Headphones and Earphones
- Written by Stephen Hornbrook
- Published on 14 August 2013
Design of the Onkyo ES-HF300 Headphones
Behind the aluminum-housed 40mm titanium driver is a tuned bass chamber where Onkyo has utilized the closed-back design in order to gain increased bass response and built it with enough rigidity to subdue resonance.
With a nominal impedance of 32 Ohms, the ES-HF300 is easily driven with just about any portable device and I had no issues getting high volume levels with my iPhone.
Onkyo has gone full stealth-mode with the ES-HF300. Black brushed and burnished aluminum, black leatherette, and black plastic make up the components in this headphone. The shape of the ear cup mimics the volume control knob on the classic line of Onkyo electronics and connecting the right and left ear cups is a single metal band that acts as the main structural component to hold everything together. The top of the band, where the headphones rest on your head, is covered with soft padding and leatherette (faux leather). For me the padding on both the band and ear cups could have been a bit more firm, perhaps more like memory foam, and the diameter of the ear cup could be larger. If it rested around the ear as opposed to on it, then that might relieve some of the fatigue I felt. The sections holding the ear cups adjust up and down with a satisfying click to allow for different head sizes. I had no problems adjusting them to my head as the ear cups also rotate left to right and up and down for further placement adjustments. The drivers are housed in a solid casing of aluminum which feels cool to the touch. Even the plastic components feel rich and high quality. Overall, I like the way the ES-HF300's are built. They feel solid, without being too heavy and even look fashionable enough to wear in public.
Included is a detachable 6N oxygen-free copper cable with a tangle resistant casing. The cable clicks in to both the right and left drivers via MMCX (micro-miniature coaxial) connectors and is 1.2 meters long. At the other end is a 90 degree 1/8" gold plated connector. A ¼" adaptor is unfortunately not included.
Although of high quality, at 1.2 meters, I found the cable to be a bit short. It is fine for personal audio, when sitting at a laptop, or with a source device like a phone in your pocket, but there wasn't enough slack from my Burson Soloist to my desk chair to comfortably move around.
The ES-HF300's closed-back design aids in noise isolation and does a fairly good job for a non-active noise-cancelling headphone. I found office conversation and general noise was a non-issue when listening to music, however if you are looking to subdue the drone of an airplane engine, I still recommend going with an active noise-cancelling model like the PSB M4U 2.
The Piano, by Michael Nyman features a main melody on the track "Big My Secret" and on the Onkyo's the piano had dimension and dynamics. Some notes are struck with quite a lot of force, maxing out the piano's volume limit and the ES-HF300 didn't miss a beat. I have heard more depth and a deeper more three-dimensional image on open-back headphones, but for a closed-back, under $200 headphone, the ES-HF300 does a very nice job. I think listeners of classical music will be pleasantly surprised with how the ES-HF300's sound.
Gravity on John Mayer's live Where the Light Is album, had plenty of that energy and loudness you experience at a live concert, although they didn't recreate that chest-thumping bass, the ES-HF300 produce a solid low end, especially for its price range. I am happy to report that Mayer's vocals were clear and detailed, without signs of mid-range congestion.
Bass response on Ellie Goulding's "Anything Could Happen" was full and deep. I did not find it to be overbearing, or bloated like other headphones in the less than $200 range. The same goes for Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and tracks such as "Dark Fantasy" and "All of the Lights." They had a solid beat without taking away from the lyrics and background instruments. Overall, I found the ES-HF300 to do very well with R&B and Rock music.
For their first foray into the headphone market, Onkyo has done a fine job. The ES-HF300's have a sleek, stealth-like appearance in their black finish, they feel comfortable, and, most importantly, they sound great. Even with strong low-end response, the mid and upper ranges are still clear and full of detail. I never found the bass to be overbearing, or detract from the listening experience. They do particularly well with R&B and Rock music, but don't disappoint in other genres. I would say if you are looking for a headphone with good bass performance, but that still maintains clarity in the mid and upper registers, then the Onkyo ES-HF300 are very hard to beat without spending over $200. The ES-HF300 proves to be an excellent entry into the lucrative headphone market by Onkyo.