Soundmagic iem E10 remained one of my favourite iem of all time, so you should know that why I am really interested to review a pair of HP-100 as soon as I know the existence of it, known as first full size headphone from Soundmagic. Soundmagic had created some tide in audio world since they exert, they have build some of the best products in the price range, and one of my favourite Chinese brand besides YuLong Audio.
What am I expecting while I knew that Soundmagic going to have their first full size headphone? To be honest I am expecting a fun and exciting sound jus tlike E10 that I am very familiar with, but reading all the reviews on the internet said that HP-100 is a neutral and balanced headphone, I doubt it at first, it utilise a 53mm driver man, somehow I just can't accept that it will be balanced sounding or neutral, the looks (Rock and trendy look of it) do influence my initial judgement too (Before I hand on with them).
Wise man never judge a book by its cover. But at least Hp-100 do meet one of my expectation, it has exceptional price to performance ratio, and performed way higher than its price.
It is not often than China headphone selling more than 200USD and being one of the audio giant from China,I am truly confident in Soundmagic to produce a headphone in such price bracket, place of origin is not important at all as long as it has excellent voicing. The 53mm do make HP-100 looks big but honestly, it is 'smaller' than what I thought it will be.
This headphone is rated at 32Ohm and 95db at 1khz/mW, it should not be too hard to drive,but don't ever expected that you can drive HP-100 ampless. Yes,you might get audible or reasonably loud volume without an amp, but audio quality wise, you can't enjoy and receive what HP-100 is capable to deliver without an proper amp, its 53mm large driver and 95db of sensitivity is not a joke, it seriously need an amp to make it shine.
Well, upon check in internet I really thought Tony is crazy to design such an ugly headphone (I expected more from Soundmagic, I am a hard core fan of Soundmagic honestly), but after I received it, Gosh! It is beautiful with such a nice design! Yes, like what you read in other review, you might scratch it easily if you are using it outside or on the move, but this should not be a problem (As I don't think no one in Earth will be calling it a 'Portable Headphone'), and if you are like me use it inside your man cave/ house or personal music listening room, except that you are going hardcore on it then I personally think it won't be scratched too much. Sure, if SOundmagic can make it more 'scratch-less' will be better, what I want to state here is, good sound will remain good sound, no matter how it been scratched.
Build quality is brilliant, no surprise here, just like what I am expected, except for the easily scratch surface, I am totally happy. Design wise, I am satisfied except that I am disappointed on the cable design, I am okay with the coiled cable design (It is not as heavy as I thought, way better than Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250Ohm), length is moderate and sweet, come with interchangeable cable features as well, seems too good to be true, but I am not happy with the 'lock mechanism' of HP-100 (At cable jack on HP-100),why? Because normal 3.5mm headphone plug can't go into the jack, means you can't simply buy aftermarket cable if you want to upgrade the stock cable or your cable is broken, this is not good and not flexible at all. Come on, HP-100 is an audiophile headphone, upgrading the headphone cable is one of the fun'nest' things in audio world.
Comfort level is excellent and I won't be hesitate to wear it all day long, big ear cup and the clamping force is soft, well done!
I have tested Soundmagic HP-100 along with Yulong Audio D100 II, Yulong Audio U100, JDS Labs Odac, Jds Labs Objective 2, Bravo Audio Rock, Hippo CriCri, iFi iCAN and Stoner Acoustic UD100. All fully connected with top of the line Charleston Cable Company's interconnect and cable.
Headphone have been burned in more than 100 hours.
Where should I start? I guess I have to start this review in traditional way and separate them in few parts:
High : Treble response is surprisingly good, extended nicely and roll out nicely, I love how the treble response is and to me it kind of hitting near the sweet spot. treble is never getting harsh or anything bad, it just nicely presented and enjoyable.
Midrange : Midrange sounded flat but I am sure it is not recessed for me (I heard some of them describe it as recessed), totally not recessed. Allright, it is not forward like most of the headphone, if that is their reference then Hp-100 might seems 'recessed' but for me it is just 'flat', flat as three of the main frequency. Vocal is expressive,natural,nuanced, detailed and accurate.
Low : For me, HP-100 has adequate amount of bass, luckily, quality wise it is also good. Worth to mention that the bass is deep and detailed, impact-wise it is enough and won't have a lot of bass rumble. Quantity wise it is not that much, HP-100 can’t satisfied the most demanding bass response users, but for audiophile’s bass sack, it is good and enjoyable.
Sound stage : HP-100 has big and wide staging, along with great positioning and imaging capability. I will say HP-100 done an excellent job here.
Instrument Separation : Excellent.
Sound Signature : HP-100 is quite neutral, might seems ‘Cold’ for some but it is not, we are purely talking personal preference here. Speed is good. What I am getting here is good detail level and GIGANTIC sound. Yes, the sound is really huge and gigantic, full body sound. It is not as rich as some headphone and don’t have the super energetic sound, so amp matching is important here.
Tested tracks are all in lossless formats unless otherwise stated.
I am really impressed with performance of HP-100. I played Jacky Cheung Live album (07 Taipei Tour Live Album), instantly I feel the ambience of live performance. Soundstage is great, although compared with some said best in the game closed back headphone such as Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250 Ohm, I do think HP-100 give me better sense of air and ambience, soundstage is much wider from HP-100.
I played some of the best Jazz album, Jazz at the Pawnshop and Buena Vista Social Club, what can I say else? Detail level is great. I am pairing it with YuLong Audio U100 (Personally I think it is good match), the sound is already great. You can hear every instrument clearly, you can also feel the ambience. The bass from the string, you can actually hear the vibration/nuance of the string, detailed.
I won’t be saying that HP-100 is a good headphone if it can’t give me good vocal performance, I put up some audiophile vocal album such as those from Tsai Chin and Lei Ting (雷亭), most of the headphone will push midrange forward than 3 of the spectrum simply want to avoid people calling them recessed, HP-100 are not putting midrange as forward as them, but it is not recessed, it is just flat, as flat as high and low frequency. Vocal is detailed and clear.
Who say HP-100 is bass light? I will say HP-100 give me a tight and deep bass, with decent accuracy. I played album ‘Vertigo’ by Jesse Cook and Hotel California (Hell Freeze Over), what I get here is extended and deep bass.
This is really a good headphone for Classical music, it has good soundstage and imaging capability that really make classical music a sweet music to listen to, I played a lot of classical music, more than I can remember, music presented with good sense of air, at this price and for a closed back headphone, I can’t expect more. Drum beat with good depth and body, impact is good as well. I played Eden Roc (Live in Berlin by Ludovico Einaudi), bass at the starting give me deep and enjoyable bass to listen to. Bass is accurate.
I played some ballads, they are nice and enjoyable as they should.
I have matched HP-100 with various headphone amplifier and Dac, I think that I have some hard job to find god match for HP-100, YuLong D100 II and iFi iCAN gie good resolution and body to the sound in a superb soundstage. But they are maybe a little bit expensive for some.
I paired it with YuLong U100, this matching is okay, but I bet that I need something that can provide excellent soundstage, U100 sounded a little bit short on soundstage, but good thing is U100 push vocal forward by a little bit.
JDS Labs Objective 2 and ODac is not a good matching for HP-100, it is really rare that I feel lifeless and detail less with the matching, but for HP-100, they are really sounded lifeless and short at resolution/detail.
Hippo Cricri can’t even really give it enough body.
Personally think that JDS Labs CmoyBB should be a good match given the warm characteristic.
If you are thinking to drive it without an amplifier, you should give up now. It really needs an amp to truly shine, an amplifier that can give it full body and superb sound stage.
I am expecting a lot from HP-100, and I have to say that not a second that HP-100 have disappointed me. Yes, I am actually upset with the cable mechanism but the cable is at least durable and should not broken without reason. Cable is not as heavy as some coiled cable contender too.
But speaking from audio quality, I do think that this is a madly impressive sounding headphone. I am enjoying huge sound from HP-100, oh yeah! Also the superb sound stage, impressive! Despite of good sounding, comfort level is great as well. The superb combination from sound, comfort, design and price factor is what make I recommended HP-100 to all of you. For those who demanded more bass in their music, HP-100 might not a wise choice.
As long as matched HP-100 with good amplifier, price to performance ratio is one of the best that available in audiophile world.