If you need a decent pair of headphones but you’re on a tight budget, look no more. Both of these models, Samson SR850 and ISK HP580 depending on where you live can be found for as low as 30$.
BUILD AND LOOKS
Samson and ISK both use design language similar to well known AKG design. That includes metal rails, plastic shells and self adjusting headband. In terms of built quality they are quite similar to each other but Samson’s finish feels a little bit nicer. ISK are more heavily padded and their grip is not as tight as Samsons – both of these add to better comfort on ISK’s model. Another thing they have in common is that both of these are an open-back design. That means isolation from the environment is not that great and some sound leakage is imminent.
But let’s talk about sound quality. ISK HP580s offer bloated and muddy bass. Lower mid-tones are recessed while higher mid tones and high frequencies are protruding. That’s why vocals on these headphones sound harsh and thin. Aggressively V-shaped sound signature aside, the sound stage is cluttered and overall clarity is not that great.
Moving on to Samsons I immediately notice several improvements. First of all the bass line is much better controlled, it sounds strong but much firmer. Secondly, mid-tones are more present and vocals don’t sound as thin. That said, the whole frequency response is still slightly V-shaped and you do lack some lower mids that bring weight to vocals and other tones. Some higher mid-tones are being pronounced a bit making the sound sharp and bright, but it’s still clearly better than what ISK has to offer. The overall energy of the sound is better on these, they sound livelier and more dynamic. So without further ado, I pronounce the Samson SR850s the clear winner here.
For the last part, I compared Samsons to AKG K92s which are twice the price. The first thing you notice is quite a different sound signature. K92s have more mid-bass and fuller lower mid-tones. Pair that with highs that are not as edgy and pronounced and you get warmer and more fluid sound. Now if you choose the correct track, something with an acoustic guitar, for example, Samsons can impress you with their edge and clarity over the AKGs. But on most music I listened, with more instruments and vocals spreading in the whole midrange… the more I appreciated the cohesive sound of K92s. Music simply sounded more as a whole on them compared to clear but somewhat detached layers of bass, mids, and highs on Samsons.
I found ISK HP580 to be underwhelming in terms of sound quality. On the other hand, Samson SR850 is a mighty good purchase under the $40 if you don’t mind the open-back design.