Yamaha Pro 500 review: Flashy headphones for audiophiles

While they're a bit overpriced, the $400 Yamaha Pro 500 headphones deliver excellent sound tuned to satisfy audiophile tastes.

Steve Guttenberg

Steve Guttenberg

Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.

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4 min read

Yamaha is unique among headphone manufacturers in that it also makes world-class pianos, keyboards, drums, and saxophones, so the company has a deep appreciation of what real music sounds like. It's not surprising then that the flagship model in its new Pro line, the Pro 500 -- designed in the U.S., engineered in Japan, and made in China -- offers crisp, clear sound that's tuned to please the audiophile ear.


Yamaha Pro 500

The Good

The <b>Yamaha Pro 500</b> full-size headphones offer very accurate, clean sound. They come with an Apple-friendly mic and remote, a 10-foot-long home cable, and a nicely designed travel case.

The Bad

Expensive; not one of the most comfortable pairs of headphones we've tested.

The Bottom Line

While they're a bit overpriced, the Yamaha Pro 500 headphones deliver excellent sound tuned to satisfy audiophile tastes.

Ah, but the rub is that these guys list for $400, which is a lot of dough. And while their level of design, build quality, and comfort is quite good, it's not exceptional. That translates into a very good-sounding pair of headphones that's a bit overpriced.

Design and features
With its slick-looking, full-size, closed-back design, the Pro 500 model shares many traits with the Beats Studio headphones, but gives off a slightly more polished vibe, with the large Yamaha crossed-tuning-forks logo on the earcups providing the primary visual interest.

The high-gloss plastic headband is steel-reinforced, and the real aluminum earcups have a quality feel, but their limited vertical and horizontal pivoting ranges don't allow the earcups to perfectly conform to every head shape. Said another way, these headphones are pretty comfortable, just not supercomfortable.

The Pro 500s were designed to summon up images of racing motorcycles. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Pro 500 headphones have larger-than-average 50mm drivers, and impedance is rated at 23 ohms. The hinged headband allows the headphones to be folded up into a more compact bundle, though the metal hinges don't look or feel as sturdy as the ones on the V-Moda M-100 headphones, for example. Long-term durability of the mostly plastic Pro 500 design may be a concern for people who don't baby their headphones.

The headphones come in blue or black. Sarah Tew/CNET

The headphones weigh a hefty 13 ounces, so they're considerably heavier than the under-10-ounce M-100. The extra weight, the headband's pressure on the top of my head, and the earpads' moderately firm head-clamping pressure caused me to deduct a point from my design rating. As I said, I didn't find them uncomfortable, but most of the full-size headphones we've tested are more enjoyable to wear for hours at a time. On the upside, the ear cushions provide a fairly tight, noise-blocking seal.

The nicely padded cushions offer a fairly tight seal. Sarah Tew/CNET

The headphones come with two cables, a 4-foot flat (tangle-resistant) cable with a remote/mic optimized for Apple devices, and a plain 10-foot flat cable. Both cords connect to either the left or right earcup via 3.5mm plugs and, as with a lot of the newer full-size headphones (the Monster Inspiration, for example), you can plug another set of headphones into the open earcup jack and have a second listener tune in to what you're listening to.

You get two cables, the longer of which is designed for home use. Sarah Tew/CNET

You can use the microphone for making calls with non-Apple phones, but the remote features most likely won't be fully functional.

For accessories, you get a 6.3mm gold-plated adapter jack and a handsomely appointed black travel case. The case's zippered, "semihard" design will protect the headphones, even if you need to jam the case into a tightly packed bag.

The Pro 500 comes with a one-year parts and labor warranty; proof of purchase is required to make a service claim.

This is an audiophile headphone, designed, first and foremost, with accuracy in mind. Yamaha is well aware that some buyers listen to a lot of dance and bass-heavy music and crave exaggerated bass fullness, but it made the decision to take a more audiophile direction with the Pro 500. So each pluck of the string bass that opens Jack White's "Blunderbuss" album was cleanly delineated to my ear; the bass was unusually precise, without boom or bloat.

The headphones fold up to fit in this nice carrying case. Sarah Tew/CNET

The Black Keys' bluesy take on "Ten Cent Pistol" sounded very immediate over the Pro 500 headphones. In contrast, the V Moda M-100s, with their fuller, warmer bass, made the same track sound darker. The Pro 500s' bass is plentiful, but not emphasized. On the other hand, moving up to the midrange and treble, the Pro 500s' clarity revealed details in the vocals and drums that the M-100s missed. Listening to Radiohead's "In Rainbows" the treble was clear, with lots of texture and detail.

The Pro 500s' naturally balanced sound pulled further ahead with acoustic jazz and classical music. These are the sort of headphones that respect a wide range of genres equally, and that's a big part of their charm.

This is a closed-back design, so I was pleased to hear the stereo imaging was just as big and spacious-sounding as with the open-back HiFiMan HE-400 headphones. I watched a few episodes from a DVD of "Lost: Season 2" on my desktop PC, and the Pro 500 projected the sound of the beach and forest scenes well outside of the earcups, so I could almost forget I was listening to headphones. This is a great pair for movies and TV shows.

The Yamaha Pro 500 headphones' neutral sound tells it like it is; there's nothing added, nothing taken away. The pumped-up bass common to most competitors' models is absent, so this sound won't please every taste. Comfort level may be a concern, so I recommend trying these headphones on before you buy them.


Yamaha Pro 500

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 8Sound 8Value 6
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