Ah Superlux, my finely tuned budget friendly headphone manufacturer are back again with a new update on their classic HD681, the Evo edition or HD681 Evo. The lines are sleeker, the packaging is updated and the cans now reek of consumer awesomeness with a white and black edition all for the princely sum of around $70 or local P1950.00. How a headphone can get any cheaper and not suck is beyond me so testing the HD681 Evo I had no expectations other than what I encountered before from Superlux and they were filed under the “improving bang for buck” category.

Well I did say update on the packaging, but better to just say different in an eco conscious kind of way as its mostly cardboard with a little ingenious pressure slide fold on the top that allow you to unbox it. You wont win any prizes but please be patient and try not to rip the thing because it will unpack eventually and reveal the contents which thankfully now include a pouch, a short and long cable terminated with a 3.5mm jack and a quarter adapter. The short cable is for a more mobile solution and the long is primarily for desktop usage.

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Mind you all that sort of pales in the background when you see these cans as they have had a major cosmetic overhaul looking far more consumer friendly in black and white. They seem just as big as the HD681 original but far better finish if you ask me. They don’t convey quite the same anticipated gravitas as I had hoped from looking at the marketing spiel and pics but they look bang up to date in their twin color schemes. And boy are these light cans to hold and wear and I am very grateful they don’t have the patented clamp of death inherited from the HD631 DJ with bigger and softer pleather pads on the cups. They are semi-open with a small amount of leakages and background noise so not the most commuter friendly given the already Princess Leia’s hairdo inspired size but there is enough there for pleasant indoor isolation and long term listening without too much sweat and next to no discomfort.

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Much like the Monitor’s I had a look at last week these come in at 98db so stronger powered DAP’s or a small amp will get the most out of the HD681 Evo and its larger than average 50mm driver even though its rated at 32ohms. My personal choice was the Cowon X7 unamped given it’s tight and punchy internal amp being rather superior to the average ipod DAP internal amp. Anyone wondering what to budget for if deciding to strap an amp, well not much to be honest, a FiiO E6 should suit most or an E07K for a bit of flexibility in DAC and amping. Anything beyond that is just overkill.

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Straight off those complaints about the hot highs on the older HD681 seems to have been addressed with a much better behaved if somewhat rolled off treble reproduction on the new Evo edition. This would be a super new development if it wasn’t for a huge fat muddy mid-bass hump dominating everything. A 50mm driver is going to give you acres of space to fill and Superlux filled it with a consumer profile so addicted to the old tried and tested mid-bass hump it seems rather odd to even consider rolling off the treble in the first place as it struggles for any headroom on really strong vocal tracks such as Emeli Sande’s “Heaven” from her recent “Our Version of Events” album. You cannot really get past it and poor old Emeli is lost somewhere in the background when her vocals are often the strongest point of the track. Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know” has plenty of bass rumble but again the reverb is a touch high for me and the vocals a bit lost. For this size of driver and sound stage potential I would like to have seen a bit more forward mid section and vocal reproduction. There is a bit of elevation on the upper mid’s but its just above the vocal performance for some of my tracks and that sadly crowds out male vocals and slightly less so on female vocals for me.

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On the flip side kudos to Superlux for taming the highs which was one of my major complaints on their earlier HD661 from 2011 which I thought was super hot and aggressive and quite fatiguing to be fair. The HD681 Evo is much smoother and much easier on the ear giving you the chance for much longer listening periods. Now on some genres that is going to work out just fine such as ambient and electronica where mid-bass humps work quite well on a musical level and day to day casual listening level. They are much too colored for any serious reference listening. On soundtracks such as the King Arthur “Road to Ruin” (2004) it does fill out and gave a pretty bombastic response from the bass upwards. If just a little more balanced in its tuning it would have actually been very interesting comparing it to say the SoundMagic HP100 and HP200 but it just lacks that coherence and top end to really soar on complex recordings. The HD681 Evo really likes you to like bass and will willingly perform to your hearts content if that is your bag in a very casual way.

Final Thoughts.

For those who want the HD681 without the hot treble then the EVO is for you. It is a darn sight sexier looking, has a bass hump to rival a camels back and a consumer friendly profile that will wow the uninitiated on initial impression. For the price it is really hard to knock-it, for a first time upgrade its far more rewarding than any knock off which can be often more expensive but for those who crave a tad more detail and something to really justify those huge 50mm drivers might consider saving up some more and getting the SoundMagic HP100 or HP200 which is a far more balanced proposition.

Technical Specifications:

Type: Dynamic, Semi-Open
Driver: ø50 mm, neodymium
Sensitivity: 98 dB SPL (1mW)
Frequency Response: 10-30,000 Hz
Maximum Power: 300 mW
Rated Impedance: 32 Ω (copper-coated aluminum wire)
Earpad: Leather
Cable: 2.5-meter (8.2 ft.) straight, single-sided
Connectors: Screw-on gold plated stereo mini plug
Net Weight: 276 g (9.75 oz)
Weight (without cable): 265g (9.3oz)

Local price is P1950 and can be bought at the usual outlets – https://www.facebook.com/SuperluxPH

About The Author

Editor

Founder & Owner of headfonics.com. I first started reviewing in the late 80s (ouch!). Back then it was albums, rock concerts and interviews with a typewriter for the local rag. Now its desktop/portable and digital 2.1 audio on a rather nice laptop. How time flies.

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  • Aizad Nik

    Ahh the superlux comes again…. Looks like a Q701 from akg.

    anyways which superlux or any other $50 headphones do you suggest for use with surround sound gaming like the dolby headphone ?? <— article idea

    • headfonics

      At $50 I can only think of Takstar as an alternative to Superlux.

  • 1337waffle

    You said the evo has a big mid bass hump? I noticed that the midbass hump was GONE coming from my m50. There was slightly less impact to the music but I can’t find any bass bleeding into the midrange.
    Not to say that these are perfectly neutral but damn…I can’t hear any dips/peaks

    • headfonics

      Coming form your M50 I would agree the bass hump is not as bad but then the M50 bass hump is legendary. What you may notice is underneath that bass hump there is not a huge amount of bass extension which is different to the hump.

      • 1337waffle

        Not a huge amount of extension? I thought the opposite man. These things extend really far down low. They don’t roll off until about 30hz, even then there is still audible subbass below 20hz.

        Also, that song you posted. I listened to it and the vocals weren’t drowned out at all! Something makes me think if you’re not powering these well enough then they’ll run into the problems you’re describing. But for me it’s completely different

        • headfonics

          I used a Lisa Labs L3 during testing – how much more power do you need for a $50 headphone? I found the bass down low to be less audible than other headphones but then again I have to always put the fact they are so cheap into context that cans that do sub-bass better are far more expensive. The reverb on Gotye is very obvious.

  • Ninynonk

    Tossing up between the Superlux HD681 Evo and the HD668B. Is there a large difference? – considering the slight difference in price. Help would be greatly appreciated!

    • headfonics

      I would go with the Evo – the top end is much smoother, though a tad rolled off, but I couldn’t bear the highs of the 666B.

  • Rinfinite

    Are the earcups deeper than the original HD681’s?

    • headfonics

      I honestly dont remember much of a difference in depth but they are pretty comfy actually though being made of synthetic leather they sweat a small amount after continued use.

      • Rinfinite

        Thanks.

        Do you have any experience with the Sennheiser HD518 or HD439? I have them but I find them a bit awkward to wear so I am looking to maybe sell them and get this HD681 EVO instead. I find the HD518’s earcups a bit too roomy for my ears so they keep wiggling around and I end up spending most of my time trying to get them to stay in place properly. The HD439 on the other hand is quite the opposite because I find it to be borderline on-ear so the bottom of the earcups always end up squishing a small part my earlobe.

        Sound-wise, do you think the EVO would be a downgrade from my Sennheiser cans? You mentioned a mid-bass hump and rolled off treble, so is the sound sig maybe similar to a PX100-II?

        • headfonics

          Ah not really the px100-II, thats too small of a soundstage compared to the 50mm driver of the EVO.

          Personally I would go up a bit and try and get the Momentum from Senn or the Custom Pro One from Beyer than sidegrade to the EVO but then if thats the budget then you will not get much better at that price.

          • Rinfinite

            Okay, just got my black EVO a few hours ago for P1,790.

            Ugh, I immediately noticed that big, muddy mid-bass hump you mentioned. The earpads are a tad thicker than the original 681’s but not by a significant amount to be considered deeper.

            Sadly, I don’t think I will be keeping these. I will try to return them or maybe just resell.

          • headfonics

            What will you try next to replace it?

          • Rinfinite

            I may just pickup an ultra portable instead. I tried out the Sennheiser HD2x9 lineup earlier and the leatherette and foam hybrid earpads were soooooooooo comfortable. I feel they would solve all my problems related to earcup size, heat and sweat.

            By the way, how does one lighten the clamp of these? It has the self-adjusting headband so I have no idea if leaving it clamped on a bunch of books would work on those wires above the headband.

          • headfonics

            I am not sure how durable the 3d wing system is on the EVO. There are many variants by many manufacturers so one advice might not suit the other.

            Try the Jays V-Jays or the Aiaiai Tracks also for ultraportable.

          • Rinfinite

            Thanks for the suggestions. I already have the EVO back in its box. I’ll probably go to Egghead to try out the v-Jays and Tracks. Should’ve done the same with the EVO, lol. I was at The Listening Room yesterday so all I could test out were Sennheiser cans, Superlux, and a few Audio Technicas. I usually go to them first because they give me better prices than Egghead, they gave me a whopping 25% discount for my HD518!

            Anyway, thank you very much for your time!

  • Vinci

    Im thinking Creative Aurvana Live or this one. I already got 5 in ears and either of these will be my first headphones. Can you compare them or at least give me an idea which has the better audio quality? Thank you.

    • headfonics

      The CAL for me.

      • Vinci

        Paying almost double is worth it?

        • headfonics

          Have you tried them both with your setup?

          • Vinci

            Im still new to this and all i got is my ipod. and i really cant audition them. i can only have them shipped.

          • headfonics

            the HD681 evo is not really portable and true its much cheaper but I prefer the CAL given its a Denon in disguise and a better one at that.

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