Austrian Audio has finally launched its high-end headphone system, with the Composer headphones and Score One amplifier. For this review, we are focusing on the Composer, seeing how these new flagship headphones perform and where they stand in the broader market. Are these new reference headphones worth the high $2,699 asking price?
What You Get
- Composer headphones
- Wooden Storage Case
- 3 detachable cables
- 3.5mm w/6.3mm adapter
- 4.4mm Pentaconn
- 4-pin XLR
Look & Feel
The Composer might not have the traditional looks of a flagship open-back headphone, but what it lacks in style it more than makes up for in practicality. Its structure recalls more of a DIY look, but the individual parts are put together well and never feel flimsy. There are a few things that make the Composer stand out mechanically, one of which is its new banana jack connectors, which is a proprietary connection. The other main feature is the new adjustable earcups, which lets you adjust the angle of the individual cups. This gives you more of an opportunity to get the best seal and overall comfort possible from the Composer.
The Composer utilizes Hi-X technology with a 49mm driver. This HI-X driver design uses a diamond-like carbon diaphragm for more rigidity and even output no matter the loudness level. These headphones are exceptionally easy to drive, to the point where even an affordable dongle DAC can get the Composer to give you enough output.
You might expect the Composer to have a stricter soundstage with closer imaging that provides accuracy over everything. Reference headphones never need to expand too far with its soundstage other than to showcase the mix with the proper positioning and separation. The Composer goes a step further, using reference imaging to widen the scope of the soundstage. This results in a slightly more holographic presentation, which never deters from keeping the sound elements accurately positioned in the mix. It keeps the sound from appearing too cold, offering some immersive properties that enhance the headphone’s casual enjoyment. Everything still appears close to you, as the instruments and effects stick to a close headspace that presents itself directly. You feel the sounds satisfyingly engulf your head, while also maintaining a distinct stereo environment.
You’re not going to get a rush of bass texture immediately from trying out the Composer for the first time. There’s always a foundation of bass coming through the Composer though, and it helps establish a subtle presentation that lifts the sound elements with a realistic low-frequency presence. The Composer makes it apparent that the bass is not its main focus, but the tone is still presented with even volume and subtle details. You get all the clarity, just with very little impact. However, the Composer is capable of some griping rumble around the sub-bass.
All of the Composer’s main timbral elements happen in the midrange. These are neutral frequencies that are enhanced by the Composer’s transparency and dynamic response. It exhibits a wide range of details to bite on, even if those details don’t cut though that significantly. Instruments and vocals are given a ton of room and clarity for life-like performances and tons of definition. Acoustic guitar plucks are particularly precise, with vocals sitting on top of everything with a light crispness from the upper-mids and treble.
While the highs come off as smooth and digestible, there is a tinge of brightness here that keeps the sound interesting. The Composer never unleashes too much brightness as to cause disturbance, but you may hear spurts of high-frequency definition that appear to have more gain than other regions of the treble. This gives the sound signature more height, and it lets some high frequencies breathe a bit more and reveal finer details that might be too smoothed out otherwise.
For Austrian Audio’s first set of high-end headphones, the Composer offers something pretty unique. Its build is unlike a lot of headphones around its price, with features that are very specific to the Composer’s design. I feel great about the adjustable ear cups, but the banana connectors aren’t as appealing to me. In terms of sound, these are elegantly tuned reference headphones that should satisfy both critical and casual listeners alike. Some aspects like bass response might not make everyone happy, but there’s enough here to get you thinking about a potential purchase, especially for how easy they are to drive.
The Austrian Audio Composer is available at Audio46.