Portable Basshead: Superlux HD651
For a while I hesitated if I should use the word “cheap” on the HD651 due to the negative connotations that comes with the word. I’m not saying cheap in the negative, crappy, sense. I’m saying cheap, because the HD651′s price level is very low in the overall headphone scene. I probably won’t buy it if it wasn’t priced so low, roughly $30 locally, but the price may be higher where you live. The HD651 is a cheap, portable, basshead headphone. And yet, it’s very fun sounding, even in the midst of the HD800, the Omega2, and the Edition10 that I happen to have laying around. You know, people accuse Headfonia for being limited to high end, expensive cans. Well, I tell them that we only do reviews on stuff that we have on hand, and in this case, it’s the HD651. After all, this hobby shouldn’t always be limited to hundred dollar headphones and all the serious tone that come with it. At the end of the day, it’s about musical enjoyment.
The build won’t impress you with any high end, luxurious material. It’s a plain plastic build that feels very solid for throwing around during commuting. And yes, if you noticed, the housing design borrows heavily from Panasonic’s RP-HTX7 retro designed headphone. With the semi supra-aural cups clamping hard on my head, I can’t seem to stop listening to the magic combination of the Superlux HD651 with Massive Attack’s Mezzanine.
The Superlux HD651 certainly has an awesome bass for a portable headphone. The bass is punchy, full and tight. It may not be the most articulate bass, but none is expecting articulate and punchy bass at this price range either. Both low bass rumble and upper bass beats is played pretty well by the HD651, and there is something about the presentation that makes it perfect for Massive Attack and other music like it. It has a small soundstage, but for these music, the small soundstage works really well to focus all the energy, making every beat of the bass really counts. The treble is attenuated, hence the HD651 would probably not work with instrumentals or Jazz or anything like that. But again, the dark presentation really puts you into focus with the bass beats. Treble detail sort of lingers in the background, though the electronic voice does get a good presence within the small soundscape.
Unlike the bigger brother, the HD668B, the HD651 is less ambitious. It’s far from a giant killer. Its attenuated treble and the overall closed-in feeling of the sound won’t win too many fans. For me, the HD651 is about a refreshing dose of fun bass at an entry level price. Technically, I’d even place it below the Sennheiser HD202. But the HD202, though being quite bass heavy, did not quite have the bass punch that I find on the Superlux HD651.
The tonal balance is very dark, even darker than the HD202 Sennheiser. But it matches the mood of the Mezzanine album, Chemical Brother’s Dig Your Own Hole, or Armin Van Buuren’s Imagine very well. If you listen to those music, then you’ll know what I’m talking about. If your music is any different, then the HD651 may not make a lot of sense. In a word, fast paced, dark, electronic music needing strong beats, the HD651 truly delivers. The hard clamping force is not very comfortable for long term listening, but it really helps to get you in the mood for the music in public places with all their noises.
Though an amplifier improves the bass tightness to a certain degree, I mostly use the HD651 direct to the Ipod, volume level fixed at roughly 90%. I think one of the selling point about the HD651 is its simplicity. Single sided cord that runs quite short, 1.5meters roughly. A fairly hard clamping force that stays put when you’re wearing it. It truly works for injecting short doses of bass energy when you’re outside in the move. So, in one hand, I’m writing about a very specialized headphone. In another hand, it’s a lot of fun and it serves it purpose very well. I certainly never had the experience of enjoying music in public place the same way I get with the HD651.
Gosh, this headphone is a lot of fun!