Link: Allen & Heath - Price: $99/€89/£79
As I continue on my quest to review every pair of DJ headphones on the planet, I remembered a pair that slipped through the net from the days of skratchworx. You’ll recall that we did somewhat like Allen & Heath‘s xone XD-53 headphones, as do a solid slice of the headphone buying masses. But then there’s the more affordable and smaller XD-40s. I tried them briefly at one Musikmesse show and was impressed, but only now have I organised a pair for review.
In The Box
This’ll be a short paragraph – a bag and a 1/4″ adaptor. Does there need to be anything more? For this price, probably not. But yes, the cable is fixed.
They do look like a lot of other headphones – quite unremarkable styling to be honest. The overall blackness is broken up with Silver detailing on the cups, as well as nice chrome flashes of the xone logo. These are strictly utility rather than a fashion statement.
The XD-40s are very lightweight. It’s a bizarre thing – even though they are 50g heavier than the ubiquitous Sennheiser HD25s, the actual headset is the same. It’s the coiled cable that makes up the rest of the weight. The construction of the XD-40s however gives the appearance of being heavier. While there is a metal strip in the headband, the rest is all plastic, but that isn’t a criticism – it does all feel remarkably well put together plastic. Everything moves freely without rattles, and bends without groaning.
It’s a strange sensation – being so light but being as well built as they are, they almost feel cheap. But that’s a long way from the truth. You’d have a pick up a pair to understand. All you need to know is that they’ll feel like nothing on your head, and take a reasonable beating. The hinges and pivots are just like other headphones, so there is a degree of suspicion about longevity anyway. But that’s all it is – I feel that they’re so lightweight, the stresses on the mechanism are less than bigger models.
One black mark – the cable is fixed. I hate that.
Subjective opinion time again. Unless you’re aiming for premium price bracket and wiling to engineer the headphones accordingly (Beyerdynamic DT 1350 for example), a smaller driver isn’t going to deliver the thump and wallop of a regular 50mm one. And that’s very true here. While the mids and tops are well defined, the lower end is a little lacking unless you press the cups to your ears. This does leave the mids and top feeling slightly overwhelming. That’s from a purely listening perspective. From a DJ perspective, where I’m considerably less fussy, I was very happy. Still detailed when cranked up, and offered more than enough clarity across the sound spectrum.
Being on-ear cans, I always find them to be a better fit across my lugs, and this is very true of the XD-40 headphones. The pads are soft, and make for a good seal, and keep noise out and in pretty well. One thing that would have helped here is a less flexible headband. If they gripped my head more like the Senheisser HD25s, I think it would have been even better.
Comfort and Stability
Right from the start, the extra lightweight nature of the XD-40s gives them a solid headstart over other headphones. You barely notice them, and bar some Motorhead induced headbanging, they stay quite static on your head. The exceptionally well pivoted cups (to the point of feeling like juggling fish at times!) mean that regardless of the shape of your head, the XD-40s will find their footing.
I also like the headband – being a full length one, I find them to take the pressure across the top of my head rather than digging in like a single small pad just at the top. Again, the extra flexibility of the headband is the only small niggle with them. A wee but tighter and these would have been near perfect.
40mm cups are a good start, as is the rest of the build that matches it. And with the pivots and hinges working so well, the XD-40 cans fold up like Yen in the Ocean’s films. You can even fold them up flat inside the headband. But however you store them, they will barely make a dent in your bag.
While the Allen & Heath name is all about quality for a price, they’ve done especially well to cram a lot of quality into a small and cost effective package. The XD-53s sit in a quality and price slot that means Allen & Heath needed to come in with something to occupy a lower slot. But in doing so, they haven’t produced something worse. They simply suit the needs of a different user, and that user is looking for something smaller, lighter, cheaper but still worthy of the tag of DJ headphone without paying the earth.
The XD-40s wear the Xone logo with pride.
Hype: Comfort, lightness, isolation.
Gripe: Fixed cable.