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:
|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)|
|Type||Circumaural Closed Back Dynamic Stereo Headphones|
|Frequency Range||5 Hz - 30 kHz|
|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)|
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.
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.
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.
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:
Edited by cheapous - 12/27/13 at 1:39am