One or two steps away from budget perfection
You might not have heard of Takstar before. They?re located in Guangdong, China, and they?re mostly an OEM?which means they make products for other companies.
But if you?ve ever researched gaming headsets, you?ve almost certainly heard of the HyperX Cloud II?which is actually made by Takstar. That headset is based off of the Takstar Pro 80 headphones, and it?s an exceptional combination of a budget price, build quality, and sound performance.
Last summer, Takstar launched the Pro 82, the followup to their older design. The Pro 80 was heavily inspired by the Beyerdynamic DT770. But the new one throws all of that out
The Pro 82 is kind of like Sony?s MDR-1A, with some bits of the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro and Audio-Technica MSR7 thrown in for good measure.
US availability has been spotty at best since launch, but I finally managed to get my hands on one thanks to an Amazon seller.
The ~$90 Takstar Pro 82 gets rid of pretty much everything that made the Pro 80 great in favor of entirely different and mostly good things. It comes in black and silver colors. The design is so close to the Sony MDR-1A/1R frame that it wouldn?t shock me if Takstar either licensed the molds, or were the original makers of them in the first place.
Gone are the impressive 53mm drivers from the Pro 80, replaced with 40mm ?NdFeB? drivers. NdFeB is just a different way of writing ?Neodymium,? which is the magnet material used for pretty much every dynamic headphone driver on the planet, so it?s strange that Takstar decided to hype this up so much under a different name.
They were probably hoping you wouldn?t notice.
Some folks online are convinced that there are two different models of these headphones, that come in different colored boxes?but after lots of research, I think these are just standard manufacturing differences and down to whatever Takstar has on hand at the time.
The older models supposedly come with a 2.2m cable, and the newer ones come with a 1.6m cable. Well, my unit was manufactured in March of this year?and came with the 2.2m cable. And that?s listed as the current cable length on their site. So there you go.
Aside from the cable, you get a decent cloth bag, a comically over-done box, an inspection card that tells you when your unit was made, and a simple manual. Each ear cup has a little bass port adjustment slider that?s easy to click up and down even while on the head, so it?s a snap to play around with the sound settings mid-listen.
To paraphrase the great ZeosPantera, these are a little ?oooh.? They?re a little honky. Which is ironic because he seemed to love their sound.
I don?t hate the way they sound, but it won?t be to everyone?s taste.
I?ll talk about the default sound first and then touch on what the adjustable ports do.
First, the good. They have an excellent sense of clarity and detail without the slight grain of the Pro 80. A natural, prominent midrange is the star of the show here. If you give these a little power, they?ll show you all the detail and flaws in your audio that you want.
Bass extension and presence is good, even on the fully closed bass port setting, though the bass isn?t the most aggressive or boomy I?ve ever heard in my life. It?s just back there in the mix, doing its thing.
Unfortunately, the upper mids and highs can be sharp. Like metal. To the point where you quickly realize that the bass port sliders are probably there to help mitigate this a bit.
Now, as someone who doesn?t listen at the highest volumes and loves the aggressiveness of the DT770, the highs here aren?t quite fatiguing. And they maintain a clarity that?s just south of outright sibilance. But boy, are they ever present! If you?re a loud-volume listener, I can almost guarantee these will bother you after about 30 minutes.
These are not basshead headphones. They?re for people that like crisp, energetic detail. If you liked the MSR7, you?d like these. If you enjoy studio mixing headphones that can pick out hiss and buzz and flaws, you?ll like these too. But an extended relaxing listen, these are not.
Now let?s talk about the ports for a minute.
Takstar includes a graph with the headphones, and claims that each port setting increases bass response by an additional 3dB.
I?d say that?s accurate. On all three settings, the bass has the same slightly mushy, smooth character to it. Fully closed, it hangs out at the back of the room. On the middle setting, it?s at about the right level for portable use in a louder environment. The middle setting is probably my favorite for a longer session. And fully open?the bass just stomps all over the clean midrange and thickens it up.
I have no idea why the third setting is there. It?s comically out-of-balance, and the bass is not hard-hitting enough for it to satisfy basshead listeners. It just turns these into a dark messy mush with some sparkle on the top. You might have fun with it, but it comes close to ruining all the good aspects of the sound here.
So to sum-up, these are a solid analytical-listening pair for the price, that you can then ruin the bass on by boosting it too much. Not for those afraid of a little treble oomph. The original Pro 80 is a more pleasant listen over a long period of time.
The one benefit of the oomphy mids and highs is that soundstage performance is very nice in spite of the fully closed-back design. The center image is a little closer to the center of my head than the typical angled-driver model, but the left and right imaging is very nice.
They isolate quite well, and are totally fine for use in the loud coffee shop environment I test isolation in. The bass ports don?t have a major impact on isolation performance. They isolate a little better than the Sony and Audio-Technica headphones they were inspired by.
The Pro 82?s are nearly as comfy as the Sony MDR-1A?s, which is high praise indeed. The ear pads are made of a very soft leatherette material, and the padding inside is plush and easily conforms to the side of your head, and they perfectly molded around my glasses for a great seal. There?s plenty of room inside the cups, and the mesh inside the cups is also incredibly soft in case any part of your ear contacts it.
They?re just a touch more clampy than Sony?s classic design, but other than that are supremely comfortable. The clamp means they never quite disappear on the head, but they?re very pleasant to wear for hours and hours.
The headband padding seems like it might be too thin when you touch it, but the light weight of the headphones means it?s not a problem.
Also, they should fit a wide range of head sizes. I usually have to extend most headphones to the outside of their range, but not on the Pro 82. It has 10 clicks of adjustment on each side, and I only have to go to number 4. So if you?ve got a big head these should work well.
You?re probably thinking ?Okay, sounds pretty great so far, especially for the price.?
The build is where these don?t quite live up to the Takstar pedigree of delivering high build quality for a low price. They?re still okay. They?re just not exciting to touch or handle, at all.
The frame design of the headphones is nigh-identical to the Sony MDR-1A, and the design of the pads is also very similar. But the materials don?t live up to that standard.
Not that I should expect them to at this low price?but it?s hard to avoid the comparison when they look so similar.
Most of the headphone is made out of plastic, though there are some metal reinforcement bits inside the headband. The ear capsules are also cold to the touch, which makes me think they?ve copied Sony?s trick of reinforcing their outsides with aluminum.
The bottom of my left ear cup has a big scratch in the plastic.
Unlike the MDR-1A, the plastics used here are all very basic. The forks that hold the ear cups are hollow. The headphones are very light overall. And the adjustment clicks on the headband are a bit loose, with just enough hold to not slip accidentally.
My pair was not seated correctly in the foam insert in the box when I received it. One cup had flopped over and was lying flat instead of in the standard upright position. The hinges don?t creak or squeak, but they?re loose enough that they rotate a little too easily.
The ear pads are removable. But, they?re glued to plastic rings that then snap onto the cups.
Ghsjkslkdlsanklandlksd. That?s the sound of me being frustrated.
Glued-down ear pads are the worst. There?s no reason for this. The Pro 80 doesn?t have glued-down pads, and in fact, one of the trademarks of the Cloud II is that it comes with a second set of velour pads you can easily switch to.
If you ever want to change out the pads on the Pro 82, you?ll need to buy an entirely new set of pads and rings from Takstar?which as far as I can tell, is very hard to do unless you?re in Asia. Or, you could snap the rings off and then peel out a bunch of glue, then put your own pads on the rings.
It?s cumbersome, and gross.
Also, my left ear pad was not quite glued in properly and I had to do some basic repairs to it.
Thanks to everything they?ve borrowed from the Sony design, these are very nice looking?but their build doesn?t at all exceed their $90 price point. They?re strictly average?and they feel a bit more insubstantial than some cheaper headphones and headsets I?ve used in the past. I don?t think they?re going to fall apart if you breathe on them or anything?.but they don?t feel as nice in the hands as the other headphones they?re clearly inspired by.
That might be an unfair standard?.if the Pro 80 didn?t exist. But those older headphones are built just as well as their Beyerdynamic inspirations. So the ho-hum build here and the glued pads are a bummer.
The cable is detachable! Yay! It uses a 2.5mm connection at the headphone end?which is not the most robust choice in the world. The connection isn?t recessed at all, so it?ll work with any other 2.5mm cable, including cables for the Audio-Technica M-series.
I actually really like the included 2.2m cable. It?s very flexible, it doesn?t tangle or get any weird kinks, and it?s maybe the most premium-feeling part of the whole package. It feels like just the DT770 cable, in a good way. Takstar includes a screw-on 6.3mm adapter. The plug is a robust aluminum connector with a spring-style strain relief, just like the original M50 and other Takstar headphones, and several third-party cables.
The box that they come in is like a tiny road case. It?s made out of aluminum and has thick foam inserts. I wish that my pair had been seated correctly inside. The headphone cutout seems like it doesn?t perfectly fit the headphones and is instead a generic shape designed to fit several other pairs, so you might run into this same issue.
The headphones fold flat, but they don?t collapse at all. Also, they fold flat in the wrong direction to put around your neck. If you fold them and put them on your neck, the ear cup holes will be facing up at the ceiling instead of down towards your shoulders. That?s weird.
As cloth bags go, the cloth bag included with the Pro 82 is totally fine. It has a mesh interior that?s very similar to the mesh of the HyperX Cloud II bag.
If you?re a detail hound, and you want to do some critical listening on a budget?then these are great. They have a good sound, and excellent comfort.
But the build quality is a little unexciting, and the pads are glued down. For a comparable price, you could get the 7506, M40X, Cloud II, or HRM-5?and I couldn?t really blame you. In all of those cases, you?re getting a distributor with wider-reaching support departments, and sound signatures that are either easier to listen to or more in line with industry standards.
The Pro 82 is a curious thing. It?s a competent clone of the MDR-1A in all ways but build. Its sound is similar to something like the MSR-7, but with bass ports that you can bloat up the sound with if you open them all the way. It?s clearly a $90 pair of headphones?but it?s a pretty good $90 pair of headphones.
If the pads weren?t glued down, the plastics used were just a touch thicker, the treble were slightly less aggressive, and the adjustment system was more robust?this would be a must-buy for all but the most ardent bassheads. And I would have bought two.
I like it enough to keep it in my collection, but I think it?s just weird enough in the small details department to not be quite as good as the headphones it?s inspired by. And in a way, that?s a backwards compliment. It has exceptional sound and comfort for the price, and I think anyone who is a fan of the hobby will have a great time playing around with it. But it?s not quite as easy a no-brainer buy as its predecessor.
I guess that kind of spoils the headphone showdown I?m writing tomorrow.
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