Entry Level Portable: Superlux HD661
Superlux’s attempt to create a rival to the popular Sony MDR-7506 has given us a headphone that does a lot of things well, though not perfect, at a price that’s roughly half of what the Sony sells for.
Versus the Sony MDR-7506
During my first few weeks with the HD661, I wasn’t quite sure of what to say about it. I was mostly comparing it to the Sony MDR-7506 and it was a plus-minus scenario when I tried to compare the two. The Sony was more comfortable overall, due to the softer pads and headband and the hinges placed at strategic points that allowed the Sony to fit my head better. The Sony was seriously missing low end weight, which gives it a weightless floating feel to the sound. And despite the Sony’s smoother overall sound, I really can never get over the weightless lows. The Superlux on the other hand slightly lacks the refinement of the Sony, but makes up for that shortcoming in many different areas. One, obviously, is a more proper low body. The next most noticeable thing is the larger soundstage, better imaging, and a better sense of ambiance. Lastly is a more proper treble presence (yes the Sony does have that mid-centric emphasis with both top and lows feeling incomplete). While I felt the bass area of the Superlux to be a little loose, the Superlux clearly comes out being an overall better headphone of the two, while the Sony may appeal to people who listens to strictly midrange and wants it to be as smooth as possible.
I didn’t really have anything spectacular to write about the HD661. After all the Sony MDR-7506 that it’s supposed to go against is just another mid-entry level monitoring headphone from Sony. It has some fanbase, but certainly there are other better headphones.
Real Life Impressions
In the few weeks that follow, however, I begin to be able to appreciate the HD661 more. I noticed that I used the HD661 very frequently during the last few reviews that I was working on. The HD661 has a relatively proper tonal balance that makes it easy to enjoy with the different gear and music that I was listening to (it certainly has quite a wide genre bandwith, from anything Pop to Classical), and it was also resolving enough to tell me whatever I needed to know about an amplifier or a DAC I was evaluating. It was easy to drive, lightweight, and though I had complains about the fit initially, I sort of adjusted to it and now I have no complains wearing it. It worked okay out of an Ipod, and in that sense it’s not that hard to drive. However it improves considerably when I plug it to an amplifier, waking up the sound and improving the bass impact.
The HD661 played really well with the amplifiers and so it quickly become my new favorite when evaluating the last few amplifiers I reviewed (the Fiio E10, the Hifiman HM-101, the iBasso D-Zero, the HeadRoom amplifiers, among others). I even took it to a few local headphone meets and I get a lot of positive reactions to the HD661. Everyone seemed to agree that while the HD661 is far from a reference class, yet it does a lot of things right and is easy to like. The DIY guys even started talking about the possibility of taking the HD661 and performing damping and cable mods on it to improve the sound further.
The HD661 is a portable and so it doesn’t belong in the same line as the bigger HD660 (or HD440, HD330, HD668B as well as the other big Superluxes). Technicalities wise the HD660 is still superior throughout the frequencies (most notable is the tighter bass on the HD660) as well as the better soundstage and imaging performance.
As a portable, however, the HD661 is indeed very good. It gives you a bigger sound than say the likes of the Sennheiser HD25-1 or the Beyerdynamic DT1350 mainly due to the bigger housing on the HD661 (the imaging is also more accurate on the Superlux, though I’m not saying that the Superlux is overall the better headphone). Compared to the Audio Tehnica SJ-series, the HD661 also maintains a bigger sound and soundstage, though the bass is noticeably looser than say the SJ-55. A similar comparison can also be made to the Marshall Major headphone, Superlux HD651, or the popular AKG K518DJ/LE headphones.
I don’t know when the HD661 will be available in your local or online suppliers, but do keep an eye for it because for the price that it’s selling for, it’s certainly not going to disappoint. The Superlux HD661 joins the growing list of great sounding, economically priced equipments and should it become available to buy in your area, I definitely recommend you to give it a try. Don’t expect to be blown away, but I think you’ll find it to be fun and enjoyable.