Senal SMH-1000 Headphones Review
When B&H Photo got in touch with me recently and asked if I’d be interested in reviewing the Senal SMH-1000 headphones I was intrigued, at first glance they appear to be almost identical to the Sony- MDR-7506 which are often regarded as an industry standard in the film and recording industries.
I used a pair of Sony MDR-7506’s for around five years until a couple of years back when the ear cups perished and started falling off. I did persevere with the Sony’s for a while but after finding myself sitting in the dark at 2 AM trying to reassemble them during a shoot for Silent Arena at Reading Festival I lost my patience with them and we parted ways there and then!
Looking back I do regret losing my temper with them as they were extremely comfortable to wear and performed well, certainly more so than the Sennheiser HD25-1 II’s that replaced them soon after.
Build & Features
The SMH-1000’s feel well built, certainly they appear very similar to the Sony’s but as I haven’t used the 7506’s for a couple of years and can’t compare them side by side it’s hard to say how they differ in construction.
The SMH-1000’s fold up using the same mechanism as the Sony’s which is really helpful for packing them away, I really miss that with the Sennheiser HD-25’s which are bulkier when packed. One advantage the Sony’s had was that they came with a useful drawstring soft bag to keep them safer during transport. A soft case won’t stop them being crushed but it does stop the rather delicate external wires that are present in both the Sony’s and the Senals from getting snagged up and damaged. Senal do offer a similar pouch as an optional extra for $10 but you don’t get one included.
The Senal’s do however have their own ace in the form of removable cables. Not only is the cable removable from the headphones but there’s also two cables in the box, one 10ft coiled cable very similar to whats fitted to the Sony’s and also a 3ft straight cable. I don’t think I’d use the short cable but I can see that it would have advantages in certain situations, the main benefit though is that should the cable become damaged it could be replaced for just $15. View the cable here.
Much like the other headphones mentioned the Senal also come with a screw on jack that converts the gold plated 3.5 mm jack to a 1/4 inch jack.
Comfort and Noise Handling
The Senal SMH-1000’s much like the Sony’s are very comfortable to wear, they press on to the head with much less pressure than the Sennheiser HD25’s I now use and the ear pads are large enough that they press on your head rather than directly on your ears. This fit and lower pressure means that wearing them for a whole day is a much more bearable experience. Here’s the thing though, the biggest advantage the HD25’s have over both the Sony’s and the Senal’s is that they close off exterior noise much better due to that tighter fit so there are advantages to both designs.
If I had to wear headphones on a shoot for anything over a couple of hours I’d definitely choose the larger softer fitting headphones over the HD-25’s, but I do think the HD-25's allow you to hear more of whats being recorded in a noisier environment due to the better external noise isolation.
I’ll start this section of the review by saying that I'm not going to attempt to describe how accurately or inaccurately any of the headphones that I own perform. I do own some Sennheiser HD-650’s which are really nice open backed reference headphones that cost silly money and sound amazing, the thing is though I'd never use those to monitor a shoot and rarely use them for editing because my clients don’t listen to the video I produce with anything near as good, in fact I bet most of my clients listen to the work I produce through laptop speakers! What's more important is how well the headphones work for monitoring audio when shooting.
With that in mind when it comes to sound performance I’m going to talk more about how the headphones work in terms of allowing you to hear both the subject matter and potential problems in audio recordings. As stated earlier I no longer have the Sony 7506’s so I’m afraid I can’t compare the Senals to the Sony’s directly but listening to the Senal SMH-1000's they do sound very similar to how I remember the Sony’s sounding, although I’m pretty sure the Sony’s had a bit more punch in the higher frequencies as I remember feeling like the trebles were always a bit too audible in the Sony’s and that doesn’t seem to be the case with the Senals.
The box for the Senals states that the frequency response is designed in a way that field engineers can detect wind noise whilst maintaining a pronounced mid range for dialogue a vocal work as well as providing excellent high frequency response with a roll off at 14 KHz for low-level monitoring and hearing protection. They say that this produces a natural sound with subtle emphasis in the right places! While I wouldn't feel comfortable saying that myself I do feel that the Senal’s provide more mid and upper frequency detail than the Sennheiser HD25’s which tend to push the lower bass frequencies to a more prominent position.
Much like the Sony 7506’s, I feel the Senal’s are definitely more oriented to providing useful monitoring of dialogue than the HD-25’s which tend to provide a more rounded performance with stronger bass response. I would prefer the HD-25’s for music for sure, but for hearing any hiss, hum or other background problems in vocal recordings I would choose the Senals or the Sony’s over the Sennheisers.
So the Senal SMH-1000’s not only look like the Sony 7506’s but they also seem to do an equally good job when it comes to monitoring. I think they’re more comfortable than the Senheisser HD-25 II’s and provide a more useful frequency response for dialogue recordings. When it comes down to choosing a pair of headphones for monitoring the Senal’s seem to stack up really well, they obviously owe a lot to the Sony 7506’s in design and provide a similar audio response.
Other things to bare in mind is that the Senal SMH-1000’s come with a 3 year limited warranty which is vastly superior to the 90 days Sony offers. The Sony’s come with a protective pouch but the Senals have removable cables so if any of those appeal then it makes the decision easier. Had the Senal's been substantially cheaper than the Sony's I think they would be a great alternative but at the time of writing this B&H Photo are listing the Sony 7506’s for $93.99 and the Senals for $89.99 so are are very closely matched in price.
With the pricing being so close I'd find it hard to recommend the Senal's over tried and tested models but they certainly seem to work well and if the additional warranty or cable options appeal then they would be a good choice.
View the Senal SMH-1000 Pro Headphones on B&H Photo