German Maestro GMP-160 Lightweight Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, May 14, 2017.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Youtube review:

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone7p/Headphone_German_Maestro_Gmp160_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/German_Maestro_Gmp160.jpg

    Sources: Macbook 12-inch, iPhone 7-plus, AudioQuest DragonFly Red DAC/amp, Oppo HA-2 DAC/amp.

    My first impressions of the sound of the German Maestro GMP-160 (GMP160 hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly small inexpensive types like this one, but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the GMP160 (i.e., my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Note: I hadn't intended to review the GMP160 before now, because the physical build quality is so minimal that I can't imagine it lasting even a few months with everyday use. I'll describe this in detail below, but for now my best guess is these are made for temporary use, where someone who's organizing a conference etc. might order a carton of 100-500 of these to place at a series of computer terminals, for use in a class or seminar.

    The GMP160, after a burn-in period (essential for low-cost headphones), sounds bright. Since this is in comparison to 50 or so hi-fi headphones, I'm confident that serious headphone users will concur based on their own experiences. The treble has somewhat of an emphasis around 3 khz, a much stronger emphasis around 7 khz, and a typical peak near 9 khz. Unusual for any headphone is the strong response at 10 khz and above, where most headphones have a quick rolloff above their ~9 khz peak (those that have a peak there). The midrange, and the bass down to the 50-60 hz range, is mostly unremarkable, with just a mild emphasis or coloration in the mid-midrange that subtracts a bit from the overall clarity. I EQ'd the treble down appropriately for a hi-fi signature (frequency response), and in spite of the extremely inexpensive parts and assembly, the sound was quite good. In fact, if EQ'd properly, this headphone can compete with most anything I've heard under $500 USD (or until the paper parts deteriorate).

    Note that although I didn't include a bass boost in my EQ evaluation curve, I did try boosting the deep bass between 40-50 hz by 6 db, and did not incur any obtrusive distortion. YMMV. Isolation is essentially nonexistent. Leakage is nearly 100 percent, so that in quiet offices and libraries, a person sitting nearby will hear everything, and at louder (audiophile) volume levels, everyone would likely hear the leakage. The GMP160's weight with the non-detachable double-entry cable is 4 oz, but the headphone itself is only about 2.5 oz, and is feather-light on the head. The headband's range of adjustment is about an inch bigger and an inch smaller on each side from where I wear it, and the earpads will go mostly around average sized ears. The earpads appear to be paper, coated with a thin black paint, and the coverings over the drivers appear to be a black fibrous paper. The cable termination is a standard 3.5 mm right-angle miniplug.

    The GMP160 comes on a plastic and paper "card" with the earcups flat (since they're detached from the headband), and once removed with the earcups attached, there is nothing to save but the headphone and the extension cable supplied with the headphone. That's a very thin 15 ft extension cable, and my above comments about temporary use in classroom environments might explain why this cable is included with the GMP160. The earcups can be pulled down and the headphone worn around the neck for any length of time, which precludes the need to have a carry case, for most users. 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 GMP160 compares with each individual track.

    NOTE: All comments below apply to using the GMP160 with the EQ as shown in the graph linked above, or on my website under Photos and Audioforge.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    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 GMP160 plays this very 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 very well with a few sibilants by the GMP160.

    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, and you can barely feel the weight they carry with the GMP160.

    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 GMP160 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 GMP160.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The GMP160 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 GMP160 reproduces the space and detail very well. Note that this track would be an ear-scorcher without a treble reduction.

    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 GMP160 renders the deliberate instrumental distortions with reasonable clarity.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The GMP160 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 GMP160 reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are 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 GMP160 plays this music near-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. The GMP160 plays this music very well overall, but the deep bass is a bit light.

    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 GMP160 plays this music very well.

    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 lightly with the GMP160. 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 GMP160 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 GMP160 does those very well. Note that this track would be an ear-scorcher without a treble reduction.

    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 GMP160 plays the fundamental with extremely light weight (but good detail), and while this headphone can take some bass boost with little or no obvious distortion, it doesn't really help with this track.

    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 GMP160 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 pretty well inaudible with the GMP160.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the GMP160 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 GMP160 reproduces the 'clop' portion of that sound fairly well.

    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 GMP160 conveys some of that drama, but the 32.7 hz organ pedal tone has a light weight.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E Major K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is fairly bright and highly detailed, and the GMP160 renders the tones and transients adequately. Note that this track would be an ear-scorcher without a treble reduction.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The GMP160's reproduction is excellent, 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 bass impacts here are strong, although the deepest bass is lacking. What we do hear with the GMP160 is quite good and works extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The GMP160 delivers good detail and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.
     
  3. Oscar Stewart

    Oscar Stewart Administrator Staff Member

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    Nice review Dale, I find German Maestro to be a very underappreciated brand in the headphone world.

    I have long been a fan of the GMP 8.35d (just got the Mobile version with detachable cable) along with the incredible GMP 400 which I find the be possibly the most neutral headphone I have listened to (also being one of the most comfortable I have tried).
     
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  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    I bought the original 8.35D from this site, shipped to the USA, about 5 years ago. Now I'm curious about the mobile version.
     
  5. Oscar Stewart

    Oscar Stewart Administrator Staff Member

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    It's exactly the same but comes with a 3.5mm detachable cable. The Mobile Advanced comes with the Velour pads which are my preferred pads on them (I did some pad rolling in my original review)

    http://www.soundperfectionreviews.com/2013/11/review-german-maestro-gmp-835-d.html
     
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  6. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    I see that the velour pads have been the best for sound. I'll have to bypass that then, as I just don't like anything besides leather or pleather.
     
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  7. Oscar Stewart

    Oscar Stewart Administrator Staff Member

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    I would be tempted to try the Beyerdynamic EDT 1770 pads (DT 1770) pads on them. I see you have a pair, if you feel like trying I think they might work well (although I would use the foam pad Beyerdynamic use with their headphones too)

    Alternatively I have used Brainwavz HM5 pads and they worked well on them: https://www.amazon.com/Brainwavz-Re...=UTF8&qid=1494924446&sr=8-2&keywords=HM5+pads
     
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