Pros: Neutral sound, isolation is good, price
Cons: Lack of low end, flat bass response
I don't have a lot of experience with headphones other than the ones I've used throughout my life. I'm an avid listener to music of all sorts (with a heavy focus on Metal, Rock, Alternative, and Broadway). For the past two years I've used Bose OE Headphones that were given to me as a gift. The wire attachment finally failed so I was in the market for new headphones. After a bit of research, I decided to get the HD 280's. My only experience with Sennheiser prior to these is with the RS-120 wireless headphones which I still use (and enjoy!) to this day.
On to the HD 280's. Finding one at my local Best Buy, I decided to try them out and purchased their last set. I was excited because I've always been under the assumption that Bose aren't very "good", especially for the prices. I opened the 280's and plugged it into my PC. I was immediately taken back by the tightness of the headphones. I'm a big guy (that's what SHE said!! ;D) and wear a size 7 1/4th hat, but I've never had headphones make my head feel constricted. The 280's accomplished that feet. The ear pads were comfortable enough so I figured the headphones would eventually become more comfortable after time. The first album I played was Candlebox's self-titled album. I've been listening to this album since 1997 and have become familiar with the guitars on an intimate level. Starting with "You", I immediately noticed a lack of quality. Surprised, I stopped the song and restarted it. I began hearing a slight "hiss". Dismayed, I allowed the song to play but continued to hear the song as "hollow."
I was starting to get worried so I switched to a more recent release, In Mourning's Monolith album, specifically "The Poet and Painter of Souls" (track 3). As soon as the song started, I noticed no "hiss" I let the song play and was enjoying it but still felt it was missing something. I finished the song, noting how well the cans handled the double bass drum while still allowing the warm tones of the slower parts to come out.
I then moved on to Tool's Undertow, but went to an old standard, "Sober." Wow!! This is what my music should sound like! The intricate guitar notes were floating above the heavy bass lines and distortion. Maynard's voice was clear and well pronounced. I then thought back to Candlebox (1997) and wondered how a 1996 album could sound so drastically different. It was then that I realized I had recently re-purchased Sober and archived it using .flac and Candlebox (and In Mourning) were using the .mp3 format (with Candlebox being so old, it's only 128kb!).
Finally nailing down why the variance in quality of songs, I then focused on the actual headphones themselves. This is where I was both surprised and disappointed at the same time. I was amazed at how the flaws in my archives were so pronounced, yet disappointed in the flat bass response of the headphones. The sound stage on the 280's were typically open, with the exception of some muddiness in the middle (the highs are clear, mid's a little dull, and lows being flat).
While I'm very much happy with the overall quality of these headphones, I will be returning them and have decided to purchase some Audio Technica ATH-M50's instead. Only $5 more from eBay and I was able to test them at a local guitar store. I was very impressed with their performance and will be writing a separate review for them once I've broken them in.
If you're looking for quality headphones with a neutral sound, but don't like a heavy bass sound, the 280's are a great buy. I did not mention the Broadway albums I listened to, but suffice to say these headphones perform well for musicals in general. I did not test these with any classical orchestrations, but believe they will perform well in most scenarios.
(Note: This is my first review, so constructive criticism is welcomed!)