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Headphones item created by , May 5, 2010
Pros - Detailed, a glimpse to higher-end sound.
Cons - Squeezed-in soundstage, weak isolation, needs an amp.
GermanMAESTRO - just rolls of your tongue. Little is said about the company around Head-Fi and I imagine most of their customers are companies too. Still, Massdrop had the GMP 450 Pro for $175 and I wanted a pair of good-sounding closed cans, so here we are.
My background and equipment used:
I'm your typical audio enthusiast: One whose friends think he's crazy for spending such money on headphones, but who will never pass the 4-digit mark unless there's something truly amazing on offer.
My equipment of choice is a pair of Shure SE846 earphones and Schiit's Vali 2 and Modi Multibit stack, which were also used for performing this review. The impressions are on a 100-hour+ burned-in headphones.
Before putting these on, the impression is that the isolation isn't going to be crazy, and unfortunately my educated guess was spot-on. For the advertised "closed design", the isolation is meek, and while it will block some high-pitched noise, both public transport and an "active" office easily pass through the cups. In fact, I'm pretty sure it's the same exact housing used for the open GMP 400, just with the grill covered, which brings me to the next issue.
The immediate impression on listening to some music with the GMP 450 Pro is that they sound muffled; the kind of muffled sound you get when you cover your open headphones with your hands. It seems unlikely to me that it's exactly what the company did, i.e. "close the headphones, leave the tuning", but it does seem odd to leave the tuning at that, as the result is a bizarre "taller than it's wider" soundstage. Quite a miss in my opinion, in particular when the sound has plenty of detail and potential.
On to some positive things, they do sound detailed: The layering is there, and while there's not much width to work with, instruments are spaced, sound full and don't take over vocals or themselves. A little surprise with these is that they actually sound a bit musical, which I wouldn't expect from such a flipped soundstage. In fact, it's the first pair of $200-300 headphones I listen to that produce at least some ambience, which I'll take over "emphasized highs/lows/crazy-detail" any day.
The sound signature on these is a bit... Standard. There's a slight emphasis on highs and a slighter one on mids, both of which help convey the feeling of detail. The bass however, is left alone and I find it lacking, particularly for dynamic drivers. While it is present, it doesn't extend low enough, and for neutral or cold sounding equipment I feel it impacts the listening experience negatively.
One last note about the sound of the GMP 450 Pro is that it's the first pair of headphones I find I like with some music genres, more than others. Call me crazy, but these seem to be more enjoyable with loud, fast and "busy" genres like metal and electronic, whereas jazz and acoustical don't feel as exciting.
Comfort, build, amplification and concluding remarks:
Not evident from the pictures, the construction on these is very solid. If 'built like a tank' can be said about any headphone, the 450 Pro will be it. While the look is unfortunately cheap, there are no bad screwed-in parts or anything that looks badly connected or half-baked.
Comfort however does feel much like it looks, and while the headphones are very light, the earcups are shallow and space is rather limited. The material isn't irritating, but it heats up pretty fast and keeps that heat in, which eventually makes prolonged wear a rather unpleasant experience.
Regarding amplification, they're pretty much what I expected from 300ohm dynamics: They don't sound awful from something like a smartphone or a laptop, particularly in loud environments, but for a proper bass response you'll need an amp. For what it's worth, the original Schiit Fulla drives them just fine, and I don't believe there's a need to buy anything above two digits for these headphones.
So, to put this review to and end, the GermanMAESTRO GMP 450 Pro are a mixed bag: Closed cups, but bad isolation; detailed and slightly musical, but muffled. Admittedly, after spending two weeks with them, you get used to the sound, and if that's your first pair of headphones at this price point, there's a lot to like. However, with the likes of the Hifiman HE-400i and AKG K702 going for under $200 on Massdrop, these aren't a priority recommendation.
Pros - Very comfortable ear pads, excellent clarity and definition
Cons - Soft grip on ears means that they could slip off while very active
The GMP 450 is the closed back cousin of the GMP 400, which has an open back design.
The sound is very similar to the open back GMP 400, but with a little more bass response and narrower soundstage. Very impressive though for a closed back design.
Interestingly, I found that the GMP 450 requires a decent quality headphone amp (I had them hooked up to an Icon Audio HP8) to really make them sing, whereas the GMP 400 was more flexible about it's source.
The earcups are mounted on what German Maestro call a cardomatic suspension system. The result is a feather soft grip around the ears that readjusts as you move and stays pretty secure (as long as your not really active). The cardomatic suspension is really rather clever.
Handbuilt in Germany and coming with a 3 year warranty, the GMP 450 from German Maestro is a very impressive closed back headphone.
A class leading closed back headphone that is equally at home in the studio or at home. Nicely made, very comfortable and sound that is both refined and balanced. Highly recommended.