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SoundMagic HP100 - Sound Quality and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

As a brand we've championed in reviews like the SoundMagic E30's, we were a bit worried about whether the SoundMagic HP100 would match the quality of the company's in-ear models. Making over-ear headphones is a different game entirely, and the large 53mm driver, folding design and rather loud look suggested they might be brash "DJ" headphones - all bass and no class. Pleasingly, however, they are anything but.

The SoundMagic HP100s are fantastic in a number of ways. These are balanced-sounding headphones that successfully tip-toe the line between an accurate pair and an entertaining one. What's most impressive is their rendering of detail, which is exceptional. There's more space and insight at the top-end than the Shure SRH840 - a key rival, and notably detailed cans.

There's no harshness of sharpness here though, which is always a risk when opting for a slightly bright signature. We'd go as far as to call the treble here utterly delightful, with enough sweetness to nudge the HP100 away from being analytical "studio" headphones, back into the realm of the mainstream.

There's a smoothness to the sound of the SoundMagic HP100 headphones that makes prolonged listening extremely enjoyable, but it doesn't rely on warmth as some smooth headphones do. These really aren't particularly warm, valuing clarity over most other things. If anything, the mids are a little recessed, giving the HP100 signature a sense of a "stepped back", relaxing sound rather than an up-front and aggressive one. It's certainly not relaxed enough to become at all dull, though.

This approach to the mid-range also gives the SoundMagic HP100 an airy sound, bolstered by the already larger-than-average (for a closed pair) soundstage. These are among just a few closed sets we've been happy to use as an at-home pair - we normally favour a fully-open set when leakage and non-existent sound isolation are no issue.

The only potential issue we can envision is that those after the typical "DJ" sound may be a little disappointed by the bass response, although this too is by no means bad - it's just well-balanced. It's subtle and therefore only shows its presence when required. Bass separation is great, and depth is decent, if not quite as notable as other elements of the HP100.

Value

The SoundMagic HP100's superbly detailed sound only makes us wish the company hadn't played its usual trick with the design. Comparable headphones from Sennheiser and Shure may tend to look functional and little else, but we'd prefer that over contrived style mis-steps.

However, from a more practical standpoint there's very little to complain about. Great comfort, a versatile design and sound that pips similarly-priced rivals like the Shure SRH840 and Audio-Technica ATH-M50 make the SoundMagic HP100 a clear candidate for a headphone of the year nomination.

Verdict

SoundMagic has done it again. The HP100 headphones are excellent, highly detailed-sounding headphones that marry the insight of a clinical headphone with an easygoing smoothness of a pair that's more about enjoyment than monitoring. Add great comfort to the mix and you have a real winning pair of cans. We just wish SoundMagic had classed-up the look a little more.

Overall Score

9

Scores In Detail

  • Design & Features 8
  • Sound Quality 9
  • Value 9

Elio Andia

December 26, 2012, 7:46 pm

Awesome review! I'll try these out and see how they compare to my Grados.

The Musical Juice

January 14, 2013, 2:44 pm

Shure 840 (125 euros) or Soundmagic HP 100 (170 euros)?

JamieBeen

May 10, 2013, 3:07 pm

Nice review of the HP100. I've had trouble finding this headphone for months now, but it appears stock is now available and just ordered one. I'll post up my impressions.

lumberjake

May 12, 2013, 10:39 am

This is a very good headphone.I also have the well received V Moda M80s and these simply destroy them. Sometimes I actually use them as portable despite their size but mostly use the M80 cause it still sounds great and looks way better. The only weakness in their sound may be a lean lower mids but it has a great sound stage, imaging and awesome detail resolution with perfect sparkly highs and incredible sub bass. Oh and its super comfy as long as you have fairly shallow ears(some find their ears rub the driver).

JamieBeen

May 20, 2013, 5:54 pm

I've now tracked down somewhere I can buy the SoundMAGIC HP100 in the UK and confirm they are universally excellent!

I've compared the HP100 with the Beyerdynamic DT770, Audio-Technica ATH-M50 and the AKG K550 and the HP100 is the clear winner. I was considering the SoundMAGIC HP200, but need the closed back design to prevent sound leakage.

Bass is powerful and well controlled. Mids are smooth and sweet (acoustic instruments and female vocals sound beautiful) and the trebles are detailed (without being harsh).

Overall the HP100's are superb headphones that look like they will be serving me well for many years.

lumberjake

October 18, 2015, 7:04 am

Just like to update.
I am not careful with my headphones and these have drpped several times, unfortuanetly, needing to be super glued at the crotch of the "Y" cup attachment. So be careful.
These can be powered and used portably due to the low impedance of 32 ohms but the large 53mm drivers really like more power and I have been more satisfied using these at home through a PC via a DAC/Amp, both the Headstreamer which I love and is a warmer rich sound producing incredib;e bass then my Fiio Kunlun with high gain and bass boost both on, this latter set up brings more sparkle and speed along with bass.
I have been going through IEMs and portable on ear headphones for awhile since my M80 including the Yamaha EPH100 , Panasonic hje900 and currently Sennheiser's new Urabnite. Unfortunately, despite all these being touted as robust,all have met their demise in about a year and really hope that Sennheiser will last.
I mention the above portables because they are all highly rated for their quality and are about the same price as these HP100 yet none come close to the Soundmagics sound.
I am surprised these don't get more attention because this is probably the largest HP market pricewise with a ton of competition yet all I have had or tested ,even costing $100 more just don't compare.
I think what really makes these stand apart is the amount of clarity and detail yet somehow remain smooth/never harsh which is bizarre as that is usually unavoidable. The Soundmagic never sound veiled, and are so immersive especially for a closed can
The bass is also a funny one. Listen to music where bass is not big and you would never imagine how capable the bass is, until you try some EDM then WOW, these kick those portables I mentioned down, and both the Panasonic and Urbanite are supposedly poweful in the bass department, these should satisfy a basshead IMO, they literally shake the cups.
Honestly the best $200 I have spent in a very long time. If these do die I wouldn't think of buying anything else because I know I would be disappointed.

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