You can’t destroy these headphones

I hate shopping for one thing low cost. There may be nothing worse than that sinking sensation if you open one thing up and comprehend it’s not lengthy for this world. I’m additionally onerous on my gear, which led me to purchase these bulletproof headphones from an obscure firm referred to as German Maestro. 

However so as to speak about these headphones, I would like to speak a couple of totally different pair of headphones first: the Sony MDR-7506 (and its discontinued brother, the Sony MDR-V6).

I edit a variety of movies and do voiceover work. And when you have finished any video work, you will have nearly definitely used a pair of Sony MDRs. They’re iconic. You’ll be able to spot the blue or purple stripe and coiled cable from throughout a set. Once you go to movie faculty, you might be principally issued a pair of MDRs like a service rifle, and never with out good motive.

The Sony MDR-7506s are an industry standard, a fantastic value, and I hate ‘em.

The Sony MDR-7506s are an trade commonplace, a incredible worth, and I hate ‘em.
Picture by Amazon

At first, they’re low cost. They often go for about 80 bucks if you happen to look out for gross sales. Their close to ubiquity on movie units means that you could snag these telephones at a large low cost, making them one of many higher offers for those who want a headphone to do work on. Subsequent, they’re closed-back headphones, completely remoted, which let you pick imperfections within the combine. There’s a motive you see guys monitoring audio on movie units and video shoots sporting these. Third, they’re pretty “flat,” and with out getting too technical and pedantic, they don’t attempt to gown up what you’re listening to to sound pleasing. They’re not bass-heavy Beats. These are for getting work finished. Lastly, they’re fairly properly constructed for the associated fee. They fold up and are sturdy, which is why you possibly can throw them in a Porta Brace bag with out worrying about them getting tousled. 

For what they do, the MDRs are okay. However they aren’t excellent. 

For one factor, they’ve a approach too lengthy, non-removable phone cable that may be good in a studio setting however is comical in case you are attempting to hearken to music in your telephone. I hate this cable with each fiber of my being. In precept, I strongly really feel that each one headphone cables ought to be detachable, as cables can endure tons of abuse. However what actually drives me up the wall is I hate the coiled fashion of cable. I discover that it snags on too many issues too simply, and each time it acquired a kink in it, it drove me up the wall. 

The second factor is that the froth pads on the MDRs simply straight up suck. It’s not merely a query of consolation; they’re simply actually dangerous pads. I nearly at all times improve the pads on my headphones to both Dekoni or Brainwavz pads, however you’ll nearly definitely have to exchange these pads prior to you assume, notably in case you are utilizing them in an unforgiving manufacturing context.

A pair of Sony MDR-7506 with badly deteriorated headphone pads.

The froth on this stuff sucks so dangerous, man. I’ve seen this and worse occur so many instances through the years.
Picture: Alex Parkin, The Verge

Lastly, I simply don’t love the best way they sound. How headphones sound will get into very subjective territory, however the MDRs are, at greatest, high-quality and, at worst, too harsh for me. These had been work headphones, however there was one thing in regards to the treble that made my pores and skin crawl whereas I used to be listening to individuals discuss. It’s unfair to ask extra of the MDRs for the value, however on the finish of the day, I simply needed one thing barely nicer: a professional model of the MDRs with nicer foam, higher and detachable cording choices, and a much less fatiguing sound. On the time (November 2020), this was not supplied in America.

This led me down an extended and winding path, looking for a pair of headphones that ticked off all the identical markers: flat, indestructible, closed-back, higher cable. Once you get into the upper echelons of audiophile perversion, most of your headphone choices outdoors of IEMs are open or semi-open. I researched a few of the most revered studio headphones. Many individuals I do know swear by the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Professionals, and whereas they’re certainly a studio staple, sturdy, and have a few of the most snug inventory pads of any headphone in its vary, they aren’t what I’d name flat, and I couldn’t get used to how they sounded. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x additionally checked off a lot of my wants, however I didn’t just like the sound, and they didn’t really feel particular or notably sturdy. A good friend of mine swears by the Sennheiser HD 300 Professionals, and I’d imagine him, however sadly, I by no means acquired to check them. Sony additionally has one other obscure however well-respected non-folding large brother to the MDR-7506s referred to as the MDR-CD900ST that has a flat cable, in addition to a fair higher-end mannequin referred to as the Sony MDR-M1ST that has a removable cable, however the former was not obtainable outdoors of Japan till pretty just lately and the latter you continue to should import.

Ultimately, my reply got here within the type of a 76-page thread on the Head-fi boards from 2009 to 2019 by a consumer named Acix titled “The German Maestro GMP 8.35 D Monitor within the studio… critical about audio, INDEED!!” I had by no means heard of the German Maestro (previously MB Quart), however from the leap, I used to be intrigued. The headphones seemed industrial. Stable. Environment friendly. In a phrase, they seemed German. “Man, I’m all about funtion (sic) over kind, however these should be the ugliest telephones I’ve seen,” stated consumer Bones2010. To me, they seemed lovely. 

A close-up picture of the industrial logo of German Maestro.

“Critical about audio, INDEED!!”
Picture by Christopher Individual / The Verge

Lots of the critiques had been glowing, with the phrases “indestructible” often being talked about. Somebody dropped the picture of a pair of black leather-based boots stepping on them. One other thread talked about that they had been often utilized in listening stations at music outlets. Individuals appeared to like their balanced, detailed sound and the truth that they had been very delicate and thus didn’t want a strong headphone amp to hearken to them. In threads and elsewhere, critiques in contrast them favorably to the Sennheiser HD25-1s, however higher and with a barely darker tone. Tight. Managed. One consumer talked about they had been higher in each respect to their MDRs, which is strictly what I needed on the value level. 

Because the thread progressed over a number of years, individuals began getting artistic. Some didn’t just like the inventory pads and changed them with lush ones from the aforementioned DT770s in addition to Brainwavez HM5s. Others drilled holes in them and did modifications to the inventory cable. Ultimately, German Maestro launched a model with a detachable cable and a further inventory pair of pads referred to as The GMP 8.35 Cell particularly due to requests from clients with autism. It’s refreshing to listen to an organization take suggestions like that.

Oh thank god, a detachable cable. That’s all I ask.

Oh thank god, a removable cable. That’s all I ask.
Picture by Christopher Individual / The Verge

The telephones appeared to tick off each single checkmark, however shopping for them turned out to be barely difficult. Except for a launch, no person within the States stocked them, so I needed to organize them immediately from the producer and pay in euros. I patiently waited, and once they arrived, they had been precisely what I wanted them to be. 

I used to be instantly struck at how sturdy they had been. The plastic was thick, but it surely didn’t weigh the telephones down. The whole lot made right this moment feels low cost and flimsy. They felt like they had been from a special period, unstuck in time when merchandise had been measured in many years, not years. These had been the headphone equivalents of English-made Doc Martens. I might throw this stuff in opposition to a brick wall, run a motorcycle over them, yank them from the tooth of a canine, and they might most likely be high-quality.

They sounded the best way they seemed: “managed,” as one discussion board consumer put it. I don’t need to get too deep within the weeds of audiophile testing as a result of that actually isn’t the purpose of this weblog (though I’d gladly mortgage my pair to crinacle or the parents at Audio Science Assessment for extra intensive testing). They had been clear and flat, with tons of element however not terribly showy. The bass was there, however not overbearing like I had discovered Beyerdynamics to be. If one thing was unsuitable with my combine, I might hear it instantly, like listening to a pair of Yamaha NS10s. I ended up preferring the velour pads, which modified the sound simply barely, however just lately I’ve needed to attempt different choices out. They don’t seem to be the perfect headphones I’ve ever heard, however inside the parameters of what I would like them to do, they’re peerless.

In fact, they weren’t everybody’s cup of tea. Some individuals I’ve proven them to have discovered them a bit uncomfortable. Others didn’t just like the sound. Once I confirmed them to Alex Parkin over on the video workforce (a licensed MDR consumer with a well-worn pair who additionally despises the coiled cable), I might sense his apprehension. “I’d positively must get used to those,” he stated.

Built like a tank.

Constructed like a tank.
Picture by Christopher Individual / The Verge

However even individuals who couldn’t get down with the sound agreed that they had been sturdy, environment friendly, and had incredible isolation. The Maestros are excellent studio headphones made by a small and obscure firm that appears to actually care in regards to the product they produce. Are they definitely worth the bother to import? I personally don’t have any regrets.

On the nook of my desk, I’ve two headphones hanging from a hook: a pair of Hifimans and my Maestros. 

The Hifimans are large and ethereal, with cozy Dekoni pads I substituted out. These are my easy-listening headphones. They’re large and fragile, they’ve by no means left my desk, and I’ve nonetheless needed to order a alternative headband from the producer. 

My Maestros sit subsequent to them. They’re my “work headphones,” wise and durable, meant for sturdiness and focus like a Herman Miller chair. Each time I decide them up, I really feel a way of pleasure. I take into consideration that thread discussion board that went on for a decade, with new individuals rotating in, discovering, loving, and typically actually hating these cans. I maintain them and know that there’s a excellent likelihood that they’ll nonetheless work for many years, presumably even after I’m useless and buried, and the way actually uncommon it’s to purchase a chunk of substances made to survive you.

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