Im­age of per­fec­tion

Sound + Image - - Test - JF

Reg­u­lar read­ers will know that we don’t reach for the su­perla­tives willy-nilly, but af­ter a cou­ple of week­ends th­ese over-ear Pi­o­neer head­phones ab­so­lutely trans­ported us with their di­vinely bal­anced pre­sen­ta­tion and thrilling imag­ing in par­tic­u­lar, so that we were pre­pared to start pro­fer­ring some pro­lific phrases of praise. With one caveat — we were lis­ten­ing all that time with a cable, not re­al­is­ing th­ese were Blue­tooth head­phones. They had ar­rived un­her­alded, and we didn’t clock the BT on the model num­ber un­til later. So, would our ini­tial thrills be tem­pered when we went wire­less?

The SE-MS7BT head­phones are from Pi­o­neer’s ‘Style se­ries’; they have quite large earcups, and they don’t fold up at all, so they need a bit of stor­age space when you’re car­ry­ing them around. We were so en­am­oured of their sound that we guessed they were far more ex­pen­sive than they are; once price-alerted we could see that con­struc­tion is strong but rel­a­tively ba­sic, with alu­minium re­served for high­lights and plas­tic rather than me­tal else­where on the earcups, and polyurethane rather than leather on earcups and head­band — but as we say, all im­ple­mented well enough that they had us fooled for quite a while. Three fin­ishes are avail­able; we had the sil­ver with black earpads as pic­tured above, but the tan earcups (right) add to the slight retro feel of the de­sign, plus there’s a firmly se­ri­ous all-black ver­sion avail­able. The cush­ions are soft and com­fort­able, the 290g weight bal­anc­ing with­out pres­sure on your head.

De­spite their ap­par­ent size, the driver is a com­mon-enough 40mm in size, backed by “pow­er­ful rare-earth mag­nets” and a light cop­per-clad alu­minium voice coil. There’s a Hi-Res Au­dio logo on the box, be­cause they can de­liver up to 40kHz with a wired con­nec­tion; you’ll not get that through Blue­tooth of course, though we were pleased to see a full set of Blue­tooth codecs — SBC, AAC (good for Ap­ple users) and aptX (for An­droid users whose phones sup­port it).

As noted, we swooned to their ca­bled sound, spec­tac­u­lar for their price. The sep­a­ra­tion of in­stru­ments and mix el­e­ments, their place­ment and in­di­vid­ual por­trayal, the im­pec­ca­ble bal­ance across the fre­quency range and the re­mark­able open­ness of sound from this closed de­sign had us in rap­tures. The de­tail for jazz and clas­si­cal, the bass sup­port for rock, the speed and tim­ing for ev­ery­thing — all clear and cor­rect.

Then we charged them, paired to them, and tried it all again via Blue­tooth. Again suc­cess, but just a lit­tle less mag­i­cal — Blue­tooth added a bit of edgi­ness above a midrange dip, and now some­times the feel­ing of pushi­ness from the am­pli­fi­ca­tion. Of course much de­tail will be masked on a noisy com­mute any­way, so that was fine, but against a silent back­ground, the wired re­sponse from the Pi­o­neers was dis­tinctly more real, more mu­si­cal, more mag­i­cal.

Good for ca­sual use with Blue­tooth, then, but through the cable, oh, the SE-MS7BTs are sim­ply stun­ning.

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