In 2010, there was Superlux. In early 2012, there was Jaycar. Several months ago, there was JVC's HA-S line. Head-Fi's ability to find mid-fi headphones at downright laughable prices has always been commendable. But all too often, these headphones get bragged up as being better than flagship models of established audio brands, something experienced Head-Fiers rightly laugh at.
But can it happen?
Can an budget-fi headphone legitimately be mentioned in the same breath as headphones ten times its price, not as a "poor man's version", but as an equal?
I believe so.
Mind you, I have no experience in high-end gear. I'm 16, and my first vocational experience began last week. My parents aren't rich.
But I do have my fair share of experience with mid-fi headphones. I can usually scrounge enough Birthmas money to eek out a great deal on a solid vintage headphone or an FOTM.
The Somic EFi 82 MT is not a mid-fi headphone.
The Somic EFi 82 MT is not a mid-fi headphone.
What is it? I don't know really. I lack the experience with high-end models to come out and declare that the Somic EFi-82 MT is an HD650 killer, or that it's going to put your Stax to shame, but I can say that it demolishes everything I've heard in Mid-Fi/ Budget Land.
Note: The one thing that you need to make these headphones sound as great as they should is to acquire a set of Shure SRH840 pads. They fit a little loose, but it's nothing bad. The remainder of this post is about the EFi-82 MT with SRH840 pads.
So without further ado, let's get started on how these bad boys sound.
Bass is deep and punchy. In the intro to Kanye West's Love Lockdown, the EFi presented all three subbass notes (two deep, one very deep) at an equal volume, the way they are supposed to be presented, something I have never heard done before. In contrast the Philips Uptown loses steam at the deep note, playing it more quietly than the other two. The extension here is top-notch. Mid-bass is a bit emphasized, but not in a distracting way. These headphones are "selective thumpers", getting a bit boomy in genres that are meant to be a bit boomy (modern rap and electronic music), but they won't make a bass-fest out of your Adele CD.
Vocals are just...wow. The treble allows a vocalist's breaths and hard consonants to isolate them slightly from the rest of the track (not sibilant, but a bit "sparkly"). The mids, in turn, bring them up to the forefront, but not at the expense of other parts of the frequency spectrum. It's the musical equivalent of depth of field.
The treble has the potential to get, as mentioned, a bit sparkly if the mix calls for it. This thing will pick up bad treble mixing/mastering like it's no tomorrow, but on the right track, all individual pieces of the treble can be sonically isolated and pinpointed.
The soundstage and positioning is top-notch. If I were to draw a diagram of where I perceived everything to be positioned, it would show that the EFI-82 MT has a listening angle of about 200 degrees, or slightly over my left and right shoulder.
To really illustrate how wonderful these things sound, here's a list of all of the new things that these headphones taught me about some of my favorite songs.
- Florence + The Machine - Spectrum: Florence has a ping-pong delay on her vocals throughout the track.
- Il Volo- Beautiful Day: There's a strange click at the 0:06 mark.
- Flobots- Handlebars (I like their other stuff too): The violin is panned about 90% right for the whole song, but changes to the left side in the third verse.
- Kanye West (in general): Kanye West has some really cramped sounding mixes.
- Macy Gray- I Try: The vocals in the chorus are multiple takes, with every take hard-panned left or right.
- Ellie Goulding- Lights: The vocals in the chorus are stacked, with one take one octave below the other
- Fun. - Some Nights: There's a really cool snare roll at the :45 mark.
- Imagine Dragons - It's Time: There's one more clap than I thought there was in the main rhythm pattern, and there are some snaps too.
These are songs I know, love, and have heard dozens of times on mid-fi headphones. Yet, upon listening to many of my favorite songs once on the EFi 82 MT with SRH 840 pads, all of these new features became extremely evident.
These are bar none the greatest headphones I own, but like all FOTMs, it does have a few drawbacks.
For one, they do get hot after about 2-3 hours of listening with the SRH 840 pads.
For two, you probably won't be able to buy them on eBay. I was, but they're not on there now.
For three, you have to wait a whole month to get them shipped to your house from China.
For four, they look kind of dorky, but when have we cared about that?
However, the EFI 82 isn't just a great deal; it's a great headphone, no matter how you slice it.