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Sennheiser Fan Needs Closed Headphone for Office

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hello, all:


Let me start by thanking the many Head-Fi members whose posts I have been avidly reading for some months. This website truly is a valuable resource. I decided to post my own topic, as I have scoured most of what is available on this site regarding the headphones I am considering for my workplace. I would like some further input from the group regarding my specific situation.


I work in a tighly packed "cube farm", in something less than a half cubicle of space. I spend most of my days interviewing attorneys by telephone, researching legal info, then writing marketing websites for those attorneys based on my interviews and research. I spend 8-plus hours per day sitting less 10 feet from eight of my co-workers. There are probably 60 workers in a 4,000 square foot space that comprises my section of the office.


As you might expect, ambient noise is a problem. So is being a source of ambient noise. Sound volumes in my immediate area range from dead silent when everyone is typing/researching to unbearably loud if a nearby coworker is conducting an interview or hosting a conversation over the cubelet walls.


It is a difficult situation, and most of my co-workers cope by wearing closed headphones and/or noise-cancellation headphones (mostly Bose) to isolate themselves from their surroundings. Until now, I have been able to get by with my stable of low-end Sennheiser portables -- PX100, PX100-2 and HD 238. Although these are "low-end" cans, I think they are fantastic for MP3s. I have even brought in my upper-midrange Sennheiser HD 560 Ovation-IIs from time to time. They are 60 ohm, but can be driven adequately by a portable source.


My most frequent source at work has been a Dell Lattitude E6420 laptop (my work laptop) without an amp. Sometimes, I've substituted my Zune HD. While at work, I almost always play MP3s at between 160 and 320 kbps (XBox/Zune subscription and eMusic downloads, mostly). I listen to rock, prog, metal and pop almost exclusively. I also listen to a lot of folk music that uses brass and fiddles. I rarely play classical or jazz.. Also, I know what a decent source sounds like, even if my laptop is lackluster -- I use an Audigy soundcard in my computer at home, and I have an 80's vintage Denon stereo. My primary use for these phones, however, will be at work, running from a laptop, Zune or smartphone, possibly with a portable amp.


My collection of open-aire Sennheisers have pleasant characteristics and have suited me reasonably well, but they do lack somewhat in sound. Further, they all leak sound to varying degrees. As a result, I've been thinking of upgrading to a higher quality headphone in the $150 to $350 range that I can use exclusively at work, or when travelling. A new coworker with sensitive hearing has forced the issue: she sits four feet from me, and can hear noise coming from my current headphones, even when I turn the sound low. It drives her crazy. Given her objections, my choices are basically A) don't listen to music, B) tell my coworker to shove off, or C) find a new set of cans, preferably closed. Since A and B aren't really options, I'm writing this seeking recommendations for C).


To date, I've auditioned (at store kiosk displays and using my smartphone) most of the mid-range Sennheiser over-the-ear closed cans -- including the HD 202-II, HD 428, HD 380-Pro, HD-219 and a few others. These cans all sounded like I was listening to music through a cardboard box. They were incredibly comfortable, but I couldn't get over the flat, dull, boxy sound. The one closed Sennheiser I *did* like, the HD 219, is a cheap headphone that sounds similar to the portable open HD 238, which I own.


(By contrast, I *adore* my open HD 560-IIs -- fairly neutral but not clinical -- and other higher-end open aires like the  HD 580, which are also extremely comfortable, but sound "right" to me. I say this only to give you an idea of the sound characteristics I enjoy.)


I've also auditioned several $200-400 range Bose, Audio-Technics, Pioneer, and Denon, all closed. Did not like the sound of any of these. (Bose sound "cardboardy" and the others too bright). I also tried the B&W P3 and P5. I was pleasantly surprised by the build quality, fit and the smooth (albeit warmly colored) sound. I've never had the opportunity to hear Grado, so sorry I can't comment. I gather that I might like the sound of Grados should I try them. But that is probably another discussion.


I should also mention that I am *very* interested in hearing the closed HD-25-1-II and Amperior, as I suspect I might love the sound while appreciating the isolation. Unfortunately, I have yet to find a shop in my area (Minneapolis) that has either in stock or available for auditioning.


Other relevant info: I wear glasses. I don't like in-ear monitors. My main complaint about closed phones is sweat. I don't like vinyl earpads (sweaty ears) and prefer velour, if possible.


Given this information, I'd like some advice. The bulk of the Sennheisers are out, despite my affinity for this brand. Even the 380-Pro, which isolate wonderfully, sounded dull and lifeless to me. The H&Ws I tried seemed to isolate adequately (especially the P5), and the sound was good enough for my needs.  Unfortunately, the leather pads aren't my favorite. The P3s would be perfect (pads are comfy) but they leak a little bit of sound at high volume.


From reviews I've read, the Amperior *seems* like what I'd need -- supposedly "reference" sound, velour earpads, good isolation, a brand I'm highly familar with  -- but I've never heard it. In fact, I've never heard a closed Sennheiser that I'm wild about. Given the weird variations in sound quality between low, medium and high end Sennheisers, I'm not sure which "Sennheiser sound" I'd be buying,


Can any of you veterans help me fill in the blanks? Do the HD-25/Amperiors sound like any of the headphones I've mentioned? Is the clamping force brutal, or just noticeble? What are they like after an hour, or three, or 12? Do they fatigue the ear? Is amping a necessity for these, or merely advised?


Your input is appreciated in advance. :  )

post #2 of 6
I don't know the HD-25s (but I'm sure someone will chime in there), on the rest:

- My initial suggestion was actually going to be Bose headphones, either the AE2 or the QC15, as both can be worn for hours with ease, sound fairly neutral (the AE2 being somewhat rolled off, which makes them less fatiguing), and they both isolate very well (the QC15 especially, but given that you're trying to knock-down dialog and other abrupt noises, the AE2 and QC15 probably won't be very far apart in that regard (they both offer very good passive isolation, the QC15's ANC is better at working on continuous noises, like a jet engine)).

- If that doesn't work for you, I'd suggest the B&W P5 as they isolate better than a lot of other portables/closed cans I've tried. However I can't speak to whether or not the pillow pads will heat up or not - they felt of high quality when I demo'd them, but who knows what they'll do after 8 hours. I can say the Bose cans will be okay, and I can say the Audio-Technica ATH-ESW9A will be okay (they don't isolate all that well though; still worth a look), but I'm less sure of the P5.

- Alternately you might want to look at the Kenwood KH-K1000, which is (aside from the QC15), my favorite closed headphone - good isolation, very comfortable, great sounding (sort of like a K701 with bass, or a closed HD 580/600), but they weigh around 400g and after a few hours you start to notice that (they don't get uncomfortable per se, they're just heavy - it isn't like the QC15 or ESW9 or P5 where you basically don't notice them on your head, you slowly begin to notice the K1000 over time).

- Finally you might want to consider the ESW9, mentioned above. They don't isolate *super* well, but they do a lot better than the HD 580, and are probably on par with the HD 380. Very laid-back and romantic sound, somewhat dark, but still energetic. Truly unique. They're on-ear, but they're also nearly weightless (I think they're something like 170g), and have genuine lambskin pads (so they won't stick to your skin).

I'd add that when it comes to earpads, "sealed" materials (leather, pleather, alcantra, vinyl, etc) are going to mean isolation, while "fabric" materials (velour, escaine, microfiber, foam, etc) will mean leakage. The "key" to sealed materials is basically to get higher quality sealed materials - genuine leather is the ideal (but only a few manufacturers use genuine leather, even fewer in your price range, but there are some high quality synthetics (like the pleather that Bose, Kenwood, and Denon use) that will also work out well. Avoid the cheap vinyl and cheap pleather that you find on lesser ATs, Sennheisers, etc.

Two crowd-favorite headphones that I would immediately suggest you avoid, based on your criteria:

- Audio-Technica ATH-M50
- Denon AH-D2000 and kin

Oh and take Grados off your list and put them out of your mind. If your co-worker is annoyed now, I can't imagine how nasty she'd get if you came in with a pair of Grados (while I love my RS-1, they leak like a sieve (both in and out) and are nothing I'd ever want to take out of the listening room).

The shorter version of my post is that I'd suggest you try the Kenwood KH-K1000, if you liked the HD 580, you should like them too. They're easily at that level of play, and honestly for something you're wearing day after day, I'd say it's worth it. They will run slightly over your budget, and you probably won't have them until next year at this point, but otherwise I'd say they're worth it. And they don't really require amplification or similar - VERY easily driven (all of the other cans I mentioned fit into that as well).
Edited by obobskivich - 12/18/12 at 2:32pm
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks very much for your suggestions! I tried the Bose OE2 (borrowed from a coworker while at work) and liked the clarity, but didn't care much for the "cardboard box effect" that is endemic to so many closed phones. I have not yet tried a higher model, however.


I tried the ATH-ESW9A at a Best Buy showroom, and I liked it quite a bit. My impression was that it seemed neutral and natural, possibly great for orchestra and jazz. The headphone itself seemed to seal reasonably well on my rectangular, average sized head.


I was also impressed by the B&W P5, especially the fit, light weight and isolation. The sound was laid back (if not "removed" or "veiled" somehow and my first thought was it would be perfect for acoustic guitar or acoustic folk.


I should mention the source at BB was pretty lousy. I was able to plug in my HTC smartphone, which helped me to better understand what I was hearing. Neither the Audio Technica nor the B&W seemed to mind my heavier music, even if they did not seem designed with it in mind. Both will be on my "final audition" list before I pull the trigger.


I have not yet found the Kenwoods you mentioned, but I might have luck at one of the dedicated hi-fi shops that have managed to survive in these parts. I'm staycationing this week, so I should have time to poke around.


Finally, I tried on some Beats by Dre for some reason (masochism, most likely). Yeah, not for me. I hesitate to dismiss a product that so many people obviously like, but ... WOW. I'd rather listen to a truck manifold. : P

post #4 of 6
The Bose OE are *very* different from their siblings - I'd say while you're at BB next time, try the bigger full-size models at least. QC15 being the top performer (the ANC is the big selling point, but they *do* sound better as well).

Between the ESW9 and P5, I preference the ESW9 for sound and fit - the P5 isolate better and are probably more durable (that is real wood on the ATs, and it will really crack). Neither are "rocker" cans, they're both pretty laid-back and mellow, but will handle most any genre you throw at them at least half-decently.

Very unlikely you'll find the Kenwoods anywhere on the North American continent - they're a JDM product:

You can get them from AC:

I'm not really sure what you mean by "cardboardy sound" either. redface.gif

I think the K1000 are going to get closest to your HD 580; the ESW9 and QC15 would be (and were) my personal choices though.
post #5 of 6

Try some sennheiser HD 449 its has good soundstage for a closed headphone at this price range 

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the suggestions! I ended up ordering the Sennheiser Amperior and am on a cloud. Wow. The sound is exactly what I hoped for. Unnamped, using my cell phone, the sound is lively, forward and full. Bass is a bit muddy, but has punch. Treble is not shrill, and is detailed. I have not heard the HD-25-1-II to compare, but I can say this headphone is fantastic for hard rock. Isolation is very good. Soundstage (as I understand the term) is indeed small, but instruments are distinct. Considering I'd tried every headphone I could get my hands on over the past month, this is a pleasing find. Woot!!!

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