Okay, at first I wasn't wowed by the M-80, but I did really like it for electronica right off the bat. Now I am a huge believer that how these headphones are designed sets them up to reproduce electronica so well. I have just moved away from using DT770s as my portables, which of course they weren't designed for. That said, the 770s are fantastic sounding cans IMO and at first I was having trouble adjusting to the much smaller, and "contemporary sounding" M-80s. The more I listen the more I like the M-80s and as electronica headphones I have to give them a solid A+ score.
Their sound is tight and focused, while still having enough soundstage to allow the music to envelop you without crowding you. I find the M-80s focus the sound in the center very strongly and still have the proper element spread that sounds , well proper to my ears. I have never had on ear cans before so I didn't really bother with the positioning thing at first, but when I discovered the proper placement for my head and ears it was as if something shifted. All of a sudden the bass was big, but really tight and well separated. For rock I had found the tilted upward upper lows to perhaps cause a little detail smearing, but with electronica I find this to be a strength. I find that with the hyper control of samples and compartmentalizing of elements that can be done with electronic music the delineating ranges of sound are very well defined and can be driven hot without bleeding into each other as much as aggressive rock music would suffer from. The M-80s have that nice tight and thick bass, and when strong pulses develop and decay away I find the scale of the presentation to be very realistic and engaging, and the reverberations that are designed into such elements are very apparent.
The mid range seems to be very well articulated and with electronica it doesn't coma apart or get edgy at high volumes like rock does in the M-80s. I have yet to do much testing with rock through the M-80s and when I do I will create a separate thread for that. What I find is that I want to put the M-80s on, the sound signature is very interesting and fun, but when I say fun I don't want to trivialize what are certainly well thought out and engineered headphones. For certain the designers were willing to take a sound signature that was their own and say this is what we do, and I hope you like it. While it is impossible to deny that the highs are softened and perhaps not as detailed as other offerings, that is in my opinion missing a great deal about what the M-80 offers up top. The edge that has been stepped down seems to have been done quite well, and reminds me of the HD 650 approach, but perhaps not as pronounced. While some sparkle as others have called it might be missing, this is actually good in many cases as it removes some of the strident and harder highs that are thrown at you. With electronica I find the highs can be sharp and almost too clear, but the M-80s step this back just a tad to the point where I get the sweetest aspects of the high-end without the punishing edges. This I find really works well, and whatever tiny cost in clarity is incurred with this approach seems to me to be a fair trade off. Isn't that what almost all audio designs have, trade-offs? For me when the balance is well struck and the elements left in are more than the elements left out the design works. I like this sound, and so far I like it a great deal.
If you are a fan of electronica I would strongly encourage you to audition the M-80. What a stupid value it strikes me as being. The build and design is second to none in this price point, and above it if you ask me. I paid $100 for a used pair on ebay and with shipping it was $120. That is an absolute steal, I would pay that for these headphones all day long without blinking. I am having trouble not wanting to put them on now while I'm writing this, but I have to wait. A buddy of mine at work has the M-100s so I think I'll give those a listen to very soon. Hopefully this intrigues some other member to give the M-80s a whirl, and I hope they impress you as much as they do me. Next up rock. Just to give you an idea of what type of music I have been listening to here are a few of the artists in no particular order:
The Chemical Brothers - Push The Button
Pitch Black - Electronomicon
Phutureprimitive - Kinetic, Sub Conscious, Searching for Beauty in the Darkest Places
Bluetech - Sines and Singularities
Gem Drops II - Various artists
Thievery Corporation - The Cosmic Game, Radio Retaliation
Adam Shaikh - Refractions Volume 1
Dark Room Beats - Various Artists