Austrian Audio Hi-X15 and Hi-X25BT review: aural excellence on a budget
Astounding sound, comfort and build-quality in two new pairs of surprisingly budget-friendly headphones from Austrian Audio.
⊕ Firm, well-controlled bass
⊕ Dynamic, insightful performance
⊕ Comfortable and durable
⊕ Astonishing value for money
⊖ Short analogue cables
Price Hi-X15: $119/£89 | Hi-X25BT: $179/£135
Contact Austrian Audio
This relatively young company formed by ex-AKG staff hit the ground running last year with their range of high-end professional headphones. Their two latest models share similar styling and performance, though one offers wireless Bluetooth connectivity. Impressively, both are brilliant professional-grade headphones for music makers on a tight budget, with both offering exceptional sound and comfort for the money.
Austrian Audio’s new headphones are circumaural (over-ear) designs with closed-back construction and, like the company’s more expensive models, feature their High Excursion Driver Technology. Build quality is exceptional for the price, with strong, all-metal hinges and soft slow-retention memory foam earpads. Foldable for portability, they come with a cloth carrying bag and are housed in a reasonably sturdy cardboard box.
Bluetooth connection set-up of the Hi-X25BT is simple, and the built-in battery offers 30 hours of wireless playback. This model also features volume adjustment control as well as an integrated microphone for taking calls.
Both headphones come with analogue connection leads, and the wireless version also has a USB-C cable for charging, which can be done while in use.
Sonically, there’s nothing between these models; they sound identical with an impressive frequency range of 12 Hz – 24 kHz. There’s no mistaking these ‘phones for anything but professional monitoring devices. Much like many studio monitors, they don’t present a warm, cosy or flattering listening experience. And all the better for it, as they encourage you to focus on getting your mixes spot on so, they translate well when replayed on good quality monitors.
Their wideband sound allows you to dig deep and, when listening to familiar recordings, attention is drawn to the rock-solid, well-controlled bottom end, which is punchy, taut and deep in equal measure. Further up the frequency spectrum, treble is presented explicitly, with a cool, stark sound that throws a spotlight on the upper midrange and accentuates atmospherics and ambience.
While we wouldn’t go as far as saying the lower-mids are scooped, there is a slight lack of warmth, which tends to focus attention on either the treble or bass. This tonal balance is quite common in pro-audio monitoring because it reduces the chance of getting immersed in an overly lush, relaxing ‘hi-fi’ listening experience and helps concentrate the mind on the job at hand.
Although not hi-fi in the way audiophiles perceive domestic headphones, the new Hi-X models offer anything but low-fidelity sound. Treble detail is finely etched with crisp transients and fine extension into the uppermost frequency area. As such, percussion is delivered with brilliance and snap, while you can hear reverb effects in correct proportion with plenty of sparkle.
Vocals and other lead instruments can sound a little lean at times, in absolute terms, yet the treble quality remains high; there’s nothing harsh or grating about these headphones.
We are extremely impressed with the performance and comfort of these affordable headphones, and the build quality is class-leading. Your only decision is whether or not wireless connectivity is important. We would’ve liked longer analogue leads, especially for the Hi-X15, as 1.4m might be fine if you’re mixing from a laptop, yet may be insufficient for tracking purposes. And that is our only quibble; they represent superb bang for buck.
- High Excursion Driver Technology
- All metal hinges
- Soft, slow retention memory foam earpads
- Foldable construction
- Detachable cable
- Frequency response: 12Hz – 24kHz
- Bluetooth wireless connection with SBC codec (Hi-X25BT)
- Internal microphone (Hi-X25BT)
- Weight without cable: 270g (Hi-X25BT) / 255g (Hi-X15)
- Buy: Thomann, AVLFX, Austrian Audio