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KEF M500 vs Bowers & Wilkins P7 - Page 2

post #16 of 31
Thread Starter 

While I was wearing the M500 throughout the day today, I found myself with moments of excitement over how nice these sounded simply through my phone, followed by complaints of sore ears moments later. Now I've been listening to the P7 for an extended time and I have no qualms on the comfort, but I keep telling myself I cannot justify spending $400 on something with this sound quality when I paid about half as much ($225) for the M500. Really still on the fence for both. Honestly, I'm leaning towards returning both pairs, and to wait for KEF to release around-the-ear headphones. We'll see whether burn in really helps the P7. Honestly though, even if the P7 had the exact sound quality as the M500, I still couldn't justify paying more than $300 for them. I think the HD598 at $199 beats both headphones in both sound and comfort. I guess I still can't wrap my head around the idea of paying for something other than sound quality when buying headphones.

post #17 of 31
Thread Starter 

This needs to be a product:

 

 

So tempted to order some replacement P7 pads and mod it with the M500. But I'd be out of $275 if I screw up. Any expert modders out there? I was thinking to cut off the pleather of the M500 and remove the pleather and the memory foam of each side so it's just the bare plastic with the driver. Then I would get a piece of thin metal that's magnetic and cut it to fit the P7 pad shape, and cut a central hole to fit the M500 casing. Solder in dips so the P7 pads stay in place much like how it fits right now on the P7. Finally glue the metal to the M500 cups. It would look like crap now, but sound great an be very comfortable!

 

As for sound I have to describe it as a marriage between the two. The vocals are the M500 beautiful vocals. With the added depth, there's a definite increase in soundstage. I found that the volume decreased due to farther distance to drivers. Since I had to turn the volume up, it degraded the sound quality due to the weak amp on my phone. However, I think removing the unnecessary memory foam would bring the drivers back closer to the ear and fix this problem.

post #18 of 31
Thread Starter 
I'd like to report that after about 30 hours of burn-in, the P7 vocals have improved a lot! Still not quite on par with the M500, but it much more subtle now. If I was not comparing the two so critically, I would be completely satisfied by the P7's vocals. Another thing I've discovered is that the P7's veil is primarily caused by the cups that creates a space where sound can bounce around and reverberate. I noticed this when using the cups with the M500, as it started having the same veiled effect. I think this partially contributes to the difference in the vocals between the two. However, the cups are also what provides the wider soundstage in the P7, so it has its benefits and drawbacks. Perhaps if they had velour cups, it could absorb the reflected sound better. I'll burn it in to at least 100 hours before I draw final conclusions. As for the M500, I've found myself to become much more used to the on-ear style, and it isn't nearly as uncomfortable. Also, it's really just me, and a congenital issue. Only one of my ears is really bothered, and I noticed some subtle differences in the cartilage structure compared to the other ear that creates a specific pressure point and causing the discomfort. I think most people would be completely comfortable, and everyone I've had try them out have had no complaints.

Also I ordered an ultra-portable DAC/amp to use with my phone via USB OTG: http://audioengineusa.com/Store/D3-24-Bit-DAC

Since it's portable enough, I consider it okay for this context of mobile usage. With Thanksgiving next week, I probably won't get it until the week after, which means I may have to return the P7 before it comes, but I can still take it to Best Buy to test it out and wrap up this thread. I believe the amp will help the M500 and it's >70% volume problem where it can get piercing at times. It would probably also remove some of the veil in the P7, but like I said, I think most of it is due to the earcups, and a DAC or amp wouldn't help much there.

Barring any dramatic changes with the burn-in process, I'm most likely going with the M500. Mainly because if price. Pretty much I can get the M500 and the Audioengine D3 for the price of the P7. Plus now that I'm more used to the on-ear style, and I prefer the sound of the M500 for the genres of music I usually listen to, it's a no brainer.
Edited by Sonido - 11/23/13 at 2:17am
post #19 of 31

I respectfully don't think the T90 is a suitable headphone for reference purposes. You should use a neutral headphone for that. 

 

My opinion on how the two compares, using my LCD-2 rev 2 as a reference which is a close to neutral (slightly dark) and very transparent headphone: 

The M500 has a tad stronger (but also a tad less refined) bass. The bass of the P7 is a little tighter and less resonant. 

The M500 has a more forward midrange, with a slight U-shape to the mids (slightly thick lower mids, slightly bright/shouty upper mids). The midrange of the P7 is just a little bit more flat, lacking the occationally annoying upper mids and slightly bassy low mids while still retaining warmth to the sound. The mids are also more naturally portrayed in the soundstage, with better space and depth because of the over-ear design that provides superior imaging. 

The treble of the M500 just isn't very inviting to me, I'm sorry to say. I like the M500 and it's definitely up there with the best portables, but the treble is my least favorable aspect of it. It's not exactly bright, as in emphasized, but it's definitely not as smooth and refined as I'd like. It just sounds a little bit hard and metallic. Not sibilant, but just not entirely natural. 

 

I honestly don't see how the M500 can win in this comparison, the P7 is definitely a better headphone. Not a huge leap, but it's better no doubt.

post #20 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lan647 View Post

I respectfully don't think the T90 is a suitable headphone for reference purposes. You should use a neutral headphone for that. 

My opinion on how the two compares, using my LCD-2 rev 2 as a reference which is a close to neutral (slightly dark) and very transparent headphone: 


The M500 has a tad stronger (but also a tad less refined) bass. The bass of the P7 is a little tighter and less resonant. 


The M500 has a more forward midrange, with a slight U-shape to the mids (slightly thick lower mids, slightly bright/shouty upper mids). The midrange of the P7 is just a little bit more flat, lacking the occationally annoying upper mids and slightly bassy low mids while still retaining warmth to the sound. The mids are also more naturally portrayed in the soundstage, with better space and depth because of the over-ear design that provides superior imaging. 


The treble of the M500 just isn't very inviting to me, I'm sorry to say. I like the M500 and it's definitely up there with the best portables, but the treble is my least favorable aspect of it. It's not exactly bright, as in emphasized, but it's definitely not as smooth and refined as I'd like. It just sounds a little bit hard and metallic. Not sibilant, but just not entirely natural. 

I honestly don't see how the M500 can win in this comparison, the P7 is definitely a better headphone. Not a huge leap, but it's better no doubt.

I'm mid centric subjectively and after comparing my friend's HD800, I can tell you to me the mids of the M500 is closer to the HD800 than P7. I can see coming from a brighter, forward preference I like the M500 over P7 in terms of overall sound. Also I've find the music I listen to don't care too much about soundstage. Plus I'm used to speaker soundstaging that I didn't even find the HD800 soundstage impressive. The soundstage to me is the big thing the P7 has over the M500. Seeing how you listen to LCD-2, I can see how you prefer the warmer, darker sound of the P7. At the end of the day it's all subjective and depends on what you're used to and like.

I didn't even compare to my main headphones, the HE-500, because I thought it'd unfair, but I guess I should have since it's more neutral. I chose T90 cuz it's a subjective sound I like and geared towards my genres of music. Still compared to T90, HE-500, HD800, and even HD700 from memory, the M500 vocals sounded in line with the others, whereas I found the P7 vocals to be off even after burn in.
post #21 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonido View Post


I'm mid centric subjectively and after comparing my friend's HD800, I can tell you to me the mids of the M500 is closer to the HD800 than P7. I can see coming from a brighter, forward preference I like the M500 over P7 in terms of overall sound. Also I've find the music I listen to don't care too much about soundstage. Plus I'm used to speaker soundstaging that I didn't even find the HD800 soundstage impressive. The soundstage to me is the big thing the P7 has over the M500. Seeing how you listen to LCD-2, I can see how you prefer the warmer, darker sound of the P7. At the end of the day it's all subjective and depends on what you're used to and like.

I didn't even compare to my main headphones, the HE-500, because I thought it'd unfair, but I guess I should have since it's more neutral. I chose T90 cuz it's a subjective sound I like and geared towards my genres of music. Still compared to T90, HE-500, HD800, and even HD700 from memory, the M500 vocals sounded in line with the others, whereas I found the P7 vocals to be off even after burn in.

 

I used to own the HD 800 and I don't think it gives a natural midrange presentation, not from the solid state amps I've heard it with at least (HDVD 800 being the best). 

 

While the LCD-2 is indeed a little dark, it's not overly warm at all. It's very very natural in the midrange, truly among the very best I've ever heard excluding STAX. What many people do is mistake warmth for coloration. Take vocals as reference material. The human voice has warmth, and the LCD-2 reproduces that organic warmth without thickening the sound with bass. And the P7 is closer to the ideal than the M500 in that department, while the M500 suffers from that metallic top end, which kind of takes some of the warmth out of the mids even though the lower mids are a tad thicker than neutral. Compared to the LCD-2, the midrange of the P7 is very slightly dull and "digital" sounding, but still better than most closed headphones out there. 

And I wouldn't say the P7 is dark at all. It's just that Beyers and the HD 800 are all brighter than neutral.

 

I don't think it's unfair to compare to the HE-500 actually, as long as you're aware of the fact that the HE-500 is in a higher league (if it is, have not heard it) it's a good idea to use the best you have got as a reference, after all that's what reference headphones are all about. 

 

Anyway of course, we're all different :) The M500 is still a fine headphone and if I wasn't so allergic to unnatural treble it would still be used by me on a daily basis.

post #22 of 31

Thanks for the review! I wanted to mention one thing though: Sazh's Theme, while excellent in composition and soundstage demonstration, is funky in the recording.  I actually have XIII's OST in flac, and I can definitely tell that the sampling or compression is doing some strange stuff to the music (the compression is really high regardless...which seems to be on everything).  Beautiful OST though.  Also, on Daft Punk's stuff in general, I LOVE Daft Punk, but I can't think of any reference-class headphone I've ever owned that doesn't make Alive sound like a cat clawing at your ears (I take that back, the HD5XX series sounded great with it).  I ONLY listen to electronic, and I really wish Alive was remastered because I feel they've seriously upped their game in post-production stuff since.... more organic now, but this is my favorite LP they released.

 

Anyway, great comparison though, I really look forward to seeing more on this list (Rena Jones - Open Me Slowly please ;))!


Edited by eightbitpotion - 11/29/13 at 12:15am
post #23 of 31

Great write up!

post #24 of 31

Thank you for this great comparison.

 :beerchug:

post #25 of 31
Great comparison review Sonido. Thank you.

I really do enjoy my P7s.
post #26 of 31
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone :o

 

I plan on doing a similar in-depth style review for Sennheiser HD800 vs. Hifiman HE-500 vs. Koss ESP-950 once my HD800 comes in and I get some time to listen to them. It will be a battle royal between dynamic, planar magnetic, and electrostatic technologies! :D

post #27 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonido View Post
 

Thanks everyone :o

 

I plan on doing a similar in-depth style review for Sennheiser HD800 vs. Hifiman HE-500 vs. Koss ESP-950 once my HD800 comes in and I get some time to listen to them. It will be a battle royal between dynamic, planar magnetic, and electrostatic technologies! :D

 

What will you use to drive your HD 800s? A very serious tip from a used-to-be owner, they need a very carefully matched amp or they won't sound great. They don't need above-average power supplies for a 300 ohm headphone but you need to get the output impedance of the amp right. Forget any solid state amp with low output impedance. 

post #28 of 31
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lan647 View Post

What will you use to drive your HD 800s? A very serious tip from a used-to-be owner, they need a very carefully matched amp or they won't sound great. They don't need above-average power supplies for a 300 ohm headphone but you need to get the output impedance of the amp right. Forget any solid state amp with low output impedance. 
Bottlehead Crack with speedball. Not gonna bring it out 100%, but should be decent enough.
post #29 of 31
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sonido View Post

Thanks everyone redface.gif

I plan on doing a similar in-depth style review for Sennheiser HD800 vs. Hifiman HE-500 vs. Koss ESP-950 once my HD800 comes in and I get some time to listen to them. It will be a battle royal between dynamic, planar magnetic, and electrostatic technologies! biggrin.gif

Great! Thank you.
post #30 of 31

Enjoyed the read! Thanks! 

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