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The "notorious" Sennheiser HD280 Pro...Review

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 



...and now


a review of the notorious Sennheiser HD280Pro Reference Headphones




Okay, I know it's kind of a scary thought, but I do work at Best Buy, in Magnolia Home Theater, in fact.  What that means is that it helps me through school and I get all the perks (and downfalls) that entails.  A perk being Best Buy's discount; it's pretty huge.  In a lot of Best Buy's stores they have a Musical Instruments section, and inside I found the Sennheiser HD280Pro for $99.99.  Luckily on my discount they were $60.00.  I couldn't pass this up, these things were like $149.99 a few years ago.  So I brought them home, was amazing at how large they were but that they were damn light, and plopped them on my huge head.  And they fit.  Comfortably.  Wow.



For some reason odd reason, these cans have a really really negative stigma on Head-Fi.  I rarely go on here because there's a lot of 'phone elitism, but I picked these up because I remember the positive feedback on Head-Fi from a few years ago and the near spotless reviews on Amazon/Best Buy.com.  And I still can't figure out where the negative stigma comes from.  Sound signature is pretty neutral but sounds great loud, lots of little detail can be heard on songs I've heard hundreds of times before that I've never heard before.  They have sparkly highs but not bright, deep bass when necessary, and truly sound neutral.  So the sound signature gets a big plus, especially from a DAC.  Another positive?  These things are 64 ohms, so your iPod/Cowon/Android will power these things up perfectly as well.  They also fold up nice, and are noise canceling.  Other more "portable" Sennheisers are definitely neither of this. Another positive for these headphones.  And despite a little over-padded headband, I find them quite comfortable.  I literally have the hugest head possible, I have neck problems and most hats don't fit my head; but these things fit really well.  They clamped at first, but I stretched them out and the clamp disappears.  They are pretty comfortable.  They're build like a rock like all Sennheiser products with that hard plastic Sennheisers use, and the cord/connection looks pretty think; I doubt it'll fray.  And if they do, replacing the cable is extremely easy, no sodering necessary.  Let's go more in depth, shall we?



The sound is the most important part, isn't it?  Yes; in a way, and the Sennheisers excel here.  Now, if you like colored headphones, these are not your thing.  Stay away.  I have my Grados, 428 and Bose OE for colored reproduction; these are for more analytical listening.  They're very neutral.  In fact, so neutral you may not even like them at first.  That's normal.  I really don't think burn in is real, but these tended to just open up a little after playing for a few nights at medium level.  Not saying that they didn't sound well at first, because they did, but they did get a little more worked in with time.  Saying that, they have really deep bass when the recording requires it.  Rap may not reproduce well, but I adhere to the idea that "rap crap" isn't music so I didn't test them, but I can say for sure that these headphones pounded on Depeche Mode's "Wrong". This song has lots of electronic bass in the verses that if often left out of the sound with poor speakers, but it sounded so wonderfully distorted.  I then went a little deeper to some 24 bit Rage Against the Machine via "Take the Power Back".  Of course you all know this is probably the best produced album ever, and this is a great bass tester.  The funk bass has that impact you look for, and the drums at the beginning really sound deep like Rage is playing in your face.  Lastly for bass response I checked Nine Inch Nails' "The Great Destroyer".  Now if you know music, this is probably the song that kick-started dubstep, the song is so electronic and the breakdown is an all-assault on bass at the end.  At it reproduced perfectly and deeply, just like my Alpine car sub.


Now as far as treble, once again these reproduce treble very delicately, as intended.  There's no sibilance and they're not shrill.  M83's "We Own the Sky" is a fantastic track to test treble reproduction on, as the sparkling synthesizers and the guy's voice shoots off in an airy epic sound that sounds a little off on headphones/speakers with bad treble reproduction.  Not here, the whole song sounded very crisp.  I also went through another few tests, such as the 24 bit remastering of Smashing Pumpkins' "Geek U.S.A." and found Billy Corgan's guitars deliciously visceral.  Mids are there, as well, I'm just not that good at identifying good midrange, to be honest.  Anyway, the sound signature as a whole is very detailed and analytical.  These are very neutral, they're meant for studios and you can tell.  You can tell if it's a poor recording as well, so modern pop music/rap fans should stay away.  They're not for everyone but if you want a dry, uncolored sound, these excel where few do.



Well, let's get this out of the way quick; these aren't the best looking headphones.  I know, I know, unstylish big headphones are the style right now, but these things have a plain back outside, look monstrous, and have a huge coiled cord.  But that's exactly what I was looking for.  Basic, plain black headphones with a very utilitarian style for use around campus.  It kind of goes well with my style.  Say what you want about headphones not being for style; nowadays, they kind of are and I want my headphones to look good around my neck and if you like to look a little off-beat and weird, then these fit your persona well.  They're made of a thick black plastic that engulfs your ears, but for good reason, they really don't let any sound in or out, which is a huge plus for the design.  These aren't active, and some say they clamp hard; I say it depends on the size of your noggin.  Overall, they're not Bowers and Wilkins, but if you want some utilitarian looking headphones, these will do the job.


Power/Source Requirements

So I'm not a huge headphone amplifier guy, I don't know, I've never been able to tell a huge difference; combined with the fact I'm a poor college student equals me having a cheaper DAC/Amplifier.  I'm running a NuForce uDAC2-HP off of my MacBook on Songbird.  I either have 320 MP3s, FLACs, or 24-bit FLACs, so all my music is high quality on my laptop.  And it sounded precise.  There was noticeably a lot more volume with the DAC than the headphone out, and the sound was much thicker.  It sounded a little shallow without the amp.  On my iPod, it's very similar to the MacBook audio out sound, but being that, it's still very good. My record player's warmth shown through the Pioneer VSX-518 when I played Smashing Pumpkins' remastered version of Gish on vinyl, so it definitely reproduced my love for vinyl perfectly.  Biggest downfall to these headphones is that they will expose your recording's downfall.  Jack White loves lo-fi recordings and The White Stripes and The Dead Weather had way too much distortion off of FLAC for my taste.  But the well recorded stuff sounded like aural nirvana, like Porcupine Tree's In Absentia album.  So take your musical taste/selection into mind here.  Dino Jr will not show off your 'phones.



These are great headphones.  They're comfortable, neutral, display good recordings in glory, are easy to drive, look decent depending on your style, are durable and have an easy to replace cord/pads if anything does go wrong.  They sound AMAZING with an amp, but great with an iPod, Cowon, Android, etc.  If you aren't looking for a very flat, untouched sound signature, don't buy these and make people think they aren't good because they weren't your taste.  These 'phones are for a very obsessive, analytical listener, and they're damn good for the price.


Music I tested with/Music you should test with

Depeche Mode's "Wrong"/Sounds of the Universe 320 MP3

Rage Against the Machine's "Take the Power Back"/Rage Against the Machine 24bit FLAC

M83's "We Own the Sky"/Saturdays = Youth 320 MP3

Smashing Pumpkins' "Geek U.S.A."/Siamese Dream Remastered 24bit FLAC

Smashing Pumpkins' "Daydream"/Gish Remastered Vinyl

Porcupine Tree's "Trains"/In Absentia 24bit FLAC

The White Stripes' "Icky Thump"/Icky Thump 320 MP3

The Dead Weather's "The Difference Between Us"/Sea of Cowards FLAC

The Dillinger Escape Plan's "Farewell Mona Lisa"/Option Paralysis FLAC

Queen's "Radio GaGa"/The Works 320 MP3

Metallica's "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)"/Master of Puppets 24bit FLAC

Radiohead's "Codex"/The King of Limbs 24bit FLAC

Nine Inch Nails "The Great Destroyer"/Year Zero 24bit FLAC

Nine Inch Nails "Corona Radiata"/The Slip 24bit FLAC

Edited by tribestros - 1/4/12 at 8:29am
post #2 of 67

Wow I can't believe this thread had no comments at all. Great review. I might actually get one of these too by the way. I also have a feeling that like senns other older models that have stayed through the years(hd600/650) that these have changed/improved over the years since they were released.

post #3 of 67

The 280's are my go to cans for day-to-day use in the classroom. They are comfortable and well built. I use them when I am sound/video editing.  

post #4 of 67

I listened to these at B-Buy a few times before leaving for college. Then I thought about buying some at the B-Buy in Idaho Falls... After listening to them for about the 4th time, I realized that I wasn't happy with the sound at all. I had liked it the first time, but after that the sound kind of lost it as I heard it more. A few weeks later I heard an M50 for the first time. I was shocked and awed about the same as when I heard my first decent headphone, a portapro, and when I heard an Audeze LCD2 for the first time. 

After that, I no longer considered the HD280 to be in the running for my next headphone. Yes, it seals nicely and blocks plenty of noise, but sound wise I've grown to dislike it more and more, even though my tastes are maturing towards neutral and even bright headphones. I'm not sure how to describe what I don't like about the 280... It's closed maybe? It sounds closed, maybe a little brittle or dry, but even at 2x the price I feel like the M50 is a better value proposition.

post #5 of 67

Thanks for the excellent detailed review Tribestros. I've had the HD 280 Pro since last spring after eyeing them for some time. When Best Buy put them on sale with a hundred dollar price drop i just had to get em. Instantly it became the headphone to use to totally block out the environment so i could immerse myself completely in music,games and movies.


Over time the sound just kept on improving with the treble giving more detail but not getting bright. Am really surprised how one minute theres a song playing which isnt bass focused sounding great then the next minute a bass heavy song is thumping along with the just right amount of oomph. Its like it has a built in equilizer that kicks in when needed.


I love the appearance of the HD 280 Pro. To me it has a futuristic cold style sort of like something out of a 1980s Italian sci-fi b-movie.


They easily beat my "cost effective" bookshelf speakers- Polk Tsi100, Cerwin Vega XD3, Insignia bass reflex, JBL Control One and a few others when am not using them for nearfield listening where the sparkly shine really stands out and can only be matched by the Audio Technica Ath AD700 or KRK KNS 8400.


Its really is something to have a headphone like the HD 280 Pro at this price range. If it had come out in the 1970s it could have easily cost an easy three hundred with what it delievers.

post #6 of 67

I agree with the hd280 pro lovers here. I just got a pair and am impressed at what you get for the price. I am enjoying them quite a bit.

post #7 of 67

Yeah, they seem pretty decent to me for the price. I don't agree, however, that they're neutral. They are on the bassier side of the spectrum, although not enough to be basshead cans.

post #8 of 67

Well, they do have a bump in the lower bass but they are relatively neutral for the headphones of this type at this pricerange. They are more neutral than the m50 to me for example.

post #9 of 67
Nice review!

Even tho I might not completely agree with your conclusions(try comparing them against some truly analytic/neutral ones), I do think the HD280Pro is a decent set of cans.
I've used mine for many many years, so long I need to start looking to replace them (since new earpads and headband(?) seem to be more expensive than a completely new set...)
So far I haven't come across anything in fullsize closed cans that even comes close when it comes to sound isolation and attenuation, at least not while still being so light, which means I'm probably going to do some thinking on whether or not to stick with the SE-535 IEM's or get another set of 280Pro's for use at work.
post #10 of 67
I find this subject funny. When I first showed up here like most noobs, asking for reccomendations this was one of thesuggested models. I saw it being reccomended quite often. Life takes oover and I leave the community for some years. When I come back, the consensus is "the senn hd280 is crap, has always been crap, and will continue to be crap" now I'm a bit confused as just 5 years ago it was considered quite nice. And by my in store tests its a pretty decent can, a bit dark for my taste and too clampy for my enormous melon but still good
Edited by thoughtcriminal - 3/30/13 at 3:52pm
post #11 of 67
Well if you get one without the balance issues, and can live with the sound signature... smily_headphones1.gif
That said, for a relatively cheap CLOSED can that works almost as hearing protection and doesn't leak sound it's fantastic biggrin.gif
post #12 of 67

I like Sennheiser headphones especially the HD650 and I even find the HD201 very good. I want to invest a higher end Sennheiser closed back headphones but the choice is really limited. HD280/380 Pro have very mix review from both extreme side. The HD4xx series seems to be the only other choice.


Since you have the HD280/HD428, can you your feelings about the 2? Of course they are different league and purpose that I understand but how do they sound? Technical aside, which one give you more involvement in music?

post #13 of 67

I have these headphones, too, and I don't understand why they're hated so much. These are on the bassy side, and the midbass is actually slightly muddy, so you will have to EQ them to get a truly neutral sound, but when you do, man do these things come alive.

I wouldn't say these things are overly comfortable, though. I used to think they were, but that was mainly because I didn't even focus on the feeling on my head, I always was just paying attention to the music. I'd definitely recommend these if you have a way to EQ all your sound systems.

post #14 of 67

I just got a set of these as well from a member on here slightly used and I have to say they were totally worth it especially since they only cost me $55. My other set of cans are the Sennheiser HD 555's which weren't cutting it at work being completely open headphones. I needed something to block out noise and the HD 280 Pro's do the job very well. I have to say I can't agree completely with the OP saying these are neutral cans as they're a little bassy but I think they sound very good considering the price bracket they're in.


The 280's hooked up to my FiiO E17 sound very good. I enjoy listening to rap, rock, and electronic music much more on the 280's than the 555's as the bass is quite tight and punchy. Not sure at all why these get a bad rap. I can't comment on whether or not they sound better after being burned in though as I got my set already used so they had been burned in before I got them.


All in all a nice casual closed set of cans though!

post #15 of 67

Hey I'm thinking of getting the sennheiser hd 650. How is the clamp force of the hd 280 compared to the hd 650? I found the hd 280 to clamp super hard and was unberable. Hopefully the hd 650 aren't nearly as bad.

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