You can not destroy these headphones

I hate shopping for one thing low cost. There’s nothing worse than that sinking sensation whenever you open one thing up and realize it’s not lengthy for this world. I’m additionally onerous on my gear, which led me to purchase these bulletproof headphones from an obscure firm known as German Maestro. 

However with a view to speak about these headphones, I want to speak a couple of totally different pair of headphones first: the Sony MDR-7506 (and its discontinued brother, the Sony MDR-V6).

I edit plenty of movies and do voiceover work. And when you have carried out any video work, you’ve gotten nearly actually used a pair of Sony MDRs. They’re iconic. You’ll be able to spot the blue or purple stripe and coiled cable from throughout a set. While you go to movie faculty, you’re mainly issued a pair of MDRs like a service rifle, and never with out good purpose.

The Sony MDR-7506s are an industry standard, a fantastic value, and I hate ‘em.

The Sony MDR-7506s are an trade normal, a incredible worth, and I hate ‘em.
Photograph by Amazon

At the beginning, they’re low cost. They often go for about 80 bucks in case you look out for gross sales. Their close to ubiquity on movie units means which you can snag these telephones at a large low cost, making them one of many higher offers for those that want a headphone to do work on. Subsequent, they’re closed-back headphones, completely remoted, which let you select imperfections within the combine. There’s a purpose you see guys monitoring audio on movie units and video shoots sporting these. Third, they’re pretty “flat,” and with out getting too technical and pedantic, they don’t attempt to costume up what you’re listening to to sound pleasing. They’re not bass-heavy Beats. These are for getting work carried out. Lastly, they’re fairly properly constructed for the associated fee. They fold up and are sturdy, which is why you possibly can throw them in a Porta Brace bag with out worrying about them getting tousled. 

For what they do, the MDRs are okay. However they don’t seem to be good. 

For one factor, they’ve a approach too lengthy, non-removable phone cable that may be good in a studio setting however is comical in case you are making an attempt to hearken to music in your cellphone. I hate this cable with each fiber of my being. In precept, I strongly really feel that each one headphone cables ought to be detachable, as cables can undergo tons of abuse. However what actually drives me up the wall is I hate the coiled model of cable. I discover that it snags on too many issues too simply, and each time it acquired a kink in it, it drove me up the wall. 

The second factor is that the froth pads on the MDRs simply straight up suck. It’s not merely a query of consolation; they’re simply actually dangerous pads. I nearly all the time improve the pads on my headphones to both Dekoni or Brainwavz pads, however you’ll nearly actually have to switch these pads earlier than you suppose, significantly in case you are utilizing them in an unforgiving manufacturing context.

A pair of Sony MDR-7506 with badly deteriorated headphone pads.

The froth on this stuff sucks so dangerous, man. I’ve seen this and worse occur so many instances through the years.
Photograph: Alex Parkin, The Verge

Lastly, I simply don’t love the best way they sound. How headphones sound will get into very subjective territory, however the MDRs are, at greatest, tremendous and, at worst, too harsh for me. These had been work headphones, however there was one thing in regards to the treble that made my pores and skin crawl whereas I used to be listening to folks discuss. It’s unfair to ask extra of the MDRs for the worth, however on the finish of the day, I simply wished one thing barely nicer: a professional model of the MDRs with nicer foam, higher and detachable cording choices, and a much less fatiguing sound. On the time (November 2020), this was not provided in America.

This led me down an extended and winding path, looking for a pair of headphones that ticked off all the identical markers: flat, indestructible, closed-back, higher cable. While you get into the upper echelons of audiophile perversion, most of your headphone choices exterior of IEMs are open or semi-open. I researched among the most revered studio headphones. Many individuals I do know swear by the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Professionals, and whereas they’re certainly a studio staple, sturdy, and have among the most comfy inventory pads of any headphone in its vary, they don’t seem to be what I’d name flat, and I couldn’t get used to how they sounded. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x additionally checked off a lot of my wants, however I didn’t just like the sound, and they didn’t really feel particular or significantly sturdy. A good friend of mine swears by the Sennheiser HD 300 Professionals, and I’d imagine him, however sadly, I by no means acquired to check them. Sony additionally has one other obscure however well-respected non-folding large brother to the MDR-7506s known as the MDR-CD900ST that has a flat cable, in addition to an excellent higher-end mannequin known as the Sony MDR-M1ST that has a removable cable, however the former was not accessible exterior of Japan till pretty just lately and the latter you continue to need to import.

Finally, my reply got here within the type of a 76-page thread on the Head-fi boards from 2009 to 2019 by a person named Acix titled “The German Maestro GMP 8.35 D Monitor within the studio… severe about audio, INDEED!!” I had by no means heard of the German Maestro (previously MB Quart), however from the soar, I used to be intrigued. The headphones appeared industrial. Strong. Environment friendly. In a phrase, they appeared German. “Man, I’m all about funtion (sic) over kind, however these need to be the ugliest telephones I’ve seen,” stated person Bones2010. To me, they appeared stunning. 

A close-up picture of the industrial logo of German Maestro.

“Critical about audio, INDEED!!”
Photograph by Christopher Particular person / The Verge

Most of the opinions had been glowing, with the phrases “indestructible” incessantly being talked about. Somebody dropped the picture of a pair of black leather-based boots stepping on them. One other thread talked about that they had been incessantly utilized in listening stations at music retailers. Folks appeared to like their balanced, detailed sound and the truth that they had been very delicate and thus didn’t want a robust headphone amp to hearken to them. In threads and elsewhere, opinions in contrast them favorably to the Sennheiser HD25-1s, however higher and with a barely darker tone. Tight. Managed. One person talked about they had been higher in each respect to their MDRs, which is precisely what I wished on the worth level. 

Because the thread progressed over a number of years, folks began getting inventive. Some didn’t just like the inventory pads and changed them with lush ones from the aforementioned DT770s in addition to Brainwavez HM5s. Others drilled holes in them and did modifications to the inventory cable. Finally, German Maestro launched a model with a detachable cable and a further inventory pair of pads known as The GMP 8.35 Cellular particularly due to requests from prospects with autism. It’s refreshing to listen to an organization take suggestions like that.

Oh thank god, a detachable cable. That’s all I ask.

Oh thank god, a removable cable. That’s all I ask.
Photograph by Christopher Particular person / The Verge

The telephones appeared to tick off each single checkmark, however shopping for them turned out to be barely difficult. Except for a drop.com launch, no one within the States stocked them, so I needed to organize them immediately from the producer and pay in euros. I patiently waited, and once they arrived, they had been precisely what I wanted them to be. 

I used to be instantly struck at how sturdy they had been. The plastic was thick, nevertheless it didn’t weigh the telephones down. Every part made immediately feels low cost and flimsy. They felt like they had been from a distinct period, unstuck in time when merchandise had been measured in a long time, not years. These had been the headphone equivalents of English-made Doc Martens. I might throw this stuff towards a brick wall, run a motorbike over them, yank them from the tooth of a canine, and they might in all probability be tremendous.

They sounded the best way they appeared: “managed,” as one discussion board person put it. I don’t wish to get too deep within the weeds of audiophile testing as a result of that actually isn’t the purpose of this weblog (though I’d gladly mortgage my pair to crinacle or the parents at Audio Science Evaluate for extra in depth testing). They had been clear and flat, with tons of element however not terribly showy. The bass was there, however not overbearing like I had discovered Beyerdynamics to be. If one thing was unsuitable with my combine, I might hear it instantly, like listening to a pair of Yamaha NS10s. I ended up preferring the velour pads, which modified the sound simply barely, however just lately I’ve wished to strive different choices out. They don’t seem to be the very best headphones I’ve ever heard, however inside the parameters of what I want them to do, they’re peerless.

After all, they weren’t everybody’s cup of tea. Some folks I’ve proven them to have discovered them somewhat uncomfortable. Others didn’t just like the sound. After I confirmed them to Alex Parkin over on the video workforce (an authorized MDR person with a well-worn pair who additionally despises the coiled cable), I might sense his apprehension. “I’d positively have to get used to those,” he stated.

Built like a tank.

Constructed like a tank.
Photograph by Christopher Particular person / The Verge

However even individuals who couldn’t get down with the sound agreed that they had been sturdy, environment friendly, and had incredible isolation. The Maestros are ideally suited studio headphones made by a small and obscure firm that appears to really care in regards to the product they produce. Are they definitely worth the hassle to import? I personally don’t have any regrets.

On the nook of my desk, I’ve two headphones hanging from a hook: a pair of Hifimans and my Maestros. 

The Hifimans are large and ethereal, with comfortable Dekoni pads I substituted out. These are my easy-listening headphones. They’re large and fragile, they’ve by no means left my desk, and I’ve nonetheless needed to order a alternative headband from the producer. 

My Maestros sit subsequent to them. They’re my “work headphones,” smart and durable, meant for sturdiness and focus like a Herman Miller chair. Each time I decide them up, I really feel a way of pleasure. I take into consideration that thread discussion board that went on for a decade, with new folks rotating in, discovering, loving, and typically actually hating these cans. I maintain them and know that there’s a superb likelihood that they may nonetheless work for many years, probably even after I’m useless and buried, and the way actually uncommon it’s to purchase a bit of drugs made to survive you.

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