SoundMagic P55 'Vento' Portable Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, May 12, 2017.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

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    Photos:
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/iPhone7p/Headphone_Soundmagic_Vento_01.jpg
    http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Audioforge/Soundmagic_Vento.jpg

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

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the SoundMagic P55 'Vento' headphone (Vento hereafter) are based on direct comparisons to other headphones, particularly those that resemble its design (mid-size portable), but also to a few premium headphones for reference. I'll describe how I relate to the Vento (i.e., my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    The Vento's bass is pretty strong, but not overly dark or "woofy" like some of the lower-fi headphones on the market. This bass has good impact and pretty decent detail, and I'll have comments below about how that bass sounds with some of my test tracks. Try "Katerine" by the Jim Ruiz Group or "Crying For No Reason" by Katy B, to get a sense of the typical bass impact and detail. It's not quite equal to the most expensive planar headphones, but I think most users will be amazed at what comes out of the Vento. To best appreciate the midrange, listen to "Bailando Entre Espuma" by Israel 'Cachao' Lopez for its sharp-edged horn sounds, or "Trains" by Porcupine Tree for the sheer amount of percussive energy it contains. Many of the high-end headphones will sound a little too rough or edgy with these tracks, but the Vento sails through them without harshness or significant colorations.

    Treble response is the proof in the pudding for the Vento - it's a hi-fi treble, but smooth (+/- 3 db), and there are only two points of interest for me. There's a small emphasis around 1.5 khz which can make voices slightly forward, and another small emphasis around 8 khz, which can add a little sizzle to cymbals and similar percussion. For portable/outdoor use, where bass is the first thing to get absorbed in those environments, the Vento response is ideal, and those small (~3 db) emphases I noted are part of that ideal. Using the Vento at home, late night, where the background is very quiet, that response may work well on most music tracks, if my description of the sound meshes with a user's expectations. I reduce the bass somewhat, because it's more than enough for my music (see listings below). Check out "Optical Illusion (Billy Buttons Mix)" by William Orbit or "Wicked Game" by Chris Isaak, two high-energy recordings that can be ear-scorchers with some headphones. The Vento plays these smoothly.

    Isolation is moderate - good enough for most outdoor use, but it won't be the best bet for noisy commutes on a bus or a train. Leakage is low, but if sitting next to someone in a library or quiet office and playing music loudly, they will hear some of the sound, albeit faintly. The deluxe earpads are soft and squishy, and go at least partly around my ears, although the Vento is promoted mainly as an on-ear headphone. It is very comfortable. The clamping pressure is enough to keep it stable on one's head during normal activity, but vigorous activity that involves rapid head movements would not be suitable. The earcups rotate flat, which is not only ideal to fit the slim hard zippered case that's included, but it's also ideal for wearing around the neck all day, when carrying a carrycase isn't convenient. The headband adjustment range is 5/4 inch on each side, and my average size head fits in the middle of that range.

    The Vento comes with two 4.5 ft detachable cables, one terminated with a generic 3.5 mm miniplug, and the other a 3.5 mm smartphone plug. The earcup ends are generic miniplugs. The cable with the smartphone plug has a control box plus microphone - the volume up/down buttons work with my Apple phone, but may or may not work with other smartphones. The cables look pretty skinny, but sturdy, and have strain reliefs at each end. In addition to the music tracks noted above, I'm including a few more examples below with comments about how the Vento sounds with each track, in case a reader wants to compare these comments to other reviews I've done to evaluate the differences. Note that the below comments refer to testing the Vento with no equalization (EQ) or tone controls.

    Last word: This is a beautifully-made headphone with sound that for most users will be thrilling, in a word. I have a recording of a 16 hz organ pedal from the Kellogg Auditorium, which not only plays with serious impact on the Vento, but the 16-cycle analog "beats" are clearly audible. That kind of deep-bass detail is rare for most larger headphones, but unheard of (small pun) in this class.

    Above & Beyond - We're All We Need (feat. Zoe Johnston): A very nice tight but strong-impact bass with crystal clear vocals - the Vento plays this with great ambiance.

    Anamanaguchi - Planet: A complex mix of percussion sounds and hummed vocals. The bells and other high-frequency percussion are highly detailed, the bass line has good impact, and the bass detail is surprisingly good.

    Armin van Buuren - J'ai Envie de Toi (Orig Mix feat Gaia): Strong bass impacts, breathy vocals, lots of fun noise - the Vento plays this perfectly.

    Avicii - Feeling Good: Classic female vocal in movie-theme style - the Vento brings this to life like few other headphones - very impressive.

    Carl Kennedy-Tommy Trash ft Rosie Henshaw - Blackwater (Original Master): Nice strong tight bass impacts, female vocal, rendered delectably by the Vento.

    Crystal Castles - Wrath of God: Atmospheric tune with vocal sound effects and strong bass line, plus some unique treble percussion sounds. The Vento brings these unique sounds to life.

    Digitalism - Pogo: A driving beat with a detailed bass synth and great vocals ("There's something in the air...") - the Vento makes this very enjoyable.

    Dino Lenny-Lino Di Meglio - We Will Make It: Atmospheric tune with good bass impacts and mixed vocals - the female vocal is a special treat with the Vento.

    DJ Shadow - Building Steam With A Grain Of Salt: High-pitched tones and strong deep piano chords with a hummed female vocal - ultra-cool with the Vento.

    Fairmont - Poble Sec: Awesome detailed bass impacts with some nifty pingy guitar and synth effects. I discovered this tune at the time I purchased a different premium headphone, and the Vento makes this even better.

    Giuseppe Ottaviani - Lost for Words (On Air Mix feat Amba Shepherd): Strong bass impacts behind a female voice - a large-scale sweeping sonic image reminiscent of epic adventures in an exotic land. I can't imagine hearing this any better than with the Vento.

    Hecq - Enceladus (With Skyence): Prodigious deep bass and clean at that. This tune's melody is more abstract than most of the others here, but the Vento makes it a real adventure.

    Katy B - Crying For No Reason (Tom Shorterz Remix): Oh myyyyy, I love Katy B. The vocal mix here is awesome and the bass is strong, deep and solid. This is the Vento at its best.

    Ladytron - Destroy Everything You Touch: I first heard this in The September Issue film and soundtrack, as the backdrop for the opening catwalk (watch Andre grinning at 1:51 - all you need to know) - the Vento plays this tune perfectly, with an amazing soundstage.

    Lee and Malinda - Truth Will Set You Free (V-Moda Mix): Lee Kalt is the master, this is the masterpiece. The drum (or tom-tom) hits here have a very realistic skin-tone, the female vocal is seamlessly integrated into the driving beat, and the synth effects also blend well - the Vento just owns this.

    Markus Schulz - Mainstage: The granddaddy of bass is in this track, and the Vento plays it smooth and clean.
     
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