Massdrop x E-MU Purpleheart Headphone Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Measurements' started by Hands, Dec 16, 2016.

  1. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    7,444
    Dislikes Received:
    20
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    Massdrop x E-MU Purpleheart Headphone Review

    Massdrop and E-MU have collaborated to bring the E-MU Purpleheart to the market. If you’re familiar with the Creative Aurvana Live! or the E-MU Walnut, you should already feel familiar with the Massdrop x E-MU Purpleheart. The name gives it all away. This version in the line of headphones uses matte-finished, purpleheart wood cups. Massdrop is offering these for $74.99 in their drop, which I think is a fantastic price point for the sound you get. (From here on out, I’ll use the terms CAL, Walnut, and Purpleheart to refer to the headphones. Also, credit to Massdrop for all photos of the headphone.)

    You can find the drop here (goes live 12/20/16 at 6AM PT): https://www.massdrop.com/buy/massdrop-x-e-mu-purpleheart


    E-Mu Purpleheart.png


    Looks and Comfort

    The Purpleheart keeps the basic design and overall look of the CAL and Walnut. No surprises there. The design is functional, lightweight, and makes for a set of headphones that is not particularly large. However, there’s something about the deep, purple color of the wood cups that sets it apart from its brethren and most other headphones on the market. There is a sort of understated, yet somewhat bold, way the matte, purple cups stand out by themselves yet perfectly accompany the otherwise matte black finish of the headphone. You might confuse the cups for a matte plastic finish with a vinyl overlay, yet I can assure you, you can see wood grain on close inspection, and if you open them up, it’s clear the cups are wood. The Purplehearts don’t have the immediate flash of the glossy finish seen on the TH-X00 variants, but damn if the Purplehearts don’t look calm and sophisticated in their own way. I wasn’t entirely sold on the way the Walnuts looked with the matte finish, but the Purplehearts look absolutely wonderful.

    I think comfort will vary from person to person. For me, they are lightweight and do not clamp too hard. While the ear pads for work as on-ear pads for me, those with smaller ears can get away calling them over-ear. Some may find the pads too small and thus uncomfortable. The ear pads are not particularly plush, but they give just enough cushion to get the drivers close to your ear without having them and the plastic baffle pushing on your ear. Those with wide heads may need to stretch the headphones out a bit to reduce the mild clamp even further. For the most part, I find these easy to wear and comfortable, with minimal fuss to get the fit right for the best possible sound.

    One downside I noticed is that the top of the headband becomes a bit painful over time. I believe this is a mixture of the shape of the headband, the minor amount of cushion in the headband, and how that all fits on my head. As I mentioned, the headband is quite malleable, so anyone can fiddle with it to get the headphones to fit perfectly on their head and dramatically improve long-term comfort. You could also buy some aftermarket cushions meant to wrap around the top of the headband. It might look a bit out of place, but it would certainly relieve any discomfort.


    E-Mu Purpleheart Driver.png


    Sound Quality

    The Purpleheart follows in the footsteps of the CAL and Walnut, yet the choice of purpleheart wood does seem to introduce its own set of sonic characteristics. Still, the overall tonal balance is the same among the line. The Purpleheart, like its siblings, is a very bassy and warm headphone with a little bit of edge and excitement to the treble. Let me dive into these attributes a bit more.

    The bass on the Purpleheart is rather elevated. If you’re familiar with the HD650, it’s not unlike taking its mid-bass boost and taking it up a big notch. If you’re familiar with the TH-X00, it’s like taking the low-bass emphasis from that but shifting it more to the mid-bass area. Yes, it’s a very bassy headphone, but I’d say in a tasteful, fun way. The bass emphasis actually works great at low volumes and should help in noisier environments. The major downside to the bass is that there’s a lot of harmonic distortion thrown in the mix. While not immediately unpleasant, as you crank the volume up, you’ll notice the bass takes on a sort of soft, fuzzy, and loose characteristic. At lower volumes, bass distortion is better kept in check, so if you turn the volume up on the Purpleheart, you’ll hear the bass lose some of its definition and tautness.

    On the upside, the bass has a relatively smooth transition into the midrange and treble. The midrange and treble transition and balance, in combination with the bass emphasis, provides for that bassy and warm sound. The midrange in particular is quite good, with its cohesive integration and fairly low distortion. The biocellulose drivers give the midrange and treble a surprisingly organic quality even when the frequency response isn’t totally perfect.

    Treble is where things start to break up just a bit, but just shy of enough to cause any listening displeasure. The Purpleheart keeps its sonic composure through it all. Still, there is a bit of roughness in the upper-midrange and treble on the Purpleheart. It’s overall less bright, and arguably more even, than the TH-X00 variants, but it’s not quite as smooth and effortless as the HD650. You can hear this as a slightly etched, ragged, or edgy characteristic when listening. Thankfully, it’s very mild subjectively and does not impede on listening enjoyment. In fact, it might be preferable on recordings with softer edges or at low volumes. Besides, the bass emphasis and overall warm sound of the headphones keep any treble irregularities in check. I doubt many will even notice this trait and, again, it actually seems to help keep a sense of excitement at lower levels.

    Compared to the CAL and Walnut, I think I prefer the Purpleheart so far. It sounds the most organic and tonally balanced out of the bunch to me. The midrange in particular sounds very well integrated, and the treble is slightly more neutral and smooth on the Purpleheart compared to the Walnut. Both the Walnut and Purpleheart sound a little more natural than the CAL to me. The more I hear various wood-cupped headphones, the more I realize how much wood, and various types of wood, actually can affect sonic characteristics.

    The ability of the headphone to pick out subtle details and sound clear (i.e. not veiled or slow) is really quite good, save for the bass presentation at high volumes. I would say it performs well above its asking price point in this regard overall, though, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t quite match the level of performance from top of the line headphones. I did not find myself wanting in technicalities with the Purpleheart, but when switching over to my HD650 with my desktop setup, it was clear the HD650 took greater advantage of better sources and amps. The TH-X00 variants should also sound a little more technically competent than the Purpleheart, but you may actually prefer the tonal signature of the Purpleheart and its siblings. After all, sometimes you do get what you pay for.

    Lastly, staging is surprisingly good for the Purpleheart. No, it doesn’t sound like an open headphone, and, no, it’s more closed sounding than the TH-X00, but, honestly, it sounds “bigger” than its small size would suggest. The usual closed-headphone coloration is kept to a minimum, if noticeable at all, and there’s a surprising size to the stage and sense of air. It strikes a nice balance.


    E-Mu Purpleheart 2.png


    Conclusion

    Given all this, where do I think the Purpleheart excels? Who would I recommend this headphone to first? I think it’s best used for casual, low-volume listening from portable sources. These sound great right out of my phone, and thanks to the tonal response and closed nature of the headphones, I can listen at a very relaxing volume and be met with a very good, enjoyable sound. This is a great introductory product for newcomers or a great headphone to keep on the side for tenured audiophiles.

    The CAL would often go on sale for $70-80 a few years back, and it was, and still is, considered an excellent value in that range. I often recommended it. The Walnut and Purpleheart added a nice level of refinement in terms of looks and some subtle sonic changes due to the wood cups. For what Massdrop is offering at $74.99, I think the Massdrop x E-MU Purpleheart is an absolutely wonderful headphone to have on the market. I think you will be in for a pleasant surprise!
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Dec 16, 2016
  2. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

    Staff Member Friend MZR
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2015
    Likes Received:
    7,444
    Dislikes Received:
    20
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Colorado
    Home Page:
    Measurements

    Frequency response results show the Purpleheart is rather bassy, with something like a 6-9dB boost relative to the midrange and treble, centered around 60-80Hz or so. Still, there is a fairly smooth transition until the 1KHz point, and from there, the response is fairly well behaved. You will notice some peaks and dips in the upper end, with some hot spots around 3KHz and 10KHz, but all are still at a low level relative to the boosted low-end response. This contributes to a slightly edgy sound in the upper end, but I did not find it particularly unpleasant. Driver matching is excellent.

    Massdrop x EMU Purpleheart Frequency Response.png


    Comparing the Purpleheart and Walnut results, left channel, you can see some clear similarities. The Purpleheart seems to have a slightly better transition into the midrange, and the treble response is overall a little more balanced despite the 3KHz spot being slightly hotter. The Purpleheart does sound a bit more cohesive and refined to me compared to the Walnut. However, I can’t totally rule out that these measured differences are due to placement, clamp, or even subtle driver variances. Thankfully, both the Purpleheart and the Walnut I measured had excellent driver matching on each pair.

    E-MU Purpleheart vs Walnut Left Channel.png


    Distortion results are fairly good in the midrange and treble. I’ve seen a bit better results on my rig, but my rig can only go so low with distortion. Still, the main point of me showing these is so you can see the high levels of low-midrange and bass distortion. The third order harmonic in particular stands out, which, to me, sounds fuzzier and softer than second order harmonic distortion in the lower regions. While you may recall the HD650, as it too has distortion in the low end, the HD650 has mostly second order harmonic distortion, and the distortion starts at a lower point and rises more slowly. You can tell on listening that the Purpleheart has even softer, bloomier, less defined bass than the HD650, especially when cranked up. Still, the effect isn’t entirely dissimilar, and I won’t complain given the $75 price point.

    (HINT: These headphones respond really well to some Dynamat on the back of the magnet and rear perimeter of the driver! These are great modding candidates!)

    Massdrop x EMU Purpleheart Distortion Left.png

    Massdrop x EMU Purpleheart Distortion Right.png


    CSD results are really quite good. Even when set to show -45dB, the decay is relatively quick and free of any extended ringing or very sharp ridges. While not the fastest headphone around, especially in hot spots like 3KHz and 10KHz, this is really quite good.

    Massdrop x EMU Purpleheart Left CSD.PNG Massdrop x EMU Purpleheart Right CSD.PNG Massdrop x EMU Purpleheart Left CSD -45dB.PNG Massdrop x EMU Purpleheart Right CSD -45dB.PNG


    Notes on modifications: As I hinted at earlier, get a “donut” of Dynamat, or similar material, and place that on the back of the driver magnet, being careful not to cover the port hidden under the paper damping material. Then, get a thin strip of Dynamat, and place it on the edge of the rear side of the driver, but not in such a way to cover the paper, rear portion of the baffle. Add some light damping material inside the cups, like cotton or fiberfill, and then if you find them a bit bright, reduce the amount of cup damping, and/or add some open-cell foam, felt, or fabric over the driver to help attenuate treble. You’ll be amazed how much the bass tightens up and how the sound is further refined overall. With mods, the performance you can get out of these for less than $100 is really quite amazing.

    Here are some mods I tried on the Walnut variant: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/e-mu-walnut-mods-also-creative-aurvana-live.2776/

    I personally would suggest not adding a ring of damping directly behind the driver as pictured (see the grey, open-cell foam).
     
  3. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    8,503
    Dislikes Received:
    40
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I'm going to buy a pair for me and a pair for the wife.

    This is something I know @CEE TEE is super proud of and I'm going to buy them because:

    1) holy shit this is a good deal at $75

    2) these seem like the ultimate portable headphones in a reasonable price range

    3) they look classy as hell
     
    Vansen, Decomo, Artasia and 1 other person like this.
  4. Decomo

    Decomo Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    139
    Dislikes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Australia
    @Hands Thank you so much for detailed impression and measurements. It was very helpful to understand and keen to get hands on Purplehearts. I noticed that Purpleheart version has 40mm driver when Walnut version has 50mm driver so it is lighter.

    Was there anything that Purpleheart lacking comparing with Walnut version due to reduced driver size?
     
  5. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    8,503
    Dislikes Received:
    40
    Trophy Points:
    113
    You're thinking of the larger teak. The walnut has the same 40mm drivers.
     
    Decomo likes this.
  6. Decomo

    Decomo Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    139
    Dislikes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Australia
    Thank you very much for clarification. I was reading CeeTee's driver explanation on below and got confused.. I thought that E-MU Teak is same as E-MU Pupleheart but just different wood material. Now I understood that E-Mu walnut and pupleheart are based on 40mm and Teak and Foster TH-X00 are based on 50mm driver. :)

    "Drivers: The new E-MU Purplehearts do have 40mm biocellulose drivers while the E-MU Teak and Fostex TH-X00/TH-900 use 50mm biocellulose drivers."
     
  7. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    8,503
    Dislikes Received:
    40
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Yeah. The trade off is a MUCH smaller size and, in my opinion, a way better form factor for general use. These also look sensitive enough that you could drive them out of a phone.
     
    Decomo likes this.
  8. powermatic

    powermatic Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    689
    Dislikes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    93
    If you like the look of the purpleheart, be aware that the color is very susceptible to UV. It/they will eventually turn brown to very-dark-brown from exposure to light. In fact, if the photos above are color accurate, the process has already begun: freshly milled purpleheart is the crayon color purple, Prince purple, wow-that's-fucking-purple! purple. Sort of like this:


    [​IMG]


    The color change can be mitigated to a certain extent by using a UV resistant exterior spar varnish, but it's (very) unlikely that it was used in this case, and at any rate its use only delays the inevitable. My suggestions:

    a-keep the phones covered when not being used, maybe in a drawer or box, or just covering them with a cloth if they're hanging on a stand, or
    b-just enjoy them and let Nature take its course. ;)

    Also: what a great review, and this for a 75 dollar set of phones. What you guys do here is so impressive. Thanks Hands!
     
    Decomo and Dino like this.
  9. Dino

    Dino Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,499
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    113
    If I get a pair, I am thinking about rigging up something like this to wear over them.

    [​IMG]

    But seriously @powermatic that is good info. If we know what to expect, then we will not be disappointed.
     
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2016
    Wilson, powermatic and Decomo like this.
  10. Decomo

    Decomo Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    139
    Dislikes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Australia
    Just out of curiosity, what happens if ear cup is clear coated with product like this?

    http://www.cabotstain.com/products/product/Clear-Wood-Protector.html

    Will it protect the original color?
     
  11. powermatic

    powermatic Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Sep 16, 2016
    Likes Received:
    689
    Dislikes Received:
    3
    Trophy Points:
    93

    Well, I have zero experience with that product, but all deck finish manufacturers will claim 'UV protection' as a standard mantra, usually with very sub-standard results. My guess is your best bet would be Epifane, a marine finish company. Fine Woodworking mag did an exterior finish test a few years ago and that product came out on top. It requires many coats, with a long drying time between.

    https://www.epifanes.com/

    Edit: forgot the link
     
    Decomo likes this.
  12. ibzrg1570

    ibzrg1570 Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Mar 24, 2016
    Likes Received:
    199
    Dislikes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    San Francisco, CA
    From what I've read on the CAL! the isolation isn't the best for public use (specifically on airplanes, public transit, etc.); am I correct in assuming nothing was tweaked on that front?
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    42,606
    Dislikes Received:
    68
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Location:
    Antarctica
    Nothing was tweaked on that front. Others will have a difficult time hearing your music. But you will have an easy time hearing everything around you.
     
    Decomo and Dino like this.
  14. Decomo

    Decomo Almost "Made"

    Contributor
    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2016
    Likes Received:
    139
    Dislikes Received:
    5
    Trophy Points:
    43
    Location:
    Australia
    Keen to try this mod on it so it can lay flat and be more portable.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    8,503
    Dislikes Received:
    40
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Don't post any details or anything.
     
    mscott58, powermatic and spoony like this.
  16. Registered_for_pics

    Registered_for_pics Rando

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    3
    My honest opinion is that slapping wood on the Aurvana Live is a ploy to rip off people in the wake of the TH-X00 craze. I got an original CAL here and modded it. At first I put Dynamat-like material inside the cups and it barely had any effect. Then. for funsies, I listened to them without the plastic cups (open-back) and even then the sound is barely different from stock.

    Tyll measured original CAL and the Walnut/Purpleheart variants and the differences are well within the margin of error of measurements. Different production runs, placement/seal on the measurement rig, the rig itself etc.
    http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/CreativeAurvana.pdf
    http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/EMuWalnut.pdf
    http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/MassdropxEMuPurpleheart.pdf

    The differences between Tyll's original HD650 measurement and the HD6XX is more substantial than the ones above.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2016
    Decomo likes this.
  17. zerodeefex

    zerodeefex Grumpiest admin

    Staff Member Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2015
    Likes Received:
    8,503
    Dislikes Received:
    40
    Trophy Points:
    113
    I don't understand why you think somone taking the CAL2, a headphone currently priced at $100 on Amazon, and making it significantly more attractive to the point where my wife won't make fun of me for wearing it, then selling it for $75 is a rip off. Maybe you and I have different definitions of a rip off. I saw the original CALs hit the $50 mark. Even if they regularly still sold at that price, how in fuck's sake is this a rip off?
     
  18. Registered_for_pics

    Registered_for_pics Rando

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2015
    Likes Received:
    5
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    3
    The CAL2 is not up for debate, it's a different headphone.

    The CAL1 is currently $44 and $35 as a WHD.
    You basically pay $30-40 for aesthetics. If that's your thing, fine. But you don't get better sound.

    Well, guess it's still better than the Kennerton Magister, a Yoga CD-880 (aka Brainwavz HM5, NVX XPT100) wrapped in wood for 9x the cost.
     
  19. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

    Friend BWC
    Joined:
    Oct 1, 2015
    Likes Received:
    698
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    93
    Location:
    Finland
    You have heard both then? Cup materials affect sound, and it looks much better. People have paid a lot more for a lot worse.
     
  20. Dino

    Dino Friend

    Friend
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2016
    Likes Received:
    3,499
    Dislikes Received:
    2
    Trophy Points:
    113
    Just a reminder, the drop is unlocked.
     

Share This Page