The enthusiast's audio webzine

Edifier H840: good sound for a song

I never really consider myself a headphone user, always by choice opting to hear music from my main rig unencumbered by wires and headsets or worse, the sense of being cut off from my immediate surroundings. Of course, self-impression and reality are rarely a perfect match.  I really do use headphones routinely, always on a plane journey where a pair of in-ear Shure’s are a source of relief from my surroundings,  and sometimes when listening late at night or playing guitar in a space where I do not wish to disturb anyone else.

In fact, I’ve even accumulated a few pairs of headphones along the way,  including my personal reference pair of Sennheiser HD700s which I picked up when the model was being discontinued at a decent price and that, combined with an Audioengine USB DAC,  offers very good sonics for casual listening. So when Edifier then asked me if I’d like to try a pair of their H840 ‘phones, I did suggest that I might not be the best reviewer. However Thomas Reiss, who handles PR for Edifier, asked me to just try them and to give an honest reaction, so what’s a guy to do? That’s the sort of invitation it would be impolite to refuse, and while it has taken me longer to get my thoughts down about these than I had intended, I’ve been using these on and off for a few months now and think I have a good sense of what they offer.

Edifier H840 headphones

With an MSRP of $59, and found for less than this online frequently, I have to scratch my head. Quite simply, these sound a bit better than typical fifty-buck phones. In fact, I did not register the price of these as I used them so I was more than a little surprised, pleasantly, when I finally looked it up after the review.

Of course the Edifiers  don’t beat the sonics and tactile pleasures of my HD700s with their large padded supports  but they are actually a little more comfortable on my head over long sessions, definitely more portable, and look pretty cool too. Their folding mechanism which rotates the earcup, allowing them to lie flat, and the lack of inline controls and fancy circuitry make these a clean, good looking, good sounding option for causal use. Sure you can do better, but you also will pay more for the improvements you want to hear. Be sure also to give these some time, they do actually improve over a few weeks of use.

Edifier H840 folded flat

I’ve kept these headphones to hand over the last few months and plugged them into my Mac, with and without the Audioengine D3, and into my iPhone. I listened mostly to music, spoken words and instrumental instructional recordings, and if I had to sum the presentation up in one word it would be ‘warm’. These phones sound clean and pleasant from the midrange up, but they do have strong sometimes boomy bass to my ears (they’re definitely on the warm side of neutral but I only resorted to EQ on iTunes occasionally, finding I tended to return to flat after a while in preference). Vocal clarity, a requirement for me, is good; spoken words articulate distinctly and realistically. One definite weakness compared to the Senns is their sense of being closed in, with less air and space around the music, a more cramped soundstage for multi-instrument recordings – but I only notice that in direct comparison.

The web listings describe these as a “noise isolating” design but that’s really just the over-ear fit that produces a solid but not vice-like grip on your head, cutting out enough but not all of the outside world, which is preferable to me. Similarly, these seem to contain sound a little better too, so your near neighbors will be grateful.

General fit and finish is decent though the wires do feel a little fragile. But that’s how I think of most headphones I’ve seen at this price point. That said, they survived regular use around my home and office without a hiccup over several months. Most importantly, I find the Edifier H840’s reproduce enough of what matters to me in music to keep me in a relaxed listening condition for all but the most critical applications, though the use of the Audioengine or Audioquest Dragonfly steps up the performance noticeably (but then, that’s true of any headphone I’ve used on my computer).

The company is one of the largest audio product manufacturers in the world, certainly lesser known in the US than they are elsewhere. Their design and manufacturing expertise are clearly on show here. Honestly, there may be better ‘phones out there but at this price I don’t know why I’d even go to the trouble searching them. The H840s offer a bargain-basement price for a genuine taste of good sound. For all essential matters: sonics, ergonomics, and price, Edifier have a winner here.

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