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AKG K550

Some headphones immediately state what they are for, and the AKG K550 will leave no doubt: their place is in your home. This model is the older sister of AKG K540.

By all accounts, the K550 is very large: large cups equipped with 50mm drivers, a wide bow, a long and thick cable. But, despite the external resemblance to the protective earmuffs of road workers, they are lightweight and comfortable even with long listening (although they warm their ears a little more than others).

Durable and pleasant to the touch, they are definitely worth the money. Closed-back head monitors are designed to isolate the wearer from outside noise while preventing sound from leaking out (and making it impossible for the world to appreciate your great musical taste).

AKGs do both functions well; but what impressed me the most was how unlike conventional closed-back headphones they sound. Song by Etta James I'd Rather Go Blindin FLAC format, when played through the award-winning Furutech ADL GT40 headphone amplifier, you will enjoy a strikingly open and spacious sound.

The sound stage is spacious and voluminous, and not squeezed into the ears, as is often the case; it is perfectly worked out, each melodic line is clearly distinguishable, and at the same time they are combined into a harmonious and harmonious whole. The vocals (on which in this case the whole composition rests) sounds open and full, it is full of details - and AKG does not lose any of them.

The tonal presentation is superbly balanced; The K550 is distinguished by its communicativeness, natural transmission of tempo rhythms and energetic reproduction of the fronts of bass notes.

The line between neutrality and impassivity is quite thin, but AKG skillfully balances it; and although they obviously like the juicy analog sound of Etta James's songs, they have enough energy and drive to adequately convey the hypnotic rhythms of SeventeenLadytron. They are especially good at emphasizing the finest details at the edges of the soundstage, giving the sound an extraordinary authenticity.

If you have the courage to leave the house with the K550, you will find that the sound does not change at all when you move, and the cable does not transmit noise; but for all the convenience of the fit, the AKG does not cling to the owner's head as stubbornly as some other models. However, in a home environment, they are hardly comparable to any other pair of closed headphones.

Advantages: powerful design; comfortable; open, detailed and natural sound.

Disadvantages: dimensions; the appearance does not quite match the price.

Audio-Technica ATH-ES88

ATH-ES88 - not some headphones there; according to the manufacturer, it is "earsuit" - "suit for the ears." If you want to keep your ears dressed in the latest fashion, dress them up with the ATH-ES88 set.

Slightly less inventive than the costume idea, but no less fun is the way the ATH-ES88 is attached to the wearer's head. All other viewing models use an adjustable bow that allows you to set the cups in the desired position. The Audio-Technica model has a fixed bow, but the cups themselves rotate to the desired position; I have tested the ATH-ES88 both stationary and on the move; These lightweight and comfortable earbuds stayed in place forever - however, you need time to get used to them and make sure they don't fall off your head.

Like any on-ear headphones, they are quite good for listening outside the home, although the lack of a built-in microphone and remote control somewhat reduces convenience. I don't really like it when the cable is connected to both cups; but at least it is flat and does not transmit noise when touched.

By connecting a right-angled 3.5mm jack to the iPhone 4S, select the file with the song OverpoweredRoshin Murphy in Apple Lossless format.ES88s create a warm and weighty sound that cannot be called standard dynamic or completely controllable, but it has an enviable balance between attack and poise. Lows exhibit density and tonal variability, but they lack a little precision in the attack and release of each note, which sometimes makes them seem monotonous.

However, the ES88 sounds uneven: the abundance of bass can turn into a disadvantage for those who prefer to listen to house or hip-hop, where bass dominates the tonal palette.

However, the middle range is distinguished by the detail and accuracy of the boundaries of individual notes, while the high frequencies can be called rather cautious: they cannot boast of significant pungency, but they maintain balance and composure at high volume.

When playing music with other accents (for example, The Same Old Rock by Roy Harper), the characteristic midrange reproduction comes to the fore. Audio-Technica headphones delight in musicality and masterful of timbres and tonalities.

They're not perfect enough to claim top marks, but the ATH-ES88's unusual design and pleasant sound will have a lot of fans, and you should definitely listen to them.

Advantages: unusual design; ultra-lightweight construction; talented and expressive midrange.

Disadvantages: the bass is sometimes too viscous; not the strongest dynamic.

B&W P5

Those who claim that habit kills the senses clearly never wore a pair of P5s over their heads. I met them almost two years ago, and during that time their charm has not faded. None of the other reviewers come close to B&W for quality materials, design and charm.

The P5 is no less good in business: comfortable and light, they sit tightly and securely on the head (to a certain extent; you shouldn't run in them anyway), and a thin and tangle-free cable attached to one cup is equipped with a remote control and a microphone. The tight fit provides good sound insulation, and the closed structure prevents sound from leaking out, for which fellow travelers will be grateful to you.

Over the past two years, quite a few headphone models have appeared and disappeared, but B&W's position has not changed at all. Their strengths are fully evident in the song Smog Dress Sexy at My Funeral: well-coordinated, well-designed soundstage and plenty of free space for each individual element. It is impossible to deny either the excessive straightforwardness of the HF, or some arrogance of the LF; however, the craftsmanship, refinement and freshness of B&W's sound make these imperfections less noticeable. The P5's somewhat assertive bass reproduction contrasts slightly with their density and speed.

Their middle range is also very good - its detail is so high that you will hear every breath, every explosive and gentle sound in the vocalist's voice. Thanks to this detail, even familiar recordings will sound new to you.

However, beware of pushing them out of their comfort zone - they can rebel. Despite all the skill in soundstage construction and the splendor of integration, from Sir Malcolm Sargent's version of Holst's Jupiter Bringing Joyin the company of a symphony orchestra and a BBC choir, B&W would have hair on end if they had it. The horns sound too bright, the abundance of percussion sometimes hurts the ear. A full-scale orchestra brings out a slightly more compact soundstage than its competitors - but each instrument is placed exactly in the right place.

In general, a close acquaintance with B&W P5 did not change my idea of ​​them at all. There are more sophisticated sounding headphones at this price point, but you are unlikely to dare to go public in them - not to mention the fact that none of these models give rise to such a sense of pride in owning one.

Pluses: very nice; fast and lively sound; voice transmission is especially good.

Disadvantages: HF are susceptible to provocations; not the widest soundstage.

Beyerdynamic T50p

Along with most competitors sporting a hefty size. T50p seems to be quite skinny.Meanwhile, there is no doubt that the quality of the construction and the materials used are impeccable.

These headphones are very comfortable to wear, lightweight and soundproof, and the head-mounted design also protects against external noise. They are good for outdoor listening, although not particularly plodding; the absence of a remote control or microphone built into the cable, as well as the connection of wires to both cups, also do not add to their convenience.

However, this is where the claims end, since the T50p sounds almost flawless. Sharon Jones song & The Dap-Kings What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes?in FLAC format demonstrates excellent balance. Separation and integration of individual instruments is close to ideal, full-length funk sounds cheerful and harmonious, and each part is clearly distinguishable. Low frequencies delight with their fullness and density, moreover, with all their energy, they are completely controlled; The treble has the necessary sharpness and shines with delight, without showing the slightest hint of harshness, even at high volumes. Equally admirable are the T50p's ruthless drive, the ease of conveying the powerful drops in dynamics and the enthusiasm heard in every note.

In the composition of Kate Bush Among Angelsthe mastery and expressiveness of the T50p mid-range come to the fore. Every nuance of the voice is conveyed flawlessly, every variation in the velocity of the keys on the piano is painstakingly reproduced; and the song, which in not so high-quality headphones can seem like a meaningless jumble of sounds, with Beyerdynamic takes on structure and form. They convey an incredible amount of detail and deftly handle the most complex tempos and rhythms.

Whatever you listen to - music of any style, recordings of the spoken genre - and from whatever device you play them, the T50p will be able to get the best out of them. In addition, they are excellent at making it clear the difference between files of different quality; however, recordings with a bit rate of 128 kbps sound quite good on them. They are really good in every way.

Pluses: incredibly smooth, energetic and expressive sound; elegant design.

Disadvantages: appearance is not quite adequate for the price class; no remote control and microphone.

Nixon RPM

If a firm is known as a fashion accessories manufacturer, its attempts to prove itself in the field of electronics may be perceived as frivolous. But while Nixon has a lot to say about wristwatches or sunglasses, RPM headphones are not a byproduct.

The chunky and determined RPMs in all black attire make an impression. These are not the lightest and most compact headphones in the test, but they are very comfortable to wear. We especially love the gel-filled ear pads, and the sound gives you the confidence to have great damping. RPMs will not disappoint professionals either: in addition to a straight 1.3-meter cable equipped with a microphone and remote control, a 2-meter coiled connector is included; they both end in weighty 3.5mm jacks.

Nixon is open about their penchant for having fun, but in a very mature, balanced and completely controlled manner. Best Dance Music: LighthouseRoots in FLAC delights with fast and plentiful lows (even though the bass character can be called a little sluggish, moreover, they lack density). The mid-range demonstrates drive and punch, which is great for machine-gun-fired rap speeches. High frequencies tend to be more cautious because of the rolloff at the very edge of the range, but there are much weaker models in this regard.

The soundstage of the Nixon headphones is spacious enough; dense and complex recordings (e.g. Open SesameKool & The Gang) demonstrate the exact location of all elements and an enviable volume. Individual instrument batches are easily traceable, with RPMs linking all the components into a coherent, compelling whole.However, this song brings out RPM's rather cautious approach to dynamics; they cannot or do not want to emphasize the difference between very quiet and very loud parts inherent in the song.

Nixon headphones are very good for the outdoors, unless you're afraid to look like a cyber-man. They have a very secure fit and stable sound, besides, excellent noise isolation in both directions. Over time, however, you will begin to feel the weight of each of their 347 grams.

Despite all the decisiveness, RPMs do not suffer from demonstrativeness; nevertheless, they serve as proof that even companies far from the manufacture of electronic equipment can create unusual, but quite competitive headphones.

Advantages: uncompromising appearance; firm fit; soundproofing; balanced and at times delightful sound.

Disadvantages: Not very exciting; small headroom for dynamics.

Phiaton MS300

It is one of the most compact viewing models and, thanks to its carbon fiber cups, one of the lightest. The earbuds are very comfortable even when worn for long periods of time and stay well on the head, making them a great option for use outside the home. The thin cable does not transmit noise, and the closed design perfectly isolates the listener from the external environment and prevents sound from leaking out from the headphones. Less convenient is the absence of a remote control and a microphone; as for the unusual bright red finish, you have to form your own opinion about it.

Connecting MS300 to iPod Touch and selecting Tony Bennett's song Who Can I Turn To(When Nobody Needs Me)?in the Apple Lossless format, I appreciated the MS300's natural, albeit not too large-scale voice. The detailed and well-defined midrange is brought to the fore, which is great for this song. Grandiose strings delight with excellent balance and sharpness that does not allow them to slip into sweetness; Treble exhibits decisive attack and does not suffer from brightness or harshness. Bass - deep and structured with decent tonal variability integration and separation are equally good.

More Unassuming You're Pretty Good Looking (For a Girl)White Stripes once again underlines the advantages of the MS300, but is much more outspoken about their shortcomings. They don't have the most open and spacious sound, which is much more audible in a rock composition with guitar, drums and vocals than in Bennett's luxurious orchestral arrangements. When playing energetic and decisive music, they are somewhat "brought in"; this flaw becomes even more noticeable with increasing volume: drive and attack become even more belligerent, sometimes reaching the point of loudness. In addition, raising the volume further brings the midrange forward (the favorite frequencies of these headphones) - even in those compositions where it is completely out of place.

Still, I don't think the MS300 is a failure at all; If you have the guts to wear a pair of bright red earbuds and are not fond of constantly listening to music at the highest volume, the compact, lightweight and comfortable Phiaton will be your reliable companion - both at home and on the street.

Advantages: very light and cozy; perky, enthusiastic and honest sound.

Disadvantages: the middle range is too far forward; do not like high volume.

Sennheiser HD 598

Sennheiser goes beyond the Phiaton MS300 with its bright red finish. The risky combination of beige leather and polished wood details evokes fondue sets, Austin Princess luxury cars and a three-day work week. Ridiculousness or retro-chic - decide for yourself.

Suppose you like their looks; what else to say about HD598? Sennheiser are designed for a stationary listening position. This is hinted at by a heavy 3m cable with a 6.3mm jack. Another confirmation is the open design, which lets sound out. But once you put on the HD598, you find they are quite comfortable: they have an incredibly snug fit, a tight fit that does not squeeze your head, and velor cup cushions that do not cause overheating.

Given the strong visual impression these headphones make, we found it natural to offer them mid-seventies music; Steely Dan's chic uncompressed album showcases the HD598's hefty swing. Excellent separation and high detail will captivate you even at medium volume. The basses are voluminous and textured, with the well-developed boundaries of each note, and the treble sparkles at full power. The midrange gives vocalists plenty of room to breathe; the integration and sound organization of the HD598 is very convincing.

However, the much more demanding symphonies of Beethoven performed by the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester under the direction of Riccardo Chailly lead to the conclusion that Sennheiser can be called "paper tigers". These symphonies are striking in scope, intensity and drama, but the HD598 simply doesn't have the dynamic power needed to convey them adequately. Despite all their sophistication, meticulousness and lightness, they lack attack for this kind of music. Too high sophistication is just as destructive as too low; Sennheisers are either too polite or too indifferent to roll up their sleeves and get down to business.

At the risk of sounding too frivolous, I could say that the HD598's sound is as colorless as its finish. In itself, this is not so bad (beige is neutral, soothing and non-staining), but this approach is not very suitable for music. Unless you value good manners above all else, this model is not for you.

Advantages: extremely comfortable; robust construction; detailed and superbly integrated sound.

Disadvantages: too boring - you can't say otherwise.

Ultrasone HFI-780

With the creation of the HFI-780, Ultrasone seems to strive to please one and all. Along with the models of more famous and specialized electronics manufacturers, they stand out for their deliberately pretentious design; in comparison with stylish models, they look sedate and traditional. Nonetheless, these are sturdy headphones with quality finishes, large ear cups (thankfully, they don't sweat in your ears) and a comfortable headband. The 1.3 meter cable can be extended by four more; it ends with a 3.5mm jack.

For headsets, the HFI-780 isn't big enough to be scary to go outside; in addition, they are firmly held on the head, almost do not transmit sound outside, and the uniform fit of the cups provides good sound insulation.

Like everyone else in the review, the HFI-780 sounds best with decent quality recordings. Simon & Garfunkel's song The Only Living Boy In New Yorkin FLAC format, it is performed cheerfully and frankly without loss of quality. Their stereo image is rather limited, although the separation of instruments is quite decent, as well as the integration of individual parts and other elements of the recording. The low frequencies are quite abundant, moreover, energetic and dense, with an accurate study of the front and attenuation of each note; however, they somewhat “prop up” the lower part of the mid-range. This is a shame, because otherwise it is quite good: detailed, informative, giving the voices a special expressiveness. HFs differ in some rigidity, and at high volume they begin to lisp a little.

The song is even more energetic - Hong Kong Book of Kung FuCornershop - more to Ultrasone's liking; they willingly give themselves up to this music, conveying all its nuances and never for a moment losing control. The HFI-780 exhibits enviable agility and prowess in handling spikes and fine detail; nothing escapes their attention. Less intense, quieter music sounds a little more assertive in their performance than it should, but in general, Ultrasone's performance captures and delights the listener.

As the composition of the test participants shows, there are many headphones of this type on the market today in a similar price category. But if you prefer enthusiasm and detail, don't mind a chamber soundstage, and don't go on a diet full of singer-with-guitar recordings, the HFI-780 is definitely worth checking out.

Advantages: strong and comfortable; detailed sound filled with enthusiasm.

Disadvantages: both LF and HF are easily provoked.


The choice of headphones is very personal.Would you prefer the ones that your friends won't laugh at, or would you go for something more subdued but with a wonderful sound? Sometimes these two qualities coincide in one model; it seems to me that the businesslike looks and amazing sound of the AKG K550 deserve the first place.

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