Top positive review
Comprehensive and in-depth evaluation and review
March 1, 2016
This is a long and detailed review. I owe it to you to be very comprehensive about a headphone that costs at least 10x what the average person pays for headphones, especially if they are from a brand name that is not as familiar as what you will find sold at your local electronics boutique. I urge you to read my entire review if you have a serious interest in this unique product. To help you find what is most important to you I have divided my review into sections of key features and benefits.
My audio experience
I am addicted to good sound. My experience as in radio, TV and motion pictures has tuned my ears to demand not only accuracy in sound but the use of sound to create effects and moods. When I buy audio products I buy the best I can afford, focusing on the best quality I can get. That doesn’t mean I buy the most expensive, I’m not a wealthy person. And I’m not a brand loyalist … I buy what sounds good not whose name is one the label. As far as headphones I own a pair of electrostatics that cost more than most people pay for a TV. I am familiar with Bluedio through a pair of Vinyl Plus headphones in my collection. It was because an Amazon reader asked me to compare them to the Victory model that the factory kindly made a sample product available to me (remember, I’m not rich) but with the understanding that my reviews are always fair, impartial and non-commercial.
Who is Bluedio?
When you search Amazon for Bluedio headphones you will find that most of their headphones sell for $50 or less, putting them in competition with literally dozens of other brands you may have never heard of. What gives them the gall to suddenly offer a pair of headphones that cost $300-400 depending on where you buy them? Is this just a marketing scheme or is Bluedio really a company capable of manufacturing a high-end product that can compete with well-established major brand names? Well in fact the company is legit and does have some impressive engineering creds. You may remember when certain car brands started out selling entry level econobox cars and are now known as some of the best made cars in the industry. The high-end audio industry in China is still in that same state of early emergence with regard to their U.S. offerings and are slowly building confidence and a positive reputation. Yes, this headphone is a big step for Bluedio, but they are being forced to try harder through meticulous design and manufacturing processes to carve a niche. When you actually hold the product in your own hands and get a feel for the quality it is immediately obvious that this is not a cheap knockoff headphone with an inflated price.
What makes these headphones unique?
Historically most headphones use one driver (speaker) to reproduce all frequencies from the highest treble to the lowest bass. Some split the work between two drivers. The Victory uses an unprecedented six drivers per side for a total of 12, allowing each to be optimized for a particular frequency range. Unlike most traditional headphones that transfer the audio signal directly from the input source to the drivers, the Victory model processes the input signal through a series of crossovers and “sound shapers”. That right there disqualifies them as a studio monitor, which has the task of recreating sound as accurately as possible to assist audio engineers in mastering recordings. Instead, the Victory headphones purposely tweak the input audio so it sounds “best”, which is generally defined as extended bass and sizzling treble.
The other rare (but not exclusive) feature is that these are designed to plug directly into a digital audio port using the included SPIF cable for the purest possible audio transmission. Bluedio includes the digital audio cable as well as a cool coiled analog cable with a mini-stereo end and attached ¼” phone jack adapter. Also included are a high quality flat USB charging cable and the aforementioned semi-hard carrying case. The audio cable, by the way, has a twist-to-lock positive retainer system to avoid having the cable being yanked out if you move your head. Brilliant.
Who are they intended for?
One reason Bluedio has two models of super-premium headphones selling for close to the same price is that in terms of sound quality they are night and day. I don’t mean sound quality as in how good the sound is but rather how faithfully accurate it is (the Vinyl Plus model) or how head-exploding WOW the sound is (the Victory model). I can’t tell you how they will sound to you (and neither can anyone else). Sound perception has too many variables to do that, i.e. your age, ear shape, listening volume, music genre, input amplifier, etc. Never trust a review that raves about how excellent the sound is or how terrible it sounds. That is merely a personal opinion. A big advantage for buying at Amazon is you have the opportunity to evaluate a product for yourself and if it doesn’t live up to your expectations you can (and should) return it. That being said, in my opinion these headphones are more suited to listeners of bass-heavy music than those who favor studio-monitor performance realism. Note that the Victory model has a 50mm bass diaphragm while the Vinyl Plus model has a 70mm diaphragm (one of the largest of any headphone). Theoretically then the Vinyl Plus should reproduce deep bass, right? In real-life listening tests what I found is that because of the internal sound processing and chamber design the Victory’s apparent bass level is much lower and more impressive. But the laws of physics aren’t completely erased by that observation – the Vinyl Plus actually does produce a richer more accurate bass, not on bass-heavy recordings but on something like a live kettle drum recording for example, where the Victory gives you more of a deep whump, the Vinyl Plus will sound like your head’s inside the drum.
How do they compare?
I’ve drawn some comparisons between the two high end Bluedio models. If you’re trying to decide which is for you it comes down to accuracy vs knock-your-socks-off. Otherwise they are both exceptionally well made and both sound extremely good and both are worth the asking price. I have to be honest that of all the new headphone models I have tested in recent years I have a personal favorite, that being my pair of Sony MDR-7’s that were made back in the day when Sony still made them in their own factories in Japan (the current Chinese version is nice but it is definitely not as good as the originals). There are dozens of reasons I could give you but I’ll just say that they are about as perfect as headphone will ever get. So when I do listening tests, the Sony’s always are part of my standard of comparison. I also tested the Victory’s against my Koss electrostatics and Koss Pro 4AA models and just for fun, against several pair of sub-$100 headphones. All things considered I might not buy the Victory’s as my one and only headphones for all purposes and reasons. If you are shopping for something that you will be considering to be general purpose headphones you may love these if your musical tastes include a lot of bass and you can’t get enough of it. In fact you will out-bass your friends who try to show off their Dr. Dre’s (as I did). They spent more money but you got the better phones with the Victory’s. On the other hand if you love smooth vocals, mellow jazz or spot-on classical music these “may” not be your best choice, but it’s not up to me to decide … try them, you might like them.
Things you should know
To slap any better quality headphone on and immediately declare the sound quality as good or bad would be an audiophile faux pas. Here is how to "burn in" a good pair of headphones:
1. Start with feeding the headphones a white noise signal. The volume should be lower than normal listening level. Play the white noise source continuously for 10-30 hours at low volume.
2. Follow that by feeding your headphones with pink noise (ordinary music will do). Play them continuously for 100-200 hours at medium volume
3. Switch now to your favorite music genre but switch it up with a variety of different styles. Listen to your headphones at normal volume until the sound smooths out and reaches it optimal capability. Your headphones are now successfully burned in.
4. Please be aware that as much as Bluetooth standards have improved from the early days (and are still improving) they just can't and won't equal a hard-wire plug-in direct to your sound source. I'm in the process of extensive listening tests with the Victory phones auditioning a wide variety of source material and the difference between wireless and analog hard-wired is huge, sometimes almost like listening to an entirely different song. Hard-wired with these headphones delivers a much smoother and very much wider soundstage and presence. Needless to say direct digital is at yet another level but it's not going to perform magic unless you have the right source material. I'm starting tests with a dedicated headphone amplifier and will update once the phones have further burned in and stabilized.
By any measure these headphones earn the right to be classified in the premium category. Their quality of construction, fit and finish and materials are all excellent. With buttery soft padded vinyl earmuffs they are very comfortable and exceptionally good sounding. And the multi-touch control pad instead of hard to reach buttons is genius, it is very intuitive to use.
I can’t afford to own a dedicated pair of headphones in this price range to use only when my preferences lean toward bass-heavy music. If that was my preferred genre that I listened to the majority of the time I would lean toward the Victory as my first choice. My rating of 5-stars for these headphones, then, is based on how well they perform when used as the designers intended them to be used and for that they are absolutely superior. Your listening tastes may enjoy them for everyday general purpose use and if that’s the case I have no critiques. The bottom line is I love them and Amazon defines that as earning 5-stars.