Austrian Audio has had something of a dream start to life when it comes to What Hi-Fi? reviews. We’ve covered three of the company’s headphones so far, and each one has been excellent, garnering full five-star reviews and, in the case of the entry-level Hi-X15, a What Hi-Fi? Award this year. Take a look at the open-back Hi-X65’s rating and you’ll see that this current range-topper continues to keep standards high.
The company is young, having been founded in mid-2017, but at its core is a group of ex-AKG employees who have decades of experience in the headphone industry. This wealth of knowledge clearly shines through in Austrian Audio’s products.
The Hi-X65 have an open-back design, meaning they leak a certain amount of sound out as well as letting a fair amount of environmental noise in. These headphones are nowhere near as leaky as the likes of Grado’s otherwise brilliant SR325x, but it’s still something to be aware of if you’re going to use them when in the company of other people.
Open-back designs tend to have sonic advantages over their closed-back cousins, of course. All things being equal, they tend to sound more spacious and articulate with a notable extra dose of expressiveness when it comes to dynamics. That's down to the lack of a drive unit enclosure and with it all the resonances and distortion that such a structure invariably causes.
Elsewhere you’ll find a rugged, sensibly constructed pair of headphones that are clearly designed to last. Parts that deteriorate over time such as the earpads and headband cushioning are easily replaced, and the use of metal in the structure, particularly the stocky hinges of the ear cups, suggest these Austrian Audios will take plenty of abuse.
They’re comfortable too, with nicely judged clamping pressure and a reasonable 310g of weight nicely spread between the contact points. You’ll find two cables in the box; one of 1.2m length and the other a 3m option. Both feature a 3.5mm jack at the source end and a twist-locking arrangement to connect to the left earcup. A 6.3mm adaptor is also in the box.
Drive unit 44mm dynamic
Nominal impedance 48 ohms
Cables 1.2m, 3m
Connection 3.5mm jack with 6.3mm adaptor
Weight 345g (without cable)
Be warned if you’re the impatient sort. Performance-wise, our sample took the best part of a week to settle. Not that the Hi-X65 don’t sound good from the beginning; more that their presentation is a little thin and forward straight out of the box, which gives them an overly analytical, less involving presentation. Over time, though, the sound mellows to become more expressive and subtle with a convincing amount of natural warmth with not a hint of unwanted edge.
You’ll need a decent source, though. A nominal impedance of 48 ohms and sensitivity of 110dB SPL/V means that our Apple MacBook laptop has no trouble driving the headphones to high levels. But note that the quality of the Hi-X65’s performance gets notably better at every step from there to the addition of an Audioquest Cobalt DAC and then to a Chord Hugo 2 DAC. The Hi-X65 are transparent performers, so the better the source and electronics, the better the sound gets.
We listen to a wide range of music in our time with these headphones – from the grand classical works of Stravinsky to the abrasive hip-hop of Eminem, with the likes of Nick Cave and Lana Del Rey taken in along the way – and these headphones never disappoint.
They have the dynamic stretch to cope with the brutality of the crescendos in Stravinsky’s The Rite Of Spring and the composure to deal with the staggering instrumental complexity of the piece. The Hi-X65 always sound controlled and can track low-level instrumental stands with relative ease.
Tonally they’re nicely judged, thankfully avoiding the overbearing low-frequency character that so many rivals exhibit. The X65 sound cohesive, all-of-a-piece, with no part of the frequency range sticking out.
We’re pleased with the detail resolution too. These are crisp, clean and precise sounding performers that make it easy to follow Eminem’s rapid-fire delivery on No Love. There’s a pleasing degree of punch on offer alongside taut and articulate bass. Rhythmically, things are good enough to communicate the energy and momentum of the track, while admittedly lacking a little of the exuberance that makes the likes of Grado’s SR325x so great. These X65 remain an entertaining listen, though.
Put it all together and the conclusion is easy: the Hi-X65 are comfortable, well made and sonically capable. If you’re looking for a pair of quality wired home headphones at this level, you really should put these on your shortlist.
- Sound 5
- Build 5
- Compatibility 4
Also consider the Grado SR325x
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