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Spider PowerForce Headphone Appreciation

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Reviewed by Steve6

 

April 27, 2012

 

Pros: Bold and clear; excellent marriage of deep bass and detail

 

Cons: None, particularly at this price point

*****

 

Trying out a fresh piece of audio gear might not be quite as thrilling as getting into a new car for the first time, but as enthusiasts know, it’s pretty close. And it’s even more exciting when it’s a brand-new product that has yet to hit the market.

 

I was lucky enough to spend a week or so with Spider Cable’s new PowerForce over-the-ear headphones, which are about to make their official debut.

At $129, these guys will have quite a bit of competition in the marketplace, and that’s a good thing for consumers. But I’d be very wary of a direct comparison to any specific product. I think they’ll find their own niche in the marketplace, and quickly.

 

I tested the PowerForce with my nothing-fancy desktop PC sound card, an iPod nano, and my beefy Outlaw Audio RR 2150 receiver.  Physically, I found them to be lightweight and comfortable, eliminating a surprising amount of exterior noise. As for the music, I slapped on a few of my usual reference downloads and CDs, then scanned my digital cable music channels – a nice, eclectic way to sample a variety of music.

 

I was immediately struck by a bold, beaming, energetic presentation. I’m a headphone veteran who has run the gamut, through myriad Koss, AKG, Sennheiser and (most recently) Grado products. Frankly, I was pretty much bowled over by the sheer clout of these ‘phones. From Gotye/Kimbra to DJ Tron to Cristian Arango and Rush, I was struck by a wide soundstage and bountiful level of bass; lots and lots of bass, but not so much that it obliterated the rest of the music.

 

On jazz cuts, I appreciated the simplicity and intimacy of a quartet; I could close my eyes and “see” exactly where John Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison, McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones were sitting or standing. On a Mickey Gilley tune, I could revel in the sonority of the steel guitar. When Arthur Rubenstein played Beethoven all by himself, I was transfixed. On a vintage Duke Ellington romp, the band was absolutely front and center – and roaring!

 

One night I watched/listened to an entire Rolling Stones concert from Austin, Texas, circa 2006 on YouTube. Without divulging my age, let’s just say that this is rock ‘n’ roll as I know and knew it – loud, raucous and performed with complete abandon. When Keith Richards plays a truly nasty guitar lick on his Fender or Les Paul, I want it to sound that way – raunchy. Rock isn’t “smooth.”  It isn’t “sweet.” It isn’t “polite,” and any type of sound reproducer shouldn’t attempt to render it so.

 

As control, I went back a few times to my trusty and beloved Grado SR80s. My first thought was, “WHAT HAPPENED? Where did everything GO?” Suddenly, even with the volume boosted, the music was nearly devoid of fire and excitement, almost as if a veil had been placed over everything.

 

This, of course, raises an essential point about the world of audio. We hear differently. We listen to different kinds of music. A terrific sound for some will be grating and headache-inducing for others. A headphone or speaker that plays back, say, a string quartet in a delicate, creamy way will likely be far less than satisfying when called upon to deal with pop, rap, hip hop, electronica, etc.

 

The PowerForce was designed to strike the best possible balance.  I was told that prototypes were returned to the engineers repeatedly until the proper result was obtained. All of this refinement shows. PowerForce is ready for prime time, and I can’t imagine any headphone, especially one costing $129, doing more. No, it’s not for everyone. It will be “too much” for some, and “not enough” for others.  But that’s what makes this hobby fun, no?  I think that headphones are a more personal consideration than any other component, even speakers. After all, it’s your head we’re talking about, folks.

 

Spider – already successful in the audio- and video-cable market – wants to attain a position in the headphone world, based on a combination of sound and build quality and (especially) price. If the PowerForce is any indication of what the company can do, I’d have to say this about Spider: Yes they “cans”!

 

(More info is available at http://spidercable.com/detail.php?g=46)

 

post #2 of 9

So...

Did you compare these to similar headphones (sound signature)?

It seems these are "bassy" but you compared them to a treble-happy-ear-destroyer Grados...

Any chance you can compare against Ultrasone DJ1s, Shure 750Djs, Beyers 770 Pro 80, etc. etc.?

 

 

Thanks.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hi.  I have not compared them to the models you mentioned.  I did do a direct A-B with Soul by Ludacris, however.  I found those to be literally hurtful in the bass (lots of quantity, but no quality) and shrill and undefined in the upper end, with virtually no soundstage.  Soul would be a direct competitor at this price point, I would think.

 

Steve

post #4 of 9

My review has been posted here:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/609299/

 

Definitely a very fun and energetic phone.

post #5 of 9

TL;DR section at the bottom.

 

Although it’s taken me far too long (sorry Spider!), my review of the Spider Cable Powerforce headphone is finally here! You can stop quaking in anticipation now, everybody.

Special thanks go out to Spider Cable, of course, for the review sample. It’s always refreshing to see a newer company dedicated to customer service and outreach, especially one with a quality product.

Let’s dive in then, shall we?

When I received the package, I was a bit skeptical. I’m sure the packaging for the actual headphones will be more substantial, but for my review sample, it was literally just a box with the headphones in a bag inside. I will hand it to Spider that the bag is actually really quality and very professional/nice looking. I would use it as a way to carry them around and make sure they don’t get damaged if I needed to transport them.

Picking up the headphones, I was also a little uncertain. The headband is soft, which is reassuring, but the mechanism that attaches the cups can be a bit cranky. It’s somewhat hard to describe, but getting the cups to unfold and rotate appropriately such that they will sit on your head can sometimes take a few seconds. It’s just kind of a strange mechanism. The upside is that this means that the cups fold up very easily and can rotate fairly freely, though they don’t rotate more than 90 degrees towards you. The plastic that most of the headphone is made of seems fairly cheap and has a tendency to creak a little when moved, which was reminiscent of the Beats line. The adjusters for the cups are nice, but the length is not clearly marked (if you’re OCD about this like I am, this can be a minor irritant), so you have to rely upon sight.

The only included accessory besides the bag, the cable, is pretty nice. It’s coiled, which is useful for moving around, but I think any 3.5mm-3.5mm male/male cable would work fine if a user felt like swapping one in. Word on the street is that these ship production with 2 cables, short and long, as well as a ¼’’ adapter. Reasonable.

The earpads are a pretty comfortable material. However, I was a bit confused about whether these are in fact circumaural or supra-aural. They’re another one of those confused-seeming headphones that might have just enough space to envelope your ear, but without much room to spare. Long-term comfort is pretty good, but not outstanding. I don’t really notice it when I wear them, which is good, but sometimes my ears feel a tinge compressed upon taking them off after wearing them for a while.

As far as design… Well, you’ve seen it. I’ll let you be the judge of that. Personally, I don’t mind it, but I’m not an enormous fan either. I mostly use these at home, so I’m not terribly concerned about appearance. It’s definitely something that could appear to the mainstream, I think.
 

On to sound!

Bass: My god. This is clearly what these were designed to do. It took me about three seconds of listening to conclude that these are definitively basshead material, designed to compete with the likes of Beats, Skullcandy, and some of the other bass-heavy mainstream brands. I could see how many users would find the bass overwhelming. Personally, I happen to listen to a lot of bass-heavy electronica and hip hop that benefits from really strong bass. Quantity of bass is enormous, quality is pretty decent. If the recording isn’t so hot, the Powerforce will show it with some flabby bass. However, on a respectable recording, the bass tightens up a bit (the bass also seemed to tighten up a little with burn-in for me, but I can’t be certain on that one; sonic memory is imperfect and all that). Bass quality is never mind-blowing, but it’s up to par in good conditions. I maintain that no basshead could be dissatisfied with these. Having owned the Ultrasone HFI-580s (and had the opportunity to frequently listen to Beats), I am familiar with bass-oriented ‘phones; these definitely compete on the quantity of bass. I always liked the S-Logic sound of the Ultrasones, but that’s not everybody’s thing; whether or not you like it, you should find it fun to listen to the Powerforce if you’re seeking more bass. These things don’t hold back. Recommended: Get Down by Nas,  Minimal Broadcast by Plastic Vibe.

Mids: Surprisingly not bad. I had expected that the bass would drown out the mids, but was pleasantly surprised that the mids are still reasonably present. Male vocals actually sound pretty solid, which is good news for hip hop fans (what more can you ask for than powerful bass and clear vox?). If the bass is –too- strong, the mids will suffer a little, but I think that’s the case with nearly any headphone. Recommended: Shook (Sigur Ros X Mobb Deep) by Emancipator.

Highs: Not blown away, not really let down. They can keep up with the upbeat melodies of genres like Happy Hardcore, but are sometimes just overshadowed by heavy bass (as might be expected). I found that using WASAPI in F2k cleaned up the bass enough to let the highs come forth a bit, which was welcome. I felt the high end was more pronounced than in the Beats, which helps with electronica melodies. Recommended: Blessed (Avicii edit) by Tom Hangs ft. Shermanology.

Soundstage, detail, separation, isolation, etc: Soundstage is about what you’d expect. Definitely not a focal point of this headphone, but not terribly lacking either. Detail cleans up well with WASAPI, as previously messaged, but can suffer a bit with the heavy bass. Detail and clarity in the mids are surprisingly high. I was actually impressed with how these isolate. As an experiment, I play music at a decent volume with the headphones off, then press the pads together then separate them a few times. They isolate quite well for a (…supra-aural?) bass-oriented headphone.

All in all, the Powerforce is a fun headphone, but really not an “audiophile” headphone in the sense that it does not strive to accurately produce music as it was meant to be heard. That being said, it’s a fun headphone. Does it have massive, bloated bass? Yes. Does this make it terrible? Depends on who you are. I personally enjoy it quite a bit, and think the bassheads out there will be quite pleased with its quality and that it extends beyond the bass, bringing an overarching energy to the sound.


TL;DR: Incredible bass quantity, decent quality, surprisingly clear mids, reasonably extended and clear highs. Soundstage, detail, separation are all up to par but not beyond it. Build quality felt a bit cheap, but they are comfortable. A direct competitor with Beats/Soul/Skullcandy, but at a cheaper price point. Definitely a pleaser for the bassheads, but with some other merits. Winner in my book as a fun headphone!

post #6 of 9

Package

 

The Powerforce comes packaged in a nice, pleather bag.

 

Equipment

 

See my profile for a list of equipment I own and use.

 

Listening

 

One word.  Bass.  

 

The Spider Powerforce is obviously targeted at a modern demographic with a preference of pop and alternative music, The Powerforce is most likely aimed at competing with BEATS and other "designer" headphones.  It delivers a satisfying amount bass for any basshead that might crave it.  After a few minutes of listening, the overbearing presence of the bass subsides making a prolonged listen more fun and tolerable..  Again, there is no withholding the fact that it targets a general audience of bassheads.  With pretty good depth and impact the lower frequencies become the driving force of a song (except those without bass of course!).  The bass bleeds a little bit into the mid-range warming up tracks, a little too much at times, yet is not necessarily unwanted if you are basshead.  The attack and speed isn't the quickest I have heard and the highs are satisfying if not a little too much at times with certain music. but this was in the mastering...not the headphone.

 

The midrange is lush, rich and smooth.  Although it seems recessed in comparison to the bass, it still is there presenting a moderate quantity and quality. The midrange details are not obscured like on other basshead headphones. As a mid-range lover, the usage of this headphone was a sharp contrast from other IEM's and headphones I normally use.  I didn't realize the extent of the lush and colored tonality of the midrange until I switched back to another headphone like a stock T50RP that I was using.  Sadly, at the expense of a lush sonic quality, the Powerforce loses out on transparency and clarity seeming a little too thick due to the augmented mid-bass.  This is not to say that it is bad in any way, it is merely a preference.  

 

The weakness of this headphone is NOT the treble. With most basshead headphones, the highs tend to be either non-existent or too bright...usually way too bright. The highs tend to be a bit too strident with badly mastered music. On well mastered music, the highs do sound a tad recessed but in a very pleasant way.

 

A final note: The soundstage is quite a nice addition is such a bass heavy  headphone.  It is able to produce nice width and gives an intimate and up-front presentation with the right music.  This is definitely a plus in terms of helping to level out the bass of the headphone and for cinematic movies.  

 

In summary, for the price...this is an excellent basshead headphone.  I would not hesitate to buy it if my preferences were for more bass.

 

That said, I do highly recommend this headphone for movies and gaming. The over exaggerated bass response works extremely well with such things and makes it a great gift alternative for those looking for a good bassy headphone that will not break the bank.

post #7 of 9

Thanks for your observations LFF! Much appreciated!

post #8 of 9

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by LFF View Post

Package

 

The Powerforce comes packaged in a nice, pleather bag.

 

Equipment

 

See my profile for a list of equipment I own and use.

 

Listening

 

One word.  Bass.  

 

The Spider Powerforce is obviously targeted at a modern demographic with a preference of pop and alternative music, The Powerforce is most likely aimed at competing with BEATS and other "designer" headphones.  It delivers a satisfying amount bass for any basshead that might crave it.  After a few minutes of listening, the overbearing presence of the bass subsides making a prolonged listen more fun and tolerable..  Again, there is no withholding the fact that it targets a general audience of bassheads.  With pretty good depth and impact the lower frequencies become the driving force of a song (except those without bass of course!).  The bass bleeds a little bit into the mid-range warming up tracks, a little too much at times, yet is not necessarily unwanted if you are basshead.  The attack and speed isn't the quickest I have heard and the highs are satisfying if not a little too much at times with certain music. but this was in the mastering...not the headphone.

 

The midrange is lush, rich and smooth.  Although it seems recessed in comparison to the bass, it still is there presenting a moderate quantity and quality. The midrange details are not obscured like on other basshead headphones. As a mid-range lover, the usage of this headphone was a sharp contrast from other IEM's and headphones I normally use.  I didn't realize the extent of the lush and colored tonality of the midrange until I switched back to another headphone like a stock T50RP that I was using.  Sadly, at the expense of a lush sonic quality, the Powerforce loses out on transparency and clarity seeming a little too thick due to the augmented mid-bass.  This is not to say that it is bad in any way, it is merely a preference.  

 

The weakness of this headphone is NOT the treble. With most basshead headphones, the highs tend to be either non-existent or too bright...usually way too bright. The highs tend to be a bit too strident with badly mastered music. On well mastered music, the highs do sound a tad recessed but in a very pleasant way.

 

A final note: The soundstage is quite a nice addition is such a bass heavy  headphone.  It is able to produce nice width and gives an intimate and up-front presentation with the right music.  This is definitely a plus in terms of helping to level out the bass of the headphone and for cinematic movies.  

 

In summary, for the price...this is an excellent basshead headphone.  I would not hesitate to buy it if my preferences were for more bass.

 

That said, I do highly recommend this headphone for movies and gaming. The over exaggerated bass response works extremely well with such things and makes it a great gift alternative for those looking for a good bassy headphone that will not break the bank.

 

 

Somehow I believe my first review isn't showing up for Spider Cable so I shall re-post it for them.

 

Package

 

The Powerforce comes packaged in a nice, pleather bag.

 

Equipment

 

See my profile for a list of equipment I own and use.

 

Listening

 

One word.  Bass.  

 

The Spider Powerforce is obviously targeted at a modern demographic with a preference of pop and alternative music, The Powerforce is most likely aimed at competing with BEATS and other "designer" headphones.  It delivers a satisfying amount bass for any basshead that might crave it.  After a few minutes of listening, the overbearing presence of the bass subsides making a prolonged listen more fun and tolerable..  Again, there is no withholding the fact that it targets a general audience of bassheads.  With pretty good depth and impact the lower frequencies become the driving force of a song (except those without bass of course!).  The bass bleeds a little bit into the mid-range warming up tracks, a little too much at times, yet is not necessarily unwanted if you are basshead.  The attack and speed isn't the quickest I have heard and the highs are satisfying if not a little too much at times with certain music. but this was in the mastering...not the headphone.

 

The midrange is lush, rich and smooth.  Although it seems recessed in comparison to the bass, it still is there presenting a moderate quantity and quality. The midrange details are not obscured like on other basshead headphones. As a mid-range lover, the usage of this headphone was a sharp contrast from other IEM's and headphones I normally use.  I didn't realize the extent of the lush and colored tonality of the midrange until I switched back to another headphone like a stock T50RP that I was using.  Sadly, at the expense of a lush sonic quality, the Powerforce loses out on transparency and clarity seeming a little too thick due to the augmented mid-bass.  This is not to say that it is bad in any way, it is merely a preference.  

 

The weakness of this headphone is NOT the treble. With most basshead headphones, the highs tend to be either non-existent or too bright...usually way too bright. The highs tend to be a bit too strident with badly mastered music. On well mastered music, the highs do sound a tad recessed but in a very pleasant way.

 

A final note: The soundstage is quite a nice addition is such a bass heavy  headphone.  It is able to produce nice width and gives an intimate and up-front presentation with the right music.  This is definitely a plus in terms of helping to level out the bass of the headphone and for cinematic movies.  

 

In summary, for the price...this is an excellent basshead headphone.  I would not hesitate to buy it if my preferences were for more bass.

 

That said, I do highly recommend this headphone for movies and gaming. The over exaggerated bass response works extremely well with such things and makes it a great gift alternative for those looking for a good bassy headphone that will not break the bank.

post #9 of 9

After a long long time, I finally got my hands on these!

 

Anyway, definitely agree on previous assessments. These are bassy (mid-bass... ok sub-bass, present but no killers), they definitely warm up the mids and talking about mids, surprisingly they are present and are quite pleasant. Listening to Paramore right now, I don't see why these shouldn't be used by everyone (i.e. not only "bassheads"). Build quality seems "meh", but it looks Ok (I have the white/gold version). The only con I have for them (which seems to be my major nitpick for most headphones) is fit and comfort. These are on-ears and clamp a lot. At least the earpad material is quite good. Isolation and sound leakage is excellent.

 

Even though these are quick impressions, I'm quite surprised by them (at least more surprised than with their other headphone, the Moonlight...)

Yeah yeah, they lack soundstage, clarity and detail from other more expensive sets BUT I wouldn't mind using them from time to time.

 

Good job on these ones Spider!

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