Originally published 7/14/17.
- 3/30/19: Made SR850 Budget King #4.
- 6/2/19: Replaced SR850 with K240 as Budget King #4.
- 7/9/19: Added Video Comparison with the K240.
- 1/22/21: Article/link cleanup.
- 2/24/22. Article revisit.
Hi friend and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Samson SR850 Review, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
- Video Review
- Amp/DAC requirements
- Who benefits?
- Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
My graph is pretty decent for the most part, but I think Rtings illustrated the 8-10kHz peak a bit more accurately. That just needs to come down a bit.
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H!
- Type: Semi-open. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
- Fit: Circumaural
- Impedance: 32 Ohm.
- Frequency Response: 10Hz – 30kHz
- Efficiency: 98dB/mW
- Transducer Type: Dynamic
- Driver Size: 50mm. What is a Headphone Driver?
- Cable: Straight
- Cable Length: 8.3 feet
- Plug size: 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter (included)
Right off the bat, these remind me so much of the AKG K240 Studios. They have the same hammock-style headband which I love, and the weight of them feels very similar.
I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t picked up a pair of K240s in a while, but the SR850s feel a bit more durable to me.
Related: AKG K240 vs. Samson SR850
The ear-cups are a bit shallower, but I’m digging the velour padding on the 850 more than the faux leather of the 240. The K240’s pads felt more rigid and stiff as if they were going to crack and completely fail you.
I’ve heard rumors that the 240 does tend to break down over time, but I haven’t experienced it for myself yet.
Comfort is a bit hit and miss.
When you first put them on, they feel great. The clamp is just right and the weight is perfect.
Over time you’ll notice them hurting your ears due to the shallow cups and unfortunately it’s just about the same issue I have with the K240.
What makes the 850 a bit better is that the cups are velour and thicker than the K240’s faux leather toy pads. So I’d say the 850 is going to be more comfortable than the K240, but you’ll still likely be making adjustments over extended listening/mixing/gaming sessions.
Speaking of listening sessions, how’s the sound?
The sound quality is phenomenal for the most part.
The great thing about these headphones is that they don’t sound bloated or cheap – something that a lot of entry-level models suffer from. The bass is definitely lean, but it still has some impact though if you’re a bass-head you may want to stay away.
This is a headphone more for the budding audiophile who desires an overall balanced sound and tends to drink tea with his/her pinky out.
Treble wise, they do have a tendency to become bright, and pretty sibilant at times. What does Sibilant mean? For the most part, they are incredibly detailed and have a nice sense of air about them, but I will caution you that it will likely need some EQ.
I would say the Soundstage is particularly impressive. I get a nice sense of space and depth to the music. The width of the image is exceptional, and for Gaming, these are a real treat.
For whatever reason, I don’t find them harsh or sibilant when I’m watching movies or slaying baddies. Go figure. I’d say these very closely mimic the Soundstage of my beloved K702, but perhaps not quite as wide.
You will notice a lot going on in film that you were previously unaware of. It can be subtle, but really adds to the intimacy and immersion. There were times when it legitimately felt like surround sound speakers in that I could hear things that I kind of thought were noises happening outside of me.
An example of this is the Method Man scene in Garden State. You can hear all sorts of strange and interesting sounds going on in the background that feel like they’re happening inside your home, causing you to take the headphones off and investigate.
With music, there’s this strange depth and thump that I can’t quite explain.
Everything has a nice lively quality about it.
Instruments feel more present and have a nice element of realism. You’ll also start to hear subtle details in the music that sound really interesting and also very revealing.
There are qualities about the 850 that feel too good for a headphone this cheap. Almost as if the price seems incredibly low for the quality of sound you’re getting.
To me, it’s astounding that a headphone below a hundred dollars could bear some of these same qualities as the stuff in higher price ranges.
Frankly, it’s scary.
I sometimes talk about the law of diminishing returns in my articles. This simply means that beyond a certain price threshold, the increase in sound quality gets incrementally smaller even though you’re paying a lot more.
This is why it really doesn’t make sense to purchase a headphone over a thousand dollars (in most cases, there are exceptions) when you can get just about the same sound for around $300.
With lower-end stuff like the 850, you’re really not missing that much and in fact, the sound is strikingly similar to some of the mid-fi gear that I’ve gotten a chance to demo or own.
The catch is that yes, instrument timbre and the way more expensive headphones are tuned is definitely superior to the cheaper stuff, so definitely keep that in mind.
- Lively sound. There’s a nice crisp quality to the 850 that really leaves you smiling.
- Plenty of air. These are very open and have a nice sense of space and depth.
- Comfortable. Even as I sit here listening to them with sunglasses on, I don’t feel like I need to take them off or adjust them.
- Build quality. It’s impressive for such a lightweight can. I feel like these can take a bit more abuse than your average Joe.
- They definitely can be strident at times and may need some EQ around 8-10kHz.
- Comfort isn’t bad, but you’ll be making adjustments with these. The ear cups are shallow and tend to dig after a while because your ears are basically touching the drivers.
My Video Review
Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂
These will not require an amp and sound great out of your mobile device. How to choose a headphone amp!
If you were to purchase an Amp/DAC for these, I wouldn’t purchase anything more than an E10K or K3.
Who do these headphones benefit?
They do well with a lot of genres, and I like them with:
- Indie/Indie Pop.
- Rock/Classic Rock.
- Jazz. A lot of finer as well as minor details become present.
Thoughts from Stu’s notepad
- I’ve heard Pink Floyd’s “Wish you were here” about a thousand times, but the sense of space and separation of the instruments here is impressive. Normally, the sounds kind of run together, but here they have a chance to breathe a little (no pun intended)
- I really like the personality of the music as well. Things seem to have more character; you’re able to get a sense of how the artist intended for the song to sound. It’s hard to explain, but good headphones kind of reveal the true nature of how music sounds. There’s more impact behind the instrument. It feels more real, present, and complete. Something I’ve found also with revealing headphones is that they are more whole and you hear bass lines fully fleshed out, as well as other instruments and vocals.
- What I’m really digging about the 850 is the fact that when a song reaches a crescendo, I don’t feel overwhelmed as if the sound is just out of control. You know the feeling I’m talking about: stuff starts running together, things feel claustrophobic and out of focus, and you can’t really hear what’s going on clearly. I haven’t had this problem with the 850, and again, it’s astonishing to me given its price.
The SR850 is an extremely revealing set of headphones with a very open, airy sound. They can be strident at times, but it’s something you’ll likely either come to accept or EQ down a bit. Comfort can be hit and miss, and the build, while light, doesn’t feel cheap.
The SR850 isn’t a perfect headphone, but it’s an incredible value for the price. I would highly recommend them at a cost even over a Benjamin. For their current price, it’s an absolute steal. This is a very underrated headphone for sure.
You may be wondering why I replaced the 850 with the K240 in my Budget Kings Series, and if the 850 is still worth a purchase. In all honesty, it’s hard to decide between these 2 headphones as I’ve swapped them out of the list a couple of times.
On one hand, the K240 is less comfortable but has a more subdued treble. On the other hand, the 850 is crisper, livelier, and more comfortable, but has the treble peak issue.
I suppose the 850 is the 6th man right now (well 7th seeing as how Budget Kings contains 6), but it may easily make the list again in the future. In other words, I still think it’s an incredibly relevant headphone and should absolutely be considered if you’re just getting started in this bizarre hobby.
Interested in learning more?
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Samson SR850 review.
If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
What do you think about the SR850? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,