MartinLogan Mikros 90 Reference On-Ear Headphones

General Information

Inspired by the sonic clarity and detail of our legendary electrostatic speakers, the Mikros 90 reference in-ear on-ear headphones deliver the realism, richness, and purity of sound that MartinLogan's discerning customers have come to expect. Obsessive attention to detail, sleek minimalistic design and high value materials are deeply engrained in our design philosophy that we've extended to Mikros headphones. Designed and voiced in house by the same team that has created 30-years of electrostatic speaker innovation, Mikros 90 was carefully crafted with premium materials like genuine leather, light weight aluminum, and solid noise isolating ear pads. Each piece comes together flawlessly to create a uniquely MartinLogan experience.

Latest reviews

very detailed build, sound is smooth and rich
7keys
7keys
That's it?
raybone0566
raybone0566
very informative, thanks
Beagle
Beagle
Thank you for the thorough and detailed review! Finally, a headphone with detailed build. I was getting sick of only having details in the sound.
Pros: Great detail, scales well, built well, extremely portable
Cons: Look... OK, fit is finicky, need a ton of burn in, needs different pads imo, kind of uncomfortable
Everything But the Sound
 
The observations were made over about 3 months and hundreds of hours of listening.  Amping helps, the QC3 pleather over Mikros foam mod explained later I feel is almost essential.

 
Presentation
Presentation definitely holds some importance.  Just like with food that's presented well, or a cool outfit for a character in any series, style has its importance.  Looks wise, they look a bit old.  Not classy old, just kind of studio monitor old. They're all black, with the only hints of contrast lying in the silver rim of the ear cup and the silver arms.  The headband is all pleather (probably a metal band in the middle, with a generous amount of cushioning, wrapped in pleather).  They just look a little plain.  They could've done better, but it doesn't stop me from wearing them outside on the bus or whatever.  They're not that ugly.  Presentation applies to the the style and feel of the headphones, the packaging, the sound signature/balance.  The style is OK.  I do wear these in public on a daily basis but I am only sometimes self conscious about it.  It’s not the plain-ness of the headphones that makes them look awkward, it’s the headband not hugging my head enough.  I’m sure it looks a little goofy.  Also, the headphones don’t feel like they're $300.  They just feel like headphones.  The packaging is OK.  Not much to speak about it.
6.5/10
 
Build Quality and Construction
The M90 is nicely built.  They feel almost unbreakable, similar to the way the Momentum feels unbreakable.  I hear no creeks or cracks or anything I've heard from just about every plastic headphone I've heard. Great, so no problems.
8.5/10
 
Comfort
Out of the box, they're not comfortable. Way too much clamping force.  You can easily fix this by stretching the headband.  Though don't make it too loose or too tight since the sound can be effected. In the end though, these are still on ear headphones, so comfort is limited.  Compared to the $300-$400 competitors, I'd give it:
6.5/10
 
Gripes
Very finicky and relatively difficult to get a great seal.
Take some burning in and a small amount of modding
-1pt(s)
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Sound
 
Bass
The bass is actually just about neutral.  Perhaps with a small amount of roll off.  Really, the bass is fine, but the bass itself is not directed around the ear enough.  It’s still good, but from the WS99 or FC300, the bass is distributed better.  This isn’t where the Mikros does the best, but they definitely excel.

 
Mids
The mids are also pretty great.  They’re really one of the things this can strives for.  The vocals sound great, the guitars, everything.  With a the stock pads, a not-so-good source and poor recordings, expect intolerable sibilance.  The midr-ange, unlike most of its competitors, is very well balanced.
14.5/15

 
Highs
The detail is just amazing.  They have more detail then the Momentum, and all of the competitors I’ve heard at that price. I don’t even know what to write to be honest.  Just the best treble out there.  Also, it’s not recessed, actually a little boosted.
15/15
 
Soundstage
Out of the box, and with the stock pads, I felt like the soundstage was severely lacking.  So lacking that I almost gave up on them.  Now the soundstage is extremely good, especially so for an on ear.  I now don’t feel like I’m missing too much soundstage coming from the MDR MA900.  There is perfect instrument separation. There may be some lack of width but in depth it stands out.  There’s some pretty hardcore competition though.
8.5/10
 
83.5/100
Though this point system means nothing if not compared to anything.  So without further ado:
 
Comparisons:
Style
 
  Presentation

Construction

Comfort

Portability

Gripes

Extras

Mikros 90

6.5

8.5

6.5

10

-1

+2

Momentum

9

9.5

7

9

0

+2

M500

7.5

9

7

6

-2

0

FC300

7.5

6

6.5

8

-2

0

1R

9

6.5

9.5

8

-2

+1

WS99

7

7

6.5

7

-1

0

Spirit One

7.5

7

7

8

-2

+2

L1

9.5

10

6

4.5

-2

+1

M50

7

7

6

6

-1

0

 
  Bass

Mids

Highs

Soundstage

Total

Sound Total

Extra Total

Price

Mikros 90 11.5

14.5

15

7.5

81

48.5 (#1)

32.5

$100

Momentum 12

11

12

7

78.5

42

36.5

$300

M500 13

13

12

7.5

73

45.5(#2)

27.5

$300

FC300 13.5

11

11

9

70.5

44.5(#3)

26

$150

1R 11

11

8

9.5

71.5

39.5

32

$200

WS99 14

12

8

7.5

68

41.5

26.5

$200

Spirit One 14

11

8

7.5

70

40.5

29.5

$240

L1 11

11

9

9

69

40

29

$160

M50 11

9

7

6.5

58.5

33.5

25

$140


 
 
Contributing Factors
 
Presentation (10/100)
  1. Style
  2. Packaging
  3. Easy of use
  4. Easy to get used to
 
Construction (10/100)
  1. Materials
  2. Durability
 
Comfort
  1. Softness, width and depth of pads
  2. Heat resistance
  3. Clamping force
  4. Weight
 
Portability
  1. Size
  2. Case
  3. Isolation
  4. Cable (removable, short)
 
Gripes
  1. Finicky?
  2. Lack of replaceable pads?
  3. Other issues?
 
Extras
  1. Accessories and Benefits?
 
Bass
  1. Depth
  2. Tightness
  3. Balance
  4. Distribution
Mids
  1. Vocals
  2. Detail
  3. Mid-range Clarity
  4. Balance
 
Highs
  1. Largely detail
  2. Sibilance?
  3. Largely balance
 
Soundstage
  1. Width
  2. Depth
  3. Height
  4. Accuracy and Imaging
______________________________________________________________________________
 
Simple Mods:
 
The Stretch Mod: a mod in which you stretch the headband to a setting more comfortable.  This is essential since out of the box they clamp very tightly.
 
The QC3 Pleather + Mikros Foam Mod rotated 90 degrees: it is exactly what it sounds like.  Take some QC3 pads:
(http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B009GDVTN4/ref=s9_simh_gw_p23_d0_i3?pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_r=1XCJV96X1D55SQJAA4BW&pf_rd_t=101&pf_rd_p=1688200382&pf_rd_i=507846), take out the foam, replace it with the Mikros' foam and rotate it 90 degrees.  This is the best sound I’ve been able to get out of the Mikros.  With this mod, you get a nice upgrade in SQ.  Comfort is the same, but bass depth is slightly improved, balance is improved, sibilance goes away, mids become clearer, soundstage rounds out.
 
The Beats Solo Pad Mod: buy Beats solo pads: (http://www.amazon.com/Replacement-Pads-Cushions-Beats-Black/dp/B006JDU6YM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1397658169&sr=8-1&keywords=beats+solo+pads); take off the stupid plastic plate on the back, and put them on the Mikros.  It is a tight fit but it does indeed fit.  This mod is ok.  It recesses the midrange, boosts the bass and treble, giving you a more laid back vocal performance.  I don't like it all that much but I'm sure some would.  It may be slightly less comfortable than stock, or slightly more comfortable (the former in my case)
 
The Reverse Mod: Instead of the right channel being on your right ear and and vise versa, just reverse the headphones.  The seal you get is improved.  I don’t do this because I can’t get around the vocals being behind me but many people can’t go without this mod.
______________________________________________________________________________
 
Added Notes + Comparisons
 
The Mikros may not be very stylish, but it's acceptable.  The construction seems great, and my pair seems to be in like new condition, and the headband is ultra flexible.  I question as to how long the arms will stand up, but I bet it'll be long.  The Mikros is not as comfortable as some of these over ear cans.  On it's own, it's moderately comfortable, but against others, they feel strenuous. The Mikros is extremely portable, since the cups rotate, it comes with a hard case. it's small, and it isolates extremely well.  They are finicky (gripe).  The cable is detachable, comes with a case, nice packaging (extra).
 
The Momentum (MOM) looks great to me.  It's constructed extremely well, almost unbreakable, though someone on Head-Fi did complain about the connector on the ear cup being damaged.  The pads are tiny, so they are either on ear, or partially on/over ear.  This does a number on comfort.  They're easily portable since they're a small, isolate, and come with a bag. However, they don't fold and the bag is huge so...  No gripes, and the packaging, and accessories are great.
 
The M500 is a good headphone, but it really doesn’t have anything (sound wise at least) that the Mikros doesn’t offer, or do better in.  The Mikros granted sounds different, but I think it’s safe to say the Mikros technically/statistically at last is the better sounding headphone in all areas.  From bass to mids, to tonal quality, to treble detail and control, the Mikros just can’t be beat.  The midrange of the M500 does com close in quality though.
 
I really like the FC300 for two reasons (it is my second favorite closed headphone):
1: it sounds just as good as the Momentum, or M500, or P7, or anything really below $400.  It only costs $150.
2: The sound signature is so enjoyable.  It’s very exciting but not too exciting.  I think it works for all genres (well, if you can deal with boosted bass) and all people.
 
However, the Mikros sounds noticeably better, and that’s really all it comes down to.  I’d recommend them though, since they look better.
 
The 1r is presented EXTREMELY well.
1: The packaging is great
2. They look out of this world
3. The pads look nice and sqooshie
4. They sound quiet in your hands.
However, the sound signature isn’t the type to pull you in like the FC300.
Compared to the Mikros, they don’t fare all that well sound-wise.  They compete somewhat well with the Momentum etc, but overall, if great audio quality is what you’re looking for, I steer clear of the 1r.
 
The WS99… Well, sound-wise they’re in that Momentum tier.  However, they are uncomfortable and the bass is just a little too aggressive for.  A great bass head can, but the FC300 sounds more balanced.  They beat the Mikros out in bass performance, but in mids and treble, not so much.
 
The Spirit one sounds essentially like the WS99 with a smaller soundstage and slightly tighter bass.  The build is OK, and the styling suffers from the headband sticking out of your head.
 
Th UE6000 looks great, but sounds boring.  Like a WS99 with a slightly larger soundstage but slower bass, and less treble.
 
100 pts:
Sound is 55 pts
Portability is 10 pts
Comfort is 15 pts
Style is 5 pts
Build is 15 pts
______________________________________________________________________________
Sources
Source(s):  I used mainly the Samsung Galaxy 5 Player, the iPod Touch 4g, Sansa Clip Zip, and Fiio X3.
>250 hours of use on the ears
Music Choices: I listen to a good variety of music.  Though, my favorite genre is J-Rock.
Music:
J-ROCK:
(320 kbps MP3) FLOW THE MAX by FLOW (the song Won't You Stay and many others)
(320 kbps MP3) The One by UVERworld (the song The OVER and many others)
(320 kbps MP3) The Last by UVERworld (the song Hi Mondaisaku and many others)
(320 kbps MP3) 26 a Go Go!!! by FLOW (most of the songs)
(FLAC) Jinsei x Boku by ONE OK ROCK (all the songs, all the time)
K-Pop:
(FLAC) PSY Five by PSY (the fantastic song It's Art)
Rap:
(320kbps MP3) Food and Liquor 2: The Great American Rap Album Part 1 by Lupe Fiasco (all songs)
Soundtrack
(FLAC) The Lion King Soundtrack by Hans Zimmer (all songs)
and a variation of different artists and albums
______________________________________________________________________________
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Lorspeaker
Lorspeaker
mikros looks good on older folks like me...we are goofy to start with...  lolz
Best hyped portable i ever had. For 59bucks it's been a crazy ride. 
What i liked about it is...it has superior separation n spacious soundstage
on my humble ipad, for me to enjoy classical music on the go. 
V few portables give me that... at 59bucks.
Trunks159
Trunks159
Very few?  Try none.  The Mikros is my go to headphone.
pataburd
pataburd
The Mikros 90 are definitely in the top tier.
 
I am glad someone else has heard the Mikros 90's clear superiority over the M500.
 
Unit-to-unit variation may factor into one's evaluation of the ML's bass as not that extended.  I have what I would consider a "bass light" pair among the several stock pair I have auditioned, but the other [stock] pairs I have on hand have some the very best bass response I have heard from any headphones: deep, dense and remarakably articulate.  
 
Removing the bass port covers and modding the inside of the ear cups will unleash a commanding, take-no-prisoners bass response fom the Mikros 90, as well.
Pros: Currently very affordable and incredibly sonically poised
Cons: Clamping force might bother some listeners
Bass: solid, balanced and extended with excellent pitch. Can be Stygian and prodigious with the right recordings.  May lack mid-bass warmth/emphasis for some listeners.

Midrange: open, clear, coherent, tonally saturated and complex. Vocals are rendered with breath-taking realism.

Highs: clear, detailed and extended with no glare. Excellent sparkle and finish on tambourine, rider cymbal and high brass.

Soundstage: recording- and equipment-dependent. Can assume strikingly large 3-D proportions. The music floats free in space with no sense of closure/constraint.  Superb separation within, and delineation of, the performance space.  
 
Excellent resolution of massed instruments and vocals. These headphones allow you to hear deep--and I mean deep--into the details of the recording, and into the relative strengths and weaknesses of your upstream gear.  
 
I get a very good seal by wearing the headphones slightly low and forward on the ear, slightly swiveled in along the natural angle of protrusion of my ear, and with the leading edge of each ear cup at about my mandible hinge/back end of my cheekbone..

The MLs scale up extremely well, venturing--IMHO--into the "reference" category.  On my home rig, the Mikros 90 even give my HifiMAN HE-6--which run balanced, straight out of my speaker terminal outputs(!)--a serious run for the money!

After initially ordering, I wasn't sure what to expect, but the Mikros 90 have exceeded my expectations with plenty of (head)room to spare. I would rate these, hands down, near the top in the Top 10 list of all the headphones I've ever owned and/or listened to to date. Given their current street price, these are a runaway "no-brainer".

Have not auditioned the KEF M500 yet, but would like to eventually do the a/b alongside the Mikros 90.  
UPDATE: See link to comparative review: http://www.head-fi.org/t/695615/kef-m500-versus-martin-logan-mikros-90

Equipment:
Home:
EVS-modified SONY BDP-S780
Neotech UPOCC interconnects
Fitz-improved Bada PH-12 (2x Tung-Sol 6SN7GT and 1x Sylvania 6SN7GTA)
(or) Linn Intek integrated (headphone out)
Dakiom F-273 feedback stabilizer
Pipeline ET-4 cable
GIEN carbon fiber disc mat
MyAudioCables power cords
PowerVar AC conditioners

Office:
EVS-modified Oppo DV-970HD
Virtue Audio interconnects
KMF Audio headphone amp
Dakiom F-273 feedback stabilizer
Pipeline ET-4 cable
SID disc mat
MyAudioCables power cords
PowerVar AC conditioners
 
Music:
Ultimate Joe Williams
Digital Duke
The Essential Sarah Vaughn
Toots Thielemans: Footsteps
Lee Rittenour: Festival
Cal Tjader: The Roots of Acid Jazz
Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out
 
Henri Mancini: Movie Classics
Hiroshima: Go & Third Generation
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass: Classics Volume 20(?)
 
The Yardbirds: Roger the Engineer (Over, Under, Sideways, Down)
Iron Butterfly: Light and Heavy/Best of
Jefferson Airplane: Fulton Street/Best of
Elton John: Greatest Hits & Tumbleweed Connection
Steely Dan: Decade of Steely Dan
Cat Stevens: Tea for the Tillerman
The Marshall Tucker Band: Best of
BTO's Greatest
 
Commander Cody: Best of/Too Much Fun
Earl Thomas Conley: Greatest Hits
 
Baltimore Consort: On the Banks of the Helicon
Wembely
Wembely
Yes but I didn't know if they would be any good. By the time I got them the sale was over. Keeping my eye out for. A repeat sale before Xmas.
hostek
hostek
I got this too during that newegg sale. For under $60, I think it's pretty good. The only thing i found with it, if the positioning not correct, it kind of sound muffled. Found this when i did A/B hearing with my Yuin PK2. Even though, I still found the PK2 has slightly more musical sound to me, I feel that mikros 90 is quite entertaining as well. Gonna have it burn in for more hour and hopefully it will get even better (i think martinlogan recommend a minimum of 20 hours burn in). Once it complete the burn in, gonna compare it with sony z1000. Excited!!
pataburd
pataburd
hostek,
The MLs should fill out and really come into their own after about 30 hours.  
pataburd

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