For anyone, taking the first step into a career of professional mixing/studio monitoring can be daunting. There’s so much to keep in mind—The right gear, listening to every sound, getting the perfect mix, etc.
To make your task easier, we have decided to compare two of the most popular entry-level studio headphones in the under-Rs. 8,000 category. Read on to find out which should be your pick.
The PRO series has been developed keeping professionals in mind and the PRO 480i is the entry-level model to this line by Ultrasone.
The headphone features a closed-back design. It is made of durable plastic and feels solid. The Ultrasone PRO 480i features a sleek black look. The headband is adjustable but be sure that you don’t bend it. A little above the place where the headband connects to the earcups is a hinge that makes the earcups swivel. These earcups can fold inwardly and become super-compact. So if you need to take your headphone anywhere, all you need to do is pop it in your bag and you are good to go.
The earpads feel quite comfy and snug. This, and the over-ear design also ensure ample noise isolation. With this on and while listening to music at moderate levels (Yes, we believe in listening to our music responsibly), you will not be able to hear the person beside talking. The headpad feels soft to touch but a little more of it would certainly help in terms of comfort.
Coming to the cable, it feels that it can withstand some amount of abuse. It is one-sided and attached to the left earcup. The cable is 1m long and is useful when using your headphone on-the-go but you may have to use the provided extension cable when in the studio, especially when you need to move about.
ULTRASONE'S COMFY DESIGN VS AUDIO-TECHNICA'S PLETHORA OF ACCESSORIES
The Ultrasone PRO 480i comes with a 4m extension cable with a 3.5mm gold-plated jack and 6.3mm screw-on adapter. This makes it easy to connect to just about any mixer, system and EQ. However, while these accessories are quite useful, I certainly wish that this headphone came with a carry pouch like the ATH-M40x.
In terms of build, both over-ears are at a tie. Just like the PRO 480i, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x is made of durable plastic. The headband feels solid and the hinges let the earcups swivel by almost 90 degrees. The earcups can even fold inwards to be carried around.
Just like its Ultrasone counterpart, the ATH-M40x has comfortable earpads and the headpad cushions your head nicely. But, this is where the similarities end. The headphone has a slight clamping force (probably for the noise isolation?) which can be a bit tiring. Also, the earpads tend to heat-up and cause sweaty ears. I ended up taking a few breaks while listening to reduce the discomfort.
The ATH-M40x comes with a plethora of accessories. This includes 2 detachable cables (1 straight and the other coiled), a 6.3mm screw-on adapter and a carry pouch. The headphone jack of both cables come with a lock so you don’t have to worry about it getting ripped off whenever you move around (the coiled cable also helps with that).
While the Ultrasone PRO 480i has a whopping 5-year warranty (something very rare among headphone manufacturers), the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x has a 1-year warranty.
In any studio headphone, listening to music the way it was recorded i.e. without a boost in any of the frequencies is very important. With its neutral sound signature, the Ultrasone PRO 480i does just that.
The 40mm Mylar Drivers emit a sound that covers the frequency range from 20Hz to 20,000Hz (same as the human ear).
A great aspect of this headphone is that there is absolutely no sound leakage which is why you can use it for monitoring purposes even when recording. The mic does not pick-up any additional music playback when in recording mode.
PRO 480I'S WIDE SOUNDSTAGE VS. ATH-M40X'S DETAILED SOUND
The Ultrasone PRO 480i has the patented S-Logic Plus technology. This is what gives you that uber-wide soundstage. While listening, I felt as though I was in a live concert.
While Ultrasone has a super-wide soundstage, for the ATH-M40x it’s all in the details. All frequencies sound crisp and clear. But, because of this detailing, you can also hear the sibilance in the trebles.
The custom-made 40mm drivers have copper-coated aluminium voice coils and Neodymium magnets. This gives you a loud, clear and neutral sound.
While the noise isolation on this headphone is good, I wouldn’t really be able to say the same about the sound leakage. When listening, my colleague sitting beside could hear what I was listening to (though it was really soft). While this slight leakage is not a deal-breaker, those who monitor their music when recording with a powerful mic have been warned.
In a nutshell: Both headphones are equally at par when it comes to studio use. The only difference exists in the comfort and sound.
If you want a headphone that is extremely comfortable and has a huge soundstage, the Ultrasone PRO 480i should be your pick. If you need a headphone that is really detailed, the Audio-Technica ATH-M40x should be your pick.