Superlux HD681EVO Review
Thanks to GearBest for the sample.
First Impressions: Hmm it’s a reasonably sized box, a little beaten up but dear god, how do you get into the thing????? Okay got them out and eventually got the extra bits out of their triangular prison. I can’t help notice the instructions come with a 6.25mm to 3.5mm adapter with some black plastic thing on it. It looks odd but I don’t see what on earth it’s for. Ooh, they come with velour pads too, they have pleather ones on them, I can see them getting swapped. Nice that they give you both mind. Oh and two cables, a reasonable length one and one I’m not unrolling. Yeah I won’t be using these several feet from their source, though again kinda nice to include the option. No case, well hard case, there is a baggy thing for them. Hmm, well for the money I can’t moan can I?
So I thought I’d get those velvety pads on, I can safely say it was not fun and I sure has hell won’t be swapping them back and forth. Bugger me that was a fiddly battle, won’t be doing that again in a hurry.
On the ears they go and I like. They are creamy going for a warm, richly smooth sound signature. Just the right one for their price category and for suiting my own tastes too. Hmm maybe they a bit too bassy, well for me and somewhat over neutral obviously. Still for circa twenty quid headphones, I don’t have any HD201’s to hand but these from memory spank them. I can see pairing these up with the Studio V being an idea, oooh or fishing out the Icon Moblie, damn that could be good pairing. Hmm burn in time.
Source: FiiO E7/E9 combo, Hisoundaudio Studio V 3rd Anv., HiFiMAN HM-650, 1G Ipod Shuffle, Lumia 735, Nexus 5 and Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear.
Lows: They are quick, very quick, fast and elevated in scale so that their punch is higly impressive. They are acoustically desperately highly proficient for the money. Flicking over the Senn HD515’s I’ve got, them being the closest thing I have to the HD681EVO’s and there are so different, sooooooooooooo different. While both may be big on ear, open cans the EVO’s are rather more enclosed. The bass level is also a great big leap up. Senn’s are known for being a bit bass boosted but the 681EVO’s just slaughter them in quantity terms. Neutral they are not but bugger me they are mighty fun! Big and rambunctious, hearty and vociferous it’s pushing up there towards bass head levels of bass. For being partially open it’s a little bit surprising how elevated it is. It’s still for the most part open and quick moving despite its vast size. I have mixed feelings about it all. In brief doses its super fun in the way one might enjoy a mars bar. It doesn’t take too long before you’ve (well I anyway) have had a little bit too much and I want something more plain.
The outright quantity levels here just put every other open can I’ve heard to shame. They are big, seriously big and god damn they like the shake that bottom end. It’s partially enclosed (for an open can) also means it dares to plunge deep down low too with the same vigorous booty shaking attitude.
Mids: Quality wise they are nice. If you look at their price tag, it’s very nice however they are in a bit of a valley. That bass in particular is the absolute star of the show and the vocals are completely overshadowed. They are more of a gently accompaniment, a little creamy and warmed for something open but retaining much of their detail. For the money the detail level are really quite wonderful. Still…..I find myself yearning for more, for the bass to take a chill pill and sit its great big backside down for bit. Let those “Little Voice” esq vocals come out to the front of the stage and show us what it can do. (The film, with Jane Horrocks.) If you find the right songs, songs with minimal bass then can get a bit of a chance but the bass is ever waiting in the wings.
Stylistically they are for something open a bit on the creamy, slightly warmed and rich side. Its makes them come across as a little bit thick compared with what’s more typical in an open can. They are still really most pleasant on the ear.
Highs: They are for the most part, great. There is a bit of a middling to lower treble ranged spike. They can at time leap out a little too much and scream in your face. This gets more noticeable when you start cranking the volume dial. They are for the most part quite well behaved but they did get a little too much for me. The bass and that little too exuberant treble leaping out from time to time is a rollercoaster for sure, fantastic fun in smaller doses but I’m a little bit boring and its wildly energetic enthusiasm, grabbing my by the arm and pulling me along for the ride……. It got a bit much for my ears.
In terms of extension they are alright but there are clearly more aimed at the middle to lower treble range where they stand much more forthright. Their inclination towards a richer and more creamy presentation for an open can too, diminishes the airiness you might expect. It’s not in any way bad but for an open can, okay partially open, it’s so much more closed in and weighty that I expected it be.
Soundstage: They don’t have the endless open space of a properly open can, they are however far better and more spacious sounding than a typical closed can will give you. It’s all very nicely integrated though. The big single driver gives everything a warmly coherent picture. A goodly sized room, lights dimmed, a certain slant towards intimacy.
Comfort: They may be big cans but they are very much on ears. Their big round pads are big and soft on the ear but after a few hours the ear squashing gets a little tiring. It’s not bothersome per say but when you do take them off after a 3 hour stint, your ears feel like they have just taken a breath of fresh of air. I could and did wear them for hours but proper circumaurals are more comfy.
Cable: The cable is a cable. Nothing very special however I do very much approve that it’s modular. That way if you kill the cable you can change it. Or indeed that you can use a short cable or the gigantic one which both come in the box.
Isolation: While they may be “partially closed” yeah that still means open. They may share slightly same closed attributes and behaviours but they are for isolation purposes, open. These are not something to be used in a shared office or out and about. Well unless you don’t want traffic noise blocked out. Of course if you’re sat in your own office or home office and you want to be able to still hear the phone ring or whatever then great. Isolation is itself not a good or a bad thing any more than sweet is “better” than savoury.
Build Quality: Well let’s not beat about the bush. They are cheap and they are plasticy. They look pretty good but in the hand while they may share a visual similarity to some AKG’s they do not feel like high end AKG’s. They are reasonably put together, it’s just their materials are all plastic and in particular the head band feels cheap. Of course they actually are cheap so I can’t really lambast them for it.
Aesthetic: From a distance they look not bad, rather like upper end AKG’s if you ask me but….. when you get up close you can tell they are all plastic. Glossy plastic too for the most part but on the plus side no one’s probably going to mug you for them.
Amped/Unamped: There were the usual differences but nothing wildly marked a change. The bass though was where most change took place, the big heavy bass became quite noticeably more taut and agile with the more power it got. Out of the P8 it was fine still but it was a little softened and a little more overblown. Likewise on the Nexus 5 and on the Iphone 5. So while it’s likely that the 681EVO’s are going to normally be paired up with the likes of my Graham Slee Solo Ultra Linear you’ll be pleased to know that even out of a crappy Iphone they still sound great for the money. Plus their price point suggest their likely buyers probably want a bit more flabby and overblown bass anyway.
Accessories: They came with a baggy thing for them, which I suspect I’ll never ever use. A choice of two cables, a shorter one that I used and a giant long one. Much more interestingly however they also came with a set of replacement ear pads. Well at first glance that’s what I thought but they aren’t the same as the pads that came on them. You see they came with a pair of pleather pads and the spare set are a velour pair. Huge kudos for including both types. The pleather may be good if you have something closed and what a seal but as these are open I want ear comfort and so I quick smart swapped them. It was a bugger to get the new pads on so I wouldn’t be changing them very often but I am super pleased with them coming with both. For something priced as they are it was a real, not to mention very welcome surprise. Lastly, okay I almost forget about it, they have a 3.5mm to 6.25mm adapter and it comes with a funky little locking clip to hold them together, how nifty is that!
Value: They are stupid cheap. Sure they aren’t HD600 competitors never mind the like of the HD800 but these are just US$32 or £23 from GearBest and that’s delivered, anywhere on the planet!!! They are insanely cheap. I had to go back several times and double check that I was looking at the right product, that it definitely was the right one they had sent me a link to, that they hadn’t accidently posted me the wrong thing. I still kept feeling like I must have made a mistake somewhere, they just cannot possibly cost that much, including delivery, hell surely the delivery cost alone must be almost half of that right??? As I write this I’m still half convinced I must have made a mistake somewhere, got the wrong model, looked at the wrong price, something, anything because they can’t possibly be so cheap.
Conclusion: They are cheap. The reason I write that first is everything about the 681EVO’s must be taken with that in mind. You see if you ignore the price then the things I instinctively put in the same room such as the HD515 can over shadow them a touch in certain aspects. For example the manual labelling them as “Professional Monitoring Headphones” I’m looking at and thinking, errrr yeah and I’m a magical flying pixie. They aren’t monitors, their bass is vast and while they may not be Beats like ridiculous they are in no way monitors. Which is absolutely fine because I’d bet the people buying these don’t want a monitor, if everyone wanted monitors the Ety ER4 would be the world’s only IEM. These have great big badonkadonk bass on them.
Oh these are so much fun to play with. The bass as I’ve mentioned it’s great. The mids retain so much breadth and a slight air of airy expanse. The treble too is for the most part great and to get it all for the price, the price is just the piece de resistance. Time and again that’s what I keep having to remind myself of, anytime I think ahh the lower treble spike, its bit ill defined, the abundance and its liking to leap out at volume. Its gets a little tiring on the ear you see, for me, then I remember that they are practically free with a packet of cornflakes. Anywhere they aren’t acoustically spot on is so easy to forgive with their frankly silly price tag.
So, the ultimate question, should you buy a pair? Well if you need isolation then probably not but otherwise……. I really can’t think of any reason not to. They are a bit cheap to the touch, a bit plasticy looking too and you know they would be problems if these were expensive but they aren’t. They are stupidly cheap. Certainly I know I know of no IEM that for similar money can come close to managing what these do. The air, the space, the detail retrieval, the finesse, the big badonkadonk bottom end, everything. They are a steal for the price, an absolute ridiculous steal.