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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Manufacturer and Product
Yamaha PRO 500