Alright...earlier I had a thread asking for people's opinions on a pair of Sennheisers around 50 bucks that they would get. Well...I made a sojourn to Best buy, twice in fact. For the last year or so, Best Buy has been stocking several mid range Sennheiser models, and it is in fact where I bought the several Sennheisers that I have owned.
Anyway, I tired out the HD 428. I didn't like them...the sound had little definition when un amped, and I listen to most of my music on the go with out the use of a portable amp. Mainly, an Ipod. I took them back and found a lesser expensive pair. That would be the HD 203s.
I was very reluctant to get them. Initially I was looking to see if I could quickly pick up a pair of the PX models. They didn't carry those. I mostly was reluctant to get the 203s simply because they are identical in appearance to the EH150s, which I already owned. However, on impulse, I bought them, assuming they had to have at least a different driver type.
Well, I've put in several hours of listening on them now. I am pleased to say that while they share sound signature similarities with the EH150s, they are not the same pair of drivers.
The comfort is a bit better than the 150s, only because the ear pads on the 203s are a bit thicker and more rounded. But it's just enough extra distance between the outer ear and the speakers to make an appreciable difference. Otherwise, they are exactly the same. That said, I can wear these for hours and not get bothered by them, unlike the 150s.
The build quality, while all plastic, is sturdy and rugged. They can stand up to abuse pretty well. I'm not particularly careful with my stuff, and the 150s have stood by me for a couple of years through running and long trips.
Now for the sound. They have the characteristically dark Sennheiser sound. Where they differ from the 150s, (and the HD 205s as well) is that they don't have nearly as thick a veil over the sound. On those models, it has always seemed to me that the sound was hiding behind a thick coloring. I have never liked that. It's not too bad on the EH 150s, but it's noticeable. I barely notice any sort of sound coloration with the HD 203s. These headphones are actually very balanced from what I can tell. The Bass is very present, but it doesn't seem to take over other ranges. I can hear the details fine. The mids are actually quite extended and forward. This is especially noticeable with Metal or hard rock; the rhythm guitars in GnR (Guns n Roses) stand out incredibly well where with a lot of other headphones, they take a back seat to the lead guitar, bass, and vocals.
As I said, the sound is dark. However, it's also incredibly rich sounding. Not overly thick or colored, but everything just has a really nice, rich and colorful tone without sacrificing clarity or accuracy. The sound is crystal clear. The highs...well, they are there. They sound very neutral. But still clear. The place where the richness of sound stands out the most is in Jazz, with regards to the bass and drums. I was listening to an album called "a duke ellington songbook", an album where the duke's classics get modern facelifts. The sound was astonishing. I could hear just about every movement of the acoustic guitarists hands over the frets, every minute detail on the bass (timbre and the sounds of string muting), and the drums had a lot of depth without being grating to the ears (they could get quite loud!). On some of the recordings I could even hear notes of on the piano that were some sort of recording artifact where the notes that were about to sound were playing very, very quietly right before they sounded. I had never noticed that before.
They work well for any type of music. I listened to Beethoven's 6th symphony, and one thing that stood out is that I could almost get an impression of the individual playing of each bassist or each violinist. In lesser headphones I've owned, it would sound like one large mass of sound, as it should since it's a section. But I was able to pick out anomalies in the playing where I could hear one instrument stand out. The bass sound had a nice "thud" effect, and the violins had a very smooth, yet sharp quality.
One last tidbit: They are incredibly easy to drive. They can get very, very loud, and I have to listen at half volume most of the time.
I'm very happy with these, and I haven't had any time to burn them in. They set me back only $50. I would recommend them wholeheartedly! Bravo to Sennheiser for making an awesome product.
Edited by swaffleman - 6/8/10 at 7:53pm