GermanMAESTRO is one of those companies that clearly knows what it’s doing on some fronts, and yet seemingly hasn’t got a clue on others. Where the prevailing trend leads headphone stalwarts such as Denon to produce ever more Beats-like headphones, GermanMAESTRO’s cans would get you laughed out of “da club”.
Despite these urban style failings, the GermanMAESTRO GMP 400 headphones do at least demonstrate that the company knows how to produce great sound quality, though.
Like last year’s GermanMAESTRO GMP 8.35, the GMP 400 are not exactly good-looking headphones. There’s a guile-less industrial vibe to these cans, and while the GMP 8.35 at least offer some kind of rugged credibility here it just comes across as a lack of design nous.
Of course, as headphones designed for home use, the GMP 400's lack of style shouldn't really be a problem for anyone other than those with serious vanity issues. That said, the GMP 400 don’t really look or feel worthy of their £200 price tag. Their lightweight plastic construction and clunky manually-adjustable headband are things we simply wouldn’t expect to see from rival manufacturers such as Sennheiser and feel a little flimsy given quite how far they are removed from entry-level cans.
Sadly, the GMP 400 also use non-removable cables – surely it can’t be too hard to incorporate plug-in cables into a set of headphones this large? These issues and things like the odd chunky plastic ingot at the cable join and short spiral bit on the otherwise straight cable are likely to turn off some – if not many – buyers. We’re sure GermanMAESTRO could come up with explanations as to why they’re there, but they just don’t make a lot of sense in most common situations.
As we mentioned above, the GMP 400 are resolutely at-home headphones. They are open-backed, meaning that they leak sound a fair amount and offer little isolation. This means that you’ll be able to hear what’s going on around you, and if you crank the volume, people nearby will hear what you’re listening to. Going open-back comes with many sonic benefits, though – which we’ll cover later.
Aesthetics and some build elements may not shine in the GMP 400, but they are comfortable. They have a light-but-secure fit, their velour pads don’t heat up, or stick to, your skin and they are light in weight.
The earcups are fixed to the headband using what’s called a cardamatic suspension mount. This gives the cups a bit of springy give, helping them to fit perfectly to just about any head. They may not look amazing or feel like they could withstand being trodden on, but in use they’re just as comfortable as any great high-end pair of headphones.
As full-size over-ear headphones, the GMP 400 don’t have much of a need for accessories. The cable ends in a screw-on 3.5 to 6.3mm jack adapter for easy use with just about any audio device, but you don’t get a case in the box.
Although we’ve laid some criticism upon the GMP 400, in-use they show that GermanMAESTRO has its priorities in the right place. These are serious headphones that offer excellent value in the sound-to-cost stakes.
These are natural-sounding, balanced headphones that earn comparisons to the excellent Sennheiser HD 600/650 and AKG K702 – falling some way in-between the two.
They’re not quite as laid back as the Sennheisers and not quite as fiercely detail-driven as the AKGs. The sound stage isn’t quite as aggressively expansive as some open-backed headphones either, but otherwise these cans offer excellent sound quality.
Their impressive neutrality and natural tone is given the extra hint of enjoyment with a smooth, “warm” mid-range that is often missing from some of the more analytical headphones. Relatively forward mids stop the GMP 400 from sounding altogether too relaxed, wide and diffuse – or dull in other words, as some of Sennheiser’s open-backed sets are often accused of being.
With a set of great, faithful headphones it’s often hard to describe sound convincingly – outing an odd bass skew is much easier than pinpointing a lack of one. The GMP 400’s great sound is down to the excellent separation at the reasonable price and the natural, even tonality. Although the sound stage isn’t dramatically wide for an open pair of headphones, it’s the separation that matters most for critical listening – and for getting that “high-end” sound.
Bass tone is typical of what you’d expect from a good open pair of headphones. It’s too diffuse to provide the ear-rocking slam you’d find in a bass-driven closed pair, but technically it’s commendable. Depth is good too and it’s just as balanced as every other part of the GMP 400 sound. Bassheads will find it too reserved for their tastes, though.
The GermanMAESTRO GMP 400 may not look quite as good as most of the competition, and some of the construction elements could be improved on too. However, at £189.99 they are simply excellent value for money and more than able to compete with headphones that cost a good £100 more. If you’re after natural-sounding “proper” headphones to use at home, these are a top buy.
The GermanMAESTRO GMP 400 would probably never do well on the high street. They lack both the style of the modern portable headphone and the swanky in-hand feel of some at-home sets. However, in use they’re almost universally excellent, with a comfortable fit and natural, finely balanced sound that you’d have to pay a chunk more to hear from most of the other big headphone names.