Achieving that perfect blend of modern, fashionable style and sound quality is a tough challenge for audiophile headphone users. Fashionable headphones favour bass over balance, and audiophile headphones often make use of huge, ugly enclosures in the pursuit of better acoustics and comfort. Enter Yamaha’s flagship HPH-PRO500.
The HPH-PRO500 (hereafter referred too as the ‘PRO500s’ to save the ware on my keyboard) are a large, close-back design, designed to be as at home in your hi-fi setup as they are out and about. They feature a foldable headband, allowing them to fit snugly into the included compact hard carry case. 2 Cables are provided, a 3M cable for use in the home, and a 1.2M cable for use with mobile devices. The 1.2M includes a remote used to control your mobile device, and a standard 3.5 to 6.25MM adapter is also included.
Technically speaking, the PRO500s are equip with 50MM drivers, employing neodymium magnets for greater efficiency when used with mobile devices. These drivers are enclosed within rigid aluminium alloy ear cups, finished off with what yamaha calls “ultra premium ear cushion material” designed to offer supreme comfort and excellent noise isolation for long listening sessions.
The PRO500s packaging is illustrious, luxurious, and gives a distinct impression of quality and expense from the get-go. The box is beautifully laid out, and also very fuss-free unlike many other headphones. If, like me you keep your product packaging for future use, you’ll appreciate the effort that clearly went into this packaging.
In the box, you’ll find some documentation, as well as the headphones themselves, enclosed within their hard protective carry case. The aforementioned cables and jack adapter are to be found in the lid of the case (where there is a pouch designed to hold them), and Yamaha even provide little velcro straps to help keep the cables neat.
Upon removing the headphones from the box, my immediate thought was ‘wow, these are heavy’. And indeed they are – though perhaps solid would be a better description. The PRO500s reinforced headband gives them a feeling of being virtually indestructible, and their weight is indeed greater than that of most headphones.
The headband is fully adjustable to fit any size head. The adjustment mechanism is solid and smooth, and the ear cups remain firmly in position once adjusted.
Headband padding consists of a squashy rubber pad affixed to the top of the headband. The rubber is a magnet for dust, so you’ll be cleaning it regularly. It is comfortable though, applying just the right amount of pressure to keep the headphones in place.
The ear cushions are a different story. They’re made from a soft, leatherette material, but the padding is rather firm and don’t adapt well to the shape of your ear. Noise isolation is average, and as the pads don’t fully enclose the ear they tend to exert a little too much pressure resulting in them being somewhat uncomfortable during long listening sessions.
The included cables are flat, tangle-resistant cables, terminated in a 3.5MM plug at either end. The PRO500s feature a single-sided cable connection, though the cable can be connected to either ear cup depending on your preference – a nice touch.
The cables are of excellent quality, though there is a distinct rattle emitted from the little remote unit affixed to the 1.2M cable. Further investigation reveals this is caused by the little control button, so is just the nature of the design. The remote feels a little cheap, though the controls do offer a decent tactile click when pressed. The controls are large too, making them easy to get hold of when you’re using the headphones on the move.
As you would expect, the remote also includes a tiny pin-hole microphone to enable you to take calls and access features such as Siri on iOS. They microphone works as you would expect, and the resulting sound quality is decent with excellent noise isolation. The remote worked flawlessly with my iPhone and also my MacBook Pro, meaning i could use the PRO500s as a Skype headset if desired.
The PRO500s are available in blue and black. Their unique styling is boldly emblazoned with Yamaha’s tuning-fork mark. The styling screams power and performance. But how do they sound? let’s find out..
Before any serious testing, I left the headphones connected to my system to allow them to run in. Yamaha recommend a run-in period of at least 48 hours – I gave these around 72 hours just to be on the safe side.
The PRO500s offer up a deep, wide sound stage. A powerful, deep bass response is complimented by sweet, articulate highs. They’re a little mid range heavy, however.
While I wouldn’t go as far as to describe the mids as harsh, they’re certainly very prominent and can result in the headphones sounding a little boxy with certain types of music or spoken word material. This also makes it difficult to discern the height and depth of a vocal track. This can, at times, result in the PRO500s sounding a little tinny and unnatural.
Instrument placement is excellent, as are the detail levels. And, no matter the material, there’s no risk of the PRO500s sounding over bright, though if you feed them a poorly recorded or low bitrate track they can be a little harsh at the top end of the frequency spectrum.
Over all, I would describe their sound as pleasant. They’re certainly easy to listen to, and their neutral sound means they don’t favour any particular type of music. Throughout my tests I went from Classic Rock to classical with no noticeable change in the PRO500s presentation.
The PRO500s aim to bridge the gap between mainstream stylish headphones and audiophile designs. And, in general, they do so well – blending unique, bold styling with with decent sound quality.
Are they the best sounding headphones in their price bracket? Probably not. And they don’t quite give you that feeling of sitting in front of a pair of real loudspeakers. And, if you have a large head, they can be a little uncomfortable.
But if you’re looking for a pair of headphones for home use and want the best sound quality, they’re certainly worth an audition. If you’re looking for a pair of fashionable audiophile headphones to ware proudly on your daily commute, you’ve found them. Highly recommended.