YAMAHA HPH-W300 HEADPHONES
Wonderful performance, exceptional value, and you can go wired for quality or wireless for convenience.
Yamaha may not be the first brand to spring to mind when considering the purchase of a pair of headphones, but if you do even a little research you’ll find the company’s headphones have garnered a goodly share of excellent reviews and won quite a few awards.
I have listened to a good many of Yamaha’s ear-warmers over the years and still hold a flame for the Yamaha HPH-200 ‘phones from ‘way back in 2011 and, in more recent years, for the quirky yet rock-solid Yamaha HPH-M82. These new Yamaha HPH-W300 ‘phones are rather superior to either of those—a Bluetooth-equipped fully circumaural design with a studio-level feel of build, especially the solid steel adjusters that slide into the well-padded and comfortable headband. The black ear-cups themselves are predominantly plastic, yet conceal a carefully conceived dual-chamber design, the circuitry all in an outer chamber and the 40mm driver isolated within, which presents a 32 load when cabled. I was pleased to see the main controls are kept on hard buttons—for powering up and for Bluetooth pairing, remembering that they can be also be used unpowered with the provided cable. Indeed the ‘Hi Res Audio’ logo on the box refers to their cabled ability to deliver a frequency response quoted to extend to 40kHz, whereas of course via Bluetooth you’re limited to below CD quality, although you’ll get the best possible result here given the inclusion of both the AAC codec for iPhone users and aptX for Android phones which support it.
IN USE AND LISTENING SESSIONS
Charging for Bluetooth use takes a nifty three hours (a USB charging cable but not a wall adaptor is provided) and promises a healthy 24-hour battery life before a recharge or consigning you to the cable. Not that you should avoid the cable—I could barely believe how fine they sounded at a price that can, in today’s market, be considered a huge bargain. I was delighted to find tracks as well-embedded as ELO’s Roll Over Beethoven and Harry Nilsson’s Spaceman given spruce and space, and even low bit-rate files gained from solid sound-staging and a punch beyond expectations.
So punchy, indeed, and with enough level from the cabled connection that while there’s no active noise-cancelling here, the firm fit of the synthetic leatherette cushions seals well enough for earth-bound travel noise to be minimised, while their midrange strength cuts easily through any background noise. Or, in reverse, used in a quiet zone they can deliver a shedload of high-quality sound without emitting a peep to disturb anyone nearby. The dynamics and resolution well served Adele Anthony’s performance of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto, revealing the hall acoustic around the back-row of percussion behind the cutthrough of her bowing and the rising horns of the frenetic third movement.
With the Bluetooth connection there’s a little less level and not quite the dynamics and edge to the presentation, though it’s still an impressive result for the price. In the wireless mode the right ear-cup offers touch sensitivity for pause/play (tap), volume control (a clockwise or anticlockwise finger movement) and last/next track (a slightly difficult-to-achieve swipe). You can also accept or reject calls with a short or long tap; there’s a microphone built in. With that hard on/off switch for powered Bluetooth use (the powered circuits don’t appear to assist cabled use) you do need to remember to turn them off;
They’re a wonderful performer of exceptional value
it was hard to establish whether they auto power down after a while, because they have no light to indicate their on/off status. I consider it a sign of the quality from these headphones that they reveal the lower quality of Bluetooth so clearly.
Led Zeppelin’s The Battle of Evermore, say, certainly sounded good wirelessly—smooth and well spread. But insert the cable and it lifted to something special—bright, alive, defined, sparkling.
I am fully aware that the market wants Bluetooth, and with headphone sockets disappearing it seems we have little choice, indeed. I just wish Bluetooth was better than it is.
With these Yamahas you could go wireless for convenience on a noisy commute, where the differences in quality between Bluetooth and wired operation are less apparent, then plug ’em in when you can, to enjoy what the HPH-W300 headphones can do at their best. They’re a wonderful performer of exceptional value. Jez Ford