Edifier H840 Around-Ear Budget Audiophile Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Feb 1, 2016.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:


    Sources: iPhone6s+ with Oppo HA-2/FiiO K1 DAC/amps, various computers using the Audioquest Dragonfly-2/HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/FiiO E07k DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the H840 are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Bose QC25 for example), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the H840 (i.e., my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    The Edifier H840, out of the box and after burn-in, has a significant emphasis through the bass range, strongest around 90 hz I think, but it's not a boomy or muddy emphasis - it's very solid and smooth. The amount of emphasis is about 1/2 to 2/3 of what I hear with the v-moda M100. The mids and treble are nearly perfect for a monitor-class headphone, having only a moderate peak around 9 khz to differentiate it from the best headphones under a few hundred dollars. In fact, outside of the Bose QC25 that uses electronics to flatten its sound, I'm hard-pressed to name more than three headphones around $200 USD that are as neutral, or possibly moreso. Those would be the Brainwavz HM5, the Shure SRH840, and the Sennheiser HD380 Pro. The H840 sound would be good for $150 or so, but for $40 - amazing. The isolation is moderate - good enough for most outdoor use, but not enough for jet planes or noisy busses etc. The leakage is extremely low, so it should work well in quiet offices or libraries.

    The H840 is very similar to the H850, and also has a strong resemblance to the Bose QC25, lacking only the QC25's bit of extra bling, and noise cancellation. The H840 is very light for its size, so the minimal headband padding shouldn't be an issue. If it is, just pull the earcups down an extra notch to let them carry more of the already very light weight. The earpads are very high quality and squishy-soft, and they're a snug fit around my average-size ears. For users with big ears, these will probably work as on-ear, but they should be very comfortable anyway. The earcups rotate flat one direction, and have enough rotation the other direction to fit 99 percent of headphone users' heads. There's also enough vertical rotation to accomodate the vast majority of users. The headband's total range of adjustment is about 5/4 inch on each side, where my average-size head fits the middle of that range, so that should accomodate nearly everyone.

    The cable is double-entry, about 6.5 ft. long, and terminated with a standard 3.5 mm miniplug. No other plugs or adapters are included. The H840 is an ideal portable headphone in that it can be pulled off the head when not in use, and worn around the neck with the earcups pulled all the way out and folded flat. There's no carrycase included, but since the earcups fold flat, I use a slim zippered case for carrying the headphone in backpacks or luggage, and that kind of case is available on Amazon etc. for $10 or so. But since the H840 carries so easily around my neck when I'm not listening, I don't use a case unless I have to pack it away. There's a lot of competition in low-cost headphones these days, particularly among the no-name or OEM brands, but Edifier makes high-quality headphones, and I've used them for a long time. I highly recommend the H840, and if not abused, it should provide years of quality listening.

    In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the H840 compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The H840 plays this extremely well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the H840.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel the weight they carry with the H840.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The H840 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the H840.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The H840 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The H840 reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the H840 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The H840 plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine sound is clearly identifiable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The H840 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The H840 plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates a solid deep-bass response. Overall, the H840 plays this music extremely well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The H840 plays this track perfectly.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the H840. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The H840 provides excellent reproduction. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the H840 does those very well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The H840 plays the fundamental tone with a good weight and reasonable detail.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor** who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2015, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the H840 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    **Mantovani developed the "Cascading Strings" sonic effect circa 1950, a famous "Wall of Sound" effect for mono hi-fi systems that predated Phil Spector's own famous Wall of Sound effect by 10 years or so.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is appreciable with the H840.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the H840 renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The H840 reproduces the 'clop' portion of that sound to an extent, but not perfectly.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The H840 conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a more-or-less neutral stereo headphone. The tympani also have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the H840 renders the tones and transients perfectly.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The H840's reproduction is near-perfect, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are light, but work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The H840 delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

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