Headphone shoot-out: NAD VISO HP50, B&W P7, PSB M4U2, Denon AH-MM400
May 29, 2015 at 11:23 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1

hbuus

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I've been looking for some phones for my iPad Mini 2 for listening to classical music at home and therefore I went to my local HIFI dealer earlier today and spent 4 – 4½ hours comparing these headphones:
 
NAD VISO HP50
B&W P7
PSB M4U2
Denon AH-MM400
 
I started out with the NADs which didn't impress me initially.
Sure - they sounded alright, but they were nothing special I thought.
And when things get crowded music-wise, they tend to sound muddied to me.
 
Then I switched to the B&Ws and immediately I could hear more details in the music compared to the NADs. It was also very clearly audible when notes rose and fell in volume (which they often do in classical music). What's more, the B&Ws sounded "light-footed" compared to the NADs – more "agile" so to speak. However I also felt the B&Ws very much lacked bass and they had one critical drawback which in fact very quickly disqualified them to my ears: A rather aggressive and bright top which was especially audible with violins. This made it quite unbearable to listen to classical music on them and thus I focused on the remaining three sets of headphones for the remainder of the time at the shop except for at the end where I switched back to the B&Ws to make sure I was still hearing this bright and aggressive top – I was.
 
Next up were the Denons. Rather "bass light" compared to the NADs, I thought to begin with, in fact it was like a high pass filter had been slapped onto the sound compared to with the NADs. However the more I listened to the Denons, the more I got used to the "lack of bass" which turned out not to be lacking at all – the bass was there alright, however just in a smaller dose than with the NADs. The sound was actually very well integrated and coherent. Quite possibly a contender but it required more listening to decide.
 
Here it is worth mentioning that while switching back and forth between the NADs, the B&Ws (at first) and the Denons (and later the PSBs which we arrive at in a second), the NAD's strengths became clear to me: They are fun and entertaining to listen to with a nice bass, although this has a tendency to muddy the sound a little in crowded passages as already mentioned. Every time I returned to the NADs after listening to one of the other phones, I just thought: "This sounds right!" (the NADs I mean). They have an incredibly beautiful overall tone and for example cellos sound gorgeous on them. The NADs sound organic if that makes sense.
 
Anyway, next up were the PSBs and straight away I noticed they had more bass than the Denons. The sound was well integrated. As you may know the PSBs come with a 3-way switch on the side of the phones: 1) Normal mode, 2) Amplifier mode, 3) Noise cancel mode. I was listening in normal mode to begin with but now I turned on the built-in amp. The sound became enhanced, things got more lively and engaging with this setting, more alive so to speak. The sound really was beautiful.
 
After spending some time switching between the NADs and the PSBs it suddenly hit me: The PSBs had a wider soundstage compared to the NADs. A very, very wide soundstage in fact. Once I spotted this I realized the wide soundstage is in fact one of the key strengths of these phones – simply put, it sounds awesome.
 
Now I tried the Noise cancel mode. At first I thought it was completely worthless as it pretty much destroyed the sound of the PSBs: It removes a lot of the low end. Also I had trouble hearing if the noise cancelling had any effect at all in cancelling outside noise. However then I paused the music and then switched back and forth between amp mode and noise cancel mode with nothing but silence in the headphones. This way I found out that noise cancel does in fact work on the PSBs and it works well – it eliminated a great deal of the background noise from the shop I was in (clerk talking, tvs running a little distance away in another room etc.) However it also introduced a little bit of white noise in the background. It's not something I noticed very much when music was playing in the PSBs, only in soft passages, and I quickly got used to it so to speak. Also the way the noise cancel mode sounds is something I quickly adapted to (the lacking low end, I mean).
 
At this point I'd been listening to headphones for 4 hours and I was getting tired from concentrating so much on listening for spotting differences between the various headphones. And after 4 hours I was starting to notice the comfort of each headphone much more than initially - and the PSBs in fact had an uncomfortably tight fit on my head. I noticed it every single time I switched to them at this point. For this reason the PSBs were the second phones out of the 4 which I eliminated from the little shoot-out.
 
Two phones remained now: NAD and Denon. Evaluating them quickly I ended up with this: Comfort: Denon as the NADs were sitting slightly tighter around the head for me (but remember, this was after 4 hours straight of using various headphones). Finish: Denon. They are just a beautiful set of headphones, try checking photos of them on the net if you haven't seen how they look. The NADs do in fact not have a bad finish at all, on the contrary, however it is a little more plastic-like than the Denons. Weight: Denon (I thought – it seemed to me the NADs were slightly heavier than the Denons, but as I haven't yet checked the actual numbers I could be wrong here). Sound: Tie. Both sounded very, very good, just in different ways. Price: NAD clear winner as the Denon is 1,5 times more expensive.
 
Anyway I walked out of the shop with the NADs – and the Denons :) Just for the weekend though as I need to test them at home. If the NADs do not sit too tightly for me to use for around 1 hour at a time while listening to music lying on my living room sofa ( :) ), I think I'll pick them, not least because the shop has 2 demo sets of them so I can get a 10% discount on them if I choose one of those demo sets instead of a new set. That makes the Denons 2/3 as expensive as the NADs - quite a big price difference!
 
Hope this summary was readable and understandable & maybe also useful for you guys.
Thanks for reading it :)
 
Best,

Henrik
Denmark
 
Btw. short info about me:
- 43 years
- Got my first HIFI system when I was 19 and have been hooked on HIFI ever since
- PC setup: Motherboard optical out->Cambridge 840C cd-player/dac->balanced out to Behringer HA4700 head amp->Sennheiser HD 600 headphones
- Living room setup: HDMI-out from my pc's GFX 770 graphics card transferring audio (and picture) to a NAD M51 preamp/dac with 2xVincent SP-997 mono power amps connected to a set of Dynaudio Excite x32 loudspeakers.
- New, small setup: iPad Mini 2 with whatever headphones I end up buying for use with them.
 

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