It's a Headphones Thing

A Headphones Reviews Blog

REVIEW: SoundMagic HP100 – Smooth


Prior to the review, I’d like to thank Liyan & Tony for providing me with the review unit.

SoundMagic is a quite well-known Chinese IEMs and Headphones manufacturer, founded in 2005. Over the years, SoundMagic was known for their cheap bang for the buck IEMs, such as the PL50s, the E10s and others.  Earlier this year, a new model in their website caught my eye; it was called the HP100, and it was SM’s first full-sized headphones. Knowing that SoundMagic’s products are said to be of very good quality, I was immediately interested in reviewing the HP100s. Apparently, SoundMagic made some changes in this model since January, and the finished HP100s were finally released to the market at June’s-end. They retail for around $200, which is a pretty competitive price-range, as there are lots of headphones which retail around the same price. Let’s see if SoundMagic’s first full-sized headphones offer as good bang for the buck value as their IEMs.

Before we’ll start, here are the technical specifications of the SoundMagic HP100s:  

Driver: 53mm Dynamic Neodymium

Frequency Range: 10Hz ~ 30KHz

Impedance: 32Ω+-10%Ohms

Sensitivity: 95±3DB at 1KHz/mw

Maximum Input Power: 100mw

Cable Length: 1.2m

Plug: 3.5mm, L style plug gold-plated

Weight: 288g

Packaging: The Packaging is a white cardboard box, which looks quite simple but does its job quite well. It has a picture of the HP100s on its front, a frequency response graph on its side, and a few drawings of its positioning options on the other side, while its back has some technical specifications, explanations about the product and drawings of the accessories.

Accessories: SoundMagic provides a quite solid pack of accessories. First, is a hard shell-case, which looks a bit too-similar to V-MODA’s “exoskeleton” case, both in the shape and the color-scheme. It protects the headphones very well, and has an inner-pocket to store the accessories in. A small metal Karabiner, which can clip the case to your bag, is included too. There are two kinds of adapters provided too; one is a flight adapter, and the other one is a screw-on 3.5mm to 6.35mm plug adapter. Because the HP100’s cups are quite glossy and shiny, they’re fingerprint-magnets, but fortunately, a cleaning cloth is included too. Last but not least, a 1.2m long detachable cable (3.5mm to 3.5mm with lock mechanism) is provided either. It would’ve been great if another cable, a straight and not coiled one, would’ve been provided, as some people do not really like coiled cables. Also a replacement pair of ear-pads could’ve been nice, though in my opinion, another cable would’ve been more important.  The rating is 9/10.

the cable and the included adapters

Building Quality & Design: The HP100s are very well-built, and they feel quite tough and sturdy. The quite flexible headband is covered with a thick pleather layer, while plastic ear-cups which feel quite strong and tough, are covered with shiny metal-plates, with SoundMagic’s logo on it. The cups can fold to 90 and 180 degrees, and they can also be rotated a bit on their pivots. The fold-hinges are very tough and strong, and they integrate nicely with the extending arms, which have numbers up to 10 on them, that help a lot with the headphones’ positioning. The user-replaceable ear-pads are made of the same-material as the headband’s coating layer. There are big left and right markings printed on a plastic-piece which connects the extension-arms to the headband. The cable is a detachable one, which connects and locks into a single-sided 3.5mm connection-point in the left headband. Unfortunately, due to the use of a locking-mechanism, only the supplied cable can be used. The coiled-cable has strong and big strain-reliefs on both of its sides, and overall, it feels quite durable. Overall, the HP100s are not as tough as the TMA-1s, but they come quite close, and their construction and build quality are very satisfying. The rating is 9/10.

the cable’s locking mechanism

Comfort & Fit: The HP100 is one of the most comfortable pairs of full-sized headphones that I ever had a chance to use, due to a few reasons: Their clamping-force is very low, which makes them a lot less fatiguing than some of the other headphones that I’ve tried. I know that a strong clamping force can sometimes ruin an experience with a good-sounding pair of headphones, but well, this isn’t the case here. The second reason is that the HP100s are very well padded. The ear-pads and the headband are both padded with a thick but quite soft pleather, which is very pleasant to touch. The ear-pads are pretty deep and they can easily fit my ears inside them. The next reason is that their weight (about 280 Grams, not too light, but not too heavy either), is very well divided, so it isn’t too felt. The fit is secure and the headphones don’t feel like they’re going to fall from your head at all. Overall, the comfort is a very strong point of the HP100s, I was very happy with it. The rating is 9.5/10.

Isolation: As the HP100s are mostly intended to be used at home or indoors, the isolation isn’t the most important thing, but they do isolate quite decently. They isolate better than Audio Technica’s A700s, but worse than AiAiAi’s TMA-1s. The rating is 7/10.

Sound Quality: The HP100s were given a burn-in time of about 70 hours, no noticeable changes were detected.

The HP100s utilize huge 53mm drivers, which produce a quite natural, balanced accurate and smooth sound-signature, and overall, an un-fatiguing one. It should be noted that an iPod might struggle a bit driving these headphones due to their low sensitivity (95 dB), so I do recommend pairing these headphones with an amp. I personally paired them with the GoVibe Mini-Box MKII, which managed to drive them quite well.

the HP100’s frequency response graph (pictured from their packaging)

The Bass: I was quite surprised that headphones which utilize a 53mm sized driver produce such a light and tight low-end, but it is by no means cold, thin or weak, vice versa, it feels quite full, it has a nice body to it. Quantity-wise, it’s about neutral. It’s very clean and quite clear, and it doesn’t bleed to the mids at-all. I find it’s detailing to be great, but it doesn’t throw the details “to your face”. The bass’ speed is decent, but nothing more than that. It extends quite low, a bit less than V-MODA’s M80s, but its resolution in the lowest-regions is quite better than the M80s’.

The Midrange: The HP100’s midrange is not forward, but it is not recessed either, apart from its upper registers (around 900 to 2k), which feel a bit “hidden”, missing and overshadowed by the other frequencies. The midrange has plenty of details in it; even the smallest and most minor vocal nuances can be easily heard due the drivers’ great detailing. As the bass, also the mids have a great clarity and cleanness. Smoothness can be found over the whole midrange, and because of that, I wasn’t really able to detect any sibilance in the vocals.

The Treble: The highs extension is great, one of the best things that these headphones do in terms of sound, though some of the highest notes are placed in the background, rather than in the front. The treble is never harsh; actually, it is very smooth. The treble has a nice amount of sparkle, and the detailing is as good as in the other frequencies.  The timbre feels quite natural and realistic, every guitar note sounds very good.

Sound-Stage & Imaging: The HP100s definitely have a great sound-stage, it is quite bigger than the TMA-1’s and M80’s sound-stage, depth, height and width-wise. Imaging feels quite realistic and true, overall, it’s above average. Instruments separation is good enough, but it does lack some airiness.

The rating for the “Sound-Quality” section is 9.5/10. It is given in ratio to the headphones’ price-tag at the time of writing this review.

Final Conclusions

SoundMagic’s first full-sized headphones are great, a solid first attempt for the company in the full-size market. The HP100 is a great all-rounder headphones, and they have no real weak points, they do everything well, and they’re even better when considering their value for the price. Their sound-signature is quite versatile, and it fits easily almost any music genre; from classic music & jazz to techno, rap & mainstream music, they do justice to each one of these genres. Comfort, which is sometimes an “Achilles heel” within some headphones, is great and un-fatiguing. Also, they’re strongly-built; I wouldn’t worry for their durability. The final rating is 9.6/10.

Where to Buy? The MSRP of the SoundMagic HP100s is about $200. It can be purchased from SoundMagic’s authorized dealers, which a list of can be found here.


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