dbE HP30, Affordable Headphones with Good Performance

Before I start, I want to thank dbE for choosing me as one of the lucky few to participate in the loaner program. However, I will keep my review as objective as possible, there fore I won’t be misleading to both my readers and as feedback for dbE. Let’s start!
The outer packaging is quite informative and looks expensive in terms of design (layout & photos factor), but the finishing could be better. When I show it to my wife, she thought that it’s an IDR 800K pair of cans, more than twice of the real price. The inner box also give an expensive feel because it’s in black. But the inner wall of the box is plain card board so it looks cheap. The headphones is placed on some kind of housing covered in velour. Looks expensive again. However, the velour cover is more like a pouch, thus it doesn’t hold the cans and the included converter jack quite properly. Under the housing, there is a simple compartment to store other stuff that goes with the pack. It’s simple, very handy and looks neat.
Build Quality
The HP30 looks like a Beyerdynamic cans (880 and 770) but with oval shaped ear cups. It looks solid with steel ear cup handles, steel grill, and plastic housing with silver color. I don’t know whether the steel parts are stainless or not, but I sure hope it is. Again I think it lacks the finishing touch. Brushed steel can indeed give fancy effects, but the one on the HP30 still looks rough, unlike the Beyer’s. The lack of finishing touch also shown on the rubber material, eg. seal around the velor pad. To me it washed away the whole expensive looking experience. The cord is long (2m) and thick, but I think the rubber sleeving is a little weak, it may also be easily peeled off. So it’s better to be careful not to crush the cord or accidentally run it over your chair’s wheel. The cord terminates into a small gold plated jack.
Although the HP30 is a bit heavy when carried on the hand, it’s surprisingly comfortable and not fatiguing for long session of use. The velour pad are really comfortable. The circumaural  oval shape fits nicely around my ears. The fake leather padding material on the head band is very soft and reduce clamping on the top part of my head by a lot. Overall the comfort of the HP30 is good. I’ve tested it for a non-stop 9 hours use (long live long weekend!) and had no significant comfort issue, except that it gets a little bit warm on the ear.

Other Things That Came with The Cans
An extension cord, approximately 2m. So the total cable length can be approximately 4m. Then there is the jack converter, also gold plated. The HP30 is obviously designed for home / desktop use, not for portable.

Method of Testing
The unit I received is said to have fully burned in, so the condition is ready for review. The setup was direct to a PC, no amp, dac, or additional sound card used. For the player, I used Foobar 2000 without enhanced output component, and direct to the Sansa Clip Zip with high volume setting. Equalizer was off, so I can hear the  of the original sound signature of the HP30. Please see the image gallery on the end of this article for a screen shot of the playlist that I used to test the cans. File format were FLAC and MP3s.

Impression For High
It’s a bit love & hate for me. Sometimes I can hear sibilance, for example, the articulation of the letter S on female vocals & open hi-hat sound. However the quantity of sibilance can still be tolerable. Cymbals sounded good, but not as articulate on some tracks. I still think that this is caused by the recording quality. I noticed that the lower highs (a little above the upper mids) was tuned so the snare drum sound was quite accurate. However, there’s a metallic impression the whole sound experience.

Impression For Mid
The mid of the HP30 is quite strong, especially in the upper mid. In songs by Adele, Sierra, & Michael Buble, the vocals sounded clear and articulation sounded pretty clear, even though not crystal clear. In addition to vocal tracks, I also tested it for blues (Roy Gaines – Stormy Monday). I can hear the use of the brush stick on the snare drum and I love how it sounded through the HP30. The articulation was near perfect, both when the stick was brushed on the snare and hit the snare. The acoustic instrument sensation was great. Trumpet sound (between the centre mid and low mid, I think) sounds polite, not recessed, but could use a little more tuning up. It’s not as convincing as the snare drum sounds.

Impression To Low
The low of the HP30 was behaved. The bass was quite full bodied. My wife (whose not an audiophile) said that “the bass is big”. I tested the low using Right In by Skrillex, where in this track the bass goes low. I found it difficult to listen to the low bass, because it’s so thin. Impact were very weak on the HP30. It was more like a bass hump but the frequency was closer to the mid. It’s thin. However the speed was good, quite tight.

Other Things That I’ve Noticed
The sound signatures are laid back, warm, a little bit bright/sharp. Instrument separation was okay. Sound stage was far from small, but not huge either. In Adele’s Live at Royal Albert Hall album, the vocal was forward, the instruments were staged behind her, and the distance of the audience can be felt as well. Despite the sharp sound, it’s still comfortable for long listening session.

Video Game Test
I tested the HP30 playing Mass Effect 3. It’s a 3rd person shooter with RPG elements, so there’s a lot of dialogue. So far I like how the HP30 sounded. 3 dimensionally, I can pin point directions of sound, the effects of explosions and gunfires are good, the dialogues was believable, and the atmosphere of the game environment sounded good. The lack of bass impact actually made the game more enjoyable.

Overall SQ
The results of the audition with no amp/dac/dedicated sound card, the HP30 can deliver good sound. This cans is suitable for vocal music, live performance, concert, jazz and pop. It’s good for rock, but guitar distortion are not quite as articulate for my taste. For hip hop, the HP30 is a bit love & hate because of the lack of bass impact but overall still adherents. For dance, techno, and the like, I would not recommend it.

The sound of the HP30 is easily enjoyable. Really suitable for vocals and jazz. Easy to drive, it’s already good without an amp, so I’m sure it can be better with an amp & a DAC. In terms of comfort it’s also good, though a bit make the ears warm if used for too long. I think the HP30 needs to be improved in the mid and high section to remove the sharpness. From physical aspects, it needs an improved overall finishing touch in order to look expensive as a whole. Last but not least, I would love if it came with a detachable cord.

Despite the benefits and drawbacks, the dbE, HP30 is a good value full sized open headphones (MSRP IDR 390.000). I’d recommend it!

For an amateur photo gallery, using phone’s camera :

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