Drop x HiFiMAN HE-R7DX - Redefining Budget Reference

Preface: Hello. I am a fellow music lover slash audiophile who has been with the community for a while. I am lucky to have been able to experience a very wide range of headphones, and I have also had the opportunity to own some of them myself. After years of exploring the hobby and collecting numerous pieces of gears, I have finally settled with a Sennheiser HD800S and HD650 as my main headphones. So please read this review bearing in mind that my preference in headphone sound is toward a darker tonality with more bass, and more midrange emphasis without losing too much clarity and soundstage. I would like to thank my friends at Drop for providing me with the opportunity to check this headphone out. I honestly have too many open-back headphones and I have looked for years for a decent closed-back headphone to no avail. There have been some good candidates, but nothing got even close to the performance I can get from my open-back headphones. So when I learned that these headphones would be introduced soon, I jumped on the opportunity to check them out. TL;DR: these are great. I would highly recommend them. As for why, please read the below.

Fit/Comfort: The Drop x HiFiMAN HE-R7DX (will hereafter be shortened to R7DX) is extremely light for what it is, and the headband makes for extremely low clamping force. On one hand, that's the perfect recipe for comfort. On the other, it's kind of bad for sound quality, because there's no easy way to fit them without breaking seal and having bass dropping off a cliff. It took me quite a while to take proper frequency response measurement due to the headband not allowing a good fit on my MiniDSP EARS measurement system. This is translated to real world as well. I had to manually swivel and position the cups such that my ears are sealed in the ear pads. Even then, clamping force is very low so it's almost like the cups just float right by my ears. Without good seal, isolation from outside noise is pretty much non-existent, on top of bass not sounding quite right. So please keep this in mind. Once a good fit is achieved, comfort is top notch. I think it is very wise of Drop and HiFiMAN to go for very low weight with this headphone. I can wear the R7DX for hours without any discomfort. That is something I cannot do with my ZMF Eikon, which I think is easily almost twice as heavy as the R7DX. Sound: What I'm using: A&Ultima SP1000 + new 14" MacBook Pro I also tried putting the R7DX on my Zana Deux (OG) and... nope, its impedance is too low. I will be mainly comparing the R7DX against Sennheiser HD650 and ZMF Eikon here. Tonality: okay-ish. Pretty bright. More so than my personal preference. It's kind of on par with HD800S, but I could put the HD800S on my Zana Deux (it's a tube amp) to make up for its tonality. I think I will like the R7DX out of a warmer-sounding setup than either my SP1000 DAP or my MacBook. But again, that is just my personal preference. I do think the R7DX is very close to neutral reference here. Bass: I think bass has decent impact. There's not much weight, and it kind of is just about on par with HD650. ZMF Eikon gives much deeper bass. HD650 does give a bit more "body" to bass (but then again, HD650 gives more body to everything) and seemingly sounds a bit more congested, but upon closer listening, I think it's just the balance with treble that is masking bass on R7DX. I also tried to apply bass boost EQ, and R7DX is indeed capable of very good bass impact. Being very easy to drive also works in R7DX's favor here. Midrange: wow, a closed-back with midrange that sounds... not wonky! There's still a bit of reverb/shoutiness, but it's fairly well-controlled. Honestly, I cannot emphasize how important this is. I have heard quite a lot of closed-back headphones at all price range, and very few actually do sound like this. I think the midrange presentation of R7DX is on par with much more expensive headphones. It is certainly not too far from ZMF Eikon. For the most part, I can get behind this midrange, although it's somewhat lacking the warm/full-bodied tone that the HD650 and Eikon are capable of. On the other hand, HD650 and Eikon can sound somewhat congested with certain tracks, whereas R7DX just keeps trucking even through those tracks. Overall, I think midrange is the star of the show here, and it is reference-level. I do not have a HD600 headphone on hand to directly compare but I think the R7DX strongly reminds me of HD600, which has been a community favorite for reference headphone. Treble: there's plenty of air here. I think there is an emphasis in the treble region pretty high up... around or past the 10KHz range or so. This emphasis seems to allow for "clarity" and "definition" with this and many other headphones. Generally, I find that R7DX does not offend or cause sibilance to my ears, and I am very sensitive to treble. It's a tasteful amount of treble emphasis, I would say. Treble-heads will have plenty to love here. Soundstage: decent for a closed-back. I think it's competitive against HD650 and Eikon. At least R7DX headphone doesn't sound too boxed in for being closed back. No "cavernous" reverb detected either, which is a nice bonus. Imaging: I think this is the one weakness with how R7DX sounds. Due to lack of body, I find that everything sounds a bit... thin and flat. Eikon images slightly better here... giving a bit more body and 3D-ness (whatever that means). HD650 is the best, of course, as it gives "solidity" to vocals, instruments, etc... in the soundscape. Then again, I have a sneaking feeling that once R7DX is put on a tube amp, something like Schiit Vali, then it will really shine. Perhaps a warm and fuller sounding solid-state amp will do as well. Conclusion: Overall, I think this is very good effort at $149. The HD650 and Eikon headphones I used as comparisons are better in some ways but both of those cost quite a bit more. The cheapest HD650 is HD6XX by Drop and that one goes for $220 now. Eikon is like $1400. This headphone pretty much matches most of what HD650 and Eikon are able to do. In fact, I think it's closer to HD600 in tonality and overall sound than it is to HD650. Considering the price and knowing my own preference, I think this headphone will be a good fit for those who prefer something that's slightly "cleaner-sounding" than HD650. And even for those who prefer more bass, there is the option of taking this headphone and applying some bass boost to give that thumping impact. The R7DX is capable of very good bass while offering reference-level midrange and tasteful treble emphasis for just $149. I would highly recommend this to anyone looking for a budget reference headphone that sounds similar to Sennheiser HD600/HD650.

Bonus: Frequency response: (good left/right matching, by the way)
Compared against Sennheiser HD650:
Compared against ZMF Eikon:



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