Youtube review: Photos: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone_XsMax/Headphone_Ess422h_01.jpg http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Ess422h.jpg Sources: iPhone XsMax/iPad Pro 11-inch with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt DAC-amps. Review note: My first impressions of the sound of the ESS422H headphone ('422H' hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (Full-size closed-back), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the 422H (i.e., my objectives and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the technical issues. I'll get right to the point here: Compared to "classic neutral" headphones like the Sennheiser 600/800 series and Beyer Teslas, I found the 422H to have an ~3 db emphasis in the upper bass, a fairly large (~6 db) emphasis between 500 and 1300 hz, and a large-to-modest recess in the mid-treble from 3 to 6 khz. After reviewing headphones like the AudioQuest NightHawk and Focal Elear (just two examples of many), I came to realize that their large mid-treble recesses were becoming popular, probably due to the Loudness Wars and the boosted "presence" in those recordings. But the combination of the mid-treble recess and large midrange emphasis here makes the 422H's overall sound quite hollow and dull. Naturally, I stick to the High Fidelity standard** rather than any fashion standard, and so I equalized the 422H to its most natural sound. After doing so and playing some familiar tracks, I was amazed by the 422H's clarity, dynamics, and detail - particularly the superior bass detail compared to the popular brands sold at (for example) the Apple Store. **When your headphone and music sound like live acoustic music, you're on the right track. Also note that while every headphone benefits from some period of burn-in, the better quality headphones are closer to their final sound right out of the box. When using the 422H with a good DAC and headphone amp (taking note of the above), you'll really appreciate the difference with lossless and higher-resolution music tracks. Still, the 422H is very efficient, and plays well with decent bass quality from the better cellphones. Every popular headphone has some individual quality that leads to its popularity, and whether the 422H is popular or not, it does contain Heil AMT (Air Motion Transformer) drivers along with regular dynamic drivers. I hear enough detail with the 422H to suggest that the AMT drivers are responsible for that detail, but then again that detail would be missed without the EQ I did. I won't spend more time on the 422H's sound for now, for these reasons: 1) The music tracks listed below, which were included in my tests of the 422H, feature a wide range of music tonalities that highlight any sonic weaknesses in the headphone. 2) The EQ'd sound is better than I expected, and far better than I expected at this price level ($150 USD). 3) The history of the 422H as well as its build quality and EQ'd sonic quality are a good heads-up as far as value is concerned, yet the current prices are not sustainable should ESS get serious about marketing the AMT-hybrid design in a class-leading headphone. The 422H comes with high-quality pleather-covered earpads, which are my favorite because they don't tend to absorb sweat and oils that can change the sound over time. The soft squishy foam inside these earpads make for an extremely comfortable fit, assuming a user's ears aren't unusually large. The left earcup has a 3.5 mm socket for the headphone cable. The headband is scarcely padded and the headphone is heavy for its size, but the strong clamp and grippy earpads mean you'll feel that more than the weight from above. The size adjustment range is more than an inch, and given that my average head fits near the middle of that range, it should accomodate a wide range of head sizes. Isolation is good - average or better for a circumaural closed-back design - good enough for most home use and outdoor use where it's not extremely noisy, but probably not good enough for public transport for critical listening. Leakage is very low - enough that playing music loudly in a quiet office might work, unless someone sitting very close-by hears the sound faintly and objects. The 422H comes with a thin 4.5 ft cable and a bulky zippered soft/hard case. In previous reviews I've included the following music samples 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 422H compares with each individual track. These tracks were evaluated with the EQ settings linked above or on my website.