Austrian Audio - Official Thread

Austrian Audio is pro audio company created in July 2017 after closure of AKG offices in Wien. It started with a core team of 22 former AKG employees. It produces microphones, headphones and audio software. Current notable headphones are controversial closed back Hi-X55 and interesting open back Hi-X65.

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So I am very early on in my X65 journey. I am a little over 15 hours in and I’m gonna give my first impressions vs the HD600, my daily driver.

The unboxing is exquisite. Very. Very premium. Every headphone should be like this, it screams quality. The hand checked verification card is just great, the unboxing could not be a better experience. I’d buy these again for the unboxing alone if my wallet would handle it.

The comfort and fit is nice. Not as clampy as the HD600, but still nice. I have a small head and I don’t need to move the adjustments at all and it fits and seals well. I do wish velour pads were an option. I don’t like leather that much but this is subjective. Comfort is great, but I prefer the HD600. The X65 weigh more than the HD600, but to me and my weightlifting lifestyle, it’s a non-issue. The leather does isolate more than the velour and I was surprised at the isolation for an open back, they still leak sound a lot so… be weary. The same if not more than the HD600. Comparable to my HE500 I used to own, leaks more than the DT 1990. The cups are nice and deep and very roomy (for me, again, this is subjective)

Sound wise, (I am a simple guy who likes metal music and gaming, I don’t like audiophile terms that much but will do my best here to explain)[Without EQ] They’re fine without EQ, I think overall sound is better on the HD600 without EQ, it does feel like more bass is present with a slightly better punch.The mids sound a bit recessed in some areas and just right in others. Vocals sound good but lacking somewhat, electric guitars sound slightly distant. It sounds like everything is there, just lacking the “intangibles”.Treble is just right imo. It sounds more present than the HD600 but not sibilant like the DT1990 I also used to own.[With EQ] Take everything I said and add those “intangibles”. The bass gets slighty more punchiy with more nuance, electric guitars have that body behind it, mids sound more full, and the treble gets slightly better. I’ll have my current EQ below at the bottom. Suffice to say, with eq, it’s great. I think without EQ, some of the mids sound scared, they’re there and you can tell it’s there, they just need a confidence boost.

Soundstage and Imaging: Good. They’re headphones. Headphone soundstage (imo) is almost always over-exaggerated or overemphasized. The soundstage is wide enough. More wide than the HD600, on par with the 1990/Ether 2 if memory serves correctly. Imaging is solid, not as 3-bloby like the HD600 and I have no issues with playing Halo Infinite or Stardew Valley (the latter is being slightly disingenuous to real gamers).Instrument separation is also great. No issues on that front either. I didn’t think the HD600 was bad (still don’t) but there is clearly more separation between instruments.

Detail is great in my opinion. I don’t feel like I’m losing out on anything being presented in music or what have you.

So far overall, I really like them. I just wish there were velour pads for them. I don’t think the leather pads are bad or anything, I just prefer velour feeling wise. I contacted Austrian Audio and they said they had no plans to make velour pads anytime soon.

Will make a more in depth review in a week or two.

My EQ Profile: I am using my ears to this, no measurements. My ears like what they hear, not what is seen on a graph… mostly.

Bass shelf +3-4 dB (I usually stick with +3.5db) @ 100 hz

Peak Filter: 1.5kHz Q 1.5 + 4 dB

Peak Filter: 3.5 kHz Q 2 + 4-5 dB

High Shelf: 11000 kHz + 1.5-2dB (I like a little more sparkle)

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1 Week with the Austrian Audio X65 - Review

(This is my 1 week review of the Austrian Audio X65. Please note comparisons with the HD600 and X65 are with EQ. I will have a small section in the beginning without EQ on both, and the majority will be with EQ, as I tend to EQ everything, including the HD600. My EQ profile will be at the end for both the HD600 and X65)

Well it has been quite a week with the HI-X65 by Austrian Audio and I believe I’m ready to make a review on them. Please note I am not an experienced audiophile by any means, I am a simply guy who works out, listens to metal music, and plays games. I do not really like audiophile terms, nor do I believe that amps/dacs play a major role in overall sound quality. I believe all SS amps sound the same and dacs are over-blown in terms of audio perception, same with soundstage and all that in headphones. So let’s dive in with that all out of the way!

First: The unboxing:

Like I mentioned in my first impressions, it still stands. The unboxing is really friggin’ good. More flashy than the HD600 but not extremely over-done. It’s the perfect amount of premium. It’s like adding salt to foods, too much or too little can ruin a meal, but the right amount leaves a fantastic impression. Comes with a long and short cable, the short I think is like 4ft and the long is closer to 10 feet. Both use a 2.5mm locking connector to 3.5mm termination, includes a quarter inch termination jack. Cable is nice in my opinion.

Comfort/Fit: Probably even more subjective than sound is the fit. I personally found out the box to be quite nice, but the leather took a toll on my head at first and the clamp wasn’t extremely strong, still stable, but not overly-clampy like the HD600 (that I absolutely love). I did bend the metal headband on the X65 to make it clamp a bit more and it’s good now. The leather also seems to have “broken in” and now it’s fine, but still retains that leather feeling that I wish I could swap for a velour style. Austrian Audio told me in a DM on Instagram that they had no intentions on making velour pads so… good luck! You can remove the pads and put either the Dekoni or Brainwavz velour over the pads, however, the L and R foam or filter under the pads is glued or adhered to the structure. Removing that probably voids the warranty so I’d advise against that.

With the current band bent, I can head bang without issue, just not like the HD600.

Sound:

[Without EQ - HD600] - Tonally nice, a bit “thick” sounding in the midrange with good extension in the treble. Not sibilant like the DT 1990 I owned or dark-sounding like the Ether 2 that I also used to own. If you’re opposed to EQ and only want that good mid-range, the HD600 is still you’re choice between these two. The bass rolls off and is noticeable on Korn’s debut where they love to put that <100 hz action into their music. It’s been beat to death, but without EQ, it’s in-offensive and not going to rub anyone the wrong way unless you really, really want that low end.

[Without EQ - X65] - More treble (still not sibilant in my opinion), more extension in the low end (really solid extension if you ask me) , and some slight wonk in the mid range. Around 1.6k and 3.5k on my unit. Without EQ, I do think it’s solid still, but guitars sounding slightly distant and vocals lacking slightly.

[With EQ - HD600] I don’t add much EQ, but I boost the low end and the air, as well as 400 hz. It thickens the low end (1) quite a bit and makes bass more prominent, but sounds stuffy and a bit intrusive. Not saying that negatively, rather just what it sounds like. It’s my EQ so like I tuned it myself to my ears, I like how it sounds, even if the description used sounds negative. With EQ, it’s basically as good as it gets (or so I thought!). Instruments are nicely separated and placed well. I don’t have issues with imaging in gaming or anything, but the stage is “small”.

I really have nothing more to say on the HD600, it’s a staple in the audiophile community for a reason. And it still should be.

[With EQ - X65] Oh boy, does this thing take EQ well. So, while it has good extension, with a decent boost does it move some air on that low end. Again, referencing Korn here, on the song “Ball Tongue” and “Falling Away from Me”, the sub and impact is extremely well controlled (in my opinion) and doesn’t bleed at all. On the song “Hollow” by Rivers of Nihil, the absolutely crazy double kick drum (or whatever it is, again, I just like music) is well defined and well controlled. The driver seems fast enough to keep up with the speed and I can notice and hear each strike. I found the HD600 slightly less in this area (not by much). “Chocolate Chip Trip” -TOOL has noticeably more impact (2) and is almost too much sometimes. A final notice here is “Scream” by Avenged Sevenfold, they’d said sub is in here and I did notice it on other headphones, but with EQ on the X65 (even without EQ to a certain point) it is prominent but not over-powering.

Mids on the X65 when eq’d are a joy. Upping those ranges listed above really makes guitars come alive and vocals ever more present. I think EQ’d, I like the mids here more than the HD600 (3). Everything just sounds “right”. The song “Third Eye” by TOOL has a section 7:55-8:45 where a lack of 1-2k is noticeable, (Hifiman) and with EQ it nails that section. Guitars sound full, full of body and life. Piano strokes on “Warmness on the Soul” - Avenged Sevenfold are prominent and delivered well. Overall, I like the midrange.

Highs/Treble is more noticeable on the X65 vs the HD600 but I think that has more to do with the increased soundstage more than anything. They’re not sibilant, but are more noticeable. Cymbals and higher frequencies again are noticed, but not overpowering or shimmeringly-sibilant. I’m quite sensitive to higher end frequencies (specifically 6-9k) and I have no issue on the X65. “Fear Inoculum” and “Chocolate Chip Trip” can irritate me on some headphones (DT1990) and they don’t on here at all. If you like the highs on the HD600 but wish that they were more noticeable, yea, this’ll do it. There is a peak I think ~6k but it doesn’t bother me to much, but YMMV.

Soundstage, Detail and Imaging/Separation: These have incredible imaging and instrument separation. Again, “Chocolate Chip Trip” - TOOL (or basically all of Fear Inoculum) makes use of this to a T. Instruments are clearly defined in their own space and I have no issue discerning them at all. “Exist” by Avenged Sevenfold has tons of things happening at once and not once do I feel instruments blend together in a negative way as to lose track of them. Imaging in gaming is also solid, no issues playing Halo Infinite or anything else. Soundstage is wider than the HD600, but like I stated in my impressions, they’re headphones. You’re not going to get phenomenal soundstage, but it is wider and it is nicer to have more room. There is also more detail (4) in these than the HD600. In the song “Revenga” by SOAD, at 2:11 there’s a feint clicking noise amidst Daron’s monologue and I never noticed it on the track until this headphone showed up. Detail is great and I have no complaints here.

Vocal seperation here is also superb, if a song has multi or layered vocals, the X65 has no issue displaying them. It’s really beautiful to listen to when it happens. Like "Die Alone (In Your Lovers Arms) by Holding Absense is just bliss on this headphone. (and also the HD600, just less so).

Conclusion: These are great headphones, but do need EQ to fully shine, if you’re okay with EQ these are your “mid-fi” cans to look for. I like these more than the HD600, 560s, DT 1990, Ether 2, etc. I’m kinda an Austrian Audio shill at this point and I’m fine with that. They nailed it with these headphones, and am excited to see where they go from here.

Footnotes:

(1) - Not sure if it’s distortion or just how it sounds on my rig. But the lows do seem thicker and “bloated”.

(2) - More impact could be because the X65 seal better than the HD600 due to the leather pads, creating more isolation and therefore less “air”. But the impact is better regardless

(3) - Personal preference, but the drivers seem slower on the HD600, creating a thicker sounding midrange vs the faster drivers on the X65.

(4) - I really have no idea what detail is, but this is my interpretation of it: Hearing more of music that wasn’t noticeable or present in other headphones or audio sources.

HD600 EQ-

  • 4.5db pre-amp
  • 3.5 db shelf @ 100 hz.

  • 1.5 db peak @ 400 hz, Q = 1.4

+2 db high shelf @ 10500 hz

X65 EQ -

  • 5.5 db pre-amp
  • 4 db shelf @ 105 hz

  • 1.5 db peak @ 400 hz Q = 2

+4 db peak filter @ 1.6khz Q = 1.5

  • 4.5 db peak filter @ 3.5 khz Q = 2

  • 2 db high shelf @ 10500 hz

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Hi-X65

Wonderful, robust build headphone, au pair or second to only DT770. Nice, industrial look. Excellent comfort. Medium weight (at cca. 300g) but comfortable. Soft headband and pads. Robust and flexible mechanism. This is how headphone should be designed. Open back. You’ll hear the environment and they will hear you. Bass is almost perfectly neutral. Open back that goes down to 20Hz without roll-off. About 1dB rise in upper bass. Midrange is very good. About 2dB rise in lower mids and big 6dB drop in the upper mids about 1.5kHz. It is a Hifiman style dip that does not disturb the tonal balance. Treble is excellent. 3.5 dB drop at the lower treble and 2dB rise at 6 kHz and 1dB in upper treble and air. Adding air while cutting hard edge on vocals. It can get sibilant, though, but nothing too spicy. I would describe tonality as bright neutral. EQ is not necessary. Also sounds great with Optimum HiFi.

It has hard, fast transients. Fantastic clarity. I think there is no such resolving driver under 1000 EUR. (Maybe LCD-2?) Has good soundstage, precise imaging. Dynamics are fantastic, it has almost Fostex level punch n’ slam. As of value, I think it’s worth the blind. Best of Hifiman tuning, Focal technicalities, Beyerdynamic build and Sennheiser QC for the price of HD600.

Interesting brand and story. I recently picked up an HI-X15 (15 going forward) out of curiosity. Been listening for a few days now and mainly comparing it to the AKG K371 (371 going forward). Swapping time between a Gilmore Lite MK2 for solid state, and Tuba for tube amplification (Holo Cyan PCM dac). These are early impressions, not a full review.

Build so far is excellent. The ear cups look small, but actually give me more room than the 371. The material is also softer and feels better on my skin. The cable is short! I ordered a 10’ cable so I can walk around my office like i do with the 371. Sucks to have to order one though, that should come in the box with the 4 footer. Overall I like how they look/feel.

Out of the box initial impression: Holy crap these are intense up top! S, Z, F sounds SIZZLE! These are a spicy listen for those like me with treble sensitivity. They’re splashy sounding, and make me tone down the volume a touch vs the 371. Honestly my first day with them all I could think was “please mellow out”. So far not much mellowing, but i’m only maybe 50ish hours in. The Tuba helps with the treble somewhat. The Gilmore pairing is too bright for my tastes. I briefly tried my Kenzie and that has too high an output impedance to work well, it was muffled sounding and limp.

Putting aside the treble, the midrange is less present vs the 371. Male vocals fall back in the mix more, and make me want to turn up the volume. But overall the mids are quite good. There’s decent punch from the midbass, but not a lot of weight. Think Focal, lots of speed and punch, but low on weight with fast decay. The 371 has much fuller bass, and IMO has better mids overall. Low bass has good extension, but needs more weight behind it. You hear the bass but don’t feel it. The 371 has noticeably more weight. But it also can sound a tad boomy at times. Overall my preference is for the 371’s more full and energetic bass response.

This is an interesting headphone. My ears tell me it’s south of neutral, but I like warm headphones, so maybe my preferences are clouding my judgement. But they just sound lean and bright to me. I much prefer the 371 for musical enjoyment. I’m unfamiliar with music production so no clue how they perform as intended in a studio. The one thing they do do well is in soundstage. I like the overall size of the stage, and how it places instruments within it. I don’t feel like i’m listening to closed headphones, and put the stage on par with my HD650.

For amplification they don’t need much power, but synergy is a huge consideration for me given how treble sensitive I am, and how bright I find them. The Tuba low output tap so far has been my favorite pairing. You get good dynamics with a slight attenuation of the treble. Bass doesn’t elevate much on it but that’s ok, these are just not bassy headphones. The 371 in comparison takes a noticeable uptick in bass presence on the Tuba.

Finally, i’m finding certain genres work better than others for me with the 15. Jazz, blues, and classical all sound very good. Metal and pop are too harsh for my tastes. Judas Priest’s Painkiller is a great example of a song that the 15 just doesn’t do well for my tastes. It hits hard and fast in an instant, with lots of cymbals and other high frequencies blasting out at a furious pace. The previous song had lower volume so when Painkiller hit I literally jumped like someone pinched me, and pulled the 15 off my head from the intensity and volume. After lowering the volume and restarting the song (which I love, btw) I settled in and gave it a few repeat listens. Too bright, too lean was what I kept thinking over and over again. But still I kept listening, there’s an intangible quality at play that keeps me interested, despite a tuning that doesn’t really agree with my preferences. Moving to Buddy Guy and Damn Right I’ve Got The Blues, another of my favorite tracks, that intangible quality became more tangible: despite the brighter/leaner tuning, it’s not sibilant. Intense, sure. But not sibilant. And guitars do sound really good. When Damn Right came on, I repeated it 5 or 6 times, it was such a fun listen. I did lower the volume a touch, but I was engaged. Another great guitar track is The Outlaws track Green Grass and High Tides. I think I spent an hour on repeat with that one. So I don’t hate the 15 at all, though its tuning conflicts a bit with my preferences. I do find it engaging and unique. And as long as I moderate the volume, I’m enjoying what I’m hearing. But I’d still take the 371 over the 15 any day, it fits me better.

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I wanted to do a follow up to my initial impressions of the Hi-X15 (15 going forward). After a month and a half with them they’ve supplanted the K371 as my affordable headphone set. I like having at least one set that I don’t have to baby, like I do my ZMFs, etc.

The upper mids and treble have calmed down quite a bit with more burn in. They’re still a slightly bright headphone, but not offensively so anymore. Bass has filled in a bit as well, and everything overall feels more organic and coherent. Bass is very honest, but when called for, can punch and slam with authority. Clarity is excellent, and the thing I always think about when listening to them. They’re not as musical as an HD650 or ZMF, but still highly enjoyable.

Comparing the K371 to the 15, the 15 is tighter, more revealing, and faster. Bass isn’t as boomy on the 15, and conveys more textural information. The 371 in comparison is a bit slow and boomy, a bit one note in the bass. I still really enjoy the 371, but I do hear the 15 as a sonic improvement.

Another thing that stood out to me is soundstage. Neither sound like open headphones, but I’m surprised by the depth of the stage on the 15. It’s not quite as wide as the 371, but noticeably deeper and more realistic. The 371 stage sound more congested and tight, with instruments sometimes overlapping from lack of depth. Nothing egregious, but it lacks the air the spaciousness of the 15.

One last note, these headphones really shine on tubes. I have been running them on a Kenzie Ovation on the 16ohm tap and it’s a really good pairing. The lower dampening factor help fill out the bass and smooth over the hardness of the highs. What surprised me though was how precise the 15 remained on tubes. It’s sweeter sounding than solid state, but not overly warm or smoothed over. They remind me a lot of Grados on tubes. Grados IMO really thrive on tubes, despite the low impedance drivers. Same here with the 15. I find myself really enjoying these headphones to the point I sometimes leave my expense stuff at home for a break. And I don’t feel bad tossing them around my desk or being heavy handed with them physically. With my ZMFs I treat them like a newborn, I’m so gentle. It’s fun to not have to worry about these like I do those. They fell off my desk…whatever. They’re in my way, let me shove them accross the desk to make room. I actually lay them down!!! I never lay my ZMFs down, they’re always on a stand for fear of scratching those beautiful cups. It’s a bit liberating to just toss a headphone down without a care. And so far they’re non the worse for wear.

All in all one of the best blind purchases I’ve had in quite awhile. Will I sell off my ZMFs and just use the 15? Can I get an Oh Hell No! Will they remain in my rotation? Hell yes! And with a Dragonfly Red they make a great portable set, though the Dragonfly doesn’t do the treble any favors. Now i’m curious what the X60/65 sound like. From my understanding, it’s the same driver, just different tuning. I might have to grab one to see for myself.

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