Recording - September 2014 - 60

B Y M I K E M E T L AY

Samson SR850 and SR950
Studio Reference Headphones
Open or closed? Take your choice-or choose both

Samson has brought affordable quality
to many facets of the home-studio world
over the past few years. We've been surprised, pleased, and impressed by offerings of all kinds, from quality studio monitors that anyone can afford (the Resolv SE
monitors, reviewed February 2014) to
portable and powerful USB MIDI controllers (the Graphite M Series, reviewed
June 2014) to a whole line of new microphones, reviews forthcoming. With the
SR850 and SR950, Samson takes a bold
step into a new realm-studio monitor
headphones. I had a chance to work with
these two new headphones for several
weeks, and here's what I discovered.
Closed or open? How about both?
One of the big points of contention in the
world of studio headphones is whether one
can do better work with fully closed headphones or with an open or semi-open design.
Proponents of closed designs cite their excellent isolation from outside distractions and
60

RECORDING September 2014

their strong bass
response; lovers of
open phones talk about
smooth and accurate reproduction across the frequency spectrum; and a
fair number of engineers like to have both
types on hand, one for the tracking room and
one for the control room-nice exciting
closed phones with good isolation for the
artists as they play, and good clear open
phones for the engineer as he tracks them.
There's a lot of merit to both design
types, and certain companies make their
reputation based on one or the other... but
there are more than a few companies that
offer both. And that's what Samson's done
here: the SR850 is a semi-open design for
the most accurate possible frequency
response, and the SR950 is a closed
design that gives maximum isolation and
enhanced bass (and treble, as we'll
explain in a moment).

The SR850: Specs
The SR850 is a semi-open dynamic
headphone with 50 mm drivers with
Neodymium magnets. 50 mm is on the
large side for headphone drivers, with 40
to 45 mm being more commonly-seen
sizes, and this probably contributes somewhat to the SR 850's fairly impressive
claimed frequency response of 10 Hz
to 30 kHz. There's no frequency
response plot given in the manual or
online, but the marketing language
implies that this is meant to be a relatively flat and neutral headphone,
offering clarity without emphasis from
the deep bass to the extended highs.
As a 32 ohm headphone, the SR850
is able to get quite loud from even relatively low-voltage headphone amps. Its
maximum SPL isn't given, but it happily reproduces levels over 100 dB
with no obvious straining or
breakup. It's a very light and airyfeeling headphone, just over 9
ounces in weight, with lushly
padded velour earpads and a selfadjusted springloaded headband
that's quite comfortable. The large
circumaural earcups are vented at the
back and sit nicely on the head for
extended listening without fatigue. Its 2.5
meter (8.25') cable is permanently attached
at the left earcup and ends in a gold-plated
minijack with screw-on 1/4" adaptor.
The SR850: Listening
The SR850 presents a good introduction
to what's good about an open-backed
headphone. Everything is there, everything
is clear, everything is in balance... there's
no hype or scoop, nothing to make the
music particularly "exciting" or "grabby"
that isn't in there already. Compared to
headphones that are designed to pump
you up and get you grooving, they might
almost seem a bit boring... until you start to
do serious work with them.
Where do we start? How about at the
high end, where the extended but not
emphasized treble brings a good believable



Recording - September 2014

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - September 2014

Contents
Recording - September 2014 - Cover1
Recording - September 2014 - Cover2
Recording - September 2014 - 1
Recording - September 2014 - 2
Recording - September 2014 - 3
Recording - September 2014 - 4
Recording - September 2014 - 5
Recording - September 2014 - Contents
Recording - September 2014 - 7
Recording - September 2014 - 8
Recording - September 2014 - 9
Recording - September 2014 - 10
Recording - September 2014 - 11
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Recording - September 2014 - 13
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Recording - September 2014 - Cover3
Recording - September 2014 - Cover4
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