I share my quick impressions on the SoundMAGIC HP1000. The HP1000 are the company’s latest flagship reference headphones and are competitively priced at 269 USD excl. tax or the equivalent of 299 €.
SoundMAGIC is the company of the audio engineer and sound designer Tony Xu. The name might not be familiar to everyone but he has worked with and for some very big companies that are widely known for reference quality in headphones. I have met Tony only once in person and we had a friendly chat. I let him know that I was very impressed with the Vento P55 V3. He did not really seem to care much and said “the Vento are consumer headphones. But… try this new HP1000. It is for true audiophiles.” That really tickled my interest.
Nonetheless, check out my impressions on the Vento P55 V3, a very good consumer headphone.
Building a great headphone is not only the matter of using and implementing a great driver, but it is mostly also the challenge of acquiring all the right parts and nurturing from a healthy network.
Though the ear pads are, the headband is not replaceable. That is a major let down if I take a look at my Oppo PM-3, which’s pleather band is in the process of dissolving itself. The HP1000 use real leather, so this is less of an issue, but the stitches do look like they could undo themselves with heavy use. The ear pads are user-replaceable but I haven’t seen the option to purchase replacement pads yet.
Let’s talk about the cable real quick. It is terrible. The cable is stiff with strong memory. It shows very rubbery behavior and has strong microphonics. It can be replaced, but for unknown reasons SoundMAGIC opted for a really weird coax connection that is typically not used for headphones. Unfortunately, the connection doesn’t click or snatch into place properly. I suspect it will get loose over time.
Don’t get me wrong, the SoundMAGIC HP1000 look great out of the box. But if you intend to use these headphones heavily, I think you’re also buying yourself into a DIY project with possible modding and cable soldering down the line. However, for a flagship headphone at this price, all issues are relatively minor.
Let me jump back to the ear pads real quick before I get to the sound quality. Because these ear pads can make or break the experience! They have a very strong impact on the sound and as I can tell there is a positive correlation with the warmth of the pads.
The HP1000 were introduced to me in September 2019 and I had two occasions where I auditioned the same demo but left with two very different feelings. The first time, I was very disappointed and thought the bass sounds like paper and the tonality of the midrange was very off. I experienced a flat, unexciting sound with little depth. The second time, the same demo was passed on to me and I couldn’t believe that this is the same headphone I tried a few days earlier. Because what I heard heard the second time was insane soundstage, an airy and well separated midrange and an overall exciting experience with no apparent flaws. I thought it might be because of amp pairing or even driver burn-in, but this was not the case.
The ear pads have a huge impact on the sound delivery. The leather really needs to warm up first. Every time I put the HP1000 on, I can hear how the tonality slowly shifts and that with greater comfort the sound starts to breathe and expand. Initially, the pads need around 20mins to adjust to my head properly. This process will speed up once the pads are used in. However, it is very important to keep this in mind! The following sound impressions are based on the optimal fit that I achieved. I do wear glasses so the deep sub-bass may leak a bit.
The SoundMAGIC HP1000 are not bass monsters. They actually roll off slowly in the sub-bass, but it’s not lacking. The presentation is a bit reminiscent of near-field monitors that are played without a sub. This is not a bad thing, but somehow one expects a huge low-end when putting on a big black headphone. (Thanks, Sony, I guess?)
The punch isn’t overdone either. Instead, the bass focusses more on harmonics and creates decent texture. The bass presentation is thus very detailed and not smeared at all. The upper bass can step forward occasionally, but overall the low frequencies aren’t trying to catch the attention.
The HP1000 are mostly about the midrange. And what they do here is almost magic and far better than anything the price would suggest. The air around instruments and layering depth is jaw-dropping. The separation is definitely reference quality. At first I perceived the timbre as being pretty off, but my mind adjusted quickly. The middle frequencies are definitely where SoundMAGIC draws the HP1000’s musicality from.
The treble is well-tuned with a natural tonality. The definition is top notch as well, but it’s not happening enough to draw the attention away from the midrange. The highs do add a lot to the air and space, though. They manage to make the headphones sound huge and expansive.
The HP1000 are a dream for Chamber Classical music! Any recording with high dynamic range and good spatial information will absolutely bloom with the HP1000. But I suggest best not to mistake them for a consumer headphone.