At the time this review was written, the Soundmagic HP150 and HP200 were on sale on Amazon.com. Here is the listing to the product at the time of this review:
If you’re reading this you probably already know about Soundmagic. If not I will round it up in a nutshell. There are a select number of companies I hope to continue to have opportunities to cover products for and Soundmagic is definitely one of them. They almost always bring it in terms of sound quality. They continuously offer products that are wallet friendly and audiophile approved.
I know guys who own summit-fi stuff that cost many hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars, yet still some of them will ask me if anything new from Soundmagic has come out recently. This is because no matter where you are at in your quest for perfect audio, enthusiasts of all sorts can still appreciate the incredible price to performance ratio Soundmagic offers.
Tony Xiu is the founder of Soundmagic, and from what I gather he is a master at the art of shaping sound and saving our wallets and bank accounts. Today I have a great opportunity to cover two of their more premium headphones, the HP150 and HP200.
I was given an opportunity to sample and review the HP150 in exchange for my honest opinion and review. I currently own the HP200. I am in no way affiliated with Soundmagic.
HP150 & HP200 REVIEW
Since both headphones feature identical design/packaging/accessories I will combine this part of the review. Please note that this portion of the review pertains to both models.
The HP150/HP250 comes in a black and white box with similar design concepts to their in-ear monitor line. The front of the boxes feature a nice photo of the headphones along with some key features of the product.
The back of the boxes provide technical specifications along with schematics.
The sides of the boxes feature a useful graph and a list of the features in several languages.
- Driver: Dynamic 53mm Neodymium Drivers
- Frequency range: 10Hz～30KHz
- Impedance: 32Ω (±10%)
- Sensitivity: 95dB/mW @ 1KHz (±3dB)
- Maximum input power: 100mW
- Cable length: 1.2m (3.5ft) coiled
- Connection: 3.5mm gold plated plug
- Weight: 288g
- Driver: Dynamic 53mm Neodymium Drivers
- Frequency range: 15Hz～35KHz
- Impedance: 20Ω (±10%)
- Sensitivity: 95dB/mW @ 1KHz (±3dB)
- Maximum input power: 100mW
- Cable length: 1.2m (3.5ft) coiled
- Connection: 3.5mm gold plated plug
- Weight: 320g
Opening the box revealed very nice semi rigid mesh zippered carrying cases. The cases are fantastic! I really like the size and material use. This allows the HP150/HP200 to be great travel companions without fearing damage.
Opening up the case revealed the accessories packages.
Accessories (For both HP150 & HP200)
-SoundMAGIC HP150 Removable cable (1.2m)
-Extension cable (3m)
-6.35mm jack adaptor
-Carrying hard case
-SoundMAGIC VIP card
The HP150 is constructed of mostly rugged matte black plastic with metal and synthetic leather and foam padding. I find the build to be very solid for its price range and all materials are cleverly selected. Every part of the build is ergonomic and efficient. The HP150 headband is made of a flexible metal and plastic material and is coated with a synthetic leather material with padding
where the headphone makes contact with the user’s head. The Headphone adjusts to fit the user’s head with a metal tab slider similar to the Sennheiser HD600. The cups are attached to this band by a hinged piece of plastic. There is a adjustable hinge that clicks into place, allowing the user to adjust the headband angle. The cups attach on a hinge and allows the cups to swivel. The outside of the cups are a matte black with a subtle Soundmagic and HP150 logo printed on each side. There is left and right markings printed on the outside of each side of the headband. The pads of the HP150 are what appears to be a synthetic leather material that is soft and seals well. The pads are plenty wide enough but depending on your ear size, they might contact the foam lining outside of each driver.
Because of the hinged cups and hinged area where the Headphone meets the cups, the HP150 cups can be folded up into the headband. This makes for a space saving opportunity when packing or traveling with them.
The HP150 cable is detachable and connects at the bottom of the left ear piece. There is a special locking mechanism at the housing that makes the cable connection almost exclusive to the HP150 and the stock cable. The 1.2 meter cable makes the HP150 great for when you are on the go, and the three meter extension cable makes Them work great for home and studio use.
The fit of the HP150 is great, and I’m confident many will feel the same. The shape and adjustability will make this a universally good fit for just about everybody. Just like all closed headphones, the HP150 does get hot on the ears with extended use. Taking a couple minute break every once in awhile helps with this. While there is plenty of room for just about any size ears to fit easily inside the cup, but the depth of the pads could be an issue for someone with ears that stick outwards more than normal.
These cans are pretty easy to drive which I find to be a big plus. They sound great through a cell phone or desktop setup. Of course higher bit rates and sources will help improve the sound of the HP150, but you will still be able to enjoy the sound quality of them with a less powerful device like a smartphone.
The HP150 has very impressive extension on both ends. Depth and height on the HP150 is really good. There isn’t any frequency range that feels rolled off or lacking. I enjoyed the HP150 more with warmer sources. Colder sounding sources didn’t bring out the impressive bass response and keep the treble in check the way a warm source could.
The bass of the HP150 is extended with tremendous depth. Sub bass is rather impressive and prominent. Just about every genre of music benefits from the depth given to it by the HP150. While its ability to hit the lowest of low notes is rather impressive, it isn’t the fastest or tightest bass you will ever hear. Notes linger from time to time. I wouldn’t say it’s sluggish, but at the same time I won’t say it's the most resolving and responsive bass you will ever hear.
Midrange of the HP150 is just a hair behind the bass response, but with a very airy presence and plenty of detail. I really enjoy the HP150 midrange for what it accomplishes. Although it is just a hair sucked out from the rest of the mix, its resolution makes it very enjoyable. I do get some occasional lower midrange grain and distortion on some notes and music passages, but it’s only noticeable during critical listening. Upper midrange of the HP150 is slightly aggressive and energetic. I really like the upper mids. A key thing I would like you take from this review is that the HP150 offers a spacious feel with excellent bass extension and detailed and responsive midrange, creating a very enjoyable listening experience.
Treble on the HP150 is crisp and natural. It was borderline harsh out of the box, but it has settled nicely after using it for a while. I find the HP150 treble to be spot on at this point. I wouldn’t classify them as sibilant or harsh. Pronunciations of the letters S and T were crisp and bordering on being over the top but don’t cross the threshold into being sibilant. Cymbal crashes have a nice and smooth response and shimmer.
Soundstage and Imaging
This is where the HP150 shines. Soundstage is incredible for any headphone, let alone the fact that they are closed cans. The soundstage these provide for a closed can sets them apart, and why I feel they make many people’s top ten lists of headphones to buy. Because of the robust and extended sub bass, airy midrange and crisp treble there is a tremendous sense of space, allowing users to imagine a nice sense of soundstage and instrument placement.
Audio Technica ATH-M50 ($100 to $150 USD on many sites)
The ATH-M50 is a gateway drug to those who dabble in sound quality. I feel it sits somewhere between consumer friendly and audiophile. It carries a pretty solid bass punch, and is pretty flat through the rest of the spectrum. Many use it for their reference monitor, or when using it to edit audio.
I feel the HP150 is superior in just about every aspect in terms of sound. The HP150 bass has more of a sub bass focus, leaving room for the lower and upper midrange to be more resolving and less overshadowed than the ATH-M50. The ATH-M50 seems mid bass heavy and almost congested in comparison. The Soundmagic midrange is much airier and detailed, yielding a great sense of space and imaging Treble is a draw and will be a matter of preference. Treble sensitive ears might lean towards the M50, while those less sensitive will prefer the HP150’s detail and extension.
Build quality on each is very similar, but the detachable cable and awesome case makes the HP150 a clear cut winner as compared to the long attached cable and synthetic leather pouch of the M50.
Takstar Pro 80 ($50 to $75 USD on many sites)
The Pro 80 is a budget Chinese gem whose sound rivals the M50 and many closed back headphones in higher price ranges. From what I hear, the Pro 80 sits right between these two models, offering elements of both in it’s build and sound. Bass and midrange is very similar to the M50, and treble is very reminiscent of the HP150. I think the Pro 80 is a great performer, but I feel the HP150 outclasses the Pro80 sound because it is overall more refined and entertaining.
I give a slight edge to the HP150 for having a detachable cable, but the Pro 80 comes with a mini suitcase that is very cool. Build and accessories is a draw.
Note: The HP200 carries many very similar build characteristics, with the only physical difference being the semi open cups. I will copy and paste the beginning of this review and make edits to it where it is different than the HP150. You can save yourself some time by skipping through the first part and going straight to the sound impressions if you feel comfortable not learning about the subtle differences between the two headphones.
The HP200 is constructed of mostly rugged black plastic with metal cups and synthetic leather and foam padding. I find the build to be very solid for its price range and all materials are cleverly selected. Every part of the build is ergonomic and efficient. The HP200 headband is made of a flexible metal and plastic material and is coated with a synthetic leather material with padding underneath it where the headphone make contact with the user’s head. The Headphone adjusts to fit the user’s head with a metal tab slider similar to the Sennheiser HD600. The cups are attached to this band by a hinged piece of plastic. There is a adjustable hinge that clicks into place, allowing the user to adjust the headband angle. The cups attach on a hinge and allows the cups to swivel. The outside of the cups are a black metal with perforations and sport a subtle Soundmagic and HP200 logo printed on each side. There is left and right markings printed on the outside of each side of the headband. The pads of the HP200 are what appears to be a synthetic leather material that is soft and seals well. The pads are plenty wide enough but depending on your ear size, they might contact the foam lining outside of each driver.
Because of the hinged cups and hinged area where the Headphone meets the cups, the HP200 cups can be folded up into the headband. This makes for a space saving opportunity when packing or traveling with them.
The HP200 cable is detachable and connects at the bottom of the left ear piece. There is a special locking mechanism at the housing that makes the cable connection almost exclusive to the HP200 and the stock cable. The 1.2 meter cable makes the HP200 great for when you are on the go, and the three meter extension cable makes Them work great for home and studio use.
The fit of the HP200 is great, and I’m confident many will feel the same. The shape and adjustability will make this a universally good fit for just about everybody. The semi open design makes them very comfortable for long listening sessions. Although the cups are nice and big to accommodate the circumference of most ears, some people with ears that stick out farther than average might experience their ears touching the foam comfort padding that lays in front of the driver grills.
Because these are semi open headphones isolation could be an issue for some. Like all semi open designs, these will leak sound, and let outside sounds in. I think the HP200 does a better than average job at controlling the amount of sound that leaks from them as compared to other semi open cans. Just remember, these probably won’t work in a library, classroom, or any quiet environment for that matter. They might not be the best choice for commuting either, because noisy environments will be a factor when trying to enjoy the music.
These cans are pretty easy to drive which I find to be a big plus. They sound great through a cell phone or desktop setup. Of course higher bit rates and sources will help improve the sound of the HP150, but you will still be able to enjoy the sound quality of them with a less powerful device like a smartphone. I enjoyed the sound of the HP200 through warmer sounding sources like my Shanling H3 and Fiio E18.
The HP200 is the open back version of the HP150, and I would assume it is the same (or very similar driver) with differences in venting and sound damping. Upper midrange and treble are very much similar from what I can hear, but their bass and lower midrange are different because of their design. The HP200 offers a flatter and slightly more controlled and less extended bass that is punchy and more mid bass focused. They are less sub-bass focused than the HP150 due to their semi open design.
It's hard to explain without hearing them, but Soundmagic is very technical in how they present things. Seldom if ever is distortion an issue, and so much so that I don’t even need to bring it up in my review on either pair of headphones. A big testament for the full size headphone range is the fact that there are many factors that I don’t need to bring up and can focus more on how they sound rather than what I don’t like.
Bass on the HP200 is in nice balance with the rest of the spectrum with a tilt towards midbass tones. For a semi open headphone they do offer nice timbre that puts weight on lower midrange tones. Although this works great for some types of music, this also makes them more genre specific.
With modern genres of music I found the HP200 to get occasionally fatiguing at moderate to higher volumes do to the midbass tuning. While this frequency doesn’t bleed and has a high level of resolution, The forward nature of them isn’t ideal for bass forward music. However, with things like acoustic, live, jazz, and vocals the HP200 is superb.
The midrange of the HP200 is pretty hard to fault. Aside from being slightly unnatural sounding due to the forward midbass, the HP200 midrange is pretty linear and dissects and presents music excellently. You get plenty of detail and resolution. The tuning doesn’t make it sound open and airy, but leans more towards a intimate and accurate approach.
The HP200 treble response is snappy and extended without going over the top for my preference. People who are extremely treble sensitive or those who listen to their headphones at loud volumes might have a problem with the HP200 treble.
Soundstage and Imaging
I’m usually a big fan of semi open cans because they offer a very open and airy sound. With the HP200 it is a somewhat different case. I won’t say that the HP200 is congested, but it’s forward mid bass tuning prevents it from having that sense of openness that I’ve grown to love in semi open designs. This tuning not only impacts the soundstage, but also imaging as well. Long story short, the HP200 is slightly flatter sounding than I would hope for.
Takstar HI2050 ($40-$60 USD on many sites)
The HI2050 is one of my personal favorites, offering a very comfortable fit, velour pads, and a very entertaining tuning that I really enjoy with any genre of music.
As far as sound is concerned, it will come down to tuning preference. From what I hear, the HI2050 has a V-shaped signature in a semi open design. Their tuning is just a bit more extended in both directions, and a little more sucked out in midrange presence as compared to the Soundmagic offering. The HI2050 also has a little more grain in its sound as compared to the HP200. If you are going for a more “audiophile” tuning the HP200 will probably be the right choice. If you are looking for a sonic improvement over your consumer tuned bass forward headphones the HI2050 is a step in the right direction.
As far as accessories is concerned Soundmagic is a clear cut winner. The case and detachable cables are a big plus. The HI2050 offers an attached cable and next to nothing as far as accessories is concerned.
Sennheiser HD600 ($325-$400 USD on many sites)
What can I say about the HD600 that hasn’t already been said? It’s one of the most natural and neutral, yet entertaining headphones out there. They are my reference headphone, and for good reason. There isn’t necessarily anything I can fault with the HD600. They will remain in my collection for as long as I am in this hobby.
I could break it down into each criteria, but I’ll summarize it and say that the HD600 is a more natural and airy presentation as compared to the HP200. Their lower midrange and mid bass is more tolerable and enjoyable (but at $125-$175 USD higher price tag).
The HP200 does beat the mighty HD600 in some areas. I find the HP200 to be slightly more detailed. They are much more comfortable and easier to wear for long listening sessions. Their accessories package is far superior, and they offer a case that makes traveling with them a much better option. The HP200 has all around better ergonomics and build quality in my opinion.
HP150 and HP200 at the Chifi-Unite Head-Fi meet
I brought the HP150 and HP200 to a meet in August and had some fellow Head-Fiers give them a listen. Overall impressions were positive. While every pair of ears is different, making each impression different, the general consensus was that they were both solid pairs of headphones that performed very well for their asking price. Most of those who listened to them gave a slight edge to the HP150 because of its sub-bass response, soundstage, and overall solid performance for a closed back headphone.
I also really enjoyed my time with the HP150 and found their performance to be outstanding for a closed headphone at any price. Having both now for a couple months, I can confidently say that I know what to reach for depending on what application I’m going for. If I’m going to commute or listen to modern genres of music I’m reaching for the HP150. If I’m at home and want to soak up some great acoustic music or vocals, and still want to be able to hear what’s going on around me, I’m grabbing the HP200. Both Pairs are all around great Headphones that I enjoy thoroughly. My experience with just about every Soundmagic product has been very positive and continues with these two excellent pairs of headphones.
Thanks for reading and happy listening!
As for your comments not appear that you have liked.
The HP-150 are very good, regardless of price. I had Fidelio L2, NAD Viso HP50, Fostex TH-600 and Audeze LCD XC.
It has more and better bass than L2, and treble are much sweeter and not hurtful as many times they are in the Philips, and of course, much more comfortable.
Regarding the NAD, it is more transparent and has better treble. It is also quite comfortable.
And compared with Fostex, obviously he hasn't his bass, but are more realistic, not as exaggerated as the Japanese. Their mids are closer and fuller, and treble are much softer.
And finally, it may seem heretical, only I have to say is these are SoundMagic which eventually led me to sell the XC. At all they aren't better, but I can guarantee you that much closer to what one would expect for such a large difference in price between the two. After spend two hours listening to the XC, I put the HP150 and did not feel that they were bad, quite the contrary. Of course, if we consider that the XC cost 10 times more than the HP150, then ...
They really are a MASTER PURCHASE.