You can’t destroy these headphones

I hate buying something cheap. There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling when you open something up and know it wasn’t that long ago in this world. I’m also really hard on my gear, which prompted me to purchase these bulletproof headphones from a mysterious company called German Maestro.

But to talk about these headphones, I need to talk about a different pair of headphones first: the Sony MDR-7506 (and its discontinued sibling, the Sony MDR-V6).

I edit a lot of videos and do voiceovers. And if you’ve ever done any video work, you’ve almost certainly used a pair of Sony MDRs. They are creative. You can select blue or red ribbon and cable coiled across a combination. When you go to film school, a pair of MDRs are basically issued like a service rifle, and not without good reason.

The Sony MDR-7506s are an industry standard, great value, and I hate them.
Image from Amazon

First of all, it’s cheap. They usually go for around $80 if you’re looking on sales. Their near ubiquity on movie sets means you can get these phones at a deep discount, making them one of the best deals for people who need a headset to work on. Then, the headphones are closed at the back, completely insulated, allowing you to detect imperfections in the mix. There’s a reason you can see dudes sonic on movie sets and videotaping them wearing them. Third, they’re somewhat “flat” and, without being too technical and pedantic, don’t try to dress up what you hear to make it sound interesting. They are not loud beats. This is to get the job done. Finally, it’s built well for the cost. It’s foldable and durable, which is why you can toss it in your Porta Brace without worrying about it getting damaged.

For what they do, MDRs are fine. But they aren’t perfect.

For one thing, they have a very long, non-removable phone cable that could be fine in a studio setup but comical if you’re trying to listen to music on your phone. I hate this cable with every fiber of my being. In principle, I strongly feel that all headphone cables should be removable, as cables can suffer from abuse. But what really drives me up a wall is that I hate the coiled style of cable. I find it snags easily on a lot of things and every time it twisted it would push me up a wall.

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The second thing is that the foam pads on the MDRs suck straight up. It’s not just a matter of convenience; They are just really bad platforms. I always upgrade the pads on my headphones to either Dekoni or Brainwavz platformsbut you’re almost certainly going to have to replace those pads sooner than you think, especially if you use them in a ruthless production context.

A pair of Sony MDR-7506 with badly degraded headphone pads.

The foam on this stuff sucks really bad, man. I’ve seen this and worse happen many times over the years.
Photo: Alex Parkin, The Verge

Finally, I just don’t like the way they look. How headphones sound gets into highly subjective territory, but MDRs are, at best, good, and at worst, Very tough for me. These were headphones for work, but there was just something about the treble sound that made my skin crawl as I listened to people talk. It’s not fair that I’m asking more from MDRs for the price, but at the end of the day, I wanted something a little nicer: a professional version of the MDRs with nicer foam, better sling and removable options, and a less stressful sound. At the time (November 2020), this was not offered in America.

This led me down a long, winding path, trying to find a pair of headphones that all ticked the same tags: flat cable, indestructible, closed-back, better. When you get to the higher levels of audiophile deviation, most of your headphone options outside of IEMs are open or semi-open. I searched for some of the most respected studio headphones out there. Many people I know swear by Advantages of the Beyerdynamic DT 770And while it’s already a studio staple, is solid, and has some of the most comfortable stock pads of any headphone in its range, it’s not what I’d call flat, and I couldn’t get used to the sound of it. the Audio Technica ATH M50x It also eliminated many of my needs, but I didn’t like the sound, and it didn’t feel particularly snug or burdensome. A friend of mine swears by the Sennheiser HD 300 Pros, and I believe him, but unfortunately, I never got to test them. Sony also has another obscure but well-respected non-foldable big brother to the MDR-7506s called MDR-CD900ST It has a flat cable, as well as a high-end model called Sony MDR-M1ST It has a detachable cable, but the former wasn’t available outside of Japan until very recently and the latter you still have to import.

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Ultimately, my answer came in the form of a 76-page thread on the Head-fi forums from 2009-2019 by a user called Acix titled “German Maestro GMP 8.35 D monitor in the studio…SERIOUS ABOUT SOUND, INDEED!!I’d never heard of the German Maestro (formerly MB Quart), but from the hopping, I was intrigued. The speakers sounded industrial. Solid. effective. In a word, they looked like Germans. “Man, I’m all about funtion (sic) on shape, but these have to be the ugliest phones I’ve seen,” said user Bones2010. To me, they looked beautiful.

Close-up of the German Maestro's industrial logo.

“SERIOUS ABOUT SOUND, INDEED!!”
Photo by Christopher Pearson/The Verge

Many of the reviews were glowing, with repeated mentions of “Indestructible”. Someone dropped a picture of a pair of black leather shoes walking on it. Another topic mentioned that they were frequently used on listening stations in music stores. People seem to like their well-balanced, detailed sound and the fact that they’re very sensitive and therefore don’t need a powerful headphone amplifier to hear them. in topics Elsewhere, reviews compare it favorably with Sennheiser HD25-1s, but better with a slightly darker tone. taut. controlled. One user mentioned that they were Best in every respect to their MDRs, which is exactly what I wanted at the price point.

As the theme has progressed over several years, people have started to get creative. Some did not like the sanitary pads and replaced them with lush ones of the DT770s mentioned above Beside Brainwavez HM5s. Others just drilled holes in it and did it Modifications to the stock cable. Eventually, the German maestro released a version with a removable cable and an extra pair of stock pads called The GMP 8.35 Mobile Specifically because of the requests of clients with autism. It’s refreshing to hear a company get feedback like that.

Oh thank goodness the detachable cable.  That's all I ask.

Oh thank goodness the detachable cable. That’s all I ask.
Photo by Christopher Pearson/The Verge

The phones seem to be ticking every single tick, but buying them turned out to be a little tricky. Apart from a drop.com Nobody stocked them in the US, so I had to order them directly from the manufacturer and pay in Euros. I waited patiently, and when they arrived, they were exactly what I needed them to be.

I was immediately surprised at how strong they were. The plastic was thick, but it didn’t weigh the phones down. Everything made today feels cheap and flimsy. They felt like they were from a different era, not stuck in a time when products were measured in decades, not years. These headphones were equivalent to English made Doc Martens. I can throw this stuff at a brick wall, He ran a bike on themGet them out of a dog’s teeth, and they’ll probably be fine.

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They sounded the way they sounded: “censored,” as one forum user put it. I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds of audiophile testing because that’s not the point of this blog (although I’d gladly lend my husband a wrinkle or The folks at Audio Science Review for more extensive testing). It was crisp and flat, with plenty of detail but not terribly flashy. The bass was present, but not as overbearing as you would find a Beyerdynamics. If something is wrong with my mix, I can hear it right away, like listening to a couple of songs Yamaha NS10s. I ended up favourite velor pillows, which slightly changed the sound, but recently I wanted to try other options. They’re not the best headphones I’ve ever heard, but within the parameters of what I want them to do, they’re unrivaled.

Of course, they weren’t everyone’s cup of tea. I showed them that some people have found them a little uncomfortable. Others didn’t like the sound. When I showed them to Alex Parkin on the video team (a certified MDR user who has a good pair and also despises coiled cable), I freaked him out. “I will definitely need to get used to these,” he said.

Built like a tank.

Built like a tank.
Photo by Christopher Pearson/The Verge

But even people who can’t get off the sound agreed that they are powerful, effective, and have wonderful isolation. The Maestros are perfect studio headphones made by a small and mysterious company that seems to really care about the product they make. Are they worth the trouble of importing? I personally have no regrets.

In the corner of my desk, I have two speakers hanging from a hook: a pair of Heavyman and maestros.

Hifimans are large, airy and comfortable Dekoni pads I replaced. These are my easy listening headphones. It’s big and flimsy, never left my desk, and I still have to order a replacement headband from the manufacturer.

Maestro is sitting next to them. They’re my go-to, sensible and rugged “work headphones,” as much for sturdiness and focus as the Herman Miller chair. Every time I pick it up, I feel joy. I think of the decade-old threading forum, with new people taking turns, discovering, loving, and sometimes really hating these caddies. I carry them around and know there is a very good chance they will continue to work for decades, perhaps even after my death and burial, and how rare it is to buy a piece of equipment designed to outlive you.

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