Today, I went and tried out a few headphone models at Best Buy to compare to my Sennheiser HD 201 (with HD 438 velour pad replacements, very important factor here). I tested songs from Daft Punk''s new album "RAM" and songs from Misery Signal's new album "Absent Light." My setup was Windows Media Player->firewire->PreSonus Firebox. Here are my thoughts as a music lover, but not as an audiophile:
I first tried the Sennheiser Momentum set. I was instantly blown away by these headphones. If I could have them right now I would. The bass is well present but still not out of place. The sound stage was big and instrument separation was also pretty sweet. Clarity and ability to hear details overall were beyond what I've ever heard in a headphone. The fit was really snug and allowed me to head bang quite easily. They are also very compact, and thus great for traveling and riding around town. Overall, they destroyed my HD 201s with velour pads.
Next, I tried the Sennheiser HD 518 set. Swapping between them and my HD 201s w/velour pads, I immediately noticed how muddy the HD 518s were. Details were hard to hear and the bass spectrum dominated way too much. The sound stage wasn't much better either. My HD 201 phones were closer to the higher end models than the HD 518 model. For $150 the HD 518s seem like a pretty bad deal when you can go my route for under $40 when considering sound quality. However, the HD 518s ended up being my favorite headphones in terms of comfort. The fit is literally so great and snug I couldn't believe it at first.
After that, I went to the Sennheiser PXC 450 set. Instantly I was surrounded by a surreal sound stage. The bass is very prevalent but not muddy. Frequency balance was also pretty decent. They fit similarly to the HD 518, which was really snug with good ergonomics. I just really liked the sound signature and fit of these headphones. Definitely better than my HD 201s w/velour pads.
Next up, I moved on to what I was most excited for, the Sennheiser HD 800. The first thing I noticed was how freaking huge this thing was. The cups are so big they enter peripheral vision. Once I started testing the music, I then noticed the large sound stage and airy sound. Instrument separation was the best I've ever heard, and the frequency balance was incredibly flat. The frequency response is what you need for a professional job, but these phones are still fun as hell. I mean, the experience is basically like listening to actual speakers, but through headphones. I was at first a bit disappointed when comparing to my HD 201s, but once I got past the unusually balanced frequency response and let myself enjoy the other elements of the set, I began to hear why the HD 800s are so great. The phones are super airy, the sound is extremely clear, the bass is only there when it should be there, and the fit is comfortable enough (though not as comfortable as the HD 518s). I am sad to say, however, that $1500 seems like a very bad deal for a bump in performance like this. The experience is great, but only worth $1500 if you literally have no better use for the money (meaning you are probably in the upper-middle class or above). If I had to save money for this pair, I'd spend $400-$500 maximum. That is what I feel they are worth compared to my HD 201s w/velour pads, which surprisingly held up well throughout my testing.
And last but not least, I finished the night off with the Audio Technica Grandioso. Ho. Ly. Crap. These headphones sounded waaay crazy. At first I had no idea how I was listening to what I was. I only listen to Sennheiser headphones, so the different sound signature smacked me right in the ears. It seemed like there was a noticeable focus on treble and on keeping bass away from the trebles. A combination of that and whatever godlike drivers were inside produced the clearest and most detailed sound I've ever heard through headphones, quickly topping the Sennheiser Momentum set I tried earlier. The bass was still there, and damn was it good. Metal sounded very good despite the set being treble centric. The fit is also really nice, with the phones fitting dynamically with flexible frame bands. These headphones are so damn fun I want them right now...please Santa ;(.
At the end of the day I was pretty happy about my testing session. One thing I've learned is that my HD 201s w/velour pads actually don't suck and have very good drivers for their price. That may just keep me from upgrading until I feel the need for a bigger sound stage and better build quality. Here is how I would rate each headphone, from best to worst:
Sennheiser HD 800 (best balanced) tied with Audio Technica ATH-W1000x Grandioso (most fun)->Sennheiser Momentum (very fun and clear sound)->Sennheiser PXC 450 (incredible atmosphere)->Sennheiser HD 201 w/velour pads (basic Sennheiser sound signature for cheap)->Sennheiser HD 518 (most comfortable, though very muddy)
Thank you for reading and please feel free to offer insight and opinions about these models and for analyzing head phones in the future.
Edited by TrantaLocked - 7/18/13 at 11:20pm