Comfortable and well built planar magnetics, offering solid value and a distinct character.
One of the pleasures of hearing new audio equipment for the first time is when they reveal your music in a different or surprising way. This unassuming pair of planar magnetic over-ear headphones, devoid of branding of any kind and black all over, give little away until the music starts flowing.
Once I started listening to the Gold Planar GL600s, I went on a voyage of re-discovery through my collection and I found them hard to take off! More on the sound later, as it’s certainly not going to work for everyone.
- Sharp industrial design
- Comfortable headband and plush pads
- Great imaging and punchy bass
- Can be ‘shouty’ on vocals
- Rolled-off top end won’t be to everyone’s taste
- Blurred midrange
Gold Planar has roots going back to 2010, becoming a brand in its own right in 2017. They design and engineer their headphones in the USA, which are then assembled using in-house modified planar drivers by a Chinese Original Design Manufacturer (ODM) and distributed by Linsoul.
- Impedance: 22 ohms
- Sensitivity: 100dB
- Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.25%@1KHZ/100dB SPL
- Frequency Response: 6Hz-50KhHz
- Driver: Nano diaphragm planar driver
- Weight: 375g
- Form Factor: Over-ear, open-back
The GL600s come in a large, sturdy box containing a molded insert covered in a silky material. The immediate impression is of attention to detail, both with protecting the contents for shipping, and with the solid feel of the headphones themselves.
My only gripe here – and certainly not unique to Gold Planar – is the large volume of non-recyclable expanded foam used in the molded insert.
In the box
- The headphones
- 1.5m OFC cable with 3.5mm to 6.3mm adapter
- User manual
Included in the box is a quality fabric sleeved cable that resists twisting, and Gold Planar claims it contains oxygen-free copper. A 3.5mm jack is standard, and an included 6.3mm adapter can be screwed on if needed.
Terminations at the ear cups are 2.5mm, and these are labeled left and right (the headphones are entirely symmetrical, and therefore are not labeled themselves). They click into place very firmly: definitely no flimsiness here! The cable is unobtrusive, with no annoying microphonics.
Looks are a personal thing of course, but I love the industrial, clean look of the GL600s. No-one will know what you’re wearing as there’s no branding to be seen anywhere. In fact, these are some of the best looking headphones I’ve personally used. With the mostly metal construction, they appear and feel sturdy.
The headband size adjusters are quite stiff and imprecise, but that’s a job that should only need to be done once, and I’m confident they’ll stay where they’re put. The earcups are easily twisted and tilted to find a comfortable position. They can also be tilted flat for placing on a desk or against your chest when around your neck.
The GL600s are supremely comfortable and perfect for glasses wearers.
The Gold Planars use plush, comfortable leather-like pads that are just large enough to fit over my ears, attached by hook and loop. So plush are the pads that they sit comfortably over my glasses, unlike my own three pairs of headphones. I usually have to remove my glasses when listening to headphones: not ideal! That makes these a definite winner for glasses wearers.
The pads do get a little warm with extended use, but not enough to be an issue except on the warmest days. The headband design also works very well, fitting my head firmly, but without excessive or uncomfortable clamping force. Adopting a wide headband design means that the soft strap rests across more of the top of the head, eliminating pressure points that can often spoil headphone comfort.
The attention paid to comfort definitely shows, and even though a little on the heavy side, I was able to forget I was wearing them: always a good sign.
Inside the shallow housings sit 66mm nano-membrane planar magnetic diaphragm drivers. Planars develop their sound by using powerful magnets to push and pull on a super-thin and taught membrane. As with every speaker technology, there are pros and cons with how music is reproduced, and there’s just no way to know if they’ll work for you without taking them for a test drive.
When it comes to the sound signature of the GL600s, I developed a love-hate relationship over several multi-hour listening sessions.
The infamous v-shaped sound signature is common to so many headphones and IEMs that I think our ears have been trained to consider this sound as the norm. The GL600s challenge that norm head on, presenting a much more mid-forward balance that reveals all kinds of details in the lows and mids. However, they can get harsh with some music, especially evident in vocals.
Stereo separation and imaging are impressive on this open back design, letting me place instruments and vocalists easily from left to right. There isn’t any real depth to the soundstage, but that’s a challenge for any headphone. I can drive them easily from a MacBook, a Sony DAP, and my headphone amp.
A challenging sound signature, yet I couldn’t stop listening and rediscovering my music!
Planar magnetic headphones can produce detailed, dynamic bass, and the Gold Planars certainly deliver here, with a deep, kicking bottom end that never becomes overpowering. Lovers of detailed bass will be happily entertained for hours by these.
The low end’s punchiness softens off in the mid-bass, which gets slightly boomy, but I can easily follow and enjoy basslines like the electric bass guitar on Black Crow by Jamiroquai.
This is where these headphones will divide opinion. The midrange on the GL600s is noticeably forward, to the point where some vocals and instruments sound ‘shouty’, and just unpleasant to listen to. The opening track on the Beastie Boys last album, Make Some Noise illustrates this perfectly, especially on the chorus, and I found myself reaching for the volume to turn it down.
It’s a shame, because there’s some nice detail in this range, and they revealed some details I’ve not noticed before. At other times, the detail is blurred or lost, especially when vocals are present. It’s an odd tuning that can let the overall experience down. Some owners have resorted to making minor modifications in the earcups, but as this is a review pair, that’s not an option for me.
Treble is fairly recessed on the GL600s, rolling off at the top end and lacking some sparkle. At its worst, this can make music sound lifeless and dull, especially combined with the prominent midrange. Although that won’t be to everyone’s taste, it does mean that there’s no fatiguing brightness at the top end, helping with longer listening sessions.
Give the GL600s time. You might just fall in love!
Where to Buy
Summarising the Gold Planar GL600s isn’t easy. They’ve torn me down the middle. There’s just something about their comfort and tonal character that kept me listening, sometimes for hours, yet I feel unable to give them a full endorsement.
We’re all so used to listening to that classic v-shape sound, and for lovers of electronic music, that makes perfect sense. These headphones refuse to cooperate with this convention. They present a totally different tonal balance that I’ve not previously encountered.
At times, and on some tracks, I was drawn into the music and couldn’t take them off. At other times I felt like my ears were being tortured. It’s all going to come down to the recording, the production, and the music you enjoy. You should absolutely try them, and decide for yourself. Give it time – you might just fall in love!