When you think of headphones, Samson might not be the first name that springs to mind, but their top-of-the-range Z55 might surprise you.
Samson's top-of-the-range Z55 Professional Reference Headphones are certainly worth a listen if you’re looking for closed-back studio headphones that aren’t hyped to ‘enhance your musical experience’. These ‘phones are reasonably lightweight (240g) and designed to provide a practical amount of sound isolation if used for tracking. The collapsible rotating earcups allow the headphones to be stored flat, and a soft carry pouch is included.
A welcome feature is the detachable cable or, to be more precise, three detachable audio cables, which give the user the option of straight or coiled cables, or a cable with a built-in microphone and call/answer control button for phone or Skype calls. All three cables terminate in 3.5mm mini jacks but an adaptor for quarter-inch outputs is included. The headphone end of the cable is also a 3.5mm stereo jack but with a twist-to-lock fitting.
If you plan to use any headphones in the studio for any length of time, they need to be comfortable. To this end Samson have made the ear pads from lamb skin, rather than synthetic leather. These are ‘on-ear’ type phones, which means the pads sit over the top of your ears rather than around them. A cushioned headband allows adjustment to any head size. All in all, I found them very comfortable.
The transducer is obviously a vital component, and Samson have chosen a 32Ω 45mm driver, built with a copper-clad aluminium voice-coil capable of a 10Hz-25kHz frequency response. These are powered by ‘rare earth’ magnets, and have a quoted sensitivity of 98dB at 1kHz, at their maximum 1000mW power handling.
There’s more than enough volume available for any purpose I can envisage, even driven straight from an iMac headphones output, and the overall tonal balance is clean and detailed, though just a fraction more ‘lively’ than my Beyer DT770s. There’s a good sense of space to stereo material, clear detail, and lows that extend down a long way below what you might expect from typical studio monitors without becoming boomy or hyped.
I’d urge you to try the Z55s alongside any other closed ’phones you might be considering, as what constitutes the ideal tonality is open to personal interpretation. Although I’d normally suggest open phones for mixing, these would work fine as dual-function tracking and mixing phones if you can’t run to two pairs. Being best-known for their budget products, Samson might find it difficult to persuade users to put their ‘phones up against comparably-priced models from the likes of AKG, Beyerdynamic, Sony, Audio-Technica and Sennheiser, but the reality is that the Z55s deserve to be taken seriously.
£139.99 including VAT.