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.
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