Oh noes, the invasion of ambiguous Asian products continues!
Actually, no - chances are if you live in the States or Europe, you have never seen one of these, and never will. They were never marketed nor sold outside of Taiwan, to my knowledge.
So why have I mentioned them?
Well, a lot of music genres I listen to aren't very popular in the U.S., so whenever I get a chance to visit Taiwan, I shop at all the record stores to check out New Age and Eurodance albums.
I first noticed the Gamma LH-036 in the early 2000's (though, it seems they've been in production since 1992, according to a Taiwanese audio forum). Almost every single record store (and even listening stations inside book stores) in Taiwan uses them. Back then, I was still completely new to the definition of "good sound", and as mediocre as these cans may now seem to me, they were amazing to me then.
I will say that these cans (retails for roughly $30 USD) do have very good price/performance ratio, which is the reason they are so widespread (I went back to Taiwan two years ago, they were still a common sight in record stores). Before the likes of Superlux came into prominence on the budget headphone scene, I suspect the Gamma LH-036 was the antiquated equivalent of the HD668b.
Construction Quality & Presentation
I don't think there's much I can praise about the presentation of the Gamma LH-036. You get what you paid for at $30.
Very vanilla packaging; the only accessory included is the 1/4" adapter.
In terms of construction quality... these cans look cheap, and feel cheap. The same type of cheap plastic used by the Superlux is present here, but the Superlux has better styling at least.
That said, the LH-036 does have one design feature I really like - which is that the cups are connected to the headband via pivot joints - and they can pivot freely for a very good fit. Unfortunately, there is one flaw with the way Gamma implemented this design - the cups are affixed to the pivot joints via a small plastic ball (located inside the housing), which are screwed onto the headband. The screws have the tendency to become loose after prolonged use, at which point the cups begin making squeaky noises when pivoted. So every once in a while I have to remove the earpds and driver units to tighten the screws on the back of the housing.
The type of pleather used on the earpads are... cheap. They will last a year or two before starting to crack. The size of the opening on the earpad is also on the small side - if you have big ears (like me) the pads may press down on the outer edges of the ears and cause pain after prolonged use. But not unlike the pivot joint design - where there's a weakness, the LH-036 makes up for it with a merit: The earpads are attached to a plastic ring that simply snaps into place on the cups. The pads can be easily removed for cleaning or modifications.
I don't find the LH-036 to be comfortable due to my ear size. Like aforementioned, the cups/earpads are on the small side for full-sized cans, and they press down on my ears. I have to take them off after an hour or two to let the pain subside.
Additionally, while the headband is adjustable, I personally don't find that the cups quite go down far enough. An extra 1/2 inch to an inch of room for adjustment would be nice.
The headband is well-padded with foam and wrapped in stitched pleather, which is a nice touch.
I consider the sound quality of the LH-036 decent for its price. It has a fairly warm presentation, with an emphasis on mid-range and lower treble. The result being that it has a good "musical" quality to it.
- Driver: φ50mm Neodymium
- Impedance 32Ω
- Frequency Response: 5-25,000Hz
- Maximum Output: 100mW
Treble: The treble presentation isn't particularly good. It seems to have a sharp peak around 8-10K, which makes treble very sharp and sibilant. But it doesn't have the same kind of detail and extension as, say, the HD668b, and the presentation isn't sparkly. Overall I would call it "sharp and dry".
Mid-Range: The mid-range is the main strength of the LH-036. It is forward, pronounced, warm, and has good body - vocals sound good on these cans, so do most wind and string instruments. Details aren't particularly great - but can't be too nit-picky at this price.
Bass: These cans aren't bassy, but I find the bass quantity more than ample. It is also decently tight and controlled when present, though extension isn't as good as the HD668b (but it isn't drony/boomy, which is something I really disliked on the HD668b). The funny thing is the bass presentation was originally the reason I bought these headphones (after hearing how bassy they were in record stores) - in retrospect, I am pretty sure the listening stations bass-boosted these cans, because I was never able to get anything near the kind of bass I heard in the stores on the LH-036.
Sound Stage: Sound stage mediocre - but it is present (really can't be too picky at this price range ). Sound focus and positioning is fairly good as well.
Instrument Separation: Separation mediocre by modern standard due to slight lack of detail in the treble and mids - but I would rate the LH-036 as "above-average" at its price point (I've heard some really horrible audio products at $30). It's nowhere nearly bad enough to be "muddled" - I actually consider the LH-036 to be a valid (and cheaper) alternative to the HD668b for budding music enthusiasts looking for something cheap and risk-free to try.
Isolation: Not very good, to be honest - considering its closed nature. Cheap plastic housing + trouble achieving full seal (my ears are too big) may be the reason. But it's okay for use at home. It doesn't leak sound as badly as the HD668b, being closed headphones, so it won't annoy your roommates as much.
The Gamma LH-036 has been around for two decades now. In all honesty I am surprised by how well it's held up (and how popular it still is among Taiwanese enthusiasts as well as for music demos in record stores). It's a decent, well-rounded pair of headphones for music listening (it doesn't sound cold and analytical like the HD668b). At $30, I don't think one can ask for much more.
Edited by Bagheera - 2/15/13 at 11:32pm