The Yamaha HPH-Pro300 headphones deliver very good sound for virtually all genres of music at plenty high levels and with convenient iPod control.
Yamaha's entry into the field of street-style sound reproduction is so recent that it was only just last week that the first shipment arrived in Australia. There are three models with this one and the entry level Pro300 comes in just short of AU$250.
The styling is very attractive, with a gloss finish and Yamaha's triple-crossed tuning fork logo in silver. The headband is topped with a continuation of the same gloss finish, but has a thick pad on its underside. The earpieces attach by a kind of ball joint to the extendable sections of the band. The design is such that if you have to extend the band too much (say, if your ears are a little low-slung, or you want to have it over the top of any kind of hair cover), then the earpieces don't have quite enough freedom of movement to sit comfortably vertical, and tend to push in a little more at the bottoms of the ears than the top.
These are definitely on-ear types, and the spring in the headband is pretty stiff. While they were held firmly and securely in place, the pressure on our ears was a touch more than we would have liked. We'd suggest trying them out to make sure that you're comfortable with them. Their spot-on 200 gram weight was not uncomfortable, though, thanks to the padding on the headband.
The headphones fold up into a fairly compact bundle, and can be carried in the padded pouch that is provided with them. The cable is fixed, attached to the left hand earpiece. It is ribbon style, 5mm-wide and 1mm-thick, and reasonably resistant to tangles. The plug is the 90 degree-angle type, which is generally more convenient for portable players. Also, a gold-plated 3.5mm to 6.5mm plug adaptor is included, so you're right to go straight out of the box, with component hi-fi included as well.
About 150mm down the cable, there is an iPod/iPhone/iPad remote control. As with the best of these, the volume buttons are actually implemented, so all you need do is squeeze one end or the other of the small control pod. The multifunction middle button was consequently easy to locate by touch and use. It also has a microphone for hands-free phone use.
One side-effect of strong pressure on the ears, combined with the closed back design, was the excellent isolation from external sounds. We found that we didn't need to turn up podcasts quite as loud, for example, because there was less of a need to compete with noise leaking in from the outside world.
But if you need it to go loud, it happily does that. Even though the headphone nominal impedance is fairly high — at 53 ohms specified, 50 by our measurement — so is the sensitivity. For 1 volt maximum output typical of recent iPod models (including Touch and Nano), this allows about 20 milliwatts of power, which converts to about 13 decibels relative to 1 milliwatt. Add that to the baseline 107dB for 1mW, and you're getting a very solid 120dB maximum sound pressure level from an iPod. There would be more, obviously, from component hi-fi.
This is another of those headphones that specifies maximum input, which in this case is 300mW. If you pump that much in, then the theoretical level of the sound is a ridiculous and harmful 132dB.
Running at those levels for lengthy periods would be very bad for you, of course. But it does also mean that all musically satisfying levels are easily achievable, and that tracks encoded at a too-quiet level can generally be brought up to enjoyable levels.
When we did unleash (briefly) the volume control on a few tracks, they remained clean and controlled in their reproduction, with no undue stresses (except to our ears).
The tonal balance of the headphones was first class. There was no sibilance whatsoever on Nick Cave's rendition of Dig, Lazarus, Dig!!!, but neither did his voice sound muted in the higher frequencies. It was just a smooth reproduction. The bass on Switched on Bach, and on any old track from Primus, was solid and seemed to go down as far as my hearing would. I became curious and ran a sine wave sweep from 5 hertz and up, and it was clear that the headphones were starting to work between 10 and 15 hertz, delivering everything properly from well under 20 hertz.
Dynamically, it wasn't quite up there with the best open designs, compressing the peaks of loud percussive peaks just a little. But as far as closed designs go, it was about as good as they get.
The Yamaha HPH-Pro300 headphones deliver very good sound for virtually all genres of music at plenty high levels and with convenient iPod control. We just wish that they didn't squeeze our head quite so tightly.