A weekend with HD280's
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elnero

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Hey All,

This is my first post here. I've been reading the forums here and at headwize for the past little while researching a headphone purchase. I had some problems getting an account set up here so my original questions were only posted at Headwize.

Anyhow, I thought people might be interested in the weekend I had with a "demo" pair of 280's.

First off I don't have access to any real reference headphones, and the only cans I can find around here are pretty much crap. I own a pair of Panasonic RP-HT850's. I know these are crap but at the time I didn't have a lot of choice, everything else I tried I found boomy, or just plain sounded terrible. These at least didn't kill my ears with bass (read lack thereof) and had a somewhat ok midrange but the top end can get pretty aggressive by times. My frame of reference has always been high-end stereo gear. I used to work in a high-end audio store and worked with a speaker manufacturer so I've been fortunate enough to spend time with some really exotic equipment. My home system is a pair of upper range Swans speakers powered by a modified Mission Cyrus integrated, and Panasonic RV-31 DVD player. My source and amp are not near the quality of the Swan's but I have heard them with some great little tube amps like the, Cary 300B Integrated, as well as various sources so I know what they are capable of.

Now on to my review of sorts,

After all I've read about the 280's I approached them with a bit of trepidation. I really had no idea what to expect and wasn't prepared for what I got. I'm assuming that because these were a "demo" pair that they have had an amount of burn in. I did notice slight changes in the sound over the weekend though.

Music used was a mixed variety from Heavy Metal/Industrial, to Jazz and Pop with recording varying from mediocre to audiophile quality.

Build Quality
I would have to say the quality seems very good, much better than the average phone you find around here. With care they will last a long time. My only gripe here was the coiled cord. In a studio environment they should fair well as long as temperamental artists don’t throw them across the floor.

Looks
While not a big concern for me I think it must be said that these things are definite GeekPhones. I could see people not buying them for that reason alone. Luckily I don’t really go out in public with mine on so my only concern is the ribbing I’ll get from my co-workers. You would think that Sennheiser would be able to make these a little more stylish though, it just doesn’t make sense to lose customers over something like that.

Comfort
These were pretty awesome in this department. They completely encompassed my ear and had great isolation. My wife turned on her hair dryer right beside me and while I could hear it, it really didn't detract from my listening. The headpiece could use a bit more padding but at no time did they hurt my head. And for someone that doesn't shave their head it would probably be fine. I felt no discomfort with my glasses on either which was a real bonus.

Sound
In a word Wonderful! From the moment I put these on I was in heaven. They are incredibly accurate and faithful to the recording. No one frequency range stuck out and I felt they displayed an overall flat response. The bass was well extended and articulate, there were times I heard qualities that I had not heard before or details that had been muddled up that the Senns made sense of. (This quality was experienced throughout the frequency spectrum) I definitely would not have wanted more bass. The midrange seemed to be very well defined and accurate. Tonal balances were correct, with the proper weight on piano, wood and horn instruments had the proper timbre and voices were portrayed correctly without any sibilance (unless recorded that way). Highs were distinct and again well articulated. I did not find these to be a bright headphone though I did find the highs to be a tad on the cold or hard side. This was minor and I feel probably more an accurate portrayal than I am used to hearing. These are an analytical headphone designed for a studio monitoring, but for general listening I think they really shine as well. They show all the details as well as all the faults. The nice thing was I found them forgiving enough to not make bad recordings unlistenable. The faults were there and apparent but not to a degree where I felt the need to take the disk out. Much like my Swans they sound great with solid-state gear but I feel they may really shine paired with a sweet sounding tube amp. In fact the characteristic of the 280’s could probably be very easily influenced by the electronics used with them. This is only speculation though. Soundstaging was also good, I don't have a lot of experience with this in headphones but I felt that an open headphone would probably be a bit more spacious with more air around the instruments. For me though I like the intimacy of a closed headphone and felt they gave off a very good sense of space and positioning. There was none of the "in your ear" feeling that I get with the Panasonic's and other closed phones I've used.

Overall, I loved these things. I know there are better headphones out there, just as there are better speakers than my Swans, but for the price and for a closed headphone of this quality I feel you can’t go wrong. Over the span of the weekend I found myself putting on a song to test and ended up listening to the whole album because I got lost in the music. That's probably the most praise I could give them.

Phil Smith
 
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Gus B

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Thanks Phil for a great review. I love my 280s, but after listening to extensive 280 bashing from a prolific member of this forum who I shall not name, since I will not stoop to ad hominem attacks (but rhymes with "TragicLies"), I began to doubt my own perception & even explored buying a new set of closed cans. I am convinced now that these are great headphones, & nothing can match them for closed phones at the price.
 
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elnero

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Gus,

Glad to have helped, remember always trust your own perceptions. Everyones ear is different so no one product will please the masses. I look at a forum like this as guidance, but in the long run it's only my ears I need to make happy.


I tend to agree with a post I saw from Hamsterball_z that some peoples dissatisfaction with the 280's comes from previously using boomy headphones (which there seems to be an over abundance of) but from years of experience in the audio industry I have to say the 280's are, at least to my ears, pretty damn close to "correct".

Phil
 
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Phil, thanks for your post, I think I'll revisit my 280's. Not that I was dissatisfied with them, but I had bought them for commuting and hardly had a few hours on them with it just got too damn hot (NYC subways) for them. Switched to Ety's 4P which are working well for commuting, but I'd like to slap the 280's on an amp and CD for a nice desktop rig at work. Think they might find a home. I remember them sounding significantly better than the 25SP's I'm using now. Somehow the 280's just got forgotten, outta sight, outta mind I guess.
 
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andrzejpw

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nice review!
 
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BenG

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In regards to isolation, they are rated to block up to 32db, which is alot. (Etymotics are rated at 20-25db, and this seems to be across the spectrum to my ears)

my thinking is the 32db spec is over a more narrow range. Is the isloation fairly even across the spectrum?
 
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radrd

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I know my Ety 4P blocks out significantly more noise than my HD280, but as far as db and spectrum go, I couldn't say. I think the HD280 Pro noise blocking level is actually below the listed spec, but they still block out A LOT of noise.

elnero

Great job with the review!


I realize that everyone's ears and sources present the HD280 in a different light (at least it seems that way), but I agree with your review at every point, especially that they are well worth their price.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by BenG
In regards to isolation, they are rated to block up to 32db, which is alot. (Etymotics are rated at 20-25db, and this seems to be across the spectrum to my ears)

my thinking is the 32db spec is over a more narrow range. Is the isloation fairly even across the spectrum?


I don't know how to put this without it sounding like I'm being very critical; I'm not trying to be, I promise


The HD 280 do not block anything near 32dB -- they don't even come close to the ER-4 series. Granted, the ER-4 series block out around 25dB across the entire FR, and well over 30dB at some frequencies, but the HD 280 only block out a bit more external sound than the Beyer DT250-80, which in turn block out just a bit more than the Sony V6/7506.

For their price, the HD 280 are pretty good headphones, and I definitely would recommend them to someone looking for closed headphones who can't afford the DT250. But don't expect them to block out as much sound as Etys
 
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Magicthyse

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They possibly do go somewhere near that in terms of studio-related equipment (fans, etc)? They don't block a lot of lower-frequency noise. I'm certainly impressed by the attenuation on the noise in my server room.
 
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BenG

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Thanks Mac, that's about the impression I've been getting from posts. Where do they block 32db then, supersonic or infrasonic frequencies, maybe?
 
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elnero

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To tell you the truth I'm not sure just how accurate the 32db rating is, I can say they are the best headphone I've tried with my limited experience. I really wouldn't want them to block much more or it would be like sensory deprivation. Hehe, the potential for my wife to scare the crap out of me would be just to much for her to bear. Not to mention evil co-workers...

Does anyone have any suggestions for a sweet sounding, dare I say tube like, portable amplifier preferably with crossfeed (i'm curious) to match with the 280's? I really like the NVA headphone amplifier but it's not something I could haul back and forth between work and home. I'm not opposed to a DIY project but finding parts where I live may be hard.

Phil

Edit: I just noticed the specs at etronics states up to 32 dB of ambient noise attenuation.
 
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andrzejpw

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hmm, I'd say contact JMT or tangent or eric343 for either a meta42 amplifier, or contact JMT for a cmoy amplifier. You won't be disappointed.
 
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elnero

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andrzejpw,

I'm fairly new here, is there anywhere I can get some info these amplifiers?

Phil
 
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elnero

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andrzejpw,

Thanks again, the meta42 looks very intriguing and I may actually have a bit of spare cash sooner than expected.


DAMNIT! I think I'm hooked.....


Phil
 
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