Get insider access
Preferred store
Your browser is not supported or outdated so some features of the site might not be available.
We've recently released our Test Bench 1.6 update for Headphones! Read the Latency R&D Article to learn more.

Superlux HD 681 Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Review updated Jun 28, 2023 at 03:29 pm
Superlux HD 681 Picture
8.3
Neutral Sound
4.0
Commute/Travel
5.1
Sports/Fitness
4.8
Office
4.5
Wireless Gaming
6.5
Wired Gaming
1.7
Phone Calls

The Superlux HD 681 are budget-friendly, entry-level audiophile headphones. They stand out from the crowd thanks to their semi-open-back design, which helps them create an immersive audio experience. At the same time, they leak less audio than fully open-back headphones, which is handy if you don't want to disturb others around you. However, their build quality reflects their bargain price, so don't expect very durable headphones.

Our Verdict

8.3 Neutral Sound

The Superlux HD 681 are great for neutral sound. These headphones have a semi-open-back design, allowing audio to escape from the ear cups and interact with your environment, creating a natural and immersive audio experience. They also have a neutral sound profile that ensures adequate bass with detailed, clear, and present vocals and instruments. However, sibilants like cymbals are piercing.

Pros
  • Natural and open passive soundstage.
  • Deliver audio consistently.
  • Comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Non-detachable audio cable.
4.0 Commute/Travel

The Superlux HD 681 aren't intended for commuting or traveling. They have a semi-open-back design designed to leak audio and let in ambient sound. That means that you'll hear everything that's going on around you while passengers can also hear your audio. The headphones aren't very well-built either and have a bulky design that's hard to transport. However, they have a comfortable fit.

Pros
  • Comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Disappointing build quality.
  • Not intended to block out background noise.
  • High leakage, by design.
5.1 Sports/Fitness

The Superlux HD 681 aren't a very good choice for sports and fitness. They're audiophile headphones and can easily fall off of your head with moderate movement. Their audio cable can also snag on something and yank them from your head.

Pros
  • Comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Can fall off of your head with moderate movement.
  • Disappointing build quality.
  • Not intended to block out background noise.
4.8 Office

The Superlux HD 681 are poor for office use. They leak audio by design, so others around you will hear what you're listening to, and they don't block out background noise, meaning you'll hear all the details of chatty coworkers talking. On the upside, they're comfortable enough for long days at the office.

Pros
  • Comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Disappointing build quality.
  • Not intended to block out background noise.
  • High leakage, by design.
4.5 Wireless Gaming

The Superlux HD 681 are wired headphones; you can't use them wirelessly.

6.5 Wired Gaming

The Superlux HD 681 are alright for wired gaming, so long as you don't need mic support or if you have your own standalone mic. They have a comfortable fit, and their neutral sound ensures that dialogue and instruments are accurately reproduced. Thanks to their semi-open-back design, they can also create a wide and natural soundstage, which can immerse you in your gameplay.

Pros
  • Natural and open passive soundstage.
  • Deliver audio consistently.
  • Comfortable fit.
Cons
  • Disappointing build quality.
  • Not intended to block out background noise.
  • No mic.
1.7 Phone Calls

The Superlux HD 681 can't be used for phone calls by default since they don't have a mic. However, if you have a separate mic, these headphones have a comfortable fit, and their neutral sound ensures that speech is natural and clear.

  • 8.3 Neutral Sound
  • 4.0 Commute/Travel
  • 5.1 Sports/Fitness
  • 4.8 Office
  • 4.5 Wireless Gaming
  • 6.5 Wired Gaming
  • 1.7 Phone Calls
  1. Updated Jun 28, 2023: We've updated this review's text to improve its accuracy and clarity. However, the measurements haven't changed.
  2. Updated Jun 29, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  3. Updated Feb 17, 2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  4. Updated Nov 21, 2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  5. Updated Nov 21, 2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  6. Updated Feb 16, 2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  7. Updated Aug 10, 2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1.
  8. Updated Aug 03, 2017: Review published.
  9. Updated Aug 01, 2017: Our testers have started testing this product.
  10. Updated Jul 30, 2017: The product has arrived in our lab, and our testers will start evaluating it soon.
  11. Updated Jul 19, 2017: We've purchased the product and are waiting for it to arrive in our lab.

Differences Between Sizes And Variants

The Superlux HD 681 come in one color variation: 'Black'. Please let us know in the forums if you encounter another variant of these headphones.

Compared To Other Headphones

If you're looking to dip your toes into high-res audio without breaking the bank, these cans have a semi-open-back design that helps create an open and natural soundstage that makes for a more immersive audio experience. Their sound profile is also neutral enough for a variety of audio content, although they sound a lot brighter than the Superlux HD 681 HD EVO. They're more comfortable than the Superlux HD 668B, which is good if you want to use them for long listening sessions. However, their plasticky build quality reflects their affordable price.

Check out our recommendations for the best headphones under $50, the best budget wireless headphones, and the best wired headphones.

Samson SR850

The Superlux HD 681 are better for neutral sound than the Samson SR850. Both headphones 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 and the Superlux HD 681 are both very good headphones if you like a neutral sound, but the HD 681 have a slight edge. While they both can sound quite harsh and sharp, the HD 668B also lack thump and rumble, on top of sounding a bit muddier. The HD 681 are also much more comfortable.

Superlux HD 681 EVO

While the Superlux HD 681 and the Superlux HD 681 EVO are similarly performing headphones, the HD 681 are better for neutral sound. They have a more balanced sound and a more natural passive soundstage. However, the HD 681 EVO have slightly better build quality, and they're a bit more stable on your head.

Philips SHP9500

The Philips SHP9500 are somewhat better for neutral sound than the Superlux HD 681. The Philips are more comfortable, more breathable open-back headphones. Their passive soundstage is perceived as much more open and spacious as well. On the other hand, the Superlux have a semi-open design. They leak less sound and have a more accurate bass response, so mixes have more thump and rumble.

AKG K240 MKII

The Superlux HD 681 and the AKG K240 MKII are similarly designed headphones, but the Superlux have an overall better-balanced sound profile. The Superlux produce much deeper bass with less clutter in the mid-range but sound a bit harsh and even piercing in the higher frequencies. The AKG have a smoother treble and feel better built.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

The Superlux HD 681 are better headphones for neutral sound than the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. The Superlux are semi-open headphones, helping them create an immersive and natural soundstage. They also have a more neutral sound profile, which some users will prefer. However, the build quality is pretty cheap and fragile. On the other hand, the Audio-Technica will be better if you're live recording since they're closed-backs, which means they block a bit of ambient noise and don't leak as much audio.

AKG K712 PRO

The AKG K712 PRO and the Superlux HD 681 are both great audiophile headphones if you like a neutral sound. They have fairly similar profiles, though there are a few differences. The Superlux get quite a bit more bass, and they also sound brighter in the treble range, which gives them a slightly more excited sound profile. They're also less comfortable than the AKG and feel a lot more cheaply made.

Beats Solo Pro Wireless

The Superlux HD 681 and the Beats Solo Pro Wireless are for different uses. The Superlux are designed with audiophiles in mind. They have a semi-open enclosure, which helps improve their passive soundstage performance, a neutral and accurate sound profile, are more comfortable, and their passive soundstage performance is better. However, the Beats are more suitable for casual use. They have a wireless design, are better-built, and have an ANC system that can out a great amount of ambient noise around you. They also have an H1 chip, so you can seamlessly pair them with your Apple devices.

+ Show more

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Semi-Open
Wireless No
Transducer Dynamic

The Superlux HD 681 look very similar to the AKG K240 MKII, thanks to the double wire headband and ski-band headband design. Their ear cups are nearly identical to the Superlux HD 668B, with the same circular enclosure design, but have red detailing to help it stand out from other budget-friendly headphones on the market. However, due to their plasticky build, their red and black color scheme looks cheap.

7.5
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.5 lbs
Clamping Force
0.9 lbs

These headphones fit comfortably and are even more comfortable than the Superlux HD 668B. They're just as lightweight but have a better headband design that extends further and doesn't feel as tight on the head. They also have large ear cups that fit well around most listeners' ears. Unfortunately, the ear cup padding feels a bit stiff and can cause a bit of uneven pressure. While the padding isn't particularly uncomfortable, it's noticeable after wearing them for a while.

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
6.8
Design
Breathability
Avg.Temp.Difference 4.8 ยฐC

These cans have fair breathability. Thanks to their semi-open-back design, they allow some airflow to circulate within the ear cup. While they won't cause you to sweat if you wear them for long periods, they're not as breathable as open-backs like the Philips SHP9500.

5.4
Design
Portability
L 8.0" (20.3 cm)
W 7.2" (18.3 cm)
H 3.5" (8.9 cm)
Volume 201.00 inยณ (3,293.79 cmยณ)
Transmitter Required No

These headphones have a lightweight design but are still bulky and cumbersome. The ear cups don't fold or lay flat, making them difficult to carry around if you don't have a bag.

5.5
Design
Case
Type No case
L N/A
W N/A
H N/A
Volume N/A

They come with a somewhat rugged pouch that'll shield them from scratches, minor water exposure, and dust. However, it won't protect them against drops and impacts.

5.5
Design
Build Quality

These cans have a disappointing build quality, though it's to be expected from at this price point. Like the Superlux HD 668B, they're made of low-grade plastic with no metal components and even feel like a cheaper version of the AKG K240 MKII. They won't break if you accidentally drop them once or twice. However, they don't feel like durable headphones.

6.0
Design
Stability

These cans aren't as tight on the head as the Superlux HD 668B and are slightly less stable. It won't be a problem if you're listening to audio at your desk, but if you like to bop your head to the music, the ear cups can change in positioning. The audio cable isn't detachable either, so if it gets snagged on something, the headphones will be pulled from your head.

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

  • Superlux HD 681 headphones
  • 1/8" to 1/4" adapter
  • Carrying pouch
  • Manual

Sound
Sound
Sound Profile
Bass Amount
-0.39 dB
Treble Amount
1.45 dB

These cans have a neutral sound with bright sibilants. Even though they're semi-open-back headphones, they can reproduce a lot of low-bass, ensuring that tracks get adequate thump, rumble, and boom. Vocals and instruments also sound clear, natural, and accurate. Sibilants like cymbals are piercing, though.

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

These headphones have good consistency performance. If you have thick hair or wear glasses, you may notice a drop in bass, as these features can disrupt the ear cups' seal on your head. However, once you achieve a good fit, you'll experience more consistent audio delivery.

Sound
Raw Frequency Response
9.0
Sound
Bass Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.45 dB
Low-Frequency Extension
13.94 Hz
Low-Bass
0.1 dB
Mid-Bass
1.52 dB
High-Bass
1.52 dB

The bass accuracy of these headphones is outstanding. The response is very flat, so mixes have adequate thump, punch, and boom without overwhelming the mids.

9.2
Sound
Mid Accuracy
Std. Err.
1.13 dB
Low-Mid
0.09 dB
Mid-Mid
-0.74 dB
High-Mid
0.7 dB

These cans have fantastic mid accuracy. The response is pretty flat and neutral, so vocals and instruments are present, natural, and detailed in mixes. In songs like My Sharona by The Knack, male vocalists sound detailed and clear throughout the track.

7.0
Sound
Treble Accuracy
Std. Err.
4.4 dB
Low-Treble
1.34 dB
Mid-Treble
5.89 dB
High-Treble
-1.06 dB

The Superlux HD 681 have decent treble accuracy. The response is overemphasized, which results in vocals and instruments sounding detailed but not harsh. However, the mid-treble is much more overemphasized, and sibilants like cymbals are piercing. In songs like Stairway to Heaven by Led Zeppelin, the electric guitar is overpowered by piercing snares, which are overly present in the track.

7.6
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.53 dB
Dips
1.25 dB

The peaks and dips performance of these headphones is good. In the bass and mid ranges, the peaks and dips are fairly minor, with a dip in the mid-mid nudging vocals and instruments to the back of the mix. However, the right driver has a peak between the high-mid to low-treble, which makes vocals and instruments sound harsh. A dip in the low-treble affects both drivers but is difficult to notice as it affects only a small frequency band. However, the peaks in the mid-treble make sibilants like hi-hats piercing.

8.1
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.26
Weighted Phase Mismatch
12.02
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.76
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.71

The imaging performance of these headphones is great. Even though we haven't tested very many Superlux headphones, those we have tested display solid imaging, which is an indicator of ergonomics and quality control. Imaging varies between units, though. That said, our unit's L/R drivers are well-matched in group delay, amplitude, frequency, and phase response, ensuring the accurate localization of sound objects like instruments in the stereo image. Peaks in the phase's response's high-treble range aren't audio with real-life content either, especially since they affect narrow frequency bands, and we lose sensitivity to this range over time.

7.8
Sound
Passive Soundstage
PRTF Accuracy (Std. Dev.)
1.58 dB
PRTF Size (Avg.)
6.36 dB
PRTF Distance
11.68 dB
Openness
9.3
Acoustic Space Excitation
6.7

The passive soundstage performance of these cans is very good. Their semi-open-back design allows them to create a wide, open, and natural soundstage that's more immersive than the Superlux HD 681 EVO.

0
Sound
Virtual Soundstage
Head Modeling
No
Speaker Modeling
No
Room Ambience
No
Head Tracking
No
Virtual Surround
No App
7.6
Sound
Weighted Harmonic Distortion
WHD @ 90
0.145
WHD @ 100
0.313

The weighted harmonic distortion performance is good. At normal volumes, you'll experience clean and pure audio reproduction. However, if you push these cans to a high volume, there's some distortion present in the high-bass to low-mid range. It's hard to hear with real-life content, though.

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 these cans. Our results are only valid when used in this configuration.

Isolation
2.0
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-6.85 dB
Noise Cancelling No
Bass
-0.02 dB
Mid
-0.23 dB
Treble
-19.98 dB

The Superlux HD 681 have bad noise isolation by design. They're not meant to block out background noise as they have a semi-open-back design, so if you're using them near an open window with traffic outside or next to people talking, you'll hear everything. However, they still cut down some of the high-pitched hums of AC units.

4.3
Isolation
Leakage
Leakage Audio
Overall Leakage @ 1ft
52.9 dB

These headphones are meant to leak audio by design to create a more immersive audio experience. Even at regular volumes, people around you will hear your audio.

Microphone
Microphone
Microphone Style
Integrated
No
In-Line
No
Boom
No
Detachable Boom
No
Mic 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 8.00 ft (2.44 m)
Connection
1/8" TRS
Analog/USB Audio Latency
0 ms

These headphones have a non-detachable 1/8" TRS cable.

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

You can connect these headphones to your PC via analog, but you'll only receive audio. They don't have a mic.

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

These headphones only support audio via analog if you plug their TRS cable into your controller's AUX port. They don't have a mic, though.

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

You can only receive audio via analog on Xbox consoles, as these headphones don't have a mic.

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