Hands-On Review: Senal SMH-1000 Studio Headphones
Whether you work professionally in sound or you’re just a music fan, headphones are essential items that you use every day, and when a product is so central in your life, every single detail about its design and performance is important. If any aspect of your headphones fails to satisfy, you’ll encounter it again and again, and it will be a constant bother. The Senal SMH-1000 is a new set of professional headphones that boldly attempts to act as the perfect companion for field production, studio recording and just casual listening. I recently had the opportunity to give the SMH-1000s a try, to see if they were worthy of living on top of my head.
Described as having a “…classic closed-back, over-the-ear, collapsible design,” these headphones definitely have a familiar vibe. However, it isn’t difficult to spot design tweaks that set them apart. For example, you can easily change the cable on the SMH-1000, and they come with a short straight cable and a long coiled cable. When you’re wearing an audio bag and you’re hoisting a boompole over your head, it’s favorable to use a pair of headphones with a short cable. When you’re plugging into a piece of equipment that’s strapped to your chest, using an excessively long cable is really annoying. The same is true when you’re listening to music on portable device that you store in a pocket. When you’re working in a recording studio, the opposite is usually the case. It’s useful to have the freedom to move several feet away from your equipment. When you’re laying down tracks, a long, coiled cable is the way to go.
My first impression of the sonic performance of the SHM-1000 was that they exhibited the tonal characteristics that are expected from a professional set of headphones. They provide a lot of detail in the reproduction of human voices, and accentuate the tones of stringed instruments and cymbal sounds. The clarity of voices makes them a good candidate for monitoring dialog in video productions, and the shimmer of instruments makes them a good choice for tracking and overdubs in the studio. An amazing recording of Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro sounded amazing on the SMH-1000s. A close listen to the pop-classic Gloria by the Van Morrison-fronted band "Them" revealed clever details in the drums that I’d never noticed before, even though I’d heard this song countless times. You quickly lose yourself in the music with these things. The SMH-1000s impressed me.
I spent a long time switching between the headphones I normally use and the SMH-1000s, and the two models sounded different. This wasn’t a surprise, however. Different kinds of headphones invariably have completely different sonic signatures. My old headphones made it possible for me to reference what I’m used to hearing with the new sound of the SMH-1000s. It was interesting. Whenever I found a characteristic that I thought sounded skewed between the two headphones, I would play the section again and again, switching back and forth between the two sets of headphones. Ultimately, it was clear that the difference between the two was nominal, and trying to pinpoint where they differentiated was futile. The SMH-1000s simply perform like another unique set of professional headphones, period.
With their 58 ohm impedance rating, the SMH-1000s are designed to play well with both professional and consumer equipment. It’s possible to get a nice strong volume level on a consumer device, and you can safely use them with professional gear without blowing them out. The SMH-1000 supplied plenty of volume when I used them with my iPhone 4. While listening to music on the subway, I failed to notice a guy playing the accordion until he was standing directly in front of me asking for change. The volume was jacked up pretty high on the device, but there was still room to turn it up even louder, even though I had it as high as I wanted to go. The closed-back ear cups contribute to their ability to block unwanted ambient sound from the outside world and keep your sound from leaking out. These are two more reasons that the SMH-1000s are good for tracking in the studio and monitoring audio on set.
While I only used them for a few days, I got the impression that the SMH-1000s would survive the harsh reality of daily life in my backpack, as well as the hostile worlds of studio and field audio production. They have a sturdy feel, yet successfully remain lightweight. The ear cushions and the thickly padded headband were comfortable, and seemed like they were capable of adjusting to fit small, medium and large heads. Even though the stock ear cushions were comfortable, I would likely upgrade to the SMH-PADV Deluxe Velour Ear Cushions if I owned the SMH-1000s. I switched from regular to velour ear cushions on my last set of headphones, and the upgrade was worth every penny. I can’t say enough positive things about velour ear cushions. Always go for them when you have the option.
The SMH-1000 have an inward-collapsing design, so they can get really compact when you need to toss them into a bag and travel. With the shorter, 3 foot (0.91m) straight cable attached, the SMH-1000 get impressively small when they’re folded up. Because the output cables are detachable, you can completely remove them to make the headphones take up even less space for transport. Attaching and removing the cable is accomplished with a simple twist. The twisting motion locks the cable into place, and it has just the right amount of tension to keep it from coming loose, while remaining easy to attach and detach. The area where the cable connects to the earpiece is usually the most vulnerable on a pair of headphones, however, I intentionally stepped on this part of the SMH-1000 with all of my weight, and bent it a number of times, and the headphones continued to operate flawlessly.
The detachable 10 foot (3 m) coiled cable features approximately 2 feet (0.6 m) of straight cable on either end, so when you’re wearing the headphones, the coiled section doesn’t begin until it reaches your hips when hanging downward. This makes the cable less obtrusive on your upper torso, and keeps it from getting ensnared in your clothing, jewelry, guitar strap, etc. The straight portion at the other end makes it less likely to tangle with other wires, which is especially helpful when you’re plugging into a piece of equipment that already has numerous cables swarming around it.
The SMH-1000s struck me as great all-around headphones for professional and casual listening purposes. I would love using the short detachable cable on location audio-for-video jobs. In fact, with a short cable like this, I would be more inclined to use the SMH-1000s on my daily commute. After putting their sonic performance through the ringer for a few days, I’m confident I would make the right decisions with mic placement in order to capture the clearest audio. It also doesn’t hurt that they’re built tough, and backed up by a three year manufacturer’s warranty. These headphones have a winning combination of features, and stand out as a great choice for use on set, in the studio and for disappearing into your favorite tunes.
|Frequency Range||10 Hz - 20 kHz|
|Impedance||58 Ω @ 1 kHz|
|Sensitivity||102 dB ±3 dB (@ 1 kHz/mW)|
|Maximum Input Power||1000 mW|
|Distortion||Less than 5% @ 1 kHz|