I Almost Returned One of My Favorite Pairs of Headphones Without Trying It! — Headphone Review Process, Part Two
I have a confession to make.
I almost screwed up big time recently.
I almost returned one of my favorite pairs of headphones without trying it. I listened for five minutes, then started picking apart things I was unsure about and went to put it right back in the box and drive it back to the store.
Don’t be like me.
I always notice bad things in a pair of headphones first. It’s just the way my brain works having listened to a hundred bazillion of the things.
“This is built weird.”
“It looks chunky on my head.”
“The bass seems off, or something.”
“I don’t like this cable.”
I spend my first hour with a pair of headphones nitpicking it to death, and then I push through that and really dig in and listen. I often learn to either let go of the quirks I’ve noticed, or I discover that there might have been more to those decisions than my first impressions showed.
Only then do I make the final call to keep something and start working on the review.
Recently, an exceptional pair of headphones almost didn’t make it past that first hour in my house: the Panasonic DJ HRM-5s.
Thankfully, I avoided a tragic mistake. But I came close. And that’s troubling!
All The Dumb Reasons For Which I Almost Returned the HRM-5s
The Rectangular Yokes
Pioneer used rectangles on the backs of the driver capsules instead of circles. So, the yokes are also rectangles. They had to include a little pad to prevent the cup from bumping into things improperly.
This is a ridiculous thing to be upset about.
Firstly, you can see that they aren’t actually fully rectangular, they’re rounded off. Secondly, why does the shape of this piece even matter?
I don’t know. But for about 30 minutes, it really mattered to me.
I think the Pioneer DJ branding is a little goofy, and wish they just said Pioneer on them.
This is probably down to the one time that a woman in a coffee shop kept repeatedly insisting to me that I was a DJ, in spite of the fact that DJing is not my profession. She insisted, just because I was wearing headphones.
I have nothing personal against DJ’s. I’m totally good with DJ’s. But I don’t think anything about the HRM-5s screams DJ.
The branding is small enough that I eventually got over it.
When I first pulled my pair of HRM-5s out of the box, the pads made a kind of creaking/pop sound. It still happens once in a while when I first open the headphone after not using them for a couple of days. The headband will make a little clicking sound, like the sound something sticky makes when it comes unstuck.
At first I thought this represented some defect.
Then I came to my senses. This often happens on new pairs of headphones, and was probably due to the newness of the leatherette and the memory foam underneath. It’s not a big deal. Don’t be concerned if your pads pop a little when you first buy some new headphones.
Stupid Build Quality Concerns
I eventually concluded that these are some of the best-built headphones in the $99 range.
But at first, I felt differently.
Keep in mind, it can be tough to evaluate build on first impression. A pair of headphones can feel nice(which is important), but it’s only through a few days of use that you get a full sense of the build.
I didn’t like the way the headband seemed to be made of multiple pieces. (It’s plastic over a piece of steel reinforcement, and it turns out it’s good).
I didn’t like how stiff the adjustment clicks were. (Turns out they’re just super nice compared to others in the range).
I didn’t like how stiff the folding mechanism was. (Once I got used to it, I realized I like how firm this is. Unlike the M40X, they won’t flop closed unless you want them to).
I didn’t like that there are no numbers or lines on the sides of the headband to represent each click of adjustment.
Okay I still don’t like that last one, but hey.
The HRM-5s come with two cables: a coiled shorter cable and a long 10-foot straight cable. The straight cable is horrifically springy, and doesn’t want to be straight ever. This was really off-putting at first.
I solved that problem by throwing the 10-foot cable into my closet.
The coiled cable was also very springy on first blush.
However, after some use, it calmed right down. It still has more memory to it than I’d like, but it works well enough that I don’t hate it.
The other one is never getting out of my closet.
Things That Were *So Good* I Came to My Senses
Comfort and Sound
I took these out of the box, wore them for five minutes, then took them off and started nitpicking them to death. I then proceeded to invade my dad’s office unprompted, and I started telling him about all of the things I didn’t like. As I was holding them, talking with him uninvited in the middle of the day…
I realized that I needed to give them a fair shake.
And thank goodness I did.
The comfort and sound signature of the HRM-5s are perfect for their price, and unmatched in the category. I quickly discovered a long list of things to like about the headphones, and realized that many of my negatives were just me being ridiculous.
What’s the moral of the story?
Think about something for more than an hour before you return it on impulse.
Impulse returning can be just as bad as impulse buying.
The HRM-5’s were an impulse buy. I’m so happy I kept them and didn’t give in to my fickle complaining.