Best Headphones With Detachable Cable And High Impedance
Headphones with detachable cables should be preferred instead of those with Bluetooth (2) connections only, in order to avoid losing quality of sound (4). Despite the advances obtained by Bluetooth 5 (8), there is still nowadays a concession in terms of security (1) and sound quality (5) due to its differential speed of transfer of information (3) and pairing (7) . Furthermore, these best headphones with detachable cable enjoy high levels of impedance (10) (11) of 300 Ohms or more (9) and do not work with active noise suppression technology (12), a however important technology in many areas (13), as many Bluetooth devices do (6). Likewise, we also should prefer the headphones with cable that include the magnetostatic transducer technology (14) (15) that is somewhat better and more challenging (16) (17) than a more common dynamic transducer technology (18) (19). Thus, with the aforementioned considerations in mind, we can proceed to the definitions.
This is the list with the best headphones with detachable cable
- Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
- Sennheiser HD 800 S
- Neumann NDH 20
- Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2
- Mackie MC-450
- Sennheiser HD 600
We have tested 39 HiFi headphones. The best unit with detachable cable is currently the DT 1990 Pro from Beyerdynamic. It is excellently manufactured, sits comfortably over the ears, and delivers an excellent sound experience which can even be adjusted with the included ear pads.
The ATH-MSR7b from Audio-Technica is, however, our favorite for mobile use, for travelers. It is perfect for smartphones with a headphone output that does not exactly show off its power, thanks to its uncritical power rating. Still, it delivers a wonderfully balanced sound image.
As there are more and more users who store their music collection mainly on their smartphone or another mobile device in order to play it from there, whether at home or on the road, we have divided our test into hi-fi headphones that are mainly used in stationary mode and those that can be plugged into the mobile device, addressed in another article.
Due to different requirements and technical conditions (especially the impedance), the two classes of headphones cannot be compared directly with each other in a meaningful way.
We have tested 20 for the living room and 19 for the smartphone.
This test is not about Bluetooth headphones and those with active noise suppression, because with both of these categories you have to make concessions in terms of sound. For these headphones, we have separate test reports for you.
Impedance, sensitivity, and symmetry
Impedance is the AC resistance (alternating current resistance) of a headphone. In interaction with the source device, it affects the volume and the sound.
High-quality studio headphones usually work with an impedance of about 300 Ohms, sometimes even more.
Mobile devices such as audio players or smartphones, on the other hand, work best with headphones with an impedance of around 30 ohms or less due to the limited amplifier power.
Stationary hi-fi devices with a headphone output, on the other hand, usually require an impedance of about 100 ohms between the two extremes, but can usually cope with higher impedances.
The sensitivity of a headphone is similar: It indicates the maximum sound pressure the headphone can produce with a power of 1 milliwatt and is also a parameter for the achievable volume, but above all for the dynamic range.
With conventional connection cables, in asymmetrical design, the lines for the left and right channel share the shielding, which is also often used for the return transport of the signal. With balanced cables, each channel has its own forward and return line as well as its own shielding. If the source, i.e. the amplifier, is also balanced, this leads to better channel separation, so the left and right channels can no longer interfere with each other.
Selection of the earpieces
Closed, open, or half-open – that is almost a question of faith regarding headphones. What is meant by this distinction, is the construction of the earcups, whether they are open, closed, or half-open on the outside.
Clear differences in sound depending on the design of the earphones.
Open headphones are known for a particularly fine, balanced sound, whereas closed earphones are a prerequisite for a powerful, contoured bass, but on the other hand have to struggle with sound coloration.
The enjoyment of music with closed-capsule headphones definitely isolates the listener from the outside world – conversely, the outside world is also spared the listener’s own musical escapades, which may be beneficial to the peace of the house.
Another distinguishing feature has more to do with wearing comfort. Both the open and closed models have pads that enclose the ear and rest against the head – called around ears or over-ear headphones.
The others support their cushions directly on the ears and are called around ears or over-ear headphones. Some manufacturers offer both variants, we have listened carefully to them, in order to see if there are sound differences in addition to wearing comfort.
In addition to the closed, open and semi-open principle as well as the on- and over-ears, we have now also represented two different converter technologies.
On the one hand, there are the dynamic transducers, probably the most common technology: Here, the diaphragm and the coil for the drive form a firmly assembled unit. The coil is immersed in a magnetic gap and is moved in time with the music. This movement is transferred to the diaphragm, which then transmits the sound to the ear.
In the magnetostatic transducer, the coil windings are vapour-deposited on the diaphragm and are thus virtually a component of the entire diaphragm surface. This membrane is stretched between two magnets and also moves as soon as musical electrons flow through the coil.
Magnetostatic transducers offer best sound quality
The diaphragm of the magnetostatic and its relatives, the electrostatic transducers, is much lighter than in dynamic systems and is also driven over the entire surface. Therefore it can follow even the finest instructions of the driving coil – and only those. It is virtually free of unwanted partial oscillations that are not contained in the music.
However, the design of a magnetostatic transducer is a challenge and usually cannot be realized as cheaply as with dynamic transducers
How The Test Was Performed
We allow each headphone a certain amount of recording time before the listening test. We consider the circulating information of several days or even weeks to be exaggerated, after only a few hours the sound doesn’t really change much anymore.
On the contrary: If we assume that a device, whether headphones, loudspeakers or even electronics, would have to play in for days or weeks, we must consequently assume that these devices are subject to an equally rapid aging process.
So we test all models on a high-quality stereo system and on a dedicated headphone amplifier. The listeners, who are mainly mobile, must also prove their potential on a mobile music player and smartphone.
Since not every hi-fi headphone can cope with the low impedance of the smartphone output, we have excluded listeners with an impedance of 100 ohms or higher from mobile use. The same applies, in our opinion, to headphones in open design, which makes an undisturbed music experience outside almost impossible. Since the transitions here are also fluid, the quality of workmanship, the equipment and the sound are definitely included in the assessment.
The Best HiFi Headphones With A Detachable Cable
We listen to all headphones in a test round in comparison and test them with two music genres: one is an instrumental and new age, and the other one is pop. I always use Vangelis and Lana del Rey in the tests.
Personal preferences are largely left out of the final sound evaluation. Instead, we have tried to give as accurate a description of the sound characteristics as possible. In doing so, we hold back with the evaluation, because it is inevitably subjective.
With headphones, which are mainly designed for stationary use, it is not so much the exclusion of the environment that matters, but rather the uncompromising listening pleasure, ideally within your own four walls. So it doesn’t matter whether the outside world shares your taste in music or you want to isolate yourself from the outside noise.
Whether closed, open or semi-open, the design of the earpiece and the transducer is solely due to the best possible music reproduction. Impedances and sensitivities only play a role here if we have to select the player accordingly. Nevertheless, there will be examples that will also perform well on smartphones or other mobile players, as so often the transition is smooth.
Short overview: Our recommendations
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
The DT 1990 Pro from Beyerdynamic is one of the best open headphones, and it is also extremely affordable.
With the DT 1990 Pro, Beyerdynamic has made a real statement: Originally designed as a very strong workhorse for studio use, the open headphones have enjoyed great popularity among music lovers from the beginning of their career.
It comes with two pairs of ear cushions, each of which allows for a slightly different tuning of the sound. The DT 1990 Pro is one of the best and most durable headphones on the market, and it is not even very expensive.
Sennheiser HD 800 S: Very Expensive, But The Best Overall In Quality
If this review would be only about quality, this would have been the winner. However, we consider also the price efficiency: how can you enjoy the best specifications at the lowest possible price.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is almost sinfully expensive, but it also belongs in the luxury category. It has overall the best specifications, but it is too expensive.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is the evolution of the much-praised HD 800. A little fine-tuning here, a little optimization there, while taking the wishes of the HD 800 owners seriously and implementing them – the result is a jewel that literally allows you to sink into the music from the first moment it generously covers your ears to the very end.
Of course, there are headphones that cost several times more than the already exuberant price of the HD 800 S, but the music experience is only enhanced by nuances. The money saved in this way is, therefore, better invested in an adequate software and enjoyed with the HD 800 S.
Neumann NDH 20
The NDH 20 was originally intended as a strong tool in the recording studio.
Neumann has been known for decades for its outstanding studio microphones. In recent decades, studio loudspeakers and now headphones have been added. The NDH 20 is nothing less than the Berlin-based manufacturer’s headphone debut. The headphones have excellent sound characteristics and, despite being developed and produced in Germany, are still affordable.
The best in customization options
Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2
The Aeon Flow 2 can be customized with the included filters.
The AEON Flow 2 from Dan Clark Audio works according to the magnetostatic converter principle. Although Dan Clark himself has already tuned it to produce excellent sound, the proud owner can still fine-tune the sound with three different filters.
It is sold for just under 1000 dollars and is therefore certainly not one of the cheapest headphones. However, the Aeon is of high-quality workmanship and is lavishly equipped, the sound is beyond any doubt.
The MC-450 has an open design and with its lively, fresh way of playing it conveys a good portion of fun.
The Mackie MC-450 is an open headphone, which is one reason why it is more suitable for indoors than outdoors. It is generously equipped, a total of three connection cables are included, one even with a microphone for use with a smartphone. On the way, the headphones and accessories can be stowed away in the hard-case. The sound is rather bright, although it hardly lacks depth.
Test winner: Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro
Actually, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro , as the name suggests, was intended for professional use in the studio – it is accordingly solidly manufactured. The ear cushions are filled with MemoryFoam so that they nestle perfectly to the shape of the head around the ear: In this way, the listener guarantees its owner a comfortable fit even during longer listening sessions, even if they are set aside in between.
The DT 1990 Pro from Beyerdynamic is one of the best open headphones, and it’s extremely affordable.
The DT 1990 Pro follows the design principle with open capsules. In contrast to high-end headphones, the connection cable is only plugged into one capsule, namely the left one. Both are owed to professional use: both the plug-in connection cable and the one-sided cable routing – after all, you don’t want to get tangled up in the cable mess in the recording studio or similar work environment. In addition, if the cable is routed on one side, you can immediately see how around the receiver should be placed.
The disadvantage is that the right capsule has a slightly longer supply line that has to be led through the bracket from the left. Anyone who has such sensitive hearing that they actually hear a difference between the channels here should choose one of the alternatives.
Comprehensively equipped, solidly manufactured
As it should be for a work tool, the DT 1990 Pro is delivered in a hard case with a hard-wearing surface. In addition to the headphones, there is still space for both connection cables, because in addition to the smooth cable, a coiled cable is also included. As standard, both cables have a small 3.5 millimeter plug to which the 6.35 millimeter adapter can be screwed tight. This adapter is also included in the scope of delivery, as is a second pair of ear pads. However, they are not intended as replacement parts, but rather set different accents in terms of sound.
Good equipment and comfortable seat
The comfort that the two cushions create is equally good for both: They enclose the ears generously and are also so thick that the ears do not bump or chafe anywhere. The DT 1990 Pro as a working device has a higher contact pressure than, for example, the HD 800 S from Sennheiser.
The ear pads and the generously padded headband distribute the pressure so evenly that the DT 1990 Pro is comfortable to wear even during longer listening sessions, which is certainly due to the fact that the ear pads are filled with memory foam.
The DT 1990 Pro manages to reproduce three-dimensionally extremely well – and not only with this recording. The impression of sitting in front of the musician in a concert or in the recording studio is also supported by the headphones responding quickly to the finest details. So you can literally feel the plucking of the guitar strings and the voice is not just sonorous, it also has the distinctive overtones that make it sound harsh and snappy at times. The DT 1990s with this cushion is actually a very analytical headphone, yet he did not dissect the music around, but always plays dynamic, fast-paced but as a unified whole.
After a few hours of analytical listening with a fun factor, we swap the upholstery for the EDT 1990VB – for a balanced sound, whatever that means. We then find out immediately, although the change procedure is not easy, at least as long as one does not have a certain routine.
Alternative ear pads for sound tuning
Even if a short AB comparison is not possible, you quickly notice the difference in the sound characteristics: The DT 1990 now comes with more pressure in the bass and fundamental range (although we hadn’t missed anything so far), In any case, the B-pad takes the sharpness off the tips a bit without rounding them off completely. The sound becomes a bit more pleasing, more relaxed, but without losing any of its speed and impulsiveness.
No question about it, the DT 1990 Pro is a real exceptional talent and tonally one of the most harmonious headphones we have heard so far. His strength lies in taking on the finest musical structures appropriately without the music as a total work of art suffer. On the top, the DT 1990 Pro is available almost at a bargain price, at least in view of the experience that headphones that are twice as expensive do not sound twice as good – let alone are twice as well made.
Now you might think that because of the hard case and the small 3.5 millimeter connector, the DT 1990 Pro is also well suited for on the go. On the one hand, the open design of the capsules speaks against this, on the other hand, the Beyerdynamic with an impedance of 250 ohms is one of the more demanding headphones in terms of the source. On the other hand, it has a considerable degree of efficiency, so that it can at least play on the smartphone, but it remains far behind its possibilities, unless you add an external headphone amplifier to the smartphone. But then the environment also listens. However, that is the only shortcoming, if it is one.
Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro Reviews
Like most high-quality headphones, the DT 1990 Pro is one of the products with longer production cycles, correspondingly many test reports can be found from the listener, here is just a small extract:
In the 4/2017 issue of Rock&Pop magazine , the DT 1990 Pro really got off to a good start; it received 77 out of 100 points, and the rating “highlight”, in addition, the colleagues attested the listener an “outstanding” price-performance ratio:
»With the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro, analytical listening and enjoyment of rich timbres can be packed under a velvet hat. It is actually too good for smartphones, but the professional listener does not have star attitudes even with such occasional jobs. For its price, there is hardly anything comparable in terms of sound and workmanship. “
The expert Bob Ludwig from Planet HiFi in planethifi.com, evaluated it thoroughly and its price-performance ratio was described as “outstanding” (5 out of 5 stars):
»The DT 1990 PRO provides extremely detailed insights into the playback without being annoying or losing sight of the musicality. The most balanced listener of the ‘audiophile middle class’. ” According to Bob Ludwig from PlanetHiFi.com
In the Lime magazine the Beyerdynamic 09/2018 received a 1+ in the top class, with a “very good” price-performance ratio, the colleague paid special attention to the two pairs of ear pads:
“Now I want to know exactly and change the ear pads. The tonal difference quickly becomes clear. If you use the “analytical” version, the sound appears rather clear, abrupt and neutral. This variant probably has an important function in studio work. … -… Everything is good and everything is right. According to my personal taste, the “balanced” ear cushion variant is the better choice for at home. The tuning no longer seems quite as neutral, but there is a slightly increased emphasis on the bass. The entire sound is warmer and more atmospheric. “
In the 1/2017 issue of EarIn, the DT 1990 Pro achieved a grade of 1.3 in the reference class, along with a “very good” price-performance ratio:
»The Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro are headphones that meet the highest audiophile standards and can also be used as a precise tool for mixing and mastering in the studio. The change in the sound character by replacing the ear pads is the icing on the cake of these principally tonal neutral, extremely fine and dynamically precise headphones. “
Alternative Headphones With Detachable Cables
The headphone market is huge – and in addition to the well-known brands, there are always new players on the field. We have therefore selected some really interesting alternatives to our favorites for you, which can come up with very special skills or equipment features as well as special sound characteristics.
Sennheiser HD 800 S: Expensive But Really Good
The HD 800 S is almost outrageously expensive, but it also belongs to the “luxury goods” category.
The Sennheiser HD 800 S is the ultimate high-end headphone, which is why only minor changes were made to it during its production cycle. While the predecessor HD 800 caused quite a sensation, the HD 800 S goes one better, which of course is also reflected in the price.
Just a reminder: For an HD 800 S you get almost three units of our current favorite headphone with detachable cable, so the Sennheiser must have a lot to offer, which halfway justifies the price. However, it also has what it takes to become a prestige object without wanting to neglect its musical qualities.
- In addition to the standard connection cable, there is also one for balanced connection to a dedicated headphone amplifier.
- The Sennheiser HD 800 S is the evolution of the HD 800.
- The HD 800 S is stored in a solid, fabric-lined box, the two cables from the scope of delivery can also be accommodated in it.
- As it should be, the connection cables are plugged in individually, the headphones are much lighter than they look and extremely comfortable with the large ear capsules.
- In addition to the standard connection cable, there is also one for balanced connection to a dedicated headphone amplifier.
- The Sennheiser HD 800 S is the evolution of the HD 800, that is an improved model.
Unlike most of its competitors, even cheaper ones, the HD 800 S neither comes with a transport bag nor a hard case in the usual sense. It is a solid wooden box, lined with soft fabric, that provides adequate accommodation for the HD 800 S.
The Sennheiser is definitely not designed for mobile devices, there is only one large 6.35-millimeter jack plug and the impedance of 300 ohms should bring some smartphone output stages to their knees.
In addition to the connection cable with a 6.35 millimeter jack plug plugged in on both sides, there is also one with a symmetrical plug, which is mainly intended for connection to high-quality amplifiers, an adapter from the large 6.35 millimeter jack to the small 3 .5 for mobile devices is not included.
The large, very comfortable ear capsules, on the other hand, are a delight from an ergonomic point of view, and not just for large ears.
The Sennheiser is built so generously that you never even think of taking it with you on the train when it is folded up somehow – quite apart from the fact that it immediately attracts attention because of its striking exterior.
When you put the receiver on, it is unusually airy around the ears for headphones – and that’s how it sounds. He gives the music the space it needs right away. The HD 800 S manages to pull us into the sound, in other words, actually in the middle of it and not there. It delivers a striking resolution without particularly emphasizing the details, it simply reproduces them.
In terms of tone, the HD 800 S , like our favorite with the balanced cushions, is on the warm side, with a fine basic tone, rich bass without exaggerating and a very finely broken mid-high range without it ever sounding pointed or even annoying. The Sennheiser turns music into a work of art in which some subtleties are only gradually discovered, but always as part of the total work of art.
Neumann NDH 20
Even if it is actually intended as a working device for studio and home recording, it still has some qualities that should also find their friends outside of the professional sector. One of them is certainly the high level of comfort, but the most important thing is probably the sound quality of the Neumann NDH 20 .
Plastic is in short supply on the NDH 20, the receiver is made almost entirely of metal, which also explains the very high weight of almost 400 grams. However, the headband is so well padded and the cushions of the earphones are so large over the ears that the weight is well distributed. The upholstery also provides a very good seal against outside noise, which is particularly important for monitoring. After all, you don’t want to be disturbed while listening to your work. The cushions also provide a touch of individual fit because they are filled with memory foam so that they adapt optimally to the individual head shape and stay that way for some time.
- The cushions are made of memory foam and are super comfortable even for longer listening sessions.
- A coiled and a smooth cable as well as an adapter are included in the scope of delivery as well as a transport bag for everything.
- The connecting cables are plugged in and locked against pulling out.
- The joints of the NDH 20 are completely made of metal, and insiders know the distinctive logo from the proven Neumann microphones.
- The NDH 20 is mainly used in recording studios
Two pluggable cables are included: one is straight and one is coiled. The coiled cable is often used when the distance to the hearing source is to be kept variable within a certain range. So when you move away from the source the cable will give way, when you get closer it will pull back together without hanging around. The NDH 20 fits together with the two cables and an adapter in the supplied transport bag. It’s not intended for traveling, but neither are the headphones.
The vote of the NDH 20 is less superficial than the layman would sometimes assume with the addition of “studio”. The most noticeable feature in the first listening session is the very natural voice reproduction. The Neumann headphones manage to give the voices of Diana Krall or Enya almost something like intimacy. The same applies to the acoustic instruments often used there, such as piano and guitar.
There are no annoying hissing highs – unless they are immortalized on the recording. The saxophone sounds particularly authentic and it is so subtle and sovereign that you almost feel it rather than hear it. Where others like to raise the level to conceal the lack of depth, the bass runs simply roll out of the NDH 20 and into the ear.
In terms of spatial imaging, the NDH 20 has to admit defeat to listeners like the DT 1990 Pro or even the HD 800 S , although the Sennheiser costs almost three times as much and here we analyze, not only the sound, but also the relation between the quality and the price
Anyone who has always wanted to listen to the sound engineer over the shoulder while listening to music, or simply wants to enjoy pure music and in all its facets, is sure to be well served with the NDH 20 . It doesn’t cost the world and because of the processing it is an acquisition for life.
Dan Clark Audio AEON Flow 2
The Aeon Flow 2 can be customized with the filters provided.
On some boxes, next to the Dan Clark Audio company logo, there is also “former MrSpeaker” in brackets, which points to the origins of the chief developer Dan Clark. This has grown from a tuning specialist to a developer and manufacturer – and the Aeon Flow 2 is neither his first baby, nor will it be his last.
However, it is currently the cheapest. Sure, development and production also have their price in the USA. However, the Aeon Flow 2 is worth every dollar, because apart from the fact that it sounds excellent, it is also of high quality and extensively equipped.
Despite its quite massive appearance at first glance, the Aeon Flow 2 is not particularly heavy. The ear-friendly, oval-shaped capsules and their cushions ensure a comfortable fit – and when the adjustable headband is set to the correct head size, nothing stands in the way of longer listening sessions.
Almost nothing – because we cannot deny that the Aeon needs a powerful amplifier to fully develop its sound quality. This can either be a hi-fi device, the headphone output of which can possibly be adapted, or a separate headphone amplifier. The Aeon is therefore hardly suitable for mobile devices.
- The filters can be inserted in next to no time.
- The Aeon Flow 2 is a development by the headphone specialist Dan Clark.
- The connection cable is plugged in on both sides, high-quality special plugs are used here.
- In addition to the connection cable and adapter, the Aeon Flow 2 comes with three sets of filters for sound tuning. Everything fits perfectly in the transport case.
- The filters can be inserted in next to no time.
- The Aeon Flow 2 is a development by the headphone specialist Dan Clark.
The effort is worth it, however, we rarely have the pleasure of headphones playing so casually and naturally. The Aeon plays the entire frequency spectrum with no audible preferences. It delivers a clean reproduction of the mid-high range and thus an almost three-dimensional space.
The Aeon also grabs the low-frequency range courageously, and with a similar ease and sovereignty as we were able to admire with the Neumann. The piano on some of Vangelis´ recordings sounds a bit freer and more airy, with more surroundings than on Neumann’s. The Aeon knows how to convince straight away, and only in direct comparison with other favorites does a certain desire to experiment arise to try out the supplied filters.
The filters can be clearly distinguished and used even more easily. Nevertheless, one should refrain from hastily changing actions, because the individual coordination takes time and leisure. So put in your first filters and listen to music for a long time. Then insert the second and listen to the same pieces again intensively. You can continue this up to the third set of filters to find out the ideal setting for the Aeon Flow 2.
However, you can also tune the headphones according to the music or even according to your own mood, there are almost unimagined possibilities, so that for some, the issue of headphones should be over for the time being with the purchase of the Aeon Flow 2 .
Mackie MC-450: If Price Matters
The MC-450 has an open construction, with its lively, fresh style of play, it conveys a good portion of fun.
Mackie actually makes studio electronics. However, a good studio also needs reliable headphones so that you can check the recording or the mix directly. After the first successful placements in the inexpensive segment, the manufacturer has now managed to catch up with the MC-450 .
Speaking of connections: The Mackie MC-450 can easily be connected to a cell phone due to its low impedance and high sensitivity. The corresponding cable with inline microphone, which is included in the scope of delivery, underlines the mobile ambitions of the headphones. However, you will not have much fun outdoors with the open construction, which is why we see the good piece more in the stationary indoor headphones.
However, those who use their smartphone or other mobile device for recordings will of course find the ideal companion in the Mackie MC-450 , although the closed MC-350 should certainly cut a better figure here.
However, it certainly doesn’t hurt if all options are open in terms of connectivity, especially since the Mackie comes with a spacious hard case in which all cables and adapters – including the headphones themselves, of course – are safely and securely housed.
In addition to the extremely extensive equipment, the Mackie MC-450 can also convince in terms of sound. They quickly turn out to be the lively, dynamic type of headphones and are especially fun with modern music. It reproduces voices aptly, but with strong S-sounds it often does too much of a good thing and sounds accordingly pointed. It does not go down uncompromisingly deep into the bass cellar, but does not try to cover up this deficit with an increased level in the upper bass.
Overall, with the Mackie MC-450 you get a complete all-round carefree package at a really low price. Those who tend to walk on the classic path musically will be better served with the Sennheiser HD 600 . In terms of equipment, there are hardly any alternatives to the Mackie at this price.
Sennheiser HD 600
The Sennheiser HD 600 has been on the market for some time – a sign that the engineers did many things right when developing these open headphones. In fact, the listener sits so comfortably right from the start that you can no longer feel it at all. The velour cushions enclose the ears generously and also distribute the already moderate pressure exerted by the temple over a large area.
The connection cable is plugged in on both sides and, as is customary in the high-end sector, is routed separately to the left and right from the earpiece to the plug. The clear color coding of the plugs to the capsules makes it impossible to mix up the channels.
- The HD 600 is housed in a solid box.
- As is appropriate, the connection cable is plugged in on both sides.
- The old marbled design brings back memories of times long past, the 2019 version is kept simple in black.
- There is only a connection cable with 35mm jack and an adapter to 6.35mm.
- The Sennheiser HD 600 has been on the market for a very long time, and there has been a new design since 2021, fortunately without any impact on the sound.
The HD 600 is delivered in a solid cardboard box, but you won’t find a hard case or a similar transport option for everyday use. The Sennheiser is not intended for mobile devices. This is also ensured by the very high impedance of 300 ohms, where most mobile devices with their limited output are likely to fail miserably – the HD 600 should be connected to the hi-fi system or, if you like, to a separate headphone amplifier.
Here it can really develop: it sounds big and, with its three-dimensional sound reproduction, creates a wide and deep stage. It sounds extremely authentic and you quickly forget that you are even wearing headphones. Despite its relaxed, light style of playing, the tonality of which is somewhat reminiscent of the HD 800 , it also remains committed to dynamism.
Recordings from large classical orchestras in particular can unmask some test subjects. Although many, especially higher-priced headphones succeed in the distortion-free reproduction of very extensive tutti, if you then put the HD 600 on, you often simply hear more fine nuances and more details – and not picked apart with acoustic tweezers, but quite confidently and as if from one pour.
Of course, the HD 600 is also fully suitable for modern music styles. For a listener with an open construction, it reaches astonishingly deep into the bass cellar, so that it does justice to the music in a crisp and precise rather than resilient manner. However, the bass has to be on the source, because nothing is thickened.
The new edition of the HD 600 in 2021 shows with a new design that Sennheiser is also taking the changed taste into account, everything remains sound as it was before. However, the price is quite stable, so that the headphones are no longer our price tip, which in no way disqualifies them as a good investment.
Fostex TH 900 MK II
We received two devices from the Fostex TH 900 MkII to test: the red-lacquered standard model and the version from the Sapphire Blue Edition, one of only 300 copies, to be precise. The blue special model is correspondingly more expensive , currently you have to pay between 200 and 400 euros more. The high-gloss finish is just as impressive as the entire headphones. Only the finest materials are used for the TH 900 MkII: the best cherry wood for the capsules, the finest protein leather for all upholstery and precisely milled aluminum for the forks and joints. Despite the high use of material, the Fostex weighs just over 400 grams less than we initially assumed. The weight is optimally distributed with the finely adjustable, well-padded headband and the thick, soft ear pads, so that the TH 900 MkII does not disturb even after hours of listening.
- The processing of the bow mechanism is beyond any doubt.
- The Fostex TH900 MK2 is available in two versions: painted in red and as a limited special edition painted in blue.
In addition to the processing quality, the equipment is also of the highest level: Although there is no hard case, the Fostex comes with a solid stand on which the piece of jewelery can be presented beautifully when it is not on your ears. So that the fine high-gloss lacquer is not robbed of its shine by nasty grains of dust, a soft leather pouch is included in which the headphones and connection cable completely disappear.
In terms of sound, the spirits differ: to make matters worse, the two brothers are tuned differently: The blue Anniversary Edition of the TH 900 MkII has a more neutral tuning than the red version. Bass and treble are a bit more restrained than in the red standard model. However, this does not detract from the perfectly spatially reproduced sound: With the appropriate recording, the Fostex – whether red or blue – places the musicians acoustically precisely on the imaginary stage.
Unlike its open brother TH 909 , the TH 900 MkII in red shows a little more oomph, delivers more bite in the highs and an audibly more impulsive bass – dry and precise, as it should be.
No question about it, the TH 900 MkII is a real fun device that conveys enormous joy in playing and always remains sound and uncolored in terms of tone. The Fostex is one of the best closed headphones – the red one, mind you, because the blue one is sold out and is not that much fun because of its more neutral coordination.
The manufacturer SendyAudio is still quite unknown here – wrongly, after all , the Aiva is not a headphone like any other. Instead of dynamic drivers, magnetostatic drivers are used here: This is technically more complex, but if it is implemented well it is a special kind of sound experience.
- A connection cable, two adapters and all connection problems have been solved, the playful engravings are also a matter of taste, as is the cable with a transparent cover, and are also of the highest quality.
- The Aiva from SandyAudio is still quite new on the market, one of the best affordable headphones with a magnetostatic converter.
- The scope of delivery also includes a hard case, the connection cable to plug in, is then housed in the cloth bag.
- The design takes some getting used to it.
- The ear capsules are made of solid wood.
The fact that the connection cable is coiled may make electrical sense, but the thin, transparent insulation does not. Nevertheless, with one cable and two adapters, you have all connection situations fully under control: The starting point is the mounted symmetrical Pentaconn plug, to which a small 3.5 millimeter jack can be plugged with an adapter cable, which in turn can be connected to the 6, 35 millimeter connector is expanded.
With a weight of almost 450 grams (one pound), the Aiva is certainly not one of the lightweights, which is certainly not entirely due to the high proportion of metal in the frame construction. All in all, the headphone is of high manufacturing quality and on top of that it is sustainable, because even the adjustable headband can be easily replaced if necessary after loosening two screws. Despite its weight, it sits comfortably on the head and ears, which are generously enclosed thanks to the soft, large cushions.
Then there is the airy, light sound experience familiar from thin, large-area membranes, with a pleasant fundamental range and finely resolved mids. Right at the bottom in the bass cellar he takes a step back, the same thing happens at the other end of the frequency band, even if this is only noticeable in direct comparison with the correspondingly coordinated competition.
The Aiva pampers you with a harmonious, spacious stage image . With the appropriate recording, the musicians are neatly placed in the depth and width of the acoustically represented space. The Aiva is currently one of the cheapest ways to enjoy the fine sound that a high-end headphone can reproduce.
The Fostex TH 909 is, so to speak, the open version of the TH 900 MkII , also the edition with blue lacquered capsules made of cherry wood. In this case, there is no difference in sound to the standard version painted in red. If you like the look of the blue special edition better, it’s time to grab it – it is limited to 300 pieces. The Fostex TH 909 also conveys an enormous spatial representation of what is happening in music, and in this respect is on par with the also openly constructed HD 800 S from Sennheiser. In terms of tone, it is very similar to the closed blue one and therefore somewhat more reserved in the bass than, for example, the Sennheiser.
The mid-high range is a bit more present in the TH 909, but without sounding sharp or even annoying in the uppermost registers. In any case, the Fostex TH 909 is also worth a listen, which is recommended anyway if you want to spend so much money on headphones.
Hifiman can already refer to a lot of experience with the production of headphones that work with magnetostatic transducers. The Ananda is priced above the entry-level Sundara and, together with this, significantly below the manufacturer’s premier class. In terms of sound, it is above the other two headphones from our test, which work on the same transducer principle, namely the Quad Era-1 and the Aiva from SendyAudio, both in terms of tonality and the spatial representation of the musical events. Nevertheless, the Ananda has to admit clear minus points compared to the named competitors: Both are slightly better equipped, but what weighs heavier is that both of the cheaper competitors are much better processed.
However, if you only value the airy, spherical sound of a magnetostatic device and can live with the somewhat lax workmanship, the Ananda comes very close to the ideal.
The Quad Era-1 is the third in the group to work with magnetostatic converters. For this and in view of the excellent workmanship, it is astonishingly inexpensive. In terms of equipment, too, there is no slouch: in addition to the hard case and two connection cables, the overall package also includes two pairs of ear pads, which, like our favorite, enable fine sound tuning.
The Era-1 also delivers a striking spatial representation of the music, it plays very openly and airily, especially in the mid-high range, delivers a somewhat warmer sound overall than the Ananda , for example , but still does not lack the necessary glitter in the top registers. With the smooth, perforated upholstery, the mids are a little more damped compared to the mixed upholstery made of suede and synthetic leather, giving the listener a slight loudness character. The cushions can be easily repositioned.
Unfortunately, the headband is way too big, at least for us. For a perfect fit over the ears, we have to lift the headphones slightly. This is annoying, especially since there are many people whose heads are even smaller, or the head shape is unfortunately out of the question for the Quad Era-1. If the Quad Era-1 suits you (be sure to try it out beforehand), you get headphones with fine sound adjustment and excellent workmanship.
AKG K712 Pro
The AKG K712 Pro is a clone of the K702 that has been around for a long time and is still available. You also have to like the 712 Pro, or rather its tuning. In a direct comparison with most of the other models from the test, one misses the low frequency range, which does not mean that the 712 Pro does not transmit bass, it just exercises a lot of restraint here.
Voices, whether from male or female performers, benefit from this concentration on the mid-high range, and the spatial reproduction of the sound stage is also extremely accurate for the AKG. Because of its low weight, which is also very well distributed when worn, it sits very comfortably over the ears and invites you to long-term listening – as long as you can do without the punch in the bass.
Ultrasone PRO 1480i
The Ultrasone PRO 1480i is the first affordable headphone in an open design from a German manufacturer. In terms of sound, his focus is less on styles that are mixed with plenty of bass, his specialty is classical and especially vocal music. Here he is in top form.
Likewise, you should listen to the PRO 580i from the same series, which we could also be testing in detail soon.
The Shure SRH1440 works on the open principle and is one of the most powerful open headphones in this price range. Due to the design, it does not descend that deep into the bass cellar, but it is extremely precise and provides an impressive spatial image.
The equipment includes a set of replacement pads and a plug-in replacement cable. The SRH1440 is rather bright, with a very fine mid-high resolution. It also provides an astonishingly wide stage and lets the music literally breathe. Due to its open design, it is not suitable for deep bass fetishists: The bass is reproduced in a rich and contoured manner, but does not go as deep as with its closed colleagues.
The Shure is definitely more than suitable for cultivated music enjoyment at a slim price.
Sennheiser HD 660 S
Sennheiser HD 660 S : A bit dull at first, even compared to the HD 600, which plays much more freely. The HD 660 plays more muted in the treble than the 800 S, which can no longer be disputed with stress-free high-frequency reproduction. That changes a bit when you increase the level, it seems to be quite demanding in terms of impedance / sensitivity. Overall, we would prefer the HD 600 here, especially since it is also available in an at least externally revised 2021 version, if you don’t like the marbled design.
Fostex T50RP MK3
The half-open system of the Fostex T50RP MK3 has a very balanced sound. Unfortunately, if there is no good player, the headphones sound too quiet.
The smartphone is therefore not the ideal solution for the Fostex, which is why we cannot recommend it. If you don’t care, you get a lot on your ears for the unbeatable price of 150 dollars .
Philips Fidelio X2
The Philips Fidelio X2 is also an open listener, but in terms of deciding which one is better it does not resemble the AKG at all and it is better.
It rather covers the lower frequency ranges and delivers a stronger bass.
The warranty with Philips is always better, so we have decided that Philips should qualify inside our list.
I did not like the bass reproduction in this device
The AKG K702 is open and invites people sitting next to you on the train to listen in. In terms of sound, especially classical pieces are reproduced very well. The reproduction is neutral and harmonious. In terms of bass reproduction, however, it does not come close to our favorites.
Our audience is interested in high-end devices, such as headphones with detachable cables, because you would not be losing sound quality with them.
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I am Chris, a musician. I work as an audio engineer in mastering and arranging bridges in existing songs and the arrangement and orchestration of chorus. In Firing Squad I test gear provided by local distributors during a couple of days and write a review. I also write about AV topics, amplifiers, speakers and headphones.