I measured the Chambers using a G.R.A.S. Type 43AG ear/cheek simulator, a Clio FW audio analyzer, and a Musical Fidelity V-Can headphone amplifier. I experimented with slight differences in position of the ear cups to get the best seal of the headphone on the cheek plate and the most representative frequency response curves.
The frequency response measurements show a substantial difference between passive and NC modes. The bass bump we heard in NC mode is clearly evident here, centered at 90 Hz in the right ear and 75 Hz in the left ear. (Bass response is uneven between the two ears possibly due to differences in chamber size; I’ve seen this before in other NC headphones.) There is indeed a significant peak at 3.3 kHz, which could result in the upper-midrange/lower-treble emphasis I heard. Passive mode shows -4 to -5 dB reduction in bass response below 120 Hz, and a few dB reduction of energy in the midrange, which could be the cause of my perception of the treble increasing in passive mode.
When I added 70 ohms output impedance to the V-Can’s 5-ohm output impedance to simulate the effects of using a low-quality headphone amp, there was no difference in response in either passive or NC mode.
Total harmonic distortion (THD) measures next-to-nothing above 100 Hz in both passive and NC modes. However, it’s a little high in the bass in NC mode, pushing 4% to 5% THD below 45 Hz at 80 dB (measured with pink-noise, A-weighted), and 4% to 15% below 60 Hz at 100 dBA.
Impedance is essentially flat, running about 27 ohms in passive mode and 140 ohms in NC mode. Isolation is fairly typical for an NC headphone, measuring -10 to -25 dB above 1 kHz in NC and passive modes, and NC mode adding -4 to -10 dB of noise cancellation at most frequencies between 100 and 600 Hz.
Average sensitivity from 300 Hz to 10 kHz with a 1 mW signal at the rated 32 ohms impedance is 99.4 dB in passive mode, 101.7 dB in NC mode.
The Chambers by RZA has a lot going for it, including clear mids, a smooth treble, and a fantastic design. The downside is that its bass sounds undefined and exaggerated. We know some people dig that sound, and if you’re one of them, you might like the Chambers a lot. If you’re attracted to the Chambers’ design and you aren’t such a bass freak, you might like it if you use it with a smartphone app or computer-based music player that has a multi-band graphic EQ.
The real news? It looks like the Chambers by RZA is our favorite hip-hop-artist-endorsed headphone to date. It’s not what we’d choose for ourselves, but it’s still a pretty cool set of cans.
Brent Butterworth and Geoff Morrison combine their years of gear testing and knowledge in one überblog of irreverence and techiness.
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