Pros: Sleek looks, good clarity, price to quality ratio
Cons: Plastic construction feels cheap, sluggish mid-bass
Tonal Balance: Balanced mids and highs with a lows emphasis, warm.
Preferred Genres: These sound great overall, but do best with warmer genres like Jazz.
Amp: Not necessary.
Listening Set-up: iTunes -> ODAC -> O2
The packaging of the Evo is reminiscent of previous Superlux headphones I’ve reviewed in the past. By that I mean that they carry a certain elegance to them, but at the same time a feeling of cheapness as well. The EVO come packaged in a cardboard box with a colored sleeve that acts as the attraction. The EVO are pictured on the front with technical information on the back. The color palate is built on red, black, grey and white and has a slight eye catching appeal to me. The sleeve comes off to reveal a brown cardboard box with Superlux imprinted on it.
Inside are two sets of cables, a one meter and a 3 meter cable, a carrying pouch, a ¼ adaptor and a product manual.
Build Quality and Design
On first glance the HD681 EVO are very sleek headphones, very reminiscent of the beautiful AKG K550. Superlux has stuck with the AKG wire top design, but has ditched the painful faux-Audio Technica wings that are found in many Superlux models in favor of the AKG band. This change is a certainly welcome one as the old pads acted as two pressure points on top of the head creating an uncomfortable experience; the band distributes the pressure on top evenly. The HD681 EVO are available in black or white, I received the black pair which, as I said before, it looks sleek. The HD681 EVO are primarily glossy black, but accented by matte black and chrome areas with a logo on each earcup. The headphones are constructed of plastic, they feel a bit flimsy, though I would put the build quality near the Audio Technica AD700. The pads are made of pleather and due to the semi-open nature, as opposed to fully open, they get hot when wearing for extended periods of time. Comfort is decent overall with mild clamping, but the fit is a bit tight at times overall, it’s as if I’m wearing a helmet. Located on the left earcup a 3.5mm male connect serves as the connection for the detachable wire. The overall build quality feels a bit cheap, but since these are desktop headphones the only damage that should occur is due to carelessness.
The HD681 EVO have been thoroughly used. Over the time I’ve listened to them I have not noticed any burn-in. Amping has also shown to have little to no effect in my experiences.
The HD681 EVO are warm leaning studio monitoring headphones. The clarity and resolution is rather good, though I feel the HD668b I previously reviewed may be a bit better on that front. The EVO aren’t super detailed, but subtle nuances are picked up on without much trouble and enough to expose poor mastering. The bass lingers a bit too long and at times which creates a bloated feel at times. The soundstage has great depth and positioning with great instrument separation, very rarely coming off congested. Overall the HD681 EVO are good headphones for those who enjoy an emphasis on bass without wanting basshead headphones.
The HD681 EVO are warm headphones, the focus is certainly here in the lows region. The Evo are capable of reaching lows and outputting a lot of bass. On my bass heavy test tracks I’ve found that the EVO are capable of providing a satisfying rumble, causing my ears to vibrate slightly. What’s surprising is that while the EVO is putting out a strong sub-bass presence, it’s able to keep up with the speed of the fastly quavering bass in James Blake’s Limit to Your Love. The sub-bass is certainly satisfying, I imagine even most bass heads would be happy with the presence and rumble the EVO are capable of.
The mid-bass has good presence as well. Bass tracks in rock music are certainly highlighted, though they aren’t forward enough to interfere with the guitar and vocals, for the most part. Even on tracks such as The Black Keys Tighten Up, which is notorious for having the bass a bit high in the mix, the vocals and guitars aren’t drowned out. The EVO do a good job in that regard, giving enough presence to the mid-bass for it to be prominent, without it being pushy. Even so the mid-bass feels a bit sluggish, as if it’s hanging around a bit too long.
To simplify things, the mids are clean and engaging with a warm feel to them. I have little to complain about with the mids in-fact, though no headphone is perfect. I previously stated that the bass doesn’t bloat into the mids and this is true to an extent, the bass is certainly controlled nicely on the initial impact. Unfortunately the bass has a tendency to linger around which can take away from the mid presence. This isn’t a huge problem though, I’ve only noticed it in a handful of tracks and none of those were mixed particularly well. Another problem I have with the mids is that they tend to sound a bit too thick at times, much like the bass, it can feel sluggish at times. Putting the problems aside, instruments sound realistic with tracks that have been recorded well. Acoustic guitars, synths, and etc, all sound natural, clean and moderately detailed.
The highs are very well done, I can find no flaw in the upper regions at all. Horns sound incredibly clear with no grain and excellent extension. I feel as if the highs have hit their stride, there is no strain here at all. Simply clean and balanced nicely throughout.
The HD681 EVO output what the music gives it to work with. The soundstage is neither expansive nor cramped. The sound is presented as if it’s coming from a mid-sized indoor concert with speakers surrounding me, intimate but never congested. The impressive thing about the soundstage is the accuracy in which the music is delivered and the sense of space the instruments have. The sound is all around my head, very 3d like in how it’s being presented to me.
The HD681 EVO are currently listed for $69 on Amazon in which I consider them a good value. What stops me from thinking of them as a great value is that the HD681 are currently less than half the price. My concerns with the HD681 were not with the sound, rather the build quality. The EVO certainly look to be of a higher quality build, but they feel of similar quality. It’s hard to tell how much better the EVO sounds without the HD681 to compare at the moment, but from memory the sound is very similar.
The EVO are a great buy at $69 and are worth the premium over the HD681 if looks are important to you, the EVO easily sound as good as $100 headphones. For those who don’t find looks important than I feel that the HD681 are a value that is very hard to beat. No matter what you choose though, you’re going to get a headphone that sounds much better than it costs.
More pictures can be seen here. Sorry for the quality, my house is a mess due to renovations and I couldn't find an ideal spot to take photos.
Edited by keanex - 6/27/13 at 5:55pm