Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › 7 closed headphones vs Dynaudio BM15 monitors (SRH840, ATH-M50, ATH-A900, RH-300, Q40, HFI-680, Pro DJ100 etc.)
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

7 closed headphones vs Dynaudio BM15 monitors (SRH840, ATH-M50, ATH-A900, RH-300, Q40, HFI-680,...

post #1 of 35
Thread Starter 

 

Hi everyone,

 

Here’s my first attempt to write about headphones that I have purchased for my personal evaluation purposes.

It is not the first time I am comparing headphones, but on previous occasions I kept my findings to myself.

While I am not a frequent visitor of Head-Fi, I do come here and find some valuable information from time to time,

so this is in a way my payback to the fine people of this headphone community.

 

I am more than happy to admit that these are my personal views and your mileage may vary :)

 

The contenders:

 

 

Shure SRH840

M-Audio Studiophile Q40

Audio-Technica ATH-M50

Audio-Technica ATH-A900

Ultrasone HFI-680

Koss Pro DJ 100

Roland RH-300

 

And some others! (please read on)

 

Some pictures:

 

P1140849.JPG

 

 

Beyerdynamic DT231 Koss ProDJ100

 

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 Roland RH-300

 

Shure SRH840 M-Audio Studiophile Q40

 

Ultrasone HFI680 Audio-Technica ATH-A900

 

Dynaudio BM15 passive Ray Juodas

 

Some background of myself: I have been interested in headphones and their sound signatures for about 5 years now, mainly because I want to find the perfect headphone for myself and my wife (they are probably going to be different models, from what we have established so far, comparing our tastes on several contenders). We both are musicians and used to be in a proper rock/metal band called Shadowdances. Now, as we have moved from our home country, we’re still writing music and recording, but not playing live anymore. I’m really interested in audio engineering stuff, so now our band has turned into our hobby. A virtual band, so to speak J. We’re still very serious about our music though, and are writing / recording our new album, which we’re hoping to release sometime next year.

 

 

Headphones previously owned:

 

Alessandro M1 (the tuned version of Grado SR60 (or SR80?)

Sennheiser HD595

Beyerdynamic DT150

Beyerdynamic DT250 (both 250 and 80 ohm versions)

Sennheiser HD600

Audio-Technica ATH-A900

 

Some personal views / positions:

 

I don’t believe in burn-ins of headphones (or other audio components, for that matter). I consider them to be invoked either by psychological factors (i.e. gradually getting used to particular model’s sound signature) or by the wear of the headphones’ ear pads (this one I am sure about 100%, at least on one headphone model (featured in this comparison), which I had pleasure to compare side by side at one point – more on that later).

 

There’s a nice video on the burn-in topic by Dave Rat on youtube, which you can find here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yeAquRyJiw. Also check his headphones’ shoot-out. In his other video series he compared lots of closed models in studio engineer’s kind of way (from a purely technical perspective, no sentimental stuff involved there), which I don’t agree completely with personally, and the explanation for my disagreement with him you’ll deduct from my comparison, hopefully (specifically, in the part dedicated to the Ultrasone HFI-680).

 

My headphone of choice as of now (around 2 years, I guess) is Audio-Technica ATH-M50, which, although I find being not without flaws, generally offers a well rounded representation of music, equally well suited for music enjoyment and for critical listening / mixing or monitoring and recording. But it has its flaws, like all other headphones.

 

This is not going to be a complete comparison / review, as I’m not intending to describe the headphones’ construction, plastic or how they look - I am not a headphone fetishist! The only point that interests me is sound. Maybe I’ll comment on comfort here and there and maybe, just maybe – on some awkward bits of construction, that might get in the way of listening to music.

 

Ok, let me start this madness.

 

Audio-Technica ATH-M50 (vs Beyerdynamic DT150 and Sennheiser HD595)

 

As I wrote before, I find it a good well rounded headphone, suited equally well for listening to music and for more precise work like critical listening and overdubbing / recording. This has been my headphone of choice for almost two years, and, while I have not found a better alternative yet (I might just have, actually, and I’ll elaborate on that in a minute, with my second contender), I understand that this is a subjective position, because I compare all the headphones to my mixing monitors Dynaudio BM15 (the passive model), which I consider to be a really revealing, yet natural and warm sounding monitor. So in this regard ATH-M50 is really similar, and the sound signature is very BM15-ish, I find. There’s warmth, there’s a good soundstage (for a closed can), there’s good amount of details, and there is BASS that doesn’t get in the way of other frequencies too much (BM15 are not bass heavy, so in this regard they are similar to M50 only when I listen to them along with a subwoofer). I was quite excited when I got Beyerdynamic DT150 (sorry, I know these headphones are not featured in this review on their own, but this is a good chance to declare my position about them – as many consider them to be the ultimate headphones, and their sound signature is very nice one indeed – there’s a lot to like, and this excited me enormously on the first listen!). They have similar amount of bass (maybe it's even more extended on the DT150) to the ATH-M50, the bass extension is unbelievable on them! There is a authoritative slam that gets you excited easily, there’s also more pronounced but thin sounding (almost weightless) highs, which are a bit too bright for my taste - I find them unnatural and too pronounced to consider any mix decisions with these phones, but the general first impression was a very positive one, I almost considered them as keepers.

 

Until…

 

…and now it is a good time to introduce the music I evaluate headphones on:

I am a rock guy, I play rock, I know how rock sounds, I listen to rock mainly (although I love many other music styles and bands, including Dead Can Dance, Cocteau Twins, various movie soundtracks and a lot of other stuff as well). I consider myself open minded when it comes to music, and the only criterion that makes me want to listen to music: it has to move me on emotional level. So this is probably why it is natural to me to evaluate headphones with the music and albums that I consider to be the benchmarks of rock recordings, that I have listened to 100s of times and that I know very well. Some of these are:

 

Deftones “White Pony”

Vast “Visual Audio Sensory Theater”

Machinehead “The Burning Red”

Dave Matthews Band “Everyday”

Tears For Fears “Raoul and The Kings of Spain”

Jeff Buckley “Grace”

Guillemots “Through The Windowpane”

 

So, going back to DT150, soon my elation was spoiled with me noticing how bass gets in the way of guitars. You don’t hear guitars how you’re supposed to hear them (this is confirmed by other headphones and my BM15 monitors: even with my subwoofer on Deftones or Machinehead’s guitars don’t sound so bassy!) Listening to DT150 it is very clear how bass overshadows mids. That’s why I got rid of them quickly afterwards. It is just not right. The highs on these headphones in a long run would probably have caused me to start disliking them as well, or maybe I would begin to appreciate this other sparkly perspective they offer (only time would’ve told that), but this bass intrusion thing ruined it completely for me.

Going back to ATH-M50, I moved to them from Sennheiser HD595 (which I also will elaborate on in short, if you don’t mind, mainly on their weak points that encouraged me to search for another headphone), and at first I noticed a clear lack of middle frequencies on M50, compared to HD595. I was so disappointed! They just vanished, it seemed, and I enjoyed the M50 otherwise so much! How did I end up keeping them, you’ll ask? Well, here’s the thing: after carefully comparing them side by side between themselves and to my BM15, I came to a conclusion that this thing with recessed mids, in my opinion, has to be viewed the other way around: that it is not M50 that have recessed mids, it is HD595 that have over-emphasized mids! Well, M50, compared to BM15, perhaps are a bit shy on mids, just perhaps, and only a tiny amount, while HD595 clearly have over-pronounced middle frequency range. Buttery, lush and really enjoyable, but not representing the true sound. So, which one did I decide to keep, after this conclusion? The M50, since it is more suited to my purposes. And although I miss HD595 dearly, I still know that I have made the right choice, because I need headphones that show me what was intended by mixing engineers and producers to be heard, and the M50 don’t color sound as much as HD595  (albeit in a very pleasing way!) do. Other shortcomings of HD595 that have been haunting me for quite a long time: the so called Sennheiser’s “veil”, that is, high frequencies seem to be not clear enough. And this is a bit of a mystery to me, because Sennheiser clearly doesn’t lack in this department – music is very airy, all the S’s are there, it seems. Then I have found that hihats simply disappear on some recordings with these headphones (Machinehead’s “The Burning Red” is a good example). This only proves that, while HD595 generally do not suffer from lack of high frequency content (some even consider them to be too bright!), a narrow band of frequencies (somewhere between 7 and 9 khz) is sharply cut, which masks vital HF details in some recordings. Anyway, these were my findings.   

 

Roland RH-300

 

Now let’s move on to the next contestant: Roland RH-300. I only have found out about it a few months ago, by a coincidence, as there is very little information about them on the internet, even here, on Head-Fi. These seem to use Audio-Technica ATH-M50’s design and drivers, as the construction is almost identical to ATH-M50, with the exception of some color differences and minor cosmetic details and the decision by Roland to use a headband from another AT’s model – namely ATH-M30! And, oh yeah, the wires are not hidden in the headband but rather left exposed on the Roland. So, I have found out there is such a model and I stumbled across some review with a frequency graph of these headphones. Now, I know FG have to be taken with a grain of salt, as they not necessarily represent the true frequency response you will hear, but, needless to say, this flat freq. graph intrigued me a lot. You can find this same graph in some other posts about RH-300 in my other fellow head-fi’ers posts, like here: http://www.head-fi.org/t/533917/roland-rh-300-vs-ath-m50-vs-hd-25-vs-other-80-180-closed-headphones

So, as I said, I was hooked on listening to these headphones asap. And, joy of all joys, I have found a pair of used RH-300 on eBay the next day, and bought them for less than 50 pounds! This luck can only be attributed to the fact that information about these headphones is so scarce or rather non-existant yet!

My impressions? They are mixed, to say the least! On the one hand - I love them. On the other – the highs are a bit subdued, and I love highs on the ATH-M50! Plus there is the pads issue. You have to pay 25 quid for the new ones (I got a response from American Roland that the pads are not available at all, they suggested me to try pads of other manufacturers! I’m still in shock after this response! How can a respectable company even consider such a suggestion for a headphone model costing 160 pounds! What-a-shame! But then British Roland was kind enough to contact Japanese Roland and found out that I can order from them through UK’s Roland, although the price is too high, considering that I can still use them for a year or so, after the turn to stone completely (the trait ATH-M50’s ear pads are famous for - they tend to get harder in time) or fall to pieces). For those of you who are now thinking that I am an idiot and that I just have to order ATH-M50’s pads instead, since these headphones are identical, the answer is NOT QUITE, as the pads on the Roland are shallower and a bit smaller than those on the M50, and this will definitely contribute to the sound (as more minute differences make quite drastic changes, as I have found comparing ATH-M50s between themselves a few months ago (with new vs old pads). I had 3 pairs of ATH-M50 at that point, two new ones (straight cable) and one old pair (curly cable) with worn pads (hardened ones). Apart from minute differences of models themselves (that you can hear but that are not significant enough to put one over the other), upon switching between pads (new versus old, switching them between all the models) I discovered that there is a very discernible trend: new pads tend to emphasize high and high mid frequencies a little and make the sound of M50 more “rubbery” compared to the ones with old pads on, which, to my ears, sound more natural and more BM15-like (I will always return to BM15, forgive me for that, this is just a good benchmark point to me while comparing headphones)). So, switching to M50’s pads would be a mistake and would change RH-300’s sound. I’ve experimented with RH-300, switched the pads around again (RH-300 vs M50 old ones vs M50 new ones (still have a new model left from previous purchase)), and the original pads still sound best on this headphone.

And the most obvious thing that makes RH-300 different from M50: they have more mids. RH-300 definitely have more lower mids than ATH-M50, and you can clearly hear the fuller guitars on both Deftones' “White Pony” and Machinehead’s “The Burning Red”. They sound warmer, which suggests there’s either a tilt further down the spectrum, that is, somewhere in the 500 hz region, perhaps, or maybe they filled in and levelled “a hole” the M50 have in their freq. curve – I’m not sure. The fact is, they sound even more like BM15, which I like :). Other than that there is not much to note, to my ears. The bass is the same, maybe not so pronounced because of the fuller mids, which is good. Generally I like this headphone very much, apart from the aforementioned deficiency of HF, compared to M50, but, as I noted, it might be because of the pads themselves: they are a bit smaller and shallower, so maybe that’s why you hear more mids, and the highs are less pronounced.

 

Shure SRH840

 

Now let’s move on to the Shures. They are seen as the main ATH-M50’s rival by many, even my wife said she liked them very much and will probably keep them. But I don’t like them too much, for the same (probably very subjective) reason: they are a BIG deviation from my Dynaudio BM15. Shures have VERY pronounced mids, which make all music sound mid-centric and compressed. When you listen to Shures after BM15 or M50, it’s as if someone cut your equalizer drastically at 500 hz and added a broad lift at 3-5 khz to the mix, feeling really generous on that day! I would think in this regard they probably remind the famous Yamaha NS10 monitors (I haven’t heard them myself, but from what I have read I know they have overblown mids, which makes them sound "papery". Now, I might be wrong here, and these two might sound completely different, depending on which part of the frequency spectrum (mids) is exaggerated on them). This presentation just feels unnatural and wrong to me. It may be up to your preference, if you use them for picking the details of the mix or looking for clicks and don't mind the awkward frequency presentation (as I said, my wife enjoyed the Shures, and it’s all fine if we’re talking about listening to music): you’ll get a supposedly “cleaner” sound with lots of details, you’ll enjoy the vocals (clean and airy) or anything in the high middle frequencies, but when it comes to checking the balance of the mix on these headphones, I would shy away from them, because if I mix or EQ on them and try to make things sound “normal” (or “natural”), then afterwards when I listen to my mix on any other systems, the mids that is prevalent on the SRH840 will disappear, and the music will sound unclear, undefined and not exciting. So it’s a “no no” for me, I’m afraid.

I know there's a lot of debates going on regarding SRH840's bass. Some say it's not there, the others say there's more than enough. I'd be in the latter camp, I guess. Although they clearly don't reach as low (bottom octave is simply not there) nor are as pronounced in bass department as M50, RH-300, Q40 or HFI-680, it's more than enough to enjoy music (at least for me) without feeling that something is missing. You only lose the lowest sub-bass region, which is generally not found in music (there are exceptions like double-basses and organs, of course, as well as some electronic stuff). For me personally much bigger concern is the aforementioned "mid-centric disco-curve", as I call it, of these headphones, with the big dip around 500 hz and the generous tilts in 100 hz and 3-5 khz regions.  

 

M-Audio Studiophile Q40

 

I anticipated these babies. I read lots and lots of reviews. Not only praising ones, but also quite a few warnings of disappointed users about apparent quality problems on the Q40 (weak cable, weak wiring on the headphones themselves, because of which one of the drivers tends to stop working after a while). And it’s not an exaggeration: the wiring on them (at least the exposed driver cables going into the headband) is ridiculously thin, and because of the construction lay-out it might get stuck under the “forks” holding the drivers, and accidentally get torn. Hell, you can tear them accidentally while taking them off your head, it almost seems. Anyway, I made up my mind and was ready to change the cable, rewire them, if need be, because I was hooked on the great reviews these headphones got. The ear pads are also very thin, by the way! And the way they are packed inside the box they are prone to get damaged. My new pair had an almost-torn ear pad because of the way it was crammed inside the box. There’s no tear, but the pad in one spot is stretched and uneven, on the brink of being torn, because it was resting against some other part of headphones inside the box. Nothing to write home about, but I’m disappointed that there’s this weak point of the construction / packing that probably might have been easily avoided with more careful considerations on the part of M-Audio crew.

Then I tried them out…

 

Wow.

 

I liked them.

I like them a lot.

 

They sounded so authoritative, full-bodied, and so comfortable. “Well, maybe bass is a little overpowering, but I can live with that,” I thought, because everything else seemed to be so nicely balanced. It excited me very much. I was almost in heaven. I was convinced I am keeping them. I could hear they don’t sound 100% accurate straight away… They have an overpowering bass (as I mentioned), which makes every piece of music sound massive and bassy, but the mids are strong as well, so it’s not like you’re listening to bass only (although on some recordings there is this sense, when you’re thinking “wait a minute, why am I listening to the bass line and not to the music?!”, because it grabs your attention straight away), and only the highs could be a tad more prominent, to counter-balance the weight you get from the mids and the bass. It’s there, there really is nothing wrong with them, they are just too subdued for my taste, and are a bit overshadowed by mids (the mids on Q40s are very powerful and not as “sharp” and “shouty” as they are on the Shure SRH840. Compared to Dynaudio BM15 monitors, instead of 3-5 khz (Shure’s case), these have a wide-band tilt at around 2 khz, the same cut around 500 hz, plus a generous bump at around 60-100 hz. But I can live with that, I thought, I can keep them as a second headphone just for listening pleasure and maybe even as a reference headphone that will help me judge my mixes from a different perspective.

 

And then I decided to sell them…

 

Not because of their construction.

 

Not because of their sound signature (maybe partly – the bass is still too strong, IMO, but it might depend on the music you’re listening to).

 

Actually, it is because of the way they reproduce music and because of the amount of detail you get, or rather, ehm, you don’t get. After a few longer sessions I started to notice that sound you get with Q40 is just as “crammed” as these headphones are inside their box when you get them (although in both cases there seems to be ample space to accommodate both the headphones inside the box and the proper sound inside the 40 mm drivers. It just feels crowded. And on top of that it seems like you’re listening to music through an overdriven analog compressor or a tube simulator. I’m not sure whether the bass or the mids plays the major role in this – probably both (especially 2 khz, that is prominent on these headphones, holds a lot of details from all the instruments you can think of, the attack as well as distinction. That is probably why you get a sensation of instruments coming from all over the place, fighting for your attention, rendering the soundstage almost completely flat . When you hear one instrument at a time, it’s really good (probably better than M50), you get a real sense of where the instrument is, but when you hear the whole palette of sounds, it is just overpowering and loud, and it’s everywhere. Every instrument is fighting for that 2 khz, trying to get your attention, and that just kills it for me. It drowns out certain parts of the mix. A good example is a song called “What you are” by Dave Matthews Band from their “Everyday” album. Sadly, I could not find it on youtube for your quick reference, but if you have this CD or if you can download it, listen to it from 2’57” (the lyrics go: “What you are, Is the beast in a lover's arms, What you are, Is the devil in the sweet, sweet kiss, What you are, Is missing a piece, What you are, Is a puzzle to me”). On every other sound source that I have listened to it Dave Matthew’s vocals (the underlined parts) have this nice hall reverb effect, which is very prominent, and you hear it right away. On Q40 it is drowned out by everything else – guitars, bass etc. and you don’t get a clear sensation of this hall effect. The voice itself is barely there, it seems, under the layers of other sounds. In a word - these headphones are over-hyped to a point where you start to lose details of the mixes on them. This has put the last nail in the Q40’s coffin, unfortunately (or maybe fortunately for me, as I won’t be dealing with the quality part (or lack thereof) of these headphones later on!), because I don’t want to listen to a component that, due to its inconsistencies or inadequacies, skews music to a point where you lose important parts of mix’s details. And this experience only proves how untrue and unreliable our first impressions can be. I'm probably exaggerating a bit here and being a bit too harsh criticizing them, as on their own they sound amazing, actually: the sound is powerful and full. But the purpose of this review is to compare headphones to high end studio monitors, and this was the impression I got. For music listening alone I would probably recommend them over Shure SRH840 and maybe even ATH-M50, depending on your preferences.  

 

Ultrasone HFI-680

 

Now, I wanted to listen to this one for quite some time. I knew Ultrasones are famous for their bass, as well as their brightness, and this is the first Ultrasone I have ever tried. The other aspect that fueled my interest is its S-Logic technology that supposedly makes the sound appear as coming from in front of you and not sounding “in your head”. I have no problem with music sounding "in my head" when I listen to it with headphones, and I don’t have a problem with S-Logic, either. In this regard I found the headphone to be excellent for music listening.

 

But…

 

I have a huge problem with piercing, overpowering, nails-in-your head highs of this headphone (and I’ve read it’s even more prominent on other Ultrasone models! Correct me if I'm wrong). I am not a masochist and I don’t enjoy mixing pleasure with pain, that is, listening to music and suffering this abuse on my ear drums! I’ve tried looking into the differences with Dynaudio BM15 once again, just for curiosity’s sake, and no matter how much I’ve tried cutting 10 khz (this is where the most of HFI-680’s painful HF energy resides), it was not enough to cut it to an acceptable level (for my taste, I should add). There’s also quite a prominent cut in the aforementioned 500 hz region on HFI-680, probably to make it sound more tight and clean, which it does, and which is not necessarily preferred by everyone (including me), as it purposely (this is an assumption) hides certain amount of frequency range. Apart from these things (even suppressing the painful high frequency domination would be enough (nevermind the 500 hz deficiency), as this is the only true and real drawback of this headphone, rendering it completely unusable for my purpose and preferences), I’m sure I would enjoy this headphone immensely, sound wise (clear, although a bit too thin sounding mids, well extended tight bass) as well as aesthetically. I should also add that, after listening to this headphone, as well as the shures and the m-audios, both the ATH-M50 and RH-300 sound “boxy” and “dirty”, not well defined, because they both have more of lower mids (the aforementioned 500 hz), the range most manufacturers probably consider harmful to your ears J. Well, they (the manufacturers) probably try to make their products sound more “clear” and “tight”, compared to the competitors, which is understandable from one point of view, but it’s a bit sad from the other perspective. In my book, if it’s in the music, let me hear it, please! J The very few cases where I could imagine listening to music with these and enjoying it is probably with some classical stuff, mellow jazz or old recordings, where highs seem to be less prominent. 

 

Audio-Technica ATH-A900

 

This is my 2nd pair of ATH-A900, which only shows my favorable view regarding these headphones. I owned them for a short while (bought strictly for evaluation purposes, in response to largely favorable reviews they gets), then sold them, then missed their soothing comfort and calm reassuring presentation, bought them again to re-evaluate what I have been missing, and now I’m in an indecisive agony once again :/. Do I need them or not? Obviously, I don’t need them, since they don't offer anything M50 or RH-300 don’t have, except for a bigger soundstage (it is huge on the A900) and the calmness they ooze (500 hz is also not as prominent as on M50 or RH-300). Generally they sound thinner, compared to M50 or RH-300, but they are really well balanced and enjoyable, more relaxing, in a way. A lot of people are complaining about the recessed mids (same as with the ATH-M50), but I would rather call them not overblown, compared to some other headphones. The highs seem a bit subdued, compared to Dynaudio BM15 monitor, with one apparent discrepancy in the presentation freq. range of the A900 – a slight very narrow boost in the 12 khz region, which exaggerates some components of musical instruments that have high freq. content in them (like hi-hats or ride cymbals on some recordings), although to me it rarely spoiled the music enjoyment that this fine headphone provides, rather compensated for the ever so slightly subdued high frequency content (again - compared to BM15). If you want an example of this “mis-behaviour”, try this link of Deftones’ “Knife Party” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAP0w51Yjig and go to 3’24”, or slightly before that. The ride cymbal comes in at 3’24”, and it’s a bit too pronounced and piercing on A900, compared to M50 or BM15 (on these two it sounds more natural and not as sharp, you can clearly hear it, yet it doesn’t stand out and is not as piercing as on the A900. Overall the sound is full (while being a bit thin – get your heads around this one, sound lovers! J) and enjoyable, there's a bit of muddiness to it, but I don't view this headphone as a mixing or monitoring tool, it sounds coherent enough and I’d say I prefer it to anything I’ve tried so far for casual music listening, especially before going to sleep - A900 lulls and calms you like no other headphone, but still has enough punch in its arsenal, if and when you need it!

The only other drawback of the A900 is aesthetical. It has a “plasticky” feel to it, which is misleading, as its ear cups are not made from plastic, they are actually aluminum, from what I have read. But the pleather ear pads are really cheap (I believe they are borrowed from its younger brother ATH-A700), and sub-par to the overall feel of this headphone. Because of them the overall quality feels lacking somehow. I know I could try replacing them with the ATH-A1000 pads, which are more leathery-like but, from my experience, it might change the sound and I might not like it L Anyway, I’ll see, maybe I’ll try them out eventually, if I keep these headphones this time, that is, and not decide to buy another 5 pairs of headphones in search for the perfect one J

If you are not as picky as I am – buy these headphones, you will not regret it!

 

Koss Pro DJ 100

 

This is the least expensive headphone in this comparison. I was intrigued by some reviews (some even stating that this headphone outperforms ATH-M50) and decided to give it a run. All I can say is it didn’t overwhelm me nor did it disappoint, considering its price (50 pounds for a new pair of headphones). There’s an apparent lack of bass, compared to any of the headphones in this shoot-out, which results in a certain lack of authority to the overall impression and a bit of a boxiness, for that matter, sound has a papery quality to it, and a slight feeling of restrictiveness, if you will. Like if it was saying “sorry, but this is all you will get for 50 pounds” J. The mids seem too forward sounding, again, and not completely smooth, there are “spikes” in the FR here and there. And here comes a surprise element (that will probably explain the forward mids and especially the “spikes”): the retrieval of details with this headphone is unbelievable, especially in the vocal range (this time not only in this price range, but overall). It made me hear some details in a few tracks that I did not know existed before, even though I know those songs very well. Yeah, I know - some might attribute this to psychological factors that “help” you hear things “you’ve never heard before” in music, when listening to it with some new / unfamiliar components (I have experienced this with quite a few of them as well, when in reality it happens simply because you’re switching your attention and listening to (or noticing) something else every time you listen to a piece of music). I’m not going to debate this any further, I’ll just say this: if you want a super affordable, clear sounding headphone with a great detail retrieval, you have to try the Koss Pro DJ 100 (or the Beyerdynamic DT231 Pro, for that matter, which are quite similar, maybe a bit less pronounced in the mids (although middle freq’s on them are still elevated, compared to the ATH-M50), and not as cold and surgical sounding). In my situation they are more or less useless, quite frankly, as I don’t imagine mixing on them due to there not being enough bass as well as their over emphasized mids, and for musical enjoyment I’ll stick to A900, until I find a better headphone J.

Oh, and for the esthetes I should probably also add that the construction of DJ100 is a bit wobbly (they are sold as DJ headphones, so the cups rotate more than 180 degrees in one direction). The downside is that when you put them on, the headband tends to sit not the way it's meant to sit on your head (in parallel with your forehead), but askew. It doesn't affect the wearing comfort, you just look ridiculous :) M50 and HFI-680 also have similar designs (their ear cups rotate 90 degrees), but the sturdier and less lose construction prevents this (mis)behaviour of the headband.     

 

On this note I’d like to end this comparison. I hope some of you enjoyed it and found some useful information that will help you decide on your future purchase decisions, or maybe even re-consider what you already know or think you know J.

Sorry, if anyone took my views too close to their hearts, this is only my opinion, and I can’t stress that enough!

 

Please comment, if you feel like it, I’ll gladly read your thoughts and opinions, and share my own (i.e. about the Alessandro M1 or the Beyerdynamic DT250 (250 ohm vs 80 ohm – they are different), which I did not express in this comparison), although I am not a frequent visitor of Head-Fi, but I pop in for some info here sometimes, I’d gladly elaborate on that.

 

Cheers!

 


Edited by rayjuodas - 4/19/12 at 2:58am
post #2 of 35

You clearly went through some trouble for this review and it is appreciated.

 

What amplifier did you use for the comparison?

 

 

regards

post #3 of 35
Thread Starter 

Thanks, drummerman. I have used my Yamaha AX-1090 amplifier (http://www.yamaha.co.jp/english/product/av/products/hf/ax1090.html),

with both the CD player Yamaha CDC-635

(http://www2.yamaha.co.jp/manual/pdf/av/english/cdC/CDC-635.pdf

and my soundcard M-Audio Delta 1010LT

(http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/Delta1010LT.html) as sources. 

 

 

post #4 of 35
How is that Yamaha amp?
post #5 of 35
Thread Starter 

It is an old and quite rare integrated amplifier, not a dedicated headphone amp. I love it. Could not find anything similar for home use with my Dynaudio BM15 (http://www.dynaudioacoustics.com/Default.asp?Id=394&AjrNws=375&AjrNwsPg=1), which are very power hungry , that's why I needed such a powerful amplifier.

 


Edited by rayjuodas - 10/13/11 at 2:15am
post #6 of 35

Thank you for a terrific review.  Concise and without ambiguity.  These are the sorts of reviews that make complete sense, the ones coming from professionals.  You have audiophile reviews which I can decode - but no decoding necessary with this one.  I mean some of them go on and on about all different albums, of which I have never heard, and with no fixed reference...

post #7 of 35

Wow, that's awesome. Really refreshing to see someone buying stuff for mixing, seems to really cut out a lot of the stupid preferences that inevitably go into this stuff. Really good comparison.

What'd you think of your DT250/80? Disappointment for me, seemed flatter than the srh840 except for a mid bass bump but they were just BORING. Just dull sounding, like everything except the bassline just withered up and died.
 

Is the 250 version different? I hope so, or mine was broken or something because man, kind of hard to like.

btw... probably won't make it any better for mixing, but if you want to hear where where the bass went on your DJ100, try putting m50 pads on it, you'll be surprised.

post #8 of 35
Thread Starter 

 

  •  
Cheers, guys, appreciate your kind words!
 
SP Wild, yes, I agree with you. In my view, if you want to compare headphones (or anything else), you have to have a reference point, because our ears get used to anything. When I put on Shures SRH840, before listening to anything else, they sound awesome, and I would be happy to listen to music on them or maybe even check my mixes on them (not completely sure about that one), but, since now I know they are boosted in the mids, I can hear it every time, and it just doesn't cut it for me. I'd rather have that "dirtier" or "hollower" (500 Hz) sound of Roland (which you don't actually notice, unless you listen to something like SRH-840 or Q40), because I know it is more true.      
 
200poundsofamp, DT250/80 for mixing or listening is useless, IMO. It is dull, as you said, with over-pronounced bass and mids (with same 500 hz cut, if I remember correctly). It is meant for recording in the studio, so that's probably why Beyerdynamic subdued the highs on purpose (to prevent listening fatigue), and over-done bass (for drummers and bass players :)), but they have overdone it in both aspects, I think (although I would live with this bass)! 
250 ohm version overall is much much better. I liked highs on it (they were spot on for me), I liked bass on it (it is there, but not overpowering at all, I'd probably like it even more prominent for my taste), the mids were a bit too "rubbery" for me, too over-pronounced and too "thin" (or maybe it was a generous scoop in lower mids?). I also didn't like the fact that I felt no soundstage on them at all. Sound was simply coming into my ears, and I felt everything in my right ear and in my left ear, it seemed, and not too much in front of me (maybe that's because they sounded so mid-centric frequency wise, I'm not sure, or maybe it's because the drivers' volume was not evenly matched on my pair - the right one was considerably louder than the left one, so panorama was skewed and soundstage might have been ruined because of that, I'm not sure). Again, I had both headphones at the same time, compared them both side to side, so it is not a retrospective view. 
 
Thanks, I'll try M50 pads on the DJ100!

Edited by rayjuodas - 10/12/11 at 9:15am
post #9 of 35
Thread Starter 

I did try the M50 pads on DJ100, and I didn't like what I heard, to tell you the truth. While there certainly seemed to be more low end, the music got completely swamped by shrill mids and highs, to a point of distortion. Sorry, but DJ100 with the stock pads seemed to me much more clear and defined, but still not suitable for my taste.

 

post #10 of 35

Thanks for the nice review. I have no idea how I missed this review, so I'm bumping it.

It's very strange how some people have said the DJ100 lacks bass. Maybe there is some variations between pairs. Mine luckily has very good bass, but it requires a specific amp to be at it's best. Mine maybe has like 5% less bass than the white boxed M50, but extends further down.

 

Q40 has always been on my radar but I never gave it a try. HFI-680 I liked, but I prefer the M50 except for it's bass.

post #11 of 35

 

Very easy to understand descriptions of headphones' sound signatures, no nonsense audiophile lingo in there.

 

Good read normal_smile%20.gif

post #12 of 35
Quote:

Originally Posted by rayjuodas View Post
 

[...]

 

 

Audio-Technica ATH-A900

 

This is my 2nd pair of ATH-A900, which only shows my favorable view regarding these headphones. I owned them for a short while (bought strictly for evaluation purposes, in response to largely favorable reviews they gets), then sold them, then missed their soothing comfort and calm reassuring presentation, bought them again to re-evaluate what I have been missing, and now I’m in an indecisive agony once again :/. Do I need them or not? Obviously, I don’t need them, since they don't offer anything M50 or RH-300 don’t have, except for a bigger soundstage (it is huge on the A900) and the calmness they ooze (500 hz is also not as prominent as on M50 or RH-300). Generally they sound thinner, compared to M50 or RH-300, but they are really well balanced and enjoyable, more relaxing, in a way. A lot of people are complaining about the recessed mids (same as with the ATH-M50), but I would rather call them not overblown, compared to some other headphones. The highs seem a bit subdued, compared to Dynaudio BM15 monitor, with one apparent discrepancy in the presentation freq. range of the A900 – a slight very narrow boost in the 12 khz region, which exaggerates some components of musical instruments that have high freq. content in them (like hi-hats or ride cymbals on some recordings), although to me it rarely spoiled the music enjoyment that this fine headphone provides, rather compensated for the ever so slightly subdued high frequency content (again - compared to BM15). If you want an example of this “mis-behaviour”, try this link of Deftones’ “Knife Party” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uAP0w51Yjig and go to 3’24”, or slightly before that. The ride cymbal comes in at 3’24”, and it’s a bit too pronounced and piercing on A900, compared to M50 or BM15 (on these two it sounds more natural and not as sharp, you can clearly hear it, yet it doesn’t stand out and doesn’t shout “here I am!” :)) And on A900 it’s a bit too sharp and falls out of context with the other components. Overall the sound is full (while being a bit thin – get your heads around this one, sound lovers! J) and enjoyable, and I’d say I prefer it to anything else I’ve tried so far for casual music listening, especially before going to sleep - A900 lulls and calms you like no other headphone, but still has enough punch in its arsenal, if and when you need it!

The only other drawback of the A900 is aesthetical. It has a “plasticky” feel to it, which is misleading, as its ear cups are not made from plastic, they are actually aluminum, from what I have read. But the pleather ear pads are really cheap (I believe they are borrowed from its younger brother ATH-A700), and sub-par to the overall feel of this headphone. Because of them the overall quality feels lacking somehow. I know I could try replacing them with the ATH-A1000 pads, which are more leathery-like but, from my experience, it might change the sound and I might not like it L Anyway, I’ll see, maybe I’ll try them out eventually, if I keep these headphones this time, that is, and not decide to buy another 5 pairs of headphones in search for the perfect one J

If you are not as picky as I am – buy these headphones, you will not regret it!

 

 

 

Excellent set of reviews!

 

On the 900's - the reason I didn't keep mine had to do with the "wings".  I could hear them microphonically whenever I'd move my head.

It was a subtle squeaking sound from their spring mechanism.

 

I guess, with hindsight, that I could have phoned AT USA in Ohio and asked for advice - maybe there's some lube or some other way to quiet

that sound...

post #13 of 35

Makes me sad that a post like this doesn't get off page 1, but the Monster Beats thread get like..what..100 pages? confused_face.gif

post #14 of 35

rayjuodas, would you consider the M50 to be the best studio monitor out of the bunch?

post #15 of 35
Thread Starter 

Hey guys, 

 

thanks for your comments. 

 

Souji, for me they certainly are, but I haven't heard all of the studio headphones (yet) :) Although I'm not intending to as, judging from some reviews, I can be quite sure that I won't like some of them.

 

But it's not an easy "yes" or "no", because it really depends on your preferences and your situation. When I had Sennheiser HD595, I thought it does not get any better when it comes to enjoyment listening to music, and I still would testify to that, although I no longer have them. I tried using them while mixing our album, and now I know that it was a mistake, because it does not translate very well to other sources (especially the things that I judged with HD595). It would still sound comparatively good (on HD595) I guess, but that was not the intention, the intention is to hear all of the frequencies well and not through the faults that HD595 have (I listed them in my comparison). When I bought ATH-M50 and listened to my new mixes (we're working on our new album with my wife), I thought "Wow, I can pinpoint much easier what's wrong with the mix!". I'm quite sure that I am right about M50, because some professional engineers in their reviews tend to agree that they are good for monitoring and mixing (check out this SOS article, if you haven't already: http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jan10/articles/studioheadphones.htm).

 

So yes, I would recommend them all the way, but I'm quite sure that you could use other headphones as well (including SRH840 and Q40), if you were familiar with them well enough and know their weaknesses, and preferred their sound signature. Although it's always better for them not to have any obvious weaknesses, and to me ATH-M50 don't. 

 

I hope I answered your question :)


Edited by rayjuodas - 11/3/11 at 10:42am
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › 7 closed headphones vs Dynaudio BM15 monitors (SRH840, ATH-M50, ATH-A900, RH-300, Q40, HFI-680, Pro DJ100 etc.)