But, we’d be surprised if those thoughts ever surfaced in the corridors of Austrian Audio’s Vienna HQ. The company, born out of ex-AKG employees, has hit the ground running with its first-ever range of wired headphones, Hi-X.
We’ve heard, enjoyed and given five-star ratings to the more expensive Hi-X55 headphones but the Austrian Audio Hi-X15 are the first model we’ve heard from the brand which we’d consider a proper budget offering.
Design and build
Although, from a quick inspection, it’s apparent that these wired over-ears look and feel anything but cheap. Their design and finish put a lot of plasticky competitors to shame. The use of proper metal hinges results in a pair of headphones that fold away neatly, with zero fuss. And you can even slip them into the supplied carry pouch to protect them from bumps and scrapes.
The matte plastic on the arms is a nice change to glossy plastic, while the black, red and silver colour scheme gives them on-desk presence. In each earcup you’ll find a 44mm driver and ring magnet system with a copper-clad aluminium voice coil.
Frequency range 12Hz - 24kHz
Impedence 25 ohms
Cable length 1.4m
In-line controls No
In the box you get a 1.4m long headphone cable with a 3.5mm jack at one end and a 2.5mm connector on the other. This slots into the left earcup (a 6.3mm adapter is included in the box). It’s then a matter of twisting and locking it into place.
Put them on your head and the grip level is nicely judged, with just enough pressure applied to keep them from sliding around your head. The soft, ‘slow retention’ memory foam earpads are also comfy and during our time with them didn’t seem to generate too much in the way of heat.
Given the portable element of their design has been executed so well, you might think it a shame that the cable isn’t just a little bit shorter and that it doesn't have in-line smartphone controls. But we’d still class these really as home headphones.
Now, we found the Hi-X15 sounded quite lively straight out of the box. This means you’ll need to be prepared to give them a decent running-in period (we’re talking a good couple of days at least) so they have a chance to calm down.
This is one reason why we’d seriously suggest using them with a DAC/headphone amplifier such as the DragonFly Red. In fact, the Hi-X15 would quite easily work with a more expensive option like a Chord Mojo.
This is mainly because the Austrian Audios sound so transparent and grown up and, in all honesty, they’d be wasted paired solely with a smartphone (though they will still sound great).
Any rough and ready recordings are mirrored in how the sound is fed into your ears, and this transparency gives them a huge advantage over rivals, especially when you take into account the close-backed design. This sense of openness allows an immense amount of detail to be served up to feast on, without having to worry about sound leakage.
Throughout the frequency range, these headphones deliver consistently high detail levels and fantastic dynamics. Play The End by Kings Of Leon, and the Hi-X15 pick apart and deliver the funky bass guitar riff at the start, the drum kit and lead guitar with consummate ease. You can almost feel the texture of each instrument as it’s being played, the headphones drawing you deep into the performance.
There isn’t an ounce of fat on any track played through the Austrian AudioHi-X15 headphones. But at the same time there’s enough weight and substance to low frequencies that you don’t feel as though you’re missing out. Massive Attack’s Angel is obviously known for its deep, probing bass notes and the headphones punch their way along, each note dispatched with force and power.
Yes, we’d consider the Hi-X15 an analytical pair of headphones, but they still manage to make music entertaining with it – they extract bags of detail but keep the soul of your music intact.
We wouldn't insist on you partnering them with a suitable DAC/headphone amplifier, but do so and you’ll be rewarded with a mature-sounding pair of headphones that go above and beyond at the money.
- Sound 5
- Comfort 5
- Build 5
Read our round up of the best over-ear headphones
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Read our Sennheiser HD 560S review