Austrian Audio Hi-X55 Review
Austrian Audio, the new manufacturer with “AKG roots,” has already caused a sensation in the audio world outside of Austria with its OC818 and OC18 microphones. The Austrians have chosen the headphone segment as the next device category and are starting 2020 with the two closed models Hi-X50 and Hi-X55.
The latter is in front of me for the test to be put through its paces. My expectations are high since the Austrian Audio headphones are the same development team responsible for my long-term companion AKG K812, also manufactured in the Alpine republic. Responsible for. You can read in our test report which specific applications the studio headphones are suitable for!
- Solid sound (for recording)
- Unreservedly recommended for recordings
- High sealing
- Scope of delivery
- Middle area slightly overemphasized
Construction and processing
The Austrian Audio Hi-X55 are circumaural headphones with dynamic sound transducers. The housing has a hinge mechanism for space-saving folding of the headphones. The Hi-X55, made in Austria, looks extremely distinctive and of high quality, partly due to the use of metal for the load-bearing housing parts. Nevertheless, the weight is only a moderate 305 grams, making the Austrian Audio lighter than it looks. The quality is flawless. In terms of touch, the Hi-X55 does not differ in any way from more expensive premium headphones. Only the lockable plastic plug connection in the left auricle makes a somewhat more fragile impression than comparable solutions of the studio headphones from AKG, Audio-Technica, Adam Audio, and Mackie, which I have at the same time, which doesn’t fit into the robust overall appearance of the headphones. Moreover, when locking the bayonet lock, in my opinion, there is a risk of overwinding the mechanism and possibly wearing it out over the long term and, in the worst case, damaging it.
Scope of delivery
The replaceable 3-meter cable of the Hi-X55 has the obligatory duo of a 3.5-millimeter jack and a 6.35-millimeter screw adapter, both gold-plated. There is also a cloth bag, a sticker with the company logo, and a note/tip regarding the use of the Velcro tape that is wrapped around the packaging box for “cable management.” Concerning the scope of delivery, Austrian Audio is self-confident and does not try to compete for customers with various cable options and practical hard cases, as is the case with the American company Mackie with its new models MC-350 and MC-450, which I received at the same time Test available. This should not be a criticism, but it is noticeable in this context.
Technology and key figures
Due to their low impedance of 25 ohms and high sensitivity (118 dB SPL / V), the newly developed dynamic drivers of the Hi-X55 ensure, in addition to their actual purpose in the studio, powerful playback at weaker headphone outputs, such as the headphone sockets of mobile playback devices. The other technical data, which are always listed at the end of the review, meet the requirements of professional headphones in every detail and, except the distortion factor, rarely say anything about the actual playback character—more on this in the practical part.
Purpose of use
As headphones in a closed design, the Austrian Audio Hi-X55 is suitable for recording rooms and monitoring loud ambient noises. Furthermore, since the Hi-X55 is remarkably effectively insulated in direct comparison to my professional monitoring headphones ( Adam Audio Studio Pro, Audio-Technica ATH-M50X ), it could be used in critical situations, for example, with microphone systems that are sensitive to cross-talk. Although it also performs excellently in terms of sound in some parameters, I see the Hi-X55 subjectively less at the mixing station, but more on this later.
I find the fit and comfort, even over long periods, to be extremely successful. The memory foam pads on both the ear cups and headband do a first-class job and seem to be wrapped in the same soft leather used for the earpads on my AKG K812. However, I could not find any specific reference to the material used anywhere. Despite the high isolation level and the auricles are sucked into the head, the AA headphones do not make them uncomfortable to wear. You have to get used to the handling of the size adjustment first. In principle, it is a conventional grid mechanism, but on the Hi-X55, it is unusually high on the headband to operate, which you get used to quickly.
For this test, the Austrian Audio Hi-X55 was operated on the following headphone outputs or amplifiers:
- Lake People G93
- SPL Phonitor mini
- Apple iPad (6th generation)
- UAD Apollo 8
The contoured bass avoids overemphasis, and I generally like the well-balanced highs very much. In contrast, the reproduction of the mids does not correspond to my preferences, and I like the AKG K872 a little that I tested some time ago and that I didn’t warm to. While the lower mids appear reduced and cool, singing voices sound a bit “potty” and “resonant” in the upper mids. This is not a drama for monitoring headphones and can sometimes even be useful when performing. Still, with closed headphones, I always hope to discover ultimate all-rounders suitable for both recording and all other work steps up to mixing and mastering. For me, the Hi-X55 does not have this kind of universality, although I do not want to rule out that the Austrian Audio can fulfill precisely this function for other users. Try it out, and feel free to comment on your experiences and impressions at the end of this review!
Impulse behavior and spatial mapping
Here the Hi-X55 scores with remarkable depth graduation and a natural, almost three-dimensional stage impression that is rarely found in headphones of the closed design. Especially closed headphones often make me want to activate the crossfeed matrix of my SPL Phonitor mini with Austrian Audio. I don’t see any need for this. Furthermore, the Hi-X55 has a fast transient response and excellent dynamic reproduction without any noticeable compression artifacts. In the parameters mentioned, the AA headphones have the potential to make critical sound assessments.
The strikingly designed Hi-X55 from Austrian Audio has all the features that characterize professional monitoring headphones. However, for universal use, i.e., explicitly and sound assessments during mixing and mastering, I do not find the mid-range tuning to be ideal. In addition, singing voices in finished productions tend to have a cool and slightly “potty” sound, although this type of coloration/presence could be useful when monitoring during the recording. That’s why I see the Hi-X55 less as an all-around headphone but more as a specialist for sensitive miking or monitoring at high ambient volumes and in the recording room.