AA’s latest cans employ their successful high‑excursion driver in a new on‑ear design.
Headphone and microphone technology have much in common, so it’s no surprise that Austrian Audio followed up their superb OC‑series microphones with a range of cans. First off the block were the Hi‑X55s, reviewed in April this year. A smart, versatile and cheerful‑sounding pair of closed‑back studio headphones, they have now been joined in Austrian Audio’s armoury by another smart and versatile pair of closed‑back headphones. The difference? The Hi‑X50s are an ‘on‑ear’ design, meaning that the earcups sit on top of the outer ear rather than surrounding it completely as do ‘over‑ear’ models like the 55s.
In terms of physical design and construction, the new ’phones have much in common with their siblings. Their being equally smart is thus no surprise. More unexpected is that the Hi‑X50s are very comfortable to wear — in my opinion, quite a lot more so than the 55s. This is not always the case with on‑ear headphones, as anyone who’s spent a lot of time with the classic Sennheiser HD25‑II will know. The earcups are, naturally, smaller than those of the 55s, but inherit their noticeable rearward slant, and sit very satisfyingly over one’s lugholes. The earpads are removable and replaceable, as is the 3m cable that attaches to the base of the left earcup. A simple cloth bag is the only supplied accessory, although the box is sealed with a Velcro strip that can be detached and snipped up to form reusable cable ties.
The Hi‑X50s are very comfortable to wear — in my opinion, quite a lot more so than the 55s.
The Hi‑X50s employ the same ‘high excursion’ 44mm moving‑coil driver used in the 55s, so it’s no surprise to find that most of their specifications are identical. With a nominal impedance of 25Ω and a sensitivity rating of 118dB SPL for a 1V input, they’re easy to drive from most sources.
Perhaps because the HD‑25s are well‑known for offering very good isolation, I unconsciously expect all on‑ear headphones to do the same. In practice, though, the Hi‑X50s don’t really improve over the 55s in this respect. They’re fine for everyday roles in the studio, and you won’t have to fight too hard to avoid click bleed or to blot out the outside world, but where extreme isolation is required you’ll need to look at other options.
The Hi‑X50s are very similar to the 55s in terms of character, as you might expect, and although they probably aren’t the most neutral headphones on the market, they will bring a smile to your face. A generous treble emphasis makes music exciting and engaging to listen to, but doesn’t tip over into harshness or ear‑fatigue territory, while the bass is proud and present. If I was buying a pair of headphones exclusively to mix on, they might not be my first choice, but they don’t deviate so far from flat that you couldn’t acclimatise. However, if you want a good‑sounding, compact pair of headphones to take on the road or for general‑purpose studio use, the Hi‑X50s will serve you well.
A smart, compact and comfortable pair of headphones with a friendly sound and obvious utility in the studio.