Today we are going to be checking out a reasonably inexpensive, open-back headphone from AudioMX; the HS-5S.
AudioMX has been around for five years and sell a variety of products, such as their entry-level dual dynamic driver in-ear, a virtual 7.1 surround sound gaming headset, to a variety of wireless options. The HS-5S is their “audiophile-friendly” entry. I have been running them as daily driver with my laptop for gaming and general music listening, functions at which they perform admirably.
Let’s take a closer look shall we?
The HS-5S (5S from here on in) was provided complimentary in exchange for a fair and impartial review. This headphone is still considered the property of AudioMX until they state otherwise. I am not receiving financial or any other form of compensation for this review. All comments and opinions within are my own and do not represent AudioMX or any other entity.
The 5S at the time of this review was selling for 59.99 from AudioMX’s official Amazon retailer, Avantek. You can check it out here.
My Gear and I:
Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread, reviews from other established reviewers, and thus being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, Meze and many more. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done and payment enough.
The gear used for testing was an HTC One M8, an XDuoo X3 (Rockbox update), a Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with the NX1 or Creative Soundblaster Recon3D USB amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. While I enjoy a variety of signatures, I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even mid-range response, and reduced mid-bass. My favorite in-ear, the Echobox Finder X1 with grey filters is a good example of this.
Packaging and Accessories:
The 5S is stored in a fairly large cardboard box with AudioMX branding and a glossy image of the headphones on the front. The rear contains a wireframe profile shot which reflects a slightly forward rake to the head band. You are also provided some important specifications;
Driver size: 42mm
Impedance: 54 ohms
Frequency Response: 15Hz-30KHz
Sensitivity: 95dB +/-3dB
Cable Length: ~3.0 m
Inside the headphones are nestled in a plastic tray displaying the interesting grilled design of the outer cups. Accessories are somewhat sparse, but still useful;
– 3.5mm to 1/4″ stereo adaptor
– One pair of velour pads
Overall the unboxing experience is quick and simple, and the box is sturdy enough to be used for storage when the headphones are not in use. A carry bag or case would have been a welcome addition, but the 5S is a pretty beefy headphone and not really suitable for portable use so this omission isn’t much of a loss.
Build and Comfort:
The first thing I noticed about the 5S when I lifted it from it’s package was the weight. This is not a light headphone. Their build screams of sturdiness and durability. The upper half of the headband feels as if it’s made from a solid hunk of rubber coated in a pleather-like material. The soft padding underneath is coated in what reminds me of the smooth yet rugged material used on some mountain-biking gloves.
Moving down to the earcups they are a good size with either included pad option, easily enveloping my ears. The pre-installed pleather pads use a fairly dense yet still quite plush and flexible material. They are beautifully stitched together. My only complaint is that they are fairly shallow and as a result comfort suffers a bit. The velour pads, despite being a little scratchy as budget velour often is, are a few millimeters thicker which helps with a more natural fit. Build on these is a little more generic lacking the same material quality and attention to detail as the pleather option. Overall comfort is pretty excellent due to strong ergonomics that do a great job of distributing all that weight evenly around your head.
The cups themselves are a mix of metal (matte grey ring) and plastic and come across rock solid. The exterior metal grills that show off and protect the drivers look and feel excellent in hand. The thin strip of chrome surrounding them adds a tasteful accent to the earphone which otherwise is somewhat understated with it’s matte black and grey motif.
The cable is quite long at 3 meters but is very well-behaved. The sheath uses a thick, pliable rubber that is quite flexible and resists holding memory. The threaded metal straight jack is well-relieved via a spring, not a common sight in this price range. The spring could stand to be a touch stiffer and offer greater resistance to bending, but it works just fine as is.
Overall the 5S is a chunky, well-constructed earphone made from quality materials. Fit and finish is stellar from headband to jack and everything in between. Despite them being quite the weighty thing, comfort is great and I had little issue wearing them for hours at a time. They don’t get warm over time and the excellent weight distribution avoids painful hotspots. The only con I can levy at the 5S’ build is that the cable is not removable.
Brainwavz Hybrid / Stock Pleather / Stock Velour
Warm and slightly bassy with lush but veiled mids and relaxed treble, the 5S makes for an easy listening, non-fatiguing experience. Throwing them on to listen to an album is like coming coming home after a long hard day, kicking your shoes off, and settling in with your significant other for a night of movies and cuddling. It’s an intimately comfortable headphone that does next to nothing to offend.
One of the most desirable qualities of an open-back headphone is that they can provide listeners with an airy and expansive soundstage that envelops them in their music, game, or whatever it is they happen to be listening to. The downfall to this is that noise can easily enter and escape the ear cups, limiting practicality outside of a dedicated listening environment.
The 5S doesn’t have the huge soundstage I would expect to hear from an open back and is more akin to what I would expect to get from something that’s semi-open. It certainly has a larger soundstage than what you’d find with Sony’s oddly designed MDR-MA300, but falls short of something truly open like HiFiMan’s HE-350. A change of pads to Brainwavz’s hybrid velour/pleather pads definitely helps in this area, pulling the drivers away from your ear allowing the 5S to breath and impress upon you a true sense of space. They also show off the 5S’s decent imaging and instrument separation
Treble response on the 5S is smooth and tight, though not particularly prominent. If you prefer a brighter sound you’re going to want to dive into your device’s EQ setting and play around. For everyone else, the 5S should offer enough presence to satisfy. The midrange with the stock pads comes across somewhat veiled, with everything having a softness to it that takes away from some of the detail and clarity you would expect. Throwing on the above-mentioned Brainwavz pads lifts this veil significantly, but it will still bother some. For me, when listening to the headphone critically and not for the enjoyment of the music it did take away from my enjoyment. However, for general use it was not an issue and I was able to listen to music and read, write, etc. without any sense of disappointment. Bass on the 5S is lightly elevated. Out if the box it lacked depth but give it some play time, or “burn in”, and these drivers start to flex their muscles. They can offer up some serious rumble if needed and could take a 24dB boost through Creative’s Trustudio EQ and some uncomfortably high volumes without distorting. Not necessarily pleasant to listen to (for me at least), but it’s cool to know the 5S could take such punishment.
Overall I really enjoyed my listening time with the 5S. They’re not the last word in soundstage or detail and are simply a quality sounding headphone with a signature that plays well with anything I toss at it. If you’re willing to put down some extra money to upgrade the pads, you’ll net a fairly significant boost in performance.
If you’re looking for a solid performing, extremely well-built headphone the AudioMX HS-5S is worth a look. This is not the type of headphone you’ll need to baby or take great care of. It’s rough and tumble build and materials means it can take some abuse, shrug it off, and come out the other side ready to go another round.
What they lack in raw clarity and detail they make up for in genre versatility and modding potential (via EQ or physically). Those that are willing to put in some extra time with the 5S and personalize it to their tastes will be rewarded. I for one am loving their sound with a simple pad swap, a 1dB increase at 6k, and a 2dB boost at 16k. They’re pretty much permanently affixed to my laptop and Recon3D amp, replacing my modded HifiMan HE-350 as my primary headphone for casual listening.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Aesop Rock – Saturn Missiles
BT – The Antikythera Mechanism
Daft Punk – Touch
Dillon Francis and NGHTMRE – Need You
Gramatik – Bluestep (Album Version)
Incubus – 2nd/3rd/4th Movements of the Odyssey
Infected Mushroom – Deeply Disturbed
Infected Mushroom – The Legend of the Black Shawarma
Jessie J – Bang Bang
Kiesza – Hideaway
King Crimson – Red (full album)
Pink Floyd – Money
Run The Jewels – Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)
Skindred – Death to all Spies
Supertramp – Rudy
The Prodigy – Get Your Fight On