The Delightful Onkyo ES-FC300 and ES-HF300

Onkyo ES-FC300 ($149) and ES-HF300 ($179)
Onkyo, particularly famous for their A/V receivers, and like many big audio companies these days, has decided to enter the headphone fray with both on-ear and in-ear models. Initial press releases were filled with all the appropriate buzzwords: "Deep Powerful Bass"; "Well-Defined, Clear Sound"; "Tangle-Free Cable"; "Solid Build Quality"; and, of course, sexy pictures of white, black, and purple headphones with clean, contemporary lines. Typical big company brand promising that rarely gives any real indication of actual performance. This time, however, those promises seem to be fulfilled.

Physical Description
The Onkyo ES-FC300 and ES-HF300 are physically identical with the exception of the replaceable cable, which is a flat, tangle-free type on the ES-FC300, and a 6N Copper cable with what feels like a rubber silicon insulation. Both cables are "Y" types with MMCX connectors for each earpiece and 90 degree angled 3.5mm stereo plugs at the other end. Neither cable has a remote---rumors abound speculating on a soon to be released cable with remote---both cables measure about 0.2 Ohm resistance on the signal carrying conductors, and are four feet in length. While I didn't measure or hear any differences between the two cables, the premium cable did seem quite nicely finished with chromed connector bodies and the unusually soft cable insulation that Onkyo claims reduces cable-born mechanical noise. Apart from mentioning the slightly too large 90 degree angle connector body of the copper cable that may have some problems reaching in through a protective case to the headphone jack, I think the $30 upgrade for the premium cable is reasonable for those who appreciate these sorts of thing.

Onkyo correctly identifies these as an on-ear, sealed headphone, but the size, shape, and depth of the ear cushions is quite large and could almost be an over-ear can. The ample round earpads are covered with a medium thickness pleather, and while the foam cushions are fairly thick and soft, they don't seem to be the high-performance memory foam found on some higher cost headphones. So, the earpads feel a little uncompliant and awkward when first donned, but quickly warm up and seem to fit quite nicely as they settle into your head. The headband pad isn't particularly plush or thick, but it conforms to the shape of my head well and nicely distributes the weight over a good portion of my head. All-in-all I found these a surprisingly comfortable headphone of its price and type.

The overall build quality seems very good for a headphone of this price. Color-matched anodized aluminum outer ear cup shells and various hardware bits on the swivels are a nice touch and quite unusual at this price. Headband adjustment sliders appear to be stainless steel and quite hefty. The sliding mechanism is detented with a nice positive and secure feel. The remaining bits are various types of nicely finished plastics, mostly screwed together. Headphone pads are removable. I think these cans are built well and probably quite repairable and modifiable for those with the skills.

The ear pad swivel mechanism uses a single sided swing arm between the end of the headband and rear of each ear cup. The headband swivel allows the cup to rotate flat for storage and transport. The ear cup swivel allows a limited but ample tilt of the ear piece. The swivel (or gimbal) mechanism on the whole is slightly clunky and doesn't feel as precise as some of the more expensive headphones of this type, and when first putting them on I needed to do a bit of fidgeting to get the cans to fit properly on the head, but it does seem adequate and robust enough for long-lived reliability.


Exploded view of the innards of the Onkyo ES-FC300 Headphone.

I liked the look of these headphones quite a bit. The lines are clean and modern. Color matching on the various parts of purple pair I received for review are not exact, but given the various differing materials is not surprising. I suspect the white and black color options would have closer color matching.

A soft, drawstring carry pouch is also included with your purchase.

All-in-all I found the Onkyo ES-FC300 and ES-HF300 a clean build, and an excellent first entry into the headphone market for Onkyo. Of course, it's the sound quality that really separate the men from the boys, and we'll talk about that on the next page.

Onkyo USA
1 (800) 229-1687

Jazz Casual's picture

Nice review Tyll. I have a soft spot for Onkyo gear so it's nice to see that they've entered the headphone market with a typically attractive, well built product that performs exceptionally well for the price. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

...I had so little hope at first seeing these cans, but they sure did pull it off. I'm pretty excited about that, having another "power player" in the headphone world is pretty cool. 

Anakata's picture

Hey, what are your opinions on these headphones vs the m50s?

I understand they are around the same price point, even if they are not in the same category.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I tested them head-to-head as well (sorry I forgot to mention it in the article), I found the Onkyo had a smoother treble. The M50s have always seemed a bit harsh to me. The Onkyo seems quite a bit better in most regards.

The new budget king? Dunno, but it's close to it.

donunus's picture

Are the m50s the newer ones? I hated the old m50s yet I love the newer M50LE silver model. Slightly bright but I found the highs very smooth even though it is balanced towards the bright side.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

....I'm pretty sure.

tom22's picture

How is the isolation relative to other portable sealed on ears? is it as isolating as the hd25s? vmoda m80s? noontec zoros? 


or were they similar to over ears? if so is it enough for heavy duty train/subway commuters?

MarcoGV's picture

Tom22, the measurement downloads answer sheets on this site answer your question to some extent.  The Onkyo's broadband isolation of -16db is equal to that of the hd25 (at least for some of the measured items) and of the Philips Cityscape Downtown.  It is better than that of the V-Moda M80 (-10), Noontec Zoro (-9), and CAL! (-8).  It is also better than that of the full-size UE6000 (-14) in passive mode---this surprised me.  Equal broadband isolation may not mean equal results in all applications.  For example, the Cityscape Downtown was observed to be better at cutting off speech than the hd25, but not as good in cutting off droning noise.  The measurement sheets include an isolation graph plotting attenuation of external sound vs. frequency that can be used to distinguish a headphone's suitabiity for a particular application.

Chrisknos's picture

Where can I access the measurements of the Onkyo iem?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I'll post them up next time I do an "Monthly (HA!) Update" but I might wait until Joker does a review if he decides to do so. The measurements are very good though.

DrForBin's picture


has Sennheiser tricked down the cups from the now discontinued Amperiors to a new set of cans?

that would be a good thing.

Lawk's picture

The Amperiors were what? 350 retail? The older HD25 is around 169-199 here. I don't think a 150 usd/eur price bump is warranted even with higher quality aluminum cups.

I think the HD 25 Aluminium at 249 makes more sense.

There are clearance sales out there for the Amperiors though, here sometimes for about 125.....then it is a very good deal.

MarcoGV's picture

Tyll, thank you for the excellent review.  I wonder whether you have compared them with the  Pioneer SE-MJ591.  This is a (very) portable closed on-ear headphone from another mainstream Japanese manufacturer that was very much liked by Sam Tellig in Stereophile and has elicited a wide range of opinions on various sites.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

...but I'll look into getting a pair.

woody's picture

Hi Tyll,


I thought Sennheiser had not gotten to release the HD25 aluminum in the US just yet. Did you happen to get a pair of HD25 aluminum already? And since I remembered you said in your review that the Amperior was raelly entry level audiophile vs good Mid-hi, how does the Onkyo compare to the Amperior then, if you have any recollection of it? Thanks.

Audioaddict's picture

Tyll it's great to see some new budget cans that sound really great for the price, But will we ever see a higher end closed headphone review? Maybe the Fostex Th-900 and Th-600? I know the new Denon's were a dissapointment but the Fostex's have been praised around the forums. 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I found the Fostex cans a bit too strident for my tastes. 

See impulse response for somewhat too edgy response.

qq504756010's picture

Any thoughts on the new KEF M500, on-ear too, heard a lot of hype from headfi. Even though it is pretty much twice as expensive as the fc300, any idea how do they compete each other?

Heartstringsnote's picture

How about the KEF M500, Sony MDR-R1, and fc300 in comparison to the Sennheiser Momentum too? :) 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

Trying to get my hands on some.

XVII's picture

Regards, Tyll! Could you please put some words here about comparison of sounding of this cans and MDR-1R?

paul's picture

I agree, the prices on Headphones seem to be going up and up and up. I love my instant gradification as much as the next person, but a little self control goes a long way.

I finally purchased a pair of Amperiors (Thank You Blog Site for informing me the Amperiors were to be discontinued). I paid a little less than half retail price.

I am a little concerned with the low price. On the official Sennheiser site they inform you that: "[V]erifying products comes in the form of a smartphone app: all you have to do is scan the security label’s QR code using your smartphone or tablet-PC to open thus starting the authentication process – there is no need to enter the ID."

I feel better.

Next. Not for nothing, but the Onkyo ES-FC300 and ES-HF300 cheated. The main reason to purchase an on-ear headphone is for portability. The Onkyo should sound as good as a "real" on-ear portable headphone - They are about the size of a closed, over ear headphone. They are neither "portabile" nor something I would wear out-of-doors.

Just Saying.

melvin's picture

I don't know but the looks remind me a lot of AKG k550. And I'm quite surprised they're not over ears. But then again it might be for some.

Koppa's picture

Hi Tyll, really need your advice. I've lost my Creative Aurvana Live (CAL!) some times ago, pretty much like it. The sound was very good and suit my taste. For replacement, bought V-MODA M80 in order to get more portable headphone, but quite disappointed with the sound and sold it. I can't describe it but IMO CAL! is more hi-fi than M80.

What do you think about this ONKYO compare to those headphones? Appreciate your suggestion. Thanks.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I found the Onkyo more open and even in response. The CAL treble is more artificial sounding to my ears.

xander01's picture

6 months ago, I might've jumped at the chance for an affordable, highly-reviewed set like this loosely labeled as 'on-ears', but having had terrible fit issues trying out the DT1350, I'm highly suspect of these given the larger cup size.  If the foam isn't ultra-soft and collapsing, then the cup side closest to the face will probably sit on the back of the cheekbone & prevent a good seal.  The DT1350 made me realize how little a small sound premium matters if the user experience is a hassle, or otherwise compromised - took me 20 minutes of nudging & tweaking every time I put them on just to make the fit feel acceptable.

What nearly everybody misses about M-80s is those nice narrow profile cups - so easy to get them on your ears for the intended seal, no matter how your head or ears are shaped.  Until they release an updated version, likely to be my sole on-ear set for years to come.

Heretix_Aevum's picture

I agree about the sound, my ES-HF300 sound excellent. I'm selling them, though, as I just can't get comfortable with them. If anybody is interested in buying them, check them out here:

citraian's picture

You forgot to put them on the Wall of Fame :)

Tyll Hertsens's picture
citraian's picture

Sorry, my bad. I was looking at the top of the heap. I forgot that they were so cheap :)

cel4145's picture

Thanks for writing the review of these Tyll. I just got the ES-FC300, and they sound great. While I have not tried them head to head yet with my ATH-M50s, I definitely do like them better. Seems like a more natural overall sonic signature. 

Magnetorheological's picture

Hi Tyll, I saw your excellent review a while back and just recently decided to pull the trigger after I had a chance to audition them while on vacation in Hong Kong. I just received my pair of HF300s a couple days ago, and I love the excellent sound signature especially at the price I got them for!!

Anyway, my question is about the durability of these cables...I admit I am unfamiliar with MMCX connectors, and I am unsure about the durability of them. I noticed that they take quite a bit of force to pull out of the housings(maybe I am doing it wrong?), and I was wondering how long they will last if they were removed/plugged back in with relative frequency.


Trunks159's picture

Just got these and these sound really good.  However, if the Sennheiser Momentum, basically an on ear headphone, gets to hand out with the big boys (the circumaural cans) then these surely do.  Someone on the market for an on ear can won't really be into these.  They fit more nicely with the circumaural crowd.

Prateek's picture

I wanted a headphone in the range of 120 to 150. And I have so many choices including the one not yet mentioned on innerfidelty the Noontec Hammo! I had the zoro and I purchased it thanks to your review and I loved them!! Now its time to get something new and I have the choice of Onkyo, Noontec hammo, Athm50 and DT 1350. Which one would be a decent upgrade to the noontecs because they already are amazing for the price?

briker's picture

Hi, I need a bit help here, you reviewed both headphones how they compare to each other? Regards from Croatia!

lukmancs's picture

Great review Tyll!

I'm still confused, which one is more worth to buy actually? HF300 or FC300? Which one is more durable (the cable)?
I listen to 320 kbps MP3 and FLAC songs, all kind of genres.


vtdone's picture

These are not Onkyo's first headphones. I still have a pair of Onkyo DP-300 headphones. Still working since 1992. Photo here:

So subsequent Onkyo headphones still use the 300 designation.