Image of perfection
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.