TESLA ARF 300 headphones

Description: Stereo 2x 200Ω headphones.
Manufacturer: TESLA Valašské Meziříčí
Made in year(s): 1980s
Country of origin: Czechoslovakia
Status: Got rid of them

The TESLA ARF300 were high-impedance dynamic headphones produced in Czechoslovakia in the mid-80s. Rugged and heavy – totaling 0.6 kg including the 1.5 meter spiral cable – a classic piece of “communist” pre-1989 production.

ARF 300, can detailFor a studio usage, indeed

In spite of being over 30 years old, these “cans” including the “muffs” are in perfect condition without any major scratch marks, and are still able to reproduce some sound!
Just a slight alteration has been made: the long-ish cord originally ended with a 5-pin DIN connector, quite normal with respect to their manufacture date. However, the cable soldered in it was loosey when I got the headphones, so I did replace that with a 3.5mm TRS “jack”. No real harm done.

ARF300 muffsReal leather muffs

Now for some technical characteristics. Subjective, i.e. from my point of view as a non-audiophile.
Putting them on makes you feel like if the head of yours went in a crimper or a vise, especially after an hour or two of wearing them. They surely won’t fall off on their own, no matter how you shake your head to the rhythm…
With regards to that, their outside insulation is just perfect – you won’t be scared of artillery fire noise with these on your ears. Should you ditch their internal speakers, these cans will fulfil the role of hearing protection at a shooting range, or while operating pneumatic drills.
The 1.5m long spiral cord, 3m when fully extended, has four thick PVC-insulated leads in it, something that you won’t see nowadays, maybe except in expensive professional tools. That’s right – no single common ground for the speakers. Well, sort of – until I’ve replaced the connector jack. For this reason, correct speaker phasing (polarity) has to be observed… or
Even if their impedance is rated 200 ohms, no external pre-amplifier is needed in conjunction with a laptop or a smartphone, their volume is sufficient enough for me (again, subjective as mentioned above). Haven’t tested them with an iPod or similar, though.

ARF300 frequencies graphApproximate frequency response graph
Source: Amatérske rádio 05/1988

Bad news… Despite their physical dimensions, as you can see their sound is very, very narrow. I don’t know whether this is caused due to their age, but plugged in to a low-impedance 32ohm output with no corrections, their dominant factor are mid-range frequencies. In other words, completely lacking in treble over circa 17-18 kHz, and only a slight hint of bass. The volume was sufficient and was not cranked all the way up.
Connected them to the original DIN-5 headphones input of a TESLA Moderato 1037A for a test, and the result was incomparable with the previous.
Sound positioning: If something, from what you’re listening to, was recorded in the center channel, it really and I mean REALLY sounds in the dead center, if played through these cans. Listening to mono music makes you feel like if everything came from your brain and makes (at least me) feel a bit dizzy. You really start to wish for a far-left (or a far-right) panned sound to appear once in a while.
Truth be told, the actuator coils (“speakers”) in these cans are actually the very same kind the Czechoslovak Tesla put into their AMD series of dynamic microphones. That’s right – you’ve read that correctly. This kind of explains their lack of treble and bass… or a good sound, thereof.

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