There are 2 versions of the Gjallarhorn – the original GH50 (the unit in this review), and a modified version, the Gjallarhorn JM Edition. The latter product came into being when one of the original owners of the GH50 decided to perform a series of modifications to achieve a different, and possibly, better sound. I have never heard the JM edition, but it has its fans.
Thus, the initials “JM” were used to pay homage to the original artisan, John Massaria.
The unboxing experience was interesting, to say the least. The headphones came nestled within an eco-leather lunch-box-styled bag, complete with a shoulder strap! This self-styled carrying case was both functional and utilitarian, without losing too many style points. It almost looks like you are hauling a box of sandwiches and a tumbler of water for an afternoon picnic.
The insides of the case are lined with a soft cloth-like fabric. Unless you’ve dropped them from a height – say 2 metres, or more – the bag should afford adequate protection for the headphone.
You certainly wouldn’t be laughed at on the subway carrying one of these.. or will you?
Packed with the headphones is a 2 metre long OFC cable, featuring rhodium-plated connectors. It’s definitely spartan in design, but it’s rigid enough to avoid any unnecessary kinks in daily, practical use. Microphonics was also decent, as I didn’t pick up a great deal of noise throughout the course of my review.
Let’s start from the headphone’s standout feature, its bass. Thanks to the driver’s inherent design, the Gjallarhorn produces some fantastic and captivating lows. The entire presentation is both potent and authoritative, featuring good impact and slam. The mid-bass is boosted, but not in a manner that is flagrantly off-putting. It hovers on the delicate precipice between grand and overbearing.
Beats are punchy with a slight but perceptible decay. Despite being crafted out of a dynamic driver, the speed on the bass is adequately fast; it is not planar-esque in this manner, but it doesn’t have a noticeable lag either.
In tandem with a texture-laden display, the Gjallarhorn features good and solid rumble that provides a toe-tapping character to its bass. It’s certainly useful when tracks require a punchy and ever-present bassline. If you need one, the Gjallarhorn delivers it in spades. You’ll certainly be bopping your head to your music with this headphone.
Ultimately, the lower registers on the Gjallarhorn are full of wins with very little flaws. The mid-bass might be a little excessive for those who aren’t of the basshead persuasion, but it is controlled enough that little bleed is present in the lower midrange region.
Love EDM? Try Daft Punk’s “Around The World” on the Gjallarhorn. When the bass drum kicks in the onset of the track, the Gjallarhorn produces an ethereal rumble in your ears that is, for the lack of a better term, magnificent.
The Gjallarhorn has a midrange section that is luscious, rich, well-rounded, and carries sufficient weight. It isn’t very heavy, in the negative connotation, but is has ample body and relative levels of warmth. Thus, the midrange empowers vocals and instruments with a satisfying dose of impact, authority, and definition. To continue along the positive vector, voices are reproduced in an organic manner, with a lifelike timbre, and a highly-dynamic execution.
Articulation on the Gjallarhorn struggles a little, though, especially within heavy and crowded passages. In the wider scope of things, however, this headphone resolves finer detail and nuances at a fairly-acceptable level. No oscilloscopes are needed to discern micro-detail on the Gjallarhorn.
Continuing with my EDM recommendations, try listening to Cartouche’s “Touch The Sky”. This is a bona fide “oldie but goodie”. The Gjallarhorn doesn’t break a sweat in presenting a brilliant combination of captivating vocals and a thumping, deep bassline. This is especially prominent during the (female) chorus sections. Top notch stuff, indeed!
With a muted treble section, the Gjallarhorn may easily be construed as a dark headphone, at first glance. But don’t walk away just yet! Whilst this axiom is not particularly false, the Kennerton headphone manages to produce a good dose of clarity and definition in the higher registers; it’s simply not prominent enough to afford a touch of air and presence to the upper echelons of the frequency response. You will still hear the cymbals and the hi-hats, but the execution is decidedly less defined and aggressive.
With that being said, you will still enjoy highs that retain a semblance of sparkle and grain. Transparency and presence are not chief specialties of the Gjallarhorn, but they are not lost altogether; they are merely attenuated. In comparison with brighter headphones (à la an HD 800 S), the Kennerton is relatively dark.
Ultimately, the treble presentation is skewed toward smoothness as opposed to crispness; it is laid-back rather than engaging. For fans of a bass-skewed, treble-light headphone, the Gjallarhorn ticks the right boxes.
Staging, Imaging, and Technicalities
The Gjallarhorn is decently resolving, handling the reproduction of micro-detail and nuance at a fairly-satisfactory level. Moreover, despite the headphone’s bass-heavy pedigree, the Gjallarhorn is not found wanting in the aspects of separation and definition in the vocal and instrumental realms.
3-dimensional space on the Gjallarhorn is decent, if not good, but it is ostensibly deeper rather than wider. You get a sense of enveloping space around your head, but the stage may be a tad cramped at the worst of times. Despite this, with a decent imaging capability, the Kennerton headphone does its level best to present a proper and coherent aural stage.
Comfort and Isolation
Let’s check the pertinent boxes here, shall we?
Does the Gjallarhorn come with supremely comfortable pads? – Check.
Is the headband comfortable for long periods of use? – Yes, it is. My head is decidedly free of hotspots after 2-3 hours of use.
For a wood-cupped, full-sized headphone, is the Gjallarhorn relatively light? – Yes. It’s no Audeze, so it certainly avoids straining your neck! You won’t need a neck brace to enjoy this headphone.
Firm grip? – Yes, it can be quite firm, unfortunately.
In a sea of massive and heavy headphones (Audeze!), the Gjallarhorn takes the comfortable path, offering solid construction within a body that tips the scales at a little over 400 grams. Thus, the weight will not be a bother, unless you’re coming from years of exclusive IEM use. However, the solid clamp might cause some usability issues; I resolved this easily by taking 1-2 minute breaks after an hour of use.
The pads on the Gjallarhorn are made of soft lambskin sourced from a remote highland region in the Northern Caucasus. They are amply plush and thick so as to afford a thoroughly comfortable over-the-ear experience. My ears didn’t get too warm or sticky during the course of the review. Chalk one up for great-feeling pads.
In consequence, the Gjallarhorn is one of the more comfortable headphones that I’ve used. Apart from its less-than-ideal grip, the other components of the headphone come together to afford a thoroughly pleasurable listening experience.
On the topic of isolation, the Gjallarhorn does a decent job at blocking out ambient noise. I’ve used the headphone whilst my wife was watching something on YouTube (via our computer speakers), and I could barely hear a thing. With the music turned off, the surrounding noise was attenuated to a fairly-acceptable degree.
Comparisons and the conclusion can be found on the third page. Click here.