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Pioneer SE-M290 Headphones Review

post #1 of 41
Thread Starter 
Well, today I will be doing my first audio review. We are looking at the Pioneer SE-M290 headphones that were recently on sale on newegg for $15 shipped. There will be a huge variety of tests and torturing that I will put these headphones through, so if they last after my torture, then they can't be too bad .



We will be focusing on a number of different tests. They will include a few different common types of music, gaming, movies, and even TV shows. I will also be testing frequency response (based off my own hearing).


Table of Contents:
So, now we need to take the next step! Let's unbox this $15 find .
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post #2 of 41
Thread Starter 
When you first opened your newegg box, you'll notice that there's a LOT of packing peanuts.

They did do a very interesting thing though. The put the box inside of a plastic bag, and then in the shipping box.


Here's a closeup of the box before attempting to crack it open.


Of course, they don't make these things easy to open. I had to use a knife, some brute force, and a pickle. I still haven't figured out what the pickle was for though .


Here's what they look like after opening, with all accessories in the box. The added 3.5mm to 6.3mm jack was a very nice addition.


I definitely like the way they can sit like this. Can be very handy when taking them off.


And finally, a comparison shot of these next to my more expensive (believe it or not) Logitech ClearChat's.
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post #3 of 41
Thread Starter 
Today's test system consists of the following components:
  • Onboard Sound from the 790FX Chipset
  • Pioneer VSX-504S Receiver (Dolby Prologic, 135w RMS x 5 @ 8ohm)
  • Pioneer SG550 7 Band Graphic Equalizer (testing on and off)
  • Pioneer SE-M290 Headphones (obviously)

The Receiver (the EQ is behind the monitor)


My first set of tests will be ran with all settings zeroed out, and then I will adjust to my personal liking and compare.
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post #4 of 41
Thread Starter 
One thing I've noticed immediately, is that these headphones are very midrange heavy. A lot of reviews say they're bass heavy. While they do have quite a bit of bass at zeroed out settings, its not overwhelming. The midrange is what's drowning out the treble.

They don't sound bad all flat. They are definitely very clean sounding. You can hear all the notes perfectly fine. But since they're so midrange heavy, I will be conducting my actual testing with EQ'd settings.

This picture is exactly how my EQ is, except I have 60Hz instead of 50Hz.

My settings are as follows:
  • 60Hz = 0dB
  • 125Hz = -2dB
  • 350Hz = -4dB
  • 750Hz = -2dB
  • 2.2kHz = 0dB
  • 6.0kHz = +2dB
  • 15kHz = +4dB
-------------------------------------------------
Music Testing:

First we'll test my favorite type of music. Rap / Hip-hop. These tests are being performed on flac and 320k mp3 bitrates.

Test songs:
  • Akon - Smack That (feat. Eminem)
  • Akon - I Wanna Love You (feat. Snoop Dogg)
  • Tech N9ne - Demons (feat. Three 6 Mafia)
  • Tech N9ne - Hunterish (feat. Irv Da Phenom & Krizz Kaliko)
  • Tech N9ne - In The Trunk
  • Eminem - Crack A Bottle (feat. Dr. Dre & 50 Cent)
  • Eminem - Fack
  • Eminem - Shake That (feat. Nate Dogg)
  • Young Jeezy - My Hood
  • Young Jeezy - Soul Survivor (feat. Akon)
  • Young Jeezy - I Luv It
  • Young Jeezy - Put On

My Rock collection will be played as 320k mp3. I haven't had the time to re-encode these as flac. The rap songs above were only in flac because I wanted to see a difference.

Test Songs:
  • ACDC - Back In Black
  • ACDC - Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap
  • ACDC - Big Balls
  • ACDC - Highway To Hell
  • Avenged Sevenfold - Almost Easy
  • Avenged Sevenfold - Scream
  • Avenged Sevenfold - Afterlife
  • Avenged Sevenfold - Bat Country
  • Boston - Peace Of Mind
  • Boston - More Than A Feeling
  • Def Leppard - Pour Some Sugar On Me
  • Drowning Pool - Bodies
  • Korn - Y'all Want A Single
  • Korn - Here To Stay
  • Korn - Twisted Transistor
  • Led Zeppelin - Stairway To Heaven
  • Puddle of Mudd - Control
  • Puddle of Mudd - Blurry
  • Puddle of Mudd - She Hates Me
  • System Of A Down - BYOB
  • System Of A Down - Chop Suey
  • System Of A Down - Toxicity

The "Ultrasone Reference CD" was also recommended to be tested as well, so that will be done after the two tests above. I will also test a few easy listening / pop songs as well (such as Mariah Carey and Mya). A few songs from Bass Mekaniks will also be played for bass response.

-------------------------------------------------
Game Testing:

Games to be tested:
  • Call of Duty 4
  • Battlefield Bad Company 2
  • Mafia II
  • Grand Theft Auto 4
  • GRiD
  • DiRT2

These will all be ran in roughly 15-30 minute intervals. Just to get a general idea how they sound.

-------------------------------------------------
Movie Testing:

I will watch a few movies, but I will skip to certain scenes to save on time.

Movie List / TV Show List:
  • Austin Powers The Spy Who Shagged Me
  • Blue Collar Comedy Tour
  • The Fast & The Furious Tokyo Drift
  • The Simpsons
  • Boy Meets World

Again, these tests are only for 15-30 minutes each. Same as the gaming session.

-------------------------------------------------
Results and Impressions:

Music:
After some EQ settings adjusted to turn down the midrange, these headphones are very clean. They may still be a little bass heavy for some users, but I personally like hearing the bass in my songs. I noticed some subtle differences between flac and mp3, but nothing too serious.

I also heard new things in certain songs, that I never knew existed in these songs before. There was a song from System of a Down that I heard some whispering in, that I never heard before.

These headphones are definitely great general music headphones. They hit all the bass notes in the rap tests, got loud as hell in the rock tests, and the easier listening stuff was just gorgeous sounding. The treble response on these are a lot more amazing than most reviews give them credit for. And the bass is very clean.

I also noticed that these headphones do bottom out fairly easily with enough power driving them. To a super bass-head such as myself, they leave a very small bit to be desired from the bass section. But trust me, there was honestly enough output in some songs to make me flinch. And I've sat in a near 160dB car audio car before without a flinch. So they DEFINITELY pack a strong punch.

One more thing worth noting. A few of the test songs are unfortunately in smaller bit rates than 320k. I can CLEARLY hear the difference with the songs that are 256k mp3 and lower. For example, Stairway to Heaven is 128k CBR, and its plain as day that its a low bitrate.

Ultrasone Reference CD:

There is only one word to describe this CD. Wow!!!! If anybody reading this review has a half decent set of cans, you have GOT to try this thing out. I literally feel like I'm sitting right in the middle of whatever is going on (right now its fireworks). Binaural recording is amazing on the proper headphones . I tried this before on my Logitech's, and yeah...I didn't see what was so special. Now I do.

Gaming:

Well, these headphones are really bringing gaming into a whole new dimension. First person shooter games, I can now tell more easily where enemies are at. Every explosion from a grenade comes to life! Call of Duty 4 and Battlefield Bad Company 2 sound incredible. I only played both briefly, simply because I was eager to finish, and report back here. I could hear footsteps plain as day! I could hear the "pink" noise my bullets made as they hit random cargo containers while spraying.

Third person games, I have to say...these sound, well different to say the least. Mafia II, the classic radio stations kind of threw me off. I thought I was actually listening to the radio . In Grand Theft Auto 4, I shot down a few test helicopters, and even ran over a few unsuspecting pedestrians. The noises from both were VERY satisfying.

And the racing games, well now, there's something interesting. If you think sound plays no role in racing, you're wrong! I could tell where the first few cars behind me were at at all times. I could easily cut them off and keep them from passing me. I could hear each individual tire as it lost traction. The engine sounds, well they weren't any different from my cheap logitech cans. But its the subtle differences that are making these awesome.

So for those of you that claim headphones don't make a difference in gaming, well you're definitely wrong. I think these might help me to be a more sneaky shooter, or a better racer...because I can now hear all the subtle sounds that I couldn't before hand.

Movies / TV Shows:

These headphones definitely show the impurities of my DVD-rips. I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. I usually don't watch stuff with headphones on anyway, so its not a huge deal.

Voices were crystal clear. Music in the movies was definitely noticeable (for some reason some of my rips have the music louder). All in all, I was actually disappointed with how my videos sounded. There were too many imperfections, and loudness issues.

The stereo seperation however, was absolutely great. I really enjoyed watching Tokyo Drift with these cans on (I actually borrowed a DVD drive, and watched the DVD). So they definitely work GREAT for media use....as long as the source is decent. I definitely learned that my encoding style from before is horrible. Unfortunately, I don't feel like re-encoding 600GB worth of movies and 200GB worth of TV shows. So I'll just ignore the headphones for watching stuff.
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post #5 of 41
Thread Starter 
Well to do a few frequency response tests, I decided to use good old trusty Bass Mekaniks. I used their test section, from 100Hz down to 10Hz. I then used some old Sine Waves that I had saved from waaay back when I was first getting into this stuff.

I had the ability to reach down to 28Hz successfully, and up to 12kHz successfully. These headphones hit all notes from 100Hz down to 28Hz almost perfectly flat. This was using my own ears though. Below 28Hz was reachable (down to 20Hz), but there was a sharp dropoff in output after 28Hz. 20Hz was still able to be heard, which is an amazing feat on its own. 19Hz and below completely fell on their face, without extreme power being driven to them. I believe the high frequency testing was because of low quality recordings, or the software I had used to create the tones. So take the cutoff of 12kHz with a grain of salt. My test tones were created using a very old version of Goldwave (if I remember correctly), and they're in 96k mono CBR mp3 format with a 44.1kHz sampling rate.
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post #6 of 41
Thread Starter 
All in all, these headphones were an absolute STEAL at $15. Anybody that jumped on that price, you guys got a great set of cans. I don't know if I would have payed retail $50 for them though, or $60 for the SE-M390's. They sound very good and clear on music, gaming, and media as long as you've got a good source. Also keep in mind that these WILL need to have EQ settings adjusted to sound good. Like I said, they were very mid-range heavy with all flat EQ settings.

Overall Rating:

Sound - 8/10
Comfort - 10/10
Value - 9.5/10
Looks - 9/10

Overall Score - 9.1 / 10

I rated these a 8/10 for sound because they do need EQ settings adjusted to sound good. They also show imperfections in poor source quality. Again, I'm not sure if that's good or bad, but the EQ problems are what's dropping the score here. After EQ adjustments they sound absolutely killer.

Comfort scored 10/10. I wear glasses, and find headphones to always be uncomfortable. After an hour's use on my Logitech's, my ears would hurt REALLY badly. Well, I wore these Pioneer cans for 8 hours straight yesterday while testing. Not a single complaint from my ears, other than my ears eventually got a little warm. They didn't get sweaty, they didn't hurt...just a little warm.

Value got a 9.5/10. Again, mainly the EQ issues are holding it back here. If they sounded great right out of the box, these would have been solid 10's across the board from me.

And finally looks scored a 9/10. They're by far not the ugliest cans out there, but they're not the prettiest either. I personally like the looks of them. They've also got a HUGE long cable (I want to say about 10 feet??). I mean there's really nothing to complain about, but there are better out there.

Overall, if you're looking for some cheap budget cans, these will DEFINITELY do the trick. I'm not sure if they'll work on onboard sound, somebody else will have to comment on that, as I run mine amplified. I certainly wouldn't suggest these at retail price, but if you find them on sale for $40 or less, feel free to pick up a set and try them yourself. You won't be disappointed for the price.

Current models:

One last thing to make note of. I've compared the specifications of these SE-M290's to the current model SE-M390's. I don't see a single bit of difference, other than the frequency range on the 390's is definitely blown out of proportion. They have the same 40mm drivers. And if Pioneer's headphones are anything like their subwoofers, there's likely no change generally from year to year other than aesthetics. So if you find the 390's on sale, grab them .
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post #7 of 41
Sheesh all this for $25 headphones? I expect it maybe for your new (to you) speakers you rockin in the garage...
   
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post #8 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildcard36qs View Post
Sheesh all this for $25 headphones? I expect it maybe for your new (to you) speakers you rockin in the garage...
Keep in mind the regular price on newegg for these headphones was $50. They went on clearance for $15 to make room for this year's model. And if Pioneer does their headphones anything like their subwoofers....this year's model is likely the same.
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post #9 of 41
What other headphones have you used? Just curious as to what you can compare these to when you do listen to them.
   
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post #10 of 41
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildcard36qs View Post
What other headphones have you used? Just curious as to what you can compare these to when you do listen to them.
I will be comparing them to my (believe it or not) more expensive Logitech Clearchat headphones. I do have a very tuned ear though . I will probably also be comparing them to my speakers too.
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Intel i7 2600k @ 4.80GHz, 1.40v Asus P8P67 Pro Modded Powercolor HD7950 Boost Modded Powercolor HD7950 Boost 
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Modded Powercolor HD7950 Boost 2x4GB Samsung WonderRAM DDR3-1600 @ DDR3-2133, ... Sandisk Ultra 128GB SSD WD Green 2TB 
CoolingCoolingOSMonitor
CoolerMaster Hyper 212+ Evo 120mm NZXT Fans strapped to the 7950's Ubuntu Dell 3007WFP 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
Dell 17" 1280x1024 OCN Ducky Cherry MX Blue PC P&C Silencer MKIII 950w NZXT Source 530 
MouseMouse PadAudio
Logitech MX310 Blue Cheap junk 
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Ol' Trusty
(19 items)
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsGraphics
Intel i7 2600k @ 4.80GHz, 1.40v Asus P8P67 Pro Modded Powercolor HD7950 Boost Modded Powercolor HD7950 Boost 
GraphicsRAMHard DriveHard Drive
Modded Powercolor HD7950 Boost 2x4GB Samsung WonderRAM DDR3-1600 @ DDR3-2133, ... Sandisk Ultra 128GB SSD WD Green 2TB 
CoolingCoolingOSMonitor
CoolerMaster Hyper 212+ Evo 120mm NZXT Fans strapped to the 7950's Ubuntu Dell 3007WFP 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
Dell 17" 1280x1024 OCN Ducky Cherry MX Blue PC P&C Silencer MKIII 950w NZXT Source 530 
MouseMouse PadAudio
Logitech MX310 Blue Cheap junk 
  hide details  
Reply
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Overclock.net › Forums › Components › Sound Cards and Computer Audio › Pioneer SE-M290 Headphones Review