I may have one of the oddest preference for headphones. Sennheiser HD800 and Stax Omega 2 on some days, and a bass monster Pro700 Mk2 on others. But seriously, I am having such a great time listening to the Pro700 Mk2 that it earns my strong recommendation mark if you happen to be into deep, hard-hitting bass. The reality is that different headphones are built for different types of music, and in this case the Pro700 Mk2 simply delivers when it comes to bass heavy electronic music (I know a lot of you are listening to these).
The bass on the Pro700 Mk2 will put most other basshead headphones to shame. The Beats, the Denons, or what ever other bass heavy headphone you can think of — I’ll gladly put the Pro700 Mk2 for a challenge. And despite the condescending tone audiophiles tend to have over basshead headphones, the recent success of the JH16Pro and the Audez’e LCD-2 tells me that we may love bass more than we’re willing to admit. Of course the Pro700 Mk2 is a $200 headphone and it would be silly to attempt to match it to the $1,000 orthodynamics or the 16 drivers custom in ears. But I am quite sure that the Pro700 Mk2 can have the bragging rights when it comes to the bass category under the $500 mark. My friend Sem who owns the Audio Technica ES-10 (that huge 58mm driver portable headphone) and the Denon 2000 (another supposedly basshead favorite) commented that the Pro700 Mk2 has even more bass than the two, and comparing the Pro700 Mk2 to my favorite HD25-1 and AIAIAI TMA-1 again proves that it would be silly to challenge the Pro700 Mk2′s bass supremacy.
I didn’t know I was such a bass addict, but whenever I start to think about the Pro700′s bass, I just have this uncontrollable grin (and even small laughs) as the brain re-played the thumping beats on my head. With the right music, this headphone is seriously a lot of fun. In fact, I’ve been spending more time with the Pro700 Mk2 out of the Yulong than I do with the Exstata + Omega2 combo (there goes all my credibility). I don’t know, perhaps it’s not the Omega2′s fault, but rather the wishy-washy Bill Evans Jazz that I’ve been listening from the Omega2 that causes this behavior, because Prodigy and Interpol sounds really kickass with the Pro700 Mk2.
If you are used to the typical audiophile headphone’s tonal response, then nothing can prepare you for the the Pro700 Mk2. This headphone is so heavily bass colored that it will make the HD650 sound thin and bright (it really does that, actually). I also had to spend some time trying to readjust my ears, but after I did, then I really didn’t want to take them off.
The Pro700 Mk2 is also quite different than the HD25-1, which still had a typical audiophile headphone tonal balance with the addition of a tight and punchy bass. The HD25-1 is one of the few headphones that can please both the audiophile as well as the bass-seeking crowd, and in a way, it’s a very safe recommendation to make. But for the pure bass-seeking crowd, the Pro700 Mk2 offers the true SEISMIC bass that makes the HD25-1 sound weak in comparison. And while the Pro700 Mk2 is something that every basshead should apply for an audition, I would be more hesitant to recommend this headphone to the typical audiophile.
One of the issues with the so-called “heavy bass” headphones is that sometimes they only give you big quantity of bass reverbs without actually delivering the punch (or the kick, in the case of the Pro700 Mk2). The HD25-1 didn’t have any bass reverbs, but it delivers a convincing and fun punch. The Pro700 Mk2 on the other hand, is a pure basshead approach to music. This headphone would make the Beats Studio headphones sound like a polite audiophile headphone as it delivers one of the most thundering bass I’ve ever heard from a pair of headphones. Given the seismic quality (and quantity) of the bass, it would be un-reasonable to expect the Pro700 to match the transients and the articulation level of headphones with lesser bass levels, including the HD25-1. The bass is not exactly slow, and reverb levels are quite low, but still the Pro700′s bass can only be considered to be moderate in speed and articulation. The PRaT factor, however, is quite excellent with the right beats as the seismic quality of the bass makes up for anything it loses in the speed section.
Another thing that you need to be prepared for is attenuated treble levels from the typical audiophile style tonal balance as well as a significantly less open midrange section. I didn’t brand this a basshead headphone for no reason. But compared to the original Pro700, the Mk2 is significantly improved in the midrange quality, housing reverbs, and top and bottom extension. Bass also hits lower and deeper on the Mk2, and as a whole, as I told my friend DJ Reginald, the upgrade from the Pro700 to the Mk2 is a must.
Compared to my previous favorite, the AIAIAI TMA-1, again the Pro700 Mk2 is simply supreme in the bass, but the AIAIAI has a better midrange and treble clarity. The TMA-1 is more refined than the Pro700 Mk2, but the bass does sound too polite when compared to the Pro700 Mk2. The TMA-1 is also noticeably brighter than the Pro700 Mk2. Now if you consider that a lot of people brand the TMA-1 as a dark and muffled headphone, then you’d have a pretty good idea of the kind of tonal balance we’re talking about with the Pro700 Mk2. But, somehow, with the right music, I think the Pro700 Mk2 really delivers the goods (Evil Empire also sounds really good with the Pro700 Mk2, btw).
I tried the Pro700 Mk2 with some popular R&B such as Raphael Saadiq and the Cadillac Records, and while the bass are always good, vocal passages, especially Beyonce’s on the Cadillac Records, are quite muffled and congested. It can pass as a decent R&B headphone, but the HD25-1 is definitely the better choice as it presents a much, much better vocal section. The TMA-1 is a little better than the Pro700 Mk2 on the vocals, but again, the HD25-1 beats both of them convincingly. But for a moment I am enjoying the bass so much, and as most electronic music don’t put a heavy emphasis on vocal, the Pro700 Mk2 remains to be a very strong recommendation if you happen to be a fan of Electronica, Dance, House, and even Alternative Rock — anything that demand strong and impactful beats to work.
You can enjoy the Pro700 Mk2 direct from an Ipod just fine, but with bass-heavy recordings, bass control would quickly go out the door. Blame it on the Ipod though, as a good portable amp that boasts good articulation such as the Meier StepDance quickly solves this problem. Likewise I much prefer the Yulong U100 with its superior bass articulation than the warmer sounding Audinst HUD-MX1.
I used to praise the Etymotic ER4 for its supposedly “high quality” bass section, but that was in 2008. This year, bass is what you should be listening to. Click on that “Like” button if you agree.
UPDATE: COMPARISON WITH THE AUDIO TECHNICA M-50
The reason that I didn’t even bother comparing the Pro700 to the M-50 is that the two headphones are so different from each other.
The Pro700 Mk2 is a purebred basshead headphone, while the ATH M-50 is closer to a studio monitoring headphone that happens to have good bass quantity. The tonal balance of the M-50 is quite proper, with treble, mids and bass all taking roughly similar proportions. The Pro700 Mk2 is so seriously skewed to the bass regions, it’s probably one of the most colored headphones I’ve ever listened to.
The M-50 has good bass punch, but presented in that wide soundstage, the focus and the impact seems lost. The HD25-1 is better in this regard, as the smaller soundstage helps focus the impact of the bass. The two headphones’ bass, however, sounds puny in comparison to the Pro700 Mk2.