It’s no surprise to us that Yamaha has brought its vast knowledge of music and electronics into the realm of hi-fi headset design. The company is tackling the ever-widening market of “prosumer” headphones with the release of three new models: the Pro 300, Pro 400, and Pro 500.
While the model numbers aren’t indicative of each model’s price, they come close. We were sent the Pro 400, which will run you around $300, placing the headset in a very competitive niche of the headphone market. But we know from experience that cost doesn’t always translate into sound quality, so we put the Pro 400 through a vigorous round of testing to find out what it had to offer. Here’s what we found.
Out of the box
Generally speaking, a headphone’s packaging is usually indicative of its price, and the Pro 400 are no exception. Pulling away an exterior sleeve, we found a substantial white box filled with all of the extras we expect from a hi-end set of cans, including a thick instruction booklet, stickers, and a black cleaning cloth, all stamped with the Yamaha logo in shining silver. Under the top layer, we found the Pro 400 folded neatly inside a black, half-moon shaped carrying case made of resilient vinyl. As we pulled the collapsed headset from its case, we got our first glimpse of the beautifully-polished, piano-black exterior. The Pro 400 are also available in a glossy ivory white. Along with the headset, we found two removable black cables and a gold-plated ¼-inch adaptor.
Features and design
There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance, and the Yamaha Pro 400 walks that line in style. Its glossy plastic exterior portrays a bit of flash and a bit of class, purposely reminiscent of Yamaha’s C series grand pianos, which are a staple of concert halls and choral classrooms everywhere. On the exterior housing of the small over-ear earpieces, the circular Yamaha symbol is rendered in sharp silver.
On the interior of the 400’s earpieces, soft leather padding surrounds the headset’s 50mm drivers. The exterior ear cups extend from the headband on metallic bars to adjust for size, and collapse inward on a clever hinge system for storage. The inside of the wide headband is lined with a thick, rubberized foam pad in charcoal grey.
The Pro 400 come with two flat, tangle-free cables outfitted with L-shaped jacks adorned with more of Yamaha’s logo. The extra cable includes a three-button iOS mic, which is both elegantly designed and intuitive, much like the rest of the headset.
The Yamaha Pro 400’s smooth, continuous radius is not as functional as it is attractive. Though the ear cups feature luxuriously soft padding, and were large enough to fit well over our ears, a lack of flexibility in positioning made for uneven clamping force. Those in our office with narrow heads found the Pro 400 exerting too much pressure under our ears, while others with wider heads didn’t take as much issue with the design.
We tested the Yamaha Pro 400 with a wide variety of music through our iPhone 5, Macbook laptop, and MOTU 896 HD digital audio converter. What we discovered was a very consistent sound, highlighted by the 400’s incredible detail and massively expansive stereo field. The headphones encapsulate the listener in a deep atmosphere of sound – both from left to right, as well as front to back – creating an immersive listening experience that we found to be exciting and engaging.
We noted a slightly metallic color to the Pro 400’s general midrange-centric approach, lending a bright sheen to everything it reproduced. The headset seemed to leave out the crunchy depth in the percussion on older tracks like Bowie’s “5 Years”, or Elton John’s “Son of Your Father.” But the added sheen brought an enhanced level of clarity to the table that was impressive. The 400 seems tailor-made for complex productions like Peter Gabriel’s “Solsbury Hill.” The pure resonance the drivers reproduced on the track allowed every part of the production to breathe and flourish in the vast sonic space they presented. As the song progressed, we were taken on a dizzying ride filled with multi-colored kick drums, alternating tribal percussion, rippling guitars, and Gabriel’s doubled vocals battling each other for dominance between the inner edges of the sound field.
Though we wished for just a bit more presence at the very lowest end of the bass spectrum, it’s refreshing to hear a more judicious approach in a marketplace already saturated with overdriven bass. The Pro 400 gave us a very tight, well-defined bass response that was ample for all but the deepest pitches on the hip-hop tracks we tested. We enjoyed cuts like Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A,” which showcased super-tight grooves complemented by brilliant synth tones that bubbled in a multi-layered texture. We’ve rarely heard Jay-Z’s vocals so well defined, and we began to notice aspects of the track that had never really risen above the fray in previous listens.
We were also impressed with the passive noise isolation offered by the 400’s tightly-clasped ear pads. We put on some acoustic tracks at a comfortable volume level while doing a bit of household vacuuming, and our extremely loud Hoover was reduced to a distant hum in the background. The 400 did an excellent job of deadening the noise around us while still delivering sparkling detail in music at normal to low volume.
Yamaha’s foray into the world of hi-fi headsets was worth waiting for. Though we usually prefer less brightness, we couldn’t help but fall for the 400’s immense clarity and multi-dimensional soundscape. The look of the headset provides a perfect balance of panache and quality, and the passive noise isolation does a great job of standing up to the loud clatter of your daily routine. If you’ve got the dough, and you’re looking for something to spice up your music collection, we highly recommend you take a ride with the Yamaha Pro 400 – you might just uncover a few sonic gems you’ve been missing.
- Massively wide stereo field
- Enveloping sound dimension
- Impressive clarity and detail
- Classy styling
- A tad bright
- Fairly expensive