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Review: Yamaha's HPH-MT series Headphones - Magnetic Magazine
Yamaha's line of studio headphones get put through the paces

Headphones aren't a real sexy topic when shopping for your studio - most of us don't get up on a Saturday morning and say "fuck yeah! I get to go shop for headphones today! WOOOOOOOOOO!" However, having a solid pair of reference headphones gives you an extra set of "studio monitors" for reference with the added bonuses of (1) portability when working in the field or on the road and (2) not pissing off the neighbors when checking that 808-heavy test mix of your dope new tune at teeth-rattling volumes. Like a good lawyer and/or a great accountant, it's better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.

Yamaha enters this very competitive frey with their MT-Series headphone line. Yamaha's shining reputation in the recording studio realm has been earned with the ubiquitous NS-10m near-field studio monitors, lauded for their excellent performance at an extremely reasonable price point. The MT-Series headphones look to continue that tradition. The line is broken into 3 models: the entry-level HPH-MT5, the more studio-focused HPH-MT7, and the "luxury sedan" HPH-MT8. Here's how the models compare. 

HPH-MT5

Yamaha HPH-MT5 headphones

Yamaha HPH-MT5 in black

  • Street price - $99.99
  • Closed-back, Circumaural (Over Ear)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Sensitivity (SPL): 100dB/mW
  • Max. Input Power: 1600 mW (at 1kHz)
  • Impedance: 51 Ω (at 1kHz)
  • Driver Unit: CCAW Voice Coil 40 mm, Dynamic, CCAW Voice Coil
  • Cable: 3.0m (9.8ft), straight cable
  • Connector: 3.5mm (1/8”) stereo with 6.3mm (1/4”) stereo adaptor
  • Weight: 245g (0.5lbs) (Without cable&plug)
  • Comes with 3.0m Straight cable, Threaded 6.3mm (1/4") gold-plated adaptor, Nylon carrying bag

The MT5s are a pretty good-looking headphone, available in either a white or black finish. The build quality and feel for the pair provided was excellent for headphones in this price range. The finish was very slick in all-black, with the Yamaha logo in silver accent, and resemble a myriad of DJ headphones I've owned or used in the past.

The inclusion of a replaceable, detachable cable is a welcome touch. A 1.2m coiled cable can be purchased separately. It's a shame it's not included with this piece of kit, but was likely excluded to keep costs down.

Maybe the shape of my noggin, but I initially experienced an uncomfortable pressure point at the top of the band. This phenomenon lessened after break-in, but was still present in extended listening sessions.

These phones were most similar to the classic budget headphones I've used in the studio for decades, though with a little bit better build quality at the same price point. They were capable in the studio, and passable as a DJ monitor in a traditional DJ setup.

I was impressed at the performance and range of the lower-tier phones - rich bass, crisp highs, decent (but not revelatory) mid-range response. I did experience a little bit of "ear fatigue" after a longer session, and some of the reference mixes seemed a bit flat. With that said, the MT5s are certainly better than many DJ-specific headphones at twice the retail price. 

HPH-MT7

Yamaha HPH-MT7

Yamaha's HPH-MT7 headphones in black

  • Street price - $169.99
  • Closed-back, Circumaural (Over Ear)
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz - 25kHz
  • Sensitivity (SPL): 99dB/mW
  • Max. Input Power: 1600 mW (at 1kHz)
  • Impedance: 49 Ω (at 1kHz)
  • Driver Unit: CCAW Voice Coil 40 mm, Dynamic, CCAW Voice Coil
  • Cable: 3.0m (9.8ft), straight cable
  • Connector: 3.5mm (1/8”) stereo with 6.3mm (1/4”) stereo adaptor
  • Weight: 360g (0.8lbs) (Without cable&plug)
  • Comes with threaded 6.3 mm (1/4") gold-plated adaptor, Padded carrying bag

Stepping up to the MT7, I assumed that due to the more robust drivers and solid construction would result in a matching performance bump. These phones are also available in either a white or black finish. The build quality on the MT7s is excellent - Less plastic an more metal components lead to a sturdy, solid feel. The addition of metal accents not only looks GREAT, the additional heft those parts give the MT7 lends to the sturdiness of the build and is an obvious step in quality (and likely durability) above the 5-series. 

The MT7 includes pivots to better allow DJ-type monitoring, and performed admirably on both pro mixers and controllers. My only gripe is the lack of a detachable/replaceable cable with a set of phones in this price range. I am generally pretty tough on headphones, and the ability to easily replace a wonked cable would be nice. However, I'd not hesitate to have a pair of these to leave in the studio for general use. 

During initial testing, source audio mid-range was a shade muddy, but could be explained by impedance mismatch between phones and output device. On a professional audio interface, the midrange opened up and nuances not found in the same sources through the MT5s could be heard. Highs were clear and well-balanced in the spectrum. In the studio, it took a little bit of work and patience to train my ears with the MT7s, but it was time well spent. After acclimating to the MT7s, I was really impressed with the accuracy and transparency of these phones.

These are a REALLY comfortable set of headphones with excellent isolation. Seal of the over-ears was snug, so much so that I noticed my ears sweating after about a half and hour of listening. The MT7 didn't induce quite the ear fatigue of the MT5s.  

HPH-MT8

Yamaha HPH-MT8 headphones

Yamaha's HPH-MT8 headphones

  • Street price - $199.99
  • Closed-back, Circumaural (Over Ear)
  • Frequency Response: 15Hz - 28kHz
  • Sensitivity (SPL): 102dB/mW
  • Max. Input Power: 1600 mW (at 1kHz)
  • Impedance: 37 Ω (at 1kHz)
  • Driver Unit: CCAW Voice Coil 45 mm, Dynamic, CCAW Voice Coil
  • Cable: 1.2m (3.9ft) coiled cable; 3.0m (9.8ft), straight cable
  • Connector: 3.5mm (1/8”) stereo with 6.3mm (1/4”) stereo adaptor
  • Weight: 350g (0.8lbs) (Without cable&plug)
  • Comes with 1.2m Coiled cable, 3.0m Straight cable, Threaded 6.3mm (1/4") gold-plated adaptor, Padded carrying bag

The MT8s are only available in black finish. I found them a little more subdued than the MT7s and more in the vein of the MT5s in the looks department. They have the same sturdy build as the MT7, with the added bonus of switchable cables (a godsend to those of us who are extraordinarily abusive to daily-use headphones). These phone are ultra-comfortable - during extended listening sessions I forgot I was even wearing them. This model also has the pivoting ear cups, and (again) performed admirably as a set of DJ monitor headphones. 

When comparing models in the series, the most obvious difference on the spec sheet is the larger voice coil present in the MT8, which one would assume to mean better low-end response in that model. Sonically, they have good separation in the mids, rich, full (but not overpowering) low-end, and clear, crisp highs. I was very comfortable reference-mixing in these phones and, with a little practice, was able to comfortably switch between phones and near-field monitors for reliable mixes. 

All told, there's a great monitoring solution for every budget in Yamaha's MT line of headphones. If (like me) you're a serial headphone abuser, the addition of the detachable cable to the MT5 and MT8 are essential. If you're comfortable with a non-detachable cable, the MT7 is an excellent choice with outstanding performance. I've continued to use the MT8s for mix/monitor sessions and have been incredibly satisfied with the results obtained when wearing them (and they'll likely be my go-to phones for the forseeable future). Much like the legendary NS10s, the MT-series headphones offer outstanding performance for the price.

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