Yamaha arguably better known for their hi-fi components, professional gear, and musical instruments (not to mention their motorcycles) than their stereo headphones. However, the company does, in fact, produce a range of headphones – phones designed primarily for studio use.
The HPH-MT220 sits at the top of this line – a closed-back, over-ear design housing a 45MM driver in each of its massive rectangular ear cups, and promising faithful, accurate audio reproduction.
Those drivers feature Yamaha’s CCAW (Copper-Clad Aluminum wire) voice coils – a lightweight aluminum coil coated with copper for maximum conductivity. This ensures the sound reproduction is accurate over the full, 15HZ-28KHZ frequency range.
While they’re certainly not fashion icons, the design of the HPH-MT220s is simplistic; almost elegant. The large rectangular aluminum enclosures feature a plastic backing over the drivers, and a soft, synthetic protein leatherette memory foam ear pad designed to maximize comfort over prolonged periods of use. While they’re certainly far from uncomfortable, the ear pads are a little thin – meaning the hard plastic cover over the driver has a tendency to press into your ear. A protrusion in the middle of this cover doesn’t help matters – it’s rather like the dust cap on a conventional speaker, and becomes uncomfortable after prolonged usage.
There’s plenty of adjustment – the ear cups can be rotated 180 degrees to fit the shape of your head or to monitor in only 1 year, and the the ear cups even slope slightly, allowing them to press tightly against your ears. When fully extended, the headphones are huge – they’ll fit even the most big-headed audiophiles or sound engineers (yes, really).
The 1.2M coiled cable is permanently attached to the left ear cup – I would like to have seen a detachable cable, especially in a studio environment. I’m not a fan of curly cables, either – they often don’t stretch easily, and pull on your ear if you wish to make use of the extra length. The cable features a 3.5MM stereo jack with a simple spring for strain relief; an included 6.25MM adapter screws to the 3.5MM plug to allow you to use the headphones with a greater variety of devices. Both the plug and adapter are solid and well made – indeed, the cable itself is much better than that found on many studio headphones.
The Yamaha HPH-MT220 headphones are designed, primarily, for studio use – where a flat frequency response, maximum detail, low noise and low colouration are a must. Conveniently, these are the key principals behind Yamaha’s ‘Natural Sound’ approach to hi-fi design – each component designed to have as little impact on the music as possible.
These phones are indeed flat – something that is apparent from the get-go. Give them some run in time, and the detail levels rise dramatically – if you like to hear every detail in your music, these phones have it in spades. You can add a fantastic sound stage, and the ability to block out almost all outside noise to their list of merits, too.
Norah Jones’ ‘Seven Years’ is beautifully portrayed – It’s a relaxed track with a heavy double bass line which is delivered with perfect timing and precision, fully displaying the merits of those large drivers.
That lovely sound stage and bags of subtle detail come at a price – a distinct lack of emotion and an inability to connect with the music. Evanescence's ‘Hello’, a powerful, moving track with a killer vocal is a track that, on the right system, can move even the strongest beings to tears. Not here though; the HPH-MT220’s make no attempt to engage with the listener. You’re left feeling disappointed; certainly not wanting more.
The Rolling Stones ‘Paint It Black’ get things back on track – that legendary riff and the pounding drums delivered in all their analogue glory, complete with tape saturation.
These headphones certainly deliver the goods when the volume is raised; rather than bottoming out as is the case with many hi-fi oriented phones, they simply, well, get louder. Due to their revealing nature, they can become bright – play a track such as ‘It’s not you’ from Halestorm’s self-titled debut, and the hi-hats are unbearable at high volumes – but almost pleasant when you turn it down.
Bring them into a studio environment, and the HPH-MT220s deliver. They’re unbelievably transparent – even using my mixer’s onboard headphone amp, I was able to achieve a stunning mix that was, almost, perfect first-time round- a couple of tweaks later, and the track was complete. It took me 3 hours – around half my usual time – and sounds stunning no matter which system I play it on. For studio monitoring headphones, I simply can’t ask for more.
For studio use, the HPH-MT220s simply can’t be beat. They let you hear right into the heart of a recording; their accurate in the extreme.
For hi-fi use, however, it’s a mixed bag. If you’re collection is made up of great-sounding recordings, and you favour maximum detail over musical engagement, give them a try. However; feed them a poor recording, and you’ll quickly find yourself reaching for the skip button.
However; if, like me, you’re a sound engineer – these really are worth a look. Highly recommended.