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Superlux HD 681 Headphones Review

Tested using Methodology v1.5
Reviewed Aug 03, 2017 at 12:31 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
Type Over-ear
Enclosure Semi-Open
Wireless No
Noise Cancelling No
Mic No
Transducer Dynamic

The Superlux HD 681 are very similar to the Superlux HD 668B in shape and sound. They're a bit more comfortable, thanks to the different headband design that's not as tight on the head. They also sound better than many pricier headphones, but they're not very versatile. They're cumbersome, don't block a lot of noise, and leak quite a bit, meaning you're best off using them in isolation.

Our Verdict

8.3 Neutral Sound

The Superlux HD 681 are a good budget option for neutral listening. They have slightly more extended bass than the Superlux HD 668 and deliver a satisfying audio reproduction that caters well to instruments and vocals. They have a relatively flat mid-range but tend to sound slightly sharp because of the bump in the high-mid/low-treble, especially with tracks that are already a little bright. Sadly, their soundstage isn't as immersive as some of the other fully open-back headphones. Overall, the sound quality is good for both casual and neutral listeners.

Pros
  • Good sound quality.
  • Lightweight design.
Cons
  • Sensitive to noisy environments, by design.
  • Plasticky build quality.
4.0 Commute/Travel

The Superlux HD 681 are poor for commuting. They're not for this use, as they don't block a lot of ambient noise, aren't portable, and don't have the most durable build quality.

Pros
  • Good sound quality.
  • Lightweight design.
Cons
  • Sensitive to noisy environments, by design.
  • Plasticky build quality.
5.1 Sports/Fitness

The Superlux HD 681 aren't for sports. They're bulky and impractical to use outdoors. They're a bit more comfortable than the Superlux HD 668B, but they're less stable and won't be ideal to use while doing physical activities. They don't have any controls, which makes controlling your music source while exercising a bit more of a hassle.

Pros
  • Good sound quality.
  • Lightweight design.
Cons
  • Sensitive to noisy environments, by design.
  • Plasticky build quality.
4.8 Office

The Superlux HD 681 are subpar for office use. They let a lot of noise seep into your audio and leak a lot, which might be distracting to your colleagues.

Pros
  • Good sound quality.
  • Lightweight design.
Cons
  • Sensitive to noisy environments, by design.
  • Plasticky build quality.
4.5 Wireless Gaming

The Superlux HD 681 are wired headphones, so you can't use them for wireless gaming.

6.5 Wired Gaming

Pros
  • Good sound quality.
  • Lightweight design.
Cons
  • Sensitive to noisy environments, by design.
  • Plasticky build quality.
1.7 Phone Calls
  • 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 29, 2021: Converted to Test Bench 1.5.
  2. Updated Feb 17, 2020: Converted to Test Bench 1.4.
  3. Updated Nov 21, 2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.1.
  4. Updated Nov 21, 2019: Converted to Test Bench 1.3.
  5. Updated Feb 16, 2018: Converted to Test Bench 1.2.
  6. Updated Aug 10, 2017: Converted to Test Bench 1.1.
  7. Updated Aug 03, 2017: Review published.

Test Results

perceptual testing image
Design
Design
Style

The Superlux HD 681 look very similar to the Superlux HD 668B. They have practically the same ear cups but a different headband design, making them look more like the AKG K240 MKII. The color scheme is pretty bland, but this model stands out a bit thanks to the red accents on the ear cups and headband. Unfortunately, their plasticky build quality makes them look cheap and not durable.

7.5
Design
Comfort
Weight 0.5 lbs
Clamping Force
0.9 lbs

The Superlux HD 681 are more comfortable than the Superlux HD 668B. They're just as lightweight and have a better headband design that doesn't feel as tight on the head and extends a bit further than the Superlux HD 668B. They also have large ear cups that fit well around most listeners' ears. Unfortunately, the ear cup padding feels a bit stiff and may cause a bit of uneven pressure. It's not particularly uncomfortable, but 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
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

The Superlux HD 681 are lightweight but bulky and cumbersome headphones. The ear cups don't fold or lay flat, making them difficult to carry around on your person 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

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

5.5
Design
Build Quality

The Superlux HD 681, like the Superlux HD 668B, are cheaply made and plasticky. They feel like a budget version of the AKG K240, which shows in their build quality. They have a plastic design with no metal parts, and all the materials used in their build quality feel slightly low grade. They won't break if they accidentally fall once or twice, but they don't feel like durable headphones.

6.0
Design
Stability

The Superlux HD 681 aren't as tight on the head as the Superlux HD 668B and are slightly less stable. They won't be the best for sports since they have big ear cups that sway during physical activity, but they don't move much during casual listening sessions. Unfortunately, this model doesn't have a detachable cable, so the headphones will get yanked off your head if the cable gets hooked by something.

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

These headphones have good consistency performance. The bass range performance is very consistent across human subjects, except for the one subject who wears glasses, as he gets 3dB less bass than others at 20Hz. The treble range consistency is also very good, especially below 10KHz.

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

These headphones have excellent bass range performance. Low-frequency extension is at 14Hz, which is great. The entire bass response is virtually flat and within 1dB of our target.

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 headphones have very good mid-range performance. Low-mid and mid are virtually flat, but under our target by about 2dB. This pushes vocals/leads slightly to the back of the mix, giving more emphasis to the bass and treble ranges. High-mid shows a small tilt favoring higher frequencies, but the effect will be very subtle.

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

These headphones have decent treble range performance. Low-treble is well-balanced but slightly inconsistent. Treble has a 10dB bump between 7KHz and 12KHz, making the sound of these headphones noticeably sharp and sibilant.

7.6
Sound
Peaks/Dips
Peaks
1.53 dB
Dips
1.25 dB
8.1
Sound
Imaging
Weighted Group Delay
0.26
Weighted Phase Mismatch
12.02
Weighted Amplitude Mismatch
0.76
Weighted Frequency Mismatch
1.71
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
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
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
Isolation
2.0
Isolation
Noise Isolation
Isolation Audio
Overall Attenuation
-6.85 dB
Bass
-0.02 dB
Mid
-0.23 dB
Treble
-19.98 dB

The Superlux HD 681 have poor isolation performance. Due to the semi-open back, they don't isolate at all in the bass and mid ranges. In the treble range, they reduce the outside noise by about 20dB, which is decent.

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

These headphones have poor leakage performance. The significant leakage portion on these semi-open back headphones sits between 500Hz and 20KHz, which is a broad range. Additionally, their overall level of leakage is also relatively loud.

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

These headphones don't have any compatible app.

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

Since these headphones have a wired connection, there's negligible latency.

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

Compared To Other Headphones

Samson SR850

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 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.

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.

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 listening. They have a more balanced sound and a better passive soundstage. However, the HD 681 EVO have slightly better build quality, and they're a bit more stable on your head.

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.

Audio-Technica ATH-M20x

The Superlux HD 681 are better critical listening headphones than the Audio-Technica ATH-M20x. The Superlux semi-open headphones are more comfortable and offer great audio quality, especially for their affordable price. Their design makes them more open-sounding, although their build quality is pretty cheap and fragile. On the other hand, the Audio-Technica will be better headphones to bring on the go since they are closed-backs, which means they block a bit of ambient noise and don’t leak as much as the Superlux.

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.

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