Probably the most important aspect of the sound for me personally. At the end of the day, the overall tone of the headphone determines how much I’m going to love the sound. We all have our idea of the “perfect” tone of the music, the way we think music is supposed to sound. This is also the most subjective aspect of the sound of the headphone, as my taste might not suit yours.
Because of that, I’ll try to go as objective as possible in this section, rewarding both a natural approach to the tone, as well as being highly colored in a pleasing way. If vocals and natural instruments sound way off, this means that the tone of the headphone is poor. If they sound unique and different from “neutral”, but still very pleasant and musical, the tone is good. If they sound just like they do in real life, the tone is perfect.
The tone of the Crosszone CZ-1 is just extremely unnatural and echoey. It has some similar aspects to that of the Audio-Technica W5000, but the latter (while also being full of reverberation) was definitely more pleasing and less boxy.
The easiest way to describe this tone is boxy, plasticky, and nasal. This is far from sounding even remotely close to “flat” or “neutral”, and the overall tone of the CZ-1 is miles behind something like the Sennheiser HD6XX, which is 10x more affordable.
The Drop version of the legendary HD800 sees a major downgrade in the tone of this headphone. Its midrange performance is quite unnatural and weirdly lean sounding, lacking body and definition. The tone is probably the weakest aspect of the 8XX, scoring less than the HD800/800s would have scored. There’s a constant problem with a timbre that makes everything sound rather dull and distant, unnatural. Overall, while the 8XX has some strengths, the tone of this headphone definitely isn’t one.
The Diana Phi is a hot and aggressive sounding headphone. My girlfriend actually wasn’t able to listen to it for more than 30 seconds, no matter what we’ve plugged them into. This is the type of experience to give you a lot at once, which might be highly desirable for some, definitely. Having in mind that we’re comparing the Diana Phi to other flagship-level headphones, rating it 5 or above (which would have meant that the tone is good) is impossible for me. This kind of high-contrast sound requires good tonality to sound good, and the Diana Phi definitely lacks good tonality.
The 1000se has a slightly bright and forward tone to it. While most of the music sounds really good, poor masterings are definitely something to be aware of. The upper midrange might come up as slightly aggressive or too bright sounding, depending on the rest of the system and the quality of the music. While not as extreme as the Diana Phi, it could be problematic for some. Probably the biggest downside to the sound quality of these fantastic headphones. Additionally, this is the biggest difference between the 1000se and the Susvara in terms of sound quality.
The D8000 Pro is the most neutral and “reference” tuned headphones in this comparison. It has a very professional tune to it that might be desirable for many. However, there’s one headphone in this comparison that had a similar goal, but the delivery is just much better. Because of that, 7 points sounds fair to me for a very neutral, flat tone. Safe, universal but not extraordinary. If you really like neutral tuning, then this could have been a 9 for you, but for me, it takes a bit more to score that high than just plain neutral tuning.
This might come as a big surprise that the Elite scores a point above the D8000 Pro. Yes, the new Meze flagship is not a neutral-sounding headphone. Hell, it’s not even close to being anywhere near “flat” or “reference” sounding. Why does it get 8 points then you’ll ask?
It’s pretty simple, the Elite is such an enjoyable and pleasant sounding pair of headphones that it definitely sounds more engaging than the D8000 Pro. Of course, this might not be important for you if you’re after the most neutral and uncolored sound possible, but considering the fact that most of the Summit-Fi headphones are somewhat “neutral” oriented, the magical and musical approach of the Elite is definitely worth noting. It is insanely hard to give headphones such a lush and rich tuning while maintaining realistic timbre and good detail. Meze succeeded, and they’re getting their fully earned 8 points.
Okay, this one is by far the hardest to rate. It is when you compare the HEDDphone to the Summit-Fi level headphones that you’re starting to hear that they are actually a bit veiled and lacking in crispiness, especially in the midrange area. Putting on the 1000se after listening to the HEDDphone instantly gives you a more open and fresh sound.
However, the overall tone of the HEDDphone is very pleasant and unique, it sounds like a hybrid of DD, Planar, and Electrostatic driver, different than all of the other contenders in this comparison. It gives me that sensation when I think to myself “Yeah, this is what it’s supposed to sound like” when listening to music. For me, this is the strongest aspect of this headphone. A similar approach to the Elite, but even more unique and flavorful.
For me, the Susvara has probably the best tone in the history of headphones, being comparable only to the legendary Sennheiser HE90, the original Orpheus.
I can describe the tone of the Susvara as incredibly natural with the best vocal reproduction ever. What’s the most important about it though, is that the Susvara never sounds forced or aggressive, it is rather an easy-going type of experience that is just incredibly accurate.
The D8000 Pro by Final sounds like it’s trying to achieve a similar type of tone, but it’s so much more forced and forward sounding, while the Susvara is just a walk in a park. It gives you the most natural tone on the market with absolutely no effort. Silky smooth, sensational.
Page 1: Introduction
Page 2: Contenders
Page 3: Presentation
Page 4: Build Quality & Comfort
Page 5: Tone
Page 6: Detail
Page 7: Soundstage
Page 8: Bass
Page 9: Midrange
Page 10: Treble
Page 11: Musicality
Page 12: Value
Page 13: Results
Founder of Ear Fidelity. I’ve been into audio for many years, working in production, distribution, retail, and marketing throughout my career. Now trying to revolutionize the art of reviewing audio gear, but one thing will never change: Music is the most important.