Pioneer SE-Monitor5 – Expert Review
Hot on the heels of the Pioneer Master1 , the SE-Monitor5 promises to be a closed-back alternative. It’s a similar design but with a few tweaks here and there, and at a much lower price. So what does a grand get us from Pioneer these days?
Design and appearance (e.g. attractiveness, feel):
Wearing the SE-Monitor 5 certainly makes it known that you’re incommunicado; the earcups are big circular affairs which swallow up the ears and quite a lot of head along with them! Attractive copper rings decorate the earcups on the outside, and the cable bears a couple of rose gold touches.
Durability & build quality (e.g. cabling, connectors, materials):
The Pioneer SE-Monitor5 is built with longevity in mind and will probably last for many years. Everything is solid and premium-feeling with no weak points. The cable is a little unusual in that it’s a fabric-coated type which has been braided or twisted, so it resembles a vintage power cable. The twistings are not fixed so they’re a bit tighter here and not so tight there, making it a bit scruffy looking. Strain reliefs are pretty small, but this is a ‘stay at home’ model so pretty standard for that use. There are three cables included; a 3 metre one, and two shorter cables, one of which is balanced with a 2.5mm jack.
The connectors which go into the headphones are 3.5mm stereo jacks, so there is plenty of scope for aftermarket or DIY cables if that takes your fancy.
When swapping the earpads over, the housings for the drivers were revealed as being of solid magnesium alloy. It’s impressive that this should be found where few will ever venture and actually see it, but it’s probably there for acoustic reasons first and foremost.
The drawback of all this solid construction is the weight, around 480g (17 ounces). This reviewer is of the strong-necked variety, and heavier headphones have been tried but some out there may wish to think twice if they are sensitive to this sort of thing. The weight is quite evenly distributed between the earpads and headband, but the slight pressure from the headband may start making itself known after an hour or two.
The Pioneer SE-Monitor5 comes with two sets of pads; the velour is fitted by default and there are a pair of leatherette earpads too. For this review the leatherette earpads are being used; with the velour pads the sound is a little more focused on the midrange with a lower bass level.
The SE-Monitor5 earpads are quite solid and the seal is affected if glasses are worn; glasses with chunky arms create a gap between the earpads and the head, letting out a fair bit of the low frequencies. Metal-framed glasses may be better. It’s easy to imagine that this issue will resolve itself when the earpads start to wear in.
Bass is quite responsive to the music being played; it stays in its place with older genres but is fully present with anything newly produced. The sub bass comes out to play, and we’re treated to a very wide, tight and dazzling bottom end! There is no hint of the bass being elevated above where it should be with any particular thing. There’s a nice clarity and form to it, and it’s clear and well separated even with a lot going on within the midrange.
Like the bass, the midrange doesn’t overdo it. The SE-Monitor 5 is a fairly flat and neutral-sounding headphone, but there is a certain warmth and lushness there to keep things sounding appealing. There is no sibilance though, or any sign that the SE-Monitor 5 is having anything other than a great time! It’s all relaxed and effortless.
The midrange hangs with the bass and merges seamlessly; there’s a vast amount of space and reverb trails/effects are clear and well defined all the way to their eventual decay. harmonics are clear and serve to make for a large and well defined sound.
Following in the SE-Monitor 5 theme, the treble hits the right note too. It’s neither boosted or recessed; our attention is on the full presentation, and it’s topped off with some really impressive detail given the relaxed and unhurried way in which it appears to be served up. Like the midrange, the treble has an inviting lush quality to it which really appeals and makes for a slightly warm sound, but without compromising on detail.
READ MORE: Fostex TH7BK Closed Back Headphone Review
Soundstage & Separation:
The width of the presentation is pretty good for a closed-back model. There’s a decent amount of virtual space in which the SE-Monitor 5 has its fun, and a very real impression of the space in which the recording was made too, such as in the case of acoustic music like classical or opera.
The SE-Monitor 5 may be a little warm-sounding but not at the expense of details which give positional cues, preserving the positions and forms of instruments really well. There’s great layering and we’re well aware of players and voices stretching out to the fringes of the space; nice for backing vocals.
Music genres good for and why:
Headphones at this price point should really do everything well, and the Pioneer SE-Monitor 5 doesn’t disappoint. Classical pieces benefit from a certain weightiness without taking the listener away from the midrange detail. Drum and Bass can give its all, and the SE-Monitor 5 serves up sub bass in buckets. Older recordings sound vibrant and musical, whilst at the same time being given sympathetic treatment for any artefacts or hiss they may have.
- Excellent sound
- Premium feel/Solid construction
- Short and long cables included
- Might be a bit heavy for some
- cables look untidy (nitpicking!)
Pioneer’s new SE-Monitor 5 promises to be a closed-back follow up to the open-backed SE-Master 1; but is it a people pleaser? It goes well with all sorts of music and should put a smile on the face of the most committed curmudgeon!