[Review/Comparison] Audeze MX4 & HD 800

To get started with the HD 800 and MX4 comparison I gave my favorite symphonic Metal track, Epica’s the Divine Conspiracy from their 2010 Vinyl Release, a listen from my reference systems. Said system features a Project Ember II with a Classic Grade Psvane CV 181 T MK2 powering the MX4 via a full OCC Copper Cable along with a modded APPJ pa1502a SET Tube Amp featuring Soviet Power Tubes and a 1940 Sylvania White Label 12SL7GT Pre-Tube powering my SDR modded HD 800.

An in my experience from these systems, each featuring an Audio GD NFB10ES2 as the Dac fed via Coaxial from my Schiit Etir and each volume matched at an average of 83 dBs, I found the following to be the differences;

Lows

  • I found HD 800 to portray textures better so;
  • Big drums featured in the background had a bit less weight and force but a hollower sound the better portrayed their composition & construction
  • Electric Bass riffs had a bit less slam and force overall but I was better able to perceive some of the transients relating to the bassist fretting about the neck of his instrument
  • Ultimately the MX4 had a slight focus on the fundamentals or rather a faster decay/release whereas the HD 800 did not, henceforth harmonic content was more apparent

Mids

  • Now in the mid-range, the MX4 presented itself as having a little more harmonic content and a slight forwardness that was most evident with Horns & WoodWinds

  • So not so much an emphasis on the decay/release/sustain but just a slightly fuller sound with the same quickness

  • Simone’s voice had a bit more body and wasn’t as “airy”

  • The fullness of notes from her chest was more apparent than the slightly airy quality that she adds with her mouth/lips

  • Both the Guitars and Stringed instruments were a bit sweeter

  • Again just a touch more harmonic content and fullness

  • Guitars sit ever so slightly behind horns when they’re both mastered, mixed or mic’d in a relatively close position

  • Whereas the HD 800 was ever so slightly drier

  • Both the texture of the stringed instruments and guitars were more vivid, in exchange for vocals that had a slightly more pronounced airiness, or some slight emphasis on those from the lips/mouth notes

Highs

  • Even with the SDR Mod I still felt the HD 800 was “brighter” with both better definition and clarity up top, it’s not to say the MX4 was “forgiving” rather;
  • Flaws are apparent in the top end with the MX4 but the HD 800 seems to exacerbate them that much more so
  • By the same token in some cases depending on how a track is produced, the HD 800 had a slightly more precise placement of percussion and ambient noise.

Resolve & Imaging

  • Ultimately;
  • Out of the right system, the HD 800 is more resolving and tonally balanced
  • Out of the Wrong System for an HD 800 the MX4 will ALWAYS present a more accurate and precise imaging With better resolve and a more balanced tonal presentation

An therein lies the strength of the MX4 in my opinion, it’s ability to MAXIMIZE. Drop it into any un-optimized or bare bones audio play back systems and it’ll likely perform better than most other headphones in that given system. The exception to this are systems that are tuned, built or optimized for and around a specific headphone or sound signature.

To bring this point home I listened to the MX4 and HD 800 with just my little Shanling M2S

An not only was the HD 800 just too quiet from the M2S for me to listen to tracks with a larger dynamic range. When I had music that was mastered a little louder the overall presentation was too warm and just kinda underwhelming. With the HD 800 from the M2S, I felt;

  • the lows lacked power,
  • the mid-range was a bit TOO forward and had too much decay,
  • plus the top end was some how kinda forward but also a little diffuse

Switching into the MX4 with the M2S I found the;

Lows

  • While not as taut and textured as with “proper systems” still maintained excellent power, texture and impact
  • It was just a tad slower or more “full” from the M2S. Some very low level transients and micro detail were a bit subdued

Mids

  • Had quite a lot of body but
  • Maintained excellent texture
  • Simon’s vocals still had that touch of her lips/mouth
  • No excessive from the chest heaviness or fullness
  • Guitars still maintained their grit, crunch and aggression
  • Though there was a slight smearing of some of the percussive sounds resulting from fretwork
  • Had a nice Sweetness without being syrupy
  • Maintained just a slight mid-range forwardness
  • So the brass horns in Monty Alexander’s - Sweet Georgia Brown were VIVID With exceptional dynamics and a slight twinge of metallic bite without being too in your face

Highs

  • Still vivid, snappy and precise
  • Percussion in particular had a nice snap and vibrancy to it

Whereas the HD 800 took on a lot of the character of the M2S which is itself a bit mid-centric and slightly warm, the MX4 retained it’s characteristic sound and focus with only a slight smidgen of mid-range forwardness. I was again supremely impressed with how well the MX4 does with so little!

If you want pictures and and even more detailed break down, CLICK HERE

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