Sennheiser HD 238 vs PX200 II vs AKG K 450 vs Sony MDR-7506 review
Noob here. Ive been a loudspeaker audiophile for 18 years, but not a headphone expert. I know sound, but not necessarily coming from cans. Ill do my best to quickly contribute since the head-fi community has helped me out so much.
Test tracks included Indie Rock, Hard Rock, Hip-Hop, Electronica, Guitar ensemble and Traditional Jazz. All tracks played are lossless and pumped through upgraded Creative Sound Blaster Plus.
Sony MDR-7506 ($100)
The only role these phones play in this comparison is that Ive been listening to them for 10 years now. Ive tried numerous times to buy a pair of IEM’s to complement them, but I couldn’t do it. Not next to my cans. No way.
If you can listen to these, then you will have a reference point for what I am talking about. Any review will say the same thing about these cans. They are an excellent headphone with a nice full sound and they were only $100. I have always really loved the low end… detailed, even and full from low bass to midbass. The mids are very laid back and then the higher frequencies kick in. At the upper end and at loud volume there is a sibilance that I can tolerate but I can see how some people did not like them. I have yet to try any “real” full sizes, like grado or sennheiser, since Ive been trying portables for a long time now, trying to find something acceptable for around the yard, beach, traveling etc.
Sennheiser HD 238 (ebay: $70)
Ended up being the closest in this comparison to the sound of the Sony’s, but with a slightly more open sound stage. The 238’s emphasize treble a little more, but not necessarily as sibilant. The detail is phenomenal and beats out the Sony’s. For my laid-back ears, the asteroid mod was unacceptable, making them leans towards too bright. However, if that’s what you desire, then the mod + these phones is the way to go.
The bass on these ends up being the winner of all of the models. It is clean and full, almost like the Sony’s but with less low end extension. I am usually a bass head, and this is why I like the full sized cans, since the smaller headphones just cant do it. I have subwoofers in the car and everything. As far as keeping me satisfied, the 238’s can satisfy me in the bass department. In fact, I quite enjoyed the accuracy and fullness of these phones. Much like the Dre Beats.
Unfortunately, the open-air designed has disqualified these for my use. The sound leakage is just too much… I cant use them in the car, in bed or while the wife watches TV, because she can hear too much. Additionally, they don’t fold up at all! (just flatten out)
Overall, these headphones are a joy to listen to, very balanced and performed well with all genres of music, making them versatile and fun. The biggest plus is that these phones are very very comfortable. Very much like the Bose On-ears on demo at the store.
AKG K 450 (ebay/china for $70)
These headphones turned out to be larger than I expected. The cord that sticks out the bottom is annoying and could break easily if you are not careful. I think thats because the hard plastic part is so prominent. The build is fantastic and the best out of the group. Very sturdy and none of the joints looked too fragile.
Treble and mids are sucked out of these headphones. Could be because of the bass response. More on that next. On pristine recordings, these cans are neutral and clean. Gypsy kings, Coltrane, Radiohead sounded very good. The cans performed nicely. Throw in some harder rock where the studios generally tend to compress the music to boost levels these headphones DIE. The life gets sucked right out, and the phones lean to the bass heavy side. Ethereal piano tracks from the Crash Kings and crunchy guitars from Cage the Elephant get sucked into a black hole. You wonder what happened. The same feeling you get when placing noise-cancelling phones on for the first time. Leave the hard music behind, and get to the Hip-Hop and Electronica tracks the life comes right back. So overall, the detail and higher frequencies range from muddy (compressed masters) to a flat frequency response (recordings with more headroom).
Bass is pretty relaxed when it needs to be. Smooth enough to handle good recordings. Not as detailed and accurate as the HD 238 from above. But, throw in Hip-Hop or Electronica , crank the EQ up and these phones will bounce off your ears. The bass extension is incredible, although still cant reach as low as the sony’s. Very satisfying for the bass-head in me. In fact, if Hip-Hop, Electronica and Jazz is what you listen to, then these are the clear winner. Because again, the detail if perfectly fine for these kinds of music where there is less going on. But in other busier recordings with heavy guitars/heavy drums, its no go.
I have a feeling I know what is causing this. The EQ for these cans is cranked way up at 125-250Hz. If there is a lot going on in this range, then the rest of the upper frequency spectrum gets crushed. To simulate these phones, crank the two sliders (125Hz and 250Hz) in the itunes EQ up. When I took these sliders ALL THE WAY DOWN, then phones sounded better with those busy recording.
PX-200 II ($90)
Not much to say with these. Very flat frequency spectrum. Bass is not thumping, treble is not burning you ears. Just even across the board. I liked these and they became my favorite. The bass is not pronounced, but you can crank the EQ and they will hold steady. I got these to satisfy the bass-head in me by using EQ. Clean sound and closed off so the music did not leak out.
Cons: Nice folding design, although not as flat as the folding of the PX 100’s. This lack-of-flatness made them too bulky to really be useful to me. The volume control is ridiculously large. Why is there a volume control knob that adds 10% more crap to carry around?!?! Makes it ridiculous when wrapping the cord around the phones to make them portable. Strike 1. When wearing them, the sides stick out and looks the most goofy out of all of the headphones reviewed. Strike 2. The piece of plastic connecting the phones to the band is very thin. Not comfortable with that part. Strike 3.
Other phones tested:
Koss Porta-Pro: Uncomfortable around the neck when not using. Sound very neutral like PX-200 but not as bass rich. Open air design reduces travel-ability. Sound quality mostly like a $50 headphone.
Bose On-ear: People on this board rip on these, but for the portable sector they are very acceptable. I would declare these the winner in my test if price was $80 street or $100 in the store. Sound like the HD 238’s really, but can actually fold. It’s a pretty close match, with the Bose having excellent bass and clear highs. I would say if you like the Bose sound in the store, then you will like the HD 238’s. Unfortunately, the pivots look weak and breakable. BUT, does come with a perfect iphone mic/button.
Dre-Beats: Nice bass, lack of midrange detail and over-boosted treble. Get the Sony full sized instead.
If you can get over the silly Martian look they give you and the horrid volume knob, the PX-200 II are the winner for spending less than $100 street price. In order to finalize my month long search for portables, I found no other option but to up my spending and purchase the Sennheiser MM 400 to get rid of the above problems. (ebay for $140)
Edited by rpgonzalez - 5/10/10 at 2:42pm