ZealSound HDE-300 Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Subjective Audio Analysis

There are many challenges when it comes to reviewing headphones, because of how subjective the experience could be. It takes experience and time to train your ears to be able to make a proper judgement for an audio review. These challenges force us to take quite some time to listen and compare it to other sound equipment to have the best results, and to be able to give it a fair observation. Unfortunately, since different people have different tastes in their headphones and what they should sound like, it is hard to come to a truly objective conclusion. As such, the ZealSound HDE-300 headphones were put through a series of subjective tests to come to the best final conclusion. For portable tests, I used the earphones with my phone, which is the OnePlus One, and the rest done with my computer. I focused more on the portable tests, since the earphones are more aimed for that particular use. The product was also broken in for an extended amount of time to ensure the best listening experience at the time of testing. All tracks were uncompressed CDs, FLAC, or LAME encoded MP3s at 192kbps or higher.

Overall, the sound character was not exactly flat, but not exactly punchy either. Most headphones have their bass boosted to give it a bit more thump, which is the case for the ZealSound HDE-300. The additional bass produces a deeper sound experience. In this area, the wood housing definitely helped, since it created a defined and smooth low frequency output. Furthermore, it was round and pretty solid. However, it was a little light, and did not deliver a deep powerful sound as I would prefer. Because of the subjectivity of the listening experience, some people may appreciate a lighter bass. I still found the bass one of the stronger aspects of the headphones, as it was always present and never overpowering.

The midrange was good, but nothing special. While listening to vocals, they came through generally clear and thick. However, at times when it would reach into the higher frequencies, the vocals would sound slightly raspy. When listening to different instruments in the midrange, there were some hiccups with the boosted bass and wood housing. The midrange frequencies were slightly recessed, and the overall experience was hollow, but interestingly still had some warmth. I found the lower midrange frequencies still sounded acceptable; I think because it extended low enough to take advantage of the solid bass the wood housing offers, but they suffered because it sounded recessed.

As we get to the higher frequencies in the treble, the ZealSound HDE-300 did not perform as well. For the most part, the sound was clean, but for the really high frequencies, it was hard and harsh. Also, it was like the sound would suddenly jump really high, but was never able to reach the ledge it was jumping to. I feel this is in part due to the strong bass. At times, the treble also sounded grainy, and was not able to reach the highs, even though it still jumped for them, and so was recessed. Overall, all three layers together sounded stuck together. The bass was the most defined of the big three, but the rest of the frequencies were hollow. When the entire range was being played, it was much harder to distinguish between them. As such, when it came to the soundstaging and soundscaping, the performance was not very good. It sounded mostly stuck together, and fairly narrow. I was able to pick out the instruments present, but there was no virtual environment created.

The ZealSound HDE-300 headphones come with three different sized silicone sleeves; small, medium, and large. I quickly replaced the medium size, which it comes in, with the small sized ones. I had a really good fit with the small sized sleeves, and they provided a good seal once I maneuvered them correctly. I could really not hear much outside noise while I had these in, and the only real noise was from rustling, which was expected. The microphone is decent with nothing special about it, but at least it was clear. I think the ZealSound HDE-300 provides good noise isolation, especially in everyday environments.

Overall, I think the listening experience was good for the price of these headphones. The balance was off, and the focus was on the bass more than on the rest of the frequencies. Unfortunately, this changes the sound character, and created some missing range when an entire range is being played. The imaging was undefined, and the layering was average. Otherwise, the soundstaging and soundscaping was average at best. However, for its price and easy transportation, the ZealSound HDE-300 is still very competitive.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Subjective Audio Analysis
4. Conclusion