Molami Plica ("designed for women") On-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Sep 8, 2014.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube review: http://youtu.be/Aw4ZVC9_sBg

    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Panasonic_Zs40/Headphone_Molami_Plica_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Molami_Plica.jpg

    Sources: iPhone5 with Portaphile Micro/PA2V2/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the Plica are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the Marley Liberate XL, the Soundmagic HP150, the v-moda M100 and XS, the AKG K812 and K712, and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I describe how I relate to the Plica (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    Summary of sound: The Plica bass has a nearly ideal sound that I find just right for music enjoyment - warm, good impact and detail, with no unwanted influence on the adjacent midrange tones. The midrange itself is clear and smooth, with no discernable resonances or other sonic anomalies. The treble is lower in output strength than the midrange, by perhaps 6 db, giving the overall sound a softness that many or most users will enjoy, as it tends to be somewhat forgiving of less-than-ideal recordings. I tend to keep the volume down on my lesser-quality recordings, so with the better-quality tracks I keep the treble-boost control close at hand, as needed. The Plica is rather small compared to most on-ear headphones I'm familiar with, and being fairly light and minimalist in its construction/build, I'm actually surprised that it performs as stated in the Molami promotional literature - i.e., "...low-distortion drivers provide deep bass..." - it's not only deep, but clean and detailed.

    Soundstage is tricky to describe since it's dependent to a large extent on the amount and quality of treble that the headphone presents, not to mention the recording itself. I'll just say that the Plica can sound amazingly good in that respect, depending on where you find your ideal treble balance. One very demanding track I use in evaluating a headphone is David Chesky and Wonjung Kim's "Girl From Guatemala", and the strong treble percussion starting at 3 minutes in is delineated very well by the Plica. Another track that's a stress test for treble is 'Time' from Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon, and the Plica plays that very cleanly too. My other comments about treble, bass, and midrange detail can be found in the sample music tracks listed below.

    The Plica is on-ear and apparently closed-back, and while it does have a useful amount of isolation (ambient noise reduction), it's not as much isolation as many larger closed headphones. There is also some leakage, so if playing the Plica in a quiet office or public library, the volume would have to be kept to a very moderate level. Fit and comfort are tricky to describe - I think users who get a good fit to the earcups will find it very comfortable, and in fact I find it very comfortable with the adjustment I made to get that good fit. My ears aren't perfectly parallel to headphones whose earpads are parallel to each other, which is the normal case with headphones. In the case of the Plica, the earcups/earpad surfaces may be perfectly parallel to each other, so I wear the earcups pulled down a couple extra clicks and place the headband toward the rear of my head to get a better fit. I've done this for quite a few headphones, so it's not something I'm concerned about.

    According to the Molami promotional material, the Plica was designed for women, so whether that's simply as gender fashion or there are physical properties of the headphone that are most suitable for women, I don't know. Unlike the Molami Pleat, the Plica doesn't have the extra curves on the headband, which ruled out the Pleat for me, for any use including testing. In fact, the Plica that I have is very understated, plain black with a couple of small gold-plated trim pieces, much like the Marshall Monitor headphone, and I think men could use this black version if nobody were to inspect it too closely. Since I wear the Plica with the earcups fully extended, large male heads would not fit at all. The earcups collapse a full inch smaller on both sides from where I wear it, so that should accomodate most women's heads.

    The earpads are a fabric-covered foam that's soft and comfortable on my ears. The headband has essentially no padding, but given its intended use and the light weight of the headphone, I don't think extra padding is needed. The exterior earcup and headband surfaces are covered in a type of leather, but as the design is very minimal and understated, particularly this black version, the finish doesn't call any attention to itself. The headband is metal internally, which has the proper spring tension to keep the earcups centered on one's ears while in use. The cable is dual-entry, non-detachable, is a strong and probably durable woven fabric externally, and has the extra conductor (Apple-type) in its terminator - a standard 3.5 mm miniplug. With Apple i-devices, one click stops playback, two clicks skips to the next track, and three rapid clicks moves to the previous track. The Plica is efficient enough to be used with any music player I know of, but a good headphone amp provides better sound.

    The comments in the music tracks listed below can be compared to other headphone reviews I've done, to get an idea of how the Plica plays the different music tracks listed here compared to other headphones. My suggestion is instead of reading each comment below as an absolute unto itself, you could compare these notes to other reviews as they get posted, and see how the Plica compares with each individual track.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Molami Plica 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 Plica 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 Plica.

    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 Plica.

    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 Plica plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

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

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The Plica 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 Plica reproduces the space and detail beautifully.

    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 Plica renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

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

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The Plica reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed. Note that a treble boost is required to hear the full range of upper harmonic detail with this track.

    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 Plica 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 and feel that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the Plica plays this music very 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 Plica 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 Plica. 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 Plica provides excellent detail. 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 instrument separation and detail, and the Plica does those extremely 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 Plica plays this quite well - you can almost hear/feel the individual 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 2014, 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 Plica 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 subtle but impressive with the Plica.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the Plica 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 Plica reproduces part of that sound effect, but the 'clop' portion is subdued.

    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 Plica conveys as much of that experience as is possible on a typical full-size 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 Plica renders the tones and transients very well.

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

    marcusd Member

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    It sounds perfect because its designed for women Dale. That means selective listening :p
     
  4. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Of course!
     

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