HE 150Pro: An Earbud for Those That Dislike Them
Today we’re checking out the HE 150Pro, an inexpensive 150Ω earbud.
The earbud renaissance is still in full swing. The market is being inundated with many, many options and just as it has gotten quite difficult to pick your first hybrid, it’s a challenge to decide which earbud to go for. There are simply too many options, many of which share shells, specifications, and price.
While I wouldn’t necessarily consider myself a newbie in the earbud world at this point, I haven’t quite experienced the same variety as other established members of this hobby like bloodypenguin or ClieOS. Still, with what experience I do have I’d happily recommend the HE 150Pro as a fantastic starting point. Why is that? That’s why you’re here, so let’s check it out in greater detail.
The HE 150Pro was sent over free of charge in exchange for a fair and impartial review. There was no financial incentive provided to write this. The opinions within this review are my own and do not represent HE, Penon Audio, or any other entity.
At the time of writing, the 150Pro could be ordered here; https://penonaudio.com/HE-150PRO
For at home use the 150Pro was powered by a TEAC HA-501 desktop amp. I also used it straight out of my Asus FX53V laptop which worked just fine despite the high impedance. For portable use it was paired with my LG G5 or Shanling M1, both of which brought it up to listening volume without any effort or amping required. I also ran it though the Walnut F1 which served to remove some of the warmth and improve low end punch.
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 in my headphones I generally lean towards slightly warm with elevated treble and sub-bass, an even and natural mid-range response, with reduced mid-bass. The HiFiMan RE800, MacaW GT600s, and thinksound On2 offer examples of signatures I enjoy.
- Sensitivity: 103dB / mW
- Headphones sound principle: Dynamic driver
- Impedance: 150Ω
- Frequency response range: 20-20000Hz
Packaging and Accessories:
The HE 150Pro’s packaging is about as simple and basic as it gets. They arrive in a small cardboard box with a large black and white sticker on it announcing the brand and model. Flipping open the lid reveals a generic clam shell carrying case and a small black cardboard box for the accessories which are also fairly basic. In all you get;
- HE 150Pro ear buds
- clam shell carrying case
- two pairs of solid foams
- two pairs of donut foams
Not much more to say here. What’s included is straightforward and functional with little in the way of flash or frills.
Build and Comfort:
While many budget ear buds use a generic plastic shell, such as that from Sennheiser’s classic MX500 or one of Yuin’s more stylish designs, the HE 150Pro goes with one that is somewhat less common though I have seen it around and used by other brands like TY. The main body is all metal, likely an alloy of some description, with a large open metal grill on the back. The front plate is also metal, held in place by a ring of dense plastic. There are a few embellishments like the HE logo and some silver rings etched around the stems where the cables connect, but other than that they’re very simple and unassuming.
The cable is really quite nice for the price with four strands tightly braided up to the y-split where it divides into two strands per side. Looking at older reviews of this model, it seems there may have been some changes made to the jack and y-split. The well-relieved 90 degree angled jack and rubberized y-splits have been replaced with a slender straight jack and relief-free metal y-split. Strain relief is lacking leading up into the housings too, which has me worrying somewhat about long term durability. Still, this is a relatively inexpensive ear bud and these changes may have been necessary to address cost or QC concerns, so I can forgive such alterations. The sheath is dense enough to support itself so the lack of acceptable strain relief isn’t as much of an issue as it would otherwise be, and other positive qualities like strong memory and tangle resistance are present. It’s a good cable for the price.
When it comes to comfort the HE 150Pro is a typical ear bud. It’s either going to fit you well or it won’t. The drivers are quite large resulting in the face being about 17mm wide and 4mm deep before the housing starts to taper in. That early taper does help with fitment in my experience and as a result the 150Pro sits in place more securely than something like the Penon BS1 or OurART Ti7, both of which are a little thick and pudgy.
Overall the HE 150Pro feels like a durable product with a good cable attached to. I would love to see future revisions add better strain relief for improved longevity, particularly leading into the housings, but as is they still feel like they’ll last a while. Comfort is pretty good for me, but ear buds seem to be even more personal than iems in this regard. If you’ve had fitment issues in the past with ear buds, the 150Pro probably won’t be any different.
Foams: The 150Pro is pretty bassy for an ear bud and as a result I found foams to make a more significant difference here than on most other ear buds I’ve tried. For me personally, I found them best naked or with the donuts installed. With the full foams the 150Pro comes across overly thick to my ears, especially in the mid-range and mid-bass. The donuts ended up being my preference as they maintained the treble presence and improved bass prominence when listening in less quiet areas. While relaxing at home in the quiet of my apartment, the 150Pro sounded at it’s best naked where it’s presentation was more even.
With the exception of the Rose Mojito, I can pretty confidently say that the HE 150Pro is one of the most coherent and complete sounding ear buds I’ve come across. It takes on a mild u-shaped signature instead of the usual mid-focused or treble/mid heavy lean that ear buds seem to be best known for.
The He 150Pro’s low end is very robust and full-figured for an ear bud, extending well beyond what I’ve come to expect in terms of sub-bass presence. The large drivers move enough air to really feel it, especially on EDM tracks like The Crystal Method’s “Name of the Game [Hybrid’s LA Blackout Remix]”. This combined with a prominent and punchy mid-bass makes the 150Pro quite appropriate as a daily driver, able to mostly overcome the usual loss of bass many earphones and headphones experience when used out in public.
While ever so slightly recessed, the 150Pro’s mid-range remains coherent and well-defined with a truthful tonality to it. Male vocals have some weight and gruffness to them which combined with the buffed low end make this an awesome bud for rap, hip hop, and reggae metal (Skindred anyone?). Aesop Rock’s “Daylight EP” and his crossover album with Rob Sonic, “Hail Mary Mallon”, really shine. Female vocals are well-represented too having a natural warmth and silkiness to them that’s really apparent on tracks like “Run For Your Life” by Big Grams.
When it comes to the top end the 150Pro extends well and in a controlled nature. They are lacking a bit of sparkle though, so cymbals are missing some of the shimmery decay you would expect. There is also a mild metallic edge present on some tracks. This presentation is a double-edged sword. It’s not the most realistic sounding treble but it does give the 150Pro some impressive long term listenability. Since I found this ear bud best for casual daily use, that’s an acceptable trade off.
One aspect I found particularly well done on the 150Pro was it’s sound stage. The open back nature of the housings combined with the lack of seal inherent to the ear bud design gives it a very open presentation with a distinct out of head feel. This expansive nature does hinder imaging accuracy somewhat, but given the price and performance on tap vs. competing products, it’s perfectly acceptable. Layering and separation are also quite decent with the 150Pro avoiding any congestion, even on busy tracks like King Crimson’s “Starless and Bible Black”.
General detail retrieval is quite good, particularly in the mid-bass and bass regions. Detail in the treble regions tapers off slightly, with finer nuances being smoothed over or obscured. Texturing is phenomenal in the bass and mid-range which is heavily emphasized on guitars and gruff vocals.
Overall the HE 150Pro is a unique sounding bud, at least compared to those others in my possession. It’s low end is prominent and powerful with very good extension. The mid-range, while set back a notch, retains a lush and commanding presence. The HE 150Pro’s treble is to my ears the weakest aspect if only because it doesn’t do anything particularly special. It’s purely average there. Lastly, the large staging and great layering and separation really serve to surround you with your tunes.
Penon BS1 (39.00 USD): The BS1 has been my go to ear bud since I reviewed it back in June. It’s build quality is excellent and it uses one of my favorite cables of all time. While the 150Pro is a solid ear bud, the BS1 simply looks and feels that much more premium. In terms of sound, they’re comparable though for different reasons. I found the BS1 a treble/mid focused ear bud with great clarity and detail. The 150Pro is a more mid/bass focused bud with impressive texture in those regions. They compliment each other quite well with the BS1 being my pick for in-home critical listening, and the 150Pro being my pick for everything else. I also find them equally comfortable, though the 150Pro’s slightly less thick body might help some achieve a more secure fit.
OURART Ti7 (59.00 USD): The Ti7 performs well enough but falls short of the HE 150Pro to my ears. With a thick sound and a heavy mid-range focus, the Ti7 gives up clarity and detail. It also lacks in end to end extension but takes back some ground with a comparably grand sound stage and more accurate imaging. While the Ti7 isn’t the best sounding, it earns it’s keep with it’s rock solid build quality and unique design, but of which are a clear step up from the humble and plain HE 150Pro. It’s the most durable and stylish ear bud of the bunch and with MMCX removable cable is the most versatile too.
Rose Mojito (259.00 USD): The Mojito is a truly impressive flagship. It’s an energetic ear bud with a very full, close to neutral signature, all backed by a massive sound stage that makes it a joy to listen to. While the 150Pro lacks the frequency balance and raw technical performance, it shares some key aspects and gives me a similar overall experience at a fraction of the price. Like the Mojito, it has a very full presentation with a proper low end that doesn’t feel lacking, a clear mid-range, and tight treble. The Mojito is brighter and notably more detailed with a more prominent mid-range, but the 150Pro doesn’t embarrass itself when listening to the two back-to-back.
After spending a couple weeks with the HE 150Pro, it is an ear bud I’d happily recommend to headphone and iem users interested in trying out this style of product. It’s in no way lacking low end with a level of sub-bass prominence you just don’t get very often with ear buds. That feature right there puts it ahead of most of the competition for me. In addition to that killer quality you also get a lush and textured mid-range. The large sound stage is welcome too and should certainly satisfy headphone users that detest the comparatively congested presentation of an iem. The HE 150Pro for me really is the best of both worlds, minus isolation which is non-existent.
Still, if you’re thinking of trying out an ear bud, don’t want to spend a ton, and refuse to give up a proper bass presentation, the HE 150Pro should be right up there near the top of your list.
Thanks for reading!
***** ***** ***** ***** *****
Some Test Tunes:
Aesop Rock – The Impossible Kid (Album)
Hail Mary Mallon – Are You Going to Eat That? (Album)
Skindred – Roots Rock Riot (Album)
King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (Track)
Supertramp – Crime of the Century (Album)
Infected Mushroom – Legend of the Black Shawarma (Album)
Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (Album)
Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Album)
Fleetwood Mac – Rumors (Album)
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels (Album)
The Prodigy – The Day is My Enemy (Album)
Tobacco – F****d Up Friends (Album)
Felt – Felt 2 (A Tribute to Lisa Bonet) (Album)
Michael Jackson – Thriller (Album)
The Crystal Method – Community Service (Album)
Jidenna – Long Live the Chief (Track)
Skrillex – Ragga Bomb (Track)
Big Grams – Run for Your Life (Track)
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (Track)
Aesop Rock – Fishtales (Track)