Unboxing / Packaging:
The box is a standard cardboard style designed to be hung on a retail rack. The front has the make and model information with the particulars on the reverse. Inside the box everything fits neatly in a hard-sided cloth covered zipper case with the SoundMagic logo and name on the top face. Inside the case is a formed tray with positions for the phones themselves and a black velvet bag sporting the logo /name in gray, with the accessories inside. Included in the bag are the cable, an extension cable, and a 3.5 to 6.3mm converter. The case is solid enough to protect the contents, and the bag prevents cable ends scratching the cups while in storage.
Build is impressive with aluminum cups, steel gimbals, cast aluminum hinges, and metal band covered in soft leather. The only plastic I could find anywhere was the joint between the band and the leather cover and the sides of the cups both of which are low stress locations so not likely to cause problems. Cups are large enough that fit over the ear is good even with larger ears and adjustments are both positive and plentiful so even the smallest and largest user shouldn’t run out of adjustment before they find comfortable fit. The adjustments are particularly impressive to me as the picture below shows, they are machined into the aluminum rather than being a stamped part that relies on friction fit like so many others (Hifiman, are you seeing this?). Comfort on the head is good and I had no problem with either my glasses or long listening sessions causing fatigue. This is probably due to a combination of the soft vented leather pads and the light weight of the unit . The connectors on the cups are dead vertical rather than having a forward cant like come others with the connector protruding slightly over an inch before the cable can bend forward. For me, I found the connectors to sit about an inch away from skin so no discomfort caused by them whatsoever.
The heart of the HP1000 is a 53mm dynamic driver with a composite diaphragm and neodymium/iron/boron magnets mounted at an angle inside the cup. Nominal impedance is 66Ω with a sensitivity of 120dB/mW and no, that is not a typo. Most of the time when we see sensitivities that high, we expect to see impedance that is below 32Ω as well. In this case the high sensitivity with a bit higher impedance is a good combination as it still has a low noise floor, but remains easy enough to drive that it is usable with portable devices and even passable with a cellphone or tablet. I did find the HP1000 scaled quite well and details improved considerably as source improved even though I don’t think the extra power of the bigger amps was as much a factor as the improved DACs ahead of them.
The cable deserves its own discussion as it is not a standard design and will limit aftermarket options. Having said that, it is extremely well made and the need for an aftermarket model may not present itself. The 3.5mm straight Jack is housed in a black metal barrel with a proper strain relief as the cable exits. Cabling itself is a heavy but pliable black rubber of about 3/16th of an inch thickness from the jack up to the splitter which is a heavy black rubber Y shape. Each wire above the splitter is nearly the same size as the single below it with terminations having black metal barrel housings like the jack and what can be described as a cross between an HD-800 style connector and a banana plug. The gold plated connectors have a ring of 6 fingers around a central pin with the fingers providing the resistance to keep the plug attached but allowing for easy removal when called for. One upside of this connector design is if the cable is caught on something it will pull the connectors from the headphone rather than putting pressure on the DAP. These aren’t particularly well suited as a portable, but they are very usable from devices like the AK70Mk2 and Sony NWZ-300 so it isn’t outside the realm of possibility.
The HP1000 shows good sub-bass depth and rumble but is not exaggerated and will not please the basshead crowd. Those looking for something where bass is well controlled, doesn’t overlap the mids, and is good proportion to the rest of the signature will appreciate the signature. Mid-bass follows the same pattern of present, but not over-stated or boomy. Slam is good when called upon, but can fly under the radar until a passage plays that makes it front and center. Attack is a bit faster than decay at times and leaves a bit of lingering warmth wtihout feeling thick or overly slow. The bass has good texture and detail and builds a strong foundation for the rest of the signature.
There is some warmth brought to the lower mids but no obscuring of the lower mids from bass bleed. My Frequency response graph shows a bit of a drop in the midrange that I don’t hear so I am left questioning if that is more an artifact of my rig than a feature of the headphones as I find the mids to be in good proportion to the mid-bass and then move forward as they move toward the lower treble. The 151 got panned as having poorly tuned mids and it generally was one of the low points of the previous Soundmagic models. It is quite obvious that Soundmagic took the criticisms to heart and has done a good job of cleaning up the mids and making them more present in the mix. Guitar timbre is good and I especially like the growl on blues guitar as rendered on the Hp1000. Mids are notably more textured and detailed than on their predecessor. A push of the upper mids forward brings vocals to the front with exaggerating them.
Lower treble is somewhat emphasized without being sharp or strident and brings good energy and life to the mix. Above that lower treble push, the treble drops back to the same level as the mids and mid-bass up to about 15kHz where it starts to roll-off very rapidly. This gives the Hp1000 a fairly bright signature without getting fatiguing which is a tough combination to pull off. I found cymbals sounded more realistic than anticipated and snare hits have that nice crack and rattle I look for. Treble detail is quite good as well. When I initially started my listening I anticipated fatigue due to the treble, but the longer I sat and listened the more I began to realize these do a masterful job of providing enough brilliance to feel open and detailed but not enough to sound harsh or fatiguing. I was able to wear these for an entire work day.
Soundstage / Imaging:
This is the strongest card in the Hp1000’s hand. The Soundstage is huge, not for a closed back, but for a headphone in general. I found the stage to be roughly comparable to several of my open-back models when A/B testing and kept coming back to test another track as a result as normally a closed back just can’t compete with their open siblings in this respect. Those looking for a good soundstage in a closed back model should definitely audition the Hp1000 as if you like the signature, your search may end right there and even if not, at least you know what kind of staging is possible in a closed back model. Imaging is very good as well which is aided by above average instrument separation and seating the orchestra is straight forward as a result with no odd placements or errors. Layering is better than expected from a single dynamic at this price point as well.
Thoughts / Conclusion:
I’ll admit to being a Soundmagic fan from the days of the Hp100. I thought that model provided really good sound for the asking price, but will also readily admit I thought build quality needed some improvements to be as good as the sound. So, I went into this review with high hopes with a somewhat skeptical thought or two lurking in the back. I was probably harder on the Hp1000 as a result as I kept looking for the “But”. I am happy to say now that despite my best efforts, I didn’t find one. The magic of the Hp100 has been improved on in both build with the aluminum hinges and in sound with the more engaging mids, and the more refined treble. Soundstage is a master class on what can be done with a closed back, and the signature gives plenty of detail and energy without any stridency or becoming grossly fatiguing. These deserve serious consideration if you are in the market for a closed-back headphone. They compete well with models I didn’t expect them too (LCD2C for example). While I am not thrilled with the proprietary cable connections, I have already done a bit of looking and I think converting them to either 3.5 or 2.5mm jacks will be a fairly straight forward process for those that are interested in recabling them. Other than that one caveat, these earn an enthusiastic recommendation and are one of the best new models I have gotten to audition this year.
- Bass - 7.5/107.5/10
- Mids - 7/107/10
- Treble - 7.5/107.5/10
- Soundstage - 8/108/10
- Imaging - 7.5/107.5/10
Pros: Good dynamics and tonality, solid construction, and very expressive sound.
Cons: Proprietary connectors limit cable options, may be hard for phones/tablets to drive