Superlux HD661 – The Budget Portable

Though I’ve not written about the Superlux HD-668B here, it is one of my favorite budget full-size can and that isn’t just my opinion. I’ve been happy with my Sennheiser HD448 for my on-the-go use, that is when I’m not using my UE triple-fi 10 pro but I’ve been on the lookout for something more “fun” than the 448s. The Sennheiser HD 25-1 II is definitely one of the best portable headphones on my list though I’m always looking for something more affordable! Enter the Superlux HD661, a closed Studio monitor offering from Superlux which isn’t a full-size can but can offer the comfort of a full-size can for portable use.

Build & Fit:

The Superlux HD661 feels “solid” and sturdy for a headphone built with (hard) plastic and can definitely take a beating as a portable. It’s not very compact as the Koss Porta Pro or Sennheiser PX series but I’ve had no problems wearing them around my neck, which can’t be said of the HD448s! The earpads completely envelope my ear lobes and should do so for most ears (though these aren’t going to fit well if you’ve got “big ears”). Superlux makes use of the “wing-fit” to make the headphones hug the noggin (similar to Audio Technica) and being familiar with them from the HD-668B I did not have much problems here. The wings on the HD661s do their job well which is quite surprising because the upper frame of the headphone seemed to be a bit too stiff at first. That stiffness translated to a “clamped” fit initially though with time the fit relaxed just enough to provide a good trade-off between isolation and comfort (or I’ve just gotten used to the grip ;-)). The Leatherette earpads do get warm with time but for portable use they just fine (and would serve as ear muffs during winter) but I can see them becoming a bit too warm in  tropical weather! The swivel cups offer good seating and positioning on the ear and the possibility of single ear monitoring, provided cables are all you need for portable usage as well as studio monitoring. The sound isolation offered by the HD661 is quite good and was really helpful during my commute. I had no problems listening during noisy daily commutes and the seal also keeps the music from leaking as well.The hard plastic used is glossy and as gorgeous as the full black color seems its going to be a fingerprint magnet which is why I went with the grey one…though the other colors seem really tempting! (have a look here). I’ve added a video below showing the HD661 production process and its cool!

Performance:

As a Superlux product I was ready for a sound never heard at this price before and indeed found myself smiling at what the HD661 was capable of. Designed as a Studio Monitor the HD661 has a neutral tone with just the right amount of slight warmth, nice soundstage and wonderful detail. There is a very upfront presentation and enough soundstage to complement that style, which is very good for a closed headphone. Infact as Headfonia’s review puts it, the sound on the 661 is big for a portable sized headphone and is definitely helped by the bigger driver. I was pleasantly surprised by the bigger and accurate soundstage on the 661 coming from the HD448 and definitely enjoyed it.  The first-row-seating presentation style may not be the way to go for long listening as it quickly gets fatiguing but for reasonably short listening periods its pretty fun! My music palette includes Alternative, Jazz, Country, Soul,Pop and Rock sprinkled with R&B. The HD661 does all the first pretty well in almost all genres though I found it wanting in R&B and dance. The bass on the 661 is good but could definitely be better, something you realize once you through in amplifier. There is very little or no noticeable sub-bass, but the bass with enough attack and slam helps out in smoothing that disadvantage. The mids are smooth and but not special,the treble is clear and got the shine to go well with the forward presentation style of the headphone. I did not notice that listening to treble heavy tracks on the 661 can be a challenge as the rich detail and shiny upper frequency presentation becomes tiring. Overall the 661 has a very detailed and balanced presentation across the frequency spectrum.

As a headphone with an  impedance of 32 68 Ohms the HD661 can be used directly with most mp3 players and other portable audio sources. That is not to say that an amplifier is pointless. The HD661 connected to my Matrix mStage desktop amp came out with better dynamics and slam, across the board. Since we’re talking about the 661 as a portable I’ve to add that adding the Fiio E11 gave just about the same results as the desktop amp. I therefore highly recommend adding in any portable amp to push the 661 to its limits and get the last bit of performance out of this budget marvel.

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Verdict:

The Superlux HD661 is actually at a very special place in the portable headphone arena. It does not enjoy the popularity of much more established brands but comes out with a very mature product that should appeal to discerning consumers looking for a good balanced presentation of their music tastes. My previous portable headphone was a Koss Porta Pro and I”ve loved every moment of listening to it and have never been able to find something to replace it with the sound quality at an incredible price, until I came across the HD661. I have been using the Sennheiser HD448s after my Koss broke and now the HD661 with its fun presentation and musicality have replaced the HD448. I’m told that the Creative Aurvana Live! is a worthy competitor to the 661s but with incredible pricing of Superlux CAL! stands little chance. Oh! I should not forget to mention that there are some cool color versions of the HD661 that just means now good sound can go along with good looks as well ;-).

For technical specifications and more visit the HD661.com

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Author: Balachandar Radhakrishnan

I work in Project Management and love music, photography & more.

10 thoughts on “Superlux HD661 – The Budget Portable”

  1. The Superlux HD661 does not have a 32Ohms impedance. The rated impedance for this headphone is about 68Ohms (http://www.superlux.com.tw/productInfo.do?pdctid=523e40c2-fee4-41ca-9eff-61d2718f86f3&pdkid=3a182f85-9464-41bf-b4c7-d618102f84ac&level=2&lv0=1#skill_zone_li)

    I currently own a Sennheiser HD448, Superlux HD661, and a Superlux HD330. I beg to differ about the soundstage you mentioned in the review. Among the three headphones I own, the Sennheiser HD448 has the most accurate and widest soundstage. I am not saying this because I am a Sennheiser fan or anything. I applaud both brands.

    The Superlux HD661 is not very musical in my opinion. It leans heavily on treble and detail thus the analytical sound signature. Among the three headphones mentioned above, the Superlux HD661 has the most detailed presentation but the narrowest soundstage. However, I do agree about the aggressiveness of the HD661 and that it gets fatiguing during long listening sessions.

    The Sennheiser HD448 lacks bass extension and impact. I can always feel the lack of rumble with this headphone every time I listen to bass heavy tracks in lossless audio format. The treble is also not that sparkly either. The HD448 focuses on the mids, although it is not that detailed compared to the HD661.

    For me, the most musical headphone is the Superlux HD330. It has a semi-open type design with 40mm dynamic drivers rated at 150Ohms. The sound signature is warm with excellent bass extension and detail, and an average pace when it comes to lower frequencies. The mids are slightly recessed, this is expected due to the “V” shaped frequency response graph. However, the mids are reasonably detailed and full. Treble is also excellent and crisp. I’d say it has a very detailed treble despite the slightly emphasized bass region. Soundstage for this can is in between the HD661 and HD448. It is not as wide and accurate as the HD448 but certainly has better sound imaging compared to the HD661.

    1. Thanks for your input Ralph. After going through your comment I am now really looking forward to try the HD330s soon 🙂 Yes, the soundstage on the HD448 is better and accurate for the neutral presentation that it aims for. The HD661 however has a very upfront presentation and the amount of soundstage present for that style (of closed) headphone is quite nice (which is why I added that it sounds fun coming from the neutral 448s!)

  2. Would these still give a good performance unamped with just an ipod or mp3 ?!? And would the 68ohms mean a bigger drain on the devices battery ? Thanks

    1. Hi Lewis,
      The HD661 does a good job without an amplifier, thought its complete potential would not be realized! No, there will not be any increased battery drain. I would however highly recommend a basic amplifier like the Fiio E6, it really adds that shine at not so high price!

  3. Excellent review. Just taken delivery of these and they are excellent value. Once I tune the Poweramp app on my Galaxy 4 phone, they sound very nice indeed.

  4. I’m almost decided to go for these, since I’m looking to some closed back, kinda neutral headphones for monitoring on the field (video productions). Do you think they will be good for that kind of use? I also have the 668b that I use for editing/mixing the audio of my videowork, but since they’re open I’m looking for something closed, affordable and with good sound. My other option is the AKG-44, have you tested those?

    1. Hey, thanks for dropping by. Yes, I do think the 661 could serve as a budget monitor for field work. It is tough enough and can take some beating, also easy to replace ;-). I have not heard the AKG-44 but looking forward to trying it some time. Cheers!

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