NOTE: My apologies the sound is crap, I know, sorry about that.

I was lucky enough to be joined by John of Urban Chain Studios as we tested the following selection of closed back circumaural studio headphones:

Sony 7509 HD
Beyerdynamic DT100
Audio Technica ATH-M50
AKG K271 MKII
SHURE SRH840

The champion wasn’t the most expensive and it did take us by surprise.

(Warning this episode is a long one so be prepared for 30mins of headphone natter)

  • Adrian

    Normally love your videos but the audio in this one was just to harsh.

  • RupertBrown

    I know, your totally right Adrian, sorry about that. Was trying a new shotgun mic in the worlds worst room (not a good combo). Will avoid this in the future.

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  • Adrian

    Looking forward to the next video!

  • Ady

    great shoot out!
    which headphones do you use..?

  • RupertBrown

    As a result of this exercise I brought the SHURE SRH840 and I love them. And no they didn't sponsor or give me a pair! (sadly)

  • Ady

    I wonder if John did too..
    They should've at least sent you a t-shirt – guess that's two they owe you now…
    8)

  • RupertBrown

    I dont think John will be hanging up his Sonys any time soon.
    Actually I have to give credit where its due they did send me t-shirts!

  • Leo

    I'm a beginner home recording enthusiast and bought the ATH-M50s a year back. I love the sound and love listening to music on them. Until I watched the video and saw you pointing out the problem with overestimating bass on them I never had exactly realized why my mixes seem to lack something in the bass department on other peoples' speakers :)

    Thanks for that. I like your other reviews as well, great job!

  • RupertBrown

    Translation (your mix on other systems) can be tough and a little disheartening when it sounded so good at home! Getting a mix right on headphones (instead of monitors) is even harder again.

    You really need to learn those headphones so take time out to listen to tracks with your favorite bass lines. Really try to lock into how loud the bass is, not easy as a beginner but keep at it and you will learn to compensate for the extra bass the M50s are adding.

    Hope this helps and thanks for watching Leo.

  • Mars @ XSSR Music

    cheers for your podcast
    very interesting
    full support from russian studio gigants=)

  • Mattstonevideo

    Hello guys,

    I just want to thank you for taking the time to put this video together. I loved it! Great info, and your accents are pleasing to my American ears.

    I was going to make a comment about the poor audio quality, but I saw that someone else commented about the echoey/poor audio quality, and that you commented back acknowledging the problem. Just wanted to say thanks for addressing the issue.

    Thanks again,
    Matt

  • RupertBrown

    Thanks Matt, sorry again for the audio!

  • Tomiboy666

    Yeah, a review of studio headphones by guys who recorded this in a room with no acoustic treatment……. Should I trust them? Probably not, use your own ears people

  • TechHed

    from watching this u guys clearly have no clue as to what these headphones are made for, the AKG K271 MKII are studio monitoring headphones and have a very high quality response. what you were saying about isolation aswell as the high freq is completly wrong, these give a very accurate true sound, and if anything the lows are not as bassy as some would like, but again the basses are tight and clear as they are studio monitoring headphones. if your going to do a review on studio headphones you should do a studio test not rate them on how cool you think they are which is the case with this review.

  • Anonymous

    Im glad you like your AKG’s they are a very nice headphone, I liked them and didnt think we were that harsh on them? As for our opinion on how they sound being “wrong” that isnt really possible. This is clearly an opinion review, we are just sharing what we heard. Just becuase you hear something different doesnt mean either of us is wrong this is just the nature of opinion.

    Aesthetics or “how cool you think they are” was only one of six areas we judged them on. Its nice to think sound quailty is the thing that matters but the truth is some people do care about what gear looks like, especially if they are going to wear it on their head!
    The reason we took so much time to give the score for each area for each headphone was so if you dont care about aesthetics you can see our opinion on just the sound etc.

  • Anonymous

    If you mean recording the results video in an untreated room the ironic thing was we where doing this next to a studio with nice treated rooms we where going to use but saddly they ended up full of paying clients.
    I have appoliged for the crappy sound both in the video and in the comments already but please keep in mind we are making these videos for FREE so we can invest huge amounts of time or money on them. I thought the information is more important then throwing away all this work becuase the audio is ass.

    If you mean testing the headphones in an untreated room then I have to disagree, one of the great advantages of using closed backhead phones is it takes the accoustics of your room out of the equation. Maybe you could make this argument if they where open back but all test models where closed back cans.

    That being said I do agree with your last comment “use your own ears people”. This is only out opinion and your results may vary.

  • Johncalafati

    hey there TechHed

    One of the main reasons that a mix/audio engineers would go for a pair of headphones over listening to speakers would primarily be to remove the response/sound of the room from the mix. This is a main concern with engineers working out of the studio in adverse conditions, like the field or even worst an aeroplane. For this reason the test was truly valid in terms of sound isolation and control environment. Also 99% of the reference work in a recording studio will be conducted through the control room monitors (apart from the cue mix). To conduct this headphone test in a studio would be extremely unrealistic !
    I my opinion your headphones should represent the environment of a control room, isolated from outside disturbances.
    The AKG’s are high quality headphones do not get me wrong, the units we had to test were all very good. Due to this the test looked at very fine details, and you have to consider that this as with many tests of this sort the results are perceptual.
    Additionally we did a shoot out of all of the headphones in the same conditions with the same music, and took an opinion from two people. Your judgement of the AKG’s is probably based on the fact that you use them personally. If you judge these against others then your yard stick may change, as did with mine. I love sony headphones and personally own all the sony’s in the test. As you can see my opinion was swayed by the end. This dose not mean that the shure’s were the best just that they performed well within a controlled test.

    John Calafati

  • Johncalafati

    Hey there Tomiboy

    You would normally use you headphones out of an acoustically treated environment. if you were in a control room then you would rely on your monitors. We tested these headphones in a echoey, noisy, environment to realistically look at the external sound isolation. this made the test very valid as it represents the way in which most engineers use them.

    my advice .

    always use your own ears !
    trust no one !

    John Calafati

  • Slicknote

    holy what a bunch of fuckin haters !!!!!!!!!11

  • Slicknote

    great review guys!!!!!!!!!!!

  • ray juodas

    Thanks for the review, guys. I personally cannot quite understand how it is possible that Shure SRH840 gets so much praise, as its frequency balance is very weird. The 500-300 hz seems scooped, the upper mids (3-5 khz) are too forward, compared to the highs and lows. It appears to sound “clean” because of this, and because of this the ATH-M50 appears to sound muddy, when directly compared to it, but it is NOT in reality (when you compare it to studio monitors). I wish you did the same thing I did when I bought lots of closed headphones and did a thorough  comparison – that is – compare them to things that sound neutral and proper – I mean studio monitors. I would understand if you said that this headphone is good for picking up click and pops or something like that (because of the exaggerated mids on it), otherwise I don’t agree with you completely :) I hope it doesn’t sound too harsh, but I’m really puzzled here…

  • Anonymous

    Hey Ray, I guess it pays to keep in mind that these sort of reviews are completely opinion based. So it doesn’t surprise me that you like a different type of headphone the same way people like all different types of studio monitor. 
    I have to disagree with the comparison to a studio monitor though, we did discuss this option but concluded its a very different system (Sealed to your ear, extremely close to ear, acoustics aren’t a factor). Because of the proximity detail like small reverb tails in cans will be clearly audible but then lost in a real room with monitors. So I dont think its a fair comparison.I really liked the ATH-M50 going into the test I thought they would be the winner but the bass is too exaggerated for me to feel comfortable recommending them as a studio headphone, even though it does make them very enjoyable.I guess the real take home from this is we all perceve sound slightly differently and headphone / monitors can be such a personal item that it really is best to try for yourself before purchase. Thanks for the feedback its always interesting to get another perspective.

  • ray juodas

    Hey Rupert, thank you for
    your reply. I view myself as a objectivist (meaning that I am a strong believer
    (for lack of a better word) in blind or double blind tests when it comes to
    reviewing audio equipment (and that is why particularly your cable shootout sparked
    my reaction – do you guys really think you can hear differences in those
    cables? After 11 generations of recording the actual audio wave change is so miniscule
    that I have no doubts that it would be impossible to hear in a controlled blind
    test (I’m not even talking about the actual first generation difference!), and yet, judging from your review it seems that some of you are sure that you
    can hear it, which, in my view, is pure speculation. Sorry for this deviation
    from the headphone subject :)

    Going back to the
    headphones, I can agree that ATH-M50 may have too much bass for some, although
    I don’t think it distracts from other frequencies or overshadows them (to my
    ears they are very nicely balanced, unlike Beyerdynamic DT150, for example), so
    it should be purely a thing of preference, and I agree with this point completely,
    except that I don’t view SRH840 as a fair contender at all because of it’s
    weird frequency response: its sucked out 300-500 hz range (which gives a perception of a “clean”
    sound, a modified disco curve, if you will), and over-emphasized mids, which
    makes it sound far from flat and gives a wrong impression of a mix, frequency wise.
    My personal view is this: I think you’ve made a mistake comparing headphones
    side by side, because in these circumstances it’s easy to lose track of the
    objective sound, that is, the frequency balance of it. After SRH840 the ATH-M50
    will sound bassy and muddy, as I already mentioned, but it does not mean it
    really is, and I would urge you to try and compare them both to your studio
    monitors and see for yourself which ones sound more natural and balanced (again,
    frequency wise). As for losing the details on the monitors, compared to
    headphones, in my experience it’s not completely true, as in some instances I
    lose some details in headphones (i.e. breaths), compared to monitors, while to
    keep track of unwanted clicks the headphone fits the purpose better.

    Anyway, these are my observations, I wish you
    the very best!

  • Anonymous

    Going into the cable test I thought there would be no difference between cables and by the way it was tested blind. For me reality trumps theory. All the files are there for you to download, please listen and look for yourself before making a judgement.
    That was recorded over a year ago now but Im pretty sure we said the differences where so subtle it wasn’t worth paying out for. 
    As for the question if there is any difference between cables… there is.
    Even after one pass they dont null and there are clearly visible differences in the wave forms, test the same cable again, get the same wave form. Different cable different wave form. I dont see how you can dispute this evidence?
    Weather you think we can hear it or are making it up doesn’t really effect the bottom line: Cables change the sound (a very tiny bit). But the changes are so subtle they aren’t worth worrying about and shouldn’t factor into purchasing decisions unless you have bottomless pockets or are doing very long runs.

    As for using monitors as a reference you are now basing your decisions on the colour of the monitors and the influence of the acoustics in the room. The Urban Chain control room is a nice profesional mixing grade room but even so its not a mastering room. So we cant say it is completely balanced. Its even possible some of the phones could be more flat as its a much much easier environment to control then a full control room. You yourself say there are differences in the detail between the two systems (monitors / headphones) even if they are in inverse of my experience it still shows they indeed different. Hence no for apples for apples comparison can be drawn.

    While I dont feel its the case it is of course possible that we both got sucked in by a ‘sweet’ response curve. That being said there was some detail in the AT’s that I just didnt hear and a slight 2D feeling to the sound. Dont get me wrong I really like the AT’s and I think most would be happy with them but on that night (early morning) with those test tracks to those two humans the Shures sounded better. Once again it is an opinion thing so dont be surprised that our experience was different then yours. But I tell you what, next time a pair of AT’s walk in here I will have a listen again for you.

  • ray juodas

    Cheers, Rupert, thanks for your honest replies. Actually, I didn’t mean the detail resolution of the headphones vs monitors, when I suggested comparing the two, as I’m quite sure every little nuance will be heard equally well in all the headphones tested, except maybe SRH840 will not have a clear definition of “muddy” range (500 hz), since its FR won’t allow it to be heard as it should, IMO, and also the MHF details might be too pronounced. I meant the frequency character and balance of headphones, the general sound signature, if you will, and how it compares to your monitors. You’re right about the room influence, but is it really so important for such comparison? It will not change the monitor sound signature (color) drastically, will it? You’ll get dips here and there, you’ll get echoey (or “roomier”) sound, but you’ll still be able to hear the most obvious differences.  
    Anyway, I’m getting carried away again. Thanks again and all the best, Ray 

  • Anonymous

    I think the room makes a bigger difference then people think. I have listened to a pair speakers in one room and placing them in another room changed the sound dramatically. To the point where they sounded like different speakers. But yes I get your point. I do appreciate you chiming in as I like to be challenged. I try hard to ensure all testing and reviews are as fair and honest as possible, comments like yours help to refine our processes to ensure this is the case. Particularly in opinion type reviews like this it always good to get more points of views. 
    Thanks for the input.

  • Zombone88h

    This would be a lot more tolerable if there wasn’t a nature spring reverb in that room…hard and extremely annoying to listen to.