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published: Feb-03-2022

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NO SMOOTHING is applied to the shown plots. Most measurement sites have some smoothing applied which ‘irons flat’ sharp peaks and ‘wiggles’. I do not use smoothing because some info about sound quality is lost when plots are smoothed.

Aside from a small correction of the microphone itself also some correction in the lowest frequencies is applied to the plots to compensate for the perceived loss of bass when using headphones. This is described HERE in more detail.
A ‘horizontal‘ frequency response curve on the shown frequency response plots on this website thus indicates a perceived ‘flat’ tonal signature.

ALL measurements are made with a good SEAL on a flatbed measurement rig.
The shape of your head, bone structure, pad size, pad ‘softness,  (compliance), hair or no hair and or wearing glasses may (drastically) change the frequency response of some headphones, so… your personal experience may differ substantially from these plots.

Frequency response (tonal balance) is the most sound-determining aspect of headphones. A horizontal line shows audible neutral response in the plots on this website. Deviations in different severity at different frequency bands have an effect on the sound character.
The bigger the deviation the stronger the effect.

Below an aid to help determining the sound character of headphones with relation to the frequency response.

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Pioneer SE-MS5T-K


The Pioneer SE-MS5T is a  closed over-ear headphone. When this headphone came out (around 2017) the MSRP was around € 60.- and the price remained the same over the years.
These come in 4 color combinations. This one (the all black) has the -k suffix.
This headphone has a microphone + 1-button remote with CTIA (Apple) wired TRRS plug.

The 1.25m cable is mildly microphonic so in quiet passages and silences the cable rubbing against clothes are audible in the left cup. The cable is fixed so cannot be replaced. The cable is the ‘tangle free’ type.

The headband has a soft pleather with regular foam padding. As the pleather is of the thicker kind I don’t expect it to flake soon.
The headband can extend 40mm. The slider (and yoke) is made of steel wire and is painted. When adjusting the sliders or putting the headphones on a desk or something the paint easily chips which doesn’t look really nice. A better coating would have been desirable. Also the aluminium cups damage easily.
The yoke also needs to provide the needed swivel. The tilt also is limited but is far enough to ensure a good fit on most head sizes.
Clamping force is medium-high (5N) but because of the large contact surface of the pads the pressure is distributed well. Its weight of 240 gram (without cable) also is quite decent.

The pleather pads are exchangeable and feel soft to the touch. After a while they feel sweaty and warm. The foam inside is somewhat firm yet soft enough to get a good seal.
The cup has a little height difference below the ear towards the neck. This ensures the pads seal well yet do not need a specific shape.

It is a closed headphone and outside noises are decently attenuated. Of course this also works the other way around so while listening to music those around you will not be bothered.
The pads have room enough to fit most ears.

With a sensitivity of 115dB/V (efficiency = 100dB/mW) and low impedance (32 Ω measured) this headphone plays decently loud even directly from a phone.  
The 1W power rating is quite high for such a sensitive headphone.

This reviewed (used and modified) Pioneer SE-MS5T is for sale 


Type: Over ear (circum-aural), closed
Usage: Home, portable
Driver type: dynamic
Pads: replaceable, pleather, regular foam
Collapsible: no
Headphone cup connector: fixed
Cable entry: single sided (left).
Cable: 1.2m with a mic/remote in a 3.5mm TRRS jack (CTIA = Apple)
Inner Pad dimensions: depth = 21mm, height = 565mm, width = 40mm, oval shaped.
Driver size: 40mm (effective area, driver diameter = 35mm)
Max. power rating: 1W
Max. voltage: 5.6Vrms (16Vpp)
Max. current: 180mA
Max. S.P.L.: 130dB
Impedance: 32Ω (measured)
Efficiency: 100dB @ 1mW
Sensitivity: 115dB @ 1V
Weight: 240 g. (without cable)
Clamping force: medium-high (5N)
Accessories: none

Subjective sound description:

When deep bass is present it is audible. Bass is a bit woolly on some recordings.
Mids are present and lively/dynamic. There is a dip around 4kHz but this isn’t really audible because it is masked by the elevated lower treble.
The treble is sharp and there is sibilance. With some tone control this can be solved easily.
Overall a pleasant but sharp sound.


Below the frequency response of the SE-MS5T (Left, Right)FR MS5The channel matching is good. Bass extension is very good.  The bass hump at 150Hz makes it sound ‘punchy’ on one recording but ‘muddy/woolly’ on other recordings.

phase response

Below the phase response of the SE-MS5T (Left, Right)phase MS5

Slow phase shifts are not very audible. Sharp changes in a narrow frequency bands may well be audible. The sharp rises at 4kHz and above may well be audible.

output resistance / damping-factor

As this is a dynamic headphone the frequency response can be amplifier output resistance dependent when certain higher output resistance amplifiers are used.
Instead of showing impedance plots, which are hard to ‘read’ when it comes to assessing the tonal balance change in the real world, the SE-MS5T is measured via a
few different resistance outputs (0.2Ω, 10Ω, 32Ω and 120Ω). On a higher output resistance amplifier the output level will be lower of course due to voltage division. To compensate for this the amplifier is cranked up to the same level (13dB for 120Ω at 1kHz in this case). This way the plots are overlaid and it is easier to see how the tonal balance changes. Output resistances between the mentioned resistance values will result in tonal changes between those traces.

R 120 -12-9dB

The tonal balance in the bass does not change when a higher output resistance amplifier is used.
This headphone thus can even be used directly from receivers and desktop amps with a higher output resistance.


Seal can be an issue with closed-back headphones. Breaking the seal (improper fit on the head) usually means a loss of (sub)bass. This can be caused by hair or glasses between head and pad or head shape combined with stiffer pads.
Perfect seal, seal broken by hairs, seal broken by thicker armed glasses. seal substantially brokenseal MS5

A broken seal has definitely a substantial influence on the tonality of this headphone. A small seal breakage is not really problematic but subbass suffers.

Below the distortion measurements of the SE-MS5T (Left channel).dist MS5 LThe measurements are made at 90dB SPL.
The plot above shows the level differences between the signal (upper trace) and the harmonics.
Most people prefer to see percentages instead of level differences so below the exact same plot except ‘normalized’ to the actual signal and level differences given in percentages. dist MS5 L percent
Distortion levels at 90dB SPL at 5kHz are very high. This may add to the sibilance. Below 100Hz there  is mostly 3rd harmonic distortion.
Also higher harmonics are elevated below 100Hz. The fact that 3rd harmonics are elevated indicates the onset of compression (soft clipping). 2nd harmonic distortion at 50Hz also reaches 2% at these levels but isn’t as audible. Between 100Hz and 4kHz (voices) the distortion is low.
The actual 2nd
harmonic distortion above 1kHz may well be lower than 0.2% . A shortcoming of my measurement rig.

Below the CSD (waterfall) plot of the SE-MS5T (Left and Right are overlaid)CSD MS5The driver appears to have some resonances at 1.2kHz and above 5kHz. The sharp dip in the frequency response is less deep as there is a delay at this resonance frequency.

Below the Group Delay plot for the SE-MS5T (Left, Right)GD MS5

From 90Hz to 120Hz there is a lot of ‘pad bounce’. Also some issues at 1.2khzm 5kHz and 8.5kHz.

A different plot is the spectrum plot. This basically is a CSD (Waterfall) plot but viewed from above where the level differences are color coded instead of being in the vertical axis. Also the frequency range of the spectrum plot is wider (from 100Hz instead of 500Hz). The time span is also bigger in the spectrum plots and expired time is shown from below to top where in the CSD the time is shown from rear to front. Below the spectrum plot of the SE-MS5T (Left channel)spectr MS5 R

Here too the 1.2kHz resonance is obvious. Also at 2.5kHz and 8.5kHz there is some short lived ringing.

Step response

Below the step response plot which, when the sound is balanced and well extended should show a fast rise to around 0dB, (indicating fast driver response) and then should be slightly sloping downwards indicating bass extension. (Left, Right)
step MS5Bass extension is very poor good as seen by the not so steep slope of the horizontal part.
The initial rise does not reach 0dB, The elevated resonance the first 400μs shows the bright sharp character. The bass area (1ms to 2ms) is also a bit elevated indicative for the colored bass.


This headphone has a U-shaped tonal balance which many people like. To me it is just a bit too bright/sharp and when this is addressed (using a filter) the boomy bass becomes a bit too much.
After some experimenting with a filter (shown below) the lows needed some damping.SE-MS5T filter schematic-klThis damping turned out to be rather easy and ended up with 2 pieces of 10mm thick foam cut to the shape of the space underneath the driver. The filter was tucked away between the foam pieces as far away as possible from the magnet.
modifThese modifications changed the tonal balance to something closer to ‘neutral’. For some people this may sound more ‘boring’ (bass and treble being lower in level) but with well made recordings the modification was worth it.
Below the difference between stock and modified.modified vs stockThe improvements also weren’t in frequency response only. The distortion levels dropped considerably due to the driver being damped much better.
Below the distortion plot of the stock version.
dist MS5 L percentBelow the distortion plot of the modified version.modified distortion R percentThis modification is certainly an improvement.


The Pioneer SE-MS5T is suited/designed for usage with phones, laptops, PC, tablets. The 4 pin TRRS jack may not work properly on standard 3.5mm TRS sockets. It can play quite loud from just about any source.
Comfort is good but the pads do get sweaty after a while. The headband feels soft and the clamping force is not very high.
The fixed 1.2m (tangle free) cable is handy is well suited for portable duties and for usage on a work station (PC).

The painted headphone height sliders damage easily and so does the metal cups.
The sound is punchy, clear and bright with some sharpness to it.

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  1. Leo says:

    Any change to you review the new revision of the Shure SRH840 aka SRH840A

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