The Senal SMH-1000 studio headphones have the look and feel of the Sony MDR-7506 headphones, which pretty much set the standard for professional monitoring headphones in the sub-$100 range. In many cases, the Sony MDR-7506 headphones are even better than other models that cost substantially more.
I found the Sony MDR-7506 headphones a few years ago when I started my HDSLR journey and began to get serious about shooting and editing video. I have been thrilled with the quality and performance of these. Going into this review, I have a strong bias toward the Sony models and much of my impression of the Senal SMH-1000 headphones is due to a direct comparison to the Sony MDR-7506 unit. In that regard, the SMH-1000 headphones stack up quite well.
The appearance of the SMH-1000, including the ear cushion feel, headband and folding design are very close to the Sony MDR-7506. I really can’t tell much of a difference in wearing the SMH-1000 versus the MDR-7506 – and I’ve logged many hours with the MDR-7506 on my head.
Notably, the SMH-1000’s ear cushions are replaceable and readily available for only $14. Likewise, the headphone cable plugs into the SMH-1000, which means that you don’t have to worry about pinching a cable and trashing a set of headphones (or attempting to solder on a new cable). If a cable is broken or otherwise damaged, you can simply unplug it from the SMH-1000 and get a new one for $10 or $15. These are a couple of great features that potentially make the SMH-1000’s lifespan much longer than the average set of headphones. Additionally, Senal offers a 3-year warranty over the 90-day warranty from Sony. That said, I’ve had my Sony MDR-7506 headphones for 3-4 years now and they still work like new.
Senal includes two headphone cables with the SMH-1000 – a 10′ coiled cable (similar to what is permanently attached to the Sony MDR-7506) and a 3′ straight cable. I can certainly see the added value of the 3′ straight cable when I’m traveling with only my MacBook and don’t need to be any further from my computer.
What I wish Senal included with the SMH-1000 is a bag or case for the headphones. Sony includes a simple faux-leather bag with a drawstring, which I have used since day one. It is a simple and cheap accessory that I feel has added value and life to the product. You can buy a similar bag from Senal for $10, but it is something I feel should be in the box to begin with. If you consider the value of the two included cables, however, this oversight becomes a bit of a wash when compared to the Sony MDR-7506.
The sound quality of the SMH-1000 is solid and is very similar to the Sony MDR-7506. However, I still give an edge to the Sony MDR-7506 in pure sound quality. I feel like the MDR-7506 is slightly richer in bass and midrange frequencies and provides a warmth that the Senal SMH-1000 doesn’t quite reach.
On the other hand, the Sony MDR-7506 always sound like the highs are a bit tinny – and I feel like, in spite of the lesser punch in the bass and midrange of the SMH-1000, they don’t have the same tinny sound in the highs. This difference is probably attributable to the gradual roll off at 14kHz in the SMH-1000. Senal says this roll off is design for accruate low level monitoring and hearing protection – and I believe it. I can really crank some Weezer in the SMH-1000 and I don’t feel like the cymbals are killing me. In sum, the SMH-1000 headphones sound great and provide an accurate reproduction of your tracks and I feel fully confident that I can build an accurate mix with the SMH-1000.
I’m viewing both of these headphones from the perspective of a video editor that has to edit audio as well. I’m sure audio editors and mixers would have even more caveats on both units.
I think Senal got a lot right in the build of the SMH-1000 headphones. The detachable cable and removable ear cushions are a huge added value to the SMH-1000. If I didn’t have the pre-existing bias and perform direct comparison of the sound quality with the Sony MDR-7506, I probably wouldn’t have even commented on the bass and midrange differences with the SMH-1000. That said, I don’t think you can go wrong with either set of headphones – just consider which features are most important to your intended use and choose accordingly.
At the time of this review, B&H is selling the SMH-1000 headphones for $69.99, which is $20 off the regular price of $89.99. The Sony MDR-7506 headphones sell for $79.99. So, there’s not much difference in overall price to consider whether the SMH-1000 is on sale on or not.
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Great comparison,great photos too! I also own both headphones, and I use the short cable when I have a field mixer or recorder in a bag working a boom. I used to stick the Sony’s coiled cable in my back pocket ,which was always a pain. I upgraded my Senal stock ear cushions with the sheepskin leather ones, and I think the bass comes alive. I agree the Senal’s are less tinny than the Sony, but the sound is very close. If i switch between them , it is a subtle difference. But the short strait cable has made me pretty much switch over,now the Sony’s are my spare. I only wish the Senal made a cable for my phone with a built in mic. It’s a no brainier. The guy at the store said there was one coming, but ill believe it when I see it.
Eric Reagan says
Thanks for the comment.
That’s some great observations from someone using the Senal headphones longer than me. I think that supports the sound quality argument that the Senal and Sony units are very close – when the cable is the thing that pushes you over to the Senal. Also, very interesting about the difference in bass between the stock ear cushions and sheepskin… Maybe I’ll have to check those out too…
“The detachable cable and removable ear cushions are a huge added value to the SMH-1000.”
I just wanted to mention that the earpads on the Sony MDR-7506 and MDR-V6 are also replaceable and anything that will fit on them will also fit on the SMH-1000.
Eric Reagan says
Cool. Thanks for pointing that out. I didn’t realize the MDR-7506 earpads were user-replaceable.