Maxell HP-550F Headband Headphones - Black/Gold Reviews
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Maxell HP-550F Headband Headphones - Black/Gold

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Another $20 set of Toss-Arounds?

Apr 12, 2005 (Updated Apr 12, 2005)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Very comfortable, cheap, decent sound

Cons:Ugly, cheap, not very loud

The Bottom Line: A much better choice than the Sony MDR-150/250, but especially suited for long use in a quiet locale.


Why I Bought Them

My piece-of-crap Sony MDR-150's I had finally gave up the ghost recently, with one side of the headphones dying (this well after the other side broke and was repaired with superglue). So, I trashed them, and needed to source a new pair of cheap headphones, the kind I would take to work and wouldn't be afraid to leave on my desk overnight. So, I was strolling through Best Buy and found these. Since these are the same price as the Sony MDR-150/250, I'll be comparing them directly.

Comfort

Right out of the box the first thing to find out is how well a pair of headphones fit. These Maxell's actually do a very respectable job. Compared to the Sony 150/250's, they're like wearing nothing at all, since the fairly large earcups surround your ear instead of pressing against them. The top band is covered in thin but padded pleather and is a welcome departure from hard plastic pressing against the top of your head. The headband is pretty adjustable and looks to be able to expand to accept larger head types.

Overall the comfort is excellent for such a cheap pair of headphones, I've had them on at work for 8-10 hours and straight without suffering the dreaded sore and numbness caused by many headphones (Sony 150/250's definitely included).

Style

I can't say these are the nicest-looking headphones I've seen. As a matter of fact, they're borderline ugly. The earcups are relatively large and oval, making them look like goose-eggs. The sort of gold/champagne color of the plastic is off-putting, it just makes them look cheaper, especially with the black headband and earcup surrounds. Then, for some odd reason, the part of the headband that's exposed when you stretch them out is an actually nice-looking 'brushed-metal' esque band with black plastic behind.

Perhaps this is the only category where the sony MDR-150/250's are superior, as their classic all-black, understated design is considerably better on the eyes than these awkward-looking things.

Fit & Finish

I'm not going to beat around the bush, these things look cheap. Close examination of the materials reveals cheap plastic with slightly rough edges and seams, thin, paper-like 'pleather', and just enough padding to not be non-existant. You're really not going to impress anyone with these, as they could easily look like they came from Big Lots. That being said, the way they're put together, despite the inexpensive materials, might make them last a bit longer than the Sony 150/250's.

The folding, swivel-action hinge is more enclosed than the Sony, giving it less of a distance to travel and less of a chance of snapping under stress. The sliding headband adjustment is thick plastic behind a decent metal band, so shouldn't snap or crack the way the Sony's did.

Feature Set

The folding design of these Maxell's is becoming common among all closed-ear headphones, but I'm not sure how well-implemented it is here. When folded, these Maxell's are perhaps even more awkward to stow, since the headband is pushed farther apart then when in the wearing position. The cord length is another problem, it's pretty short. I use these at work plugged into my laptop, and they just barely give enough slack to turn my head about, forget to take them off before you get up and you'll yank the cable.

Lastly, the in-cable volume and channel adjustment is relatively useless. The volume should always be all the way up when you're listening to something (more on this later) and since turning it all the way down doesn't really turn it all the way down, it really serves no real purpose. Worse, the knob is loose and can easily and accidently pushed around, making you wonder whether there's something wrong with your audio player. I'm probably going to superglue the knob permanently in the highest position. The stereo/mono switch is also useless in these type of headphones, as really it only ever helps when listening to one ear cup, as especially when DJ'ing, and these are certainly not a pair any DJ would bother with.

Sound

Okay, the most important part is finally here, what they sound like. Right away the sound quality is decent, helped out quite a bit by the fact that the earcups do completely surround your ear and seal relatively well against your head. Low frequencies are smooth, though not pronounced, mids are present but not particularly distinct, and highs are pretty clear. Overall the sound quality is better than cheaper models, but nowhere is it particularly warm or strong. The volume is not great, listening to them in a quiet office environment is fine because they can't get very loud, using them outside or in noisy climes could prove a problem.

Compared to the Sony's, these probably are the same quality of sound, if a little better thanks to the true closed-ear design.

Who Should Buy

These headphones would be best suited for extended use in a relatively quiet place, such as the office, library, bedroom, what have you. Their comfort is really the strong point here, making them wearable for many hours. They just aren't loud enough, and look odd, making them less than the best choice for out-and-about folks. Definitely should not be considered for any professional application.


Recommend this product? Yes


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