I was very excited to try the WP10 when I found out that SoundMAGIC were making it. I've been very impressed by their other full sized headphones. The HP100 is one of my favourite closed back headphones for anywhere near the price and the open back HP200 brought some interesting things to the table, including greatly improved design. The prospect of having the SoundMAGIC genius in a wireless package was a huge draw for me. Unfortunately my experience with wireless headphones isn't huge so far, thus it will be tricky compare it fairly against it's true rivals. I will however do my best to measure up how it compares to other headphones in wired and wireless modes and this should be plenty for me to focus this review on. I hope to revisit this review and add to it once I get the chance to test more wireless models. I'm mostly thinking of the Sennheiser RS170, RS180 and RS220's here, but if you have any other suggestions please drop a comment below.
It's impossible to escape the fact that the nature of wireless headphones is both their biggest strength and their biggest weakness. It's easy to see why people value the lack of wires, but unfortunately lacking audio quality is the price you pay for that convenience. With digital transmission it's even easier to understand why this is the case. It means that not only the power and amplification is contained in the ear cups, but the DAC is as well. When dealing with high-end audio most of these elements are contained inside large, heavy boxes. With headphones this cannot be the case however - everything must be miniaturised.
All that said, wireless technology has moved on a lot in recent years. SoundMAGIC have brought some amazing quality to other areas, so what can they bring to wireless, full-size headphones?
The ability to run the WP10s wired is a nice touch, but also a very welcome one when batteries can die at any time. The audio quality here is good, but not stellar. My mobile phone gave a little better balanced sound because of a lacking treble (compared to my laptop), which avoided most of the sharp splashy sensation that can make the WP10's rather tinny and jarring. That said, general performance was decent and had surprising levels of detail. Volume wise the WP10 is very sensitive. My phone often struggles to provide enough volume, but not here and the laptop was loud at only 25%!
Moving the laptop up to a dedicated external DAC and headphone amplifier (£300) provided a small improvement in audio quality (mostly a better bass quality). There doesn't seem to be a huge scope for improvement. This is reasonable given that the WP10's should be tuned for wireless performance. Of course, once you move to the wireless use there's no possibility of audio quality improvements at all (by using external DACs and/or amplifiers).
Initially the sound can feel a little light and tinny. They certainly were compared to the headphones I've been using lately (Sennheiser Amperior / Denon AH-D7000), although this is actually not as bad as with the HP200. Also like the HP200, the tinny sound is not a result of a lacking bass presentation. Once you've put a few hours listening into the WP10s the tinny sensation mostly melts away, but you'll be left with a rather recessed midrange. Both the bass and the treble feel pushed into a noticeably v-shaped response (perhaps even more so than the HP200, which has a deeper and more well rounded bass presentation).
Even with the tinny sound gone the rather overzealous and uneven treble makes the upper ranges feel sibilant and splashy. It might be a little sharp at times, but it's capable of providing an interesting detail quality, which can give an enjoyable experience. This detail rendition is very solid, even comparing it to wired competition. It can get a little overwhelmed by some congestion on the lower frequencies at times too. Bass punch is pretty enjoyable if you like a little more potency, but it's also on the bloated side on less boldly mastered tracks.
My phone's aggressive treble roll-off suggests that playing around with EQ adjustments could provide some nice gains too. Just be careful not to destroy the detail in the process.
Performance wise I really expected a bigger difference between wired and wireless than there was. There was a slight step up in quality going from the laptop's default audio output to the wireless sender, but when comparing the wireless audio quality to that of the £300 external DAC/amp it was very close indeed. Tonality wise there was little change, accept with the bass gaining even more thump in wireless mode. I wouldn't call this terrible like a celebrity headphone's level of bass bleed, but it can be quite noticeable. I generally prefer thump over lacking bass presence, but the WP10's bass does disappoint me slightly so it will certainly put some people off completely.
The quality of the wireless signal seems to be really good. I do notice a very slight hiss when no music is playing, but music playback is generally very unaffected by any wireless drop-outs. I have noticed the off little clicks and pops here and there, but nothing in your face and certainly not all the time. There are about a million pieces of equipment just waiting to interfere with wireless technology where I work but when I tried the WP10s there I had no problems at all so I can contest to the wireless quality of the sender/receiver here. I have some friends that use other wireless headphones and they tell me that they do have some issues.
Sound leaking from the WP10s is average at best, they definitely do leak, not quite as bad as open back though. Isolation seems to suffer similar levels of mediocrity, certainly not brilliant for a closed back pair of headphones. The trade-off with soundstage meets my usual expectations however. I almost always find that better sound isolation directly correlates to a less impressive soundstage presentation and the WP10s don't break this rule. Soundstage is really rather impressive, so if you don't need the last word in isolation then this is a nice trade-off in my opinion. My office can be quite noisy when the Brazilian chap has had too much sugar (we love him :) and I found the WP10s cut through the background noise pretty well throughout the day, but that's me and I find people vary a lot in this regard.
GENERAL NOTE: Unlike many elements of sound and associated quality I find the isolation trade-off is one that's not altered by pouring money into it, so please try to keep realistic expectations for this aspect when upgrading.
The WP10s use a 2.4Ghz digital wireless technology to send an audio stream directly from a computer's USB port, but the sender can accept a 3.5mm jack from a phone or tablet to send signals from non-USB sources. Battery life and charge time is rated at 12h and 4h respectively and I found these to be pretty conservative figures.
Plugging the USB transmitter into an aging Windows 7 laptop automatically brought up the above window. It hung on this last stage for a minute or so, but the first two steps were very quick. Once done the audio output of the machine was automatically set to come through the wireless sender. All in all this was a very easy set up. I imagine Windows XP would require a manual driver install, but I'm only guessing here. I don't quite have a Windows 8 machine to test this with yet.
Connecting / pairing the headphones to the wireless sender has always been an easy process for me and I'm sure the manual explains this but... press-&-hold the power button on the WP10s and then press-&-hold the ID/Power button on the sender (I think this can be done in either order actually). When the lights on both units flash blue then it's working, they stay blue when music is actually playing and the system is working.
I have had a case where the audio would suddenly crackle and this seemed to be related to Spotify, because other audio playback was unaffected, so I'm reluctant to point the blame at SoundMAGIC here. To fix this I just closed the Spotify program and re-opened it and it was fine. Since I've had this with the Android Spotify application (with wired headphones) as well I wouldn't be at all surprised that it was purely related to the Spotify software.
The construction of the WP10 follows the pretty high quality level of the previous HP100 & HP200 models. The build quality of the WP10s feels more reliable than the more expensive Sennheiser HD600s. In fact I'd say they're close to the considerably more expensive HD700s or the similarly priced, but impressively designed Beyerdynamic DT770s. Materials have mostly remained unchanged, but some have moved over to a more pleasant soft-touch style plastic. This is especially noticeable on the wireless sender box, which feels like velvet. It's really nice to the touch, is sturdy enough and doesn't show finger prints like the mirror plastic finish of the HP100. I really wish that SoundMAGIC would do a redesign of the HP100 with this styling, because this is much nicer!
Unlike the HP100 & HP200 models there is no annoying locking mechanism to the cable attachment, but what they have used is possibly even worse. Wired mode is almost a simple 3.5mm jack connection on both ends of the cable, accept... one of them is longer than a standard length (to reach into the headphone's deep socket). This means that you really need the cable comes in the box. It's pretty short, but I guess you could extend it with another cable if you needed to. Still - I really hope they just use the standard 3.5mm jacks, since they're using them underneath anyway.
A design 'feature' that's has been on all full-size SoundMAGIC headphones (and one that I really wish would disappear) is the extremely articulating ear-cups. The DJ pivot is present here, but in both cups (perhaps for left or right handed people). That and a full 180 degrees of rotation makes them fall into some rather awkward positions. I can't imagine SoundMAGIC's demographic particularly desiring this functionality, but on another more serious note - it adds many extra points of potential failure (on the internal cable). It's the latter aspect that makes it feel largely unwanted.
The comfort of the WP10 is almost identical to that of the HP100 & HP200. This is mostly great and would be perfect if it had a bit more depth inside the ear cups. I have pretty large sticky-out ears and they touch the drivers on all the SoundMAGIC models (all the same shape and cushion design). Other than this they are full sized over-ear headphones that don't contact with the ears at all, but as it is the comfort only lasts for a couple of hours before I'm forced to take them off. If it wasn't for this I could happily wear them all day because the ear cushions are stunningly soft, as is the headband and it's clamp. It's worth noting that you won't be affected by this shallow cup depth if you have smaller, lower profile ears, but if you do end up having some discomfort then there are options to fix this. Some people have fitted the Beyerdynamic DT770 cushions on the HP100 and/or added extra padding inside the cushions with success.
The v-shaped frequency response is quite noticeable, which arguably it suits movies and games more suitably. For music listening I prefer a flatter response, but some people will not dislike this for music either as it has some benefits. Once you factor in the cost of adding wireless functionality what's left compares reasonably well to the wired competition. Detail is the WP10's killer feature, despite an overzealous upper bass heft.
They are very nicely built and have a decent looking design that's very light and simple to use. Wireless performance is very solid and battery performance is pretty good too. The wired sound quality doesn't feel like an after-thought either, so you won't be in too much pain when the batteries run out.
If you really feel the need to have your headphones wireless then the WP10s are a seriously good pair of headphones and I would definitely recommend them. Otherwise this money still buys you some more compelling and interesting things in the wired category (but that won't come as a surprise to most of you).
Dell Adamo Laptop, Dell Vostro Laptop, Desktop PC (Pro Build), Desktop PC (Custom Build), Ifi iUSB, Ifi Gemini, Ifi iUSB, Schiit Modi, Schiit Magni, Epiphany Acoustics E-DAC, Schiit PYST, Denon AH-D7000, SoundMAGIC HP200, Mr. Speakers Mad Dog + Alpha Pads, Sennheiser Amperior, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, iPhone 4
Soundmagic WP10 Review
รีวิว หูฟัง SoundMagic WP10 โดย Joe Cox @What-Hifi?
SoundMagic launches WP10 wireless headphones with USB DAC13 Aug 2013
The SoundMagic WP10 wireless headphones are the latest addition to the SoundMagic model line-up, offering wired or wireless functionality and a USB DAC.
The WP10 headphones come with a separate wireless transmitter box complete with an integrated DAC, and will set you back £250.
This means you can connect to your music source via a digital USB connection or use the analogue stereo inputs. The SoundMagic WP10 headphones can also work via a wired cable connection.
The WP10 earphones are an over-ear design with a "metal reinforced headband" and soft leatherette earpads, which claim "high noise isolation".
The wireless transmitter comes with two power modes: low power when connected via the standard audio jack and high power, with a range of up to 50m, when connected via USB.
Naturally SoundMagic recommends you take a digital output from your PC or Mac in order to take advantage of the WP10's DAC and theoretically improve the sound.
The headphones come with the transmitter/DAC, headset audio cable, USB cable, RCA/phono cables, audio cable, battery charger, carry case and manual. Phew.
The SoundMagic WP10 wireless headphones are on sale now for £250, alongside the HP100 and HP200 models.