Superlux HD-668B headphones

The HD-668B headphones from Superlux are selling very, very quickly. Here's a review on these excellent phones:


Superlux HD-668: A Giant Killer?


The HD668B gives you a very well-balanced sound with excellent clarity, while at the same time still managing to sound musical. There are other headphones which has good balance but at the same time sound too uninvolving or lifeless; the HD668B is definitely not one of them. And the HD668B doesn’t require you to have a full-fledged high-end system to hear its potential; you can just plug it into a portable player of your choice, or even straight to your computer’s soundcard, feed it with good-quality audio files, and hear what it is capable of putting out. Or, you might want to add an amplifier in the middle of the link, which does give an improvement to the HD668B. Just for kicks, I hooked up the Lavry DA11 as a USB DAC, which fed the SPL Phonitor amplifier, and plugged the HD668B in. I then played Kings of Convenience’s “Mrs. Cold” and “Boat Behind”, and wow, Erlend Øye and Eirik Bøe’s voices didn’t sound like their voices were overlapping one on another; they sound better-separated but still in perfect unison. Alicia Keys’ unplugged version of “Unbreakable” was also a real treat to listen to; I couldn’t help smiling and giggling through the entire song while closing my eyes and pinpointing which backing vocalists are where. The setup really made the HD668B’s already-excellent acoustic imaging even better than it already is.

All in all, the HD668B is a kind of headphone that “wows” you the first time you hear it, particularly because of two things: its exceptional sound and its price tag. Compared to the Alessandro MS1i, the HD668B sounds clear, spacious, everything is well-placed, and more natural, while MS1i sounds compressed, right-on-the-face, and not as clear. The MS1i just doesn’t have the HD668B’s impressive balance, acoustic imaging, and clarity. This headphone definitely competes with those that are priced two or three times as much, in terms of price-to-performance ratio.

I must admit though, that at first, I underestimated this headphone. Maybe because of its AT-AKGish hybrid look and plastic body, I jumped to the conclusion that this is just another copycat product from an Asian manufacturer that probably no one had ever heard of, with mediocre sound out of its huge 50mm drivers. Okay, that was a little bit rude, though. And that was a big underestimation as well: as soon as I plugged it into my iPod and hit Play, I must admit that I was completely wrong.

The first track that I listened to was Yanni’s “Adagio in C Minor”, and it took me only a few seconds to gasp in awe: it sounds VERY clear. Unbelievably (and unexpectedly) crystal-clear, transparent, as if there were no boundaries between me and the music. There was no veil, no blanket, no nothing. It does let you hear the subtle details in your music (if there is any), such as pages of music scores being flipped over. If it’s there, then you will hear it, clearly. This, combined with the HD668B’s superb acoustic imaging, separation, and airiness, truly blows me away. You will not hear a compressed or condensed sound with the HD668B. You can feel that there is a sense of space. Free, spacious, but the sound image is correct; it doesn’t exaggerate the music’s particular space. If the artist performed in a closed venue, then you will hear his/her voice echoing, while if the artist performed in a large, open venue, then you can hear him/her perform on the stage with his accompanying band personnels on their respective positions, his/her voice travelling through the open air, and you can tell which clapping and/or cheering audience is closer to the stage, and which ones are farther. It doesn’t sound crowded, everything is well-put, where they are supposed to belong.

Now let’s talk about how each frequency range sounds, starting with the bass. The bass is tight, quick, has an excellent grip, reaches down, and doesn’t intrude the middle or high frequencies. The bass quantity is not abundant, but not insufficient either; it gives just the right amount of bass, which particularly sounds excellent on jazz, classical, pop, and folk music, although rock listeners might want more impact on this sector. For those who expect seismic, very deep, weighty bass, please look elsewhere. I like the bass response on the HD668B: even if your music has a plenty of bass, the HD668B wouldn’t exaggerate it. You will hear more bass, but not an overbearing, larger-than-life kind of bass.

The mids sound authentic and accurate, it sounds right where it belongs, without being right in front of your face, or too laid-back. Vocals are not thick, but not thin or dry, either. Excessive sibilance was also not observed. There is some sibilance if your recording has it, but otherwise it isn’t overemphasized, even with female vocals such as Alicia Keys, Celine Dion, or Leona Lewis. Also worth noting is that the HD668B doesn’t sound “strained” on high-pitched male and female vocals, which I noticed while I was listening to Celine Dion’s “To Love You More” and Josh Groban’s “Broken Vow”. While other headphones might clip on the top end of the vocal, the HD668B just delivers, beautifully and effortlessly.

The highs on the HD668B are nothing short of excellent. Listening to Vanessa Mae’s “Toccata and Fugue in D Minor” was astounding and literally hair-raising. After a spirited violin play by Mae, I switched to Dave Koz’s “Know You By Heart”, which soothed and mellowed me, while at the same time still kept me amazed with the highs. Wind instruments sound natural and effortless, it doesn’t sound as if Koz is running out of breath while blowing his saxophone. I was amazed by how the accompanying strings and piano tickled my ears, too. The highs on the HD668B go way up, detailed, crystal clear, sparkling, but not gritty. It is sharp, precise, strong, it slices and and it dices you. It sounds real, believable, and not metallic.