Headphones have become fashionable and, in the process, design has become increasingly important. But that's not how GermanMAESTRO rolls. The GermanMAESTRO GMP 8.35 D are the very antithesis of the fashion headphone. As ugly as sin and built to withstand a light stampede, they won't make anyone but the truly headphone-obsessed look on with jealousy. However, they sound rather special, and make excellent home studio headphones if you don't mind missing out on owning a set from a known name like Beyerdynamic or Shure.
GermanMAESTRO's big claim for the GMP 8.35 D is that you can tread on them without causing any damage - they will you to punish them. These claims aren't baseless either. All vulnerable areas are covered with hardwearing material.
The backs of the earcups are closed and finished with polyethylene plastic, which is slightly flexible and therefore not prone to cracking under pressure like harder plastics. The area between the headband and cup is hidden by a concertina of tough rubber, and the headband itself is covered throughout with fake leather. GermanMAETRO has made sure that there are no loose ends at any of the seams between the steampunk-like segments to work their way free after rough treatment.
This kind of toughness is a little different to that of self-consciously modular broadcaster and studio favourites like the Beyerdynamic DT 100. The cable is non-removable, and the main UK distributor HiFi Headphones doesn't supply replacement pads - as yet.
Next to more mainstream headphones, and better-known studio headphones like the Shure SRH940, the faux leather pads aren't particularly soft, with a slightly coarse grain that's pretty obviously fake. However, the GMP 8.35 D headphones are remarkably comfortable, given you might assume they'd feel like wearing a tank on your head.
The pads are generously padded and spread the reasonably mid-to-firm grip exerted by the headband across a pretty wide area. Long listening are no problem - although if you have sticky-out ears, they may get irritated if you wear them on-the-go as there's not a great open expanse within each cup. Hence, your ears rub against the inside padding a little.
However, the closed-back design, leather-style pads and secure fit give the GermanMAESTRO GMP 8.35 D good sound isolation. Swallowing our pride, we took the ugly duckling headphones out and about to see how they fared with the noise of public transport - they pass with ease. If you don't mind the look, they a make decent out-and-about set - although the thick and heavy coiled corkscrew cable isn't the most convenient, designed for studio dwellers and DJ types rather than commuters.
But do they really look that bad? Their look is stereotypically Germanic, full of utilitarian, strength-boosting ridges and corrugation. But they're actually a lot more practical - as a portable pair - than many studio headphones.
They don't stick out a ridiculous extent from your head, for one, which is the greatest silly-look-making factor of over-ears headphones. Still, other studio headphones manage to marry practicality with a neat look, such as the Beyerdynamic DT 770. And both that Beyerdynamic pair and the comparable Shure SRH940 feel a little bit more... premium.