It’s easy to make a pair of headphones look old-fashioned. All you need to do is make the earcups perfectly round and big enough to look like a World War II telegraph operator’s headset, then attach a chunky cable to each earcup. Et voila! headphones that make the wearer look like they’re ready to party like it’s 1959.
This is exactly what SoundMagic has done with the closed-back HP1000s. Of course, some people positively revel in technology that looks like a throwback to a bygone era, and there’s nothing wrong with that as long as the performance is still good.
The HP1000s are robustly constructed from a combination of aluminium (for the UV-oil coated earcups and the innards of the headband), pleather (covering the memory-foam earpads) and sheepskin (for the outer headband). Why SoundMagic deems faux leather adequate for the earpads but not for the headband is questionable.
Drivers 2x 53mm Neodymium
Resistance 66 ohms
Frequency response 10Hz-30kHz
Headphone jack 3.5mm
Regardless of these peculiar choices, there’s no arguing with the HP1000s' build. The headband adjusts sturdily and quietly – the machined headband stops are a nice indication of just how well the SoundMagics are put together.
The hinges on the earcups allow smooth 180-degree articulation – the HP1000s don’t fold, other than this flattening of the direction of the earcups.
They look heavier than their 412g weight, and the gratifying heft of their construction somehow makes them seem heavier than that too, but the HP1000s can be worn comfortably for hours at a time. As long as you don’t mind your ears being completely swallowed up, of course.
The HP1000s feature detachable cables that run from each earcup – they’re fitted using bespoke, gold-plated connectors. The cables are quite bulky, but nicely rubberised and pleasingly resistant to tangling, and converge into a single cable less than a metre from the headphones. From there the cable terminates in a 3.5mm plug – again, gold-plated.
There’s a 3m-extension cable included in the package, in case you fancy doing some static listening, and a 3.5mm-to-6.3mm adapter for the same purpose. The headphones, as well as their various cables and adapters, can be stored in their sizeable hard case.
Sound is delivered by a couple of 53mm full-range drivers. The diaphragms are of an unspecified composite, with neodymium magnets behind. SoundMagic claims a frequency response of 10Hz to 30kHz, which is whale-song deep to dog-whistle high.
When you consider the HP1000s are a closed-back design, their presentation is remarkably open and spacious. They give a lot of width and depth to the soundstage they generate – in this respect, they are reminiscent of an open-backed design, which is impressive.
Listening to a big, complex recording such as The Flaming Lips’ Waitin’ For Superman, the SoundMagics lay each instrumental strand out with complete confidence – separation and placement are completely convincing. There’s a reasonably three-dimensional aspect to the way the HP1000s describe a recording, which is by no means a given in a closed-back configuration such as this, even one packing big drivers inside even bigger earcups.
Tonally, too, the SoundMagics give a pretty good account of themselves. The low frequencies in the same song punch with reasonable determination, although they’re quite soft around the edges and don’t have the sort of positivity or definition that can make a rhythm sound sure of itself. They could conceivably do with greater extension, too, which is a bit surprising given SoundMagic’s suggestion of a 10Hz frequency response.
At the opposite end of the scale, the HP1000s want for nothing in terms of treble expression or detail, but there’s just a hint of trouble lurking here too. Smooth and well-produced recordings revel in the crisp attack the SoundMagics generate, but anything less accommodating can provoke some high-end spitting and fizzing. It almost goes without saying that The Flaming Lips fall into the latter category.
In between, the midrange is similarly detailed and similarly easily provoked into edginess by less-than pristine recordings. Pander to the HP1000s a little with a listen to Sam Cooke’s Bring It On Home To Me and they’re quite expressive; goad them with Pete Shelley’s Homosapien and they’re edgy.
What really does for the HP1000s, though, is their overall emphasis. It seems as though SoundMagic was shooting for a ‘serious and grown-up’ sonic signature when voicing these headphones, a sort of audio equivalent of their looks. It’s a fine line between ‘mature and considered’ and ‘undemonstrative and matter-of-fact’, though – it’s one the SoundMagics cross quite early on, and they never really come back.
They’re too laid-back to be properly engaging, and ultimately they’re not an involving listen. This is compounded by their halting approach to rhythm – the HP1000s are hardly dancefloor dynamite – and their relative lack of dynamic freedom. They’re too self-conscious to really sink their teeth into music, and end up sounding restrained as a result.
The SoundMagic HP1000s are quite a lot better in theory than in practice. A relatively affordable pair of full-size, closed-back over-ear headphones that have as much space to their sound as an open-backed pair is a great idea, but there’s more to a good pair of headphones than that. The HP1000s don’t have enough of everything else it takes.
- Sound 3
- Comfort 4
- Build 5
Read our SoundMagic Vento P55 v3.0 review