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Senal SMH-1000 vs. Sony MDR-V6/MDR-7506: A Tale of Stolen Swagger

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Introduction

 

The SMH-1000 is a headphone that not only looks almost exactly like the MDR-V6/MDR-7506, its physical design has been improved in a few subtle ways.  The sound signature of the SMH-1000 is in fact rather different to my ears than the Sony offerings and I think that for casual music listening it's a better choice.

 

Earlier this year I accidentally broke my Sony MDR-V6 by allowing the cable to be repeatedly pinched by the seat of my office chair.  Sound became intermittent to the right ear; I tried repairing the frayed wire with electric tape to no avail and only made things worse (needless to say I'm not as handy with electronics as I'd like to be).  Anyways, this holiday season I decided to fork out the money for a replacement pair.  While searching for the best price online I came upon the Senal SMH-1000, which I saw described as sounding really similar to the MDR-7506.  http://www.amazon.com/review/RWN22BUL9IC4Z/ref=cm_cr_pr_perm?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00ASWZO6U&linkCode=&nodeID=&tag=  In addition to looking like a replica of the MDR-V6/MDR-7506, the SMH-1000 also happened to be cheaper than the MDR-V6 and MDR-7506 everywhere I looked, so it got my attention.  After reading a few more glowing reviews I finally bought it from B&H and it arrived three days ago on Christmas Eve.

 

My eagerness to replace the MDR-V6 was due to its relatively flat sound signature unlike any headphone I had ever heard.  Where it really shone to me was on albums like Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch the Throne; on tracks with complex instrumentation, bumping bass and sparkling highs it seemed to reveal every detail without bias.  Indeed, the equal representation of higher frequencies in relation to lower ones was such that I could easily become fatigued after a half an hour or so of listening at a time.  And while the direction of a lot of good-sounding headphones seem to be to try and produce as wide of a soundstage as possible despite the inherent limitations of headphones versus loudspeakers, I was charmed by the way everything in a record simply seemed "right there".  Though I had purchased the MDR-V6 solely for listening enjoyment, its sound signature seemed perfectly justifiable to me for a studio environment and I really appreciated its auditory qualities for my own taste in music.

 

Before I go further here are some specs for comparison:

 

Senal SMH-1000

Type Circumaural, closed-back
Driver 40mm, neodymium
Frequency Range 10 Hz - 20 kHz
Impedance 58 Ω @ 1 kHz
Sensitivity 102 dB ±3 dB (@ 1 kHz/mW)
Maximum Input Power 1000 mW
Distortion Less than 5% @ 1 kHz
Weight 8 oz (267 g)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/755659-REG/Senal_SMH_1000_STUDIO_MONITOR_HEADPHONES.html

http://www.gradusgroup.com/brand-senal.html

 

Sony MDR-V6

Type Circumaural Closed Back Dynamic Stereo Headphones
Frequency Range 5 Hz - 30 kHz
Impedance 63 Ohms
Sensitivity 106 db SPL/mW
Maximum Input Power 1 Watt
Connectors 1 x Detachable Unimatch 1/4" Stereo Adapter
1 x 1/8" stereo Mini Plug
Cable Length 10' (3 m) Coiled Cable
Weight 8.1 oz (230 g)

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/358337-REG/Sony_MDRV6_MDR_V6_Closed_Back.html

 

Swagger Stolen

 

The first thing I noticed when I unboxed the SMH-1000 was that its design was more than inspired by the MDR-V6/MDR-7506; it was almost an exact copy!  From its headband with "STUDIO MONITOR" on it to the notched numbered grooves for adjusting the earcup height -- everything seemed so familiar.  Its stock earpads are the same pleather-like material used for the MDR-V6/MDR-7506.

 

Physical Improvements

 

One very important difference is that the SMH-1000 audio cables are detachable.  I say "cables" because two are included in its packaging: one is a 10-foot coiled cable like the Sonys'; the other is a 3-foot straight cable.  One end of each cable is a typical 3.5mm connector and on the other end is a 2.5mm connector that attaches to the left earcup.  The connecter on those ends have small "wings" that fasten the connecter to the earcup with a twist.  The inclusion of the 3-foot cable solves the potential inconvenience of using it with portable devices on the go.  Needless to say I was also quite pleased with the ability to just replace the audio cables should I have another mishap like with my old MDR-V6s.

 

Some folks including myself found the initial tension of the MDR-V6 headband too tight.  http://www.amazon.com/Sony-MDR-V6-Monitor-Series-Headphones/product-reviews/B00001WRSJ?pageNumber=2 http://www.amazon.com/review/R2L7J6WGMWNWKY/ref=cm_cr_pr_viewpnt#R2L7J6WGMWNWKY  I personally found it easy enough to carefully bend the earcups apart in order to make the fit more comfortable but I immediately noticed when I put on the SMH-1000 that the pressure was much less.  Unfortunately, I tossed my MDR-V6, but I also suspect that there's more padding on the bottom of the headband as well.

 

The SMH-1000 earcups swivel slightly on the x-axis similarly to the MDR-V6/MDR-7506.  They also fold neatly into the headband like their counterparts with one nuanced yet noticeable difference -- when folding the MDR-V6 I would have to extend the eacrups to almost their full length before being able to fold them up, otherwise they wouldn't quite fit.  However, with the SMH-1000 at my normal earcup setting (5 notches) they curl right up without a problem.

 

Rather than an "improvement" but worth pointing out nonetheless, is that the SMH-1000 in no way feels inferior in the hand to the MDR-V6.  The build material feels exactly the same and in no way to me does it seem worse to the touch.

 

Auditory "Improvements"

My opinions are based on listening to FLAC (mostly) and MP3 files sourced by an ASUS Xonar DX on a desktop computer.  I used mpd to play music directly through ALSA in Linux.

 

I was really hoping when I purchased the SMH-1000 that Senal had managed to not only parrot Sony's design but also replicate the sound of the MDR-V6/MDR-7506.  I really missed (and still do) the enthusiastic midrange and sparkling highs.  Hearing each frequency equally "forward" in presentation was a delight and made it easy to distinguish various instruments.  The SMH-1000 however, is much more conservative and I suspect that's what most listeners will prefer.

 

Bass punches do not sound much deeper but they do seem to linger a bit longer, leaving an impression of greater impact without muddying the sound.  The midrange is definitely more recessed, and the highs are more rolled off.  With these changes, songs don't seem to have the same energy as they did with my MDR-V6.  How then is it that I consider the SMH-1000 the superior headphone?

 

The characteristics that I described of the SMH-1000 remarkably (to me at least) result in a sound that is more interesting.  An effect of distance between various instruments has been achieved that is not so well accomplished with the "full-steam ahead!" approach of the Sonys.  That's not to say that I haven't heard something similar before.  In particular, I'm somewhat reminded of the Creative Aurvana Live in the manner of separation of instruments.  However, not only do instruments seem to have space apart -- but I can almost perceive the emptiness between them; the void has weight.  This gives what I can best describe as an ethereal feeling to some recordings.

 

Conclusion

 

I imagine that the MDR-V6/MDR-7506 having nearly equal representation of sound at the lows, mids and highs, incidentally resulting in music that (to my ears) sounds exciting, is desirable in a studio setting.  http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SonyMDRV6.pdf

 

When it comes to just music listening though, I think most audiophiles will find the SMH-1000 superior due to what I would call a greater sense of depth.  Considering its conveniently detachable cables and shamelessly hijacked design and folding functionality, it's probably the best studio-style headphone for around $100.  Personally, I still often hear certain intricate songs and really wish (even now) that I owned a pair of MDR-V6s to savor every detail, even if I can only stand to listen for 30 minutes.

 

I leave you with some marketing jargon from the back of the SMH-1000 box:

 

Quote:
 The enhanced low end allows field engineers to detect wind noise effectively, and studio engineers to monitor bass and sub-bass frequencies.  A pronounced yet smooth midrange minimizes ear fatigue over prolonged periods, while maintaining focus on vocal and dialogue intelligibility.  The excellent high-frequency response accurately reproduces crystal-clear spatial detail.  A gradual roll-off at 14 kHz allows for accurate low-level monitoring and hearing protection.

Edited by cheapous - 12/27/13 at 1:39am
post #2 of 13

Thanks for the review. If the MDR-V6 and 7506 get discontinued, as a Sony representative told me a few days ago that they now are, I will consider buying the SMH-1000 based on your review.


Edited by Tristan944 - 12/27/13 at 8:53pm
post #3 of 13
Thread Starter 

I'm glad I could help!  That's really a shame to hear about the potential retirement of those classic headphones.  I did find it peculiar I couldn't find them anywhere on Sony's website.

post #4 of 13

Thanks for the review!

 

I got the cheaper, non-folding equivalent (SMH 500) a few days ago... betting that I can also get the same sound as the 1000s

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by cheapous View Post

 

 

Auditory "Improvements"

My opinions are based on listening to FLAC (mostly) and MP3 files sourced by an ASUS Xonar DX on a desktop computer.  I used mpd to play music directly through ALSA in Linux.

 

I was really hoping when I purchased the SMH-1000 that Senal had managed to not only parrot Sony's design but also replicate the sound of the MDR-V6/MDR-7506.  I really missed (and still do) the enthusiastic midrange and sparkling highs.  Hearing each frequency equally "forward" in presentation was a delight and made it easy to distinguish various instruments.  The SMH-1000 however, is much more conservative and I suspect that's what most listeners will prefer.

 

Bass punches do not sound much deeper but they do seem to linger a bit longer, leaving an impression of greater impact without muddying the sound.  The midrange is definitely more recessed, and the highs are more rolled off.  With these changes, songs don't seem to have the same energy as they did with my MDR-V6.  How then is it that I consider the SMH-1000 the superior headphone?

 

The characteristics that I described of the SMH-1000 remarkably (to me at least) result in a sound that is more interestingAn effect of distance between various instruments has been achieved that is not so well accomplished with the "full-steam ahead!" approach of the Sonys.  That's not to say that I haven't heard something similar before.  In particular, I'm somewhat reminded of the Creative Aurvana Live in the manner of separation of instruments.  However, not only do instruments seem to have space apart -- but I can almost perceive the emptiness between them; the void has weight.  This gives what I can best describe as an ethereal feeling to some recordings.

 

Conclusion

 

I imagine that the MDR-V6/MDR-7506 having nearly equal representation of sound at the lows, mids and highs, incidentally resulting in music that (to my ears) sounds exciting, is desirable in a studio setting.  http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SonyMDRV6.pdf

 

When it comes to just music listening though, I think most audiophiles will find the SMH-1000 superior due to what I would call a greater sense of depth.  Considering its conveniently detachable cables and shamelessly hijacked design and folding functionality, it's probably the best studio-style headphone for around $100.  Personally, I still often hear certain intricate songs and really wish (even now) that I owned a pair of MDR-V6s to savor every detail, even if I can only stand to listen for 30 minutes.


 

 

The red bold above is what I noticed too when I started throwing songs at it without doing burn-in. 

 

I must say my SMH500 just out-of-box and not-yet-burned-in sounded real good for music... better than the 7506 in the same state in my opinion.

The 7506 I had years ago required a days worth of burn in so the strident mids-highs will mellow out (by a minusclue... but overall it never did) and loose bass to tighten a bit.

 

 

The 500/1000 series could also make for a good gaming headphone without going over budget imo.


Edited by TheBoss - 12/28/13 at 1:17am
post #5 of 13

Looks like the Senal-brand headphones is owned by Gradus Group LLC... anyone know where this LLC is based?

post #6 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheBoss View Post
 

Looks like the Senal-brand headphones is owned by Gradus Group LLC... anyone know where this LLC is based?

 

According to their website they're based out of New York City.  http://www.gradusgroup.com/contact.html

post #7 of 13

Senal, like all the other Gradus Group brands is owned by B&H Photo Video. It is their private label brand. 

 

http://screencast.com/t/MEYGSvCHw

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/abe-kohn/9/b47/30a

http://www.linkedin.com/in/isaacstackell

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/benzion-braunfeld/3a/9a4/85

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by rpaskiew View Post
 

Senal, like all the other Gradus Group brands is owned by B&H Photo Video. It is their private label brand. 

 

http://screencast.com/t/MEYGSvCHw

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/abe-kohn/9/b47/30a

http://www.linkedin.com/in/isaacstackell

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/benzion-braunfeld/3a/9a4/85

 

interesting... thanks!

post #9 of 13

Just wanted to say that I had purchased these headphones due to this review and as an aspiring musician and video creator/editor I find these headphones are absolutely superb for the price. I'm not too up there with audiophile jargon but I can safely say I love these headphones. Thank you.

post #10 of 13

I recently purchased the Senal SMH-1000's from B&H on sale and I have been comparing them for a few days now (after giving them about 48 hrs of burn-in on my dynamic playlist) side by side with my Sony MDR-V6, via an audio splitter, and I have come to some conclusions.  Keep in mind that I am not a professional sound engineer so my tests are all practical and observational.


The Senal ear cups are smaller, by about 10-15%, despite it reporting to have a 40mm driver (speaker), the same size as the MDR-V6.  I can fit my entire ear inside the Sony whereas I have to wedge my ears into the Senal.  If you have medium sized ears or larger, you will NOT fit inside these.

People report the Senal as having a deeper, richer sound (despite having a smaller frequency response, with the low end at 10hz vs the Sony having a low end of 5hz), but even after the burn-in, and wearing both pairs at the same time on my head, just swapping between them as quickly as possible while the song plays, there is absolutely NO way the Senal I am testing has a richer base or a fuller sound. 

It could be that I've got a dud on my hands, but they do function so I suspect that the pair I am using is representative of the rest of them.

 

They sound fine for vocal monitoring, but they do not pronounce road rumbling or any low frequency sound in a clear way like the Sony pair does.  

Do these require longer burn-in time?  That's how they sound to me; like they need more burn-in time or something like that and they are just tight.  Reviews online have said that they sound good even without burn-in.

 

I would wait for a deal on the Sony MDR-V6 and skip out on these based on what I am hearing at this very moment.  I may just return them despite getting a good deal on them.  

post #11 of 13

I know it may sound a strange question but, can somebody tell me the exact dimensions of the earpads of any of these models?

the two inner length (horizontal and vertical), and the thickness from the base to the top of the pad.

And, it it looks like it can stretch to fit something round (I had the idea that as a replacement for my 80mm round pads I can use also oval pads as long as the sum of the two lenght divided 2 is something between 80 and 90 mm and the material is enough flexible).

 

Thanks:)

post #12 of 13

     Sounds more interesting? How very interesting, if you stop to consider that description.  Is it the role of headphones to make music sound more interesting?  Wouldn't accurately musical be more desirable. Think about that for a moment. I suppose one could say that "interesting" might mean ... grabs your attention, and in that way, "interesting" could be thought of as a positive. Even I thought so, at first. But my own listening proved less satisfying.  

 

    But as a secondary observation, few folks who have said positive things, have mentioned that they have tested the SMH-1000 in several systems with several different amps and audio interfaces, all of which have different impedances and which do change the sound of every headphone; leaving me to the conclusion, based upon my own findings, that it is important to caution various perspective buyers to audition their headphones on the systems that one will use at home or in the field. I would venture that if you only listen in a shop or at your friend's house, your testing is somehow going to prove inadequate. Buying based on a review might even lead to disappointment. In my case, the the SMH-1000 was included in a B&H Video assembled kit along with a Sony PCM D100 recorder for $990 (I didn't consider that I had directly purchased them outright but that they were more or less free with the recorder and the other accompanying equipment that came in that B&H kit).  I wouldn't say that I had high hopes for the SMH-1000, but I certainly was hoping to be able to the headset in a pinch, when not using my higher end Grado or Beyer Dynamic closed cup headset. I mention this because I wasn't planning to find fault with the SMH-1000 but was hoping to like them. Getting something "free" is good, but getting something "free" that one really likes is much better.  I was hoping for the latter. Who wouldn't? 

 

    As a further side note to that, I might mention that I have listened to the SMH-1000 using several of my systems and professional audio interfaces, and to high resolution DSD and 24bit Flac (not redbook audio), and on equipment using high quality cables through quality DAC converters, all hooked up with high quality cables and using balanced outputs.  However, more importantly, I listened most through the audio interface I know best, which is hooked up to my Kawaii VPS1 keyboard controller, from my Mac running very high quality digital piano samples put together by Synthogy (the set of Ivory II samples) which to my mind is best sounding digital piano samples available ... rightly preferred by many recording artists to digitally recorded real pianos.  As a player, I have both a real Yamaha C7 in my living room, and a complete set of Ivory samples. When perfectly in tune, I tend to gravitate to the real acoustic grand piano. But folks, a real piano only stays in tune for so long, and without a resident piano tuner in the house, your grand piano does go out of tune.  Try playing by ear with an out of tune piano sometime.  Misery.  And then there are times when your family sleeps late or goes to bed early.  Time for headphones ... folks.  And I use them, actually many hours a day. The Ivory/VPS1 with headphones to the rescue.

 

    Okay, so this, I hope sets the stage for you to know that firstly, I use headphones with a variety of professional sources (these SMH-1000 have described as professional studio headphones), and my goal is to obtain the most natural sounding piano sound for my daily practice. When not using the real acoustic piano, but the digital audio interface, I can either use some $2500 tri-amped monitors, or the headphone jack on the audio interface. Mostly, actually I use either some high-end Grado 1000s or Beyer Dynamic (closed cup) headphones .. as it to my ear, it sounds less bright and more natural ... especially with the Steinway Grand and Bosendorfer Imperial Grand samples. Nothing sounds as good as a real vintage Steinway or real Bosendorfer (290 Imperial)  but actually the samples sound very good, and even the Yamaha C7 samples sound very competitive with the sound of the real acoustic Yamaha C7 ... when taking the room out of the equation on listening through good headphones; a reason why so many professional musicans use Ivory samples on their recording projects insteadi of trying to record a real acoustic piano in the studio.  Quite satisfactory really for hours and hours at time. 

 

    So what did I find? Well, if I had to use one word, I'd nix "interesting" and use "disappointing", yes disappointingly lacking in professional ... natural sound. Yes, they do sound recessed in the midrange (but that is not something I'd recommend ... even to achieve some pretense of "depth" which I don't really feel it has anyway).  Yes, the SMH-1000 was "clean" but when compared to the other more expensive headphones, they did make my Vintage Steinway, both American and German Hamburg Steinway,  sound more like a Yamaha, and not even like my C7. No, the sound of the German and American Steinway samples was more like cheap Yamaha baby grand or Korean piano. Even the Yamaha C7 samples lost their competitive edge to my real acoustic C7.  

    As for the more depth that folks talk about when referencing the SMH-1000, I have to earnestly disagree. I find the Senal not only thin and bright but also possesses sort of the opposite ... an upfront ... "in your face" quality. Whether this is because the thin midrange ... shows off the brightness of the piano's mid octaves, I don't know, but more importantly, the samples mostly sound like the microphones have been placed closer to and at times .. even inside the piano.  The sense of microphone distance from the grand piano samples is mostly altogether lost. And especially with the Ivory samples, where you can select specific samples that were recorded with mics at  varying distances, the sense of distance from the mics ... was largely overrun by the upfront ... in your face bright ... "I am going to get a headache soon"  sound.  

    Will everyone not want to use these headphones. No, I think some uses will be appropriate. But I would suggest that these headphones are more appropriate to the use of video documentary and voice recording. In fact, it even makes sense, when I stop to think about it, that B&H packaged the Sony PCM D100 with the Senal, because B&H more or less thinks of that recorder as something to use when making video shoots with the Canon D5 and other hand held video work.  Of course, B&H owns Senal, so perhaps that's another little known factor of why they selected that headphone to accompany Sony's portable high-end recorder.  Still, most of the reviews that praise the Sony, look at as recorder for video production, and mostly for narration and environmental sound recordings. Few think about using the Sony portable's  higher quality DSD features to make on the fly live concert small ensemble recording, probably because most people don't know how marvelous the combination of low noise preamps, DSD and high quality built-in Sony condenser mics can be. Certainly you would never know that when playing back through the Sony's headphone jack with Senal headphones.  Your Martin guitar is going to sound more like a Yamaha acoustic. Maybe that is a little harsh. Let's just say that the  Brazilian or African rosewood Martin D-28 guitar sounds more like brand new (never been played) D-18. Musicians will catch my drift.

 

    Bottom line is that  think that Senal could do better if they want to claim that their product is a professional studio headphone. Sure, it's a lot cheaper than the other headsets I've compared it to, and sure, that may not be fair, but that does not change the fact that one does not get quite the bargain that others are claiming when they refer to this as Professional Studio Headset bargain.  Call it bargain. Don't get carried away, by tossing in the terms Professional Studio headphone, because, otherwise a lot of musicians who like their Steinways to sound like Steinways are going to regret their purchase if they buy it on someone's rave, and find their vintage Steinway Concert Grand sounds like a smaller 2016 model. A Steinway ... is not a Steinway ... is not a Steinway ... and a Martin is not a Martin ... is not a Martin.  No Gertrude Stein didn't say that, but maybe she should have!  :))

   Which brings me to the final point, which is more of a suggestion than anything. And that is for those of you reading this blog to remember to audition your headphones carefully before buying. It's true that Head-Fi provides a service, a useful service at that, for us to learn about new products, and to learn what others think (and hopefully why they hold the opinions they do). I don't dispute the value of Head-Fi. Heck, I read it all the time. But in the case of the Senal, I see a very clear cut case of how one person's cup of tea may not be mine, and I simply cannot resist making the effort to suggest that anyone considering headphones, no matter how affordable or well reviewed, first try to audition those headphones before buying them. Buying them or even not buying  any particular brand of headphone based upon someone's recommendation or dislike is not a recipe for success, and even ridiculous when one discovers how wildly different one's own opinion is from those you have read. So, try to audition your headphones before you buy (and if possible) on equipment as close to your own as possible. If that is not going to be possible, buy from someone with a favorable returns policy should you discover the headphones don't quite make the cut.  

post #13 of 13

After sleeping on my comments yesterday, i realize that comparing the SMH-1000 to the more expensive Grado headphones or even the Beyer Dynamic 770 was dumb.   That being the case, today I compared my SMH-1000 to the least expensive Grado, the 60i, which is in the same price class, and I have to say that while some may argue that Senal is more "open" and less veiled, I do think an argument can be made for that perception arises from the recessed midrange of the Senal.    Even the least expensiveGrado 60i is more tonally correct with more palpable "pluck" to the strings and guitar.The Senal is very clean, but I feel something of the more musical tonality is sacrificed in the deal.  These characteristics hold true whether I'm listening  through my preamp or through the headphone jack on my iMac. They are decent headphones for the money, sure, but comparing it to the Grado, I'd still pick the Grado as more musical.

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