. I wish I had the M50 to compare, but I don't. However, I remember hearing harshness of the Audio Technica on some brighter tracks which I never got from the Samson's. Keep in mind that I'm young and can hear perfectly fine past 20khz(although I've never been bothered by harsh highs).
One of the best things about these. Being semi-open, they have a very airy, transparent soundstage. It's the largest of any of the headphones I've mentioned though I suspect not tremendously large compared to other open headphones. Nevertheless, they have great depth and height to go along with the width. It seems balanced spatially. Not too intimate, not too distant.
Imaging and positioning are wonderful, with me being able to detect with precision where each sound is coming from. They work very well for gaming; I was playing a Counter Strike: Source Deathmatch and the spatial cues were very helpful for accurate localization of the enemy.
The cleanliness of the soundstage made me realize some orchestral tracks I previously thought were badly recorded were in fact quite good and simply needed a better headphone to demonstrate them. Wheras they sounded congested, muddy and thick with other headphones, with the SR850s they transparent and realistic.
In my opinion, the Samson SR850 is the best headphone I've ever owned or have had extensive listening time with, while also being the second cheapest of these. The powerful yet tightly realistic bass, the smooth and transparent mids, and the pristinely detailed highs come together beautifully in a sound signature that is just slightly to the fun side of neutral. They work excellently for any genre I've been able to throw at them, and believe me, I listen to just about any genre you can imagine.
I have long championed the JVC RX700 as one of the the best headphones you can buy for under $100 dollars. I have to take that statement back, and assign it to the Samsons(or perhaps Superux HD668B). Heck, these might be the best you can buy under 200. They beat the Denon's I bought discounted at $130, and I'm quite sure they can at the very least take on the sub-$200 champ, the ATH-M50, if my memory serves me right. And yet they only cost $50 dollars. Because of their price and construction, you don't have to worry about breaking them and they are very mod-friendly(check the rockgrotto forums).
If you don't mind semi-open, large headphones, and are looking for a balanced frequency response, I cannot think of anything better you can get under $200 dollars. The quality of the entire frequency range, as well the musical coherence and transparency of the overall presentation are to be lauded.
Edited by Napilopez - 4/22/11 at 11:09pm