Comfort is literally top notch for the EP6s, maybe even more so than my EL-8s after long periods of use (4 hrs+)! If ELEPAWL did nothing else right with these cans, they are comfortable for my head and ear shape/size! They are better than both my S1s and my SoundMagic HP150s in lengthy listening sessions.
Just from looking at the EP6 headphones I would guess my ears would be hurting in less than an hour, but I can go hours with them on with very little discomfort at all. Not to mention, I am one of those who have sensitive ears to headphones, especially with on the ear style designs. After 1-2 hours of listening to the S1s, my ears are throbbing. I can go 4 hours without issue on the EP6s. This is partly due to the fact the S1 does not have a true over the ear design, the S1 has as much in common with on the ear designs as over the ear. Another factor in comfort is how tight the headphones are pushed against the sides of your head (clamping pressure of the headband). Once again the S1 loses as it has such a tight fit, while the EP6 feels just right for my head width. I should mention that I have a larger head than the average person, so your mileage may vary.
Comfort Score: 9.5/10
Distortion has been hard to detect during my 2 weeks of testing, with no hard clipping noticed, even at considerable listening levels. After many days I did begin to pick up on a slight distortion during specific droning type sound effects, WWII airplane battles or NASCAR races are two examples. This may be a combination of bass heaviness with strong reverb. It doesn’t happen very often, since it is scenario dependent!
The only other sort of distortion I detected, was the presence of siblance distortion. Siblance is almost always in regard to a harshness in speech on specific consonants like S and Z, caused by an unbalanced dynamic range in the upper-mid to high frequencies. Most of the time, switching the ANC mode on will help with regard to such siblance distortion.
Distortion Score: 8/10
If we look past the shortcomings of the EP6’s tonal balance and slightly overactive reverb, we are left with a strong pair of headphones for $69.99 (Note: the EP6 are currently on sale for $49.99 at Amazon)! At the current price of $50 (Sep 2018) these headphones become even more attractive as an entry level BT option, delivering exceptional bang for your buck!
When we throw in the option of ANC, we give ourselves two voicing profiles to go with. The EP6 also had a strong gaming performance with excellent auditory image performance, emulating surround over stereo in a convincing way for the cost of entry. The EP6 have their quirks and a few shortcomings, but overall they deliver a strong contender for their weight-class.
If bass is your thing, you will probably enjoy these headphones. If you are however looking for neutral voicing, you are probably better off looking elsewhere since you can’t always depend on ANC to improve the quality. However, when ANC does improve the sound, it improves greatly, delivering a much better dynamic range and tonal balance. These headphones, like all models before them, have to compromise design with performance requirements. The end result from ELEPAWL comes together to form a competitive model for under $70.
Funny enough, it was the gaming tests that opened my eyes to the potential of these headphones, instead of my DSD or 24/192 FLAC files. I wrote roughly 1500 words before I decided to launch a few games and check performance. The spatial imaging was especially convincing when playing a first person shooter or racing game. The game that impressed me the most was a new Unreal Engine 4 beta release, Insurgency Sandstorm. The stereo image created in this game was almost as convincing as a real 5.1 system when it comes to spatial cues and positioning. I was able to consistently locate the enemy before I had a visual, solely on the sound cues in the environment. If you are looking for a gaming headset, these will serve you well, but they have no capability to use a microphone while using the wired connection. It’s a shame, but not a deal breaker for most people, especially Apple users (3.5mm jack is gone from their products)
Overall Review Score (not an average): 82/100 (B-)
Thanks for reading the first headphone review of many to come from Hallman Labs! I’ll be doing an update soon on the Rubycon BlackGate™ vs Nichicon Muse XMOS capacitor shootout (using either I2S or Coaxial out, i.e. a digital signal). As I said when I made the original post, the only way to do this right is to get a 2nd XMOS unit identical to the first (aside from the capacitors). I plan to publish the article on the XMOS BlackGate™ upgrade by Thanksgiving.
Table of Contents
Opening Thoughts and Company Info
EP6 Spatial/Stereo Imaging and Tonal Balance
A Hard Look at Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Construction Quality
EP6 Bandwidth, Bluetooth & Wired Performance
EP6 Comfort, Distortion and Closing Remarks
In a month or two I’ll be giving these away in the 2nd Hallman Labs (HL) hardware giveaway! Keep an eye out for entry details. I am most likely going to require all entries from here forward to take place over Facebook. The move to FB will both simplify the process and ensure nobody is cheating by creating bogus emails for multiple entries.
As a reward for new subscribers, I’m going to continue to offer a bonus entry in the next giveaway to anyone who has yet to sign up to receive notices of new content at HL. The day that entries for the first giveaway ended was the starting date for entries for the second giveaway. I’ll announce the entry cutoff date as we get closer to Thanksgiving.
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