So today, after watching Jude's review, I went out and finally tried the Sennheiser HD-25-1 II at one of the only 2 Apple stores in Lisbon. And although I couldn't use my regular DAP as a test (Sony NWZ-A845), I used the store's iPod Nano Touch or whatever that thing was. It looked like a gumdrop. Anyway, I had already tested the K518 DJ a while ago on more than one occasion, and was very pleased. They weren't all that different at first, and after a while I noticed that in fact, they had very noticeable characteristics. I see them as being choice models for people who listen to the same kind of music, buy wanting slightly different things. Anyway, here's the frequency response graph:
Note: on HeadRoom they listed the K518 as K81, but it's the same headphone, only redesigned, since it used to have a black and silver case. The driver is the same.
Straight by looking at the graph I was a bit surprised, since from the two, the K518 seemed at least as dark as the HD25, which does not correspond to the image above - I did not try them one right after the other, not even the same tracks or source, so maybe my opinion here should be disregarded. My quick (liar!) impressions:
Both seemed very comfortable, although in different ways. The K518 was less clamping on your ears, while the HD-25 had plushier pads. Besides, the split headband with pads on the HD-25 would make it my first choice on this matter. No complaints on either one, though.
I won't comment on the durability for an obvious reason - I don't own any one of the pairs, only tried store models. However, on looks alone, both seem very attractive. The HD-25 appears to be Sennheiser's attempt on getting on the AIAIAI TMA-I train of 2010's DJ headphones - and a successful one. They look good, not very flashy. You probably wouldn't notice them if someone would pass by on the street, unless of course if you visit the "headphone sightings" thread often . The K518 looks cool too, and AKG even released an LE with different flashy colors. They look nice, that's as much as I can go.
Here, I would have to say the HD-25 is the winner. While I was putting them on my girlfriend was talking to me (no, I'm not that kind of guy) and I pretty much stopped hearing her. They isolate very well, probably thanks to the clamp force and plushy pads. The K518 weren't bad, by no means, but I just prefer the HD-25.
Like I mentioned, I believed the K518 to be about as bassy as the HD25, which really isn't the case. I remember the highs being good, without lacking extension, and the mids (I try vocals and sax for this, bear that in mind) were very decent from what I recall, and natural-sounding. What I imagined was pretty much what the graph showed me, apart from the obvious bass roll-off which I did not expect. They were punchy, but not as much as the HD25. A very fun pair, while keeping some neutrality, and great for a first mid-fi choice.
The HD-25-1-II was just... better. The mids were very good. I unfortunately could not try some clear vocal tracks, or some Coltrane for further impressions, but it seemed good nevertheless. As soons as I heard it, I pictured a highs roll-off. They just didn't seem very present along the tracks. As for the bass, it was not on enormous ammounts, as you would expect from a DJ headphone. It was there, and more than neutrality would require, clearly, but not a lot. It was however very punchy! Pumping-against-your-head punchy! That seems obvious by looking at that mid-bass hump on the graph, but I assure you they didn't seem that dark to me. If I had to pick a word to describe the HD-25-1-II, it would be "fun".
Well, I think I would be willing to pay - what is it now? 150$? - for th HD25-1-II. They would be my outdoors choice, fo'sho. But I am absolutely sure I would pay about 80$ for the K518, and you can probably get them cheaper. The Hd25 are more of a pair you would buy to use and be done with it, like if you need something that a year from now will still be there, and serve its purpose as it did originally. I'm not saying the K518 will break or screw up in that time, but I think the listener might find something lacking and seek out something else.
For me, the 70$ price difference seems a pretty obvious deal-breaker on the HD25, but after trying both, maybe some people would just want the more expensive pair that much. You would be fine with either one as a first choice, IMO. I just think the HD25 sound better, but not so much that would justify such a difference,
So, what are your opinions? Maybe my ear isn't that good at picking up differences in the sound, maybe my different sources were messing things up a bit too, but I just felt like I couldn't really understand both pairs that well. I'll do that when I can and post my updated impressions. In the meantime, share your thoughts.