NVX XPT100 Budget Studio Headphones Review

Ear pads: The Headphones

You’ve probably heard of the NVX XPT 100's by now, possibly by that name…or perhaps by one of their many others. They’re also known as the Brainwavs HM-5, The Fisher FA-003, and the Yoga CD-880.

They’re a long-time darling of the budget audiophile and studio world, and they have legendary ear pads. If you like large ear pads and isolation, well, you’re going to be in heaven here.

Depending on where the rest of your needs lie…these may or may not cut it.

OVERVIEW

These headphones are known by so many different names because they’re an OEM product that other companies can license and re-brand. But no matter whose logo is on the outside of the ear cups, the base headphones are essentially the same. So go ahead and try and find the cheapest version you can.

They usually sell for around $100 and often go on sale. I got mine for about $70.

The NVX XPT 100 is a closed back, over ear studio-style pair of headphones with a detachable cable and amazingly good ear pads. With the NVX model, you get two cables of different lengths, two different sets of ear pads, and a comically large soft carrying case. These extras sometimes vary depending on who is selling them to you.

This image of a model wearing the XPT100’s on the NVX web site adequately expressed the large, slightly clunky design of these rather well.

SOUND QUALITY

The sound quality here is right in line with other $100 studio-style headphones, like the Audio-Technica M40X and the Sony MDR-7506. For me that’s a good thing, but some folks might not like this signature at all.

The bass is nicely extended and reasonably accurate in its response, but doesn’t have a whole lot of overt thump or creaminess to it. It’s just present, and well-presented in a way that reflects the source material. If you like big loud heightened booming bass, you’re going to be immediately disappointed.

Mids are a touch hollow/thin in the lower frequencies, and a touch pronounced in the upper range. I like a little kick in the upper mids, but I know a lot of folks find that to sound too shrill. It’s good for certain monitoring and mixing applications but it can be an acquired taste. If you’ve ever liked the sound of an Audio-Technica headphone, you’ll probably appreciate the tone here.

Highs are a bit rolled off in the very upper range, but still pleasantly detailed and accurate, without much grain. They’re less fatiguing than some other studio pairs, like the 7506. In more congested mixes, the highs can get a little bit lost, but they’re still present enough that you won’t be missing anything.

If you’ve heard other lower-cost studio monitoring headphones, you’ll adjust to these very quickly. They sound nice, pleasant, and accurate to my ears. There’s no overt harshness although the upper mids are a little strident. You’ll notice this the most in female vocals. They might take on a slightly rougher edge than you’re used to.

Soundstage is decent for a closed-back studio pair. The soundstage is even better with the included large angled pads.

I think these are well-suited to any sort of listening. They’d certainly be a decent gaming pair, as the emphasis in the midrange and the accurate-yet-restrained bass should help bring out the sounds that gamers often want to listen for.

If you’re used to warmer or more v-shaped headphones(like 90 percent of modern consumer headphones), you might not have a lot of fun with these. And that’s totally fair. They don’t sound very fun or “impressive”, but they do sound good…if that makes sense. Try and imagine the constrast between calibrated studio gear and the fun sound of a movie theater. These are closer to the former.

I think that the DT770 and the M50X sound better, but those are also more expensive. The XPT 100’s hang in there very well with other monitoring headphones at this price point, and are an acceptable alternative to many of them.

As if it wasn’t hard enough already to choose a pair of headphones in the $99 range.

NVX includes two pairs of ear pads in the box. Only one of my three pads wasn’t a bit squished when I took them out of the box. This is a common complaint, and fortuately the pads bounce back well!

COMFORT

Okay.

So.

Brainwavs has made an entire industry out of selling the pads that come on these headphones as replacement pads for other pairs.

And there’s a reason for that: they’re exceptional.

NVX includes both a standard protein leather pair, and an angled protein leather pair. Most people who buy these note that their pads are a bit squashed in the case…and I can confirm that 3 of mine were totally squashed.

However, they rebounded quite quickly once I unpacked them for a while. That’s a testament to the quality of the memory foam used here.

These are probably the best headphone pads on the market today. They remind me of Hyperx’s memory foam pads, but with more room for your ears.

I found myself preferring the angled pads, but the standard ones are also wonderful. The openings are just the right size, and large enough to fit over basically any ear. The depth inside the pads is really impressive, and they shouldn’t run into your ears at all.

I feel silly for never having tried these pads before.

The angled pads in particular are like a comfy cavern for your ear. The openings on the standard pads are actually a bit larger in diameter, but both offer *plenty* of room for your ears.

The headband is not quite as good as the pads, but still pretty close. The center of the pad on the side that touches your head is covered in a neoprene fabric which is really nice, and reminds me of the soft case I carry my Macbook in. The padding is nice and deep and plush…but you have to make sure it’s placed on your head correctly.

On first wear, I got some minor discomfort on the top of my head after around an hour. That’s because the edges of the headband are harder than the plush center. So you’ll need to make sure that the center is taking the brunt of the light weight of the headphones, and you’ll be just fine.

The clamping force is noticeable, but the plush pads take most of it and leave your face fatigue-free. These don’t disappear on your head, they just cradle it in really good and noticeable magical pillows.

And the isolation these pads provide is wonderful.

ISOLATION

Isolation is a must in a studio headphone. You might be using these in a loud recording studio, or you might need to prevent any sound from leaking into a mic, or you might just want some low noise floor privacy for your editing work.

Or you might just be a dude in a coffee shop writing a headphone review.

The pads here isolate better than pretty much everything else. You’re not going to quite match active noise-cancelling headphones, but these are still so impressive. With music playing at a moderate volume, the loud coffee shop that I test headphone isolation in disappeared almost entirely.

I didn’t think these would be quite this good, because the ear cup backs aren’t the thickest in the world. But the seal and fit of the ear pads is so good that it matches class-leading passive isolation on others like the HD 280 Pro and the DT770.

Good!

DESIGN/BUILD

It can’t all be superlatives, right?

This is the category that has the most compromises. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all great either.

Now, I’ve read great comments about the build of these headphones…but I don’t totally love how they feel.

The build quality is…fine. It’s about as good as the build on the M40Xs, which is also fine.

The headphones use a mix of plastic and metal parts. The ear cups have aluminum plates on the back, and the plastic is rubberized, but they feel a kind of light and thin. Lightness is good for comfort, and these have that going for them…but they also feel a bit cheap in places.

The forks holding the headphones on are very light and very thin. The adjustment mechanisms are decently ratcheted…but the one on my left ear cup is a bit looser than the one on my right ear cup.

The headband materials are quite nice. The interior of the headband and the adjustments are metal reinforced, and the soft leatherette on the top of the headband reminds me of the soft leatherette on the HyperX Cloud Alpha ear pads.

I think the Cloud Alpha is a bit better-built overall, at this same default retail price.

The design is rather clunky and old-fashioned. There’s nothing wrong with this, but if you’re really into style you’ll have to find a different pair.

The cable detaches, but you have to plug it into both ear cups because they didn’t run a wire through the headband. This probably helps with weight and cost, so I sort of get it, but it might bug some people. The cables click very satisfyingly into the cups. And they’re balanced! So that’s cool. You don’t often see that at this price. That’s probably not a big deal for that many people, but if you’re into it, it’s a nice perk.

Size-wise, these are rather large on the head. They aren’t going to win any modern design awards. They don’t quite have the same old-telephone look that some other studio headphones have, but they’re still prominent when you’re wearing them.

They have a pretty wide range of adjustment, and I can wear them on my rather large head with three spare clicks.

I think the design is totally fine and utilitarian, and I think the build is just good enough for the headphones to cost this much. But only just. I do appreciate the light weight, but I think the incredible padding here could easily bear the weight of slightly thicker components.

The cables are pretty great for this price range!

FEATURES/EXTRAS/AMPLIFICATION

Both included cables have 3.5mm connections on the source end, and NVX includes one screw-on 6.3mm adapter. There’s a short 1.3M cable and a longer 3M cable. The short cable is meant for portable/desktop use, and the longer one is meant for studio/home use.

Neither one is coiled, which is fine. They are color-coded so you know which plug goes in which ear cup, and they click in nicely. I’ve mentioned that again because I really like good clicky things. The cables are a little bit springy but shouldn’t tangle too badly. I had no problems shoving the shorter one in my bag. They’re both built weirdly well in fact, compared to the headphones, and have decent plugs on them.

Impressively, the pads are very easy to switch out, thanks to a simple rotating plastic ring system. The pads are wrapped around a support ring instead of the actual ear cup. You just turn that ring and they pop right off. Great! These rings are easy to remove if you want to use the pads on other headphones, or replace your originals down the road.

The headphones have a 64ohm impedance, and are driven just fine by my Galaxy S8+ and my 12-inch Macbook. You might have to crank things one or two notches above what you’re used to, but they’re decently sensitive. They respond just fine to a dedicated amp, but you shouldn’t need one.

The included “Carrying Case” is more like a giant square bag box thing. It has a zipper running all the way around the top and a big foam insert to protect the headphones.

This case is the reason that most people get squished ear pads on their pair because of how tightly-packed the headphones find themselves inside.

It’s a nice case, but I don’t know if I’ll ever use it again.

It’s so big that it won’t fit easily in my bag, and I don’t necessarily want to carry a separate bag around that just has my headphones in it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The high isolation and good comfort make these the perfect office/work/studio environment headphones. I don’t know that they’d totally kill the drone of a plane, but if you’re looking for a cheap alternative to ANC headphones, these might be a good buy.

You might end up hating the look of them, their average build quality, or their neutral sound signature, depending on your personal tastes.

But I really like these, overall.

I wish I had tried their amazing pads earlier. I wish that the left adjuster was just as tight as my right one…but if these ever break, I guess it wouldn’t cost me that much to replace them.

In the $80-$100 range these are quite good. They’re more comfy than the 7506 or the M40X, and about in line with the HRM-5’s. Those are better-looking, though, and they fold down.

You could also get a little more “value” out of more modern pairs. For example, the new HyperX Cloud Alpha might be a gaming headset, but it has a single-sided removable cable, an okay mic, and exceptional sound quality and comfort. I mentioned it before as being better-built. It also has more adjustment range, and softer leatherette on the pads. There’s not as much room inside its cups, but that’s its only big drawback compared to the XPT100's.

In a vacuum, or even up against other studio headphones, these do very well. But paired up against the market, these are only best suited to those that really want these amazing pads. I’m planning to do some more in-depth headphone showdowns with these in the future.

Are these the giant-killer headphones that some people claim they are? In every area except ear pad quality…no, not so much.

But they are great-sounding headphones for the price with some of the best pads in the entire industry.

These will probably be my new go-to “Writing in a loud coffee shop” headphones. They may not be stylish, but they perform well in a lot of ways that I personally enjoy.

These are also a very good entry-level “What is headphone listening all about?” pair of headphones. They’re good enough that you won’t necessarily have to go down the horrible rabbit hole that I’ve been living in for years, and good enough that you’ll get a solid taste of what those crazy people who love headphones enjoy about the hobby.

Recommended for anyone starting out who can get past their design/build and doesn’t mind a neutral-tuned signature. Or people like me who were just always curious about them. The ear pads alone are worth checking out if you’ve never had the pleasure.

Find Me: Medium, Twitter, www.worldbolding.com