Pros: Clean sound, well-balanced, comfortable, great accessory list.
Cons: Headband seems a bit too flexible
Preferred Genres: I’ve enjoyed every genre I’ve listened to through these from jazz to electronic, these are great all-around headphones.
Home - Musicbee (WASAPI) -> O2 -> ODAC -> XPT100
Portable - iPod Classic -> XPT100
The XPT100 are packaged in a rather large box, so large in fact that it can almost cover the 15.6’’ screen of my laptop in width and dwarfs it in height. The front of the box is colored blue and black with the product name and image of the product as well as various tidbits. Between the information on the side and back you’re given the accessories list, specifications, and key points about the headphones and accessories. For some reason I’m reminded of a classier packaging of the company Razer, the font and color choice would fit right in with gaming headphones, albeit not as flashy. If I were to see this on a shelf it might catch my eye, but I would probably label it with gaming headphones, something about the font choice and logo, not that it looks bad mind you.
Opening up the cardboard box I’m greeted with a rough fabric carrying case (polyester?) that has ample padding inside to cart the XPT100 around. Those who have the Brainwavz HM5 will be familiar here, in-fact the accessory list is the same as the HM5, except NVX has decided to make their second pair of pads angled. Now with that said, I want to make it clear that while the same accessories are included, NVX’s are built differently than the Brainwavz, especially in the pads. The stock flat leather pads are very comfortable, providing a very soft experience that allows the XPT100 to be worn for hours. NVX is calling their pads ComfortMax Cushions and while I don’t know what they’ve done differently than Brainwavz, but the pads are certainly softer and more comfortable. The second set of pads are angled and are a bit more cushioned pushing my ear out a bit further from the driver, these are a bit more stiff, more akin to the HM5 pads, but very comfortable as well. I’m not sure if the angled pads are changing the sound or not, if so it’s miniscule, but they do feel great to wear. It’s also worth noting that the pads each have a fine cloth that separates the driver from the ears. Included as well is a 3m detachable cable and a 1.2m detachable cable which feel very well built and terminate to a sturdy plastic 3.5mm plug. A ¼’’ adaptor is included for those who are able to use it.
From talking with NVX it seems they are very proud of their pads for their quality and comfort, as well as the quality of the packaging in-general. I think they should be, these pads are a step above the HM5 and are the softest leather pads I’ve used. I should also add that I’ve used the XPT100 on walks during the hot August days and never once thought my ears were too hot during the hour of walking. Everything here is quality.
Design and Build Quality
When considering the build quality of these I think the most important thing I can do is compare these to the Brainwavz HM5 since these are in direct competition as far as pricing is concerned and since they use the same drivers. How do the XPT100 compare to the HM5? Well I can say that the HM5 certainly felt more sturdy due to their rigid and solid feel, but that is not to say that the XPT100 feel cheaply made at all, in-fact quite the opposite. Almost everything about the XPT100 feels and looks high quality, I do have one concern with the XPT100 though and that is in the headband. The headband, compared to the HM5, feels much more flexible which gives me the illusion of being more susceptible to breaking. I can happily report though that my worries have been unwarranted so far, in-fact I’ve dropped these on the headband, and have worn these for light jogs with no concern of anything breaking. I’ve given the headband a bit of a stress test by twisting and bending it, not beyond they would experience normally mind you, and have never heard any cracks or had any concerns of it snapping. I feel that NVX has intentionally made the headband more flexible to handle more stress the more I think about it, only time will tell though.
Other than the headband the XPT100 feels every bit as sturdy as the HM5, while winning in comfort thanks to the pads. Now onto looks! The first thing noticed is the color scheme, the XPT100 use an all matte black housing with a brushed metal black plate that complements the housing rather than contrasts it like on the HM5. Another thing noticed is that NVX chose to put their logo in the front bottom corner of the plate rather than the top back. I think the design looks better this way and always felt that the HM5 looked like the user is wearing them backwards. I’m torn between which color of the plate I like best though as the grey of the HM5 looks very nice, as does the black of the XPT100.
I talked about the comfort earlier, but I want to touch upon it once more. These are very comfortable headphones that I have no problem wearing for hours, even on a hot walk. I have grown a preference for the flat pads though rather than the angled pads. The XPT100 is slightly noticeable on-top of my head, but nothing that hurts. I did find that the angled pads seem to allow more pressure on the top of the head from the headband though causing mild discomfort. The angled pads also seem to clamp a bit, while the flat pads form a seal of comfort around the ear. The pads also add greatly to the isolation of the XPT100, I’ve been using these for walks around my suburb and they’ve isolated me quite well with almost no noise coming in with music playing and a good amount of isolation without music playing.
So you’re probably wondering, well which is the victor, the HM5 or the XPT100? This is hard to say, the XPT100 win in comfort without batting an eye, as for build the XPT100 feel more flimsy, but remember a more rigid feeling headphone does not always hold up better. I have to give the advantage to the XPT100 here as the comfort is a notch above the HM5 and they are also very well built.
Before commenting on the sound I made sure to give these at least 100 hours or burn-in and 100 hours of use. No major changes were noted during burn-in time and I feel that these are ready to go from the box.
I’m sure some of you are wondering why I’m bothering reviewing the sound quality of the XPT100 since I’ve already reviewed the HM5, why not copy and paste? Well that wouldn’t be fair to the XPT100 since different pads can cause the sound to be different and because I have not opened these up, I’m not much of a DIY, to determine beyond reasonable doubt that these are the exact same inside as the HM5 despite using the same drivers. Now how do the XPT100 sound? Well very close to the HM5, if not the same, it’s too hard to tell and honestly I would be nitpicking details from auditory memory since I would have to take the time to switch pads and the headphones. The sound of the XPT100 is best summed up as having a warm leaning neutral frequency response, with an impressive soundstage for a closed headphone that I enjoy for many music genres.
The bass here has nice presence, good clarity, and extends well, providing a very clean and slightly warm vibe to these headphones. I’ve been listening to a lot of electronic music on these and I find them very capable at hitting the very low frequencies required for songs like James Blake’s Limit to Your Love or The xx’s Fantasy, both of which have heavy sub-bass lines in them and the XPT100 never lets me down. Despite the good presence of the sub-bass I do feel that the XPT100 are a tad slow in replicating the very fast sub-bass fluctuations that are in the James Blake tune I mention above. Thankfully I don’t have many songs with sub-bass that fast, and for the slow basslines in Fantasy the XPT100 plays them back smoothly with no signs of distortion despite the extremely deep and strong sub-bassline. The mid-bass is decent as well having decent speed to keep up with fast kick drum segments like the double bass at the end of Between the Buried and Me’s Mordecai. At times I feel the XPT100 had a tad more punch, but there are times I feel it’s perfect, I’ll chalk that up to a recording or mastering thing though, not a fault of the headphone.
Mids are perhaps my focus when I’m purchasing a headphone since vocals and guitars are largely important to me when it comes to music. I want the mids to have energy, be clean, and a good presence. I can say that the mids in the XPT100 satisfy me very much. The mids are well balanced with the rest of the spectrum, certainly not aggressive like my Audio Technica Ad2000, nor are they recessed, they sit right where they should be in my opinion. Everything is very clean from the harmonica in The Beatles Rocky Racoon to the female vocals in Florence and the Machine’s Cosmic Love. I’m going to simply call the mids well balanced and clean, because really there’s nothing else to say about them. They do everything I’ve thrown at them right with a good presence and a great amount of realism for the instruments and vocals.
The highs may not stand out, but they are no slouch either. The highs extend well with good clarity and no signs of grain. Trumpets sound very realistic on this as I listen to Rubblebucket’s 540 Groove which are forward, but not harsh, and balanced very well with the drums, percussion, guitar, and synths going on in this upbeat song. As I move on to Miles Davis the trumpet sounds crystal clear no matter what track while sounding very realistic. The highs are done very well here, I have not one complaint.
I think the thing that impresses me most with the XPT100 though is the soundstage. I don’t see it getting any better at this price range for a closed headphone. I’ve used these with Skyrim and the world felt beautifully open and realistic, movies and TV are also excellent to use with the XPT100. Music benefits as well, even during the most complex passages the instruments have their own space, even a slight air about them. The best I could describe it would be an intimate inside concert with the back half of the venue being open exposing the sky above.
For those wondering about amping these, I suggest it. The difference is enough through my O2+ODAC compared to my onboard for me to not want to listen to it without them in the chain. That sounds like an obvious statement, but I feel as if I’m missing out without them when coming from onboard. When used portably through my iPod Classic the volume was a tad too low for me at full-volume, some may find it suitable, but I highly recommend at least something small to boost the volume a tad.
I can honestly say I’ve greatly enjoyed everything I’ve used through the XPT100 from the smooth jazz of Miles Davis, to the heavy and hard hitting bass of Baths, to the funky, complex and upbeat music of Rubblebucket. The XPT100 are very capable headphones and at the price they should retail for ($129) these make an excellent pair of home listening headphones or even portable if you like to use circumaural headphones on the go. These are very competitive with the Brainwavz HM5 and the question is, “Are these worth buying instead of the HM5?” If you plan to use these portably primarily and are lacking a portable amp, the HM5 may be the better option since it includes a free FiiO E6. If you plan on buying these primarily for home listening then the XPT100 should be your first option due to the better comfort and slightly cheaper price.
Come see the rest of the photos here.