Excellent at some, good at others
HI-X55 is excellent is most parts. It has tight and precise lower end, soothing mid range and a lively and agile treble region. And unlike some competitors It fits well, is light weight and has a sturdy build quality.
Matching with sources
Value for money
If you are in the market looking for a decent headphone, there is no way you have never considered a European brand. The mid budget IEM market might be dominated by Chinese manufacturers but the headphone market is dominated by brands like Sennheiser, AKG, Philips, Beyerdynamic, Grado and a lot many brands from European origin.
Incepted by former employees of AKG, Austrian Audio (Obviously from Austria) wants to make a mark for them by offering a couple of closed back headphone in two fitting styles. The Hi-X50 is an on-ear headphone with exactly same drivers as the bigger sibling HI-X55 which is an over the ear headphone.
I am reviewing the X55 here. It comes in only one color and sells for 299 Euros or $329. X55 faces plenty of competition from handful of competitors like Ollo S4X, ATH-M50x, MSR-7B, AKG K712, 702, Sennheiser HD650 and many more.
Get one for yourself from here:
In their words:
“Made in Austria
The engineers at Austrian Audio have designed and produced some of the world’s most acclaimed headphones and drivers. When it came time to create our first family of professional headphones, we took all the time needed to create them and to exceed many of the goals and challenges that came before.
Introducing the new professional Hi-X (High Excursion) headphones from Austrian Audio. Whether you choose the Hi-X50 or Hi-X55, know that you are getting “Made in Austria” quality from a team that stands behind this all-new design. You won’t find off the shelf drivers and key components here – everything is crafted by Austrian Audio right here in Austria.”
WHAT’S IN THE BOX:
The X55 doesn’t have anything fancy in its retail package. There is a 3 meter/10ft long cable, an 6.5mm adapter and a velvety draw string carry pouch inside the box.
HOW IS THE CABLE:-
The X55 comes with a 300cm/10ft cable which is long enough to be used at studios and work stations. It would have been cool if it had a coiled (telephone like) cable which retracts when not stretched as the length feels a bit annoying when working at the PC. The cable is just hanging without any protection. Thankfully this cable has similar locking mechanism which most of the brands are using and X55 is compatible with the Sennheiser HD6 mix. So, you know which cable to get if the stock cable is not exactly comfortable.
Quality of the wire is nothing special. It is slightly on the thicker side and has a layer of rubber on it which introduces some bounciness but it does not result into much microphonics. The 3.5mm jack is on the bulkier side and does not fit into my mobile phone (LG G7) with protective case.
P.S. I would like Austrian audio to ship their headphones with a Coiled cable or ship it with another shorter cable for those who want to take this comfortable and clean looking headphone outdoors.
BUILD, FIT AND AESTHETICS:-
I have had a few studio monitors on past, I have 5 with me now and 3 of them fold flat which is convenient but that is not a necessary feature for a studio monitor. I like these headphones a lot but I won’t take most of these full size cans outside.
Thankfully the X55 is one of those few studio monitors I would like to take out with me. It has a simple and minimalistic design to it. It looks clean and classy, without grabbing unnecessary attention. I love the way it folds and lays on my collarbone without weighing down on the neck. In other words its fairly light weight and more than comfortable while on the move. Ergonomically the soft and thin walled memory pads help these headphones fully cover the ears without applying much pressure resulting into long term comfort. These cups have a bit of sideways movement too which lets it adjust to some angle created by uneven boney areas around the ears. The head band is very flexible and will fit any head without much problem. There is a bit of padding on it and it can be replaced without any problem.
Build of the x55 is excellent with mixed usage of metal and plastic. The hinge and bow are made with metal while the support on them is made out of plastic.
Due to a bit of clamping force and memory foam X55 delivers excellent isolation. Much better than any headphone I have ever used.
TECHNICALITIES AND MATCHING WITH SOURCES:-
The X55 is rated at just 25ohm and has an SPL level of 118db which makes these headphones get fairly louder without much problem. But are these easier to drive? Not really. The X55 triggers the “Quad DAC” every time I plug it into my LG phone and it take around 80% volume to sound good out of other devices. This is a professional headphone and is barely made for casual use. Yes, it sounds okay with most of the mobile phones but its advisable to use a decent DAP or USB DAC/amp to get the best out of the X55.
It does not change a lot with plenty power but it does start sounding stress free.
The X55 uses 44mm High Excursion proprietary drivers with music production in mind. It has a balanced profile with a controlled lower end. It has some heft to it but is not the heaviest by a long shot. The mid range has good amount of clarity and details while the treble region is a bit more energetic and sparkly than the rest of the spectrum.
It has a neutral and natural tonality without any coloration. It does not sound organic like the Ollo S4X but that can’t be held against it.
In their words:
“High Excursion Technology
Our science, measurements, and listening tests have shown that 44mm is the optimum size for this design. It ensures professional performance in the Hi-X, moves a lot of air, and eliminates ‘wobbling’ of the diaphragm. This is akin to damping of the driver mass, which is where our membrane really shows results: it is ultra-stiff while still reducing unwanted resonance.”
X55 has good amount of lower end thump, a bit more than the S4X. It is not a bassy headphone. Austrian Audio has tuned the dynamic drivers to deliver very good amount of control with accurate lower end without giving up on sub-bass extension. It moves good amount of air and has a nice slam. It does not vanish into thin air and has fairly voluminous punch. The Mid-bass is a bit more voluminous with added weight. It has a wholesome and fuller feel when compared to the S4X. The punch is not hard and the rumble is not comparable to other dynamic driver headphones like Sennheiser HD6 mix but is better than the HD598/599. Decay is slightly on the slower side while delivering very good amount of texture and details. Notes are tight, but not as tight as the S4X. The lower end has the weight to it when needed. Accuracy and precision offered by it is very good. It has enough to make the lower end engaging.
Unlike the S4X which I reviewed few days ago, the X55 is not tuned for an analytical listening, it’s not that it can’t be used for that but it delivers good amount of thump and lower end heft while being aptly critical.
The transition region of upper bass to lower mid range delivers good amount of details while maintaining right amount of energy across the mid range. It manages to deliver good clarity and transparency with the juiciness intact. Unlike the S4X, this mid range more balanced with the rest of the spectrum. In other words, it’s not forward or bright.
X55 does favor vocals a bit more than the rest of the mid range. Vocals sound clean and clear with accurate notes depth. Both male and female vocals have very good transparency, definition and resolution with a lot of texture. Tonality is fairly neutral with a natural timber. Let it be Arijit singh, Alka Yagnik, Dua Lipa, James blunt or Eminem, all sound equally emotional. The notes are slightly less full and lack a bit of dynamism though. Male vocals sound aptly throaty while female vocals are aptly sharp with right amount of energy. Most of the instruments have a few DB less energy than the vocal region giving them a more relaxed and calmer feel. It does result into a less dynamic feeling. Instrumental attack and bite are not aggressive while retaining good amount of relevance and accuracy. Notes are not sharp but have good depth and energy. The upper mid range is nicely under control with good resolution, details and clarity. Upper mid is not lush in any way but is not unnaturally sharp either.
X55 has one of the best trebles in its price range. It doesn’t shy away from a sparkly and energetic presentation filled with plenty of details and class leading transparency. It delivers the right amount of energy and spark staying clear of sibilance or piercing. Due to slight brightness it resolves excellent cleanliness.
The transition phase from upper mid range to lower treble region is done well with very good details and energy. The X55 has class leading treble extension and even when it goes deep into the spectrum it maintain very good amount of energy and details. Level of details retrieval is class leading, it just doesn’t miss out on anything while keeping the timber natural. Cymbals and pianos have very good timber and crispiness, don’t expect it to sound very organic or loaded with texture and the X55 won’t disappoint. Needless to say that separation and layering is up to the mark with good amount of air and space between instruments. It has much better notes depth and they pop much better than most of the competition. The treble stage is well spread and has good density to it. Excellent stage expansion helps a lot with instrument placements and cleanliness. If you love treble, tingling instruments and minute details you will enjoy the X55.
STAGE AND IMAGING:-
For a closed back headphone the X55 has one of the biggest stage which is helped by the much wider, deeper and taller treble stage. Instruments have very good amount of air and space between them. It has most of the imaging present out of the head with vocals and some instruments inside the head. The lower and mid range stage do not have plenty of width or height where has treble region is taller, wider and deeper giving the X55 a horizontal mushroom cloud type stage. Even when X55 has evenly spread stage without prioritizing any part of the spectrum the vocals and treble region take the lime light with bit more room.
Vs Sennheiser HD6 mix:
Vs Ollo S4X:
In the last few years we are seeing a handful of young brands raising their heads with some excellent sounding headphones. I very recently worked with Ollo audio from Slovenia. Austrian Audio is grabbing a lot of attention thanks to the PRO grade tuning.
HI-X55 is one of the best headphones in the market. Is it the best? that is subjective and personal. X55 has a handful of things going for it though. It has plenty of details and clarity. Lower end is tight with required amount of volume and weight. Vocals are very good with precision and transparency. It has one of the best treble region in its price range. The stage size is much bigger than competing closed back headphones. X55’s build quality is excellent. It has no weak part or hinges with excellent flexibility. The memory foam is very soft and comfortable. Isolation is simply leaps and bounds ahead.
It does have a couple of weak spots. Instruments around the vocals region lack a bit of energy, note’s depth and forwardness. The tonality is natural but it feels a bit dull and less agile. Only thing that can throw anyone off is its slight lack of of synergy between treble and the rest of spectrum.
To sum things up, this is not a hip sounding headphone, it is targeted for a professional kind of sound and does not favor the lower end. If you are in the market for a headphone which has good balance, nice vocals and excellent treble clarity and details along with a bigger than average stage size, the X55 is the one to get.