Pros: Excellent Sound
Cons: Poorly constructed, poor isolation, expensive
Sennheiser HD448 A sub-$100 champ, or a stinker?
I picked up a pair of HD448's after reading about their sound out of curiosity, while looking at closed back headphones for the purpose of having a good sounding portable, and having enjoyed the signature of Sennheiser (HD580's) for over a decade, I figured they would make a quality headphone. So let's take a look at what the HD4xx series had to offer on it's higher end. These headphones are in the sub-$100 bracket (usually $99, and found them down in the $60's on a sale; can be had for much less if used).
Construction, Materials and Comfort:
When you pick them up, they feel like a toy. I'm not accustomed to a Sennheiser that feels like this. My HD580's feel sturdy, 10 years later after I bought them. But these HD448's creek and torque and feel like they're literally just going to snap. The pads are made of a cheaper vinyl like material that is not very attractive. The grill backing is nice on the HD448, it's attractive and metallic and classy looking, but the lower HD4xx series headphones look awful (the HD428 looks completely plastic, and not very nice, and the HD438 looks like gaudy trashy wheel wells). Even though they share the same characteristics in sound, I went with HD448 for the classy look (reviewers stated the HD428 and HD448 really sounded about the same in general; the HD438 being colored towards bass).
They fit very poorly. When I put them on, and adjusted them, they were not very natural feeling. They felt like unfitted plasticy junk that creaked when I moved around and they ear pads didn't stay in place very well. They got hot very quickly too and I don't like sweaty headphone cups (this happens with all closed back vinyl/leather cup headphoens though for me). I couldn't believe Sennheiser released such a poorly constructed and fitting headphone, especially in this price range. Their HD5xx series are far more comfortable and in general feel like a better constructed headphone for a similar price, and that's saying a lot.
Due to the poor construction and fit, the isolation was rather unimpressive.
The headphone itself actually sounds pretty good. It was supposed to be excellent for most genres, and especially good for things that require mids and some bass response, like rock.
The highs were pretty clear, crisp, and non-fatiguing with no sibilance. Everything sounded pretty detailed, but it wasn't exactly transparent. The highs often lost their etch as the headphone moved, because they creak and don't isolate well, so it can become a sound that is not pleasing. Otherwise, when held in place and you don't move, they sound excellent.
The mids are nice and forward, generous and not congested. They are direct and warm too. Great headphone for rock, and frankly any genre that benefits from forward mids that are not recessed. The sound is crisp and detailed. The bass does not bleed over and power down the mids, nor are the highs so piercing that they make you lose capture of the mids. This is the strongest aspect of the headphone.
The headphone is advertised as having enhanced bass response. They do have good bass response. They're not a basshead can, but they're not anemic by any stretch. They have good response, and can reach pretty low. The quality of the low is not exceptional though, it's rather unremarkable and sometimes had a grainy sound to it even when amplified (to rule out clipping). The bass was largely lost often though when the headphone was not isolated, due to poor fitting and again, distracting to hear creaking of the structure of the headphone. The pads didn't isolate well, so a lot of times, the bass just lost it's oumph. When held in place and given a little more pressure on the grip (which could not be accomplished with just the headband, you had to use your hands), the bass was nice.
Isolation was poor. It was even more poor due to the headphone moving around and not having much grip. It was poorly fitted and adjustment was not very flexible. Overall, not great.
Sound stage was rather normal for a closed headphone. Unremarkable.
Closing Thoughts, Conclusion:
For the cost of the headphone ($99 retail in general), I simply could not keep it nor spend much time on it (hence the lack of pictures even). The build quality completely takes away from the headphone. They are otherwise good sounding headphones, nice response and balance. Not overly bright and not anemic. Good warm sound. It was rather surprising to pick up a Sennheiser and think "What is this junk?" I was basically confused. I looked at a lot of their headphones and it just seems like a few stand out that we talk about a lot here on Head-Fi. But Sennheiser flooded every market tier with a headphone from their line and it seems a lot of them are straight up bad, even if the drivers are decent.