Edifier H850 Around-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review: http://youtu.be/KNe1RtO7CPM


    Sources: iPhone6+ with Oppo HA-2/v-moda Verza/Portaphile Micro amps, various computers using HRT Microstreamer/FiiO E17k/Beyer A200p DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the H850 are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M100 and XS, the FAD Pandora VI and IV, the Beyerdynamic T1 and T90, the AKG K812 and K712, and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I'll describe how I relate to the H850 (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    The Edifier H850 is a high-resolution headphone in spite of what it sells for in some places. I got mine from Massdrop for $40 USD, and the only other U.S. outlet I've found is Phil Jones Bass, who sell it for $100. I use the Audioforge equalizer on my Apple i-devices, in large part to estimate the extent of the colorations in each headphone I test. I've had to do a more extensive EQ of the B&W P7, and less so for the H850, to achieve a low-coloration and comparable response from each headphone. Logic suggests (if not dictates) that the $400 P7 from B&W must be the better headphone, and with each of these equalized for comparison, I imagine that I hear a smoother more hi-fi sound with the P7. But given that the untreated P7 sound seems worse to me, I'd rate the H850 a good choice even for someone shopping up to the $300 level, especially considering that the P7 represents $300 or less in sound quality and $100 or more in bling.

    The H850's deep bass (see 'Kellogg Auditorium' below) isn't quite as detailed as I heard with the FAD Pandora VI or the MrSpeakers Alpha Dog, but it sounds good - i.e. there's good weight and impact for any music genres I listen to including EDM, and enough detail when the bass has good detail to appreciate it. The most common problems I have with headphone bass are weakness, muddiness, bloat, narrow humps - none of which are a problem with the H850 in my tests. I can't say how perfectly the bass blends into the midrange, but it sounds pretty good. The mids between approximately 300 to 500 hz are recessed somewhat, making some voices seem slightly distant. There's a fairly strong emphasis around 2 khz, and a moderately deep (~7 db) recess around 4 khz, which lessens the 'presence' or sense of liveliness in the low-mid treble. The upper treble seems fairly neutral to me, but could be slightly elevated for some music genres.

    The H850's isolation is less than average for the passive-isolating closed headphones I've tested, and the leakage is high enough that the volume would have to be kept below audiophile levels in public libraries, quiet offices, etc. In spite of the lower-than-average isolation, I've found the H850 satisfactory for use in a public park that's adjacent to a busy freeway, as long as I'm at least 50-75 yards from the actual traffic. The H850's weight feels very light for a full-size circumaural (around-ear) headphone, and thanks to that light weight and how it's distributed by the padded headband and very soft earpads, there's no discomfort with extended use. In fact, the fit and comfort of the H850 is very similar to the Bose QC25 headphone I have, and the QC25 is superb in those respects. The clamping force is very moderate in my experience, but users who have no experience with this type of headphone could object to even the slightest weight or pressure.

    The H850 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 folded flat. The total range of adjustment is 17/16 inch on each side, and from where my average size head fits, the adjustment goes 6/16 inch smaller and 11/16 larger. The cable is single-entry and detachable, with standard 3.5 mm miniplugs on either end, but the earcup end has a twist-lock sleeve - much like some of the Shure headphones (but the Shures may have 2.5 mm plugs on the earcup end). I found a generic cable with standard miniplugs on both ends, and substituting that for the H850 cable, it worked perfectly with no tendency to wiggle or lose the connection. The sleeve** diameter on my generic cable is 1/4 inch, but even though the earcup jack socket looks like it could accept a slightly larger diameter sleeve, it won't.

    **The sleeve is the plastic end of the cable next to the metal miniplug.

    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 H850 compares with each individual track.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Edifier H850 review part 2 - music tracks

    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 H850 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 H850.

    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 some of the weight they carry with the H850.

    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 H850 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 H850.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The H850 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 H850 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 H850 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The H850 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 very realistic.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The H850 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 H850 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 H850 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 H850 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 H850. 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 H850 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 H850 does those near-perfectly.

    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 H850 plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel the 16 cycle per second "beats" of the fundamental tone.

    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 H850 is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    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 very subtle with the H850.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the H850 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 H850 reproduces the 'clop' portion of that sound a bit lighter than ideal.

    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 H850 conveys some of that experience, but not as much as most $300-tier closed dynamic headphones. The tympani have pretty good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the H850 renders the tones and transients clearly.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The H850'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 strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The H850 delivers the impacts with decent weight and good detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

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