Ultra Portable Shootout: PX100, PX200, PortaPro, K404, V-Jays, Tracks, Oldskool, and HD238
The PX100-II is quite impressive with the darkish Sennheiser signature that gives a refined and full bodied sound. Clearly, Sennheiser is aware of the strong brand name behind the PX100 as they released an even more impressive sounding update to the PX100 model. If the PX100 no longer has the market control over the ultra portables like they do on the days of the old PX100, it’s definitely not caused because of the sound quality of the PX100-II, as this is quite an improvement over the old PX100 (as also confirmed by Hadi on his review).
Having a darkish sound signature in this case doesn’t keep the PX100 from maintaining an engaging sound. True, there may not be enough treble presence for people who loves treble. And it’s also undeniable that the PX100′s tonal balance is heavy on the bottom end, but at the same time Sennheiser is able to keep the midrange presence fairly engaging. Despite the bass heavy sound, the PX100 maintains a good control over it, and the bass almost never feels boomy. Bass punch is on the strong and weighty side, one of the best I’ve heard on this comparison. Last but most important of all, the bass has a great amount of clarity, only rivaled by the V-Jays headphone.
If I can choose to perfect the PX100, I would add just slightly more treble presence, and a slightly more forward upper mid for even a livelier and more engaging sound, without loosing the PX100′s cool sound. I personally love the bass of the PX100, as it is one of the best in this comparison, but comparing the sound as a whole, I’ll still prefer the PX200-II, the AIAIAI Tracks, or the V-Jays over the PX100-II.
For a long time, the PX200 has been considered as the inferior model to the PX100. Mostly this was a reputation that started on the first version of the PX100 and the PX200. The old PX200 was a closed design and is considered to be less natural in sound than the cheaper open design PX100. With the introduction of the mark II models, Sennheiser has done a considerable improvement on the PX100-II model, but also I find on the PX200-II. This time, Sennheiser has done the PX200-II right as it noticeably sounds more refined and having superior clarity across the frequency range, when compared to the PX100-II.
Between the PX100-II and the PX200-II, the PX100 has a noticeably darker and bassier sound signature. And while that bass is very fulfilling, I often wishes for a less dark sound signature, and more treble presence. The PX200-II is noticeably more mature sounding, with a less bassy sound and a better frequency balance that presents the treble, mid, and bass in almost equal proportions. Having less bass than the PX100-II doesn’t make the PX200 a lean sounding headphone, although I do often miss the PX100-II’s stronger bass punch.
One of the thing that I love on the PX200-II is how it already does all the changes I wanted to be made on the PX100: More treble presence, more forward upper mid, and the result is a livelier and a more engaging sound. Despite the brighter presentation compared to the PX100-II, the PX200-II is not a bright headphone, and the additional treble presence doesn’t feel harsh and tiring, even on mainstream recordings. It just adds the perfect amount of liveliness and makes it a less laid-back headphone than the PX100-II was.
The PX200-II still come in a closed design, and for people who’re used to an open design, that may be a turn-off. However, having done most of my listening on a full-size open headphone, I really don’t feel the PX200-II to be that closed sounding. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that the pads don’t totally cover the ears, letting some amount of outside in with the music. The PX200-II’s donut shaped pads, however, are far more comfortable than the foam pads used on the PX100.
I think it’s fitting for Sennheiser to put the PX200-II as the higher line up model than the PX100-II. The sound is noticeably more mature and more hi-fi, although loyal PX100 fans would still choose the bassier PX100 sound over the PX200, ultimately people looking for more refinement and more treble would opt for the PX200-II.
Koss Portapro LE
The limited edition Portapro, as you know, is more than just an”anniversary” marketing model. The LE model has a more refined sound and a better bass performance than the regular edition, which justifies the price tag that it sells for.
The first thing that strikes me about the Portapro is its punchy and tight bass performance. The Portapro LE has a better tonal balance than the PX100-II, as it’s less dark while yet having a punchy bass that’s tighter than the PX100′s. There is also more treble presence and a more engaging midrange on the Portapro LE.
The thing that bothers me the most about the Portapro LE is how the driver quality feels noticeably inferior than the PX100-II or the PX200-II. While all of the other portables in this comparison has a fairly modern driver, the PortaPro LE is the only one with a noticeable amount of grain in the sound. Certainly, the Portapro has shown the limits of the driver as it is pitched against the newer Sennheiser design. The Portapro LE has a noticeable roll off on both frequency ends, and especially when compared to the Sennheisers and the V-Jays. The gradation in the sound is also richer in the Sennheisers and Jays, and ultimately, these deficiencies gets in the way of the music a great deal.
Overall the sound of the PortaPro LE is quite fun, but I think it’s time for Koss to update the driver.