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Neither the M-80 nor the M-100 is an audiophile grade headphone....my God, whats with everyone on this thread and the word audiophile?
Neither headphone you mentioned is an audiophile headphone. An audiophile headphone has absolutely no embellishment in it's sound signature and will sound as flat as possible. Throw the word audiophile out the window for now and just read on and try to understand.
An audiophile grade headphone is the type of headphone that's classed as a monitor grade headphone. A monitor grade headphone is basically a headphone that's tuned flat. The reason it's tuned flat is because sound engineers use it to monitor when they're mixing. If they want to eq the bass up 4 db's it's by far easier to do that and hear how it sounds on a neutral headphone then on a headphone that's overly bassy. If for example a sound engineer was mixing music on a bassy headphone that was already boosted 6 db's in the lows and added another 4 on top of that the result would be a CD with lows that sounded like mud on a stereo system. Also a flat (that's what neutral means, flat) tuned headphone is known for being generally detailed generally speaking of coarse. The reason detail is important when mixing in the studio is when the sound engineer is eqing the music to where he wants it he has to monitor the frequencies to insure those frequencies aren't tripping over one another. what i mean by tripping over one another is distortion or bleed. A flat headphone will show the sound engineer what needs to be cleaned up when he's mixing. for example if he's eqs the bass up 5 db you better believe he's going to playing close attention to the lower mids to make sure the upper bass isn't bleeding into the lower mids and blurring the lower notes in the vocals. Since we're on the subject of mids and just so everyone reading this thread knows the mids is where the music lives and breaths. Where am I going with this mid talk? Where I'm going is a neutral headphone is very very important when you're playing with the mids. Ask any audio pro out there who earns his bread and butter in the music studio and he/she will tell you it's the mids that's always the focus and the lows and highs fall into place if the mids are done right during the mixing process.
With that first part out of the way time to get something else out of the way. The word audiophile is a very misused word especially on these forums. An audiophile isn't a music nut or a collector of music. What an audiophile is is a type of geek, specifically he's an audio gear geek. As far as a true audiophile is concerned his sole care in the hobby is to try and find the most capable most neutral sounding gear he can get his hands on and mate it with the absolute best recorded music that's available on the market. Artists like Taylor Swift, Madonna, Iron Maiden, Depeche Mode, etc etc are considered garbage in the eyes of an audiophile. He doesn't give a crap about the top 40 or the most extreme sounding metal band or the most trippy trance song. An audiophile doesn't subscribe to any genre in particular his/her only care is finding music whatever it might be which is masterfully recorded. The idea behind it all is to play that music on the gear he/she owns and push it to it's maximum potential. The music itself is only a secondary element and the main idea is to see what can be squeezed out of the gear itself.
Next up, let's have a very blunt discussion about neutral. I like neutral sounding headphones. So much so I've taken steps and spent some big bones on commissioning a mod of a T50rp into a Paradox which from what I've read measures almost completely flat. For those interested who don't have the extra bones to throw around on a Paradox you might also want to look into the Mad Dogs. From what I understand they're pretty good although supposedly not on the same level of a Paradox. Here's the thing though, I can guarantee that if I was to get everyone on this thread into a room together and let him/her have a listen on a Mad Dog or a Paradox over half of the people, if not 75%, would remove those headphones and the first thing that would come out of their mouths would be how come there's no bass. A neutral headphone doesn't go doof doof doof in the bass like a bassy headphone does unless the music demands it. Guess what, those trance, hip hop, pop rock songs the mainstream bopper likes because of the doof doof bass when they were first being mixed they weren't mixed to go doof doof doof in the lows. It's the overly bassy headphones that most people bought from BestBuy that were tuned to go doof doof doof not the music.
With that out of the way lets now breach the topic of an analytical sounding headphone. A AKG Q701 is considered an analytical. The Sennheiser HD800 and Bayerdynamic T1 are other examples of analytical headphones. A STAX Omega II, the king of the headphone world by the way, is a neutral with a upper treble tilt that makes it boarder on analytical. The same can be said for the Somy MDR EX 600 and 1000 IEM's. This type of gear don't exaclt play well with modern recorded music due to how music has been overly eqed in the recording studio and most of the time this type of gear will sound quite harsh when playing most modern music. So why in the world would anyone want an analytical sounding headphone which can sound overly harsh, detail retrieval. An analytical is another type of coloration that a treble head (read detail fanatic) craves not unlike the basshead craves bass slam. An analytical is NOT a neutral no more then a bassy headphone is a neutral. Over the last ittle while I've noticed people on other threads describing certain gear as neutral because it's overly detailed which could not be further from the truth. A neutral will only present the detail that's present in the music while an analytical will present micro detail ( read fake detail) due to it's sound sig being overly leaned out. An analytical headphone will always have an anlaytical edge to it's sound while a well done neutral is a chameleon and can sound overly warm or overly analytical. what it sounds like depends completely on the music being played and how it was mixed in the recording studio and whether the artist went for a warmer sound to his music or a more crisper more aggressive sound.
(sigh) Almost finished typing...
To answer your question, the M 80 and M 100 are both good sound headphones and I own them both. Neither of them sound like audiophile headphones and if you want to know what I would class them as I would class them as upper tier mainstream audio gear. The M 80 is a smoother more fluid sound signature with very rolled off highs and a slight boost in the lows. Extension on both ends is decent but not great and there is a little bass bleed into the lower mids although not much. The M 100 is the more capable headphone of the two and has more detail in it's sig, better mid transition in the highs and lows more extension in the highs and lows and far more bass in the lows that doesn't bleed into the lower mids. the decision is yours which one you buy but seriously, you'll never know which headphone works for you until you try it yourself. If you're really that worried about it I say wait until the M 100 is on display on the store shelves and try it out before you buy. That's the only 100% way of knowing if it will work for you.
@ my fellow thread boppers
Guys, I know I'm coming across as a bit of a jerk with this post but come on. It's supposed to be about the music not the gear. Just because a headphone isn't audiophile grade doesn't mean it's a bad headphone it just means it's a colored headphone. If it's done right the coloration can sound quite nice. If it's done wrong it'll sound like garbage ( read Beats). That's why i like V-MODA's new line of headphones so much the way Val has chosen to tune the frequencies is quite tasteful and fun sounding. In the end it's all supposed to be about having fun and enjoying the music, right?
Just for the heck of it:
Audiophile (n): a person who is especially interested in high-fidelity sound reproduction.
I think people use "audiophile" in this community to describe high-fidelity sound in general. The M-100 is more "fun" sounding so it's less "high fidelity" than what many people were expecting. The M-80 is much more flat overall compared to the M-100, so people are going to say it's more "audiophile" friendly. You aren't going to find "audiophile" sound in a $300 headphone, but you can certainly get a headphone that has a higher-fidelity that reproduces music "more accurately".
then the super analytical "monitor-grade" SRH940 should be an "audiophile" headphone according to the label...or a Sony MDR-V6 "Monitor Series" Headphone, which is used in many many studios worldwide, is considered to be an "audiophile" headphone too.
And if nearly all the "good" headphones that people like are not "audiophile" headphones, then this whole journey is endless, pointless, and calling ourselves audiophiles is stupid...that's great news for my wallet...or not. XD
Edited by miceblue - 11/19/12 at 10:09pm