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Samson SR850 Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Reviewed Oct 12, 2021 at 10:04 am
Samson SR850 Picture
7.7
Neutral Sound
3.7
Commute/Travel
4.9
Sports/Fitness
4.3
Office
4.1
Wireless Gaming
6.1
Wired Gaming
1.6
Phone Calls
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Semi-Open
Wireless No
Noise Cancelling No
Mic No
Transducer Dynamic

The Samson SR850 are budget-friendly over-ear headphones intended for audiophiles. Their semi-open design helps create a wide, spacious soundstage, while their bright sound profile can bring out details in recordings and make it easier to hear imperfections. However, this sound can also cause ear fatigue, and some may find it overly harsh or piercing. Unfortunately, they're not very breathable or comfortable, and their small ear cups make them fit a bit more like on-ears than over-ears for some people. They also have a mediocre build quality and a non-detachable cable that feels like it could break easily.

Our Verdict

7.7 Neutral Sound

The Samson SR850 are good for neutral sound; they deliver sound quite consistently and have a wide, spacious soundstage. Their exaggerated treble response gives them a bright sound profile and ensures instruments have detail, brightness, and airiness. You may prefer this sound if you're looking for headphones to use for recording and mixing and want to hear imperfections in your audio. However, some may find it harsh or piercing. Also, while their sound has a bit of extra punch and boom, low-bass is slightly underemphasized, typical of semi-open headphones.

Pros
  • Very good frequency response consistency.
  • Spacious passive soundstage.
Cons
  • Mediocre build quality.
3.7 Commute/Travel

The Samson SR850 are bad for commute and travel. They're intended for audiophiles and have a semi-open design that means they leak a lot of audio and hardly isolate you from any ambient sound. They're not very portable, either, since they don't fold into a more compact shape or come with a pouch.

Pros
  • Lightweight and fairly stable design.
Cons
  • Poor leakage and noise isolation, by design.
  • Mediocre build quality.
  • No case or pouch included.
4.9 Sports/Fitness

The Samson SR850 are bad for sports and fitness. They aren't intended for sports use and can easily fall off your head when you make big movements or if the cable gets snagged on something. The ear cups aren't very comfortable or breathable, and wearing them at the gym may make you sweat more. Also, like most audiophile headphones, they don't have an IP rating for dust or water resistance.

Pros
  • Lightweight and fairly stable design.
Cons
  • Poor leakage and noise isolation, by design.
  • Not very stable.
4.3 Office

The Samson SR850 are poor for office use. Because of their semi-open design, they don't isolate you from distractions like background conversations. They also leak a lot of audio, so anyone sitting near you in a shared space can hear your music, even if you're listening to audio at moderate volumes. Their small ear cups aren't very breathable, either, and they may be uncomfortable to wear all day.

Pros
  • Lightweight and fairly stable design.
Cons
  • Poor leakage and noise isolation, by design.
  • Mediocre build quality.
  • No microphone.
4.1 Wireless Gaming

The Samson SR850 are wired headphones, and you can't use them wirelessly.

6.1 Wired Gaming

The Samson SR850 are passable for wired gaming, as long as you don't need a microphone. You can use them to receive audio from PCs as well as PlayStation and Xbox consoles if you plug them into a controller. However, they aren't very comfortable or breathable, so they may not be ideal if you like to game for hours at a time.

Pros
  • Spacious passive soundstage.
Cons
  • No microphone.
1.6 Phone Calls

The Samson SR850 aren't suitable for making phone calls because they don't have a microphone.

  • 7.7 Neutral Sound
  • 3.7 Commute/Travel
  • 4.9 Sports/Fitness
  • 4.3 Office
  • 4.1 Wireless Gaming
  • 6.1 Wired Gaming
  • 1.6 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Oct 12, 2021: Review published.
  2. Updated Oct 05, 2021: Early access published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style

The Samson SR850 have a very similar design to the Superlux HD 668B and the AKG K240 MKII. They have an all-black design and round ear cups with a retro look. Like the AKG, they have a leather strap to cushion the headband.

6.5
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.52 lbs
Clamping Force
1.1 lbs

They're adequately comfortable. They're light and don't clamp onto your head with too much pressure, but the ear cups are small, so they feel almost like on-ear headphones instead of over-ears. Your ears are also likely to touch the drivers, which can be annoying. People with small heads may find the headband a bit big too. Funnily enough, they can feel more comfortable when you put them on backwards.

0
Design
Controls
OS Compatibility
No Controls
Ease Of Use No Controls
Feedback No Controls
Call/Music Control No
Volume Control No
Microphone Control No
Channel Mixing
No
Noise Cancelling Control No
Talk-Through
No
Additional Controls No
5.4
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 8.3 ยฐC

They have poor breathability. They trap much more heat against your ears than other semi-open headphones that we've tested, like the Superlux HD 668B or Superlux HD 681. This may be because they have small ear cups, so your ears come into contact with the padding, which is covered in cloth instead of faux leather. They're likely to make your ears feel hot if you use them for long listening sessions, so you may need to take a break every once in a while.

5.2
Design
Portability
L 8.2" (20.8 cm)
W 7.2" (18.3 cm)
H 4.1" (10.5 cm)
Volume 243.91 inยณ (3,997.00 cmยณ)
Transmitter Required No

These headphones are lightweight but fairly bulky and not very portable, like most over-ear headphones. The ear cups don't swivel or fold, so they take up a lot of space in a bag or backpack. They don't come with a case or pouch either.

0
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A
6.0
Design
Build Quality

These headphones have a mediocre build quality. They're made of plastic that feels a bit cheap. The cloth and faux-leather ear cup padding is very easy to remove and feels like it could rip. The non-detachable cable also seems like it could eventually break with repeated use.

6.5
Design
Stability

They have a fairly stable fit and should stay in place during casual listening sessions. However, they aren't intended for sports use and can fall off your head if you make exaggerated movements.

Design
Headshots 1
Design
Headshots 2
Design
Top
Design
In The Box

  • Samson SR850 headphones
  • 1/4" to 1/8" adapter
  • Manual

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-2.69 dB
Treble Amount
2.41 dB

The Samson SR850 have a bright sound profile, with an exaggerated treble response that ensures vocals and lead instruments are present and detailed. This sound can work well for audiophiles or studio work since it can help you hear imperfections in a recording. However, it's not ideal for everyone since some sounds are harsh or piercing, which can be fatiguing to listen to. The low-bass range is also slightly underemphasized, which is normal for semi-open headphones. Unfortunately, they don't come with any sound customization features such as an EQ or presets.

7.8
Sound
Frequency Response Consistency
Avg. Std. Deviation
0.43 dB

They have very good frequency response consistency. Their bass delivery can vary a bit depending on the headphones' fit, seal, and positioning on your head, and users who have thick hair or wear glasses may experience a drop in bass. However, it should be less noticeable than with many other over-ear headphones, like the JBL E55BT Wireless or the Sony WH-XB900N Wireless, and overall they sound consistent each time you wear them.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
7.6
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
3.36 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
33.15 Hz
Low-Bass
-2.6 dB
Mid-Bass
3.6 dB
High-Bass
3.94 dB

The Samson SR850 have good bass accuracy. The low-bass range is slightly underemphasized, so mixes are missing some thump and rumble, but that's to be expected with semi-open headphones. The rest of the range is overemphasized but well-balanced, so mixes have a bit of extra punch and boom. However, some users may find they sound a bit muddy.

8.5
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.95 dB
Low-Mid
1.61 dB
Mid-Mid
0.36 dB
High-Mid
2.42 dB

The Samson SR850 have excellent mid accuracy. Vocals and lead instruments sound present and accurate, although a slight amount of overemphasis in the low-mid adds a bit of clutter. There's also some overemphasis in the high-mid that makes instruments and vocals sound a bit intense and harsh.

5.4
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
6.56 dB
Mid-Treble
9.38 dB
Low-Treble
3.84 dB
High-Treble
3.6 dB

The Samson SR850 have poor treble accuracy. The overemphasized low-treble makes instruments sound harsh, while the even more exaggerated mid-treble makes sibilants like S and T sounds seem very piercing.

7.2
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.83 dB
Dips
1.35 dB

They have decent peaks and dips performance. There's a long peak across the bass range that adds thump, punch, and boom to your audio. A dip in the mid-mid nudges vocals and lead instruments towards the back of the mix, and a deeper dip in the low-treble hurts the comprehensibility of those elements. Finally, a peak in the mid-treble makes sibilant sounds, such as cymbals, seem piercing and painful.

8.7
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.31
Weighted Phase Mismatch
4.63
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.49
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.43

The Samson SR850 have an excellent imaging performance. Their weighted group delay falls mostly below the audibility threshold, resulting in a tight bass and transparent treble reproduction. Our unit's L/R drivers are also well-matched in amplitude, frequency, and phase response, so objects like instruments and voices should be accurately placed in the stereo image. However, our results are only valid for our unit, and yours may perform differently.

7.9
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
2.12 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
4.83 dB
PRTF Distance
9.71 dB
Openness
9.3
Acoustic Space Excitation
7.4

The Samson SR850 have a very good passive soundstage performance. Their semi-open design helps it seem very open, spacious, and quite natural. It may not be quite as speaker-like as the AKG K240 MKII, though, and their sound seems to come more from inside your head.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No App
8.0
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.123
WHD @ 100
0.151

The Samson SR850 have a great weighted harmonic distortion performance. All frequencies fall within good limits at normal and high volumes, resulting in clean and pure audio reproduction.

Sound
Test Settings
Firmware
No Firmware
Power
Passive
Connection
Wired
Codec
PCM, 24-bit, 48kHz
EQ
No EQ
ANC
No ANC
Tip/Pad
Default
Microphone
No Microphone

These are the settings used to test the Samson SR850. Our results are only valid when used in this configuration.

Isolation
2.0
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-6.55 dB
Bass
-0.02 dB
Mid
-0.32 dB
Treble
-19.02 dB

They isolate you from very little ambient sound, which is normal for open and semi-open headphones. They don't block out background conversations or rumbling bus and plane engines. While they do a better job of cutting down high-pitched noise like the hum of an AC unit, they still offer a mediocre performance in this range.

3.6
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
55.64 dB

The Samson SR850 leak a lot of audio, which is expected for semi-open headphones. The audio that escapes is quite loud and full-bodied, so people around you can hear what you're listening to, even in a moderately noisy environment like an office.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
No
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
0
Microphone
Recording Quality
Recorded Speech
N/A
LFE
N/A
FR Std. Dev.
N/A
HFE
N/A
Weighted THD
N/A
Gain
N/A
0
Microphone
Noise Handling
SpNR
N/A
Noise Gate
No
Speech + Pink Noise Handling
N/A
Speech + Pink Noise Audio Sample N/A
Speech + Subway Noise Handling
N/A
Speech + Subway Noise Audio Sample N/A
Active Features
0
Active Features
Battery
Battery Type
No Battery
Continuous Battery Life
N/A
Additional Charges
N/A
Total Battery Life
N/A
Charge Time
N/A
Power-Saving Feature
No
Audio While Charging
No
Passive Playback
Passive Headphone
Charging Port None
0
Active Features
App Support
App Name No App
iOS No
Android No
macOS No
Windows No
Equalizer
No
ANC Control
No
Mic Control No
Room Effects
No
Playback Control
No
Button Mapping No
Surround Support
No
Connectivity
0
Connectivity
Bluetooth
Bluetooth Version
No Bluetooth
Multi-Device Pairing
No
NFC Pairing
No
Line Of Sight Range
N/A
PC Latency (SBC)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX HD)
N/A
PC Latency (aptX-LL)
N/A
iOS Latency
N/A
Android Latency
N/A
0
Connectivity
Non-Bluetooth Wireless
Non-BT Line Of Sight Range
N/A
Non-BT Latency
N/A
9.0
Connectivity
Wired
Analog Audio
Yes
USB Audio
No
Detachable No
Length 8.43 ft (2.57 m)
Connection
1/8" TRS
Analog/USB Audio Latency
0 ms

These are wired headphones and come with a non-detachable 1/8" TRS cable. There's also a 1/8" to 1/4" adapter so you can connect them to an amp.

Connectivity
PC Compatibility
Analog
Audio Only
Wired USB
No
Non-BT Wireless
No

The Samson SR850 are compatible with PCs via analog connection, but they don't have a mic, so you can only receive audio.

Connectivity
PlayStation Compatibility
PS4 Analog
Audio Only
PS4 Wired USB
No
PS4 Non-BT Wireless
No
PS5 Analog
Audio Only
PS5 Wired USB
No
PS5 Non-BT Wireless
No

You can plug them into a PlayStation console's controller, but they can only receive audio since they don't have a microphone.

Connectivity
Xbox Compatibility
Xbox One Analog
Audio Only
Xbox One Wired USB
No
Xbox One Non-BT Wireless
No
Xbox Series X|S Analog
Audio Only
Xbox Series X|S Wired USB
No
Xbox Series X|S Non-BT Wireless
No

They're compatible with Xbox consoles if you plug them into a controller. However, they don't have a mic, so you can only receive audio.

0
Connectivity
Base/Dock
Type
No Base/Dock
USB Input
No
Line In
No
Line Out
No
Optical Input
No
RCA Input
No
Dock Charging
No
Power Supply
No Base/Dock

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Samson SR850 studio headphones come in Black or Blue. The blue variant is mostly black with blue accents. We tested them in Black, and you can see the label for the unit we tested here.

If you come across another variant, please let us know in the discussions, and we'll update our review.

Compared To Other Headphones

The Samson SR850 are wired over-ear headphones intended for audiophiles and studio use. Their design is similar to the Superlux HD 668B, the Superlux HD 681, and the AKG K240 MKII, but they have a brighter sound profile. Also, like most semi-open headphones, they leak a lot of audio and block out virtually no ambient sound.

If you're looking for other options, take a look at our lists of the best audiophile headphones, the best headphones for studio, and the best headphones for music

Superlux HD 681

The Superlux HD 681 are better for neutral sound than the Samson SR850. They have a similar semi-open design, but the Superlux have a much more neutral sound profile, which some may prefer. They're also much more comfortable and breathable. However, the Samson have a significantly better build quality.

Superlux HD 668B

The Superlux HD 668B are somewhat better headphones for neutral sound than the Samson SR850. They're very similar-looking semi-open headphones, but the Superlux have a much more accurate treble response, so they don't sound as sharp or piercing. Their audio cable is detachable, which is convenient if it gets damaged and needs replacing. They're also more breathable, but you may find the Samson's leather strap headband design more comfortable than the Superlux's cushioned headband.

Philips SHP9500

The Philips SHP9500 are better for neutral sound than the Samson SR850. The Philips are open-back headphones with a much more comfortable and breathable fit. They have a much more accurate treble response and a more neutral sound profile that some may prefer. They're also much more comfortable and breathable. On the other hand, while the Samson may sound overly bright to some, they also deliver more punch and boom in the bass range, thanks to their semi-open design.

AKG K240 MKII

The Samson SR850 are a bit better than the AKG K240 MKII for neutral sound. The Samson have a brighter, more detailed sound profile and significantly better bass accuracy, which some listeners may prefer. They're also less prone to inconsistent audio delivery. They may sound sharp or harsh to some, and the AKG create a slightly more immersive, speaker-like passive soundstage.

TOZO T6 Truly Wireless

The TOZO T6 Truly Wireless and the Samson SR850 have different strengths, and you may prefer either, depending on what you're looking for. The TOZO are Bluetooth earbuds with a bass-rich sound profile. They're better-suited for uses like sports or commuting since they passively isolate you from much more noise and have a much more compact and stable fit. On the other hand, the Samson are semi-open over-ear headphones intended for audiophiles. They have a much better passive soundstage performance and a brighter, more detailed sound profile.

Superlux HD 681 EVO

The Superlux HD 681 EVO are better for neutral sound than the Samson SR850. The Superlux are much more comfortable, more breathable, and have a more neutral sound profile that some may prefer. On the other hand, the Samson have a significantly better passive soundstage performance. Some may also prefer their brighter sound profile.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

The Samson SR850 are better for neutral sound than the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. The Samson are semi-open headphones and have a much better passive soundstage performance. They also have a brighter, more detailed sound profile that some may prefer. On the other hand, the Audio-Technica have a closed-back design, so they leak less audio and block out more ambient sound. 

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