Recently I was in need for a comfortable on ear headphone primarily for gaming. My criteria was that the headphones had to sound decent, be lightweight, and comfortable. I looked at both Bose and Sennheiser offerings. I had to decide between the Sennheiser HD 219, HD 229, HD 239, Bose OE & OE2. After reading some reviews and asking headfiers what I should buy, I got the Open back Sennheiser HD 239 on Amazon. A few days ago I walked into Costco and found the Bose OE for the same price as the HD 239 ($100) and decided to buy those too and return the one I liked least.
SENNHEISER HD 239
- The HD 239 is completely made from plastic, unlike what it may make you think in what the website calls "Premium metallic accents". The plastic is ok in quality. It is not exactly what I have expected in a headphone costing $100. Although the plastic has a cheap feel, it does feel durable enough to last quite a long time.
- There is a foam cushion for the top of your head. The earpad covers are made of half leatherette and foam. The earpads are soft but are not as soft as the Bose's leather and memory foam cushions.
- The wire is not removable and is quite thin. The plug is also not gold plated. The jack is straight.
- A pouch is included. The pouch is made of canvas. It is just basic.
- The HD 239 has a low clamping force and is very light, about half as heavy compared to the Bose. They are comfortable but my ears did begin to feel a bit uncomfortable after 2-3 hours. Because the headphones are open back and have foam on the earpads, they did not get as hot as the Bose.
- There is no isolation due to the open back design. Sound leaks in and out of the headphones.
- The frequency response is very good. The bass, mids, and treble are all balanced and neutral. There are no huge spikes in any frequencies giving the HD 239 a very smooth frequency response. The bass extension is quite good with enough sub bass to make explosions sound realistic. The treble is just ok. It has a gritty texture and is slightly recessed.
- My biggest gripes about the sound is the soundstage and detail. The sound stage is very congested. When I am listening to the HD 239, I feel like all of the sound sources are playing at the same place and distance from me. For example, the strings and tuba feel like they are playing in the same row. The detail is also not up to par. This is especially noticeable when gaming. You just don't clearly hear the slight nuances such as the bird chirping in the background, bullets zinging past you, or that you are walking on wood flooring. In music, you don't hear the echo of the singer's voice in the studio or when they take a breath. The nuances just blend in as "noise".
- The build quality of the Bose is much better. The plastics have a premium feel and are very sturdy.
- The top of the headband is cushioned with leatherette. The earpads are completely covered with thick soft leatherette. The leather on the earpads on the Bose are of much better quality than the plastic feeling leather on the HD 239. The earpads are cushioned with thick soft memory foam compared to regular foam on the HD 239.
- The wire is removable and has gold plated contacts. The jack on the Bose is bent at a 45 degree angle. 2 cables are included.
- The Bose include a very nice hard case that zips closed.
- The OE is extremely comfortable. You actually want to wear them because the earpads feel like pillows on your head.
- The earpads do get fairly hot after long periods of time.
- The OE isolates noise fairly well.
- Out of the box, the Bose headphones sounded bad. The bass was boomy and overpowered the mids and highs. I was disappointed with the sound so I let the drivers break in over 10 hours just to see what it would do. The break in helped a lot. It brought out the mids and highs and tamed the bass a little bit. The bass was still grossly overpowering though. I did manage to get the bass down to perfect levels. While I was adjusting the headphones, my fingers covered the tri-port holes on the bottom of each earcup. The bass instantly went down to perfect levels like magic. So what I did was cover the holes with some tape.
Now with this "mod' the OE sound wonderful. The frequency response is not as flat as he HD 239 but is a bit more "fun" sounding. With the mod, the bass is balanced but rolls off a little bit in the sub frequencies. The bass is a little boomy at times. The mids are a bit warmer than neutral but are very nice. The mids do sound a bit hollow at times though. The treble texture is much better than the HD 239. The treble is natural sounding unlike the slightly gritty sounding HD 239.
The soundstage and detail is where the OE excel at. With the OE I feel like I am there live. Instruments are separated. I can hear that the strings in an orchestra is in the front row while the tuba is in the back row with these headphones. The detail is very detailed. I can hear water droplets dripping distinctly, the difference between walking on wood flooring or stone flooring, and the different types of birds chirping in the background.
I like both of these headphones very much. I am having such a difficult time deciding which pair I should keep. I really love the flat frequency response and open back design (i can hear stuff outside which is a big plus for me) of the HD 239 but prefer the gaming performance and comfort of the Bose. So as of now, I give a slight edge to the Bose.