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Mid-Fi Closed Portable Headphone Battle 2012 Discussion V3 [FINAL] - Page 8

Poll Results: Which headphone is the best from your experience? (Please use thread for comments, follow poll rules)

This is a multiple choice poll
  • 8% (6)
    AKG K167 Tiesto
  • 8% (6)
    AKG K267 Tiesto
  • 4% (3)
    Audio Technica ATH-WS99
  • 0% (0)
    Denon AH-D400
  • 5% (4)
    Denon AH-D600
  • 7% (5)
    Logitech Ultimate Ears UE6000
  • 2% (2)
    Logitech Ultimate Ears UE9000
  • 2% (2)
    PSB M4U 1
  • 2% (2)
    PSB M4U 2
  • 23% (16)
    Sennheiser MOMENTUM
  • 13% (9)
    SONY MDR-1R Series (Wired/BT/NC)
  • 0% (0)
    SONY XB900
  • 1% (1)
    Velodyne vTrue
  • 0% (0)
    Velodyne vFree
  • 22% (15)
    V-MODA Crossfade M-100
  • 1% (1)
    YAMAHA Pro Series (400/500)
67 Total Votes  
post #106 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by VicAjax View Post

Am I missing something... is there a reason the Beyerdynamic DT1350 aren't mentioned in this thread?  

 

Yep you kinda are. The criteria of what headphones are included was detailed in the 1st post by BRSxI.

post #107 of 211

If the DENON D400 are included here, why the AKG K167's are not?
 

post #108 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by miow View Post

If the DENON D400 are included here, why the AKG K167's are not?
 

 

AKG K267 is included. I don't know much about the AKG Tiesto range. Could someone care to elaborate? I asked AKG in last month's Fujiya Festival why they didn't have the Tiesto (since I heard that range here on Head-Fi but never seen them), and was informed they're in the professional range. So not certain if they're available for standard consumers.

post #109 of 211

Yes, I know, but I think the K167's should be included too.
 

post #110 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by AnakChan View Post

 

AKG K267 is included. I don't know much about the AKG Tiesto range. Could someone care to elaborate? I asked AKG in last month's Fujiya Festival why they didn't have the Tiesto (since I heard that range here on Head-Fi but never seen them), and was informed they're in the professional range. So not certain if they're available for standard consumers.


This will answer all your questions.

 

http://www.akg.com/site/press_center/powerslave,id,254,nodeid,0,_language,EN,nodeid,33.html

 

Regarding the "professional range" comment, sounds like BS from AKG as many of the top-notch headphones discussed here are considered professional headphones that have been adopted by hobbyist consumers.  I can't imagine AKG isn't aware this is will be a large segment of their market.  Particularly with the K267, user adjustable bass seems to be more of a consumer "gimmick" rather than a dedicated professional feature.  Although, I see the value in application for both.


Edited by Craigster75 - 11/16/12 at 12:20pm
post #111 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by miow View Post

Yes, I know, but I think the K167's should be included too.
 


I believe these were not included based on price point; nothing to do with sound quality.

post #112 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by BRSxIgnition View Post

Apparently the MDR-1R isn't built the best, isn't good for on-the-go, highs are sharp, and the driver touches the ear. Not to mention multiple people say the price for them is too steep for what you're getting..


On balance, they seem to be a much better received headphone than that based on the comments.  In fact, the comments you mention above are isolated compared to the positive.  I'm wondering if you are placing too much emphasis on the negative comments without giving them a chance based on the glowing positive comments?  I haven't heard them and don't think they are for my taste, but my impression from reading the thread is that they are an excellent headphone.

post #113 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by Craigster75 View Post


I believe these were not included based on price point; nothing to do with sound quality.

 

Yes, but thats exactly because of price point that I said so. This is a 230 EUR headphone. Same price as the Denon D400 (included) here in Europe.

post #114 of 211
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Craigster75 View Post


On balance, they seem to be a much better received headphone than that based on the comments.  In fact, the comments you mention above are isolated compared to the positive.  I'm wondering if you are placing too much emphasis on the negative comments without giving them a chance based on the glowing positive comments?  I haven't heard them and don't think they are for my taste, but my impression from reading the thread is that they are an excellent headphone.

Agreed - I was taking those negatives from the review at pocket lint, as I haven't read though all the impressions on the MDR-1R board. I will have to look at them in more detail, but the build not being good for that price range is already a downside..

post #115 of 211

I've owned the AKG K550 for approximately 5 months, the V-MODA M-100 approximately a month, and the PSB M4U 1 approximately 2 weeks.  Additionally, I had previously owned the M4U 2 -- PSB's active noise-cancelling variant -- for an estimated 3 weeks and, from memory, it shares more similarities than differences with its sibling.  My structuring of a formal comparison began several days ago with what I considered to be the finished product granted finalization earlier today.  Upon review, I concluded that it came off as obscenely self-important and overlong.  Given proper contextualization, my opinion is no more valid than that of any other enthusiast and I do not wish to portray myself contrarily.  I've opted to delete it and, in its stead, am writing a highly-distilled version within the span of approximately an hour. (my apologies in advance for any spelling/grammatical/formatting errors)  Since all three of these products have already been sufficiently detailed by others I will intentionally avoid making this an all-inclusive affair in terms of depth, but will put forth my best effort to promptly answer any questions regarding the proceeding.

 

 

Source Components:

 

Mid-2010 Macbook Pro (Snow Leopard)

Audirvana Plus (Exclusive/Direct/Integer enabled, 7168MB RAM allocated)

Audioquest DragonFly

FLAC Media (native sample rates)

 

 

Portability:

 

I'll get this out of the way early as I've auditioned these headphones exclusively for at-home listening.  I have no inclination to utilize any as portables but acknowledge that many do.  With that in mind, I have taken all three out of the house to get a feel for their on-the-go performance.  The M-100, as many would assume, was the clear winner.

 

 

700

From left to right: M-100 hardshell case, M4U hardshell case, and K550 deluxe polyethylene sleeve. (sold separately)

 

 

Much has already been said of the M-100's hinged design and, as displayed in the picture above, it certainly makes for a convenient form factor during transport.  The M4U series also features a collapsable design, albeit more traditionally implemented.  Both the PSB and V-MODA cases feature durable rubberized exteriors, felt-lined interiors, and heavy duty zippers.  The M-100 case, however, feels a bit more dense.  Included with both are removable cables with inline controls and microphones, but as I have little interest in them I cannot claim to have tested their functionality nor compatibility. (more on accessories later)  Both are comfortable when worn around the neck, but the M-100 allows for a greater sense of freedom when moving one's head.  Conversely, the K550 does not fold for transport, (although, it's the only one of the three that features swiveling cups permitting it to lay flat) doesn't come with a case, (nor does the K551) has a 10' non-removable cable devoid of inline controls, (the K551, however, features them) and is quite cumbersome.

 

Isolation and leakage for all three are acceptable with no clear winner between the three and all are efficient enough to be played sufficiently from a portable device.  However, I'm of the opinion that the M-100 presents both the most portable-friendly sound signature and physical design. (again, points that will be elaborated on later in this writeup)

 

1.   V-MODA M-100

2.   PSB M4U 1

3.   AKG K550

 

 

Accessories:

 

Two of these headphones present what I consider to be an exceptional value in terms of extras.

 

 

700

From left to right: M-100 accessories and documentation, M4U accessories and documentation, and K550... err... accessory and documentation.

 

 

The K550 includes a screw-on 1/8" to 1/4" adapter along with it's purely black and white, text-based documentation.  A barebones experience to be certain, but the adapter is a screw-on design -- a feature that I do consider to add value.

 

Conversely, the M-100 has a lot to offer in terms of accoutrements.  Firstly, it's important to note that the boom mic was only included for the earliest adopters (to be sold separately) and the Faders VIP earplugs (cannot comment as I have not used them) are likely a limited time offering.  As already noted, a durable carrying case is included along with an accompanying carabiner.  Also noted was the cable with inline controls/microphone which is complimented by a longer, more pliable feeling cable (both are cloth covered) that includes an attached dongle that allows for the source to be shared by another 1/8" compatible audio component.  I would've preferred what is essentially the audio-only cable to not have the extra appendage, but it's surprisingly unobtrusive and lightweight.  The 1/4" adapter is of the standard plug-and-play variety and the two cable ties that are included, as opposed to the comparative cans' stock twist ties, are nicely designed velcro.  The complimentary custom-etched shields add a level of customization (not to mention endearment) that most competing manufacturers simply can't touch, but the most interesting of the M-100's accessories are the corks in my opinion.  As the recent measurements posted at Innerfidelity exhibit, failing to close off the unused input in either the left or right cup causes a (slight) change in frequency response, so the ability to counteract this effect shows some impressive forethought by V-MODA engineers.  In my trials any perceived change in performance with or without the cork in place could all but definitely be attributed to placebo, but the added peace of mind along with a way to protect the port(s) from dust is surely a welcome feature.

 

Like the M-100, the M4U also includes a transport case, carabiner, a rather generic 1/4" adapter, and a cable with inline controls/mic.  The audio-only cable is exactly that: a straight cable terminated by 1/8" connectors on either end.  The PSB cables feature right-angled connections while V-MODA's sit at a rather unique 45 degrees.  The appealing cloth aesthetic is missing from the M4U cables, but the use of a rigid and slightly plasticky feeling rubber does cut down markedly in terms of microphonics. (the K550 is, in my opinion, the best of the three in this regard)  The included airline adapter would be a welcome inclusion for frequent travelers, but I personally have little use for it. (I drive whenever possible)  The main attractions, in my opinion, are the two accessories that I believe every headphone should include: a cleaning cloth and extra earpads.  The former is easily obtained, but welcomed nonetheless.  The latter, however, is a rarity and I applaud PSB for including them with the initial purchase.

 

This category is a tossup between the M-100 and M4U.  While I do consider the extra earpads to be the most coveted of the lot, it's tough to deny the way in which the V-MODA accessories are executed and it's my opinion that the form-fitting case, novel corks, beautiful cloth-covered cables and the personalized shields push it just slightly ahead of what the PSB offers.

 

1.   V-MODA M-100

2.   PSB M4U 1

3.   AKG K550

 

 

Materials and Aesthetics:

 

As hinted above, this is another round for the M-100.

 

 

700

Eye candy.

 

 

I've stated this elsewhere, but the M-100 is one of the most premium feeling headphones I've ever owned.  The reassuring weight, flawless finish, some of the nicest pleather pads (materials wise) I've ever experienced, and presence of both high-grade plastics and metals has prompted me to gawk at them time and again prior to starting a listening session.  I personally opted for the Shadow finish, and the microsuede headband looks and feels superb.  I anticipated that Shadow would have a sense of gaudiness with it's gloss black punctuated by red accents.  In actuality, it's pure class.  It also looks the best out of the three on the head and presents a sleek low-profile form factor.

 

The K550's biggest problem in this area is the cup size.  It's a HUGE headphone that engulfs your head and is certain to look bulky on most.  The pads don't feel as premium as either the V-MODA nor the PSB with the interiors exhibiting a similar crinkly effect to those found on cheaper headphones.  The combination of matte black soft-touch plastics and dark aluminum, however, both looks stunning and feels solid. (just not as aspiringly durable as the M-100)  Of the three compared I will admit that it's my favorite purely in terms of looks -- it's simply a handsome and mature looking headphone.

 

The design choices made with the M4U series are, frankly, a bit perplexing.  The M4U 2 originally came with a headband that was prone to cracking and that has been revised, but the plastic employed for its entirety both looks and feels cheap.  My black M4U 1 (purchased new) was already scratched and dinged in several places when I had received them and they show fingerprints very easily.  Looks-wise, while they're one in a long line that seem to take aesthetic queues from the Beats Studios, (a cheap looking headphone to start with, in my opinion) I feel that the curved, thick plastic that juts out to the sides makes it look more like a Jecklin Float when worn on the head than anything else.  It's not the worst wearing headphone I've owned, but I did find the correlation comedic.  As previously noted, the finish of the padding is quite good, but the way that the collapsable hinges click into place makes me a bit skeptical of their longterm reliability.

 

1.   V-MODA M-100

2.   AKG K550

3.   PSB M4U 1

 

 

Comfort:

 

Despite being the largest in terms of size, the K550 actually feels like the lightest of the three and this is especially true when worn.  Out of the box, I found that the clamping force was insufficient and the headband created a pressure point at the top of the head, but some judicious bending negated those issues.  I still would've liked a smaller setting as the tops of the earpads just barely stay off of my pinna, but this isn't necessarily bothersome.  In addition, some thicker padding both on the headband and earpads would've been welcome to both increase comfort and create a tighter seal.  After some hours they do exert some pressure on my jaw, however.

 

Before describing my comfort experiences with the M-100, it's important to remember that we're all physically different.  With that said, my round face and somewhat broad jawline does not lend itself well to its physical design.  The clamping force -- even after some headband bending -- is ever-present and the pads are a bit more dense than I'd prefer.  This equated to enough pressure on my temporomandibular joints to cause some fairly serious headaches that would last well into the following day.  Testing this and ruling out other factors took some time, but it's conclusively the offending stimulus.  Again, I do not wish for my statements concerning the M-100's comfort to be sensationalized as I'm certain that these headphones will physically work for the majority.  For me, however, they have made me re-prioritize proper fit in my headphone purchasing decisions.

 

The M4U 1 isn't terribly heavy, (unlike the noise canceling 2) but it does weigh rather significantly at the peak of my skull.  Instead of tapering the padding toward the center, it counterintuitively thickens.  Therefore, it's seated on a very specific point causing a distinct area of discomfort that prompts me to shift its positioning rather regularly.  Clamping pressure is above nominal causing pressure around my ears, but thanks to the plush pads it's not to the extent of the M-100.  My ears do tend to bottom out within the pads.  Surprisingly, this causes no additional discomfort.  Whereas the M-100 uses a rather stiff webbing to cover the drivers that caused chaffing to my antihelix, the PSB employs a t-shirt like material that I personally find completely benign.

 

The K550 wins overall in terms of comfort, but none of the three are my ideal.  In fact, it's my issues within this category that caused the delay of my written impressions.  As reference, I found the Sennheiser HD600/650 to perform very well for a larger padded 'phone (after some stretching... they clamp tightly when new) and the full-sized, circular-cupped Beyerdynamics to be nearly perfect. (if not a bit large)  For smaller circumaruals, the Ultrasone Edition 8 performed flawlessly for me.

 

1.   AKG K550

2.   PSB M4U 1

3.   V-MODA M-100

 

 

Sonic Performance:

 

Rankings within this category are highly reliant on personal preference -- both in terms of sound signature and content.  Personally, I find that the employment of genre labels is typically either outright confusing or a condemnation of banality.  To me, truly great music is highly innovative, broadly inspired, and created without a predisposed "target audience" or conventional standards in mind.  With that, I do prioritize versatility above all else making an even tonal balance and resolution coveted sonic attributes.

 

Of the three, the M-100 is the most apparently colored.  Leading with the obvious, much has already been stated about its emphasized bass.  It authoritatively has the most presence of the three, but I do find it to be tighter and better textured than that of the K550.  New out of the box it was a bit unwieldy, but after accruing some hours (I don't think it took more than 30-50 hours before changes stopped being noticeable) it gained a sense of distinct control.  Directly from a portable player I did perceive some bleeding into the mids, but with the right complimentary chain (Audirvana Plus feeding the D-Fly) this disappeared completely.  Midrange frequencies are nicely resolved with a good sense of tonal weight but, unfortunately, recessed within the entire spectrum.  Still, mids-forward mixes -- particularly those with vocals -- are presented with immersively lifelike timbre.  Treble is forward but I do not find it to be harsh or etched.  There are no noticeable peaks nor shrillness, but it does noticeably lack extension into the highest of highs.  In fact, I think it's this lack of information that helps contribute to an overall smooth presentation.  In this smoothness, detail retrieval lags behind the other two headphones.  Subtleties are lost which, unfortunately for some compositions, means that so is the ambiance.  For some, it's desirable to have a headphone that counteracts typically audible noise floors or other issues with less than clean mixes.  For me, however, this is simply missing information that can make or break my connection to a piece of music.  Soundstage size is laterally spacious and ahead of the PSB in this regard, but not terribly deep.  Instrument separation is sufficient, but placement can sometimes take a hit due to the uneven frequency response.

 

The K550 presents better tonal balance than the M-100, but I do find that the high-treble can sometimes come too far forward and manifest a sense of an instrument (violin, in particular) becoming detached from the rest of the piece.  This doesn't happen often, mind you.  As alluded to above, the bass is somewhat dispersed and indistinct but doesn't veil the midrange either.  Quantity-wise, I would say that it's the closest to accurate of the three.  The midrange stays in lockstep with the bass and, when considering the slight push toward toward treble, this creates a tip toward brightness.  Apart from the infrequent treble spike, the presentation is distant from the listener and presented within a large sense of space.  This gives a desirable enhancement of concert hall and/or live performance recordings, but music that relies on impact can sound dry and lack a sense of engagement.  Again, soundstaging is more laterally-focused but does have a better sense of height than that of the M-100.  What is wonky about its presentation, however, is that I find instruments to be presented as "wider/stretched" across the center of the image while those to the left and right seem thin but occupying a better defined space.  Detail retrieval good, but with the treble emphasis comes the impression that those in the high-range are too apparent and some flaws can be put under a microscope because of it.  It's also worth noting that a proper seal is crucial to the K550's performance as any gaps cause a loss of tonal body and bass.  

 

To my ears, the M4U 1 is far and away the best sounding of the three.  There is a bit of pronunciation to the bass, but there's nothing "excited" about it either and it's incredibly well-tempered, defined, and fast.  Other than that, tonality sounds very neutral to my ears and shows great extension in both directions.  They were slightly bright out of the box, but after getting some hours on the drivers my impressions aligned well with what I heard from the M4U 2 ran passively. (preferred it to active)  However, I owned the 2 before purchasing the DragonFly and was also an Amarra user at the time. (murkier than Audirvana Plus/Direct with added weight and warmth)  With my current setup, the M4U's detail retrieval and imaging is incredibly impressive.  There's a slight sense of smoothness to the presentation that negates the fatigue inherent to treble-heavy recordings without masking details, hindering the 3D presentation of individual textures, or negating its sense of airiness.  It can be honest to a fault as some productions can come across as sounding too digital. (tough to describe, but clearly part of the content and not a direct coloration of the headphone)  Soundstage size is the smallest of the three headphones, but it's also the most cohesive.  It's as deep as it is wide with wonderfully distinct instrument separation/placement and it's apparent that transient response is the fastest of the three.  I previously described the M4U 1 as a headphone that "gets out of the way of the music" and that doesn't "romanticise" content and I stand by that statement.

 

Paul Barton and his team certainly didn't let their loudspeaker pedigree go to waste and yes, they're taking an entry into a crowded headphone market very seriously.  The M-100 and the K550 both have their own distinct strengths and weaknesses with the former giving the impression that all of its performance attributes were deliberately designed-in, but the latter does have a better sense of versatility in relation to my listening habits.  Therefore, they rank as follows for my assessment of their sonic performance:

 

1.   PSB M4U 1

2.   AKG K550

3.   V-MODA M-100

 

 

Conclusion and General Ramblings:

 

Again, it's important to note that mine is one opinion amongst many.  The M4U 1 wins on sound, the K550 on comfort, and the M-100 on portability.  I enjoy all three and consider them very, very good headphones.

 

As I was writing my (ultimately scrapped) long form comparison, I came to the realization that the more I can write about a headphone's performance, the less that I enjoy it.  I don't want "fun."  I don't want a "big" or "spacious" sound.  I don't want a headphone that "digs deep" for details.  For me, the absence of these and other obvious adjectives is desirable.  In short, I just want to hear my music.  All headphones have colorations, of course, and it's especially difficult to design a closed-back can that doesn't add an apparent flavoring.  My needs call for isolation thereby limiting my options.  From the dozens of headphones I've owned/auditioned, the PSB M4U 1 fits my sonic preferences better than any other. (save for the HD600, but that's open-backed)  Disappointingly, I do find the comfort issues to be a deal breaker.  If I can't use a headphone to listen to multiple albums on end without discomfort, then they're simply no use to me.  I will be sending back my current pair for a refund, but may opt to pick up another (in gray to mask the scratching/dinging issues) if I'm unable to find another option.  If I end up doing this, I will attempt to replace the headband padding with something better contoured.

 

I will be parting ways with both the M4U 1 and M-100 in short order.  I will, however, be keeping a close eye on both PSB and V-MODA's future offerings.  The former manufacturer certainly knows how to craft an excellent sound signature while the latter has shown a unique dedication to their customer base that I do recognize as highly commendable.  The K550 will be kept for the time being until I can confidently find an endgame solution.  In expanding my research, I was directed toward an option that I haven't considered in some time: IEMs.  Etymotics, in particular, seem well suited to my needs.  I purchased an HF5 from Amazon's Warehouse Deals that, unfortunately, arrived with what seemed to be defective drivers that distorted in the sub bass frequencies.  Apart from this, I was VERY impressed with their lack of audible adjectives after finding a good seal.  My major issue with IEMs has always been comfort and these were no different.  With Etymotic's custom molding program, however, I'm looking at around $200 all-in and physicality problems should then be a non-issue.  I estimate that the investment is worth a shot, so I've placed my order for a new set.  In addition, since I would still like to have a full-sized headphone to utilize as a secondary point of reference I've ordered a KRK KNS 8400. (said to be flat and un-hyped)  It was a cheap investment, so I'll trial it against the K550 and keep one of them.


Edited by Curly21029 - 11/19/12 at 7:38pm
post #116 of 211

Curly, thank you for a comprehensive and fair review.  While my rankings would vary from yours, I find your rationale sound.  Well done!
 

post #117 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by Craigster75 View Post

Curly, thank you for a comprehensive and fair review.  While my rankings would vary from yours, I find your rationale sound.  Well done!
 

 

Thank you and, judging from what I know of your prefers, I would suspect that more would agree with your valuation than mine. beerchug.gif

post #118 of 211

Curly, thanks for the comparison.  I have read so many reviews of these cans that I'm completely baffled as to what my next choice will be.  I had not been seriously considering the PSB until I saw your review but now it's in the mix.  I listened to the UE6000 at the Apple store today and quite liked it: comfy, good vocals, nice bass.  Seems like a contender. I just wish the Apple stores in NYC had a better listening selection (it's 50% Beats) so I could do a real-time comparison.

post #119 of 211
Quote:
Originally Posted by darthman View Post

Curly, thanks for the comparison.  I have read so many reviews of these cans that I'm completely baffled as to what my next choice will be.  I had not been seriously considering the PSB until I saw your review but now it's in the mix.  I listened to the UE6000 at the Apple store today and quite liked it: comfy, good vocals, nice bass.  Seems like a contender. I just wish the Apple stores in NYC had a better listening selection (it's 50% Beats) so I could do a real-time comparison.

 

I've only been able to audition the UE6000 with the noise cancellation activated, unfortunately.  I'm unsure if there was something wrong with the demo unit or if it was "rigged" to be always activated.  I'd agree that it was comfortable, but there was certainly a heavy bias toward bass. (again, couldn't listen to it passively)

 

If you enjoy that level of bass emphasis and additional tonal weight added to the vocal range, (i.e. not true to the recording but can often add a sense of pseudo-realism) then I would advise a purchase of the M-100 over the M4U.  I have no idea what the Apple store's return policy is, but with V-MODA's 60 day satisfaction guarantee you really can't go wrong in auditioning them.

post #120 of 211
Thread Starter 

Thank you for such detailed (and slightly comical) impressions Curly - I'm sure it will help anyone interested in both the PSB M4U 1 & 2, as well as the M-100's. 

 

Personally - I'm calling my search off for a bit. Ordered a detachable cable modded white ATH-M50, and I will be able to compare that to my AKG K267's that should get to me early in the new year. I'll start worrying again once I have to decide which to keep.

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