Review on the SoundMAGIC HP100
IntroductionIt's been a while since my last review, but I'm back with another one on the closed-back, SoundMAGIC's HP100. I bought these headphones as an alternative to my HP200's and as an upgrade to my formerly owned, MrSpeakers' Mad Dog 3.2, as an open-back was not convenient for me as I had originally thought, and that the Mad Dog's were too veiled and dark sounding for my taste. Anyways, not long after selling the Mad Dog's, I decided to pick up these from my friendly, local audio store, Noisy Motel, and I haven't looked back ever since.
(Usually I have a "Pictorial Unboxing" section, but I decided to cut that out since they're almost identical to that of the HP200's, which can be found in my review, here. Aside from that, I'll incorporate some of the main accessories that were exclusive to the HP100 and not the HP200.
***NOTE: Pictures in this review are of the HP100's with Fischer Audio FA-003 pads on top of the original pads. It should be noted that the sound analysis was done with stock pads.***
***NOTE: I don't mean to post this into the forums, as I did post this review in the review section. However, when posted in the review section, half of my text and pictures got cut off, so I had to resolve to this for my proper (full-sized) layout. Apologies.)***
(Front of Box)
(Back of Box)
Build Quality & Design/Function Analysis
The HP100's overall build and presentation is rather elegant in the sense that it has the basic looks of your standard headphones - not too flashy. The build in general is of a sturdy construction, made of high quality plastics (along with a few parts made of metal) with rubberized and high-gloss surfaces, along with a thick, rubber-coated cable. It does not feel flimsy, nor does it feel of bad quality, so one would assume it would last a long time, if taken care of properly. Now, time to break it down into smaller chunks.
(Bird's-eye view of the HP100)
Headband: It has a thick, solid core, presumably, consisting of mostly plastic and a thin piece of metal that runs through the headband from/to the height adjusters. It feels bulky in width, which to me, is a good thing, as now I know it won't snap due to flimsiness. Under the headband is a nice, plush strip of cushion that makes the comfort all the better. All of this is wrapped in a very soft and pliable pleather, which is very smooth, and feels superbly comfortable on the head.
Height Adjuster & Swivel Mechanics: The adjustment per side of the headphone can prove to be stiff at times in terms of its sliding ability, but it does make solid clicks per increase/decrease in height, and does not move up and down from strong movements, so it can be said that it's firm and will stand its ground. The swivel also makes strong clicks, and maintains its position with each click. The slide and swivel is in no way loose.
Ear Cups & Ear Pads: The ear cups are of a nice, high-gloss plastic, with a grid design on it. Not much to say on it besides that. Although, as it is high-gloss, it does attract fingerprints very easily, so SoundMAGIC provides a cleaning cloth specifically for this issue, as shown below.
(Included VIP card from SoundMAGIC for purchasing their higher-end products & cleaning cloth)
The ear pads found on the HP100 are very plush, and soft and are made of a pleather material. They are an over-the-ear design, and fit right around the ear. What I despised about these ear pads, is that although they are incredibly comfortable, the depth of the pad is not so deep. You'll often find the drivers touching your ears, which in no way affects the sound quality, but it does become bothersome. What I did was overlap a set of Fischer Audio FA-0003 pads on top of the stock pads to improve comfort, seal, and pad depth. Did this alter the sound? Not much at all, to be honest.
Cable Entry: The cable entry into the headphones is single-sided, and it utilizes a proprietary cable. The cable entry is an "insert and twist" (locking) mechanism, which to some, is okay, but for me (and many others, I'm sure), this means it'd be harder to replace the cable if it ever becomes damaged.
| (The cable entry)||(The cable entry jack with it's "insert and twist" (locking) mechanism)|
Cable: The cable is a 1.2 meter coiled cable. It comprises of a thick, rubber outer-coat, and terminates in a 3.5mm proprietary jack, and a 3.5mm jack that has a screwing mechanism for a 6.3mm adapter. The cable as a whole, is rather stiff, and the coil section is a bit too sprung together which it requires more than usual effort to stretch out. I found this cable to be annoying at times, as when sitting at a table and having the cable hang down, the top of the coil tends to get caught under the table top's edge, and hence, pulls your head down.
(The coiled cable)
Case: A hard case with a reptile pattern, that uses a zip, and has a carabiner loop at the top for attachment of the carabiner. Not much else to it.
|(Bird's-eye view of the case)||(Zoomed-in shot of the 3D bevel of the company's name)|
Sound Quality Analysis
The following analysis of the HP100's sound quality is done from this setup: iBasso DX50 > Pure Silver Interconnect > Neco Soundlabs Portable V4
It is a neutral-toned headphone, and is not as bright as it's sibling, the HP200 (Brighter in terms of clarity in the vocals and higher extension in the treble, but I wouldn't consider it an overly bright headphone as a whole). The audio produced from these headphones sounds very clean, and there is no presence of a veil blanketting the mids and highs.
The level of detail of this headphone is rather high for a headphone of this price range. The micro-detailing, especially of the female vocals, where the ending of each line is made, and the background instruments are accentuated with ease, and it doesn't require much effort with these headphones to make out the detailing in general.
The HP100's are very clear in sound. There are no low frequency sound leakage nor are there any audible hisses in the high frequencies, which might make them sound veiled/muddy like in the darker/warmer sounding headphones. The clarity of this headphone in a way, helps enhance the level of detail, as it makes the micro-details more distinguishable.
The separation of this headphone is also rather good. It has a layering effect in between instruments as well as vocals, where each instrument or vocalist can be easily distinguished, and singled-out. This is good, because it prevents congestion, which usually results in muddiness.
For a closed-back headphone, the staging on this headphone is pretty big. It is comparable to that of its sibling, the HP200, although the HP200 only pulls away by a bit due to its open-back design. An analogy of this could be like comparing from being in a room with all windows closed (HP100) to the same room, with one window open. This difference is only just the addition of more air, as opposed to size. Airiness, to me, does not always equate to a wider soundstage (although in this case, it slightly does), but more so, just a more realistic vocal, and a more defined mid-bass, as opposed to one with a slight vibration in the background - less congestion by the slightest.
The imaging of this headphone has good 3D placement of instruments and vocalist(s). Although not as accurate as open-back headphones, it is still pretty good in the respect that it's a closed-back. Instrumentals may not be positioned pin-point accurate, but I feel the vocals are pretty dead on as to where they stand - center stage.
The bass of this headphone, although it is not something that is emphasized, hits pretty hard when it needs to. For songs that revolve around vocals, the low-end doesn't become prominent, but for songs, such as EDM tracks, the bass will definitely hit harder, and make sure its presence is noticed. Not to say they hit as hard as basshead headphones, but the bass does become more vibrant and textured. So really, I would say the bass of this headphone is rather controlled, as it is not all over the place like most basshead headphones. The rumble of the sub-bass, I found to be pretty smooth, as it doesn't sound grainy, muddy nor earth-shattering.
The vocals sound pretty realistic to some extent. It is rich and full-sounding, so it is far from a thin sounding vocal. It is smooth overall, and aids in the flow of the song - musical as some might put it. Such things as the guitar strumming, sounds very sweet and full, whilst in reality, it may not be as smooth (This may just be me, but sometimes I find an electric guitar to sound a touch harsh, whilst when heard through the HP100, it settles the harshness). In comparison to something like the HD600's, I found the mids of the HP100 to not sound as natural as it would on a set of HD600's, but it is relatively close. When compared to the HD600's, I'd say the HP100's vocals may sound a touch hollow, as the HD600's have one of the creamiest vocals I've ever heard.
The treble of this headphone extends pretty high up. With something like the cymbal clashes, it sounds very crisp out of the HP100's. It doesn't sound too harsh either - it's just right. It's not veiled so the detailing is still very good, and the harshness is tamed by the treble being smoothed out by a tiny bit to prevent this. I'm a fan of brighter tonality, and even though I wouldn't consider the HP100's treble-happy, I was very satisfied with the highs.
Summary/ConclusionThe SoundMAGIC HP100 was a headphone I thoroughly enjoyed for what it was - a neutral sounding closed-back with amazing musicality. If you're looking for a headphone to use in noisy environments, or just to enjoy in your own time, this headphone should be on your list of considerations, with it's great noise isolation, and superb sound in general. An amp will be needed to drive them to their full potential, but it is totally worth it. It has my recommendation (if that matters), and to me, it's a gift that keeps on giving. (I say this because I've noticed slight improvements over the period of time I've owned them, and I have yet to be bored of it)
The small company of SoundMAGIC, when in the big headphone world, has often been overlooked. I personally think this shouldn't be the case as they're headphones are one of a kind! I'm in no way affiliated with them, but I think they deserve more attention. Much more.
Over & Out,