Shinola Canfield On-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Apr 17, 2018.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:


    Sources: iPhone7+ with Oppo HA-2/AudioQuest DragonFly Red DAC/amps, various computers using the Meridian Explorer2/AudioQuest DragonFly Red/DAC-amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the Shinola Canfield On-Ear headphone (ShinolaOnEar hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (full-size, on-ear, closed-back), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the ShinolaOnEar (i.e., my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    The basic sound of this headphone is somewhat shy on bass and extreme upper treble, and while many headphones users will prefer a strong bass**, hi-fi enthusiasts nearly always agree that the midrange comes first. You can see the EQ curve I made at the link above. The EQ curve is the inverse of my estimated frequency response, and rather than being based on my hearing per se, it's based on comparisons to quite a few flagship headphones as well as the sound of live music. If the sound you hear with a stereo system is very close to what you hear with live music, then your system is very close to neutral regardless of your hearing, assuming your hearing is relatively normal. Bottom line: If you like this headphone (I love it) but you need a weightier bass or more sparkle on the high end, you could tweak those with an equalizer as I've done and enjoy near-perfect sound.

    **Nearly all of the most popular headphones that have a "strong bass" have a bass that lacks detail and true impact. Some of the lesser-known models such as the ATH M50 or Beyerdynamic DT770 series are a stark contrast to those, having good bass detail without the typical overemphasis that bleeds into the midrange. The ShinolaOnEar has good bass detail and impact.

    Whereas I use EQ in order to report the best possible sound for this headphone, others may want to know how the ShinolaOnEar sounds and performs without EQ. Those persons can find numerous reviews on video channels as well as headphone forums which report that sound, but unfortunately most of those will disagree with each other, unless their reviews are copied from the same source. One aspect of headphone EQ that's rarely if ever discussed in reviews or forums is what happens to the soundstage when EQ'd properly. The improvement with many headphones is breathtaking, and the ShinolaOnEar is a good performer in that respect.

    The ShinolaOnEar's isolation is modest - nowhere near good enough for noisy public transport, and the leakage is such that playing music at audiophile volume levels in a quiet office won't work - anyone sitting nearby will hear the sound clearly. The earpads are soft and covered with a pleather-like material, but the padding is sparse, so users will need to make small adjustments after putting the headphone on to allow their skin to readjust under the pads. Very easy to do - just pull the earcups out slightly until you feel your ears' skin slide into a better position. The fit is snug with moderate clamping force, and it does feel very comfortable to me with no long-term issues, but I have quite a bit of experience with this kind of design.

    The headband has a very modest padding and the headphone's weight is significant for its size, so if it feels uncomfortable, I've found that rotating the headband slightly forward or back can make it better. The headband's range of adjustment is ~9/16 inches on each side, where my average-size head fits with the earcups almost fully extended. The ShinolaOnEar seems to have been made for small-medium size heads, since I usually fit most full-size headphones in the middle of the adjustment range, instead of near the end of that range as is the case with this headphone. The earcups swivel 90 degrees, and a small amount of flex the other direction is also provided, which will accomodate all heads. The ShinolaOnEar can be worn around the neck all day with no bother, making a carry case unnecessary for most users. The stiff zippered carry case supplied with the headphone is very compact, which may or may not be practical for backpacks, but is certainly OK for carry-on luggage.

    The ShinolaOnEar that I purchased came with a ~4 ft braided cable for portable use. The cable has a 4-segment plug for smartphones**, a small microphone box near the right earcup, and a box with a clicker plus volume buttons 16 inches down from the earcup.

    **These controls work OK with my Apple iPhone, but I haven't verified whether they work with Android phones. Other reviews that contain the manufacturer's technical specifications should answer that question.

    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 ShinolaOnEar compares with each individual track. As noted above, these tracks were evaluated using the EQ settings linked above or found on my website.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    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 ShinolaOnEar 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 very well by the ShinolaOnEar.

    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 ShinolaOnEar.

    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 ShinolaOnEar 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 ShinolaOnEar.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The ShinolaOnEar 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 bright, crisp, and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The ShinolaOnEar reproduces the space and detail very well.

    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 ShinolaOnEar renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The ShinolaOnEar 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 ShinolaOnEar 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 ShinolaOnEar 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 that indicates a good deep-bass response. Overall, the ShinolaOnEar 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 ShinolaOnEar plays this track extremely 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 with decent weight with the ShinolaOnEar. 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 ShinolaOnEar 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 ShinolaOnEar plays those very 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 ShinolaOnEar plays this with enough weight and detail that you can hear/feel some of the 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 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 ShinolaOnEar 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 impressive with the ShinolaOnEar.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the ShinolaOnEar 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 ShinolaOnEar's reproduction of the 'clop' sound is fairly accurate.

    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 ShinolaOnEar conveys the drama here pretty well. 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 ShinolaOnEar renders the tones and transients extremely 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 ShinolaOnEar'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 deep bass impacts here are very strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The ShinolaOnEar delivers the impacts with great weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

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