N501’s sensitivity of 120dB at 32Ω means that it gets good and loud any with decent current-to-voltage ratios, but will start to crackle sooner at extremely loud volumes. For my purposes, the following sources and amps did most of the driving grunt work: iPhone 6, Cowon Plenue D, Lynx Audio Hilo, LinnengerG Maestro. Despite its sensitivity, no source or amp I paired with it hisses. Wonderful. For reference, a volume range of 40 – 50 was enough for anything through the Lynix Hilo, meaning that the N501 is just a bit more sensitive than the Grado PS1000.
Interestingly, the N501 reminds me of my maiden voyage with a Grado headphone. Coming from the HD600, I was taken by the contrast, the punch, and the tight balance. Interestingly, the PS1000, a tizzy headphone, has a softer, warmer bass and smoother transition to mids than the N501. Beyond that, I’d be tempted to say that the N501 outclasses the Grado.
The N501 punches fast, but certainly not heavy. Lows decay almost instantly, leaving loads of room around each note, for a good sense of low-end space. But there is nary a throb nor a yawn. Sure, it will reveal sub-bass test signals, but when juxtaposed against real life music, it hits and fades before you’ll realise it.
Back to space, for a closed-back headphone, the N501 gets on well. Its stage is pretty damn wide. Wider, in fact, than it is tall; its advances along the Z-axis are meagre but dotted by gobs of air and detail.
The transition from bass to mids is sharp and fast with a modicum of confusion. Unlike the PS1000, bass isn’t centrally grounded. As stereo detail racks up with frequency response, vocal bits tend to piggy back the same stereo space, further burying the N501’s fast, detailed lows. Apart from that, transition zones are spot on – especially for trance -, but this mids-on-bass piggy back thing somewhat can confuse uplifting and vocal variants such as Guardian from Paul Van Dyke’s latest: Politics of Dancing 3.
Its most detailed band is its wide, deep mids. Mids spread laterally past the shoulders, and transition to highs like a pint of Pilsner and a plate of spicy chicken wings. In a word: perfect. I’d have it no other way. Highs are energetic, with gobs of sound pressure. They’re not peaky, which help rein in fatigue, but if you’re not into highs, move on. And unlike the PS1000, whose singular nasty point is a sudden compressed, sucking-out stereo image in the upper mids that lids up vocals and pulls highs through a small point in the top of the skull, the N501 is open and natural.
Its stereo image remains wide and contrasty from top to bottom. And while dry, highs and high mids are even, detailed, and energetic throughout the frequency range.
No suck outs. No compression.
But, and this may be a big but: if you’re not a treble head, or a high-mid head, you may have trouble with this headphone. It’s not painfully bright. It’s balance against bass is great. But highs are forward and bright.
Assuming that you’re a trance head, and that you have loads of space between your eyes and your crown, this is one of the most unaccented trance headphones I’ve heard to date. Perfectly bright for both modern and classic trance, and offset by fast, detailed bass. It’s not warm, there is no squish in any frequency, its highs plow a gloriously wide field.
But it is bright. And while stereo detail kicks a wide sound stage that extends laterally well beyond your ears, the middle is especially dry. A more centrally-anchored bass would ensure the N501 ann eternal place in the trance headphone hall of fame. For every other use, the N501 is surprisingly well balanced and detail-oriented.
Usually I don’t go off on cables. But I have to. The N501’s cable is thick, strong, and the perfect length for portable players. It attaches to both cups via stereo (TRRS) 3,5mm cables. Mono (TS) cables don’t work. Interestingly, 4-pole (TRRS) cables do work.
But it may be highly resistive. I’ve been using it with various headphones for months. Only after going back and forth between it and other stock cables did I notice a problem. I’m not a cable guy, so I generally don’t bother waxing lyrically about them.
Whatever. I’ve hooked up my favourite amps to a y-splitter and dual Master & Dynamic MH40 TRRS 3,5mm cables (necessary to get stereo out of the N501), which offer a more solid stereo middle, and a firmer, and better anchored bass devoid of piggybacking mids. Highs are also tamer. I realise that my ears could be playing tricks on me, but that trick has been repeated through three headphone reviews and was most pronounced through MyST’s IzoPhones, which when paired with the N501 stock cable, suffered severely compressed stereo images.
If that is the case, I hope that Verisonix supply a more appropriate cable. Because, properly tied down, the N501 sound truly phenomenal.
Cable aside, the Verisonix N501 is a very nice headphone for people with medium to large heads. The more I listen to it, the more I reckon it could be the poster headphone for trance. That is, if umbilicalled to a better cable. If you’re allergic to highs, skip the N501. But if like me, you dig naturally clean, forward highs, great stereo detail, and with fast bass, chances are that you’ll really dig these phones. Or, you’ll love them. But I recommend trying out a few low resistance cables.
Mostly well done.