code.Antrikshy | Notes, tinkerings, experiments

Status Audio HD Two Review By A Casual Listener


I wanted a nice pair of headphones to listen to music at work, on a budget of around $100 (because I’m not really an aficionado). Keep in mind that I have never owned a set of quality headphones.

After looking around for a bit, I decided over-ear headphones were for me, since I wanted comfort and quality, and I would be using them at my desk for the most part.

As I often do, I started my research at The Wirecutter, and pretty much decided I’d be getting either Sony’s classic MDR-7506 or Audio Technica’s very popular ATH-M40x. The former seems to be a well-respected model from the 90s, and the latter arguably looks better. Both perform similarly, according to many reviews and online discussions. I was very split between the two.

Eventually, I stumbled upon a YouTube video that compared the MDR-7506 with a couple of Status Audio products. This was the first time I had heard of them. I was enticed by their promise of high-end audio quality at a lower price because of their no-marketing, no celebrity endorsements, direct-to-consumer model. And I decided to give them a chance.

I have used their HD Two headphones extensively for the last three weeks, and here are my thoughts about them.

The Selection

Before anything else, let me walk you through Status’s various offerings, as I understand them.

Note: So far, I have only experienced the HD Two.

  1. BT-1: This one is their only wireless offering. Additionally, it’s the cheapest one they’ve got. But since they’re on-ear headphones, they probably don’t come with the same comfort and quality as their on-ear offerings.
  2. HD One: This is their second to cheapest product, and appears to be their entry-level, basic headphones. It sounds like my HD Two is a successor to this model. This is the only pair that comes in some flashier color options (black, red, and a combo). A couple of reviews that I found say that it’s not super comfortable.
  3. OB-1 and CB-1: These are Status’s two studio monitors. These are supposed to have a flatter frequency response, meaning they don’t accentuate the lows, highs or mids more than the others. Status’s official description describes them as “Highly musical, but may be perceived as lacking in bass for those accustomed to consumer headphones.” One thing to keep in mind is that these are not open- and closed-back versions of the same product. They are very different from each other. Several reviewers point out that the OB-1 clamps down on their head too tightly, and that the CB-1 is a lot more comfortable along with its softer cushioning. I personally think the CB-1 is the best looking pair out of them all, but its studio-oriented “analytical” sound signature is probably not be my thing.
  4. HD Two: These are Status’s more consumer-oriented, all-round “fun” headphones. Their description describes its sound signature as “Sophisticated and subtle, but still fun and exciting.” As a user, I find this description to be reasonably accurate.

None of these heaphones come with any branding whatsoever. So if you’re not a fan of big, flashy logos on your headphones, all of these should be up your alley.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to my humble review of the HD Two.

Packaging

I was so impressed by the way this product was packaged, that I felt I should dedicate a section talking about that. It’s not easy to master minimal packaging. And I think Status does this really well.

There are a few reasons why I say so:

The HD Two was presented really well in its packaging.

Design

Yes, these headphones are built extremely well. What you see in their images is in fact what you get. As far as the design goes, there is no catch. The photos make them look very premium, which they actually are. The materials look and feel high-end, the construction is solid, and there is absolutely no flimsiness to them like I had somewhat expected from a pair of sub-$100 headphones from an unheard-of startup company.

Additionally, I was thoroughly impressed by how comfortable these are. This is easily my favorite part about these cans. Now, I’m not an expert, but I had never imagined that over-ear headphones could feel so comfortable over extended periods of use.

The swivel of the earcups has just the right amount of stiffness to it. This makes it easy to angle them just right based on the curve of your head, and they won’t swivel back into an uncomfortable position.

The light weight and low clamping force are both great. Yet, even though they don’t hold my head very tightly, I feel there is pretty much 0% chance of them ever falling off (unless I try to shake them off), no matter how I angle my head. I can comfortably look down when tying my shoelaces without the headphones slowly sliding off.

Additionally, the padding on the earcups is great. The cushioning feels like memory foam, and they make a fairly tight seal. My ears fit just right in the cups, although I’m not sure if there are people with larger ears that won’t fit. It seems roomy enough. The passive noise cancellation is almost perfect. Pretty much all sounds of conversation and white noise don’t make it in. They make an excellent pair of commute or work headphones.

HD Two comes with not one, but two cables in the box. One of them has an in-line mic and single-button remote. The other one doesn’t. Other than picking up and hanging up on phone calls, triggering play/pause, I can confirm that the remote can be used to invoke and speak to Siri on iOS. While I appreciate that Status included both these cables when they didn’t need to, I’d like to point out that the in-line remote is missing volume control for some reason.

The detachable cable feature is a huge bonus, and much appreciated. This will allow you to swap them out for a different color, design, or simply replace a broken cable easily if you want/need to. The fact that you can plug a cable into either earcup is a cherry on the cake!

While I think the HD Two looks stylish enough as-is, I would have jumped onto a different color option. The world has way too many black headphones, in my opinion. I’d have much preferred a white option, or just something else.

Audio Experience

Commenting on comfort and design is easy. It’s this part of the review that is difficult for me. Now, I have never owned a high end set of headphones, so I can’t really compare these to anything. Instead, I’ll try to give you as best a description of the audio quality, without any colored expectations or perceptions.

As a casual listener, I am enjoying my HD Two a lot. These are absolutely worth the $99 asking price. Just keep in mind that if you are a fan of headphones with higher bass, these may not be for you. As seen on the official website, the sound signature of the HD Two shows a higher response on both the high and low ends of the spectrum. Through experience, I can corroborate the fact that the bass is not any more noticeable than anything else. So if you prefer headphones with a stronger low-end thump, you should look elsewhere.

I occasionally miss a higher bass response, especially when listening to catchy pop music. A lot of contemporary pop is hugely enhanced by headphones with stronger bass.

Still, the generic, yet dynamic sound signature on the HD Two makes it apt for a wide range of genres. I have particularly enjoyed house and other electronic subgenres more on these headphones than before.

Customer Support

After making my purchase (via Amazon), I received an automated email from Status. They thanked me for taking a chance with them, and asked me about my experience so far. “Seriously, we respond to ALL emails”, the email proclaimed. I did reply, letting them know how I had discovered them, and again later, telling them about my positive experience with their product. Sure enough, they were very responsive.

Now, I didn’t have any grievances with their product, but they do seem to have a solid return policy (shipping included) if you purchase from their website.

It’s just nice to know when someone cares about your complaints and feedback about a product, and that they won’t automatically be sent to a shredder.

Final Thoughts

I would have liked a higher bass response, volume controls on the remote, and some color variety, I would be lying if I said I wasn’t fully satisfied with my purchase.

Even after using the HD Two every single day for three weeks, I have to admit that these headphones are really worth the money, and I will be rating them 5 out of 5 on Amazon. Seriously, the build quality is phenomenal, and they are super comfortable. I say they’re worth trying out.

Update

I should have done it before, but I have to make an addendum to this review.

About two months in, the headband snapped, completely out of the blue. I asked for a replacement, and Status sent me another pair, fulfilled by Amazon. Like clockwork, two months after that, the headband snapped once again. Since I’m new to the world of over-ear headphones, I wanted to try other products anyway, so I bought Sony’s classic MDR-7506 headphones as a replacement. I’m sure Status would have replaced the second pair too, but I feel like the HD Two has construction issues in the two joints they have in their headband. If my Sony headphones break after a few months as well, I will concede that there is something wrong with me and update this review.

If you’re curious, my Sony MDR-7506 headphones sound surprisingly close to the HD Two, perhaps with slightly higher bass. The fact that MDR-7506 have long been heralded as a gold standard in sub-$150 headphones speaks well about the audio quality of the HD Two. It’s just unfortunate that I had a poor experience with the HD Two’s build quality. I should also mention that the HD Two had about ten times better design compared to the Sony offering.


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