Current testing methodology is v1.2
The Headroom MS16 is an affordable pair of earphones that retail for less than $10 excluding shipping.
I’ve reviewed a lot of earphones in the ultra-budget space – some of them were great and can compete with slightly pricier sets while others were disappointing, to say the least. Let’s see how the MS16 does in this in-depth review.
A budget open-back earphone with a natural mid-forward signature
The Headroom MS16 is a pair of flathead earphones with a single dynamic driver. It has a very reliable midrange performance and although both ends seem somewhat lacking, they perform complementary to the rest of the overall signature.
- Driver: Single Dynamic Driver
- Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
- Impedance: 32Ω
- Sensitivity: 115± 3dB/mw
- Plug type: Straight plug type
- Microphone: Yes
- Volume Control: Yes
What’s in the Box?
- Headroom MS16 earphones
- 1 pair of cloth covers
Stuff I like
- Forward mids
- Decent detail retrieval
- Good build quality and rigid but flexible cable
- Comes with a built-in mic and volume rocker
Stuff I like less
- Resolution takes a hit from mid-bass bleed
- Intimate staging
- Relatively mild treble
The Headroom MS16 comes in simple packaging. Its design is your typical flathead design but with some grills on the back. Unlike other flatheads that choose the same form factor, the grills on these earphones are actually functional.
It has a non-detachable cable, which is pretty common with flathead earphones. And the inclusions are very basic – just a pair of cloth covers.
The sound of Headroom MS16 was pretty easy to like off the bat. The mid-centric performance was easy to pick up on and as someone who likes very forward mids, listening to these earphones was quite the treat. I did have some nitpicks about it, but they’re nothing major that breaks the experience.
For its price, I wasn’t expecting an open-back approach but hey, it’s crazy out there. Overall, the MS16 could place slightly above many of the budget killer sets and can even compete with the VE Monk Plus.
I’d say that the build quality of the Headroom MS16 is fairly good. I can’t discern whether the shell is made of metal or hard plastic but the bottom line is that it’s solid. The grills on the back serve as a vent for the open back design and while everything is to my liking, the grey rim on the earphones is a little out of place.
The cable is rather unique as it has a patterned groove running along it and while it’s tensile, it’s still flexible. Overall, a pretty good level of materials and one that’s right on the money with the price.
Fit and Comfort
The Headroom MS16 is decently comfortable. The fit is also good but without the covers, they tend to move around the ear, which prompts a little fidgeting. In any case, the cloth covers don’t affect the sound that much so it’s fine to put them on.
As you’d expect, the sound isolation is crap. Aside from the fact that you can’t get a proper seal with flathead earphones, the open-back design of the MS16 ensures that there’ll be noise bleeding into your music, which is distracting on low volumes. On medium levels though, this shouldn’t be a problem.
The Headroom MS16 has a neutral signature that has a bump in the mids. They hit it right on the nail with this one.
The low end has presence but it’s just enough to add a bit of atmosphere. The punchiness and thump are rather mild on the low end and speaking of mild, the upper end shares this kind of demeanor with the transients. They sound as they should but I find the general gist to be a little tame.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I find myself looking for more splashiness. Not that the treble is lacking any brightness – it’s not. Perhaps it’s the extension that’s lacking but in any case, the upper end is relatively easy-going.
The obvious strength of the MS16 would be its midrange and although both ends could be better, they still do a decent job in the guise of a support role. All in all, the signature is solid even with not-so-impressive technicalities.
The low end of the Headroom MS16 is pretty tame but not completely absent.
There’s sub-bass presence although it’s lacking. The mid-bass is light for my preferences, but it still presents somewhat of an impact although not as sizeable. This is a balanced type of response and while I do believe this kind of tuning on the bass increases clarity, it was surprising to find a little bleed on the lower mids.
It was a little disorienting at first as I couldn’t put my finger on it. The resolution would’ve been better without the audible bleed but it’s nothing too unnerving.
All in all, the low end could be a bit cleaner and that makes more sense for the approach it took.
The midrange, as I’ve already said, is pretty forward. It isn’t the cleanest presentation with the slight bleed on the lower mids but depending on the song, the smear won’t even be there. You could say that this con is more track-dependent instead of being more perpetual than what you may hear from a BGVP Scale.
The note weight is just right and slight texturing helps the presentation seem more natural. The upper midrange, on the other hand, is a champ in handling higher voice ranges and instruments. The sound is smooth with just enough presence.
Overall, I consider these to be reliable mids that get the job done.
The treble of the Headroom MS16 is a little odd for me as it isn’t as dark as I initially thought but something seems to be holding it back.
The instruments aren’t suppressed but they seem somewhat muted. They have that edge that makes them crisp but the post-satisfaction of hearing transients just isn’t there. It still does provide everything else to make music sound complete but for me, I would’ve liked more extension and presence.
The technicalities of the Headroom MS16 are average. Other users have commented on the soundstage being somewhat good but I find that, even with an open-back design, it’s nothing to write home about.
The implementation of the design is more of a means to make the sound airy but not airier than it is.
Overall, Headroom did a decent job with the tuning and I say that because I don’t like trying to base the MSRP on the level of technicalities – an earphone has more to it than just that.
The MS16 is an all-rounder pair flathead of flathead earphones but do take note that it won’t replay as much bass as what bass-laden genres usually present you with. Besides that though, other genres seem to work well with its signature.
If you love mid-forward signatures, the Headroom MS16 is a good value choice that fits the bill. Both ends of its frequency response show some weaknesses but somehow the MS16 makes it so that the best parts of the tuning are highlighted.
Gavin is a college student who has a lot going on. From collecting IEMs and modding mechanical keyboards, to different hobbies like digital drawing, music mastering and cooking. It is safe to say he is a complete multi-faceted geek (and he's kinda cool too)
This post was last updated on 2023-11-28 / Some images from Amazon Product API & some links may be affiliate links which may earn us a commission from purchases.