I’ve done my best to A/B these headphones as I have been unable to decide between the two and have been scouring this site for opinions. In the end I ruined my bank balance and ordered both with a view to returning one set.
I have been listening to the 545 for nearly 2 weeks but I have only notched up about 10 hours listening on the HP50. I didn’t allow any burn in time for either. I used an iPhone 4 and my laptops built-in soundcard through a Fiio E11 playing tracks of varying formats.
In a very simplistic way I would say the comparative sound sig of both cans would be something like:
K545 = Treble > Bass > Mids
HP50 = Mids > Bass > Treble
I found these headphones to sound very different.
The HP50 is warm, lush and from what I hear has slightly forward mids and an overall laid back sound. It is almost as if the headphones add their own reverb to the sound which makes for very very easy listening. The 545’s extend well both ways and are detailed, lively and have deep, tight and impactful bass. The mids seem slightly recessed in comparison and overall gives a ‘slight’ V type sound.
Bass – The 545 extends further, deeper and tighter to my ears. The HP50 has plenty of bass but it doesnt extend as far and is also a tiny bit looser and less focused, so it ever so slightly floods over the bottom. This may be in part because I am coming from the 545 to the HP50 and my ears may still be tuned to them. The 545 definitely shifts more air and I love this as you can really hear the tone of the drum skins. On some tracks it felt like someone was striking a drum inside my head. The 545 bass is more versatile and when required will slam but also has some punch as well.
Mids – The mids on the HP50 are fuller and warmer and slightly more forward which adds a greater degree of balance to the overall sound. The transition from bass through to mids and treble is smooth(er). The mids bloom, vocals really blossom, guitars, trumpets and violins still have an edge to them but are warmer with less presence. Overall the mids sound gorgeous. The mids on the 545 are slightly recessed in comparison. Vocals, trumpets and piano all have great presence though and are very engaging. Guitar solos cut right through the mix with a great edge and trumpets can rasp.
Treble – The HP50 just doesn’t extend as far as the 545. Due to the warm sound of the HP50 there is a definite reduction in resolution and detail. This may be less fatiguing to the ears but the resolution and detail for me really bring tracks to life. Percussion and cymbals sound more prominent and I think this really helps to drive tracks along. The HP50 does sound beautiful but the 545 brings out the energy in performances. The treble on the 545 shows off a greater imaging capability and is great on pieces with syncopated panning and double tracking.
Soundstage/Separation – I think both headphones perform well here and you wouldn’t be disappointed with either one. I do think the HP50 has a bigger soundstage that allows for more space and depth between instruments. The 545 sounds ever so slightly more closed in and not as expansive but the resolution and detail add sharpness to the separation.
Comfort/Fit/Isolation – For me the HP50 are far more comfortable. The shape of the ear pads and the angle they lie at, work perfectly with the soft thick foam to envelop your ears - like slippers for your ears! The headband clamps adequately and they don’t move around when I’m walking. Isolation is adequate and the seal is good. I didn’t particularly notice that the headband only touches the top of your head. The 545, for me, are not as comfy. The ear pads are quite hard memory foam and even though they have less clamp they do create pressure points around my ears. The seal breaks when you move your head quickly and can be problematic with glasses (This may seem obvious but if you are in a coldish environment the memory foam will not seal around glasses...it’s the middle of winter here!). Also they slip around when I’m walking. I have a fairly average sized head and ears and the depth and inner size of the ear pads was bigger on the 545’s.
Summary – Different strokes for different folks! The HP50 is laid back, warm and has more pronounced mids and the 545 has detailed, prominent treble and impactful bass.
I am not 100% but I think I prefer the 545’s even though they are less comfortable (small sacrifices). The energy and detail brings tracks to life for me. I love the resolution and find it really engaging to be able to hear small nuances and details, whilst the bass is exactly why I wanted a closed can, without overemphasis!!
I think the 545 has the edge on electronic music and works well with transient sounds. The HP50 has the edge on acoustic/classical music, delivering stunningly warm vocals, greater overall balance and a beautiful listening experience. I do think the 545’s are less forgiving.
My thoughts may change over the next few days as I continue to A/B these cans. If I had the funds I would keep both............
Edited by Scotshner - 2/26/14 at 5:12am