Sennheiser Amperior Stereo Headphone Review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Sep 1, 2012.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2011
    Messages:
    1,611
    Location:
    Charleston South Carolina
    Sources: iPhone4 alone, iPhone4 with FiiO E17 using LOD, various computers using Audioengine D1 DAC and the D1's headphone out.

    First impression: A lush sound from top to bottom with everything represented equally. I was surprised by the evenness of this sound, and by the clarity which I didn't expect from a modestly-priced Sennheiser, so since there were other people with me at the Apple store in Akron, I asked a couple of them to pick a song and have a listen. The feedback I got was consistent: Each person listened and exclaimed how they could hear everything - bass, mids, treble - so clearly. I recall my recent experience with the new v-moda white M80 headphone, and how remarkably free of coloration it was. The Amperior takes that experience to a new level with better highs and a somewhat livelier presentation. The liveliness or lushness may simply be a result of stronger and better highs, but there it is for whatever the cause might be.

    I don't feel I should just offer my impressions of the sound and let it go at that, because it doesn't give people much to go on. For instance, bass that's strong for me might be weak for someone else. So I like to compare the sound to other headphones I have or had recently. Comparing to the ATH M50, the bass is comparable down to about 30 hz, although the M50's bass increases slightly on the very deep end. The Amperior doesn't seem to have any useful output at 15 hz as does the v-moda M80, and 20 hz sounds much weaker than 30 hz. With most of my better headphones, 20 hz sounds weaker than 30 hz, but with the Amperior the difference is more pronounced. Bass from 30 hz up is good - noticeably stronger than headphones like the Shure 1840, and close to the ATH M50's bass. Since the Amperior's impedance is only 18 ohms, you're likely to experience differences in the bass depending on what you plug it into, although with the iPod Touch and iPhone 4, the bass is very good.

    The Amperior's mids were not at all difficult to judge, since they were clear and uncolored on my first listen, and nothing since then has altered that impression. They're not forward or recessed to any noticeable extent, and instruments and vocals sound right. I don't sense any limitations from the on-ear design or small openings in the earcups. The Amperior's sound is pretty much like my full-size closed headphones in terms of soundstage and lack of any congestion like you might expect from smaller on-ear designs. The highs are similar to the Philips L1 and Shure 1840, but there is no emphasis around 2-3 khz like the 1840, and the presence region around 4 to 6 khz does not have the emphasis that the L1 has. In essence, the mids and highs sound rather neutral to me, yet don't have a noticeable veil like I've experienced with some other Sennheiser headphones.

    The new Amperior looks pretty much the same as what people are reporting for the Sennheiser HD-25 series, although the Amperior has aluminum earcups which purportedly, in conjunction with secret damping materials, reduce unwanted resonances and other bad things. The blue earcups (there are other colors available) are dark enough that it doesn't scream for attention like certain of the fashion headphone models. The headband, which splits into two parts, seems to be entirely plastic, but because of the design there is very little flexing when putting it on, so I suppose it shouldn't snap as long as it's not abused. Clamping pressure seems light to me, and due to the soft earpad design that spreads the pressure over the entire ear, it doesn't have any tendency to get uncomfortable. I do find that I'm moving the earpads slightly within the first few minutes of listening, but this design is more comfortable for me than the 10-12 other on-ear headphones I've used in the past year.

    The cable is single-sided and detachable on the right, which is the opposite of other single-sided configurations I've had up to this point. Like the Philips L1 and M1, there is a dongle or "pigtail" that extends about 12 inches below the earcup, and the cable extension (female minijack to male miniplug) connects to that dongle. The Amperior comes with two very thin cable extensions, one with the Apple-style miniplug and the other the standard miniplug without the extra Apple connector. Since my Philips L1 and M1 came with thicker fabric-covered cable extensions, I swapped those with the Amperior cables. The Amperior does not come with any sort of carrycase - the box it ships in has foam inserts to protect the headphone, but that box isn't useful for putting into small luggage bags for airline travel etc. The very small v-moda M80 carrycase would fit the Amperior perfectly except for the plastic extensions at the left and right ends of the headband.

    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 Amperior compares with each individual track. I'd like to add here that although I avoid typecasting headphones for any particular genre, and while the Amperior plays all genres very well in my view, I get the sense from playing these tracks that this is the first hi-fi headphone I've heard which has a really good high end that also makes rock music sound excellent, with little or none of the usual irritations that plague rock music on high fidelity headphones.

    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 by the Amperior.

    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 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 here.

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

    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 Amperior.

    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 on the Amperior.

    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 Amperior 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 Amperior plays this perfectly.

    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 Amperior 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 Amperior delivers the full experience of this music.

    Jamming With Edward - It Hurts Me Too (1969): Intended originally as a test to fill studio down time and set recording levels etc., this was released a few years later for hardcore Rolling Stones fans. Although not as good technically in every aspect as the Chess studio recordings of 1964, and in spite of the non-serious vocals by Mick Jagger, this rates very high on my list of white blues recordings, and sounds absolutely delicious with the Amperior.

    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 Amperior provides very good reproduction. 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 Amperior aces them.

    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 Amperior.

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

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

    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 a problem with the Amperior.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Charleston South Carolina
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