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Sennhesier HD 203: review and impressions pre burn in.

post #1 of 43
Thread Starter 

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.

 

http://www.sennheiserusa.com/stereo-headphones-dj-mp3-closed-headphones_504290


Edited by swaffleman - 6/8/10 at 7:53pm
post #2 of 43

Thanks for the review. Enjoy your new cans. I'd love to hear some more of your thoughts on how these sounded VS the HD428, as I'm thinking of buying a pair of new cans to complement my HD448 (which are very good, just not "fun" when you're not paying attention).

Do they get hot and uncomfortable? I had the HD202 and they were a real bother sometimes. The design seems about the same, maybe thicker earpads?

 

FWIW, I listen to rock/metal.


Edited by zmd - 6/8/10 at 11:02pm
post #3 of 43
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by zmd View Post

Thanks for the review. Enjoy your new cans. I'd love to hear some more of your thoughts on how these sounded VS the HD428, as I'm thinking of buying a pair of new cans to complement my HD448 (which are very good, just not "fun" when you're not paying attention).

Do they get hot and uncomfortable? I had the HD202 and they were a real bother sometimes. The design seems about the same, maybe thicker earpads?

 

FWIW, I listen to rock/metal.

 

For starters, they are much louder than the HD428s. The 428s needed to be amped to get a decent volume. The HD 203s are literally more than twice as loud unamped as were the HD428's unamped. I chose the HD203s simply because I don't use a portable amp, and most of my music listening isn't done on the computer (a source of amplification).

 

Volume aside, I could easily tell both were Sennheisers. They both have that familiar dark, rich sound. Like the HD 203s, I didn't notice much of a thick coloration with the HD 428s (also what I would call a veil over the sound) They both have a very clear sound. From my impressions, they actually sounded fairly similar if I were to compare the HD 428s amped to the unamped HD 203s. They both had a very high level of detail, very good balance, and their sound signatures were almost the same. However, amped, I would have to say that the HD 428's were a bit more open sounding. The HD 203s are closer in sounding...I suppose you could say it has a smaller soundstage than the 428s. Everything just seemed a bit more spacious with the HD 428 model. Another difference is that I would have to say that the HD 428 model had a bit of a smoother sound. Everything is a little more "hard edged" with the 203s.

 

But overall, they both have very similar sound signatures and they both had a very good balance. I would almost say that their balance is neutral. Nothing seems to get overemphasized (although make no mistake, the bass in both is quite ample, but nothing that is even slightly overwhelming).

 

The problem is that with the HD 428s, they sound pretty weak and undefined without a good power source. The bass seemed flabby and un-impactful. It was a bit on the boomy side. The mids had a smoothed over, undefined sound and drums never really had the impact you'd expect them to. Overall they just didn't really sound great unamped. I wouldn't say they were terrible, but given the lessened sound without a power source and the fact that they just couldn't get very loud, I went with the HD 203s.

 

Hope that helps.
 

post #4 of 43
Thread Starter 

Oh, and the comfort factor with the HD 203s for me isn't too bad. After about 3 hours I start to notice the outer parts of my ear would get sore, but taking a break for maybe half an hour or so fixed that. They are slightly better comfort wise than the EH 150s, which have the exact same design but smaller earpads. That's how it is with my experience anyway. The difference in ear pads may just be variation from product to product.

 

The HD 428s were definitely more comfortable. But considering all of the factors, I consider the HD 203s the superior value.

post #5 of 43
Thread Starter 

Update:

 

Alright...I've been using these pretty heavily for the last few days. I've used them for just about every style you could imagine.

 

The verdict: These are without a doubt the best sounding headphones I've ever used. They sound hasn't changed much, but I'm noticing more and more nuance with them. I'm noticing extremely buried sounds in the mixes of what I'm listening. I'm hearing sounds from guys yelling (that I can JUST barely make out, that I couldn't with other headphones), extraneous noises from instruments and other things, breathing, and whatever you could think of. Everything is just incredibly crisp and clear sounding with these. The more I listen to them, the more natural they seem to sound. Perhaps that's a mental thing, but these are really incredible headphones for their price. Not only are they very clear and natural, they are just a pleasure to listen to. Everything is just smooth and airy, but the sound is still full and incredibly detailed. I dare everyone of you to buy these, ASAP.

post #6 of 43

Glad you're happy with them :) Not sure that many of us have heard the HD203, or even of the HD203 in my case..

post #7 of 43
Thread Starter 

They are very new...which is why. I think this is the only thread on them. They came out a couple of months ago.

post #8 of 43

I bought the hd 428 before reading this - still, I do appreciate the review, even if it's making me rethink the purchase!

post #9 of 43

I was considering the HD203 along with Koss PortaPro and JVC HARX700.

 

How do they compare to those models?  I love bass, but I want my bass with good clarity.  Since my budget is $40 (incld. shipping/tax), these models are basically the choices I narrowed down to (although I've been trying to find Superlux HD681B's somewhere in the USA with no luck).

post #10 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by trancetunes View Post

I was considering the HD203 along with Koss PortaPro and JVC HARX700.

 

How do they compare to those models?  I love bass, but I want my bass with good clarity.  Since my budget is $40 (incld. shipping/tax), these models are basically the choices I narrowed down to (although I've been trying to find Superlux HD681B's somewhere in the USA with no luck).


I just picked a pair of these up as a backup for my ms-1's.  I can't compare them to the the other models you list, but I would recommend them for the price range, depending on what kind of sound you're looking for.  

 

Like swaffleman said, they have a 'dark' sound to them, but not bad overall.  They have plenty of bass without being overwhelming.  The bass isn't nearly as tight as the ms-1's, and perhaps slightly 'boomy', but not too colored.

 

I removed the cloth liner on the inside of the cups, and that seemed to make a whole world of difference in the clarity in the mid's and high's.  I can't recommend doing this enough, it makes the cans much much better.

 

It can't keep up with the ms-1's clarity, but they're great phones for the price.

 

 

EDIT:  IMPORTANT!  I know I said to remove the liner in front of the driver, but don't punch holes in the paper sections around the driver!  This ruins the sound!


Edited by deadspider187 - 10/22/10 at 8:20am
post #11 of 43

I just came back with these from BB, on a whim. I had purchased the Koss UR55's for about the same price (pennies difference), and ended up returning them. They had lots of punchy bass at first, but it seemed to disappear with time. They also sounded kind of closed for being open.

 

Anyway, I went there to get the XB500's, as I wanted a fun pair of bassy cans, and I'd heard these things could crank out the bottom end. I listened to them on the crappy Sony Demo board, which had no bass impact, but brought out fairly sibilant treble, which I am very sensitive to. I looked over to my left, and, as if by magic, on the counter shoved into the corner next to the demo XB500's was a single package of lonely HD203's. They didn't have a hook anywhere else, so I'm not sure where they were supposed to be. Poor things!

I already have the HD212PRO's, which have an identical headband design. I've put them through hell, and they still look and sound like the day I bought them (aside from the pads flaking away, which I replaced). I can attest to the reliability of this design. The 212's do, however have a tinny (but never sibilant) aspect to the treble that sounds kind of artificial. I am happy to report that the HD203's sound every bit as good as the 212PRO's (if not better in the bass), with a much smoother treble. It's too soon to tell, but they appear to have better mids as well. They are like a more refined version of the previous, probably with a much better driver.

 

Icing on the cake is that, either for a labor day promotion or on these specific headphones, they gave me a $10 gift card without asking. Would have only brought them to amazon's price + tax, but at least I got them locally. They wouldn't let me put the card towards them though. :P

 

EDIT: Just looked at the paper. The special is ONLY on the HD203. Not sure if it's all week, or only through Labor day.

 

FWIW, I also listened to the HD201's out of my Rockboxed Sansa. They sounded very good as well, if not more natural than the HD203's, but they were horribly inefficient. An amp would be a requirement to get decent volume out of them. I am now officially a Sennheiser fanboy, though. I will probably grab the 201's elsewhere also, to see how they sound amped.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by trancetunes View Post

I was considering the HD203 along with Koss PortaPro and JVC HARX700.

 

How do they compare to those models?  I love bass, but I want my bass with good clarity.

RX700's are a bit brighter in the treble (occasionally sibilant to me), with more forward mids. Despite having better bass quality overall (tighter), it rolls off quite a bit quicker, and has less impact. I also have the Porta Pro's. They are a bit too bright for me, in comparison. Bass is not nearly as deep, punch is about the same. I am not an expert reviewer, but that's my poor man's comparison, within the first hour of hearing the 203's.


Edited by cam94z28 - 9/5/10 at 6:12pm
post #12 of 43

I actually ended up going for Maxell DHP-II's.  They sound great.  There are a few posts about them floating around now!

post #13 of 43

Hi,

 

I'm new to the forum. I've been looking for a solution to replace my HD201, due to a too low isolation. I already have the HD212 Pro, which is at work and does isolate well. However, I need another one at home. Initially, I was about to buy another HD212 Pro, but then I saw the HD203, which is less expensive and seems quite good (at the sound level). However, I haven't been able so far to find any information about the isolation level of the HD203 (more particularly compared to the HD212 Pro). Since you have both of them, could you please tell me whether there is a difference between the 2????

Thanks very much for your feedback!!!! 

post #14 of 43

I have both. The HD203 is nearly identical in earcup/earpad/headband design. I can safely say that the isolation will be similar. The HD212 sounds slightly better overall,and has more bass, but the grainy treble really gets to me. Treble on the HD203 is much smoother and less metallic sounding.


Edited by cam94z28 - 10/22/10 at 11:58am
post #15 of 43

Great, thanks for your answer . I think I will take this one, then. yet, a seller I had on the phone also suggested me to take the EH 250 - Do you know what it's worth? I have had a look on the internet, yet I couldn't find that much information about it... Thanks again, anyway 

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