The HP100 “only” has a 32Ω impedance but its sensitivity is rated at 95dB/mW@1 KHz making it a good idea to use amplification to make it sound its best, especially the bass part. It isn’t absolutely necessary though and an iPod Nano 7G can drive it to a painfully loud volume but you won’t get the best sound quality. Overall I would recommend using a slightly warm sounding amplifier to get the best of detail, the good tight bass and to not make the sound over analytical or neutral.
The first amp that matches perfectly with the HP100 (again) is the C421 by JDSlabs. With its warmer character it gives the HP100 a nice (warmer) body, tight bass and wonderful detail. Of course you can turn of the BB if you think it has too much bass but I don’t really recommend doing that in this combination. The Fiio E10 almost does just as good of a job as the C421: soundstage is a bit smaller and the sound is a bit less detailed and less “edged off” while bass still is great. The much more powerful and detailed Violectric V200 gives the HP100 incredibly tight bass with a slightly less warm sound signature as the C421 making it an ideal combination for the analytical listener that doesn’t dislike good bass and likes a good sound stage.
With the Woo Audio WA2 OTL amplifier the HP100 gets a warmer sound signature and bass, while going very deep, gets a bit looser. Treble also sounds a fair margin smoother. It sounds ok overall but I feel like this isn’t how this headphone is supposed to sound. It does sound better on a solid state amplifier.
How does it compare to other headphones?
There are a lot of closed headphones available in the $200 price range but the 3 most talked about headphones certainly are the Audio-Technica ATH-M50, the Beyerdynamic DT770 AE and the AKG K550.
The DT770 Anniversary Edition from Beyer is a much warmer sounding headphone. It also doesn’t have the clarity and neutrality of the HP100. The AE’s bass is a lot more present, has a lot more body and impact and is not as well rounded as the HP100’s bass. Compared to the DT770 AE this is a light bass headphone. I also wanted to compare it to 3 times as expensive D600 from Denon but the price difference is reasonably big. Sound wise the Denon is more focused on bass and the sound stage is quite a bit smaller, especially the mids are less detailed and clear. I haven’t had the pleasure to listen to the AKG K550 yet but I understand from Mike and Ed’s review that both headphones sound very much alike. The big difference between both is how bass is displayed. Lots of people like the K550 but would have preferred more bass presence, this HP100 brings you exactly that while maintaining the neutrality and clarity.
The headphone most people compare the HP100 too probably is the classic M50 as they are both very foldable and have more or less the same design and price. The HP100 actually can’t fold up as small as the M50 can but on the other hand the cups can swivel to both sides, something the M50 can’t do, and on top of that the HP100 is more comfortable (pads are larger). Sound wise the HP100 has better bass detail and definition and especially cleaner lower mids and more detail. Treble on the HP100 is also more detailed and overall the M50 is the warmer sounding headphone. I’ve been using both headphones but I keep going back to the HP100. It’s a bit more expensive but I think the price difference is worth the improvement in sound.
I’ve listened to about every musical style there is with this unit and it handles them all very well. Of course you can’t expect it to turn into a bass headphone when listening to rap or R&B or even Pop music but the HP100 will always bring you top quality sound.
This is a headphone for the analytic listener who wants to hear uncolored linear sound with a more forward presentation and excellent bass detail and depth. I don’t think this is a headphone for the mainstream audience that wants warmth and bass at all times (they probably don’t read reviews anyway). Some call this HP100 a “cold” sounding headphone but I can’t agree to that. It’s a very musical sounding headphone and it’s not dull sounding at all even when it is analytical, linear and detailed.
Thank you Soundmagic for providing us with the free sample. You’ve made a really good (first) full size headphone and I hope the HP200 is just as good!