“Let our rigorous testing and reviews be your guidelines to A/V equipment – not marketing slogans”
Facebook Youtube Twitter instagram pinterest

Arctic P402 Use and Sound Quality

By

The first thing I wanted to do with the Arctic P402s was test out the microphone. The first reaction I got was that I sounded muffled. A quick examination of the microphone showed that the way the cord was naturally twisting, it was aiming the mic away from my mouth. The mic was at the right height (if I pulled it toward my face, it would touch my chin) but I couldn't get it to face me without holding it. When I did, however, the sound quality was about as good as using the phone. Arctic could have helped with this by having the mic be omnidirectional with openings at both sides. It might have introduced more noise but at least I wouldn't have to hold the mic to have people hear me clearly.

P402_mic

Some might lament the lack of in-line controls. I don't. While they can be convenient, at the price point of the Arctic P402s, I just don't think they'd justify the extra cost. More important for the consumers of the Arctic P402s is comfort and convenience. Having a mic in-line is very convenient. It works with just about any smartphone/tablet without having to worry about who made it and it is fairly simple to implement. With controls, you are now having to deal with OS specific issues and, frankly, Arctic did well to leave that to higher-priced offerings.

P402_plug1     P402_plug2

P402_slideComfort-wise, the P402s rate very highly. While they felt a bit loose on the head, they were never uncomfortable. During long listening sessions, I never found myself wanting to adjust them or move them around. They put just enough pressure on the ear to hold them in place without making them uncomfortable to wear with glasses. Often, tight fitting headphones will be very secure but will make wearing glasses a painful experience. So you end up having to choose whether listen to music or see. An easy choice if you are just sitting on the bus, a much more difficult one if you are trying to listen and work at the same time.

The one missed opportunity with the Arctic P402s was portability. This seems to me to be the perfect at work/at home/on the commute headphone. The $40 price tag means you don't mind leaving them in your desk or breaking them in transit. Arctic hasn't included any sort of carrying case or any way for the P402s to fold up into a smaller package. While it seems to me that the reason for this is that it would add weight (and perhaps cost), it seems a necessary tradeoff for this type of product.

Sound Quality

Let me start by saying that I was shocked by how good the Arctic P402 headphones sounded. They cost less that $40 and I'm betting you're going to have a hard time finding much in the price point that comes close to their sound quality. Like most professional reviewers, I have a lot of gear lying around but not a lot that is at this price point. So I ended up having to compare the Arctic P402s to headphones that cost at least 3x's their asking price, and some that cost much more.

On hand I have the $150 Denon AH-D1000 on-ear (though they fit over my small ears), the $200 Audio-Technica ATH-M50s over-ear, and the $300 Pioneer SE-MJ591 on-ear headphones. I have a number of in-ear headphones as well, but I tend not to want to compare different types if I can get away with it. So, going in, the comparisons weren't going to be very fair. Rather than compare directly, let's just say that the Arctic P402s held up very well. While their sound wasn't as full or extended, and they tended to clip at lower volumes, I was impressed with how flat the P402s were. They didn't seem to have any obvious sonic issues and, for a $40 set of headphones, sounded remarkably uniform and even.

Taken on their own, I'd say that the issues I had with the design are easily explained by the sound quality. If these headphones cost $40, I'd guess that $38 of that was spent on how they sound and the rest on how they fit. Are the true audiophile headphones? No. But you are getting the absolute best sound $40 worth of headphones can get you. I found the Arctic P402s to be very engaging and lively with just a hint of sibilance at the top end at higher volumes. The lower end was extended but not boomy, something I'd expect with a budget set of headphones.

P402_pad

When you are trying to impress a buyer, sizzle and boom with do it at first blush. If you audition a speaker and it has a ton of bass, you're going to think it is a pretty good speaker. But take it home and listen to it for a while and you'll quickly realize that what sounded pretty good in the short term starts to sound muddy and distorted over time. The Arctic P402s didn't fall into this trap and, instead, tried to give a more uniform and accurate frequency response (note - if you go to the Arctic website and see what looks to be a frequency response graph - it isn't. It is a sensitivity graph).

The Arctic P402s were well extended on the top end but did tend to get fatiguing at higher volumes (likely due to clipping). The low end was reasonably well extended for the price point. The overall response was very even with only a hint of distortion with some of the higher male voices. Overall, I found that the Arctic P402s reacted much like my more audiophile headphones in that they sounded better with better recorded tracks but were fairly unforgiving with the lower quality tracks.

Imaging was good, overall, and dynamic were okay though the P402s lost a lot of oomph at the lower volumes. If I had to categorize the Arctic P402 headphones, I'd classify them suitable for an audiophile in training. While they obviously aren't going to have the performance of a true audiophile set, they will give you enough of that flavor so that you can recognize good sound when you hear it. This makes them perfect for the discerning listener who wants an affordable offering for use in unsecured settings or places where they don't want to risk their quality headphones.

The only issue I had with the Arctic P402 headphones was that they seemed to be very hard to drive. Compared to all my other headphones I had to jack up the level much more for the same perceived volume. It might sound crazy to suggest with a $40 headphone, but the Arctic P402s might actually perform better with a little external amplification. Now, I don't think anyone will actually do that, but it might help.

 

Confused about what AV Gear to buy or how to set it up? Join our Exclusive Audioholics E-Book Membership Program!

Recent Forum Posts:

BoredSysAdmin posts on September 18, 2012 09:06
In this price segment I don't know anything better than Fostex T20RP
Haven't heard MDR-V6's, but I assume they are nearly as good
Impulse posts on September 18, 2012 08:22
Interesting review, its nice to see companies nowadays still give a good
Product at a low price!
Post Reply