Here's my review after an exhaustive day of auditioning the M-100 while flying. Please don't excoriate me for not being as technical as some of the more seasoned members, but hopefully this well help others like me.
Heere is my multi-faceted review so that if anyone else is in my shoes they might get some help. (My shoes are a budget conscience person who appreciates good music, doesn't have a huge history with high end headphones, but is looking for as close as possible to a single do-it-all product.)
iPhone/iPod portable use
Although my iPhone 4s is probably going to remain how I drive these guys the most, I have also been playing with my old 20 gig iPod (4th gen I think) and am quite pleased. I think Anakchan has covered the technical terms, so I will break it down a little differently. For me, one of the things that I noticed was the way that I was immersed the music in a way that I haven’t yet been with my IEMs. My first moment of this came with the squeezebox (read below), but I was even able to get it on the plane listening to Jimmy Buffett’s Boats Beaches Bars and Ballads. If you closed your eyes you could visualize how the stage was set up when the songs were recorded, seeing Jimmy up front, his background singers spread on both sides of the stage just slightly behind him, etc… It really did put you that into the music. The harmonica portions just sang with beautiful clarity and detail to complement the rendering of the vocals and guitar. The experience was so enjoyable I spent probably 2x as long listening to music today as I have on previous flights in the last few years.
The iPhone 4s does what I would consider an adequate job, which is really not a fair statement. The M-100s driven this way really sound great and everyone I let hear them is blown away (except my wife, but that’s another story), but now that I have heard other sources I have to say it’s not my favorite. That’s partially me though -- Had I plugged them into my phone and stopped there I still would have loved these headphones, but the bass punch isn’t quite there and the general tone to me is just less pleasing. (still learning the terms and I want to say that the mids seem more recessed). Right now though, partially because of all of my experimentation, when I hear a wonderful sounding song I can’t help but think…what what this sound like with __________ (insert amp/DAC combo here) I am going to keep tinkering with this setup though. Mainly, all of my iPhone music has been either Rhapsody or Pandora, so I need to put some high quality tracks on there to ensure that I am giving the cans a fair shake when being driven by my 4s.
Being driven by my bedside Squeezebox at night
I can’t decide whether I should be excited or sad about this setup. I am super excited because it sounds AMAZING, but sad that I really feel that I need to spend more money on my mobile setup now in order to try and get this level of fidelity on the go. If you aren’t familiar with the old pre-logitech SLIM Devices products they were well known for solid components and design to produce high quality digital audio players. In my house this is probably my best DAC/Amp setup for driving headphones…for now… Listening to a lot of my standard tunes each and every new song that came on just put a smile on my face. To maybe put some folks at ease, even in a perfectly quiet environment with a fairly high power amp I did not find the bass to be over powering or obnoxious.
This basically took all of the great immersion and sound characteristics that I mentioned above, but improved to a drastically noticeable degree. I am actually a little disappointed sitting here typing this that I don’t have my boom with me at my bedside to be listening right now.
As gaming headphones paired with my Astro MixAmp
Prior to just recently this has been about 50% or more of my listening and I have been impressed. I have spent a few evenings playing World of Warcraft (don’t laugh) which is a game renowned for its soundtrack and audio in general and I have to say, it has never sounded better. The audio track is amazing and there is a whole new level of immersion to the game now. This is one of the areas that the bass of the M-100 really shines.
<random detour> The other night while playing I got a phone call, so I thought I’d try something fun. I had the game running into one ear and plugged the boom mic into my phone on the other side. There was a seamless integration between my gaming and the phone call. It was pretty cool.
Probably just as important is the mixamp and M-100 on a full 5.1 surround sound game. I fired up Halo Reach and went to town to see if the headphones would be able to hold their own in this setting. The M-100s ability to accurately represent full surround sound was, in my opinion, a testament to the fabulous soundstage that it has for a closed can. I have to imagine that the 598s do better in the surround sound arena and that the “gaming” headphones with super bright highs do better for enemy location, but for an enjoyable night of gaming, I can’t imagine much could top these. The bass was strong and accurate, the background music was warm and the mids and highs made for an enjoyable, but realistic weapon firing sound. Toss in the boom mic and I think the M-100 is a serious contender for someone that wants an audiophile/gaming headphone.
On an airplane with and without faders in
OK, so first things first about the M-100 in general as out and about headphones. I spent from 0400 to 1900 today in airports/airplanes, so I got to do lots of experimenting. I also took some of my IEMs with me etc… In the airport, these are amazing and killed my IEMs, there is just enough isolation that the cans are able to shine to their maximum potential. On the airplane, I am still torn. I measured the background level of my last leg at 87 dB and it was a little quieter than my middle flight. For music that has a constant background beat they are awesome and allow you to get the immersion that you get from less noisy environments, but for pieces that have very dynamic volumes and for movies I found the quiet scenes were having to compete with the background noise quite significantly. I actually found myself constantly messing with the volume while watching Avengers, which is something I don’t typically do with my Shures, but admittedly some of this was due to the pilot making major changes in engine RPM etc… However, the overall experience was still very positive and I think in many scenarios the sound was still superior to my less expensive IEMs and often rivaled my Shures. I FOR SURE appreciated the bass boost while in these environments. When competing with the drone of an engine that extra punch was very welcomed.
With the faders in a few things come to mind. First, HOLY COW this is quiet, even without music playing there is almost no outside noise coming in. Followed quickly by a second, wow, I can’t do this for long. For me, there just isn’t enough room inside the headphone in order to have my ears, much less a pair of plugs in. I went ahead and did some testing anyway and I can say that the faders do well, but still pull the mids way back and mute the highs to a quite dullness. I was able to EQ a lot of this out such that I would probably use this as my default setup, if only I could live with it for more than 5-10 minutes.
As an aside – I wore just the faders for a bit on my first flight and actually found them quite enjoyable once I got them set. I should have brought all the different size tips with me though as after an extended time wearing them my initial choice was wrong.
Closing Thoughts on Comfort
I really really wish the bigger pads were already out for these headphones. As it is, I am going to give it the rest of this trip to see if I can get used to it, but a few times throughout the day I really was fatigued by wearing them. For me, at this price point, I need to be able to wear them on these all day trips in order to justify the cost over my IEMs that I can wear for 3-4 hours at a time. Granted, I went over 14 hours with most of the day having them on, but I was having to move them around here and there and sitting here now, 4 hours after I have last put them on, my ears are still a bit unhappy with me. As much as I love the sound I am concerned that they aren't physically built for me, even though sonically they are exactly what I wanted.
Closing Thoughts on Build Quality
These headphones are really wonderfully built. I have posted my thoughts in other places, but after more and more time with them, I just want to reiterate how much I enjoy picking them up. It really gives a sense of money well spent because of the solid construction and attention to detail.
Edited by jonnio - 10/16/12 at 6:07am