Drop + Hifiman R7DX

The Drop + Hifiman R7DX is another collaboration between Drop and the biggest player in the headphone market, Hifiman. It is a closed-back full-size headphone using a Dynamic Driver. The price is set at $149.

Introduction

Okay, I’m a fan of DROP and an even bigger fan of Hifiman. Drop (previously known as Massdrop) made a name for itself a few years ago by doing great products at even better prices. Now, they’re offering a lot of stuff from knives, mechanical keyboards, clothing, and of course, headphone audio. 
They have some excellent products in their lineup, with their flagship Sennheiser 6XX that they sold more than 150000 (!) units. This is a huge number for a +/- $200 pair of headphones, trust me. 

So, Drop partnered with Hifiman to create the R7DX. Hifiman is the leading player in the headphone market, with arguably the best headphone in almost every price category when open-back, planar-magnetic headphones are considered. We reviewed so many Hifiman headphones, and every single review was highly positive. They just simply know how to deliver exceptional audio performance at great prices. Also, when the price is not a problem, they have their Susvara, the winner of our “Battle Of The Flagships” article, which means that for me, this is the best headphone in the world right now. This is really something.

This time, Drop has decided to go with a rather budget-friendly closed-back headphone that uses a dynamic driver. We see fewer and fewer dynamic driver headphones currently, as planars really took over in the past few years. Nonetheless, the 6xx that I mentioned earlier is a dynamic driver headphone, and it’s their all-time bestseller by a huge margin, so there’s still a big opportunity in this technology, especially at this price bracket.

Packaging

Hifiman’s time as a boutique brand is long gone, so their unboxing experience has been more modest and minimal lately. The same goes with the R7DX, which comes in a rather basic box, and the only accessory you’re getting is the cable.

When we’ll take its price into consideration, it is obvious that some corners had to be cut, and it’s a good thing that they’ve chosen the packaging to save some money to keep the price as low as possible.

It’s a $149 pair of headphones, you cannot expect a luxurious unboxing experience, and you won’t be getting it. The packaging quality of the R7DX is pretty straightforward and it’s a good thing.

Speaking about the included cable, I’m really happy to see that Hifiman goes for this cable design more often lately. It is a basic black chord that is just comfortable and it gets the job done. The most important thing a cable should do is not to bother during listening sessions, and this cable does just that.

Design, Build and Comfort

This paragraph might be slightly controversial. I’ve seen people not really liking the design of the R7DX, but for me, the first time I’ve seen them I was immediately sold. They do look minimalistic and classy with these matte-blue earcups. Yes, they look like pilot headphones a little bit, but is it a bad thing? They’re big, clean, and modern, definitely my cup of tea.

As for the build quality, it’s a standard affordable Hifiman – good, not perfect. The whole construction feels a little bit wonky, but they’re very lightweight for a closed-back, and very, very comfortable, like all Hifiman headphones. While it won’t win any prize for its luxurious materials and attention to details, comfort has been more important for Hifiman, and this is the proper approach to manufacturing headphones. Who needs headphones that are a piece of art but you can’t actually use them for more than an hour?

One important thing to mention is the clamping force. Out of the box, the R7DX has next to no clamping force, which is not ideal for closed-back headphones. Luckily, the headband is made of metal, so you can easily bend it to introduce more clamping force. 
I’ve seen some reviews of people claiming that the R7DX is bass-less, lifeless, and thin sounding, and it is all because of the lack of isolation. This is a closed-back headphone, it has to isolate to some degree to provide a good bass response, there’s no way around it. Because of that, please make sure you’re getting a good seal with these if you’ll decide to pick them up or you’re simply trying them on, this part is essential. 

Sound

When you’ll get a good seal with the R7DX, they do sound rather neutral and inoffensive, providing very good performance for long listening sessions.

They do remind me somehow of a closed-back hd6xx with their smooth and neutral tonality. What’s the most impressive though, is that they do not sound like closed-back headphones, creating a very good sense of space and very good imaging.

The bass does sound like it’s coming from an open-back pair of headphones. It’s not as hard-hitting or big as I’m used to with closed-back constructions, providing a good neutral and easy-going type of sound signature. It has a slight emphasis on the mid-bass region, providing a good weight and thickness to the sound. It’s not extremely low reaching, but the subbass region is not subdued too much. Overall, the R7DX is definitely not a bass-heavy headphone, but it’s also not lean, it sits in the middle of what I would call “just right”. Daft Punk and their “Random Access Memories” is a great test for bass frequencies, and it is reproduced in a good, fresh-sounding way. It doesn’t overpower, yet it’s not too distant nor underwhelming, providing a good combination of texture and punch. 

The midrange is mostly neutral and flat sounding, with an overall sense of smoothness across the whole range. Vocals sound natural and a bit relaxed. The detail retrieval is really good for a $149 headphone and the overall resolution is impressive. This is a great pair for late-night listening sessions or your daily driver, as its slightly calm character works great with most music genres. There’s also a slight bump to the upper-midrange, which gives female vocals some shine and quite a forward presentation. My standard vocal test using a song called “A Thousand Shards of Heaven” by Lunatic Soul resulted in a highly pleasant, smooth vocal delivery with good resolution. There’s nothing that bothers me, yet nothing that leaves me speechless. What’s worth noting is that because of its sound signature, every vocalist sounds good on the R7DX, which further establishes these headphones as a really good all-rounder.

The treble is the most technical sounding when compared to the rest of the frequency response. As I said previously, female vocals have a good shimmer to them and they are quite forward. The same goes with percussions and string instruments, which come out a bit metallic and sharp in some masterings. However, this kind of treble response pairs well with the rest of the spectrum, providing some life and air to an overall soft and neutral presentation. That slight emphasis leads to a really good detail retrieval in this price bracket, especially for a closed-back model. “Iron Hand” by Dire Straits got some good string action and it is represented in a realistic way here, with metal strings being slightly forward and well pronounced. Some people may find the treble a bit too hot or too technical sounding, so if you’re a fan of a rather dark, smooth tonality in the upper region, I’d recommend trying the R7DX first. Other than that, this is again, a highly pleasant and technically impressive-sounding treble for a $149 pair of headphones.

The soundstage is probably the most impressive thing about the R7DX. They do sound like open-back headphones with great width and depth. The imaging and layering are also impressive for a $149 closed-back headphones, producing a good sensation of instruments playing around your head. Closed-back headphones often sound congested and they lack space between instruments, but the R7DX does great in both of these aspects. That all makes for a great gaming headphone that makes them an even better option for a daily driver in a PC setup. You can spend a few hours working, then play some competitive shooter games, and when the night comes, the R7DX will give you pleasing sounding music for relaxation. I believe that in this price bracket, people are mostly looking for headphones that can do everything right, and the R7DX is exactly that. Drop really knows how to target their products.

When it comes to pairing, the R7DX does well with many different setups I’ve tried, but one really worth noting is the SMSL DO100+HO100 (reviews coming very soon). This whole setup costs just about $500 and it offers a great, clean and neutral sound performance for all audiophiles on a budget. You will hardly need anything “better” than this to pair with the R7DX, and to get such sound at this price is just wonderful.

Comparisons

 

Dekoni Blue

These two are both closed-back headphones in a somewhat similar price bracket, so it’s a natural comparison for me. 

The Dekoni Blue is definitely a thicker, warmer, and darker sounding of the two, with a narrower and shallower soundstage. The R7DX provides better detail retrieval and resolution, which makes them a more universal and coherent sounding of the two. The Blue has that huge bass that might be highly desirable for some, but seeing how much it overpowers the rest of the frequency response when compared to the R7DX, it comes down as a more “specialty” pair of headphones, while the R7DX can do almost everything well. 

Lastly, even though both headphones are closed-back, the R7DX is better for long listening sessions when it comes to comfort. The Dekoni Blue can get pretty hot after about an hour of use, while the R7DX feels more ventilated and breathable (Hifiman pads are known for their good ventilation). 

Meze 99 Classics

Same story as the above. The 99 Classics is definitely bassier and thicker sounding than the R7DX, while the latter offers a better sense of space and is more detailed. 

The 99 Classics has always been a more portable pair of headphones for me, while the R7DX is definitely more of a desk-scenario pair. For gaming, the R7DX is much better with its better imaging and overall bigger soundstage. 
The tonality is more neutral and smooth in the R7DX, while the 99 Classics is more V-shaped with an added body in both bass and treble. This makes for a more exciting sounding headphone than the 7DX, but also more tiring in longer listening sessions.

Seeing how different these two are, and how well they complement each other, I can see the point of having both. Meze for when you’re craving for fun and full-bodied presentation for an hour or two, and the R7DX for your everyday long sessions and gaming.

Summary

The Drop + Hifiman R7DX is an impressive closed-back pair of headphones. While it’s not perfect with its somewhat aggressive treble presentation, it makes for a good daily driver near your PC, and it’s an excellent gaming headphone. The biggest pro is the asking price. At $149, the R7DX is a highly detailed, neutral headphone sounding more like an open-back. This is a really good value and I honestly think it should get more attention.

Recommended.

Gear used during this review for the sake of comparison and as an accompanying equipment:

  • Headphones – Dekoni Blue, Meze 99 Classics, Hifiman Susvara, Meze Elite, Hifiman Edition XS, Hifiman Deva Pro
  • Sources– Poco X3 Pro, MacBook Pro 2021 M1 Pro, Cayin N3Pro, Cayin N8ii, EarMen Tradutto, SMSL SH-9, LittleDot MK III SE, XI Audio Broadway S

Big thanks to DROP for providing the R7DX for this review. I wasn’t paid or asked to say anything good or bad about this product, all of the above is just my personal, unbiased opinion. Drop hasn’t seen this review before publishing it.

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