The Hear It Ones' sound is smooth and clear. The headphones play a wide range of music genres without sounding out of place in any of them, but the bass isn't as rich as you get from the more expensive Audio-Technica ATH-M50s (around $160). The ATH-M50 headphones' superior bass definition also lets you hear the pitches of bass notes more clearly. The Hear It Ones weren't totally embarrassed by the comparison, but the ATH-M50s were clearly better, which is probably why I can't think of another pair of headphones that can challenge the ATH-M50s for the money.
The acoustic tunes on Wilco's "A Ghost Is Born" album sounded very natural and pure over the Hear It Ones. The bass-midrange-treble balance was excellent, better than balance of the Noontec Zoro headphones, which thinned out Jeff Tweedy's vocals too much, and had comparatively anemic-sounding bass. The Hear It Ones also were more comfortable to wear than the Zoros. Audiophiles take note: stepping up from my iPod Classic to the $99 Schiit Magni headphone amplifier firmed up the Hear It Ones' bass and improved overall clarity.
I watched a Jack White concert on the "Austin City Limits" Web site on my desktop, and the streaming audio's sound quality was pretty marginal. The Hear It Ones let me hear exactly how dynamically compressed and crude the sound was. The treble was swishy and the bass lumpy. Listening on high-resolution headphones only reveals how lame streaming sound quality can be.
Watching DVD of a straight drama, "Game Change," about the John McCain 2008 presidential campaign, was a different matter. In an early scene that takes place on a plane, the Hear It Ones put me in the cabin with McCain (Ed Harris) and his team, and the whoosh of the air conditioning and the drone of the engines seemed to come from outside the earcups. Dialogue was clear and articulate. In fact, the Hear It Ones sounded great with all types of movies.
Despite the design missteps associated with the nonremovable cable and the comfort issues, Pro-Ject Audio Systems' Hear It One headphones' evenly balanced sound brings out the best in all types of music. That's great, but it's too bad the Hear It Ones don't look or feel like $129 headphones, and for a little more the