Furutech ADL H-118 Stereo Headphone Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, May 27, 2013.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review: http://youtu.be/bZyKn-JAG4I

    Sources: iPhone4; iPhone4 with Decware Zen Head or FiiO E12 amps using LOD; iPhone4 with v-moda Verza DAC/amp using USB, various computers using HRT MicroStreamer DAC/amp.

    First impression of the ADL H-118: Very recessed treble. It didn't turn out to be that simple actually, but in the final analysis the sound is quite good, albeit with a moderate recess in the 'presence' area (~2.5 to 5 khz). Note that my impressions of the sound, including analysis with test tones, is based on comparisons to my other headphones past and present. My standard for treble a couple years ago was the Sennheiser HD800, but I consider that to be slightly bright now, and most hi-fi experts seem to be converging on that opinion as well. Currently I find the v-moda M100 treble to be just about right, when the very strong M100 bass is reduced a little. I also think the Beyer DT770LE (not the regular edition DT770) treble is excellent, when its peak around 9 khz is reduced slightly.

    Using the above examples as a starting point, I find the H-118 treble to have a ~6 db emphasis around 6 khz and a ~4 db emphasis around 9 khz, but the overall treble without EQ is recessed enough that those emphases aren't particularly noticeable. When the treble is boosted they can become a problem, and so I settled on the following settings in Foobar2000: +1 at 1.8, +2 at 2.5, +3 at 3.5, +4 at 5, +4 at 7, +4 at 10, +3 at 14, and +2 db at 20 khz. The resulting sound is still slightly presence-shy, but if I use EQ at all I use a very smooth curve, since a more accurate correction is not only time-consuming, but tends to create large narrow peaks and dips in frequencies that are adjacent to any uneven EQ sliders.

    The H-118 bass has a faintly audible fundamental at 15 hz and a weak but clearly audible fundamental at 20 hz. The weight that accompanies these tones confirms the presence of the fundamental frequencies. From 30 hz on up through the mids the response is very smooth, and even though I don't hear any distinct emphasis in the bass with test tones and tone sweeps, listening to music I'm familiar with confirms that the low bass has better than average impact, while the upper bass can sound a little boomy on some material. I'm not a bass-centric person myself, preferring sound that's fairly close to neutral, yet I'm satisfied with the bass signature of the H-118 as being good for a wide variety of music. The midrange may sound less than detailed or clear to some users, but that impression would most likely be due to the recessed treble.

    My summary of the sound: Somewhat dark even with the slight treble boost, with a strong deeper bass that isn't bloated or excessively warm in the upper bass - i.e. very good for high fidelity music playback, but purists or perfectionists should not apply. The soundstage seems average to me - neither narrow nor wide - it varies far more in my experience with the music than with the headphones. Isolation seems average and leakage is very low - you could play the H-118 in a quiet office in a cubicle next to other cubicles, as long as you keep the volume to a decent but not overly loud level.

    The H-118 seems to be mainly plastic. The earpads and inner headband padding are soft and covered in a good quality pleather, although the headband clamp is fairly strong and the earcups are somewhat narrow. The earcups are a peculiar triangle shape, but fit my ears similarly to the Sennheiser Momentum's small earcups - partly around-ear and partly on-ear. Most ears should fit these earcups OK, but some large ears may not. The earcups are permanently angled backward by at least 15 degrees, and so the headband is way forward on my head when the earcups are situated correctly. The earcups have about 10 degrees of maximum lateral rotation, so they should accomodate most head shapes OK. The 10 foot long detachable cable is single-sided (left side), is thick enough to withstand moderate abuse, has a proprietary XLR-style attachment, and is terminated with a standard miniplug (with included screw-on 6.35 mm adapter).

    The H-118's impedance is 68 ohms, and seems to be just efficient enough for satisfactory use with Apple music players with most music tracks. However, if the tracks are low in volume or have very large dynamics, you could experience insufficient volume or clipping of loud passages and transients. My experience with iPods and iPhones suggests to me that the Apple portable music players do soft clipping in most cases (I haven't researched this), but either way you'll get cleaner sound on average with a decent amp that has greater power than an iPod or iPhone and other comparable players. In my listening I did get cleaner sound with several amps, but I didn't hear a dramatic difference in the bass, making it tighter or less boomy. It did get slightly better, but not by much.

    A stiff zippered carrycase is provided that offers good protection, but since the earcups don't fold flat, the case is fairly bulky. I think it's too big for most backpacks, and will take up significant room in airline carry-on bags, but it's still a little smaller than the Sennheiser Momentum carrycase, and much smaller than the Shure 1440 and 1840 carrycases.

    For the price I paid ($270 USD), I can recommend the H-118 as a good hi-fi headphone as long as you can accept the following: Limited or non-portability due to the peculiar fit, the 10-ft cable, and the relatively low efficiency; 'Presence' shyness and the need for EQ (for home hi-fi use); strong deep bass and a slight tendency for boominess in the upper bass; and a very snug partial around-ear fit with a strong clamping force;

    In other reviews I've done 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 other reviews and see how the H-118 compares with each individual track.
    Last edited: May 27, 2013
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Review Part 2: Music test tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has good detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The H-118 plays this perfectly.

    Ben Heit Quartet - Suite-Magnet and Iron (Jazz with a Bebop flavor): The piano that leads off sounds realistic and the saxophone sounds appropriately soft. The H-118 plays this music very well.

    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 H-118 reproduces the space and detail reasonably well.

    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 sounds good and the tambourine in the background is clearly identifiable.

    Crystal Castles - Wrath of God (Electro-Pop): The bass in this track has a strong impact but little detail, while the ambient electronic effects are clear and distinct. The H-118 plays this track very well given the limited quality of the recording.

    DJ Shadow - Building Steam With a Grain of Salt (Electronic/DJ): This track opens with what sounds like very high and very low piano notes, and the H-118 renders those notes well. The ambient voices are slightly indistinct, but well reproduced given their background presentation.

    Franz Ferdinand - Ulysses (Pop-Rock): The moderate level of bass in this track is played with good detail by the H-118, and the voice and percussion are crisp and well-balanced.

    Halie Loren - Sway (Jazz vocal): Bass instrument(s) here sound somewhat boomy with the H-118. The trumpet sounds natural but slightly soft, and the voice is excellent.

    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 and feel that indicates very deep bass. Overall, the H-118 plays this music very well.

    Kaskade - 4am (Electro-House): The bass that kicks in around 1:01 into the track is very subtle, but the H-118 plays it well. The percussion and female voice balance well with neither overwriting the other - the H-118 gets this right.

    Katy B - Perfect Stranger (R&B-House-Garage): The heavy bass that begins at 0:27 into this track is played well by the H-118. The voice is somewhat forward and bright, but it doesn't overpower the instruments or get lost in the mix.

    Machine Gun Kelly - All We Have (Rap/Hip-Hop): The heavy bass beats that begin at 0:23 into the track do sound like drum impacts, although they're not sharp impacts. The male and female voices have a good balance, and the H-118 plays this about as good as can be expected given the limited quality of the recording.

    Massive Attack - Angel (Trip-Hop): This track begins with a steady low-frequency sound and some slightly soft deep-bass impacts. The voices blend well with the music and have just the right presence, although the recorded quality of the instruments isn't great. The H-118 plays this about as good as can be expected given the limited quality of the recording.

    Morcheeba - Bullet Proof (Trip-Hop): Bright percussion and medium-strength bass impacts make up most of this, with some dance-club spoken intonations thrown in. The H-118 plays the percussion pretty well, and the voices sound good too.

    Peter Tosh - Get Up Stand Up (Reggae): The bass here has a decent but moderate impact, and the lead and backup voices have good separation that's not too narrow or wide. The H-118 renders the bass with good detail and the voices sound very natural.

    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 may lack clarity and proper harmonic detail on some headphones, but the H-118 reproduces those effects pretty well.

    Rachmaninoff - Prelude in C-Sharp Minor Op3 No2 (Classical, Piano): Grand piano played mechanically from an original recording by the master himself. The bass is unusually light here, but the H-118 renders the notes very well given the limited quality of the recording.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is highly detailed and sounds fairly bright, but not excessively.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are quite strong, and work very well with the horns and other instruments. The H-118 delivers the impacts with good weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a realistic sound.

    William Orbit - Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix) (Electronic): This is about as close as I want to get to easy-listening music. The string tones beginning at 0:18 have appreciable detail, and while the bass isn't very strong, it still adds a good underpinning to the music. The short poetic rap at 4:14, preceded by an etherial female voice, works very well with this track.

    ---------- H-118 REVIEW PT.2; OLDER MUSIC TRACKS ----------

    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 extremely well by the H-118.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note for this headphone are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts won't overwhelm you since they're soft and well in the background, but you can definitely feel the weight they carry.

    Blues Project - Caress Me Baby (1966): Rarely mentioned, but one of the greatest white blues recordings ever. The loud piercing guitar sound at 0:41 into the track is a good test for distortion or other problems. Handled very well by the H-118.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Good sound quality - this is a great test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled very well by the H-118.

    Buffalo Springfield - Kind Woman (~1968): A Richie Furay song entirely, rarely mentioned, but one of the best sounding rock ballads ever. This will sound good on most headphones, but it's a special treat with the H-118.

    Cat Stevens - Morning Has Broken (early 70's): A near-perfect test for overall sound - this track will separate the best sounding headphones from the lesser quality types. Nothing specific, except that almost any deviation from perfect reproduction will stand out with this track. Sounds very good with the H-118.

    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 H-118 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Def Leppard - Bringin' On The Heartbreak (1981): MTV goth/pop/metal at its best - good ambience and high energy - the better headphones will separate the details and make for a good experience. Lesser quality and the details tend to mush together. The H-118 plays this very well.

    J.S. Bach - E. Power Biggs Plays Bach in the Thomaskirche (~1970): Recorded on a tracker organ in East Germany, the tracks on this recording have the authentic baroque sound that Bach composed for, albeit the bellows are operated by motor today. The H-118 plays the tones seamlessly through the upper limits of the organ, which cover nearly the full range of human hearing. Of special note are the pedal notes - tracker organs have low-pressure pipes and don't typically produce the kind of impact around 30-35 hz that modern organs do. A headphone that's lacking even a little in the low bass will sound especially bass-shy with this type of organ, but the H-118 delivers the full experience of this music.

    Jennifer Warnes - Rock You Gently (1992?): The strong deep bass percussion at the beginning of this track has been cited as a test for weakness or distortion in certain headphones. The H-118 plays those notes with good impact and control. Having played this track a number of times now, I'm impressed with the H-118's bass reproduction and detail throughout the track.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has some loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical on some headphones. The H-118 reproduction is slightly distant. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in, for maximum detail effect. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrumental separation and detail, and the H-118 plays them well.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch (~2009): Featured in The September Issue, this song has heavy overdub and will sound a bit muddy on some headphones. Sounds great with the H-118.

    Milt Jackson/Wes Montgomery - Delilah (Take 3) (1962): The vibraphone is heavily dependent on harmonics to sound right, and the H-118 plays it perfectly.

    Pink Floyd/Dark Side of the Moon - Speak To Me (1973): Strong deep bass impacts will be heard and felt here.

    Rolling Stones - Stray Cat Blues (1968): Dirty, gritty blues that very few white artists could match. On some headphones the vocals and guitar lack the edge and fall more-or-less flat. If you're a really good person, playing this song will probably make you feel nervous and uneasy.

    Tony Bennett - I Left My Heart In San Francisco (1962): Frank Sinatra's favorite singer. Highest recommendation. With some of the best headphones, the sibilants on this recording are very strong, but they're not bad with the H-118.

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