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Over-Ear item created by Headstar, Jul 1, 2011
Pros - Full lush mids, comfortable
Cons - Sennheiser veil
I am new to headfi and this is my second review. I apologize if its not very helpful.
These entry level cans from sennheiser give a good taste of their higher end models have in store. First how they sound.
These have very good mid range. Nice lush and full. Treble is slightly rolled off, giving them dark sound signature and slight sennheiser veil. It is present and clear but does not have any sparkle. This gives them a dark sound signature. Good thing is there is absolutely no hissing or sibilance present.
Bass is rather interesting. A layer of bass is present that makes its presence known. Its very high quality bass with good clarity and definition, and is probably closer to what it actually sounds like in person. But will definitely disappoint a bass head ( they will probably insult them with an awful compliment). In my opinion, these are rather genre specific and sound great with rock, classical bot not so good with rap, hip-hop or any kind of electronic music with lots of treble, as they are dark sounding. Overall they are pretty neutral sounding, very inoffensive, quiet mellow.
Comfort is very good and their sound signature along with comfort encourages long listening sessions.
Build quality is good, its mostly made of plastic but is a solid construction and looks good as well. As they are closed back, they do isolate a bit of sound but nothing too impressive.
Amping: Recommend a good source, dac and amp if possible as it brings lots more detail.
Pros - Timing, punch, stage, bass, balanced yet forgiving, manufacturing quality
Cons - too mellow, highs could have more bite, too small, the fit is not for everyone
I don´t understand why so many people don´t like these headphones. And IF they are loved by some people even then the descriptions of its sound differs so much that I always wonder if people were actually listening to the same headphone. I can only say that I loved them right out of the box on my portable player: the bass really goes deep (and I mean deep bass frequencies from 30-80 Hz) but does so without being pretentious, frequencies around 90-150 Hz have punch (but not that much "weight"), the lower mids are very warm and everything else above is very balanced yet a bit smoothed. Female voices are sounding fantastic, they have a body and a chest without being overtly pronounced. Compared to the Superlux HD-668 the pronounciation sucks but the presence area and upper mids are more balanced.
The highs are a bit problematic though: they lack bite and detail. Precision is good but celesta and strings loose gloss, brass looses its bite. Combined with the mellow lower mids the sound gets too warm, it sounds like the music is cuddled into a nice warm blanket. Furthermore I assume that the mellow lower mids are revealing the resonance frequency of the housing, there is an effect that can best be described as some kind of "distortion" which is present even on lower volumes. In short, lower mids are sounding a bit plasticky.
But: despite the fact that the mellowness & the missing bite are present the overall sound is quite balanced, you´ll like this headphone more and more the longer you listen to it because even with this mellow sound it manages to show bows striking strings without sounding artificial. Doing an unfair comparison to my HD-600 I prefer the bass of the HD-448; it goes deeper, has more punch and better timing (the precision on the HD-600 is superior though). The HD-448 is definitely faster than the HD-600 up to 2000 Hz or so. Then the much higher resolution of the HD-600 kicks in.
Furthermore, I was extremely baffled by the staging and the room response - for a closed headphone its marvellous: it is wide and fairly deep. Closely miked instruments can be observed with their own reverberation and room, yet it still is able to present the room response of the whole ensemble. This is an art I have not observed in many headphones yet.
I assume that my description sounds different to anyone elses'. The reason is actually very simple: since this is a closed headphone its sound depends on how you wear them, in order for them to sound good they need to seal! If your earlobes are big, your head too small or you have too much hair they cannot seal the air and they WILL sound thin, aggressive & without bass. My head is a bit bigger than usual and my earlobes are really tiny which has the result that they fit perfectly for me. Which is the reason that they are not for everyone, they simply are designed too small to fit everyone perfectly.
The design: on photos they look cheap. In reality they don´t look that cheap but still not that sophisticated, their price range is apparent. But once you actually touch them your opinion will be reversed because they are manufactured so nicely. Everything fits and feels good. My head doesn´t sweat even though the cushions are not made out of velour, I can wear them for long hours and nothing hurts.
All in all they are really very pleasant to listen to. If you like pronounced highs you have to search elsewhere, if you like your sound to be very direct and aggressive (á la Grado) you also have to search elsewhere. But if you like to listen to a warm, mellow yet balanced sound with a very good room response and staging combined with a deep reaching bass that isn´t bragging these headphones are for you.
Please note: My description of their sound was done using the Xonar Essence ST. On my Sansa Clip+ (they are engineered to be used on portables in the end) they actually sound a bit better: the thin and grainy sound of the Sansa tremendously helps these headphone getting a bit more aggressive and leaner.
Pros - Light, tossable, closed, moderate isolation, decent value
Cons - Sound is poor unamped, doesn't take to amplication very well
These headphones are kind of an enigma. They look like cheap crap, feel like cheap crap, and unless you amp them properly, sound like cheap crap too. With a good amp these phones WILL go deep with tight detailed bass. The enigma here is that yes, these CAN sound good, but you will need to spend $$$ on an amp. At that point you have to ask yourself, if you spent money on an amp, should you in turn spend money on headphones? Yeah, you probably should... If you can find a cheap amp that has some real current (it plugs into a wall not a USB port) then you should be good to go.
Treble: Dry, slightly fatiguing, detailed and airy with a good amp.
Mids: Slightly recessed mids, can deliver a little bit of punch and sparkle, vocals can sound really good with these. Sound stage collapses with more complex symphonic music.
Bass: Without amplification bass extension is poor and mid bass seems a tad tipped up. With amplification the bass extension is decent, musical down to about 30-40hz most likely.
Overall sound impressions: I used them occasionally but found that they really only sound good on certain music types, for symphonic music you need to check elsewhere, but these will rock your world with vocals and acoustic guitar. A tube amp that can handle 32 ohms does wonders for these cans midrange.
Moderately comfortable, lightweight, not built to last years and years, but they haven't broken yet and they frequently get moved around. Make sure you adjust the headband, it helps keep them in place on your head. Unlike some higher end senns, these do not clamp your head.
Pros - Excellent Sound
Cons - Poorly constructed, poor isolation, expensive
Sennheiser HD448 A sub-$100 champ, or a stinker?
I picked up a pair of HD448's after reading about their sound out of curiosity, while looking at closed back headphones for the purpose of having a good sounding portable, and having enjoyed the signature of Sennheiser (HD580's) for over a decade, I figured they would make a quality headphone. So let's take a look at what the HD4xx series had to offer on it's higher end. These headphones are in the sub-$100 bracket (usually $99, and found them down in the $60's on a sale; can be had for much less if used).
Construction, Materials and Comfort:
When you pick them up, they feel like a toy. I'm not accustomed to a Sennheiser that feels like this. My HD580's feel sturdy, 10 years later after I bought them. But these HD448's creek and torque and feel like they're literally just going to snap. The pads are made of a cheaper vinyl like material that is not very attractive. The grill backing is nice on the HD448, it's attractive and metallic and classy looking, but the lower HD4xx series headphones look awful (the HD428 looks completely plastic, and not very nice, and the HD438 looks like gaudy trashy wheel wells). Even though they share the same characteristics in sound, I went with HD448 for the classy look (reviewers stated the HD428 and HD448 really sounded about the same in general; the HD438 being colored towards bass).
They fit very poorly. When I put them on, and adjusted them, they were not very natural feeling. They felt like unfitted plasticy junk that creaked when I moved around and they ear pads didn't stay in place very well. They got hot very quickly too and I don't like sweaty headphone cups (this happens with all closed back vinyl/leather cup headphoens though for me). I couldn't believe Sennheiser released such a poorly constructed and fitting headphone, especially in this price range. Their HD5xx series are far more comfortable and in general feel like a better constructed headphone for a similar price, and that's saying a lot.
Due to the poor construction and fit, the isolation was rather unimpressive.
The headphone itself actually sounds pretty good. It was supposed to be excellent for most genres, and especially good for things that require mids and some bass response, like rock.
The highs were pretty clear, crisp, and non-fatiguing with no sibilance. Everything sounded pretty detailed, but it wasn't exactly transparent. The highs often lost their etch as the headphone moved, because they creak and don't isolate well, so it can become a sound that is not pleasing. Otherwise, when held in place and you don't move, they sound excellent.
The mids are nice and forward, generous and not congested. They are direct and warm too. Great headphone for rock, and frankly any genre that benefits from forward mids that are not recessed. The sound is crisp and detailed. The bass does not bleed over and power down the mids, nor are the highs so piercing that they make you lose capture of the mids. This is the strongest aspect of the headphone.
The headphone is advertised as having enhanced bass response. They do have good bass response. They're not a basshead can, but they're not anemic by any stretch. They have good response, and can reach pretty low. The quality of the low is not exceptional though, it's rather unremarkable and sometimes had a grainy sound to it even when amplified (to rule out clipping). The bass was largely lost often though when the headphone was not isolated, due to poor fitting and again, distracting to hear creaking of the structure of the headphone. The pads didn't isolate well, so a lot of times, the bass just lost it's oumph. When held in place and given a little more pressure on the grip (which could not be accomplished with just the headband, you had to use your hands), the bass was nice.
Isolation was poor. It was even more poor due to the headphone moving around and not having much grip. It was poorly fitted and adjustment was not very flexible. Overall, not great.
Sound stage was rather normal for a closed headphone. Unremarkable.
Closing Thoughts, Conclusion:
For the cost of the headphone ($99 retail in general), I simply could not keep it nor spend much time on it (hence the lack of pictures even). The build quality completely takes away from the headphone. They are otherwise good sounding headphones, nice response and balance. Not overly bright and not anemic. Good warm sound. It was rather surprising to pick up a Sennheiser and think "What is this junk?" I was basically confused. I looked at a lot of their headphones and it just seems like a few stand out that we talk about a lot here on Head-Fi. But Sennheiser flooded every market tier with a headphone from their line and it seems a lot of them are straight up bad, even if the drivers are decent.