Sunday, April 22, 2012

Review: dbE Acoustics HP30 Fullsized headphone

It was started when a post started on our local audiophile forum about a loaner program for locally branded headphone. Without wasting times I signed myself in, and fortunately chosen. Now, after several weeks listening and comparing to my other headphone, I would like to give my though about it.

The Package.
dbE HP30 headphone comes with a big cardboard box. You could see from the photo I took how it compared to my Goldring DR150 box I apologize, it seems the photo is missing... will update with new photos. Photo added. The box itself looked nice. Opening it, I found another box which contain the headphone. The inside box is nice and sturdy, but I don't like how the outer cardboard felt, it's felt flimsy.

Open the inside box, and you will find the headphone nestled on cloth covered hollow. It also include a 6.3mm adapter jack and an extension cable, and some papers of course. Overall packages is quite nice, the cloth covered headphone placement help creating expensive impression. I just wish the outer cardboard is as good as inside box. Or ditch the outer box entirely, and print the label and what-not directly to the inside box surface.

The Build.
The headphone holder is made from machined aluminum with brushed finish. It's an open headphone, and you can see the metal mesh with a metal plate printed with the company name. The headphone back is made from some hard plastic, half painted silver inline with the silver holder and metal mesh, while the other half is black.

On top, the headband is covered with a smooth pleather (or what I guess is). It has some padding on it, which felt nice on my head. Maybe the material used didn't had that expensive feeling, especially the material holding the two side of pleather together (and the one hold the velvet pad), but for the price I think it's good enough.

I really like the velvet pad used on dbE HP30, it soft and very, very nice on my skin. It actually smoother and denser than the velvet pad used on my Goldring DR150. The cup is wide and deep, my quite large ears had no problem going inside at all.

At first I though this headphone would press my head like a gripping machine, but when I bend the headband a little bit to place it on my head, I quite surprised how easily it bend. And it the clamp is very nice, not too strong, and not too weak. It just... right. My DR150 had stronger grip than HP30. This headphone bit heavy, on the same scale as my DR150, I think. Wearing my AudioTechnica SJ33 after HP30 or DR150 is like wearing nothing at all, because it's so light, and the clamping force is even lighter than HP30.

Overall, dbE HP30 looked and felt nice. Maybe some would say it looked similar to another headphone from Germany brand, but I had no idea how similar since I don't have the mentioned headphone on hand for comparison. HP30 did look expensive, though.

The Sound.
This headphone is a loaner from dbE Acoustics, so it already burned in. How does it sounded? I think its a neutral one. Comparing it to my AudioTechnica SJ33 and Goldring DR150, dbE HP30 placed right on the middle, maybe little bit on SJ33 side. So middle ground leaning to bright side I think.

While I said leaning on bright side, the treble isn't that bright. My SJ33 is brighter than HP30. The treble is smooth, well extended, with some roll off on highest frequencies. Nothing too glaring, but not too roll of like my DR150 either. Very polite. The treble is pretty nimble, better than my DR150 I think. But then maybe that because DR150 treble is rolled off earlier than HP30. Listening to HP30 after DR150 is like going to a room with lot of open windows and light after a dark, damp and warm sauna room. The treble is just free, airy, and nimble.

Vocal is brighter than my DR150, bit on lean side. But not bright like my SJ33 does. Really, it just like on middle ground between SJ33 and DR150, with HP30 located bit on SJ33 side. Vocals has this airy sound, much more than my DR150. On some vocals (especially on high female vocals), this contribute to nice, and airy vocals, but on heavier vocals (like baritone males, contralto females), this take away those nice chest sound. The King's Singers baritone part on 'Scarborough Fair' sounded leaner, and brighter than on my DR150, which has dark, meaty sound on it. On the other side, HP30 render light vocals of Celtic Woman sopranos better: airier, and nimbler.

Bass is leaner than both my DR150 and SJ33. HP30 sub-bass is pretty rolled off, while the mid-bass is quite polite. Punchy, but nothing like my DR150. My SJ33 has much more sub-bass than HP30. Bass on HP30 is tad looser too. Comparatively, mid-bass HP30 is tad leaner than SJ33. The detail is quite good, almost as good as SJ33 but nothing compared to DR150 (which understandable, seeing the price bracket). HP30 mid-bass is quite good actually, it can hold it's own compared to SJ33 which marketed as portable DJ headphone.

HP30 has a forward presentation, which combined with the airy sound, make vocals quite nice. Guitars sounded crisp, although not as meaty or thick as DR150 but, crispier. The bite is not on SJ33 level though, since SJ33 has this peaky treble which help give more bite to guitars. Strings also had more bite and air to it, compared to DR150, just as flute had. Listening to same song with flute and strings on it, it's like DR150 took dark and mournful side while HP30 take on keening and airy side. SJ33 take cut-your-skin approach.

For musical genre, I think HP30 very good at acoustic with not too many instrument on it. The separation is pretty good, little bit better than my SJ33 because HP30 has more depth to it sound. The depth isn't that detail however, compared to my DR150, but for the price I think it's pretty good. As I said before, SJ33 place all instrument on same distance. HP30 had more 3D sound than my SJ33, but positioning is quite vague, again compared to my DR150 which priced much higher, but much better than my SJ33 which place almost everything left and right.

Heavy metal, speed metal, trash, and those fast paced metals are no go. HP30 relaxed sound just didn't render those speed correctly. But for slow rock, acoustic rock, or folk-rock I think HP30 manage alright.
Fast club song, vocals club song also no go. The sub-bass just isn't enough. Amr Diab 'Maak Bartaah' from his last album 'Banadeek Taala' sounded so lean, the bass just isn't satisfying. At all. For this kind of musics (club, dance and metals), I think my SJ33 is much better choice. Faster pace, satisfying bass (and sub-bass), forward vocals, and more treble to convey the energy.

Classical piece is alright, if you don't mind how HP30 presented all the instruments forwarder than the usual. If you think DR150 turn classical piece into rock concert, HP30 will turn classical piece into LIVE rock concert. It's too forward for instrumental classical piece I think. For this price range, I still think Superlux HD668B as the best headphone for instrumental classical musics.

HP30 is quite forgiving for badly recorded musics and or low quality musics, just like my SJ33. It's quite musical, listening to HP30 you won't focus on individual sound, but to the music itself. Not like HD668B which dissect music so every flaw apparent.

The Verdict.
dbE Acoustics first full-sized headphone HP30 is a nice headphone. The packaging and build looks very expensive. Open design allowing open and airy sound, forward vocals, punchy bass (although rather lean on sub-bass), and moderate to slow pace make it great headphone for pop, jazz, slow musics, vocals, and acoustics. But if you want headphone for fast paced music, or deep, meaty, satisfying bass, you better look else where.

Recommended, if your music taste is right.

PS: it's priced about IDR400.000,00 if I'm not wrong. I use a FiiO E10 DAC on my review.

Thank you for dbE Acoustics for supplying the loaner unit. It's very nice experience!!!

» Old Photos «


Anonymous said...

walah.. kok netral sih.. bright deh.

Panjoel said...

Seperti yang sering dibilang orang "each people hear differently". Untuk saya, HP30 masuk ke kategori netral sedikit geser kearah bright. Sebab pembanding saya adalah SJ33 yang jelas-jelas bright, dan DR150 yang dark.

Mungkin anda termasuk sensitif terhadap treble, makanya menurut anda HP30 adalah bright.

Anonymous said...

salam kenal om
kmaren baru aja audisi nih headphone
emang kalo dibilang bright emang gak terlalu

kalo dipake maen game gimana om? suround nya gimana ya

Panjoel said...

3D positioning HP30 agak kurang akurat, kalau memang perlu posisi yang akurat, lebih baik anda ke Superlux H668b. Lagi pula, bass HP30 kurang nndang kalau untuk efek ledakan.

Anonymous said...

Wah, DR150 bagi om dark ya? malah bagi saya itu udah bright lho. Kalau di bandingkan HP30 sama DR150 secara keseluruhan gimana om?

Panjoel said...

@ Anonim 2: Yupe, buat saya, DR150 termasuk dark.

overall: DR150 slaughter HP30 on every way. Satu2nya HP30 yg lebih baik dari DR150 adalah di vocal perempuan, walau DR150 lebih natural. Untuk micro-detil, timbre, positioning, DR150 jauh lebih OK dari HP30. Wajar, mengingat price-bracket yg berbeda jauh.

Anonymous said...

Maaf, nubi mau tny..
Separation itu apa sih? Bukannya separasi (panning) kiri-kanan itu diatur pas proses mixing lagu ya? Apa ada hubungannya sm produsen headphone/earphone?
Jd masalah kiri kanannya luas atau sempit itu bknnya tergantung hasil proses mixingnya, mohon pencerahannya.

Panjoel said...

Buat saudara Anonymous:

Separasi disini adalah seberapa bagus headphone dalam memilah dan memproyeksikan alat musik dan suara2 lain di dalam sound-stage. Jadi setiap bagian suara alat musik dan vokal jelas terpisah.
jadi setiap suara jelas, tidak bercampur aduk.
Bedakan dengan positioning, seberapa bagus headphone dalam memproyeksikan letak dari sumber suara dalam sound-stage (tidak hanya kiri-kanan tetapi juga depan-belakang dan atas-bawah).

Sistem yang bagus (baik headphone maupun speaker), jika diberikan sumber yang bagus, akan mampu memberikan ilusi seolah-olah kita berada di depan pemain musik dan penyanyinya.
Tapi tentunya harus didukung dengan recording dan mixing yang bagus juga.

Semoga menjawab.

Anonymous said...

Permisi bro, tanya
Clarity nya dibandingin sama dr150 gimana ya?

Panjoel said...

@ Anonymous: wah, mohon maaf, saya sudah lama tidak mendengarkan dbE HP30, jadi saya sudah tidak ingat detil suaranya.