We gave Paul Dormer from the Quiet Place a pair of HD7 monitoring headphones. This is his independent review …

Recently the good guys at Ucan Play got in touch and I was delighted to be offered the opportunity to sample some PreSonus kit as a guest reviewer. In three instalments I’m going to take a closer look at the HD7 monitoring headphones, the iTWO audio interface, and finally the Studio One bundle supplied with the iTWO among other PreSonus interfaces.

The HD7 arrived in a sturdy professional looking cardboard box with a screw locking 1/4” to 1/8” adaptor, warranty paperwork and perfunctory nylon carry bag. At 275g they are an average weight for this type of headphone and the nominal impedance of 32 Ohm and sensitivity 98 dB SPL present an easy load that will be compatible across a wide range of gear including portable devices. The side mounted lead is a generous 2.5m giving plenty of freedom of movement and is pleasingly substantial. The HD7 is a circumaural semi- open design enclosing the ear, constructed in hard plastic, with faux leather ear pads and adjustable headband. They feel robust and, sorry guys, but they’ve been yanked off twice! They survived the impact unscathed. So as yet, living up to PreSonus’ claim “Built tough to withstand abuse”.

On first listen it’s unmistakable – the HD7 has a very forward presence – simultaneously engaging and exciting. Initially I’d have described it as aggressive, but after several hours break in they mellowed. The balance is distinctly “analytical” – a common trait embodied in pro headphones designed for critical audio work. Intentionally so – enabling the listener to pick out fine detail that might otherwise be overlooked. Neutral through the midrange to around 7Khz, lower and higher frequencies are accentuated leading to a classic U shaped “midrange scoop” or “smile EQ” curve. Sound quality wise compared to my preferred reference, the industry standard Beyer Dynamic DT990 Pro (also “analytical” and marketed as such) the HD7 is a little less refined, but put in a solid all round performance with clarity, no lack of dynamics and a full bodied sound which imparts a sense of realism. The sound stage is narrower – a minor quibble given the price.

On a practical level the HD7 are reasonably comfortable – the ear cushions do get warm after a couple of hours use. A timely reminder to take the occasional break perhaps? Furthermore there are practical considerations inherent to semi-open headphone designs. They are not isolated in ether direction, which allows the drivers to breathe resulting in a more natural presentation and less listener fatigue. The flipside is sound bleed – which makes them unsuitable for close mic situations where the headphones may be picked up. A vocalist should therefore seek out a closed headphone design – but it’s not an issue for direct input recording.

The ‘classic’ analytical balance means these headphones will translate differently onto other equipment, so whilst you might check a mix on them, I really wouldn’t recommend mixing any stereo recording on headphones that is destined for speakers. That’s pretty standard. They are however highly suitable to editing, sound design, production work and all manner of general purpose listening. The HD7 punch well above their deceptively low price point – and this has not gone unnoticed by consumers who have left feedback on various internet sites. Indeed they seem to have a following on forums such as Head-Fi.

For the next instalment, where I look at the iTWO audio interface, please bookmark this page…

The HD7 and all the iSeries products are available from UCan Play through our status as an approved PreSonus educational dealer. Discounts are available for those at or working with educational institutions within the United Kingdom.