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Headphones Reviews
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Onkyo ES-HF300 review: Japanese audio specialist's impressive headphones debut

£179 inc VAT

Manufacturer: Onkyo

Our Rating: We rate this 3.5 out of 5

The Onkyo ES-HF300 headphones have a crisp, trebly quality that throws the window open to detail. Read our Onkyo ES-HF300 review to find out more.

Onkyo ES-HF300

For a specialist audio company that's been trading long enough to draw its pension, it surprised us that this Japanese brand has never sold headphones. Until now. See all audio reviews.

Drawn by the goldrush that sees companies entirely unskilled in designing headphones now minting their own money, Onkyo tasked some of its audio engineers to make a general-purpose over-head headphone of high-quality and approachable price. The result is one headphone, available in two variants. See also Group test: What are the best headphones?

The Onkyo ES-HF300 is the main flagship product, while a cheaper version, the ES-FC300 differs only in being fitted with a cheaper, non-OFC copper, cable. And this can be upgraded after purchase to bring them up to 'HF spec. Take a look at our review of the KEF M500 headphones too.

Construction, and some design ideas, is similar to the Audio-Technical reviewed here. We find deep bass reproduction promised by another dual-chamber arrangement. And similarly, they won't entirely guard your musical taste from being shared on a carriage-full of commuters.

Mostly black plastic, they're relatively light, and do the same trick of folding flat by turning the earpieces by 90 degrees. There's no 1/4in plug adaptor but you do get a basic nylon soft carry case.

The cable supplied with this model is optimised for sound, so no remote or mics, but you do get a tangle-free OFC lead with natty see-through elastomer insulation. It plugs into the base of each earpiece through an unusuall MMCX connector, an RF-grade connector used in GPS radios.

Comfort factor was rated good, but with smaller earpieces that part covered our outer ears, not as wear-all-day as, for example, the Denon, V-Moda or even AT headphones.

Onkyo ES-HF300 review: Sound quality

Light, sweet and very detailed at the top, the Onkyos also had no resonating bass to confuse the low end. We heard lots of reverb tails, space and captured ambience.

They were also notably wide and open sounding, like a true open-back design, with no sense of being shut in.

The fast and responsive treble was not underpinned by any particularly driving bass. Strings and guitars were crisp, almost scratchy in places with even sweet hi-res music sources. That could be heard as near brittleness to de Maré's voice, making it more lispy and husky. Yet vocals were also robbed of some midrange flesh. Thinner through the midrange, it could leave vocals a little distant and anaemic or enervated.

In exclusion terms, they don't shut out outside noise much at all.

Onkyo ES-HF300 Expert Verdict »

Model: ES-HF300
Type: circumaural
Frequency response: 10–27,000 Hz
Impedance: 32 ohm
Sensitivity: 97 dB/mW
Driver diameter: 40 mm
Weight: 240 g
Remote: optional
1/4in adaptor: no
  • Build Quality: We give this item 6 of 10 for build quality
  • Features: We give this item 6 of 10 for features
  • Value for Money: We give this item 7 of 10 for value for money
  • Performance: We give this item 7 of 10 for performance
  • Overall: We give this item 7 of 10 overall

We found lots to like in the ES-HF300 headphones, starting with their good insight into the music mix, and low scope that didn't drown out everything above. Like many far-eastern voiced headphones, they have a crisp, trebly quality that throws the window open to detail, although that can also make them over analytical.

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