SoundMagic HP100: The Late New Discovery

Amplification

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.

 

The End

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!

 

Gear used: StonerAcoustics UD100, Rein X3, Violectric V200, WA2, E10, C421, iPod Nano 7G, CLAS
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SoundMagic HP100: The Late New Discovery
3 (60%) 1 vote[s]

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

62 Comments

  • Reply February 18, 2013

    Satrya Adi Pratama

    thanks bro for the review ,, hope that this headphone arrive in indonesia,, n its sound so thin??

    • Reply February 19, 2013

      L.

      Thank you. No I wouldn’t call it “thin” sounding persé. I’m sure you can buy them online

  • Reply February 18, 2013

    Mohammad Ashraf

    By the sound of things this probably is best compared against the infamous fischer audio FA-003 not k550 or the D770.

    • Reply February 18, 2013

      L.

      There probably are hundreds of headphones to compare it to 😉

      • Reply February 18, 2013

        Headfonia Valentin

        Hmm… I think I might have to postpone the Paradox review… Neutral. Closed. Semi-expensive. Hmm..

  • Reply February 18, 2013

    Alan Tan

    why not try put it through the JDS’s O2 amp?

    • Reply February 18, 2013

      L.

      I suppose I could give that a try but as I recommended using it with a slightly warmer sounding amp, I doubt I’ll appreciate it.

      • Reply February 18, 2013

        dalethorn

        My experience too. Warmer amp is better.

  • Reply February 18, 2013

    Trent_D

    Nice review, L.

    • Reply February 18, 2013

      L.

      Thanks man! Try getting that Crack fixed. good Luck! 🙂

      • Reply February 18, 2013

        Trent_D

        As soon as Bottlehead sends me the replacement LED, I should be up and running within a half hour.

        • Reply February 19, 2013

          L.

          Keep me posted

          • Reply February 20, 2013

            Trent_D

            Up and running. Will have completed review this weekend.

  • Reply February 19, 2013

    Spencer Chan

    WHYYY must you tempt me, friend!?!?!?? =D

    I’m thinking of selling the Vmoda M-100s. This may make a good complement for the Momentum when traveling.

    • Reply February 19, 2013

      dalethorn

      The HP100 would be a good complement to the Momentum.

      • Reply February 19, 2013

        L.

        Really different so yes, very complementary

        • Reply February 20, 2013

          Jook Yos

          L. If it complementary.

          Can I consider Momentum is as refinement as HP100?

          • Reply February 20, 2013

            L.

            Excuse me? I don’t understand, sorry

            • Reply February 20, 2013

              Jook Yos

              Sorry for my English,

              I want to know if I concern only refinement of sound what is better in term of refinement between Momentum and HP100?

              • Reply February 20, 2013

                dalethorn

                How would you analyze refinement? Since both headphones have high quality sound.

                • Reply February 21, 2013

                  L.

                  To be honest, I’m still lost here too.

                  • Reply February 21, 2013

                    Jook Yos

                    I think may be i describe it clear enough, but thank for your reply.

                    • February 21, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      Refinement (Wiki): The process of removing impurities or unwanted elements from a substance. The improvement or clarification of something by the making of small changes.
                      –Since the HP100 was the first regular headphone from Soundmagic, they didn’t have a prior model to refine, but the HP100 is very clear and smooth, so maybe it qualifies. OTOH, Sennheiser had many previous models, so did they refine any of those for the Momentum? I don’t think so. But it does have a smooth and clear sound also, so maybe it qualifies too.

                    • February 22, 2013

                      Jook Yos

                      dalethorn, thank again for your good information.

                    • February 23, 2013

                      Mike

                      X2 @dalethorn

  • Reply February 19, 2013

    Pkrdlr

    L, Which would be better for Classical and Acoustic, HP100 or DT770 Le, also since the C421 is discounted which portable from the sub $100 shootout would pair well with a ipod classic 5 gen. Nice review, Thanks

    • Reply February 19, 2013

      dalethorn

      On my desktop where the 770LE bass is leaner, classics and acoustic sound very good, but on portable amps like the FiiO E17 with iPod, I would use the HP100.

    • Reply February 19, 2013

      L.

      I think both are very nice with portable amplification. Isn’t the C421 discontinued in stead of discounted? Both headphones can do well with the genre, you just have to decide if you like the bass/warmth of the DT AE or the neutrality and tight bass of the HP100. For classical I personally prefer the HP100

  • Reply February 20, 2013

    chi2

    The scaling of this chart makes things look much smoother than they are. Between each horizontal line there’s a whooping 10 dB. Normally that is only 5 dB. The seemingly slight increase in level between 1600 and 3200 Hz is in fact one of 25 dB.

    • Reply February 20, 2013

      L.

      ah, measurements 🙂

      • Reply February 21, 2013

        FBFontes

        be careful! … db spl not be confused with measurement

    • Reply February 20, 2013

      dalethorn

      The ends of the curve down toward the middle seem much like the actual sound, so my concern was the one significant departure from that – the big dip around 1600 hz or so. Even if the dip were only half that much, it should be audible. My HP100 is no longer here so I can’t try it out.

  • Reply March 29, 2013

    btrancho

    I recently purchased the HP100s and am very happy with them with one big exception – that coiled cable. It is heavy and microphonic. I’d build a new one in a minute of someone could point me to a source for the special barrel locking 3.5mm plug at the headphone end or a really narrow 3.5 that would slide all the way in. Barring that, has anyone performed the surgery necessary to connect a more standard 3.5 in the earpiece? I’m game to give that a try if it has a chance of success.

    • Reply March 29, 2013

      Mike

      Locking 3.5mm jacks are almost impossible to find. Replacing the standard jack with a standard 3.5mm is much more feasible. Or you can solder directly to the drivers, much simpler.

    • Reply March 29, 2013

      L.

      I agree the coiled cable isn’t the best. Just like with the coiled M50 cable it’s not the most pleasant to use. I couldn’t say it was microphonic though. Do keep us posted if you find a replacement!

      • Reply March 30, 2013

        btrancho

        I’m thinking that some surgery to determine if the locking collar can be removed and the hole widened would be my best bet. I use these 100% of the time either at my desk or in the living room – not much chance of them being jostled. If a right angle Neutrik can fit I’d be very happy.

        By microphonics I mean that the heavy cable hangs right down at my shoulder and the rubbing can definitely be heard when I move my head. I’m hoping that an uncoiled cable made with Mogami 2893 will eliminate that problem. I also have an original HD600 cable I could re-purpose.

    • Reply May 10, 2013

      JamieBeen

      I contacted SoundMAGIC about the coiled cable and they have said that there will be straight cables available in the very near future.

      In fact they have supplied straight cables with their new HP200 open back headphone.

  • Reply May 25, 2013

    icecoffemix

    How do HP100 compare to HP200?

    • Reply May 25, 2013

      dalethorn

      The HP100 has a classic ‘flat’ signature, while the HP200 is slightly bright and has a warmer bass. The 100 is closed and 200 is open.

      • Reply May 26, 2013

        icecoffemix

        I just read your HP200 review (nice one btw), seems it has rather big midbass which I don’t like (I think HP100 is pretty much perfect on this). Guess I’ll wait for HP300 instead.

        • Reply May 26, 2013

          dalethorn

          The HP200 is important enough that I don’t want to leave the wrong impression of its sound. It definitely does not have big anything in the bass. It just has to me a more ideal bass than, say, a Sennheiser 800 or Soundmagic HP100. I have or had headphones with big midbass, and the HP200 is nothing like those.

          • Reply May 26, 2013

            icecoffemix

            Keep in mind that you’re talking to a guy who think ESW9 has too much midbass. It’s all about preference I guess. 😛

            • Reply May 26, 2013

              dalethorn

              The choice of headphone we like is definitely about preference. But preference isn’t something I use in reviews – I make careful comparisons to a number of headphones so readers can have a more neutral basis of comparison. The bass of the ESW9a is perhaps stronger in the middle than, say, a Sennheiser HD800, but it’s *way* less than the emphasis in headphones like the Philips L1, Senn Amperior, v-moda M100, Logitech 6000 ……

              • Reply May 26, 2013

                icecoffemix

                I know, but even “neutral” differ from people to people (I think HP100 is a warmish cans for example). It helps when reviewer make comparison with other headphone I’ve heard since I can judge their preference and adapt it with mine, though this is still tricky due to non-standard unit of measurement in most review.

                • Reply May 26, 2013

                  dalethorn

                  If you think the HP100 is warm, then you can stop reading my reviews now, since I will never review anything you would consider neutral. If I had it to do over again, I would send the HP100 back without review.

                  • Reply May 26, 2013

                    icecoffemix

                    That’s probably true but I never said I don’t like “warm” headphone. I just have to adapt with the reviewer’s taste and make conclusion myself.

                    It’s funny how people perceive, clieos think HP100 is bright, lean and cold for example. Boy I wonder what you guys will think of Koss DJ100, lifeless maybe? 😛

                    • May 26, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      You’re still misrepresenting what I said. My reviews do offer a personal opinion somewhere (usually at the end) that could be seen as “taste”, but the critical part of the reviews that examine the sound have nothing to do with taste – they are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, so users can get a more objective idea of how the item really sounds.

                    • May 26, 2013

                      icecoffemix

                      I’m sorry but unless you’re using hard number measurement I can’t really trust term like “little” “a bit more” “lot” or such since again, it differ between people.

                      I don’t believe that measurement tell everything there is but it does tell some things objectively.

                    • May 26, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      Hard number measurements? Have you looked at Innerfidelity’s tests? Have you examined 1000 of their charts? Have you seen some of the huge sample to sample variances? I still look at them occasionally, but I don’t use terms like “trust” and “hard measurement” for headphones, since that’s just misleading. And once again, since you’re still misquoting me, my judgements are based on direct comparisons, not “this sounds a little bit bassy”.

                    • May 26, 2013

                      icecoffemix

                      Yes and yes, but I mean it as a complement to subjective review, but I know that this is hard to do without proper equipment and time.

                      How do you compare phone to each other then if you neither use hard number or relative term like “more, little, lot”?

                    • May 27, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      On the youtube review for the ADL H118 from yesterday, in the comments section, someone asked that so I explained the process in detail. It probably isn’t much different from what Mike and others do here, except Mike goes into more detail about the qualities that I just summarize. That’s why I read this site a lot – to learn more about how to listen for the extra details. You are mostly right about your perceptions, but I just want to make clear there are lots of ways to subtract out personal preferences and get closer to an objective evaluation of a headphone or amp, but it’s a lot of work usually, and even for a customer who is just reading reviews, if the customer wants to really know how something sounds, it takes time – there’s no shortcut. Just don’t confuse preference with the work that’s done to make an evaluation – some reviewers don’t do the hard work, so you came to the right place for better reviews.

  • Reply May 26, 2013

    John123John

    would this headphone be a good comparison (similar) to the linear dt 880? I dont know if you’ve had experience with it.

    • Reply May 26, 2013

      dalethorn

      I haven’t heard the 880, but Edd of NobleHifi (who has done at least one Headfonia review also) has a lot of experience with it and the HP100, and since he really likes both, his comparisons (also under the name ‘Quadpatch’) should be very telling.

      • Reply May 27, 2013

        John123John

        Thanks. Great reviewer and really cool site.
        Basically the same. Less detail but more isolation and bass slam.

  • Reply June 27, 2013

    Eric Thompson

    So you think these pretty much are better than the D600’s?

    • Reply June 27, 2013

      L.

      Denon D600? completely different sound sig. HP100 is neutral and tight, D600 is bass and more musical and less defined

      • Reply June 28, 2013

        Eric Thompson

        What I was referring to is here “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.”

        Your saying that the Denons sound stage is smaller and the mids are less detailed and clear next to the HP100? The Denon can be had for around $400 now instead of $600 but I would say that is quite and accomplishment for a headphone half the price, both being around the ear and closed.

        I generally prefer more bass but I enjoyed the K550’s, I too wish you would of had a chance to hear them for a comparison or perhaps mick gets a listen from the HP100’s

        • Reply June 28, 2013

          L.

          Oh i see. thx for that. in short: yes I think they’re the better technical headphone. Not necessarily the most fun however

  • Reply July 25, 2016

    Matt

    The Hp 100 sound NOTHING like the AKG K550. It beats it in every dept. Without going in to bass which is no contest seeing as the AKG K550 has next to no bass impact, the SMs equals it in detail but in a far more musical way. The AKGs have very thin sounding mids, the 100s more full bodied and with greater impact. The hp100s are much more fun, but can be just as analytical as the K550s if that’s your pleasure.

    These are nowhere near similar is what I’m getting at 🙂

    • Reply July 26, 2016

      dale thorn

      I had both. I thought the K550 was close to neutral, and while the HP-100 was fairly neutral in most respects, I thought the midrange was a bit weird. But the HP-100 did have serious bass impact.

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