There’s very little to dislike about the SoundMagic HP151; they provide sensational sound quality for the money
- Superb sound quality
- Comfortable to wear
- Long cable
SoundMagic is renowned for its budget E10 earphones but not many know the company make more than just in-ears. In fact, the company has a surprisingly rounded range of external ear headphones that ranges from this new SoundMagic HP151 up to the open-back HP200.
The SoundMagic HP151 is an update to the SoundMagic HP150 and shares a lot of the same characteristics as the older model, but with a nicer finish and a more durable folding mechanism. These two design changes address the build-quality issues many customers picked up on.
SoundMagic HP151 review: Tl;dr
The HP151 are over-the-ear headphones designed for the home rather than on-the-go use. Its large frame houses 53mm drivers and connects via a 2.5m-long cable.
There’s very little to dislike about the HP151s. They’re comfortable, have a removable cable and most importantly produce an impressive sound. At £120, it’s hard to think why anyone would buy anything other than the HP151 unless you need to a pair to take out of the house.
SoundMagic HP151 review: Price and competition
The SoundMagic HP151 cost £120 and can be found for $130 in the US. This is cheaper than the original £160 launch price of the HP150, the HP151’s predecessor. For the same amount of money, you’ll be able to find the Sony MDR-1A and the highly praised Audio-Technica ATH-M50X, while for £95, you can also find the Creative Sound BlasterX H5, a headset that doubles up as an excellent standalone headphone.
SoundMagic HP151 review: Accessories and build quality
In the box you’ll find a hard carrying case, a 6.3mm adapter, an aeroplane adapter and a 2.5m-long removable cable that’s terminated by gold-plated 3.5mm plugs. The only thing missing is a shorter 1.2m mobile cable.
The HP151’s build quality is impressive. Customers who complained about the HP150’s earcup hinges will be pleased to know that the HP151 feels sturdy and robust. The mechanism allows you to fold the earcups, and its headband assembly allows you to adjust the size of the headphones and to rotate the cups by 180 degrees; they also pivot a few degrees, but cannot be stored flat.
Its removable cable design is well thought out, with a clever locking mechanism on the left cup that’s designed to prevent the cable being yanked free of its moorings by accident. Clear right and left indicators can be found on the side of the headband in red and blue colours.
And the HP 151 are very comfortable to wear. They’re light and the PU leather material within the headband provides sufficient padding for your head, allowing you to wear the HP151s for long periods of time without worrying about them digging in. The ear pads are large enough to fit around most ears, even large lugholes, and they’re soft and comfortable.
SoundMagic HP151 review: Sound quality
The HP151’s 53mm neodymium dynamic drivers have an impedance of 32 ohms. This means they can be easily driven by a smartphone but will sound quieter at equivalent volume settings than in-ear models, which typically have lower impedance.
The headphones’ biggest trait is their wide soundstage and impressive instrument separation, which make them perfect for all types of music and movies. The sound is both rich and accurate, such that the headphones sound more like open-back than closed headphones. Compared with the Audio-Technica ATH-M50X and Creative Sound BlasterX H5, the Soundmagic HP151 have a wider, deeper soundstage that isn’t as muddled by different audio frequencies. Its tonality is pleasant and imaging is accurate, too.
A lot of headphones under £150 over-emphasise the mid-bass frequencies or have a flabby sound; not the SoundMagic HP151. A good comparison is the Skullcandy Crushers, which have an overpowering mid-bass that lacks control. In songs such as “Tokyo Drift” by the Teriyaki Boyz, I found the HP151s are able to cope with the amount of bass thrown at them, providing a precise, clean reproduction, while also providing crystal-clear vocals. By comparison, the Skullcandy Crushers overshadow the mid-range and dampen the listening experience.
Surprisingly, they’re no slouch in the sub-bass region, either, producing a deep rumble that’s perfect for listening to house, EDM or any music that requires a deep pronounced bass response, such as Snoop Dogg’s “Promise You This”.
Despite this, the mid-range is not overly recessed and there’s an open, forward-sounding quality to the SoundMagic HP151 that delivers just enough detail to leave you smiling. They’re not quite as eager, perhaps, as the Sony MDR-1A, but I prefer the character of the HP151 overall. Finally, the highs provide a detailed sparkle that isn’t too rolled off at the top end. Cymbals sound natural and songs such as Calvin Harris’ “Slide” are toe-tappingly fun to listen to.
Perhaps the only type of music that doesn’t fare well with these headphones is hard-driving heavy metal – with System of a Down’s “Hypnotize” there’s not quite the texture and richness in the mid-bass to fill things out properly, with the result that tracks can sound flat and harsh.
SoundMagic HP151 review: Verdict
Other than that, and the HP151’s long, snakelike cable that limits use to the home, this is an excellent pair of headphones. As it’s a removable cable, you can change it, but I’d still have preferred an alternative cable to be provided in the box.
At £120, though, you do get a lot of headphone for your money. Build quality has been improved, sound quality is fantastic and, if you’re looking for a headphone to use at home with the AV receiver, computer, smartphone or even to play games, the SoundMagic HP151 should be your first point of call. It’s a sensational headphone and a deserving Expert Reviews’ Best Buy award winner.