I’m not embarrassed to admit that I’ve rarely given much consideration to headphones when listening to music or watching movies on my iPad. I’ve used a combination of both the Apple earbuds as well as an old set of Sony headphones that have the over-the-head band (because I don’t like buds that fall out of my ear). Up to now, either pair has served me just fine. I’ve never considered myself an audiophile, nor have I ever thought that I might be missing something from a more expensive pair of headphones.
Well, I’m now realizing that the HD video I watch on my iPad and the higher bitrate mp3s that I’ve purchased over the year have been sorely mismatched when it comes to my listening hardware. I recently had a chance to watch some movies and listen to some tunes with a set of MS 400s provided to me by Phiaton, and I’m quite simply blown away. I know very little about the technical side of headphones, so tech specs such as 40mm drivers, 32ohm impedance, and a frequency range of 15Hz to 22,000Hz might tell you more about these headphones than I can hope to explain. For me, when it comes to hardware, whether it’s a laptop, a tablet, a power tool, or a smart phone — I’m only concerned with my overall experience. I’ve purchased hardware before with a mixture of 1-star to 5-star reviews, and what I’ve discovered is that while customer reviews are often great, once they reach a certain number where the average approaches 3 to 3.5 stars, a personal test drive is really the only way I’ll be able to make a decision.
1. The intro to Iron Man 2 where Tony exits the C-130 and flies down to the Stark Expo? I watched it about 20 times in a row — a few times with the Apple earbuds, a few times with my Sony headphones, and then a few times with the MS 400s. Winner? MS 400s. Holy #$@! When Tony kicks in the afterburners, I jumped to crank the volume back down.
2. An AC/DC Live Concert CD ripped at 192Kb/s? Sounded horrible with the Sony headphones, decent with the Apple earbuds, and a slightly better quality with the MS 400s. Winner? MS 400s, but only by a little. I’m convinced it’s the bitrate. But still, Angus’ solos never sounded better to me.
3. The Cult Compilation CD (High Octane Cult -2009) ripped at 256Kb/s? Now we’re talking! At 256Kb/s, the MS 400s stole the show. It was that noticeable. (And perfect timing as The Cult has a new album coming out and my ears are now spoiled.)
The MS 400s come in red or black with carbon-fiber outer shell (the visual effect the carbon fiber provides is quite nice). I thought the red ones were absolutely beautiful, but the black ones I received are just as nice… they’re light, the leather feels nice, and when you’ve got them on, they do a pretty decent job of noise cancellation even though that feature isn’t built in. Quite a few times my wife would wave both arms at me to get my attention as I absolutely could not hear her yelling my name.
Okay, Phiaton… you’ve convinced me that you may very well get what you pay for when it comes to headphones. All these years I’ve been listening to music and watching movies on airplanes thinking my Apple earbuds were the epitome of sound perfection. Now I know better. Just as I spent a bit extra getting an HD TV, I now realize that the audio portion of movies deserves as good a quality as the video when it comes to hardware. Consider me schooled.