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Sennheiser HD448 Around the Ear Headphones

Posted

Pros: Flat, Natural SQ. Lightwieght, Multi-purpose, Super Comfy

Cons: Accurate, yet weak lows. Amping helped more than intuition suggested.

As a young audio enthusiast with most of my knowledge base centering around car audio, I found my appreciation for sound begin translate across into the home.  Audio nuts run in the family, so between knowledge obtained from relatives and my own satisfaction of curiosity, I have come to learn much about the extremely complex niche of home loudspeakers.  Being a college student makes living situations far from ideal to venture (as a consumer) into the large, lovely loudspeaker market.  Naturally, the right avenue to achieve beautiful sound seemed to be headphone Ave.  While not related to the product I am reviewing, I feel as though to really deliver accurate information to the reader - and essentially give you, the reader, what you're looking for - I should give you a background to better understand my role in the sound community.  With this understanding, it will be easier for you to judge the accuracy of my writing and the validity pertaining to your needs or wants.  I hope to deliver useful, indicative information to you - not to necessarily persuade a purchase.

 

With all the background aside, let's focus on these phones.  These Sennheiser HD 448s are a closed circumaural headphone, with an impedance hanging around 32 Ohms , SPL ~114dB and a frequency response from 16 -24000Hz. 

 

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Comfort:  Technicals aside, these are a super comfortable phone. The earcup is large enough to indeed be circumaural, although those with over-sized ears may find this a tight fit.  These aren't the smallest cups I've seen on a circumaural headphone, but they're smaller than the pictures show initially.  The photo below (even though a bit is cut off) shows the cups to be around 3.5 inches on the outside but only about 2.5 for the ear itself.  My ears are of average size, and I have no problem fitting into them for a seal.  Pads are mildly stiff to create a seal, but the pressure on the head is barely noticeable. The headband rests nicely with an additional pad included to reduce pressure.  It is easy to forget these cans are on your head.  This is barely worth mentioning, but hours of listening does lead to a pair of warm ears.  With headphones that have any isolation at all, this is to be expected.   The comfort and weight give a distinct advantage for traveling.  The included bag is pretty standard (black, cloth, subtle Senn logo with drawstrings) but is nice for packing around a portable device in addition to the phones.  All in all, these give a comfortable, semi-loose fit on head - isolating quite well despite the low clamping force.  I will say if you prefer a secure, tighter fit as opposed to a more loose pillow like fit you may find these to not be as secure.

 

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Durability:  This is where the 448s are probably the weakest.  To be honest though, anything that isn't fragile can be taken care of with just a little conscious effort.  For a 100 dollar headphone, they're about what you would expect - adjustable plastic headband and exterior with above average padding, and a small cable (diameter) w/permanent one sided connectivity.  I do like the jointing system included here for limited swiveling and rotation, but improper care might render these plastic joints a weak point.  Bottom line: I think with some care these should be durable enough.  I've had them for over a year now with no issues and have taken them on numerous trips.. planes, trains, automobiles.

 

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Sound Quality:  I'm quite picky when it comes to sound, so I may tend to err of the harsher side (although not always).  I will do my best to offer a perspective here with my experienced ears outside of headphones.  When I started my consumer research with the goal of obtaining my first set of solid headphones without destroying my wallet, I ran through some options hovering in the $150 range.  While I found some nice options, I absolutely made the right choice by backing off price-wise to obtain these HD448 (ehm, ATH-M50 - greatly prefer the 448).

 

     I'll start with the highs:  I'd say for ~$100 you're getting more than what you paid for.  Symbols are present, yet not harsh.  Higher frequency female vocals sound controlled and accurate with no distortion.  The presence of the highs is significant enough in that you won't need to seek them out, but do lack the excitement to raise the hair on the back of your neck.  I would describe the highs as natural, and very relaxing.  Some may accuse the highs to be a bit boring, and if they did I wouldn't be able to tell them they're wrong.  I do thoroughly enjoy the emphasis on how organic the highs are in these cans however, almost like a sense of refreshment.  While the highs lack the excitement you might find in a Grado, I promise these headphones won't generate the listener's fatigue you'll find in brighter setups.  In fact, even against much nicer headphones, I could argue that these are one of the least fatiguing in sound signature.  The overall dark presentation could be considered favorable for long plane rides.  The highs are well controlled here, without hiding too much.

 

     The Mids:  I tend to enjoy this part of the spectrum more than the high or lows, and I feel a good mid-frequency is what separates the nice from the poor.  Mids are absolutely underrated in the untrained ear.  That being said, mids add an unrealized dimension to those who have been listening to less than ideal sonics.  The mid-range frequencies produced in these are absolutely unmatched for headphones I've heard in this price range.  The mids alone in the 448s make a Bose price tag look like even more of a joke than it already is.  The vocals are wonderful, and way beyond what I expected for this tier of can.  Guitar string recoil is refined and separation from the vocals is definitive.  Piano mid-notes are true.  The foundation of the sound can tangibly be associated in this range of the spectrum. The quality mids add a body to the music that compliments the neutral highs quite nicely, avoiding an airy, empty sound which strands the highs as sound lacking mid-range does.  These cans avoid the mudding together of mid-notes, which is more common than it should be for a lot of audio equipment.  The aforementioned makes these headphones ideal for vocal and acoustic based sound.  Sennheiser outdid themselves with the mids here in this price range - I was impressed.

 

The Lows:  Overall, I would have to say quite disappointing at first, and still lacking a bit.  Running these 3.5mm and no amplification really causes the 448s to draw a blank here.  They lack the enjoyable thump in fast paced rock and certainly don't have the balls for any hip-hop oriented music.  These seem to have trouble with a specific mid-bass note, it almost comes out "fuzzy" at times.  This could be my picky ear speaking, but after logging hours on another (more expensive) headphone I really notice it.  However, this isn't to say they can't hit the lows.  These Senns reproduce them quite accurately in fact, just in a muted fashion.  Mid-bass percussion and bass guitar strumming sound articulate, just muted.  This is where a better sound source or amp can drastically improve these cans.  I ended up amping them (FiiO e7), and while I did notice a mild positive difference in the highs and mids, the assistance in the lows introduced a substantial improvement.  I was able to get some thump out of them with some bass-boost assist on the amplifier (low setting on FiiO e7).  Generally, I try and steer clear of bass boost, given that I am far from a basshead and it usually just skews the spectrum - but here it really was necessary.  To be honest, I found these headphones a surprisingly difficult 32 ohms to drive.  I know impedance isn't tell-all when talking about ease of drive, and the HD 448 are an example of that.  They sound just fine unamped, but amping them helped quite a bit - even more so than amping a set of 32 ohm Beyerdynamic DT 770 in my opinion.... surprising, right?  I guess the take home message here is this: don't expect much of anything from the lows (below mid-bass) unless you're listening for it, but know you can improve these later on with amplification if you're tight on money at the moment.

 

Additional Notes:  Just like any headphone worth owning, it will require some burn in time.  Out of the box these sound quite harsh with noticeable crackling.  I recommend at least 30 hours of burn-in, and wouldn't be surprised if more was needed.  Don't be fooled by their sound out of the box!

 

Also, these isolate quite well as a closed can - making these even more ideal for traveling.  They have no problem reducing background chatter, but do not completely block outside noise (not active noise canceling).  They leak very subtly despite sounding quite loud off the head.

 

As with most closed cans, imaging is inferior.  The sound quality is great, but the soundstage is limited by the closed back design of the headphone.  That being said, it isn't all that narrow... just not as favorable as some of the open models I've experienced.

 

I would also consider these cans aesthetically pleasing, if this is of significance of you.

 

 

In a Nutshell: these cans are a steal for the money.  I had no hesitation giving these 5 stars in the value department.  I am happy I went with these over some more expensive models I was initially eying.  Highs are fine, mids are glorious and lows are disappointing (unamped).  A ton of sound for 100 bucks, and operate fairly well right off a portable device.  These still represent one of the best "values" I know of.  I find myself recommending them to many people who are on a tight budget and appreciate a natural response that isn't necessarily bass dominant.  If you don't plan on amping these right away, I suggest you do so in the future.  Most headphones of higher quality than these will require amplification anyways - these flirt with the line of amplifier necessity.

 

If you have any questions about the Sennheiser HD448s, reply with a post and I would be glad to answer!

Posted

Pros: Solid overall sound quality, very good mids, great value for what you get

Cons: Ear cups could be a few mm larger, lacking a little depth in the bass department

I would like to preface this review by saying that I'm sort of an audio noob. I'm a music nut, but have only recently really started to get into the tech, and these are the first headphones I have purchased that cost more over $30. Man was I missing out!

What I listen to: Rock, Metal, Alternative, Indie, Post Rock, Folk, Classical, Techno, House, Dub Step, Ambient, Trip Hop, Hip-Hop... basically everything but country.

Audio quality: I read a lot of reviews slinging around esoteric jargon like "soundstage" and whatnot. I don't really have the audiophile vocab to describe every facet of the sound quality in detail. However, I will say that I've been pleased with my 448s so far. The mids and overall sound is very good. I've only burned them in for around 15-16 hours so far, so they probably aren't fully broken in yet. Admittedly, they sounded pretty good out of the box. I'm hoping the bass will become a little more punchy, but so far that is the only thing I've been disappointed with. The bass isn't terrible, it just doesn't quite have the fullness I was hoping for. However, according to the above reviewer, I need to keep burning them in.

 

Update: I received my Electric Avenues PA2V2 portable amp, but have not noticed a "significant" change in the audio quality or bass. However, I still have some burn-in to do on the Senns and the amp. Also, I still need to tweak the gain settings on the amp. I'll update again when I have it dialed in more.

Comfort: My only gripe about the comfort is that if the earcups were any smaller, they probably wouldn't fit (and I have fairly average sized ears, imo). As it is, they are fairly snug around my ears, with very little room to spare. Perhaps this is desirable for some people, but I feel like one or two more mm in the inner circumference would have been nice. (If you have Will Smith ears, these might not be the best for you). The faux leather is not great. I encounter some sweating when in a warm environment, so I have to wipe them off occasionally. I may look into some alternative earcups (velour perhaps), if I can find some. I will say that the 448s are nice and lightweight. They are also not too tight on the skull, which is a bonus.

Other likes/dislikes: These aren't the best looking headphones I've ever seen, but image is of least concern for me. These do cut down on external sound somewhat, although don't expect them to muffle screaming babies or anything. I appreciate the included cord extender. They also included a storage bag, which I haven't really used, but is still a nice addition. I'll try to update this review after more burn-in and when I get my amp adjusted.

Summary: I would say these are excellent for the price. For only $100, Senn 448s are a great first set of cans.

Posted

Pros: Great sound, wonderfull fit, lovely highs, monsterous mids. pretty good bass.

Cons: All plasitc, leatherett pads feel cheep are are thick. bass is light useing a ipod.

I got these head phones a little less than a month ago, I'm in love with them now. The over all sound signature is very mid-centric but that not saying the highs are left behind, yes yes the highs are fairly recessed, but they are detailed just not over powering. The bass is more thudy than punchy but with bass boost its quite a monster. for the price i got them at i see no reason to be in any way disappointed. I am getting a tube amp to see how they sound with that, hopefully color the sound  bit and give it the tubey sound.

Posted

Pros: Punchy bass, Detailed Mids and Highs, excellent value

Cons: Quality reduces when used on a computer, ears get a bit sweaty, and sometimes boomy bass

These headphones offer excellent sound quality right out of the box, even without the 50 hours of burn-in required. Detailed mids and highs, punchy bass, but at times there is boomy bass. My ears got quite sweaty after about 5 hours of use with an iPod. Their overall quality (especially bass) reduced quite noticeably when used with a computer (They are optimized for the iPod). These sounded great with acoustic music from Jack Johnson, Rock and Heavy Metal Music from AC/DC and Metallica because of their ability to deliver excellent mids and highs. Even though these are for Rock, Classical and Acoustic music genres they do very well with hip hop too. In Eminem's songs I could hear little details that the artist put in that people sadly do not hear. The bass was lively and it really felt like everything was in front of me. These headphones are optimized for music only. I compared them to my HD 595s and the HD 595s were better, but again, these are for people who want high-quality music on the go. They're also quite comfortable, stylish and durable. The plastic is high quality. They also offer ridiculously good value! I highly recommend this product.

Posted

Pros: Looks, High Quality Mids, Non-Fatiguing, Comfort, Efficient

Cons: "Portable", Bass Quality, Bass Quantity, Hollow Headband, Non-removeable pads

 

The HD448 were my first headphones that I could call my own, and my first foray into high quality sound. I bought these in late 2010 for use with my iPod Classic. Like most people entering the headphone game, I was after "more bass, please"  (keep in mind that I was coming from the PX100, which little did I know at the time, was actually somewhat bassy). I was also after headphones that were portable, seeing as I wanted to use them primarily with my iPod.
 
When they arrived, I opened them up, plonked them on my head, and gave them a whirl. To my immediate disappointment, I discovered that they were less bassy than the PX100! (and as we all know, bass quantity = sound quality) However, during my research into these headphones, I had been introduced to the idea of burn in. I told myself that the headphones would sound better with time, and so I kept listening. 
 
Once again to my disappointment, the bass didn't magically grow, but with comparison with the PX100, I realised that the overall clarity, and forwardness of the mids was noticeably higher on the HD448s. So, really, the 448s taught me (in good time) that bass quantity isn't everything. The mids are indeed the standout of the HD448. They're rich, a little forward (but not too much, it's subtle compared to a Grado) and well defined. Vocals are placed right, instruments like guitars strike a pretty good balance between being "liquid" and "detailed". It's very satisfying. I didn't find the treble to be particularly noteable in any way, either positively or negatively. It's simply competent treble that won't wow you, but it certainly shouldn't offend you. It's definitely a bit on the darker side, which I really don't mind for easy listening, fatigue just isn't an issue for these cans. 
 
The letdown in the sound is the bass. As my taste in sound matured I realised that the bass quantity was indeed, as my inexperienced self noted the first time I heard them, lacking. But the bass quality tells the exact same story! It was somewhat loose, not particularly well defined, lacked punch, and lacked speed. The only real compliment I can give to the bass is that it's not going to bleed into the other frequencies. Not only is the bass not good quality, but I think the vast majority of people (audio enthusiasts and audiophiles included) will be dissatisfied with the very low quantity. The bass really won't please anybody other than those who simply don't know what good bass sounds like. I honestly think the bass of the PX100 sounds superior. To give you an illustration at how pathetic the bass is, look at this graph:
 

I owned the 225i for 12 months, and those had a pretty unsatisfying level of bass (moreso in the sub regions than anything. As you can see, the HD448 has even less bass than the Grado, right across the board. As you can see the PX100ii in green, it's no wonder I noticed significantly less bass the first time I tried them. There's a near 20db difference in the sub regions. All I have to say is that the HD448s bass is an enormous let down and will really only please people who hate bass.

 
Sound-staging is what you would expect from a sealed headphone of this price, nothing poor, but not outstanding in any way. Mildly narrow, and "boxed-in" sounding.
 
Being sealed, these headphones seal half decently, however they have almost no clamp force, so you won't be completely isolated. Once you have them going at a moderate volume level, you'll be fine (unless you're listening in a construction site or airport runway). The plus side of this lack of clamping is the comfort factor. I've owned 4 full sized headphones and 2 supra aural, and the HD448 are the most comfortable of all. Admittedly, Comfort is probably 3rd or 4th on my priority list of what makes a good headphone (within reason, it can't be completely painful to wear), but regardless, these headphones were super comfy. Due to the lack of clamp, they put practically no pressure on the side of my head or ears, and since they didn't seal 100%, my ears could breathe enough that heat wasn't a problem. The headband padding was generous, and the headphone's light weight left me without experiencing any hot spots. Very comfy!
 
The HD448s are not only inconsistent in sound, but also design. Keep in mind, these were marketed as portable headphones. This is really only 50% accurate. They do some things right regarding this. Firstly, they're fashionable. From the black grille with the aluminium Sennheiser Badge, to the headphone jack, these headphones look very nice. They're really downright mature looking in comparison to the waves of gaudy trash out there. Secondly, they're efficient. You'll be able to get enough volume from any capable PMP, no worries. Thirdly, the cable isn't bulky, and it's just the right length for reaching from your ear to your pocket with some slack. However, for portability, these headphones don't really fit the bill. Why?
 
They're full sized headphones! This is debateable, but as far as I'm concerned, if they're big enough to be circumaural, they're too big to really be taking out with you. For portable use, I favour supra-aural due to their ability to easily and comfortable sit around your neck when not in use, and to more easily pack into bags etc. The HD448 also have no ability to fold, or become compact in any way, they're just annoying to carry around. It's disappointing, because the cable was clearly intended for portable use, yet they're non-foldable full sized headphones. What's the deal with Sennheiser not understanding that that's such a contradiction? They've done the same thing with the momentum, too. If your headphones can't fold, then they should be compact to begin with to ensure they're actually portable (eg. V-Moda M80).
 
The build quality is a bit mixed. The main cups of the headphone are quite solid and don't feel cheap in any way to me. The Aluminium badge gives it an extra bit of quality. The cable is what you would want for portable use and feels solidly attached to the left cup. That's all well and good, but moving northward, the headband feels quite hollow. It just does not retain the solidness of the cups, and it will creak if bent. It feels less solid and trustworthy than the PX100 headband, which was just solid aluminium with a plastic rim. Not to mention, it's less flexible. My other problem with the headphone is that the padding isn't removable, and I never saw any replacements available anywhere online or in store. The 50% cheaper PX100 has removable padding available for both the headband and earpads. The pleather of the HD448 is the part that is most likely to wear out, so why not make it replaceable? Stupid.
 
So, what is the HD448? It's a very comfortable, very fashionable full sized headphone for $100 (When it was available, it's now been replaced by the HD449). It sounds respectable, but nothing noteworthy (all things considered). The mids are great, the treble is competent but the bass is very underwhelming. However, it's biggest problems are in it's design. The build quality is lacking in some areas, user replaceable parts simply don't exist for it, and it's flat out false advertising to say that it's a portable headphone, if you ask me. It's certainly not a bad headphone, for someone new to the headphone game with a budget of $100 in the year 2010, I could have done infinitely worse. Not bad, but not great. Just OK.

Posted

Pros: Excellent midrange, balanced sound, airy treble and decent sound stage

Cons: Plastic build, comfort, bass quality, can be grainy in treble

I mainly bought these headphones for use at work and home use since I was looking for a closed headphone that provided a decent bit of isolation, wasn't too expensive (in my country) and somewhat portable. The HD448 appeared to fit that description quite nicely. 

 

I ended up suitably impressed by the sound quality of these as they sound very balanced and the sound only improves once they are burned in (+-30 hours). These headphones have fantastic mids and bring out a lot of detail without being overly warm. They work quite well with instrumental and classical music even with the slightly limited sound stage. I also really like them for jazz and guitar based music. The treble is quite airy and nicely detailed and not overly bright and free from listening fatigue. On some tracks a bit of graininess can become apparent in the treble (much like the HD595). The bass unamped, is a bit flabby and lack definition e.g. difficult to pick out bass notes. The bass is definitely present, but the weakest quality of this headphone. There better closed headphones out there for electronic and bass music. These headphones also aren't very forgiving of poor quality source material.

 

Surprisingly the HD448s ended up being more difficult to drive than I thought they would given their reasonable 32ohm impedance. My Thinkpad workstation had difficulty getting sufficient volume out of the HD448 and only with the Voodoo sound driver could I get good volume on my Samsung Galaxy S. I eventually paired these with a JDS Labs Cmoy headphone amplifier that improved the sound more than what I would have expected. The bass tightened up and the separation improved nicely. It is definitely worthwhile investing in a portable amplifier for these.

 

I personally quite like the design of the headphone, though the size of earcups could have been a touch more accommodating. I don't have overly big ears, but the top part of my ears do get squeezed a bit and start to feel uncomfortable after an hour of wearing these headphones and have to take them off soon thereafter to give my ears a breather. They do, however, feel very light on the head and hardly noticeable. I am not too fond of the plasticky build, but they do look to be moderately durable. Only time will tell (my HD595 suffered from cracks in the headband, but haven't noticed any on the HD448 so far).

 

I would recommend these cans to anybody looking for a balanced sounding set of closed cans for not too much money. 

Sennheiser HD448 Around the Ear Headphones
Description:

The HD 448 is part of a series of boldly designed headphones to be an extension of consumers lifestyles.

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandSennheiser
Colorblack
EAN0615104167957
Feature2 year warranty
Height9.3 inches
Length8.1 inches
Weight1 pounds
Width3.7 inches
LabelSennheiser
List Price$129.95
ManufacturerSennheiser
ModelHD448
MPNHD448
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameHEADPHONES
PublisherSennheiser
StudioSennheiser
TitleSennheiser HD448 Around the Ear Headphones
UPC615104167957
Batteries Included0
Warranty2 years warranty
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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