Edifier WH-950NB ($179): Another fine example from a company that gets it
Edifier has a history of making affordable bookshelf speakers that also happen to sound fabulous. Price-wise they are really hard to beat. Sound-wise, they simply verify Edifier makes quality products. Between Will and myself we have tried many of their products ranging from bookshelf speakers to the fine Stax-inspired S3 wireless headphones. Those bookshelf speakers are renowned for power, quality sound and good looks. I am quite fond of the S3’s as well, using them quite often when I am in need of an easy-to-use wireless headphone, which can take the abuse.
The WH-950NB is Edifier’s latest iteration of a wireless headphone in the sub-$200 market. With tweaked ANC, LDAC capabilities and up to 34 hours (ANC on, 55 hours ANC off) of playback time; we approach the “all week at work” level of battery life. If you need more, a 10-minute charge will give you an additional 7 hours.
The 950NB carries a 40mm composite diaphragm driver and 4 microphones for $179, along with the very good Edifier Connect app, which allows some fine tuning along the way.
In The Box:
Semi-hard case w/ denim-like cover (very nice case)
USB-A to USB-C cable
3.5mm se to 3.5mm se (right angle) cable (for audio use)
Coming in either black or white, the sample was black. I get it about having cream or white colors, but that’s not for me. The all-black box with information is of a small enough size to not be over-superfluous. I like that. Opening the box after examining all of the inscriptions on the outside, you are met with a high quality semi-hard case in a dark gray denim-like material. A nice grab handle helps when unzipping the thinner case, which has a smaller, but grippy zipper. I really like the case, and although it showed some wear after being lumped around in my backpack for the past month; it did not bother me. Call it the “patina of ownership.”
Unzipping you are met with the folded headphones, but in a different manner than others we have reviewed. This matches the S3 way of folding into a case, but to me it was not all that handy. Not the thinnest case either (think Sony, Sennheiser for thinness) but I liked the size as it gave good grip and afforded excellent protection. A velcro patch covered in suede helps to keep each ear cup separated, preventing scuffing. Another untethered suede patch is used as well to help. I actually just left that one alone, or put it between the headphones. No bother, really. A stretchy opaque pouch takes up a little less than 1⁄2 of the left side (non-headphone side), complete with an angular top to help access. I do wish it was see-through, but it does help hold items very well.
The zipper covers over itself to afford some water protection, which is a nice touch added by many manufacturers now. The plastic tab of the zipper pull gives a good feel as well, and I had no problem with the case.
Many of Edifier’s previous iterations were made mainly of plastic. It is affordable and easy to work with. The 950’s are mainly the same, but with a nice metal band running over the top of the headband. A nice accent, highlighting a build quality that is quite good. Foldable to a fairly small size, when the cups face each other, the 950 actually fits into the case when the cups face flat. This is where I had some issues, making sure the cups and suede piece between them is lined up. The cups have a hinge on the yoke as well, making it easier to fold, once you figure out the correct orientation.
Good adjustment of the cups in the gimbel affords an easy fit as well. What is different here is that the slider mechanism comes out at the halfway point between the top of the band, and the yoke. This is the beauty of that metal band, which has detents, allowing for a good fit. That metal band actually overrides a plastic guide, with “gutters” on the outsides of the guide, which is where the adjusting clicks are located. Elegantly simple, even if the metal band attracts fingerprints.
A thick pad resides under the metal headband strap, above the adjusting mechanism. It is thick and cushiony affording a very nice relief system on the top of your head. Oblong cups of very high-quality sit at the aft end of the yoke, with a smidgen of movement for proper head orientation. When adjusted properly, the cups envelope my ears very nicely. The pads are sumptuously soft and of a slow compression variety, returning to their “natural” shape once taken off. Those pads are soft and very comfortable for long sessions as well. I wore the pair one Saturday while “cleaning” the garage for over five hours, only taking them off a couple of times as situations warranted it. They do not have a pause feature like the Sony XM5’s, though. No bother really, and somewhat expected at this price.
Isolation is good with those pads, but not great or rather over-excessive. Once the music gets playing, especially with ANC, there is no leakage of sound from your surroundings. Overall fit is amongst the best I have experienced at this price. But, that is pretty much what I expect from Edifier having had this luck on the other products as well.
The Edifier Connect app, once connected, gives the user many options regarding ANC and equalization as well as battery percentage and “safe volume” settings. A four-band equalizer has a unique way of making adjustments. You THINK it is only a four-band EQ, but in reality, you can change any of those four settings to personalized frequencies. Yes, you can only have four-bands, but having the ability to fine-tune bass or treble, or the mids for vocals is something I have not seen in an app before. Yes, you can do that in others, but without the ability to pick out the specific frequencies to tailor. Nicely done, but the only settings I changed were ANC and Ambient Noise.
You get three listening modes as well, Music, Gaming and Theater Mode. Music Mode is meant for listening. Gaming mode cuts latency down, making for a more realistic situation in RPG’s. Theater Mode adds soundstage to the mix, as well as instrument separation, which mimics the feel of an expansive theater and thus gives a better spatial awareness for the movie at hand.
I did try all three settings and will report on each in the sound section.
As advertised, the 950 carries 34 hours of life with it. I verified this over three trials with ANC constantly in its highest setting. My average of the three settings was approximately 33.75 hours, so right at their numbers. I also tried with the ANC off for one battery depletion trial and achieved over 50 hours. So, a mix of both could easily get you through the work week, especially when you can get another 7 hours with a 10-minute charge. If you do this each day at work, you have your commute and work day set. More and more, battery life is becoming less of an issue and I know many consider 30+ hours essential for their needs. Nice to see battery development helping us this way, even if other headphones allow for longer listening times
There is no getting around the fact that the bass highlights the show in the 950. Deep and pulsating, especially in “Dynamic Mode,” that bass does overpower the mids, with certain bleed into the middle sections. Those lusciously thick pads do not isolate the best, allowing some outside sound through, even on high ANC (but work mostly well). Treble notes reach a bit into the higher regions, but not to the extreme. This is a pleasantly smooth signature, with good bass (even if a bit loose), and a non-grating top end. Good height gives the sound a higher ceiling than some of its direct competitors as well.
As mentioned, the bass takes center stage here. Deep reaching, with slow decay makes for a kind of molasses-like flow to it, which isn’t all bad. The 950 to me was not designed for technical brilliance, but rather to be an excellent commuting option, where those bass notes drown out the outside commute noises. It works, mostly. I would have preferred a speedier decay, to tighten up the low end, but appreciate what those bass notes do to keep not only my interest but also to help on a commuter route.
The mids come across as competent, but not overly shouty or showy. Fats Waller’s version of “Ain’t Misbehavin’” shows that vocals, especially male vocals come across as an integral part of the signature, instead of at the forefront. Set almost dead center to me, those vocals help to keep the signature in check, without becoming the focus. Sarah Vaughan’s “Black Coffee” comes across as sultry and sumptuous, but without the authority I would have preferred from her seriously magnificent voice. But that seems to fit the tone of the 950.
Carrying that same song up top, the treble carries decent weight, without becoming shouty, grating or too sparkly. I would have preferred a higher reach, until the horn support comes in about ½ way through the song. Then I appreciate that Edifier did not push the high notes too far. Yet again, that smooth character shows through in this song. Green Day’s “American Idiot” comes across with speed, vibrancy and the energy you expect from their seminal song. This to me is where that treatment up high from the upper mids to the treble make the 950 a very tolerable signature, even a bit energetic to show that it carries a few tricks up its cups. When the volume is raised, there is no leak of sound outside, either. So, you could very easily rock out on your commute (or in the office) without bother.
Soundstage is as expected limited, since it is a closed-back wireless headphone. Guitar work such as on “Two’s Blues” from Jim Hall gives good width and height, but depth suffers a bit. Mind you, this is a near-budget wireless headphone, and it becomes pretty impressive. Separation & layering are a discovery in “it doesn’t matter,” because this is meant for the gym or commuting or mowing. As a result, this could easily become someone’s second pair, with which to treat less than admirably. And it would work just fine. It is January, so I did not try these on the mower, but did while cleaning out the garage one weekend. They worked fine staying in place.
While talking with our son, he had no issues hearing me, though his voice did sound a bit constricted in a box, but I never had an issue hearing him. This comes across as competent, and even a bit better when you switch to “Wind Reduction” on the app. Call quality was just fine as a result, and easy to use.
Classic received the majority of my time and sounded quite competent. Switching to “Dynamic” mode, the mids became more prevalent along with a more expansive soundstage, width-wise. Separation was better here, and on some jazz songs, I preferred this. There is enough distinction between the two, to where a user could quickly change between songs. For “Theater” mode (think surround sound), I opted to watch a portion of “Fury,” the final battle scene on my iPhone 13 Pro Max. I found the most in your face was Theater and Dynamic combined, giving me a real sense of the battle. I have watched that movie well over a dozen and a half times, but still found myself edging my seat during the battle. Such a wonderful movie, and very good treatment. I did prefer Theater and Classic though, because the other was too much in my face. It is nice to have options.
Gaming Mode was used in the CarX Rally game on my phone. Sound was placed well, including wind noise and the typical smashes and crashes of my driving. Sound was accurate as well, with a good feel to placement and accuracy. The low latency of 80ms made sure to keep me in the car.
Utilizing the 3.5se cable through the new iFi GO Link and my iPhone 13 Pro Max afforded me the opportunity to test audio quality. The sound was of a slightly better quality, with more detail, but I cannot honestly say whether it was from the cable use or iFi. Regardless, the cabled use gave me another opportunity to use the 950. It automatically powered on as well, and seemed not to use power, since the light was off.
Connecting two devices (BT 5.3) allows for easy shift between computer and phone such as for a conference call, Zoom or music. With HiRes certification as well as Safe volume of <85dB and a cutoff timer you are assured of not leaving the unit turned on all night after you fall asleep. I tried this by having our son call me while I was listening from my MBP (and connected to my iPhone). When the call came, it was an easy switch and he stated that he could hear me clearly, even in a fairly noisy situation outside. Upon hanging up, the music from my MBP came back on without a hitch. This seems to be more and more the norm, and I for one appreciate it.
Edifier have their stuff together. In this time of consolidation and pulling back from releasing too much due to the global economic situation, a company must be smart in their offerings. Edifier did just that with the WH950NB. New 5.3BT, affordability and very good build simply add to the quite nice sound signature. While not necessarily the best in class (hard to define anyway…), the Edifier BT wireless headphone provided me with ease of use, adaptability to multiple devices, and very good sound that actually favored my preferred signature (smooth with a decent bass boost). Combine all of that with a decently affordable price, and you can see that Edifier is trying hard to make the big boys sit up and listen. Those companies rightly should, for the WH950NB is a worthy competitor into the mid-priced market, and bests many of the offerings out there.