The Delightful Onkyo ES-FC300 and ES-HF300
Onkyo ES-FC300 ($149) and ES-HF300 ($179)
Onkyo, particularly famous for their A/V receivers, and like many big audio companies these days, has decided to enter the headphone fray with both on-ear and in-ear models. Initial press releases were filled with all the appropriate buzzwords: "Deep Powerful Bass"; "Well-Defined, Clear Sound"; "Tangle-Free Cable"; "Solid Build Quality"; and, of course, sexy pictures of white, black, and purple headphones with clean, contemporary lines. Typical big company brand promising that rarely gives any real indication of actual performance. This time, however, those promises seem to be fulfilled.
The Onkyo ES-FC300 and ES-HF300 are physically identical with the exception of the replaceable cable, which is a flat, tangle-free type on the ES-FC300, and a 6N Copper cable with what feels like a rubber silicon insulation. Both cables are "Y" types with MMCX connectors for each earpiece and 90 degree angled 3.5mm stereo plugs at the other end. Neither cable has a remote---rumors abound speculating on a soon to be released cable with remote---both cables measure about 0.2 Ohm resistance on the signal carrying conductors, and are four feet in length. While I didn't measure or hear any differences between the two cables, the premium cable did seem quite nicely finished with chromed connector bodies and the unusually soft cable insulation that Onkyo claims reduces cable-born mechanical noise. Apart from mentioning the slightly too large 90 degree angle connector body of the copper cable that may have some problems reaching in through a protective case to the headphone jack, I think the $30 upgrade for the premium cable is reasonable for those who appreciate these sorts of thing.
Onkyo correctly identifies these as an on-ear, sealed headphone, but the size, shape, and depth of the ear cushions is quite large and could almost be an over-ear can. The ample round earpads are covered with a medium thickness pleather, and while the foam cushions are fairly thick and soft, they don't seem to be the high-performance memory foam found on some higher cost headphones. So, the earpads feel a little uncompliant and awkward when first donned, but quickly warm up and seem to fit quite nicely as they settle into your head. The headband pad isn't particularly plush or thick, but it conforms to the shape of my head well and nicely distributes the weight over a good portion of my head. All-in-all I found these a surprisingly comfortable headphone of its price and type.
The overall build quality seems very good for a headphone of this price. Color-matched anodized aluminum outer ear cup shells and various hardware bits on the swivels are a nice touch and quite unusual at this price. Headband adjustment sliders appear to be stainless steel and quite hefty. The sliding mechanism is detented with a nice positive and secure feel. The remaining bits are various types of nicely finished plastics, mostly screwed together. Headphone pads are removable. I think these cans are built well and probably quite repairable and modifiable for those with the skills.
The ear pad swivel mechanism uses a single sided swing arm between the end of the headband and rear of each ear cup. The headband swivel allows the cup to rotate flat for storage and transport. The ear cup swivel allows a limited but ample tilt of the ear piece. The swivel (or gimbal) mechanism on the whole is slightly clunky and doesn't feel as precise as some of the more expensive headphones of this type, and when first putting them on I needed to do a bit of fidgeting to get the cans to fit properly on the head, but it does seem adequate and robust enough for long-lived reliability.
I liked the look of these headphones quite a bit. The lines are clean and modern. Color matching on the various parts of purple pair I received for review are not exact, but given the various differing materials is not surprising. I suspect the white and black color options would have closer color matching.
A soft, drawstring carry pouch is also included with your purchase.
All-in-all I found the Onkyo ES-FC300 and ES-HF300 a clean build, and an excellent first entry into the headphone market for Onkyo. Of course, it's the sound quality that really separate the men from the boys, and we'll talk about that on the next page.