I’ve compared the Gjallarhorn GH50 with some of the more prominent bass-friendly headphones on the closed-back market.
Klipsch Heritage HP-3
The Klipsch HP-3 offers a heavy-handed, thick, and slightly boomy bass presentation that is a touch more weighty, especially around the mid-bass. However, the Gjallarhorn provides better-textured lows; the Kennerton ekes out a win in the articulation and layering sections, too. The mid-bass on the HP-3 can be a little excessive, though, and has a slight tendency to bleed into the lower regions of its midrange. In contrast, the Gjallarhorn does a fine job of separating the two frequency components, despite its north-of-neutral bass response.
Tonally, the two headphones are worlds apart – the HP-3 offers a distinctly “v-shaped” signature. Treble on the Klipsch headphone is as bright and strident as its bass is prominent. As a result, the midrange takes a hit; vocals and instruments are recessed relative to its bookends.
Thus, your choice of headphone rests upon your aural preferences – if you desire a darker headphone with a solid, lush midrange and a world-leading bass section, try the Gjallarhorn. If you want a more energetic slant to your music, the HP-3 should be a good place to start, if you can stomach its screeching treble.
ZMF Vérité Closed
The flagship in ZMF’s acclaimed stable of headphones is a true maestro in more ways than one. It easily trades blows with the Gjallarhorn in proficiency over the lower registers. Thankfully, the Kennerton headphone makes a good account of themselves in this head-to-head, offering a touch heavier mid-bass bump with an equally distinct and layered low-end section. Where the Gjallarhorn is stronger in the mid-bass, the Vérité Closed provides a touch greater sub-bass extension.
The midrange on the Vérité Closed is superb, providing better resolution amidst a sea of luscious warmth. The Gjallarhorn has decent resolving capabilities, but fails to trump its wood-cupped rival in this particular segment. Nevertheless, the warmth and body of the Gjallarhorn allows the headphone to render a similarly strong vocal performance.
Treble on both headphones are more mellow than bright, more smooth than strident. The Gjallarhorn has the darker tone, as it lacks some of the fine grain that is depicted by the Vérité Closed.
The ZMF headphone is over twice as expensive as the Gjallarhorn, and the gulf in technical capabilities is reflected in the price delta between the two. However, diminishing returns is a concept that is truly at play here, especially within the “$1,000 and Over” arena – despite being the cheaper headphone, the Gjallarhorn is no slouch in this comparison, and will satisfy fans looking for nigh-perfect bass.
The top dog of the Japanese electronic giant’s headphone line is a good complement to the Gjallarhorn. Both headphones feature excellent low-end presentations; both come replete with high scores in layering, articulation, detail and texture. However, the MDR-Z1R’s mastery of the lower registers comes to the fore here, providing slightly better resolution and separation.
In the midrange, the Sony does a fine job of crafting a verdant and rich vocal experience, in the same vein as the Gjallarhorn. Like its bass section, however, the MDR-Z1R leads by a hair, thanks to its supreme staging capabilities. Vocals and instruments are expanded across a larger soundscape, resulting in finer and more precise imaging throughout.
The treble on the MDR-Z1R is slightly peaky and a little uncontrolled at the worst of times. In contrast, the Gjallarhorn has an absence of any runaway peaks, providing a smooth and silky treble experience.
Bassheads are in for a treat – both of these closed-backs powerhouses are perfect for your bass fix. In terms of the low-end section, neither headphone truly bests the other in the overall sense, though, but the MDR-Z1R takes the fine lead in overall resolution and detail retrieval. As a whole package, the Sony flagship is hard to beat, especially if you favor a darker, thicker, and weightier timbre to your music. The Gjallarhorn does a mighty-fine job of coming very close, though.
The Gjallarhorn is one of the more unusual headphones in the high-end space, offering a darker tuning thanks to an attenuated treble section. In stark contrast to its smooth highs, the Gjallarhorn presents one of the more-captivating and potent bass sections in the contemporary space. Thankfully, the company avoids the pitfalls of an overly-bloated bass section by tweaking the low-end to provide just the right amount of bass. Couple that with a world-beating presentation, replete with gobs of texture, and you’ve got one heck of an enjoyable basshead headphone.
It’s not all bass, bass, bass, though, as the Gjallarhorn offers a solid rendition of a lush and weighty vocal response. With decent-to-good levels of technical finesse, the Kennerton headphone produces instruments and voices in a well-defined stage.
The Gjallarhorn may not be a horn-shaped 2-channel speaker, but it brings the joys of listening to one into a distilled, portable, and personal audio space. Try it, you may just fall in love with Heimdallr’s horn. This is certainly a basshead headphone that’s crafted well.
Gear Used: Chord Hugo 2, Schiit Gungnir Multibit, Schiit Mjolnir 2
Tracks Used: A smattering of EDM, ranging from Eurodance to Happy Hardcore, Hard Trance to Gabber.