This was a headphone that, until I was asked to review, I knew nothing about. Created by Japanese brand SHiROSHiTA, it seems this company have their paws in some completely random fields. Regardless, the one we will be focusing on is their Sound Warrior sub brand! Even after owning this fairly basic looking studio headphone for some months now, I did not know some of the stuff this company was doing, such as a tube buffered Class D headphone amp with balanced outputs. That is part of their desktop audio series which includes DAC’s, Stereo amplifiers and even external clock generators. But that is not why we are here today.
Today we have their first headphone to look at the, horribly named SW-HP10. There’s nothing like a name that just rolls off the tongue is there? If I was out and about wearing these and someone asked me what they were, I would tell them I didn’t have a bloody clue. It seems by all accounts that this is intended as a professional studio monitor headphone, but as with classics like Sony’s MDR-V6, audiophiles have always found joy in listening to those, so whats the harm in trying with this?! They obviously strive for accurate audio reproduction. The price seems fairly humble at $139.99, it is not yet in Europe but I have been informed its en route!
This isn’t no consumer product. From the unbranded white cardboard box, lack of accessories and mundane looks of the headphone, no teenagers are getting excited after receiving them or running out to look good in town. They aren’t even that suited to portable use either, the 2.5m cable is too long, truth be told. It is not removable either, unlike the more expensive SW-HP20 model SHiROSHiTA also manufacture. That’s not say the cable isn’t nice enough, if rather basic.
While built solely of plastic there is a lot of oddities related to the build quality of this headphone. The entire body is whats known as nylon 6. It is a polymer with flexibility and longevity in mind. That seems to bode well for a professional headphone that might be thrown around a lot or a consumer headphone, for the very same reasons. That being said I feel like I could make easy work of them, of course I could be completely underestimating them… or overestimating myself! The headband and ear pads are a hand sewn material and are puffy and soft on your head and ears. Paired with the overall lightweight nature of these headphones we have a very comfortable experience initially! That being said I do find the materials to not breath a whole lot and that means they can get just a touch stuffy. They are an on ear design that engulfs your entire ear, which is absolutely fine.
Isolation is ok I guess, they are closed back but not getting near the higher clamping portable cans or IEMs. Beyond that, because of the nature of these headphones, I don’t have much more to say, we may as well just get stuck in with the sound quality overview.
Just like everything else about this headphone there is nothing consumer like or fun with the sound. It is a strict and bland sound, with a light, distant presentation. The bass is fast and delicate and midrange is only characterised as dry. The lack of body to the sound, deliberation to the bass and size when it comes to spatial qualities do give this a lot of negative traits right off the bat. In the same breath it is a huge departure from what you can expect at this price point for closed back headphones. At what it is just more than £100 you would be getting warm at the bare minimum… full blown bassy is the common denominator. To get something a little more balanced, like this truly is, you do have to look a bit harder. But just because it is more balanced that is not say it is full of detail and has clean transients or all those good things.
The bass is literally there for the sake of it. Take that as you will but it is giving nothing extra. Not quantity, decay or slam. It gets from a to b with a sense of urgency but not honesty. Bass guitars don’t have quite the right timbre and kick drums lack gut wrenching impact. They aren’t the deepest in the low end but there is no obvious preference to the mid bass either. It is a subtle range no doubt.
The midrange is just so light. Sometimes giving the illusion of speed and even clarity, other times just emptiness. It is once again obvious this was intended as tool and not a consumer product. It doesn’t covey emotion well or drive excitement to your ears, but it doesn’t sound wrong or over emphasised in weird places. In the same vein treble is well balanced, but not edgy or harsh.
I don’t make music so I cannot assess how it would go down in a studio but just don’t think it hits the spot in terms of musical enjoyment such as the basic ZMF models. positively though, these are much easier to drive. Perhaps another positive sign is how these can be harsh to poor recordings, not that I consider them particularly transparent. I wish they had just a bit more body and space in the sound stage, and also manage to layer a little better, without getting messy with no depth to breath in.
Tough and Stern
These are not lookers. The sound lacks the wow factor. The packaging is droll. If these were in a high street store I don’t see them getting a single sale off appearance and would imagine most consumers would find themselves preferring the sound of similarly priced Sennheiser or AKG models with their phones and pop music. But if you need a pair of headphones you can throw around and offer a sound with no colouration to them for making music, these may be alright.