Bowers and Wilkins, NAD, Kef and now Musical Fidelity.
All well known established Hi-Fi brands, all keen to get a slice of a flourishing headphone market now worth over 8 billion dollars.
When I first got wind of the B&W P5 I was pretty sceptical, expecting an average headphone disguised with leather and chrome; mutton dressed as lamb. As it turns out I feel I was pretty near the mark.
Others have fared better - NAD released a genuinely exciting pair of cans in the Viso HP50 which pushed the science of headphone production forward with their own take on natural balance 'room-feel'. It's a shame they make you look like a cyberman.
I was asked to listen to the Musical Fidelity MF100 and received them about 4 weeks ago.
I get quite a lot of headphones through my door, I only review the ones I like and I like these a lot.
I had been considering buying these but have seen very little coverage of them on Head-fi and have very mixed comments.
I am no Musical Fidelity fan-boy; the only product I have used is the VDac and whilst it is a good product there are certainly better alternatives.
Here are some specs :
The box they come in is white, which gives the headphones an almost angelic appearance.
Inside you find a jack adapter, a rather swish looking velvet bag and two extra Alcantara earpads.
The earpads that come fitted to the MF100 are aerated soft pleather. The pads are comfortable; they have what feels like memory foam inside. Initially they are a bit stiff but have softened slightly over time.
The pads do affect the sound; not a night and day difference but the alcantara seems to soften and smear leading edges. The pleather pads also increase the volume a few decibels.
The rest of the build is very nice, plastic is the order of the day but it's a high quality 'soft touch ' type. There is metal here too, the connecting arms are chrome and there is an aluminium disc on each cup bearing the maker's name.
It's here on the cups that the build's two faults live. The first is not really a fault, but I prefer detachable cables and this one is firmly attached. It is a nice cable though, genuinely non tangle with a good quality jack and a nice aluminium one button remote.
The second fault is harder to ignore. The wire that runs from left cup to right comes out the top of the cup and enters the headband above. It's not hard to imagine getting it snagged, but I have had a similar set-up on Sony’s CD900st and Beyers and have never damaged them.
Overall a good looking set of cans, more Cate Blanchett than Megan Fox, more Olufsen than Ikea. They are classy, they talk nice, they wouldn't stalk you if you dumped them and certainly wouldn't wear the French Maids outfit you picked up in Soho...
I wasn't the first to listen to these when they arrived. My friend Jason has been a Bose fan for ages; when I bring in new cans he usually dismisses them and goes on about the amazing comfort and easy going nature of his AE2s.
This time I left him with the MF100 and came back a couple of hours later.
He looked seriously pissed off when I returned, he had been listening to some jazz from Gary Grant. He loves listening to Gary through his Bose but had just discovered that there was a whole high hat missing on his favourite track. He quietly asked me where to get the MF100 and how much they would cost.
I topped his day off later that day by scoring 55 on flappy birds.
I settled down and queued some tracks and two things struck me straight away. The first was the incredible amount of detail they offered up, not the fake boosted treble type but sharp, fast and deep detail surrounded by inky blackness. The second arrived with the La's 'Timeless Melody' from the BBC sessions album. The MF100 were very bright, bright like Nile Rodger's favourite gold lamé pants....
At this point I took them off and plugged them into my amp at home, hit play and left them for a couple of weeks.
When I put them back on I queued the offending La's track and thought ...
"Ahhhhh that's better". The sibilance was gone. I listened to the whole album and I honestly have not heard it rendered better than with the MF100.
The La’s were at their best playing live. The studio robbed their album of the raw, visceral attack they had when I saw them in '91, but it is present on the BBC sessions, and the MF100 nailed it.
I think these are the best on-ear design I have ever heard. They present amazing detail, fast transients, deep accurate bass, great imaging and they make me smile.
I have told my wife countless times over the last week how much I love ..... the MF100, I have been subconsciously grooving on the bus, air conducting and smiling more than usual.
My current travel can is the excellent Sony MDR-1R. I thought it would be a good comparison, I am afraid there is no comparison.
The MF100 makes the Sony sound slow, dark, muddy and dull.
The Sony does offer slightly better isolation when out and about, the MF100 is still good enough for me on the morning commute.
Beck - Turn Away from Morning Phase
There is a very Simon Garfunkel feel to this track but it provides a good demonstration of the MF100's tone and separation.
The guitar at the beginning sounds so warm and woody, the finger picks are easily identifiable. The song builds slowly and introduces new instruments at each new verse, the violins that start at verse 3 sound very authentic, the whole song is enveloping.
I noticed that there is more than one vocal track on this, not just the obvious harmonies but during Beck's vocal, it's decay is slightly longer than Beck's.
On the MDR-1r the instruments melt into each other more, losing some definition in the process.
Overall a wonderful song that really makes the MF100 sing.
Morning Phase is a cracking album. I really hope it appears in Hi-Res.
Daft Punk - Doing It Right
Love this track, Panda Bear is a favourite of mine and this is a great example of Daft Punk's
genius when choosing artists for RAM.
There is a bass-line that hits at around 25 secs and this really reverberates on the MF100, its deep and the decay lasts much longer than the Sony.
This track shows the imaging and layering perfectly, the vocal is up front and centre, the robot voice expands out left and right a bit more and the bass seems to come from below the singer.
If you ever have a doubt about the bass on these, try this track.
Fiona Apple – Every Single Night from The Idler Wheel
Black inky background , bass drum from the left , strange tape hiss sound is here as expected.
Her voice is full of emotion, imaging is excellent , there is height as well as width to it.
I can hear the saliva on her lips as she opens her mouth, how awesome is that!
These cans are so detailed , it's jaw dropping.
David Bowie - Valentines Day from The Next Day
What an album.
This song sounds like Suede to me, well Suede do sound like Bowie so no surprise really.
At 1:29 it has some guitar layered on violin, still a little sibilant here.
That’s the only fault I can find, the guitar underpins this track and the MF100 follows it perfectly , never losing its place.
The backing vocals come in from far left and right, again the sound stage on these is good and not just for closed cans, they rival some open ones as well.
Beck – Tropicalia from Mutations
Edited by astroid - 3/10/14 at 10:37am