Reviews by Lunatique


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: No difference in sound quality between wired and wireless, folding design, extended sub-bass
Cons: Can be too bright/sibilant, controls separated to both earcups, sharp folding hinge could pinch and scratch hands
This is the second headphone from Noontec I've been invited to write a review for. The previous one I reviewed was the Hammo S, which I gave a  3 1/2 stars rating. You can read the review here:
Ergonomics, design, accessories
Right off the bat, I was relieved to see that inside the packaging, Noontec did not continue with their crass marketing gimmick of including a printout that attempts to smack down a competitor's product, as they did with the Hammo S (trying to smack down the well-respected and very popular Audio-Technica M50x). I scathingly criticized that kind of tasteless behavior in my review of the Hammo S, so it was definitely a positive first impression to not see that repeated in the ZORO II Wireless's packaging. 
Visually, I'm kind of indifferent about the way the headphone looks. I was sent the black and red version, which is certainly better than the blue version IMO. But compared to the more eye-catching vermilion and blue version of the Hammo S, it's not as interesting. You're certainly not going to mistake Noontec products as high-end since their designs are aimed at the lower end of the market instead of high-end audiophile market. The attempt to mimic Beats' design aesthetics ensure that, and I personally dislike it when products try too hard to mimic a more popular product. I'm a creative (artist, writer, composer, photographer), so artistic integrity and pride is important to me. I feel that if you are truly passionate about something, then carve out your own path and do something with your own unique sensibility.
The folding design is the same as on the Hammo S, which means it's sturdy and works well to reduce size for portability and storage, but that sharp edge at the hinge area is still a problem. If you are not careful, you will scratch your hand and pinch your finger when folding and unfolding the headphone. This is a design flaw that I think needs to be addressed. 
The on-ear design is pretty comfortable to me, but it's subjective, since some people can't stand to have any pressure against their ears. The earpads are soft and the clamping pressure isn't excessive, while the headband is well-cushioned and doesn't press against the top of your head uncomfortably. 
The controls for skip forward/backward are on the right earcup, while the LED and the play/pause/answer call are placed on the left earcup. I personally think it's better to put them all on the same earcup, since it's only three buttons total. 
The supplied flat ribbon styled 3.5mm audio cable has a mic button on it, for those times when you want to use the phone while wearing the headphone. When you run out battery for the bluetooth, you can simply plug in the audio cable, and you won't suffer any sonic penalties for doing so (I'll elaborate on this later).
There's a stiff cloth pouch that comes with the headphone. Some people might prefer a hard-shell case, but I think for portability, a thick cloth pouch is preferable because it's easier to cram the pouch into available space during transportation, and that extra flexibility could mean the difference in fitting the headphone into a bad, luggage, or briefcase, or not being able to fit in a hard-shell case due to the inflexibility of the shape. As long as the headphone itself is durable and can withstand some pressure from being squeezed into cramped space, I don't think a hard-shell case is really necessary.
The ZORO II Wireless sounded more neutral compared to the Hammo S. It's as if the two main issues I had with the Hammo S were addressed (to a certain degree)--namely the somewhat shrill/sibilant upper mids to lower treble, and the somewhat lacking sub-bass that lacked authority. 
The headphone is fairly neutral from the mids to the sub-bass, while in the upper frequencies, there's a bit of recess at around 4 KHz, and a noticeable severe spike at around 6.5 KHz. The resulting sound can be shrill and fatiguing on material that's mastered on the brighter side.
The sub-bass is significantly more authoritative than the Hammo S, with good extension. The bass is not bloated or muddy in any way, nor is it anemic and limp. There's just right amount of substance and punch.
The ZORO II Wireless is missing a bit of air at the very top end of the treble (8~10 KHz), but it's not deal-breaker because it's not an egregious problem. In fact, it's the kind of slightly warm presentation that some would prefer over the more sparkly top end that some people find somewhat annoying.
I would say the worst problem of the ZORO II Wireless's sound is that spike at around 6.5 KHz. If you are sensitive to sibilance and brightness at all, it will be painful to your ears.
One of the best qualities of the ZORO II Wireless is actually its wired performance. On many bluetooth headphones that also allow you to plug in an audio cable when the battery runs out. the sound quality will suffer significantly when you do so (the Parrot Zik is a great example of this), or at the very least, have a different sonic signature. What Noontec achieved with the ZORO II WIreless is highly impressive, because the sonic signature is pretty much the same between the bluetooth and wired, and this make the ZORO II Wireless much more flexible and usable than other bluetooth headphones that also allow wired listening but penalize you for it. 
I have other bluetooth headphones, ranging from el cheapo ones I've been invited to review by Amazon sellers, to the much higher-end Parrot Zik, which I purchased as my go-to wireless headphone. As you can see already, I like the ZORO II Wireless much better than the Hammo S that reviewed previously at Noontec's invitation. In fact, despite its much lower price tag, I like the ZORO II Wireless better than the Parrot Zik in terms of the sound right out of the box, but even though the Zik is offensively bright and muddy right out of the box, it allows fine-tuning of the EQ via the app, which makes the headphone more flexible, but it costs so much more than the ZORO II Wireless. The overall design and ergonomics of the Zik is also much more elegant and higher-end. But if you don't care about all that and simply want a pretty good sounding wireless headphone (provided you aren't too sensitive to bright sibilance) that doubles as a good sounding wired headphone, and can be folded for easy transportation and storage--all at a price that's quite attractive, then the ZORO II Wireless should be on your list of headphones to audition. 
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1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Sturdy, solid folding design, light-weight, hard-shell case
Cons: Folding headband can pinch finger, a bit bright-sounding, sub-bass needs more presence and articulation
I was invited by Noontec to write a honest review of their Hammo S headphone. 
I tend to be very skeptical about lower-priced headphones, since the bottom tier of headphones/speakers tend to sound anywhere from abysmal to just okay, with extremely few examples of actually sounding pretty good. At around $109 USD, the Hammo S isn’t the cheapest pair of circumaural headphones you can buy, but generally speaking, headphones around the $100 mark are relatively low in the hierarchy of headphones. Typically, you’d have to spend closer to a couple hundred dollars to get to the good headphones, few to several hundred dollars to get to the really good headphones, and go over the $1,000 mark if you want to get into the great headphones. And it’s only once you into the range of a few thousand dollars do you reach the best-of-the-best headphones available. 
There have been some legendary headphones that sound quite good despite being relatively cheap, and Noontec has officially chosen the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X to compete directly against—to the point of including a comparison sheet in the packaging that lists the specifications of the Hammo S against the M50X, stating that it is both better and cheaper than the M50X (but ironically, the listed specifications have nothing to do with actual audible sound quality). Personally, I’m not a fan of that type of hostile marketing—it feels a bit petty—but I understand the logic behind it. At the same time, when you draw attention to a competitor’s product in such a way, you better bring your best game and make sure you kick your competitor’s ass in every way. Is the Hammo S better than the M50X in every way? Nope. Is it better in some ways? Yes. 
(Disclaimer: I have the M50, not M50X, but the two are supposed to sound extremely similar, and Audio-Technica says there shouldn’t be any differences between the sound of the two models, and M50X’s changes don’t affect the sound.)
Ergonomics, design, accessories
Physically, I like the Hamm S’s very light weight (significantly lighter than the M50). For such a light weight headphone it also looks and feels quite sturdy. I was sent the blue/orange variant (the orange is actually a more earthy vermillion, unlike the bright orange shown in the marketing photos, unless they’ve changed the color since those photos were taken), and it’s not my first pick (I would have preferred the white/orange or black/red), but it’s not ugly either. In fact, it appears to be directly taken from the M50X’s blue/vermillion variant. 
The folding mechanism feels very solid, with a sharp click that locks into place. Be extremely careful when unfolding the headphone though—I accidentally pinched the side of a finger and it hurt like hell. IMO, this can be considered a design flaw, but once you’ve been pinched, you’ll always be a little scared when unfolding the headphone, which means it’s unlikely you’ll get pinched again since you’ll be paying extra attention. The M50X does not have this problem.
The headphone fits pretty well and is fairly comfortable, with the earcups just big enough to not touch my ears. It’s not as comfortable as some of the headphones I’ve had/have, where you feel like the headphone is actually caressing your head/face with its snug softness, but it’s certainly more comfortable than some of the bad ones that you just can’t wait to get off of your head. I would say it’s about in the middle. The pleather earpads will get hot and sweaty, but then this is reasonable for the price point (the M50X has the same issue).
There are two audio cables provided—one with a push button microphone, and one without. I have no need for the microphone so I use the one without. In comparison, the M50X gives you three cable choices—two regular cables of different lengths (no mic button), and one coiled able. You also get a mini jack to ¼” adapter. Which accessories offering you prefer would depend on what your needs are. 
Audio-Technica’s ATH-M50X’s physical design, ergonomics, and accessories have both pros and cons compared to the Hammo S. Other than what I already mentioned, here are a few more comparisons:
I prefer the hard-shell case of the Hammo S over the soft pouch of the M50X, since it provides superior protection. But, the soft pouch doesn’t take up as much space when storing the headphone, and if you don’t need to worry about the headphone getting crushed (these headphones are quite sturdy already), the pouch is the better choice. 
I prefer folding design of the Hammo S because it’s more straightforward, whereas the M50X’s earcups can rotate so far out of orientation that it takes a moment to get them back into the correct position. If you don’t need to use the headphone with only one earcup at a time like a DJ, then the Hammo S’s folding design is easier to handle (but beware of the finger-pinching problem I mentioned—it really is very painful). 
As for the sound of the Hammo S, it’s actually quite good for its price point. The first impression is that the sound is well-balanced, and don’t exhibit the typical cheap headphone problems like horribly bloated/muddy bass (or totally anemic and lacking any substance in the lower frequencies), shrill upper mids that are sibilant and make the ears hurt, and fake details achieved by boosting the treble to artificial levels of hardness (or so little treble articulation that there’s no air at all). 
One noticeable issue with the sound is the slight excessive brightness in the 4 KHz region (not nearly as bad as some of the really bright headphones out there, but it's still brighter than neutral). After just a short period of time there would be a bit of listening fatigue, due to the spike in the sibilance region (particularly with music that's mastered on the brighter side). In comparison, the M50 does not have a problem with excessive brightness (though its treble is slightly hard-etched, but not fatiguing since it’s not in the sibilance region). I can tame the Hammo S’s brightness easily by using a parametric EQ and lowering the 4 KHz region by a few dB’s, but of course, we ideally prefer not to have to EQ our headphones—especially when it’s to tame a problem that causes listening discomfort. My number one rule for audio reproduction is to “do no harm.” If a headphone or speaker has to err on one side, I much prefer it to err on the side of being warmer than being too bright, as warmth does not hurt our ears, while excessive brightness feels like getting pieced in the eardrum with tiny daggers. 
The other issue with the Hammo S, is the lack of articulation in the bass region. Listening to songs with the upright bass shows this problem clearly, where the pluck of the strings on the upright bass sounds muffled, lacking the clarity that should be there. In comparison. The M50 produces the attack of the upright bass notes much more clearly, despite it being a headphone known to have slightly boosted bass. Hammo S’s sub-bass extension is good, but doesn’t quite have the authoritative presence needed to create the feeling of solid grounding in the listening experience (again, M50 does this better, even if the sub-bass is slightly more prominent than neutral). Mind you, I’m not saying the sub-bass of the Hammo S needs to be excessive. For example, the Audeze LCD-2 reproduces very neutral and accurate sub-bass frequencies, remaining ruler flat down to 20 Hz, and it sounds authoritative and substantial while being neutral and articulate. But that headphone also costs almost ten times more than the Hammo S. The M50X is very close in price to the Hammo S though, and if sub-bass presence and articulation matters to you, it's the better choice.
In conclusion, Noontec Hammo S is a pretty good pair of headphones for $109 USD. It does not beat the Audio-Technical ATH-M50X (its officially chosen competitor) in terms of sound quality, but in some ways, the Hammo S’s ergonomics is better. It’s up to you what you think is more important. For me, sound quality is top priority, so I would spend a little more for the M50X (especially that the street price is a lot lower than the MSRP). 
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"But actually listening to the headphones"
Listening == subjective. Measurements == objective. I don't doubt for a second that the Hammo is the brighter sounding of the two, but it still measures better overall than the M50X. 
The brightness you're talking about is almost definitely the ringing on the impluse response. You could probably get rid of it if you wanted to. Different pads, open-cell foam, felt, and creatology foam surrounding the driver on the baffle plate are all things that could help tame that ringing. You could also try some internal (inside the earcup) tinkering too, provided you're allowed to keep the review sample. Mass loading the back of the baffle with blutak can reduce the amount of enclosure resonation. Surrounding the driver with it where it mounts to the baffle with blutak might help too, if the ringing is driver-borne.
Also, just read the part about AT saying the M50 and M50X should be identical... what horse****. 
This is the original M50:
This is the newer (2012 and later) M50:
and of course, the M50X:
All different, the M50X being the best of the three by far. The original was obviously quite awful compared to the newer models: poor bass, ringing galore, and a nasty "N" shaped frequency response. The M50x is significantly less bright than the 2012 M50, has less ringing, and has lower distortion. This is far outside of the realm of normal product variance, especially for a monitor.
@tatato14 - Thanks for the suggestion on the physical mods. I prefer to just use parametric EQ, since physical mods can go wrong and you end up ruining a part that would need to be replaced. 
As for what Audio-Technica says about the old and new models, if the M50x is significantly better, then that just means for me, it's even better than the Hammo S than the M50 is. 
The truth is, I never would have purchased the Hammo S on my own when there are far superior headphones out there. I only agreed to review it as a favor, and now it's just going to sit in its hard-shell case, probably given away as a gift.
BTW, it seems your only real beef with my review is focused on a single word I used--"objective." Would it make any difference to you if you changed that word to "subjective"? 


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Attractive looks that oozes quality, great mids and treble, can go down to 60Hz, had auto-sleep function, size vs. performance is among the best
Cons: Bass is exaggerated by 6+ dB at around 160~180Hz, volume knob in the back, heavy for their size, no protective grill
While staying at our temporary apartment in Sacramento, California (we’re here shopping for a new home), I badly needed a pair of small desktop speakers for my laptop. After much research online, comparing reviews and assessing the specifications, I ended up with the Audioengine A2‘s.

Here’s how they look in our current temporary apartment:


In the past, I usually travel with a very old pair of Altec Lancing ACS-90‘s I scrounged from the storage room scraps, when I contracted briefly at Broderbund/Red Orb in the late 90′s as a texture artist (working on Prince of Persia 3D). They used to be my designated traveling speakers, since the size is small enough to travel with and the build is fairly sturdy, and they actually sound quite good for their size. The sonic signature isn’t fatiguing, and there’s no annoying bass bloat like many of today’s speakers that try to impress typical consumers who don’t really care about fidelity and accuracy. Unfortunately, the power switch no longer works and I couldn’t fix it.
Because my Alec Lancing speakers are no longer working, I only took my Audio-Technica ATH-M50 headphone and my Westone 4 in-ear-monitors on this trip. Now, I’m obviously a headphone lover, but the truth is, as much as I love headphones, they will always be secondary to speakers in my life, because speakers are just that much more dimensional, natural, and convenient to listen to; there’s nothing on your noggin that could fall off, or prevent you from hearing important audio cues like phones, doorbell, neighbor screaming for help, and it’s much easier to share music with others.
After enduring only being able to use headphones for a couple of weeks, I just couldn’t stand it anymore, so I hopped online and searched for current small desktop multimedia speakers with excellent reviews. After weighing the pros and cons (size, weight, cost, portability, sound quality) and reading a bunch of professional and customer reviews, I ended up choosing the Audioengine A2.
My main reasons for choosing the A2′s were:
1) In the range of highly rated tiny speakers, they are one of the smallest, yet has the sonic signature of larger, serious speakers (audiophile/pro audio grade, as opposed to typical consumer grade). This was according to all the rave reviews out there from professional reviewers as well as consumers.
2) Stereophile has a review for the A2′s that’s practically foaming at the mouth about how incredible they are.
3) They’re the only tiny desktop speakers out there designed and manufactured in a way that’s unlike typical small multimedia speakers that use plastic and harsh sounding tweeters. The A2′s use MDF cabinet, silk dome tweeters, and Kevlar woofers, which is usually only used for larger speakers. I’ve never seen this type of design/construction used for tiny desktop speakers.
None of that makes any difference at the end of the day though. The only thing that truly matters is how they actually sound. So let me cut straight to the chase.
Yes, these are nice speakers, and for the most part they do sound very good–better than you’d think they ought to at their size, but they have two severe flaws. First, look at the frequency response graph that came with the same Stereophile review that many people like to refer to.
The bass at around 180Hz is prominently exaggerated by around 6 dB or so, and if you use a parametic EQ with modereate bandwith/Q and cut the bass at 180Hz by about -6 dB, you’ll hear what neutral/accurate is supposed to sound like. With EQ’ing it sounds much better, with more clarity and definition in the lower frequencies instead of muddied, boomy mess. Then, turn off the EQ and it’ll be painfully obvious how colored the A2′s are, after having heard the more accurate/neutral EQ’d correction.
I’m surprised by how many people out there are claiming these speakers have tight, clean bass. Can they tell the difference between neutral/accurate frequency response from colored/skewed response? Apparently, most can’t, because if you look at the reviews on Amazon, only a tiny minority of the customer reviews criticized the exaggerated bass that muddied the overall sonic signature. Even the professional reviewers who are supposed to be pro audio/audiophile experts, seem to have glossed over this severe flaw.
I don’t know why Audioengine chose to color these speakers with muddy, exaggerated bass. They actually tweaked the EQ of the DSP chip inside the speakers to get that sound, as the speaker driver/cabinet/port design is not capable of producing that kind of exaggerated bass on their own. Such a shame. These speakers could have been brilliant, but as is, they are marred by the aggressive EQ/DSP tweaking by Audioengine for what I believe, an attempt to please the typical consumers who grew up with exaggerated bass that’s so common in today’s consumer audio.
Here’s something interesting though–the A2′s actually smooth out in the bass if you aren’t listening to them in the normal listening position (with the speakers placed directly in front of you, on either side, in equilateral triangle, angled 30 degrees towards each ear). So if you are just using the A2′s to play music while walking around the room, instead of sitting between the speakers as one normally would, then the A2′s actually sound better. Maybe that’s why Audioengine colored them that way, but I doubt it, since most people listening to desktop speakers while sitting at a desk–that’s why they’re called desktop speakers. If they wanted to color the A2′s for general room listening, they could have added a bass-boost switch, so those who do listen sitting down at the desk and turn off the bass boost.
Aside from the coloration in the bass, I do like these speakers a lot. The mids and treble are very nice and smooth, though at around 900Hz and 4KHz, it could use around 3 to 5 dB of boost with moderate bandwidth/Q, in order to reach better accuracy/neutrality. But most speakers that aren’t high-end would display some kind of dip or peak in the mids or treble, and the A2′s overall frequency response in the mids and treble is good enough that I would feel fine not EQ’ing them. But because I must EQ the bass, I might as well take care of the mids and treble too.
Here’s the EQ correction I use to make the A2′s more neutral/accurate:

In terms of visual design, the A2′s are really nice to look at (the white version is especially striking), and they’re also constructed very well; they feel just like professional studio monitors, but shrunken down to miniature size. Anyone who’s familiar with the general quality level of small desktop speakers on the market can immediately tell that the A2′s are much higher quality than the typical plastic toys out there.
Here are a few official photos from Audioengine:


They coms in black as well:


The A2′s use an AC adapter for power supply, and that’s totally fine by me. I personally never understood why some people hate the power blocks. I think they’re far better than wall-warts, and also better than adding bulk to the product’s size. Some reviewers like to point out that the A2′s use “real speaker wires,” but I’m not sure if it’s really relevant, except for maybe that you can use your own custom-length wire if you need to space the speakers very far apart (which isn’t a good idea anyway if you want to maintain any semblance of decent stereo-imaging).
The only other thing I dislike about the A2 besides the exaggerated bass, is the fact that the volume knob is placed in the back. Seriously, that’s just a really bad idea, because most people who would buy this type of tiny speakers aren’t using monitor/speaker controllers, and controlling volume with the computer software is just too dangerous; you’re one computer/software crash away from blowing out your speakers and damaging your ears permanently. Audioengine says that there’s no room for a volume knob in the front, but why can’t they think outside the box? I’d have preferred they charged a little more and provided a separate volume controller knob that’s plugged into the speaker, with about a foot long of cable (sort of like a wired remote control).
Overall, I would say that I have mixed feelings about the Audioengine A2′s. On one hand, it’s a quality product that’s rare in the world of tiny desk top speakers. On the other hand, the exaggerated bass can be a deal breaker for some (unless you EQ the speakers like I do). But once EQ’d, the A2′s do sound damn good, producing a balanced, pleasing sonic signature, and can reproduce low frequencies meaningfully down to about 60Hz without distortion. That’s no easy feat for a pair of tiny speakers. If Audioengine had voiced the A2′s without the bass exaggeration, it would have been one of the best price vs. performance ratio products I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Luckily for me, I don’t mind using EQ to refine my audio system–it’s something I do all the time anyway in my studio with all my speakers and headphones–all of them are fine-tuned for ideal neutrality/accuracy. If I’m doing that to my $7,000 reference studio monitors (using IK Multimedia’s ARC System and additional EQ), then perhaps I shouldn’t expect a $200 pair of tiny speakers to perform perfectly without any EQ.
In terms of competition, there are maybe about two or three competitors out there that can match the Audioengine A2′s in terms of sound, construction, and looks, but they tend to be either bigger in size, or too small to have any meaningful bass, or more expensive. Off the top of my head, here are a few alternatives (2.1 systems don’t count, since they include a separate subwoofer):
Audyssey’s Media Speakers
JBL’s Control 1 Pro
Bose’s Computer MusicMonitor
In terms of accessories, Audioengine sells angled speaker stands for the A2′s (it’s the black wedge under the speakers you see in some of the photos). At $29, they are expensive for a couple of rubber wedges. If you are handy with tools, you could build something similar with wood or plastic. They also sell wireless adapters/receivers, wireless DAC, and other quality products.
Audioengine makes a subwoofer (the S8) that you can get for the A2′s, and on paper, the subwoofer’s specifications look really good (only 11″ cube, with 8″ driver, and reaches down to 27Hz). I’m probably not going to get one, because the only reason I got the A2′s is for portability during traveling, and the A2′s by themselves already weigh far more compared to typical small desktop speakers (roughly 6.7 lbs. for the pair, not including the AC adapter). I might consider getting the sub to keep it in the studio though, so that I can use the Audioengine A2′s with the sub as a complete 2.1 system, acting as a third opinion (the first being the Klein+Hummel O 300D’s and the second being the Logitech Z-5500). But that seems a bit redundant, since the first two opinions already cover all of my needs (critical high-end audio, and surround sound). Maybe I can put it somewhere else in the house–I’ll have to see after we finish moving into the new home.

Here’s a related tip for those of you that want to EQ the audio output of Windows OS (instead of EQ’ing just the media player audio). You can google for “RTLCPL.exe,” which is part of the AC97′ driver bundle, and is compatible with most of the computers running Realtek AC97′. This is what it looks like:

There are instructions on the web on how to make it work with your computer, and once you’re done, you can then use it to EQ the audio output of your Windows OS, which means the EQ will affect any typical situations like videos and audios streaming off the web through your web browser.
Nope and that is very true... But I remember I thought the same thing as you when i first got my pair for about two years ago. But after I contacted the support and asked if they were meant to be soo bass heavy.. They answered that I should try different poisions of the power supply, and that it's very sensitivity to interference, halogen lamps, computers and so on (I think it's a very bad quallity power supply, it would be fun to try another one). But I remember I did something like that and they got from too mid-bass heave to almost to the contrary (almost too weak bass). I don't know what it is but it's clearly something strange about these speakers :) It would be fun to know exactly what caused it. There must be a reason with so different reviews even from professionals. Sorry for my long comment and my bad english... Do you have your Audioengine 2's left?
@Simon - I still have them, but I don't have them with me right now and I won't see them again for a few week. I've never heard anything about the power supply, and it's hard for me to believe that the power supply could alter the sonic signature that much. If that is indeed the case, then it's a horrible design flaw. I really don't think that's it because I have never seen or heard a problem like that in all my years dealing with audio.
As I said, I don't really know... I have listened to B&W MM-1 in a treated room and I must say that I prefer the sounds coming out from my Audioengine 2's with my Presonus Firestudio Mobile soundcard. But everyone has different taste of course. But my pair doesn't sound muddy at all, crystal clear. But I think my soundcard helpet a bit with the amplefied mid-bass, maybe. Okay!


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Great fit, nice cable, pleasant sonic signature (non-fatiguing)
Cons: upper/mid bass still bloated, sub-bass not enough, not enough air
I have put the W4 through its paces, and after the first round of extensive testing, here are my impressions.
My main reason for getting the W4 is to hopefully replace the SE535 and W3, since I find them too colored or fatiguing/bright without EQ. Ideally, I wanted a pair of IEM's that I can listen to without any EQ. In a way, the W4 gives me that, but not in the way I had hoped.
First of all, the W4 is definitely much better than the W3, since it's obvious that Westone listened to all the complaints about W3 and tuned the W4 according to those complaints, while they also tried to keep some of what people loved about the W3. So the result is like a compromise between the W3 and what I consider a neutral and accurate sonic signature--in other words, the W4 is still colored, but just not as severe as the W3. To give you an idea of the kind of EQ curve it takes to get the W4 close to the LCD-2's sonic signature, here's a screenshot:

I can probably refine this EQ curve even more and get it even closer, but for now, this already gets pretty close (though missing a bit of clarity/resolution/punchiness overall across all frequency ranges, and I think it may be because of the differences in the inherent physical characteristics of the two driver technologies). For those of you who own both the LCD-2 and W4, give this EQ curve a try, if you want your W4 to sound more like the LCD-2 (which IMO is definitely a superior headphone in all ways possible).
Compared to the W3, the W4's bass has a similar shape, but only half as prominent. That doesn't mean its bass is neutral/flat/accurate though, since W4's bass is still significantly emphasized, but just not to the degree of W3 (about halfway between W3 and neutral). If you listen to any music where the accuracy of the bass response is critical, it becomes immediately obvious the bass is still too prominent. Sparse jazz arrangements that contains a double-bass makes this very obvious. The W4 renders double-bass with too much bloom/mud compared to a much more accurate headphone like the LCD-2. I also gave the W4 a boost in the lowest sub-bass, because I found it lacking some body down there (though the W3 didn't seem to need that boost). The cut in the 125Hz range is exactly half the amount of cut I use for the W3, which tells me that the W4's bass emphasis is exactly half of the W3, but still 4 dB too prominent. Compared to the SE535, the W4's bass is definitely not as accurate/neutral. SE535's bass is actually one of its strongest features, since it's very close to being neutral.
The mids pretty good for the most part, although that pesky 7KHz ear canal resonance is there, just like with most IEM's. Part of me wishes that IEM engineers simply just design around that ear canal resonance, but I understand why they don't--it's because we all have different shaped ear canals. If you use my EQ curve and turn it on and off, it's very obvious how of a difference a steep narrow cut in the 7KHz region makes. Without that cut, all cymbals, hi-hats, shakers, tamborines...etc sound really congested and distorted. This may not be obvious if you have never listened to the W4 with my EQ curve, but once you do, you can't not notice it--it's as plain as day. Compared to the W3, W4's mids are not nearly as fatiguing/bright in the 7KHz range. Compared to the SE535, the W4 is less colored, since I have always felt that the SE535's mids are too emphasized, to the point of being fatiguing and overly bright.
The treble needs about the same amount of boost as W3 in the 13KHz range for a bit more air, so they are actually kind of similar. Compared to the SE535, the W4's treble is a bit more clear/prominent, since the SE535 would require a bigger boost in the 13KHz range to sound more neutral.
With all that said, I think the W4 is the first IEM I have owned that I could listen to without using any EQ and not have a frown on my face. While it is indeed colored without EQ, it is colored in a way that is fairly pleasing and acceptable for a lot of music. But most importantly, it does not break my first rule of audio devices, which is to first and foremost, do no harm. The W4 is not fatiguing/overly bright, and although on some bright material the level of sibilance is noticeably higher than better headphones like the LCD-2, it's not to the point of being painful like many other headphones. The bass emphasis while noticeable, actually is quite acceptable for most musical material, and it's only when you get into really refined music like jazz and classical do you notice it and want to turn the EQ on to smooth out the bass response so it's not overpowering what shouldn't be overshadowed.
I think it's very likely I'll sell my SE535 and W3, since the W4 is the only one among the three I could actually listen to without any EQ and not feel annoyed by the excessive brightness. While the W4 isn't perfect, and in general I'm disappointed that it still requires significant EQ'ing to get close to sounding neutral, but at least it is colored in a way that is acceptable to me. I think my IEM journey ends here, until one day I hear something much closer to my idea of neutral, but I'm not going out of my way to audition any more IEM's, since I really don't use IEM's that much anyway.
EDIT: After investigating further into the different tips and their effects on the W4, I discovered that the tips effect the sonic signature of the W4 more than any other IEM I have used in the past. The peak resonance in the upper-mids and the treble are the most significant changes. With the Triple-flange that has only the stalk cut off, the upper-mids are much more tame and does not require that cut at 7KHz, while the treble is also softer as well (this is comparing to triple-flange with the smallest flange and the stalk cut off). The EQ curve I use now for the triple-flange (stalk cut off) is this:
The largest comply grey sticky foam tips are also good, but I hate any kind of foam tips where you have to wait for it to expand for a seal. It's just an extra step that's kind of annoying. If I'm out and about, and every few minutes someone wants to say something to me, I'd have to pull out one ear, talk to the person, and then put it back in and then wait for the damn foam to expand. After doing that a few times, it's just too much. The silicon tips are far more convenient.
The hard semi-transparent tips I just can't use at all. Never was able to get them to sit right in the ear or seal properly, even as far back as my Shure E4C days. I don't know why companies even include those because I really wonder if anyone uses those at all.
Thanks for the review. I discovered EasyQ thanks to you and Br777. It has made my W4 that much clearer and closer to my ideal sound signature. The W4 are a little muddy, but they have an enjoyable presentation that is fatigue-free.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Very comfortable, great cable, slick design
Cons: Bass is way too boomy/muddy, upp-mids too bright, treble a bit recessed
I don't like to buy headphones solely based on people's recommendations without auditioning them first, but the reality is, you often have to because you just don't have the opportunity to audition exactly the models you are interested in due to where you live. The Westone 3 is one such case where I had to rely on internet reviews, and I regret the purchase. The problem with trusting online opinions is that often the people who write really good prose don't necessarily have good taste in audio--many of them use flowery prose to describe what is essentially a severely flawed sonic signature. This is not a subjective statement--it is totally objective, because I'm judging from the perspective of pro audio neutrality, where intentional coloring of the sound is considered a sin when it comes to audio reproduction devices. In pro audio, audio reproduction has to be as transparent as possible, and the Westone 3 is anything but transparent.
In general, the W3's bass is very bloated and muddy, completely overwhelming the entire sonic spectrum. This is one of the tragedies of consumer audio, where uninformed masses with very skewed preference for heavily colored audio reproduction have managed to influence the companies who design and manufacture audio reproduction devices. These companies all should know better--they are professionals after all, but due to market demands, they are creating these very skewed devices to satisfy the uncouth public, and this perpetuates the tragic cycle. The fact that the W3 was praised to the heavens and so many actually believe its bass is perfect, is a symptom of how skewed the general public's understanding of audio is. In comparison, the bass of the SE535 is much more neutral (though it could use a tiny bit more sub-bass presence), although the SE535 has its own problems (the upper mids in the 7KHz range is way too bright/fatiguing).
The rest of the frequency range is not bad on the W3, but it also exhibits the common problem of being a bit too bright/fatiguing in the 7KHz range--this is the problem with IEM in general, since the drivers are so close to the eardrum and the shape of the ear canal causes a resonance in the 7KHz range. I suppose IEM designers can try and design around that resonance peak to begin with, but the fact that most don't probably means doing so will cause other issues.
The treble of the W3 is articulate but not nearly airy enough. This is a problem I have found with many IEM's, so the W3 is not alone in this.
The mids are fine--I don't have any complaints. It's perhaps the strength of the W3, but since its bass is so bloated/muddy, it overwhelms the mids anyway.
I have created an EQ setting that corrects the major issues of the W3, and if you are a W3 owner, I highly recommend you try this setting:
In terms of comfort and visuals, the W3 is one of the best IEMs. It's fits flush against the ear and you can sleep on your side with them on without any problems. The cable is soft and easy to deal with. The design is slick and simple. If only it sounded as good. While the Westone described the W3 as intended to be more fun than neutral, they were still very subtle with their description, and the actual sonic signature of the W3 goes beyond fun and into the muddy territory.

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@jensy - By standards, I'm talking about contrast, brightness, color accuracy, detail accuracy, etc. We don't have different ideals for imaging standards--we simply want what we see to look accurate, natural, and true to the original vision from the people who created the content. I don't see why audio shouldn't be the same way. And audio for imaging content are mastered in mastering studios (or places that aspire to be as accurate as mastering studios), where accuracy and neutrality is the standard.
its bass is bassy and the treble is dominant , you must be the ear equivalent of colour blind,

the bass and treble are boosted thats all, no way a bad thing when you factor in how detailed the frequencies are and the imaging is also incredibly enjoyable for such an early release iem,

most fun and easy iem i have owned from westone - (4, umpro 50) only thing i would ask for is more depth in the presentation but that would make them not the w3 that i love

@damobananna - Why the need for derogatory remark? I'm a professional composer/musician and my audio standards are different from yours. I want my gear to sound as accurate as possible, without excessive coloration in the frequency response, and this the standard all audio professionals use for recording, mixing, mastering. Even for leisure listening, audio pros would prefer more accurate response than severely colored, because it actually allows them to hear the music as it's intended by the artist and mastering engineer, instead of what the headphone maker thinks you should hear. Also, have you heard truly accurate frequency response before? I mean, mastering level accuracy from 20Hz to 20KHz, without any significant coloration? It sounds absolutely astounding and far more satisfying than severely colored frequency response, because you get all the clarity and balance without losing any of the power and gravitas. If you have never heard professional standard accurate response, then you don't know what you're missing out on. 


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Variety of digital input formats and Dolby formats, remote, non-fatiguing sound
Cons: Typical crossover resonance, sub-bass resonance
When I decided to replace my crappy Creative Inspire P7800 7.1 Surround Speakers System with something a lot better, I was not after high-end surround sound for audio production or crazy audiophile home theater–I only wanted something that sounded fairly good and has a good sub-bass extension, so I can feel all the visceral power of video game action and movies. Even though I'm quite happy with my JVC/Victor SU-DH1 hardware Dolby Headphone virtual surround, no matter how good Dolby Headphone is for creating the illusion of surround sound, it’s still not quite as real as real surround sound (even though the hardware version of Dolby Headphone already sounds far superior to the software version). In general, I think the Z-5500 met those needs very well. Also, since I have a pair of the amazing Klein + Hummel O 300D professional reference studio monitor speakers for doing critical audio work, I didn't need the Z-5500 to be amazing, and I'd only use it for playing games and watching movies, or non-critical listening. For any serious audio work, I'd use the K+H's.
The small satellites + subwoofer systems all tend to have recessed mid range frequencies due to the inherent physical design and crossover, and the Z-5500 is no exception, but at the same time, the recess in the mid range isn’t nearly as bad as some I have heard in the past, and it’s not something that bothers me too much. There’s also less treble energy than a neutral frequency response, which I don’t mind that much either–I’ll gladly sacrifice some clarity if that means no shrillness–it’s a fair trade-off in my book. I guess that’s what I like about the Z-5500–at the very basic level, it does no harm, as in it does not have excessive shrillness like many audio products do, and in this aspect, it’s even better than some so-called entry-level “pro audio” reference monitors I have heard in the past (they tend to sound way too bright and fatiguing).
In the bass region, the Z-5500′s subwoofer does have that boomy overhanging resonance from being a ported design that’s always present. Some people might actually like it since they’re used to hearing it in entry to mid-level audio gear and they might think it’s more visceral, but it’s really not a good thing in general because it colors all musical material that way, even ones that shouldn’t have such bass emphasis. This is where the big difference between the O 300D and the Z-5500 becomes apparent–the O 300D is just much better designed since it’s aimed at the high-end professional audio market, and it is a sealed cabinet design that doesn’t suffer from bass port resonance, resulting in much tighter and cleaner bass response.
Another problem with the Z-5500 is that at 100Hz, the typical problem with crossovers occurs, where it’s in the netherworld between the satellite and the subwoofer and neither is reproducing that frequency range authoritatively. Once going up to 125Hz, the Satellites starts to take over, and going down to 90Hz the subwoofer takes over. This results in a bass frequency response curve that’s not linear and has weird resonance issues right at the crossover frequency.
Overall, I’m reasonably pleased with how the Z-5500 sounds, since I tend to have low opinion of most consumer electronics–they usually have a very artificial and fatiguing sound with a built-in “disco smiley face” EQ setting that makes the typical uninformed consumers think it sounds good. The Z-5500 doesn’t do that and sounds quite natural. Overall, it’s a lot better than the Altec Lancing ACS-90 and the Creative P7800 subwoofer combo it replaced (I moved that combo to my workout room now). Here’s how the Z-5500 tested with the ARC System in my studio:

As you can see, it looks surprisingly neutral for a consumer speaker system. In my studio, I found that additional two bars of subwoofer volume tested slightly more neutral in the sub-bass region, as you can see:

for such a modestly priced system, it performs quite well all the way down to 30hz, which matches the sub-bass capabilities of my O 300D’s (though it doesn’t sound as tight or clean).
With ARC System correction turned on for both the Z-5500 and the O 300D, they sounded much closer in sonic signature, but the O 300D is more refined and spacious, dimensional, higher resolution, and the bass is tighter and better controlled. Here’s the O 300D’s ARC correction curves:

Kind of ironic that the O 300D’s pre-correction frequency response in my studio is actually less neutral than the Z-5500, and the Z-5500′s price tag is less than one-tenth of the O 300D’s. But of course this has much to do with the actual speaker placement and the acoustic treatment. Maybe the Z-5500 simply are placed in a more ideal spot in relation to the listening position. I've used the O 300's in other rooms where they sounded pretty damn good even without correction, acoustic treatment, or "proper" placement, so I know the room dimensions, speaker placement, and listening position all have a dramatic effect on the same pair of speakers.
For casual listening, I would be totally fine with the Z-5500 with the ARC correction turned on, I feel like I don’t even need to turn on the O 300D’s anymore unless it's for critical audio work or focused music appreciation listening sessions. The O 300D’s really is a totally different tier of the market though, so it's not even fair to compare, but since that's my reference point for quality, it's what I have to use to test all my other audio gear. With the O 300D's, I’m getting the best performances in transient response, stereo imaging, soundstage, distortion, control, and resolution. But It’s amazing how much of a difference the ARC System makes with the Z-550 though–it really is one of the best purchases anyone can make for their computer-based sound system.
The control console for the Z-5500 is easy to use and the remote is handy, but I wish they had separate buttons for effects as well as the inputs on both the remote and the control console, since switching through them tend to be a bit annoying as there’s a delay with each switch you make. But in general I’m happy with this purchase and I think I’ll be content with it for years to come.
Thanks for the well-written and elaborate review! It's good to see someone who actually knows about professional audio hardware do a review of this set. There are a LOT of hate coming from self-alleged "audiophiles" toward this particular set (I don't see nearly as much hate directed toward Cambridge Soundworks' MegaWorks, or Kplipsch ProMedias, probably because Logitech is more well-known for their computer peripherals while these other companies specialize in speakers), but a quick read through several of the discussion threads (such as the one on easily shows that most of these "audiophiles" know absolutely nothing about how audio equipment actually works (for example the stated 10% THD being from the integrated amp when it is at maximum output, and the 200Hz crossover being pretty much a standard for multimedia speakers - not saying such a high crossover is ideal, but one should NEVER compare multimedia speakers with true high grade home cinema sets, that's comparing apples and oranges).
I have listened to a lot of multimedia speakers and while I would have preferred for the Z-5500's satellites to be true 2-way designs, they don't sound nearly as bad as most haters claim them to be (also, a lot of these haters recommend the Klipsch ProMedia 2.1, which I have heard and was NOT impressed by at all! The treble is way too sharp and the bass way too boomy. These people have obviously never heard a neutral sound signature from a nice pair of headphones). A lot of them also claim that the Z-5500 lack mid-range... which is like LOL wut? If anything the Z-5500 could use a bit more sparkle in the treble. It does seem to have some dispersion issues and I find the treble very lacking if the satellites are not pointed directly toward me.
I agree with you a 100% Bagheera mate. It's 2016 and I've referenced Lunatique's post from way back in 2011 a few times over the years when setting up my Z-5500. That my friend is what I call a great, insightful review. I signed up to this forum to first thank you for reviewing it and sharing your knowledge about it with us.
Also wanted to share how I've set it up on my PC. I'll only focus on the sub-woofer correction which I've done, as I feel it sounds very nice and clean (purely subjective). Reason for only giving the sub correction is that I'm using a pair of F&D SPS-2000 as my main speakers, and their correction wouldn't match the original Z-5500 satellites.
What you need:
1. Equalizer APO
2. Peace, GUI for Equalizer APO
How to set it all up:
1. Install both Equalizer APO & Peace GUI in that specific order using their respective instructions. (restart if and when needed)
2. Use the "configurator" (Open Peace GUI>Settings>Equalize APO's Configurator) to select your desired audio output device on your computer (restart is mandatory to take effect)
3. Open "Peace" and the set your equalizer frequencies, gains, Q's (below each frequency slider) to the following values;
Frequency, gain, Q value
20, 14, 5
22, 14, 5
30, 0, 3
40, 0, 3
55, 5.5, 4
77, -6, 3
100, 3, 3
125, -2, 3
160, 1.5, 3
4. Now save this as a preset and enjoy! P.S. I use the “High-pass filter” in the “Commands” section and set it to 28Hz sometimes for songs with heavy low end bass to avoid distortion. * Note 1 - This is for "Stereo" mode with the sub-woofer level set to standard (halfway point on the controller display) but should be decent for other modes as well. * Note 2 - This will work on any computer which "Equalizer APO" can be installed on.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Full-bodied sound, extended bass, non-fatiguing sonic signature
Cons: Very slightly recessed mids, physically heavy, slightly sloppy craftsmanship, odd design decisions
It's been about a month since I've received my Audez'e LCD-2 headphones (after being on the waiting list for almost three months). It's currently one of the most praised high-end headphones on the market, and before I jump into the review, I'll just get straight to the bottom line--it is a fine pair of headphones, but it's not without issues.

Here's what the LCD-2 looks like:



Cosmetics & Ergonomics
First of all--the build is excellent. It looks every bit the high quality hand-made product that it is, but it has a quirky problem--one of the earcups came out of the frame upon arrival and my heart sank for a moment, but a quick look revealed that it was designed to be able to come off very easily if you simply pull on the anchoring frame a little, and it's very easy to put it back in. While this makes it easy to take the earcups off, it also means it can happen by accident if you simply pull on the headphones a bit hard from the wrong angle. No other headphone I've ever used had this problem, where it literally comes apart easily. It's sort of a blessing at the same time since it's easy to take the earcups off to run audio tests one channel at a time (but obviously, this is something only total audio geeks would do):

The actual earpads are very comfortable, but because leather (or pleather) can get sweaty after a while, I always have sanitary covers on all my headphones, including the Sennheiser HD650 with velour earpads (since it protects the earpads from getting worn out). Here's without the sanitary covers:

Here's with sanitary covers:

My earpads don't match since the right side is 0.6cm thicker, but it doesn't affect the sound--just looks a bit lopsided. They also put in the cable sockets with the wrong orientation on the right side too, making the cable twist a bit on the right side. Minor issues, but slightly annoying since this is a $1,000 pair of high-end headphones and I expected more careful craftsmanship. I wonder why they didn't use metal or plastic parts where the frame's anchoring points inserts into the wooden cups though--they just dug out the wood, which looks a bit too hand-made for comfort to me--I'd prefer they installed metal parts into the wood so that there's no danger of the wood cracking or chipping. I also don't understand why they'd use an open-cell foam on the headband--it just doesn't look very durable since the edges could peel off eventually (like it did on my Sennheiser HD555 after a few years), and it's also terrible for sanitary reasons. Hair has oil and dirt and other stuff that you don't want to get caught in the cell of the foam. They really should have sheathed the foam under a cover for the headband--something like pleather or leather since it's much easier to wipe those clean. The Sennheiser HD650's foam is covered with fabric, and even that inspires more confidence than just bare foam. The cables on the LCD-2 are also awkward since they are stiff have long connectors, and they will poke into your shoulder if you look down. The main cable is also the stiffest headphone cables I have ever seen--they are basically typical thick instrument cables, and all musicians hate instrument cables because we're constantly coiling and uncoiling them all the time and they can be a bit unruly.

In terms of isolation, the LCD-2 is an open-backed design, so you will hear outside sounds--in fact the LCD-2 is one of the most open headphones I have ever heard. Usually open-back headphones still muffle the clarity of outside sounds a little, while the LCD-2 changes the outside sound only very subtly. I personally much prefer open-back designs since not only is the sound a lot more natural and not so claustrophobic like closed-back designs, you can also hear when people talk to you, or when the door bell rings (but they can also hear your music clearly too--it just sounds like a tinny version from a small radio). But of course, if you really need isolation, then only closed-back or IEM's will do.

Here's the whole package and the wooden box:



The overall visual sensibility of the LCD-2 is the steampunk look, which is quite appealing if you dig that style (I do). It's similar to the Hifiman HE-5, the other currently popular orthodynamic headphone, combining wood, naked metal, and painted metal.

The comfort level of the LCD-2 is just fine in general. It's a lot heavier than most headphones (up to 2x or 3x heavier), but it's very comfortable in a snug, substantial way that inspires a sense of security, like how when you hold up something of quality and it weighs a bit but feels very solid and secure. That's how it feels on my head--solid, secure, snug, yet very comfortable. It's no less comfortable than all the other headphones I have, despite being significantly heavier; however, its weight will take its toll after prolonged listening--you'll start to feel it, while with really light headphones like the Denon AH-D7000 or very comfy headphones like the HD555, you pretty much forget you are wearing headphones until you stand up and they are accidentally ripped off your head.

One other small issue with the weight is that because it's so heavy, if you hang the LCD-2 on a typical headphone stand where the entire weight of the headphone rests in the middle of the headband, then the foam on the headband will become compressed in that spot. Some LCD-2 owners just rest it flat on a thick piece of fabric due to that issue, but I don't really have flat surfaces to spare, so I improvised and DIY'd a modification on my headphone stand with some old socks:
See how the hanging surface now is almost as wide as the entire headband, and the weight is now evenly distributed? This way, the foam won't compress severely in just one tiny spot like with typical rods that many headphone stands use.

First of all, take a look at this frequency graph of the LCD-2 (all graphs are taken from measurements done by Tyll Hertsens, formerly owner of HeadRoom--one of the most popular headphone and amp retailers):

That's pretty amazing, isn't it? From 1KHz to 20Hz, it is almost ruler flat. It is extremely rare for any headphone to achieve that kind of linear and neutral frequency response--in fact the LCD-2 is the only one I've ever seen that can do it to that degree. (All LCD-2's are shipped with its own individual graph, showing you how your particular pair tested. Mine looks similar enough to the one above that it's not necessary to post it.)

Now, look at how a 30Hz square wave looks on the LCD-2:

Now, look at how a 300Hz square wave looks on the LCD-2:

That is also very impressive--the square wave is reproduced so cleanly and with very little distortion.

If you compare the LCD-2's measurements with the out of production, very expensive, and legendary Sony Qualia, you'll be shocked to see just how laughly bad the Qualia's audio quality is compared to the LCD-2:

Sony Qualia frequency response graph:

Sony Qualia 30hz square wave:

Sony Qualia 300hz square wave:

Pretty horrendous frequency response and distortion for a "legendary" high-end headphone, eh? Not even a fraction as good as the Audez'e LCD-2, and costs more than twice as much when it was in production, and now even more since it's been discontinued and elevated to mythical status.

While all that is great on paper, how does the LCD-2 actually sound? Overall, the LCD-2 has a full-bodied sound, but it is not slow, too heavy or too lush. The bass is extended and sounds neutral without any bloat, while being authoritative and substantial. The mids are smooth and clear, but it's recessed around the 2KHz~3KHz region for about -3dB, which results in the LCD-2 sounding a bit too polite in some cases--especially when it comes to the bite of distorted electric guitars, the snap of the snare drum, or the power of the brass section. I usually EQ that region a little to restore that little bit of brightness. Here's how I EQ the LCD-2:

The treble of the LCD-2 is just fine. It's articulate and detailed, never too exaggerated or too dark, and very natural sounding.

One very important characteristic I care about the most in audio reproduction gear is that it cannot be fatiguing and offensive, and the LCD-2 has no such problems at all. It isn't excessively bright and fatiguing, nor does it have overwhelming bloated bass, or exaggerated upper-mids that causes annoying sibilance. If anything, I wish the 2KHz~3KHz region didn't have that -3dB of recess, but it's very easy to correct with a simple one-band EQ compensation. If I'm watching a movie or playing a video game where I can't apply surgical DSP processing via software, I actually don't ever notice the slight recess and in fact welcome it since it makes prolonged listening very pleasant. Truth is, if I didn't A/B the LCD-2 against my other headphones or my reference studio monitors (Klein + Hummel o 300D's), I probably would not have noticed that slight recess, although I'd probably note the somewhat polite presentation on aggressive music that has lots of energy in the 2KHz~3KHz region.

Anyway, I could go on listing all the music and test tones I used to put the LCD-2 through its paces, but I listen to some very obscure and eclectic choices of music, so describing them in detail would be meaningless to most of you. If you must know, you can just search head-fi forums for my posts in the official LCD-2 thread. In that thread I even posted the tracks I used to test the LCD-2, and which sections to listen to in order to hear that slightly recessed mids.

Final Thoughts
For about $1,000, the LCD-2 might be too expensive for some people, and the truth is, you can get pretty close to the sound quality of the LCD-2 while spending a lot less. The Sennheiser HD650 for example is an excellent pair of headphones, costing less than half of the LCD-2. The HD650 does just about everything right, except its sub-bass isn't as substantial as a full-range speaker system with subwoofer. It's really only from around 35Hz and lower that the HD650 is rolled off though, while in rest of the frequency response it performs very well and is one of my favorites. It's actually kind of hard for me to say if the LCD-2 is all that much better than the HD650 in terms of value (but in terms of sonic signature, the LCD-2 is definitely a class above, being more refined, balanced, and full-bodied), since both have a singular issue in its frequency response--the LCD-2 in the mids and the HD650 in its sub-bass. The Denon AH-D7000 costs a lot more than the HD650 too but it's certainly not better--at least not to me. Whether you think the LCD-2 is worth the price of admission depends on what you prize the most in a pair of headphone's sonic signature.

As the result of getting the LCD-2, I have sold my Denon AH-D7000. While the D7000 can sound very satisfying when EQ'd to compensate for it's recessed mids, sibilant upper-mids, and exaggerated treble, I just couldn't justify keeping another high-end headphone similar in price to the LCD-2, especially when I would never use it for movies and gaming since I can't apply software DSP processing to it (and buying a high-quality hardware EQ unit just for that purpose seems a bit too much of a waste). Also, needing three bands of EQ to make it sound great is two-bands too many for me. I will definitely miss that visceral and grin-inducing bass though, even if it's a bit exaggerated.

When I decided to purchase the LCD-2, I was hoping it would sound similar to the Stax SR-007 MK2 that I heard months ago when I was in Taiwan--it was one of the most memorable "eargasm" experiences I've ever had, and it was my first experience with an electrostatic system. I was mislead to think the LCD-2 can come close because some members at head-fi had compared the LCD-2 favorably to the flagship Stax rig. I'm tempted to say those guys are smoking something powerful because the LCD-2 to me does not compare to the magical flagship Stax sound, but sonic preferences are very subjective, so maybe to them the LCD-2 really is that magical. Also, I have never A/B'd the two side-by-side, so until I do, I can't say for sure. But at this point my hopes of saving the thousands of dollars I'd need to spend on the flagship Stax rig by getting the LCD-2 was dashed. I bought it without having auditioned it in person--this is just how it is when you live in a crappy city in China--you must rely on other people's reviews and hope to God they have similar taste to yours. While the LCD-2 sounds great, it was probably a bit naive of me to think it could sound like a flagship electrostatic--the two technologies are inherently different after all.
Obviously I like the LCD-2 a lot, otherwise I'd have turned around and sold it immediately to recoup my money, since the LCD-2 is very hot right now and the waiting list is about two to three months. I have ordered the Stax SR-007MK2 and the SRM-717 solid state energizer/amp, and they should be coming in about a week or so. I'll decide after I have spent some time with the new Stax rig if I'll be selling off any more of my headphones.
EDIT: Now that I have had the Stax rig in my studio for a while now and have A/B'd the LCD-2 against it extensively, I have written a detailed review of the Stax rig. In the review, I go into detail about how the LCD-2 compares with the Stax rig. You can read the review on this page:
If you don't want to read the detailed review of the Stax rig, I'll simply say this--the LCD-2 compares very well, and in some ways they do share a similar sonic signature, but they also have important differences.
The similarities:
They both have a full-bodied sound, with authoritative bass, refined mid-range, and articulate treble. They both have slightly recessed mids and upper mids, which contributes to the warmer sonic signature. They both are non-fatiguing and remain pleasant during long listening sessions.
The differences:
The LCD-2 is overall denser and creamier, with lower bass extension, while the 007mk2 has punchier bass and more prominent treble, while having a more elegant presentation.
Both are excellent, and I would rate them similarly in terms of overall sound quality. In terms of comfort, the Stax is a more comfortable due to the lighter weight.
EDIT (August 15, 2011): I have been refining and tweaking the LCD-2's custom EQ curve, and the one I have been using for a while now is this one:
When Audez'e released the rev.2 version of LCD-2, the updated frequency response graph really surprised me (in a good way), because it looked almost exactly like the response of my custom EQ curve. That tells me Audez'e agrees with my assessment of the LCD-2 and updated it accordingly.
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Recessed mids???
Yes, the versions before rev.2 had recessed mids--by about 3 dB or so around 2,350Hz and 4,700Hz, as well as missing a little bit of air, also about 3 dB at 12,000Hz. If you look at the updated rev2's frequency response chart, it looks exactly like the custom EQ curve I have been using on my rev.1 version. That tells me the Audez'e guys thinks exactly the same thing I do and updated the LCD-2 accordingly.
That's very interesting to say the least. Aside from a Grado, the LCD-2 has about the most non-recessed mids I've ever heard.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Articulate, detailed, comfortable, and open-sounding
Cons: Lacks mid-bass weight
I have been recommended the K701/702 many times before and I finally got to hear one in person. I actually liked it a lot, as it sounded smooth, detailed, open, and articulate, but the caveat was the anemic mid-bass presence. Although the K701's sub-bass is well extended, its lighter mid-bass turns the overall presentation into something less than ideal. It's really a shame because that's the only real weakness it has, and if it had more mid-bass presence, it could very well be one of the best headphones out there.
The K701 is very comfortable, and visually it's one of the best looking headphones out there.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Warm and balanced sound, authoritative bass extension and weight, non-fatiguing
Cons: Could be more airy and articulate
For a portable, the ES-10 has surprisingly substantial sub-bass--very similar to the M50, with both able to almost match the D7000 all the way down to 30Hz (although the D7000 does it effortlessly, while the two AT models struggle a little bit more). In fact. The ES-10 and the M50 sounded so similar to the point where I wondered if they use the same driver. It's a pleasant and warm sound without any sibilance, but not as articulate or airy as I'd like. Being a portable on-the-ear is fine since it's actually pretty comfortable, but I still prefer to not have something pressing on my ears at all. I wouldn't pick the ES-10 over the M50 since the M50 costs less than half but sounds so similar, and is more comfortable, being full-sized, not to mention it folds down and is quite portable.
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Which headphones should i buy after ath es10?


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Comfortable, smooth mids
Cons: Strangely distant treble
I finally got to test a pair of DX1000 against the Denon AH-D7000, and right off the bat, the treble just sounded odd--it's kind of distant and muffled, but still articulate--as if the treble existed in a different plane of space. The sub-bass wasn't as extended as the D7000, with 30Hz being rolled off--in fact the right driver started buzzing at 45Hz and lower (D7000's 30Hz remains just as prominent as the other bass frequencies, with no sign of roll-off, and no sign of distortion). My M50's 30Hz is also struggling a bit, with a little bit of distortion, but seems better than the DX1000. Even if the DX1000's right driver wasn't misbehaving at sub-bass frequencies, the 30Hz area was roll-off anyways.The mids were fine and I liked it--it's natural and soothing, but strangely enough the upper mids/lower treble was slightly sibilant and sharp, which made the distant treble stood out more. Comfort wise I liked it a lot too--nothing to complain about. It's more snug than the D7000, which isn't good or bad--just depends on taste. Some people like the feeling of snug pillows around the ears, and some like a barely there light clamp. If I had to choose I'd choose D7000. The DX1000's treble was just too weird and its bass not as extended as the D7000, although the mids are better.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Comfortable, detailed, big soundstage
Cons: Artificial sounding, anemic in the bass, can be too bright, overpriced
I have listened to the HD800 twice, and I never really warmed up to it. And to clarify, they were not casual listening sessions--I took my time and did the listening under the following condition:
-In a controlled environment without distraction and noise
-Used high-end audio source and gears in the signal chain
-Had other flagship headphones there to do direct comparisons with
-Had ample time to do the listening tests, and took as long as I wanted
I should also clarify that I'm an audio professional (composer, songwriter, sound designer) that have worked in both high-end recording/mixing/mastering studios, as well as have built my own studio twice in two different countries (the first one was build completely from the ground up, with my own design in construction and acoustic treatment). I have extensive experience measuring, testing, assessing audio on a critical level, and when I say I "listened" to the HD800, what I mean is I actually tested it used audio test tones (sine wave tones at different frequencies, pink noise, log sweep) and a carefully selected playlist of musical material that I know like the back of my hands that spans many musical genres, and used them to assess specific capabilities of the headphone.
My overall impression of the HD800 was that Its clarity and resolution sounded artificial to me instead of natural (a spike in the upper mids region), and it had no authority in the sub-bass region. I'm one of those people who simply cannot consider a pair of headphones to be "amazing" or "the best of" if it's lacking neutrality in a chunk of the frequency range.
A amazing pair of headphones should sound like a full-range speaker system that reaches down to at least 30Hz and remains substantial and authoritative--anything less than that is not "amazing" to me. Now, pardon me for turning into a pig for a moment and fall back on the classic but eyebrow-raising comparison to a woman. It's sort of like if a girl is really hot with an awesome body, but her ass is flat, barely able to fill any pair of jeans--would that still be considered an amazing body? (This comparison is actually quite fitting in a humorous way, since low frequency in audio is often referred to as the "bottom-end.") Even the HD650 has more sub-bass extension and weight, and it costs far less than the flagship model.
I understand that there's a portion of people whose idea of neutral bass is in fact anemic bass to me, but most people have no idea what a neutral frequency range sounds like, because they have never heard true full-range sound before. Anyone who's ever heard a full-range speaker system that reaches down to 30Hz or lower while maintaining ± 3 dB, will know that neutral bass in in fact quite authoritative and substantial.
There are headphones out there that can reach down low and feel very authoritative--for example, the Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3, Stax 009, 007MKII, Denon AH-D7000, D5000, D2000, Audio-Technica ATH-M50, etc, so it's not like the HD800 is somehow limited by physics--it was a choice the engineers at Sennheiser made. (These days, more and more headphones on the market can reach down that low and sound authoritative in the sub-bass region, and it's now starting to become the standard. Flagship headphones that can't achieve a proper sense of weight in the sub-bass are now becoming more rare, and sticks out among all the other flagship headphones that could.)
If the lack of full sub-bass was the only issue, I'd have been fine with the HD800, but it is also overtly bright in the upper mid-range, which can be shrill/sibilant on some material, and that breaks my number one rule of audio: "First, do no harm." When any audio gear produces sound that is too bright, it becomes grating and it hurts your ears, and when that happens, it's a deal breaker for me.
Many defenders of this attribute of the HD800 will go to lengths to remedy the problem by buying stupidly expensive headphone amps or other unnecessary audio gadgets to tame that brightness, and they would proclaim that if one used a sufficiently high-end tube amp, the HD800 will sound much better. Really? It appears the marketing department of high-end audio gear companies are doing a damn fine job selling absurd diminishing returns. A pair of headphones is not supposed to have inherent problems that needs to be fixed with yet another piece of expensive gear in the first place. If someone tried to pull that in the professional audio world, they'd get laughed out of the marketplace. This isn't to say there aren't too-bright sounding professional monitor speakers, but at least they were designed with onboard EQ's and measuring mics to adjust according to the room acoustics. If you want to alter the sonic signature of any audio gear--use an actual EQ, not an expensive amp used like a single-preset EQ. 
Some people say the HD800 is very revealing, like a sonic microscope. Well, so were the Yamahama NS10's--the legendary monitor speakers that's dominated the pro audio world for decades, but they were used only in the context of being a mixing/mastering tool, and only for troubleshooting potential problems. No one uses them for leisurely listening or a balanced overall presentation, because they were too bright and lacked authoritative sub-bass. If you're not using the HD800 in that way and are listening for pleasure, I think you can find aural bliss in another pair of high-end headphones that doesn't do as much harm and has a more full-range sound.
@TadCat - Modern entertainment has ample sonic information down low near 30Hz, such as movie and video game sound effects and soundtracks. Because of that, I think most people should care whether their headphones can product low sub-bass with enough power and control, and today's headphone manufacturers should strive to reproduce sonic information as low as what is common in movie and video game audio production. 
I agree. For example Pink Floyd 'welcome to the machine' and the intro to Dark Side of the Moon both have a lot of energy below 30hz. I now this as I can drop it out on a 32 band graphic and can tell it has gone (in my Stax 009s). This is a really old recording. Modern recording have even more information and texture going on in the sub registers.
The other thing is, if you take away that foundation, like building a house on sand, the whole thing sounds hollow and weak. It is absolutely required IMO.
I used to be a DJ in clubs, and club mix vinyl had a lot of energy below 30hz, it was enough to vibrate the building, so don't tell me it is not here please...
this review is spot on. Probably the best review I have read on Head-fi tbh


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Delicate, full-bodied, refined, detailed, non-fatiguing, very comfortable
Cons: Expensive, needs dedicated amp (also expensive), less sense of gravity than dynamic headphones
(The following is a completely rewritten review dated October 24, 2010, and replaces the previous one written back on May 30, 2010)
I’ve been hearing about electrostatic headphones for a while now, and they are usually spoken about with reverence since some of the finest and most expensive headphones ever made were elecstrostatic. Stax is currently the king of electrostatic headphones, and the SR-007mk2 is their flagship product. It’s also known as the Omega 2 mk2, or O2 mk2. The Omega name comes from the first generation of the model due to the circular shape of the driver housing, which was a departure from Stax’s previous rectangular designs. Then there was the Omega 2, which was the next generation, and sometimes referred to as mk1 version because the next version was called the mk2. After hearing about the flagship Stax models for so long, I finally got to hear one in person a few months ago when I went to a headphone shop in Taiwan and tested my Denon AH-D7000 against it in a comprehensive listening session. I fell in love with the flagship Stax sonic signature right then and there, and I knew I would have to own a Stax rig eventually. The 007mk2 (powered by the SRM-717) made the D7000 sound artificial and annoying (you can read my testing of the two headphones against each other in this blog entry), and it was like a revelation–to hear the electrostatic technology and how different it sounded compared to the familiar dynamic headphones. Here’s a photo from when I first listened to the 007mk2 months ago in a headphone shop in Taiwan:
Planning the Purchase
Since that listening session months ago in Taiwan, I had been planning my Stax rig and did a lot of research into which of the Omega 2 models or amps I should get. After careful consideration, I decided to go with the SR-007mk2 and the SRM-717 amp. Although many people prefer the mk1 version, it is out of production and I always avoid buying anything that is no longer in production unless there are very compelling reasons. Based on all that I have read about the mk1, it isn’t significantly different from the mk2–perhaps even a bit less satisfying, and since I have already heard the mk2 and loved it, I had no reason not to stick with the model I fell in love with. As for the SRM-717, although it is no longer in production, it is the amp that powered the mk2 that I heard, and it’s widely considered one of the best amps Stax ever made, except for the ridiculously expensive models that cost as much a new compact car. Since I have no interest in tube gear (more hassle to deal with than solid state), and the other currently in production solid state electrostatic amp of repute (Kevin Gillmore’s KGSS) costs twice as much and has a waiting list–one that seems to get longer without warning sometimes, I decided to take the risk and get the 717–in fact I got the exact same unit I listened to months ago. It was the store demo unit that’s been used for a few years, and it’s in perfect condition since it’s only been listened to about twice a week or so on average, and only by reservation ahead of time with the store for a private listening session. When it isn’t being auditioned, it is kept in the storage box, so it’s not exposed to anything harmful. Considering the fact that if I had bought one from a private owner who listened to it moderately often–say three to four times a week or so, and for about an hour or so each time, that’s far more wear and tear than the store demo unit, especially if the person is a smoker, has kids, and the unit is always sitting out there on a shelf or desk, exposed to dust and other elements.
Since ordering the 007mk2 and the 717, I’ve been waiting anxiously for them to show up, and now that I’ve got the Stax rig in the studio and have been putting it through its paces, I’m ready to give my official assessment. I will not be comparing the Stax to the Denon AH-D7000 in this review since I already did that previously, and also because I sold the D7000 recently. Without EQ, the D7000 is excessively bright and has a recessed mid range. While it can be very satisfying with my EQ settings, and it has one of the most fun and powerful bass in a pair of headphones, I just couldn’t justify keeping a pair of high-end headphones that require at least three bands of EQ to sound acceptably neutrals. I’ll definitely miss that bass though, even if it has a prominent resonance that colors everything in the lower frequencies. In a way, it’s sort of like if a girl’s got a lot of junk in her trunk–even though you’ll always notice it and it will always alter the overall proportions of her figure, it’s not necessarily a bad thing if you are into it.
I will be discussing how the 007mk2 compares to the Audez’e LCD-2, Sennheiser HD650, and Audio-Technica ATH-M50, but I will not be using the Klein + Hummel O 300D as a reference like I used to, since at this point I feel that unless one has access to an anechoic chamber or a high-end mastering studio, there will always be room modes interfering with the ideal neutral/flat response, and this is not something you can remedy with acoustic treatment and room correction products like the IK Multimedia ARC System (or even if you use them in conjunction). If you have a null, it’s going to be there no matter what, and no reasonable amount of acoustic treatment will fix it unless you are an acoustic expert and can do precise mathematical calculations and know exactly what kind of trap or resonator to construct, to what exact specifications, and where exactly to place them. Even then, there’s always the possibility that the room itself does not have enough space for the treatment. While high-end reference studio monitors will always sound more dimensional and visceral, I feel that today’s high-end headphones have come a long way and can get very close in terms of resolution and frequency response, but at the same time do not have deal with room modes, thus are inherently more trustworthy than speakers (assuming the headphone is fairly neutral and accurate to begin with, and not some cheap earbuds that comes bundled with portable players). The old caveat of the “in your head” extreme stereo separation of headphones are also irrelevant today when we have crossfeeds that takes care of the problem, and they’re not just any crappy ol’ crossfeed, but quality ones like the Isone Pro or Redline Monitor in software form, and in hardware units like the SPL Phonitor, or Grace Design M902.
Ergonomics, Comfort, and Aesthetics
Right away, you see how different the packaging is for such a high-end headphone–it comes in a very nicely designed box and briefcase:
I agonized over whether to get the 007A, which is the Japan-only model and is silver and black, or the 007mk2, which is the model for the rest of the world, in black. Here’s how they compare–this is the official photo of the 007a from Stax:

And here’s my casual shot of the 007mk2:
While initially I thought the silver and black looked more exciting and futuristic, I eventually picked the black since it’s more elegant and classy (I’m not a flashy guy after all, and Elena preferred the black version too). Turned out the dealer I got it from only sell the black one anyway, and I’d have to buy from Japan if I wanted the silver version. Here are more shots of my 007mk2:
Since I already had experience with the 007mk2 before, I already knew how it fits, and the oo7mk2 is one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. It’s about middle of the road in terms of weight, and the clamping force is on the lighter side. It’s a bit firmer than the D7000, but less than the HD650, and roughly about the same as the M50. The headband is self-adjusting, which is a welcome change since I hate dealing with adjustable headbands, and I always end up just taping them so they no longer get changed accidentally. I did notice one problem right away though–the leather earpad on the right side keeps slipping out like so:
It was time-consuming to try to stuff it back in, so eventually I decided to just tape the damn thing down:
I also taped the earcups to the anchoring frame since they rotate freely and is kind of annoying, as that changes the angle of the drivers as well as the proper sealing of the earpads. The 007mk2 has D-shaped earcups, and for me, the best seal happens when the curve of the D is facing the front of my face, and I simply taped the earups down that way.
And since I hate sweaty ears from leather or pleather earpads, I put sanitary covers on them, like I do with all my other headphones (and no, the sanitary covers do not alter the sound of the headphones at all):
Here’s the SRM-717:
The Sound
Now let’s get into the most important part–how the Stax rig sounds (I’ll only be talking about the 007mk2 and not the 717, since I don’t have other electrostatic amps to compare the 717 with, so just keep in mind the 007mk2 is being powered by the 717). First, I want to get this out of the way–it was a bad idea to take the Denon D7000 with me to Taiwan as the headphone to use to test other headphones. I wasn’t as familiar with the D7000 back then since I had just gotten it, and I wish I had taken the M50 or the HD650 instead, because the D7000 is so skewed in its sonic signature that it just wasn’t neutral and accurate enough to be used as a reference of any kind. When I compared the 007mk2 to the D7000, the Stax walked all over the Denon, and with good reasons too–since the Stax is much more neutral. If I had the LCD-2 back then and used it to test against the 007mk2, my impression of the Stax flagship would’ve been quite different–it would not have been blatant adoration and love at first listen–it would’ve been more like, “Hmm, this is very nice and unique, but is it objectively better?” In fact, I had planned to take the LCD-2 with me to Taiwan again to conduct a listening test with the Stax rig, just so I could be sure that my initial love for it could be confirmed; however, my travel plan was canceled last minute. I then decided to just buy the Stax rig and then do my tests in my own studio, which would allow me time for far more comprehensive testing. I knew that flagship Stax products retain their value very well, so it wasn’t something I worried about and it made the purchase easier (otherwise, spending over $3,000 on a headphone rig would’ve made me really nervous).
So, just how does the 007mk2 sound? The adjectives I would use are elegant, refined, classy, light-footed, quick, detailed, warm, yet analytical. Does it have faults? Yes, I would say that it has two–one is that the treble is a bit etched, similar to the way that the M50 has a slightly metallic weight to its treble, and the other is that while it does have authoritative bass and a full-bodied sound, overall it doesn’t feel as connected to your body as dynamic headphones do. I suspect this is due to the inherent qualities of the electrostatic transducers–it feels light and delicate, as opposed to the substantial weight of moving-coil transducers. Whether one sounds better than the other is a subjective matter.
When I purchased the LCD-2, I did it hoping that it would get me very close to the flagship Stax sound I fell in love with, and I had such expectations because some people have said that it sounds very similar to the Omega 2. When I got the LCD-2, I didn’t feel it sounded like the O2 mk2, and based on my memory of how the O2 mk2 sounded, the LCD-2 didn’t have the same detailed textures, detailed treble, and that very classy and natural sound. The problem with my recollection of how the O2mk2 sounded is that it was based on how the Denon D7000 compared, and the D7000 is a very different compared to the LCD-2. Now that I have both the LCD-2 and the O2mk2 in my studio, I understand why some people have said they sound alike. I have to agree that in some ways, they do–particularly the overall sonic signature in terms of frequency response. Take a look at these frequency response graphs I captured below. (I used the measuring mic that came with the IK Multimedia ARC System, fit it into the hole of a CD, which is used to seal the earcup of the headphone being tested, then played a pink noise observed with Voxengo’s SPAN spectrum analyzer (set to 3dB slope, 8192 block size, real-time average, and maximum average time). This obviously isn’t as accurate as an expensive dummy head with ear canals that cost tens of thousands of dollars, but at the very least it allows me to see the differences in each headphone’s general frequency response–even if it’s only the relative differences between headphones, as opposed to perfectly accurate measurement of the response itself.) When you look at the graphs, you’ll see just how similar the O2mk2 and LCD-2 are:
Stax 007mk2
Audez’e LCD-2
To put things in perspective, look at how different the graphs of the other headphones look:
Sennheiser HD650
Audio-Technica ATH-M50
Equation RP-21
Pioneer SE-DJ5000
Now it becomes very obvious that the O2mk2 and the LCD-2 are the most similar, while the other headphones are dramatically different.
One similarity I noticed right away is that both don’t have as much bite in the mids as most headphones do–this is particularly noticeable on musical material with instruments like the distorted electric guitar or a brass section. On both the O2mk2 and the LCD-2 these types of instruments tend to sound a bit polite. In my past review of the LCD-2, I had mentioned that it’s a bit soft in the 2KHz~3KHz range, which is what’s causing the lack of satisfying bite on certain musical material, and it’s a similar issue with the O2mk2. The same material with the HD650 or M50 have a lot more bite, and it’s not subtle, especially to people who appreciates distorted guitars rocking out, or the funkiness or majesty of the brass section. The other similarities are that both are more full-bodied sounding than most headphones, have a warmer presentation overall, and have substantial bass weight and extension without being excessive.
Now let’s talk about the differences between the O2mk2 and the LCD-2. The most obviously difference is the sense of weight. While both headphones have a full-bodied sound, the LCD-2 has this sense of weight that’s unlike any other headphones I’ve heard, and it’s one of the most common observations that anyone who’s heard the LCD-2 makes right away. It’s as if the entire audible frequency range is represented fully, resulting in a thick and dense consistency. Creamy is probably the word I’d use. That’s right–I just called the LCD-2 creamy. You might get the impression that the LCD-2 is slow and muddy sounding from the above description, but that’s not the case at all–it is actually detailed and articulate. Although it may not have as much bite in the mids and and punch in the upper bass compared to some other headphones, some people might prefer this more neutral and flat presentation, while others would prefer a more exciting and fun sonic signature.
The O2mk2 in comparison, is much lighter, even if the bass is still substantial and the overall sound is full-bodied. This lightness has nothing to do with frequency response and has to do with the physical quality of the electrostatic driver, which is much thinner and moves much quicker than moving coils using magnets, and I think this is what contributes to the delicate and classy sound that electrostat fans love. Whether you like that lightness depends on your subjective taste. For some people they might feel it’s less visceral and disconnected from the center of your gravity, while others would prefer the effortless presentation–a bit like sound forming out of thin air near your ears, as opposed to coming out of your head.
When I listen to the O2mk2, I associate it with an elegant and classy girl who’s very intelligent, soft-spoken, polite, thoughtful, but confident and strong-willed. I remember in one of the Headphone Musume illustrations (a Japanese headphone review publication where each review is accompanied by an illustration of a girl wearing the model being reviewed, and each illustration has a different girl and a different premise), the O2 was represented by a pensive girl wearing a kimono, and outside the window the trees are the colors of autumn. I think that illustration nailed it–that’s how the O2mk2 feels to me. On a more personal note, one of my favorite albums is Rouge et Bleu by Kawai Sonoko (her finest album IMO, where she transitioned from a bubbly teen pop idol into a serious songwriter, composer, and producer), and when I listen to my favorite songs from that album on the O2mk2, I feel like they’re made for each other. The album is elegant, wistful, melancholic, and passionate, and the O2mk2 brings something special out of that album–an ethereal quality that I don’t hear with other headphones. Yes, ethereal. That’s another word I associate with the sound of the O2mk2, and it’s such a fitting word because it describes that lightness so well.
The O2mk2 has two other significant differences when compared to the LCD-2, and they are the treble and upper bass. The O2mk2′s treble has that somewhat etched sound, adding a bit more weight to the treble. This is something the M50 shares, although the M50′s point of etch is a bit lower in frequency. Even though that etched quality doesn’t interfere with details or air, it can be a little artificial sounding for some people. The O2mk2′s upper bass also has more punch, but strangely this is not something that shows up on the graphs, and I suspect this also has to do with the electrostatic driver’s inherent quality.
Relating other headphones to the 007mk2
Now, I’m going to talk about the HD650 and M50 for a bit, updating my opinions about them based on comparison tests against the O2mk2 and the LCD-2 (as well as the Denon D7000, before I sold it). I have said this before and I’ll say it again–the HD650 and M50 are two of the best headphones out there in their price brackets, and it’s hard to find better choices in their respective price ranges.
The M50 is a remarkable pair of headphones for its price range, and it holds its own extremely well even when compared with high-end headphones. It has a relatively balanced presentation, with deep bass extension (though down to 30Hz it starts to strain a little in terms of distortion), as well as a satisfying weight to the bass reproduction. It’s perhaps a bit heavier on bass than perfectly neutral, and it’s perhaps not as quick as the really quick headphones out there, but it’s not offensively bloated or muddy like many consumer headphones (it was designed especially for studio work after all). Its mid-range is a bit more lush than perfectly neutral, and that can also be very satisfying, unless you prefer a very flat sound. The upper mid-range is bright enough but almost never excessively so or fatiguing, providing just enough bite to be satisfying, and this is something I wish the O2mk2 and the LCD-2 had. The treble is articulate and detailed, with a more etched presentation than most other headphones, which is what contributes to the slightly “metallic” treble that M50 owners often refers to. Personally, I’m not especially offended by it, but I also don’t like it either, and it’s something I wish could be fixed. This also means I feel the same way about the O2mk2′s treble. In comparison, I’m quite happy with the treble on the LCD-2 and HD650–they sound natural and detailed to me, without excessive tinniness or splashiness, or artificial peakiness to fake detail that are too often heard in most headphones. I really can’t praise the M50 enough–it is IMO one of the most important little miracles in the headphone world. If you cannot afford more expensive headphones, I would say don’t worry too much about it–you really aren’t missing out on much when you already have the M50. Spending more money will get you subtle and incremental refinements, but starting from the M50, it’s more or less just diminishing returns IMO. (But if you absolutely need open-back cans and closed-back just doesn’t do it for you, then that’s a different story). If you are a musician, the M50 is one of the best headphones you can get for tracking, and I think every musician should own a pair.
For the next price tier above the M50, the HD650 is already legendary, and for good reasons too. It’s one of the most neutral and accurate sounding headphones out there (the graph above shows this–almost no significant dips and peaks. Some feel the HD600 is more neutral though), and its only weakness is that it doesn’t have a substantial deep bass weight, thus is unable to sound like there’s a subwoofer present in the signal chain. This isn’t to say that the HD650 is bass-light, and in fact it’s perfectly satisfying for many people–some even find it too bass-heavy, and it’s probably due to the slight upper to mid-bass hump it has, which is there to compensate for the fact that headphones aren’t as visceral as speakers since we can’t feel the vibrations of the low frequencies like we do with speaker’s large bass drivers. While the HD650 has punchy bass due to that slight emphasis in the upper to mid-bass, that certainly can’t make up for its less prominent deep bass. This isn’t only noticeable when you watch movies, play video games, or when you listen to musical material with deep bass, but often noticeable in even music that isn’t associated with deep bass. The fact is, most people have no idea just how much information is there in the deep bass region on most musical material–even those you wouldn’t think should contain deep bass. In these circumstances, an extended and substantial deep bass is noticeably more satisfying. The O2mk2 has a similar punchiness in its mid to upper bass (but not as prominent), but it has more substantial deep bass than the HD650 overall–in fact similar to the LCD-2, except more rolled off in the really deep bass at around 30Hz and lower.
The HD650 is one of the headphone I would trust to make critical mixing and mastering decisions on (if and when I need to work late at night, and only if I have a quality crossfeed/room sim plugin engaged, such as the Redline Monitor or Isone Pro). I would probably check the deep bass with another headphone–probably the LCD-2 since it’s the most neutral in the bass region of all headphones I own, and extends very deeply down to 20Hz. The HD650 has enough detail and bite but does not veer into excesses, nor is it overly lush in the mids, and it is also not muddy or slow. I have a preference for open-backed cans, so the HD650 is also great for that reason. I feel the HD650 and the LCD-2 compliment each other very well–one has everything but satisfying deep bass, while the other has everything except lacking some bite in the mids.
So where does the 007 fit into my current headphones collection? In general, I would say that if you prefer a more delicate and elegant sound, the 007mk2 is for you. If you prefer a creamier and fuller sound, the LCD-2 is for you. If you don’t need substantial deep bass and want a neutral sound with enough detail but not excessively bright, the HD650 would be for you. If you need a pair of sealed-cans for isolation, and want powerful bass with deep extension, enough brightness and detail but not fatiguing, and have a very modest budget, then the M50 is for you. At this point I do not recommend the Denon D7000 (or its younger siblings, the D5000 and D2000) unless you intend to use EQ to make them more acceptably neutral.
One of my past goals was to find a pair of headphones I can trust completely to make critical mixing and mastering decisions on, and as I already mentioned earlier, this is no longer something I’m after since I feel it’s impossible, whether with speaker or headphones, but particularly with speakers unless you have an anechoic chamber or high-end mastering room. With headphones, it’s not necessarily impossible, just that I haven’t found the pair that does everything right yet. The LCD-2 certainly gets close, if only it had a bit more bite in the 2KHz~3KHz region. The HD650 also gets close as well as I already mentioned above. The M50 is acceptable but more so for tracking than for critical mixing and mastering, since it has more than one areas of concern (I typically judge how well an audio device performs by how many weaknesses it has that I need to be concerned about when I’m doing critical audio production work).
The O2mk2 is kind of a special case since it has a unique sound, and while it may not be my first choice for critical audio work due to its uniqueness, it is by no means inaccurate or unacceptable colored. I think what I might use it for in terms of audio work is as a second opinion, much like how most studios have more than one pair of reference studio monitors. But the truth is, I knew the 007mk2 was uniquely subjective when I heard it months ago and fell in love with it, and I decided to buy it not because I wanted to use it for audio work, but simply to enjoy that lovely musical and subjective sound. This was a luxury purchase not fueled by practical concerns, and that’s how I’m going to enjoy the 007mk2–as a subjective and uniquely pleasurable experience apart from the familiar dynamic headphones sound. Tragically, the previous bad choice of comparing the D7000 to the 007mk2 caused my initial impression of the 007mk2 to be overly positive, and now when comparing the Stax rig to my other headphones, the Stax’s superiority isn’t nearly as significant or even objectively evident, which diminishes what should have been an ecstatic experience of finally owning the 007mk2. Sure, it is very refined and classy, with delicacy and elegance unlike any other headphone I’ve ever heard, and the only one I’d use the word “ethereal” to describe, but i some ways I wonder if at over $3,000 the Stax rig is worth keeping. I can’t answer that right now, and I’m just going to enjoy having it in the studio and not think about it for a while, until something forces to me to revisit that question.
I don’t know if I’ll bother trying to upgrade the 717 amp, since I suspect whatever improvements will subtle at best, despite what many people claim, knowing that audiophiles love to split hair and blow things out of proportion. If I ever get to hear a superior amp that requires no concentration at all to clearly hear all the significant improvements, then I’ll consider it, but for now I think my headphone journey ends here. At some point, one has to face the fact that there is no “perfect,” only “different” and sometimes “better.” Maybe there is that one pair of headphone out there that does everything right according to my personal ideal, but I’m done going out of my way to hunt that pair down. For all the endless hours I could spend on chasing after that elusive ideal pair of headphones or amps–reading reviews, forum debates, traveling to audition candidates in person, doing extensive comparison tests…etc, I could be spending that time and energy composing and recording new music, writing my novels and screenplays, working on new paintings, snuggling with the Mrs. and enjoying some movies, or just playing video games. What I have in my collection is good enough already, and I have learned a lot about headphones in the last few years during my journey to find the most ideal pair of headphones. It was never my intention to “collect” headphones, and in fact I don’t “collect” anything–I much rather be creating something. Between the 007mk2, LCD-2, HD650, and M50, I have all my bases covered–from audio production to leisurely listening. The RP-21 and DJ5000 are for guests in my studio who will be collaborating with me on recordings, and the Westone 3 is for when I’m traveling (although I plan to swap the W3 for an IEM that’s closer to my ideal sonic signature though, so I’m not totally done yet, but since I don’t travel all that much anymore, I’ve been putting it off).
Annoyingly though, the new flagship Stax headphone was just announced recently, and I’m afraid that if it proves to be vastly superior to the 007mk2, I might get tempted back into the upgrade treadmill again. My instinct tells me it’ll be a subtle improvement, just like the evolution of most product lines, so perhaps I’m safe for a while.
Thank you for a thoroughly competent and professional review. I truly enjoyed it.
Thank you Beholdclarity for your illuminating review. I am going to order a pair of the SR-007mk2 ear speakers directly from Japan and I'm worried that I may be sent the earlier version of the mk2, which has a more controversial sound. Can someone tell me how I can identify the more recent version? Has enough time passed that it is no longer an issue? I am not an online person, and I have tried to find a thread that explains this, I but couldn't. Perhaps someone can provide a link? I would appreciate it. :)


1000+ Head-Fier
Cons: Uncomfortable, tonally unbalanced
I always see people recommending the HD280 like it's some amazing price vs. quality gem in the headphone world or something, and when I borrowed a pair to compare to my HD555 a few years ago, I was surprised by how bad the HD280 sounded and how uncomfortable it was. The bass was anemic, the soundstage was congested, and the way it clamped on the head was uncomfortable. For sub-$100 headphones, you'll be much better off with the Equation RP-21. But if you could spend a little bit more, you'll get into a far better range of headphones like the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 (for sealed cans) or Sennheiser HD555 (for open cans)--headphones that absolutely destroy the HD280 in every way possible.
Everything you described makes me think you didn't have the 280's amped. I sampled the 280's @ guitar center and they sounded amazing. Even better then the beyerdynamic 770's. When I got them home they had no bass, everything sounded lifeless and just a horrible sounding. These may only say 60 ohm but I am very wary of that number. Compared to other headphones I've had the difference in sound makes me think they are more like 120 ohms. 
I disagree, picked up pair today and very happy with them. This review is not accurate as the comments suggest.
@Lunatique I see your point of view and as such understand that everyone's perception of sound may differ. I remember hearing the ATH-M50x for the first time.. WOW! The sound was, for lack of a better word, perfect. It was perfect in the sense that all the right areas in the bass, mids and highs were tailored to just "work" with all music. I had to cave and buy them right then and there. This is after owning the HD 280's for about 6 months or so. It has been about 6 more months since then. After adjusting to both cans, it's still hard to settle on which is "better". The M50x is a fun sounding headphone while the HD 280 is a more flat and true to the recording headphone. You can't go wrong with either.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Pretty good tonal balance overall for its price
Cons: Not very comfortable, a bit too bright, looks like its price bracket
I needed decent closed-back headphones for tracking, and while the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 is a much better pair of headphones overall at just $50 more, the Equation RP-21 is actually not bad at all for sub-$100. The tonal balance is quite good and does not exhibit any glaring problems like bloated bass or rolled-off treble or other similar problems we often hear in budget headphones. The upper mids are a bit bright though, and while it's not nearly as bad as some other headphones, for people who really like a non-fatiguing sound, it's a bit brighter than ideal. The sub-bass extension isn't anything special--it's about average for full-sized headphones, but the overall weight and accuracy of the bass is better than a lot of headphones in its price range.
Comfort-wise, it's just tolerable--it doesn't sit too comfortably on the head, and the way the earcups sit around the ear feels a bit strange--like it wasn't properly molded to the human facial contour. But it's not painful or uncomfortable though--just something you will notice on your head, as opposed to forgetting they are there with really comfortable headphones.
Looks-wise, it looks like a sub-$100 pair of headphones, but the color choices and the design is fairly easy on the eyes.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Excellent value, substantial sub-bass , non-fatiguing, relatively neutral/accurate, folds for traveling
Cons: Pleather gets sweaty, rotating earcups annoying if you're not a DJ, soundstage a bit small, not for those after perfectly neutral frequency response
(Disclaimer: This review was written while considering the very low price-point of the M50, and what you can get for that amount of money. It does not mean the M50 can go up against the high-end headphones that cost several hundred to thousands of dollars. My main headphones are high-end headphones, and the M50 is only used while I'm doing tracking or traveling. I wouldn't use it as my everyday headphone since I have superior headphones for that, such as the Audez'e LCD-2.)
The ATH-M50 is one of those rare products where the quality/price ratio really hits the sweet spot, and in fact is like a small miracle in the world of pro audio. When you get Grammy Award-winning audio engineers and producers like George Massenburg, Frank Filipetti, Al Schmitt...etc singing its praises publicly, you know it's got to be something special. (Though let's be honest--those guys probably wouldn't mix on the M50, although they'd do tracking on them.)

The M50 pulls off the difficult balance of being neutral, accurate, and detailed while not causing listening fatigue, and that is one of the most important things to get right when it comes to any audio device. If the device hurts your ears with shrill or piercing treble, then no matter how "detailed and revealing" you think it is, you won't be able to withstand the sonic torture anyway. Designed as professional studio monitors, the M50 can be used all day long without any listening fatigue, and it's tonal balance is accurate enough that many respected audio engineers would not hesitate to do tracking with them (though mixing on them is probably asking a bit much). Being sealed headphones, they also are a favorite among musicians and singers when recording, as they do not bleed into the microphone like open headphones (which means you also won't bother the people sitting near you, unlike open headphones where others will hear a tinny version of what you're hearing).

One of the most outstanding characteristics of the M50 is its sub-bass extension (50Hz and below), which is both deep and substantial. The quantity of bass is slightly more than neutral, so it's a good headphone for those who likes a bit more bass than neutral. Its raised bass is a broad and gentle curve and sounds quite natural and pleasing, and is not annoyingly bloated or distorted. 

The mids and the treble are smooth, and the treble never gets gratings like many other headphones. If I must nitpick, I might say that the treble is slight hard and has a metallic timbre when compared to open-back headphones. But it doesn't get in the way of the music too much and it's only noticeable if you do A/B comparisons with headphones that have very smooth/neutral treble response and know intimately how specific instruments are supposed to sound (such as the cymbals on a drum kit). What I really love about the M50's upper mids and treble is that it follows the rule of "First, do no harm." With other headphones that "fake" detail by raising a few to several dB's in the lower treble/high-mids region, some songs can sound very shrill and fatiguing--especially on sharp snare hits or vocal sibilance--but on the M50, those tracks sound quite balanced and natural, never harsh and irritating.

The soundstage of the M50 is smaller than the average open-cans, because of its sealed design. This is perhaps the only thing sonically I wish it could be improved upon, but this does not mean the soundstage of the M50 is claustrophobic or in any way detrimental to the listening experience--it's simply not as open and lush as headphones like the Sennheiser HD6XX/5XX series (and other high quality open-cans).

Physically, the M50 is pretty comfortable to wear, but pleather tends to get a bit sweaty, and is a necessary evil for sealed-headphones. The rotating earcups are a bit annoying when taking the M50 on and off, since sometimes you have to rotate the earcups back into the correct orientation. For traveling, the M50 folds down to about half of its normal size, and that makes it very easy to travel with, not to mention more durable because it's harder to accidentally bend them or twist them out of shape. The overall look of the M50 has a pleasant, no-none-sense professional appeal--they really do look like they were designed to feel right at home in professional studios.

On a side note, the Sennheiser HD280 Pro is often recommended to musicians who need sealed-cans, and I highly suggest anyone considering a pair of nice sealed cans check out the M50, as they walk all over the HD280 in every single way possible, while still remaining very reasonably priced.
Since these are closed back headphones it would be hard for them to have a wider soundstage than open back headphones but for what they are, they do have a wide soundstage for being closed back.
Lunatique has a key point when he says that current technology is far more accurate in every segment than 10 or 15 years ago and that this enables astonishing hifi experience compared to those days. But so are the recordings. It's the full music production chain that has drastically improved. Today's recordings hardly compare to those days either. Digital music from A to Z enables the simple human ear to get closer and closer to natural sound, at a lower and lower cost. What's missing is dynamics. A big band live will hardly sound the same at home, unless you can spend thousands of €.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Smooth, non-fatiguing sound, comfortable, well-balanced sonic signature
Cons: Sub-bass could be deeper, treble could be slightly more airy
My first Sennheiser was the HD555, which was a real gem for its price bracket, and then when it broke, I replaced it with the HD600. I immediately exchanged it for the HD650 as I found the HD600 to sound so similar to the HD555 (just a little bit more treble mainly) that the price difference wasn't justified. The HD650 is very similar to the HD600, but with a bit more weight in the bass, and a slightly smoother sound overall. But in any case, these upgrades are all diminishing returns, as the HD555 really is excellent already.
The HD650's clamping force is strongest of the three, but it's still comfortable enough that I often forget to take them off after I was done listening to something. The velour earcups are always the most comfortable to me compared to leather, pleather, or foam.
In terms of looks, the Sennheiser are probably lagging behind all the competitors, looking kind of drab and boring, while the HD800 takes things to the opposite extreme, looking like some science-fiction head gear.
I quite like the Sennheiser sonic signaure, which many people refer to as being relaxed, or veiled. I think of it as being very smooth and non-offensive. The treble and upper mids never get fatiguing or too bright, and the overall tonal balance is very good, with nothing sticking out or recessed in any of the frequency ranges. The sub-bass rolls off around 30Hz and I wish the HD650 had more extended sub-bass and weight, since that's what it needs in order to sound like a full-range speaker system. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50, ES-10, and Denon AH-D7000 all do this very well--sounding like there's a subwoofer in the headphones. The treble of the Sennheiser is nice and smooth and articulate, but it seems to lack just a little bit of that airiness that audiophiles really love.
Overall, I tend to think of the Sennheiser HD5xx/6xx series as workhorse headphones that sound great, are very comfortable, and are never offensive. They may not win awards for looks or have that really high-end "magical" hi-fi sound, but they are tonally well-balanced and very pleasant to listen to.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Deep/Punchy/Authoritative bass, soundstage, comfortable, aesthetics, easy to drive
Cons: Recessed mids, somewhat bright at times, does not seal outside noise
My Denon AH-D7000 finally arrived, and I've been putting it through its paces. My perspective on the D7000 is from a slightly different angle from most people who have reviewed it, since I have used the previous generation of Denon flagship AH-D950 headphones from mid-90's to 2005 or so. It was already falling apart around 2001, and I kept taping it back together until it could no longer be fixed and looked like crap. Here's the D950 all beat up, with electrical tape, worn out pleather earcups, snapped off housing...etc:


It's been with me all over the place throughout the years though, and will always stay in my memory. It still sounds great too, after the countless dropping on the floor, accidentally blasting at full volume, getting crushed/knocked around in the luggage...etc. 
And here's how the D7000 compares to the previous flagship model:


What was immediately apparent to me about the sound of the D7000 is that it carried the torch of the D950 into the modern age. They have a very similar sonic signature. The D950 have that somewhat hi-fi sound where the treble and bass seems to have that smiley face EQ'd enhancement (just enough to be "exciting," but not too to become grating and fatiguing), while the D7000 is more accurate, but still retaining the excitement due to the superior sub-bass and detailed treble. The D7000's sub-bass is definitely more substantial in the 30Hz range, whereas the D950's sub-bass starts to roll off after 40Hz or so. The D950 emphasizes the upper bass for more punch, but the D7000 does not have any obvious peaks or dips in its bass region and is remarkably flat all the way down to 30Hz. The D7000 is also a tad more refined across the entire frequency range--higher resolution, if you will. In terms of comfort, the D7000 is very comfortable to wear--much more than the D950, since the D950's earcups are shallow, with your ears touching the drivers, and it can get uncomfortable after a while (my ears would hurt after prolonged listening with the D950). The D7000 is hands down the most comfortable pair of headphones I've ever worn--its clamp is feather light, with luxuriously soft pleather earcups that are very well cushioned. Although the clamp is light, the headphones stay on the head pretty well, but I wouldn't do any dramatic head-banging with it on though.
Compared to my Sennheiser HD650, the D7000 sounds like a smiley face EQ'd version of the HD650, with the treble being sharper, and the sub-bass more extended and prominent. The one thing I wish the HD650 could do better in is the sub-bass, since below 40Hz it starts to roll off, and the D7000 takes care of this problem, with the sub-bass remaining prominent and flat all the way down to 30Hz (I haven't tested frequencies below 30Hz yet), which is a rare thing for headphones. The sharper treble of the D7000 can be a tad too bright on listening material that's mixed/mastered on the bright side, and on such materials, I would prefer if the D7000's treble is slightly more subdued. Although the D7000 is a closed-back design, it might as well be open-back because it barely isolates outside noise at all; however, the strange thing is that it isolates the headphone's output much better, so leakage isn't nearly as bad as with actual open-back cans (in other words, it sucks at blocking outside noise, but controls leakage into the outside world pretty well). Comfort-wise, I do think the D7000 is more comfortable due to the feather-light clamping of the earcups, but with pleather, no matter how soft, will never be as comfortable as velour, since pleather will get too warm and your face might sweat a little (or at least get slightly sticky). I bought a bag of headphone sanitary covers and with them on, the D7000's pleather problem is solved. The sanitary covers are of similar material as some of the disinfectant moist wipes, so while they are soft, they are still not as soft as velour. At least they don't get sticky like pleather though. The HD650 while has very soft velour earcups, clamp a lot tighter, but it's a snug kind of tight, and quite comfortable, unless you have a ultra-sensitive head where any amount of pressure will give you a headache. I never had any problems with the HD650's clamping pressure. Here's how the D7000 looks with the sanitary covers on:

One of the reasons I got the D7000 was with the wish that it would be like if the Audio-Technica ATH-M50 and the HD650 got married and had a kid. So, does the D7000 sound anything like that? Well, yes and no. I already talked about how it compared to the HD650, so now I'll talk about how it compares to the M50. One thing I really liked about the M50 is it's sub-bass capabilities, remaining prominent down to 30Hz. Not many headphones can sound like there's a subwoofer in your head, and the M50 is one of them. While the M50 sounds pretty neutral and flat in general, it doesn't sound quite natural--as if the engineers somehow pushed and pulled it into sounding that way, instead of it naturally sounding that way with the way its components naturally work together. For example, the treble has a slightly metallic feel, as if a very narrow band of the treble frequencies was EQ'd to get that clarity, but it's carefully tweaked so that it sounds very comfortable and never fatiguing. In fact, the M50 is one of the most comfortable headphones in terms of how pleasant it sounds. It is never too bright, but has plenty of clarity. The same goes for its bass--it's full and substantial, but never overwhelming like some of the bass-head headphones where the bass is so bloated that it intrudes into the other frequencies.
So how does the D7000 compare to the M50? In terms of sub-bass prominence, they are about the same, although the D7000 distorts less when reproducing pure 30Hz sine wave test tones. The D7000's treble is sharper for sure, and the overall clarity is also better, making the M50 sound warmer in comparison. The soundstage of the D7000 is also very good--almost on par with the HD650, while the M50 has a more typical closed-back sound with smaller soundstage. In terms of comfort, while the M50's pretty good, the D7000 is definitely more comfortable. Without the sanitary covers, the M50 gets warm faster than the D7000, but with the covers, the M50's pleather problem is also solved. Here's the M50 with sanitary covers on:

In conclusion, the D7000 is a beautiful sounding pair of headphones (though with obvious flaws), possessing  authoritative sub-bass presence and punch, a smooth, clean, and detailed sonic signature, a big soundstage that's highly unusual for a closed-back design, very comfortable to wear, and visually attractive in that "premium high-end" style. Some people say the D7000 has recessed mids, and I agree. To me, it's not just because the treble is more detailed and the sub-bass is substantial that it creates the illusion that the mids are recessed--the mid-range is actually recessed--at least compared to my Klein+Hummel O 300D's and other headphones. But it needs to be said that the recessed mid-range is in general not a good thing, especially when the vocals and instruments end up lacking body and weight on the D7000. Whether it sounds a tad bright and sibilant in treble depends on personal taste. I'm very sensitive to bright sounding headphones and speakers, as I find them very fatiguing and grating to endure--as if my ears will start bleeding if I keep listening, and the D7000 usually sounds detailed instead of fatiguing, but on some really bright material it becomes brighter than comfortable for me. It's only somewhat of an issue though, as most of the music in my collection are not mixed and mastered by half-deaf engineers who have lost most of their hearing above 6Khz. :D But when the recessed mids combine with the slightly sibilant brightness, it can make some material really splashy, such as the song "William, It's Really Nothing" by The Smiths--the hi-hat, tambourine, and strumming of the guitar all blend into this splashy mess that has no real body or definition. While the treble is up for debate, I don't think the bass is--since I did extensive tests on its bass region and found it to be very flat and neutral all the way down to 30Hz and probably lower too.
The D7000 is a premium high-end pair of headphones, and as such, its price tag reflects that. Is it worth the money? I paid $571 for it before taxes and shipping, while some places sell it at its full retail price, which is $1,000. I don't think I would pay $1,000 for it, but at $571 it's acceptable (relatively speaking, since high-end anything is always a game of diminishing returns. It sure doesn't sound five times better than the M50. In fact, with the recessed mids and slightly bright sound, it's hard to say if it's really "better"--maybe just different). Will I sell off my other headphones and keep just the D7000? It's too early to say right now--I'll have to live with the D7000 for a while longer before I even contemplate that thought.
To accommodate the new arrival in my headphone collection, I got a triple stand with adjustable arms. It's very convenient and flexible, and since I don't foresee myself adding anymore headphones, I think it'll do just fine:




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Sonic Defender
Sonic Defender
Thanks I will check that thread out, nice review of the D7000. I'm waiting for mine to arrive soon!
Sonic Defender
Sonic Defender
So funny, I was just starting that thread when I came to reply to your reply! I use JRiver 18 so I think I may just try this. Cheers.