Yamaha came roaring back into the headphone realm with its recent PRO series. At £199, the Yamaha PRO 400 is the middle-tier option in the group, with the recent Yamaha PRO 500 at the top (costing £249) and the still-not-particularly-cheap PRO 300 as the entry-level (£139) option. The good news is that all three pairs justify their price tags.
The PRO 400 offers a powerful sound signature with realistic bass response and a nice sense of space and depth. With a focus on the midrange, it lacks the booming bass some readers may be seeking, and it is not super-bright or crisp, either, but it delivers audio cleanly, even at top volumes.
Yamaha's PRO series has a distinctive look that's not for everyone – glossy plastic (offered in white or black) and a large, shiny Yamaha tuning fork logo on each ear. The plush, circumaural (over-the-ear) ear cups are quite comfortable, but the headband's cushioned, rubbery underside can, unfortunately, get a bit uncomfortable on the scalp during longer listening sessions, and feels this way regardless of adjustments. For shorter durations, this isn’t much of an issue though.
The PRO 400 ships with two detachable cables – both are black, flat, linguini-esque designs, and one has an inline remote control and microphone for mobile devices. The remote-free cable, intended for pro and studio applications, is a whopping 10-foot long, compared with the other cable's more typical 4-foot length.
Call clarity on the PRO 400 is nothing mind-blowing, but your call partner will be able to hear you loud and clear, and vice versa. Yamaha can't really improve on the low fidelity of cellular audio.
The headphones collapse down at the hinges above either ear into a more compact size, but the frame still takes up a hefty amount of space. A zip-up, hard-shell protective case comes with the PRO 400, and adds even more size to the equation – basically, this pair will take up a significant portion of bag space. A quarter inch headphone jack adapter is also included.
On tracks with tremendously deep bass, like the Knife's "Silent Shout," the PRO 400 flirts with distortion at maximum (unsafe) listening levels, but never gives in, instead it offers a powerful sub-bass response. Things aren't quite as boosted here as they are on the Beats Pro by Dr Dre, but they are still plenty intense. The focus of the bass response is rooted a bit higher than the very deepest, lowest sub-bass frequencies, so we hear slightly less subwoofer-esque push than with the Beats, but the PRO 400 definitely packs a punch.
Much of its focus seems to be on midrange frequencies, both low-mids and high-mids. This helps bring a different portion of the bass response to the forefront. On Jay-Z and Kanye West's "No Church in the Wild," the kick drum loop's attack has both a nice treble edge to it, as well as a solid thump – not the deep, throbbing sub-bass thump you hear in a club, but the more natural kind you get from a real kick drum. The sub-bass synth hits have a nice roundness to them, but they're not in any danger of overtaking the mix. This is a good thing, but bass fiends will probably want a pair with a bit more oomph.
On Bill Callahan's "Drover," his voice could benefit from a little bit more treble edge, but the PRO 400 does a good job of not letting low-mid frequencies muddy up the mix. The constant drum hits on this track often receive too much low-end boost on bass-heavy headphones, making them compete with Callahan's vocals for centre-stage. Here they sound natural and intense, but they still take a backseat to the vocals.
On classical tracks, like John Adams' "The Chairman Dances," the lower register strings still get a nice bit of low frequency boost, primarily because they exist more in low-mids than in the truly low, sub-bass frequency realm, and this is a range the PRO 400 focuses on. Things sound natural, never overly bright or muddy. The big drum hits at the end of this piece pack a pleasant low-end punch, but nothing that ever seems overly boosted or out of place.
Basically, this pair is for the flat response, purist crowd who want to hear bass frequencies, but not have them amplified significantly louder than everything else in the mix. The semi-recessed drivers inside the ear cups add a nice sense of space and depth to the sound stage. If there's any complaint, it would be that the PRO 400 could probably sound a bit crisper in the high-mids.
The PRO 400 offers a clean sound that will appeal to anyone not overly obsessed with deep bass. If deep sub-bass is what you seek, the aforementioned Beats is what you should be looking towards (but note, you’ll pay £150 more for them).
At £199, the PRO 400's pricing makes sense – it sounds a bit fuller and more intense than its cheaper sibling, the PRO 300, but lacks the power, spatial depth, and overall clarity of its pricier brother, the Yamaha PRO 500 (which is £50 more). All three pairs, however, are very solid additions to the headphone realm.
Model and Manufacturer
Yamaha PRO 400