Austrian Audio Hi-X65 by Arthur Stone
Introducing the Austrian Audio Hi-X65 headphones: professional; over-ear; open-back. Designed for mixing and mastering, and offering “close, precise listening at these critical stages of the audio production process.”
The key features are: High Excursion Driver Technology (large 44mm driver supporting low bass frequencies and low distortion); metal hinges and headband bow (for stability); soft slow-retention memory foam earpads (for long-lasting comfort); foldable design for portability/storage; also comes supplied with a 3 m and 1.2 m high-quality cables with 1/8” to 1/4” adapters.
I spent around 3 months using the Hi-X65 daily (alongside AKG K701 and Audeze LCD1) and found them suitable for a range of studio roles and leisure-listening but definitely having the right character for mixing and mastering. Zero criticisms. Comfortable headphones; well though out with the user in mind.
The Austrian Audio Story: A relatively new company (of 5 years) with historical roots and a wealth of experience: formed by the staff of AKG microphone division which closed when the parent company Harman was bought by Samsung:: 22 personnel with over 350 years experience in: management, acoustics, electronics, test and measurement, mechanical design, RF/wireless, and software and firmware.
Austrian Audio are also active in research and design, for themselves and external companies: their 4TT anechoic chamber is used for microphone and headphone R&D; the Aurora test and measurement system for production; and general ODM (original design manufacturing).
In reviewing gear from across the world we see a range of local design and engineering vernacular: this regional variation is an exciting aspect as novel ideas and designs flourish based on diverse heritage. As a 'made in Austria' product there is strong quality control and this is evident in the high-quality of Austrian Audio gear.
This experience was demonstrated in the OC818 reviewed here: whilst Austrian Audio has the historical heritage it is able to innovate with unique, novel features such as ceramic capsule, advanced body, Bluetooth remote control via app, and Polar designer editing software, and for these class-leading features to work together perfectly and seamlessly.
Together with the OC818's sound and flexibility it was awarded 5* and has been widely-praised on Gearspace forum and beyond. The Hi-X65 has a hard act to follow.
The Hi-X65 worked with a range of gear: smartphone; audio interface; monitor controller; professional headphone amp; also used with BOSS GT1000 CORE and Moog Subphatty with outstanding results!
The Hi-X65 had a consistent sonic character across all devices; the extra detail and timbre was clear when using the specialized high-end headphone amps.
Price: 349 Euros/£319 UK/$429 US
Extendable 2-year warranty with some limitations.
There's an economy-of-scale with specialized headphones and that pushes up costs relative to mass-produced gear. Smaller runs of headphones need specific design, components (often custom-made), and often hand-built manufacture. The Hi-X65 has a fair price for its capability.
Whilst the Hi-X65 doesn't have the sonic gravitas and over-machined luxury of the 'super-headphones' and 'ultra-phones' it costs a lot less – around 10x less.
Comfort Level: I enjoyed wearing the Hi-X65, I enjoyed listening and working. It was a pleasure. I looked forward to listening to familiar music – to hear from a comfortable reference point.
I'm wearing them as I write this; the weight is unnoticeable with just a light soft cushion sealing the outer ear into an airy spacious cocoon. No sense of a vacuum suck. Good wide soundstage with strong forward centre. Brain not confused.
It's near midnight, around 70 Fahrenheit on the coast but I'm not sweating or feeling too hot. After 40 mins I quickly pulled the phones from my ears to release heat build-up - a few minutes break to let my ears rest. A few days later and it's 90 degrees at night: maybe I vent every 20 mins. Still, a comfortable experience given the heat.
In cooler temperatures it was easy to forget I was wearing them, mistakenly-thinking sound was coming from the monitors. Duh.
In general, superb comfort. Non-fatiguing, non-clamping, no skull pressure and so well-balanced you'll forget they're there.
Sonic Comfort: I got to hear everything I needed to about my own music production, and other peoples production, whether professional collaborations/projects or finished online media.
Whether the detail in room ambience and reverb fx, or deep-throb of a Bugatti engine or Moog or the complex interactions of orchestral instruments e.g. Vivaldi: Oboe Concerto – or the rolling soundscape of the Tour de France cycle race...or Blade Runner.
The Hi-X65 really comes alive with challenging material and gets a chance to show off just how capable it is; bland music sounds bland. Sonic problems, imbalances or imperfections are easy to identify and also a clear insight for mix processing: compression, EQ, reverb, distortion, and balance.
The frequency spectrum is well-represented and balanced with no holes, dropouts, or mud. Nothing is shrill or unreasonably harsh. There is a bright, modern air. A blank canvas in a well-lit room.
With eyes closed, the sonic experience is akin to hearing high-end studio monitors.
In this sense the Hi-X65 fulfils the product description of being suitable for mixing and mastering.
Conclusion: Sometimes audio gear requires a learning curve, is difficult or unwieldy: other times the gear just does what you want/need it to, and the Hi-X65 does that, providing high-quality, reference-quality sound and is comfortable and robust and doesn't cost a fortune.
Perfect for the mixing-mastering role and also just a great pair of cans for any use. Easy comfort. A vivid, non-fatiguing, full-bodied listening experience. The Austrian Audio Hi-X65 is well-positioned in terms of price-performance. I have zero criticisms. I trust them.
Sound quality: 5/5 Reliable. Engaging. No hype. Not clinical. Music can sound breathtaking (if it has that potential). Authentic soundstage: large, deep, high and wide, strong centre. Good sonic insight into complex mixes with all sources clearly represented in the mix space.
Ease of use: 5/5 Comfortable. Non-fatiguing. Very good translation to monitors. Works well with a variety of headphone amps...plenty of juice. Suitable for a variety of roles: high-quality, high-definition audio reference to 'fun' leisure listening. Works well with web media and brings life to films and soundtracks.
Features: 5/5 Everything needed. Unique design and high-quality manufacture. Made in Austria. Good quality cables and dust bag. Warranty.
Bang-for-buck: 5/5 A very decent reference headphone at a realistic and affordable price. Excellent price-performance for a robust professional tool. Good investment in monitoring.
Credits: Photos courtesy of Austrian Audio; additional images by Arthur Stone.