Headphone Sessions 7/18/2011: Pioneer Consumer Headphones

HeadRoom recently added some of the Pioneer “Pro” line headphones to its offering. We also received samples of some of their “Consumer” line cans, including the SE-A1000 ($149), SE-M290 ($50) and the SE-MJ31-V ($60) or “Loop” -- so, we decided to put them through the ringer. Speaking of putting headphones through the ringer, after listening to the SE-M290 that’s exactly what we’d like to do with this can, ring out the mud! We found the mids to be masked and undefined, highs recessed, and although they’ve got a solid bass response, it’s one-note bass that is garbled and non dynamic. They have what is called a “Bass Duct”, which is a hole on the outside of each earcup, and upon inspecting we discovered the hole doesn’t actually go all the way through the outer earcup. We experimented with plugging the Bass Duct, but found it made no difference in sound, so we just aren’t sure what kind of sonic tuning or shaping it could be doing. Because we feel there are much better sounding choices at the same price, the Sennheiser HD203 and Audio Technica ATH-M10 for example, HeadRoom has decided not to carry the SE-M290. [caption id="attachment_2162" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Pioneer SE-M290"]Pioneer SE-M290[/caption] The Loop SE-MJ31-V falls into a category of headphones that struggles to attain truly good sound: the on-ear, closed-back design. This type of headphone often lacks bass and can come across as shrill and bright. However, the Loop steps out of the norm with a solid bass response and forward mid-range, but rolled off highs. Attaining a good fit is also usually problematic in this category, but we found the Loop to be comfortable with enough pressure to make a good seal, yet not too much to be pinching or clamping. If fashion is a concern the Loop offers three color choices (black, red and purple) to fit your mood or style. Overall the Loop strikes a pretty good balance between form and fashion, but when it comes to sound quality, we do think the AKG K81 DJ are worth the extra $10, as they provide more natural and better defined mids with finer clarity in the highs, as well as superior isolation. [caption id="attachment_2163" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Pioneer SE-MJ31-V"]Pioneer SE-MJ31-V[/caption] The star of the consumer line is the SE-A1000. These cans have the resolution to expose a bad recording, and with a good recording they have a seemingly effortless presentation that is very listenable and smooth, with the biggest strength of the headphone being its very broad and open soundstage. Pioneer states these headphones are great for watching movies or picking up directional audio cues while gaming, and we agree. They are an open headphone, so for a comparison, we put them up against the Sennheiser HD518, which is slightly less expensive but a star performer in the category. The HD518 manages a more engaging and impactful presentation with better dynamics, but the SE-A1000’s soundstage is deeper and more spacious, again lending itself very well to movies and gaming. [caption id="attachment_2164" align="aligncenter" width="540" caption="Pioneer SE-A1000"]Pioneer SE-A1000[/caption] We did find the fit of these headphones to be a bit problematic for some listeners. The SE-A1000 is a large, full-size headphone with a suspension-strap style headband that has very little resistance, so keeping it from resting on the shoulders of someone with a small head could be a challenge. For medium to large size craniums they are lightweight and comfortable ... perfect for a couple of hours in front of a movie or a first-person shooter. For more information on Pioneer headphones and to know when these models are available, visit us at Headphone.com. As always, a HeadRoom headphone geek is awaiting your questions, so give us a call at 800-828-8184.

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