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Yamaha PRO 500 review

AudioReviews
9/10
by Tim Gideon, 11 Jan 2013Reviews
Yamaha PRO 500 review
Best Buy

At the top of Yamaha's new PRO line of headphones, the PRO 500, priced at £249, is a formidable beast. At first glance, it may appear to take its cues from the Beats school of design, with a focus on glossy plastic and logos. But the PRO 500 is no knock-off, and it sounds flat-out excellent. Armed with a nice array of accessories and a detachable cable that helps extend its value, the PRO 500 isn’t a cheap set of headphones, but you’re getting quite some sound for your money here.

Design

Visually, there is a world of difference between the entry-level Yamaha PRO 300 (which is £139 – see our review here) and the PRO 500, but it's all in the details. In photographs, it's hard to see, but the materials used and the surface finish on the PRO 500 combine to give it a more luxurious look. It comes in black or blue, and the paintjob benefits from a nice two-tone, automobile finish quality that's easy on the eyes.

The PRO 500 is also an around-the-ear, circumaural design, as opposed to the on-ear, supra-aural PRO 300. The design differences are not just visual. First off, the PRO 500 is far more comfortable than the PRO 300, but that's not saying much – the latter is among the less comfortable headphones we've reviewed.

So, while the same isn't true of the PRO 500, it can still feel heavy, or like it's exerting too much pressure on the top of your head, but this only seems to happen during long listening periods. Adjusting the headband a bit can alleviate these issues, which isn't really the case with the 300. The PRO 500's ear pads feel more plush, as does the underside of its headband, and the around-ear design works far better for comfort and the overall listening experience than the 300's large-but-on-ear design.

Another improvement in comparison to the PRO 300 is the inclusion of a detachable cable – two of them, in fact. The PRO 500 includes a cable with a microphone and three-button remote for iOS devices, as well as a cable with no controls at all. Call clarity is pretty par for the course here – you and your call partner will understand each other just fine, but you're still dealing with cellular audio quality. The contour of the cable is flat, like many Beats models, and feels more durable than a typical audio cable housing.

There's a cable input on each ear, allowing you to choose which ear you want to have it dangling from, and this also means that it’s possible to connect another pair of headphones to it for audio sharing.

In addition to the two cables, the PRO 500 ships with a 6.3mm adapter, a cleaning chamois, and a rigid, zip-up carrying case.

Performance

The semi-recessed positioning of the drivers in each earcup helps the PRO 500's overall spatial performance – treble sounds can feel more directional, providing a seemingly wider stereo field and greater depth to the overall mix than we might hear if the drivers were flat against the ear.

As would be expected of a £249 headphone pair, the PRO 500 does not distort on deep bass tracks. Even at maximum, unsafe listening levels, the Knife's "Silent Shout" and Thom Yorke's "Cymbal Rush," two songs that feature different types of extreme bass content, were delivered cleanly. What's more, while the PRO 500 packs a serious amount of deep bass, it's not so overly weighted towards the low frequencies that things sound unbalanced, but there is definitely a hefty low frequency presence here.

On classical tracks, like John Adams' "The Chairman Dances," the PRO 500 provides the perfect combination of low frequency presence and the kind of wide stereo field usually associated with open-back headphones. The lower register instruments don't overpower the mix in the slightest, but they are delivered with a round bass presence that's matched nicely by the mids and highs. This means deeper drum hits are both resonant and crisp, and the bowing of the low strings has a nice mid-frequency attack to it, followed by beautifully rich bass sustain. The higher register strings and percussion also shine – but never too brightly or harshly. There's perhaps more bass presence here than purists might want, but this frequency response comes pretty close to my personal ideal.

On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the attack of the kick drum loop is fierce through the PRO 500, taking on the feel of a club PA system. The treble edge of the attack, the sub-bass thump, and deep bass synth hits underneath it all combine for a powerful and rich delivery, and yet none of this outshines Frank Ocean's, Jay-Z's, or Kanye West's vocals, which are all delivered with a nice crisp edge that keeps the mix from ever getting muddy. Simply put, whether you're listening to classical music or an intense hip hop mix, the PRO 500 delivers music cleanly, with wonderful attention to each realm of the frequency range.

An obvious comparison to the PRO 500 is the Beats Pro by Dr Dre, which is bulkier and perhaps cooler looking, and designed for DJ use. Both models deliver a similar frequency response, and while I prefer the PRO 500’s sound, some listeners might favour the Beats Pro – but the kicker is, the latter is £100 more than Yamaha’s offering, a very considerable extra outlay.

If both of these options are out of your price range, but you yearn for the kind of wide stereo field and rich bass I described earlier, the Sennheiser HD 558 is an excellent, more budget conscious choice at around £130. As we’ve already mentioned, the £139 Yahama PRO 300 is uncomfortable to wear, but also offers a very nice sound signature at this lesser price bracket.

Verdict

At £249, the PRO 500 isn’t cheap, but it is more than fairly priced, particularly when you compare it to rivals such as the Beats Pro by Dr Dre, which costs £100 more. These Yamaha headphones will make your music sound very exciting, regardless of genre, and the PRO 500 picks up one of our much-coveted Best Buy awards.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Product

Yamaha PRO 500

Removable Cable

Yes

Phone Controls

Yes

Impedance

23 ohms

Type

Circumaural (over-ear)

Frequency Range

20Hz-20kHz

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