Review: Sennheiser 280, AKG 271, Sony CD3000
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commando

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I’ve accumulated a few sets of closed headphones in the last few months, so after a few requests I decided to do a decent comparison review. I used my main source and amp for the listening tests, but also tried a couple of other sources quickly to see how they went. Hopefully this will be prompted to the "fully featured reviews" section


Music source: CDs ripped and encoded to flac
Main source: M-audio sonica with black gate mod.
Amp: MisterX Maxxed Pimeta (x86inside@aol.com)
Headphones:
  1. Sennheiser 280 Pro, 200-300 hours burn in.
  2. AKG 271 Studio, 200-300 hours burn in, custom cable.
  3. Sony CD3000, 100 hours burn in.
  4. Sony Fontopia earbuds (cheap and nasty comparison).

Music:
  • BT – Emotional technology – Communicate. Dance music, nice deep strong bass, good vocals and clear highs.
  • BT – Emotional technology – Circles. Similar to communicate, but with electric gutairs added.
  • Sarah Mclachlan – Mirrorball – I Love you. Insanely deep, strong bass with her lovely voice, backed by a few instruments.
  • DJ Steve Hill Mix CD – Touch Me in the Morning. Hard dance, lots of bass, a very busy track.
  • Norah Jones – Come Away With Me – One Flight Down. Another lovely voice with a few instruments behind her.

Notes:
  1. This is my opinion, with my ears, on my equipment. If you disagree, tough, it’s what I think.
  2. The CD3K needs more burn in time to reach its end sound, I think. I noticed a marked improvement in bass between 30 and 100 hours.
  3. Because of the noise around when I started writing this review I was using the 280s, but when it quietened down I switched to the CD3000s.
  4. You'll notice that I like my bass, but i'm not a total bass-head. I like nice, strong, low bass where appropriate, but nothing too overwhelming.
  5. I own all these headphones, and have listened extensively to different types of music. The CD3000s i've only had for a week, but they've gotten a lot of use in that short time.

Testing Methodology
I listened to each of the songs with the each of the headphones, sometimes listening to each set of cans twice for each song. I wrote down notes as I was listening, and then tidied them up a little for the music reviews.

I did a little ad-hoc testing with the cheap Sony earbuds and the different sources, but I didn’t spend too much time with them.


BT - Communicate
280 Pro: The bass goes very low, but it’s not strong, so an EQ might be able to fix it. The highs are quite harsh, which would make extended listening difficult. Quite precise, especially in the mids.
AKG 271: Strong, low bass. The treble is a little veiled compared with the 280, and quite veiled compared with the CD3K. Pleasant enough listening.
CD3K: It's like the cotton wool's been removed from my ears when I put these on, plus they're really comfortable. Bass is perhaps not quite as low as the AKG, but it’s as strong.
Winner: CD3K - Head and shoulders above either of the other two. Second AKG271.

BT - Circles
280: Nice bass, quite strong and low. Quite harsh overall, especially the highs.
AKG 271: The bass is slightly stronger than the 280s, not much though. Not harsh, definitely smoother. Not quite as clear as the 280s.
CD3K: Good bass, not veiled at all. Smooth but precise.
Sony earbuds: Less bass and not as low, muddy mids, highs weak or absent.
Winner: CD3K. Draw for 2nd.

Sarah Mclachlan - I Love you
280 Pro: The bass goes very low, but not very strong. Clear voices, cymbals a little ringy, but not too bad.
271: Bass is a little stronger than the 280 and just as low. The overall sound is perhaps less precise, or maybe just less harsh. Voice is perhaps slightly more veiled than 280s.
CD3K: Slightly lower bass, same sort of volume as the 271s. Overall sound is less veiled than either of the other cans, cymbals nice without being harsh, and the voice is clear and strong. They have a very spacious sound, airy.
Winner: CD3K easily. Tie for second.

Steve Hill – Touch Me in the Morning
280: Reasonable bass, quite low. The voices quite veiled. Strong mids. Doesn’t sound that precise.
271: Slightly stronger bass. Again a bit veiled, guess it must be the song. Voice is clearer.
CD3000: The bass comes out even more, low and strong. The music’s less muddy and less veiled overall, nice clear voices. They handle the fast detailed bits of the music slightly better.
Winner: CD3K, AKG 271 second.

Norah Jones – One Flight down
280: Nice tight snare drum. Again bass is a little weak, but not too bad. The voice is nice, maybe slightly veiled, but clear. They’re a little bit harsh.
271s: The snare drums doesn’t sound as tight. Voice less veiled, whole track is smoother.
CD3K: Oooh, that’s smooth. Nice balance with the snare. I want to just keep listening to this all day.
Winner: CD3K easily. Draw for 2nd.


Without an amp
I listening to Circles by BT without an amp, directly from my Acer Aspire 1700 integrated sound headphone out. Here’s my thoughts on that.

280s: Not quite as precise as with an amp, but close. Possibly a little more bass.
271: not quite as precise or clear, definitely improves with an amp.
CD3000: A it harsh, with less bass than amped. Nowhere near as clear.

MP3 Player
I connected each set of headphones to my Creative LX200 mp3 player, and tried a 128kbps dance mp3.
280: Easy enough to drive, bass a little weak compared with amp. Great isolation. They’re a little harsh still, but not too bad. Pleasant enough listening.
271: Quite veiled and messy sounding. Bass not too bad, highs not so good. Not really good listening.
CD3000: Quite pleasant. Reasonable bass, nice precise highs.

Isolation
280 Pro: Quite good isolation, better than the 271 in a noisy environment.
271: Good isolation, not quite as much as the 280s, but reasonably close.
CD3000: Very little isolation. You can hear everything around you while these are on your head, but when you play music it covers up a lot of the outside sound. These are ok in the office, but I sometimes switch to the 271s if it gets particularly noisy.

Overall Impressions
The CD3000s win hands down in every listening test. They’re very clear, have good strong low bass after they’re burned in, very light and comfortable, and I could wear them for maby hours with no problems. They have an airy spacious sound that the other two closed cans can’t approach, which some people might call soundstage, although not me. Their only downside is lack of isolation, if you consider them a downside. Of course, all this comes at a price, but one that I consider well worthwhile.

The AKG 271 Studio is a good closed can at a good price. They sound a little veiled compared to the CD3000, but better than the 280s in general. They have good bass, but their highs are rolled off a bit. These are my favourite closed cans that provide any isolation. Comfort is good: between the 280s and the CD3000, and reasonable for listening for a couple of hours straight without discomfort.

The 280s aren’t bad for a budget headphone, but I probably wouldn’t recommend them unless you need an analytical can or maximum isolation. Their bass is quite low but also weak in a lot of cases. You have to be very careful to make a good seal with your head otherwise they have no bass at all. They have a very harsh treble which makes extended listening difficult. Comfort isn’t great either, as they clamp very tightly and could use some more padding.
 
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Abula

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Nice review commando, I agree on the CD3000 and Senn280.
 
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pbirkett

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Nice review commando. I had the feeling that the other two would be easy meat for the CD3000
 
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Jasper994

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Sorry, I'm not trying to crap on your thread but I'm still trying to figure out why there is such a huge difference between your opinion of the 280 and mine. This, it seems, is mostly in regaurds to the trebels being harsh. My personal experience with the 280 is that they default to the warmer side of neutral and don't find them to be harsh at all. Since the Sonica likely has a rather similar sound signature to the Audiophile USB that I use, and because of my past experiences, I have to wonder if it's your amp that just has bad synergy with the 280. At one of the meets I had opportunity to hear one of the METAs and found the sound to be a bit on the thin side. I didn't really listen for very long but I'm wondering if this may translate to harsh in the highs when the 280 is plugged into it. This may also account for some of the lack of bass you hear.

This isn't to say that you are wrong, or to invalidate your opinions. I'm simply trying to make the point that when comparing and giving our opinions on a particular headphone, we often make remarks about the sound signature that could be entirely changed by the source and amp we plug them into.
 
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There seem to be varying opions of both the Senn. HD 280 and the AKG 271S. I guess it's down to personal choice? Music preference? Source? Shape of ears? Size of wallet? Either way they appear to be good value anyway.
 
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commando

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I found that 280s a little less harsh without the amp, so it could be the amp. It could also be that our 280s are different, or that our ears like different things. Who knows. It just makes it that much harder for anyone who's deciding what cans to buy
 
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Quote:

Originally Posted by commando
I found that 280s a little less harsh without the amp, so it could be the amp. It could also be that our 280s are different, or that our ears like different things. Who knows. It just makes it that much harder for anyone who's deciding what cans to buy



Yeah really...
 
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Steve999

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That's how I hear the HD280s too, out of any source and amp I use them with.

At this point, after hanging out here for a couple of years, I really think it has to do with the shapes of people's ears. I really do. Which makes arguing all the more pointless.


Quote:

Originally Posted by Jasper994
My personal experience with the 280 is that they default to the warmer side of neutral and don't find them to be harsh at all...

This isn't to say that you are wrong, or to invalidate your opinions. I'm simply trying to make the point that when comparing and giving our opinions on a particular headphone, we often make remarks about the sound signature that could be entirely changed by the source and amp we plug them into.



 
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kyrie

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Tried EQing, commando? It takes care of most of the AKGs weaknesses.

Nice review.
 
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With the HD280 I heard a little bit of sharpness in the highs, but not any more than most cans I've heard have (be it Grados, Senns, or whatever). The only cans I've heard without any treble sharpness are the properly amped: R10, CD3000, HP1000, and SR404/007.
 
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doug zdanivsky

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Nice review, Commando..

I'll have to try these CD-3000's...
 
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AdamZuf

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thanks for review, commando. i didn't know you're a kiwi and it would be nice if we had a meeting when i passed through wellington on my way north (since i actually cary all of the gear you can see on my sig, after that head-fi meeting in hong kong
)

i remember some meeting that many people really prefered the AKG's on top of the Sony's. if you notice, people don't tend to like them on meetings.
but almost all of the opinions i read from users that have both says the CD3000 are way better, and generally it seems that you got to own the CD3000 in order to understand them (then getting addicted) !
 
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Interesting. I've not heard the other two, but I've had Senn HD280s for some time and while I agree that bass extension is very good (though not loud), I don't find them harsh in the treble at all. V6s, now THOSE can be harsh in the treble. For cheap, closed cans, I like the 280s. Not espeically musical, but they isolate like crazy and I find them extremely accurate. (This has its downside--I don't think I've heard a can less forgiving of a bad recording or digital compression.)

And as for the treble harshness coming from the META, I don't think so. I'm running them off of a pretty maxed PIMETA as well, and I don't find it. Might be the DAC...
 
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Thanks for the review commando.

On the topic of HD280 and its varying opinions:The HD280 seems to depend on too many varying factors. In my replies to your other posts, I forgot to mention that there could be two types of factory-supplied cushions. If not, then they vary greatly depending on how the user wears them down.

A few days ago, I came across a demo pair which had much flatter and thicker pads than mine - to the extent that they were half-circum-aural and half supra-aural when i put them on, no matter how I adjusted. They sounded way too harsh in the trebles. Forgot to ask if they had been burned-in though.
 
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commando

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My opinion of the 280s have changed a bit since that review. I'll be doing another big review in the next couple of weeks when my amps come back, it'll have everything above plus A900, Chaintech AV710, AOS DAC, PPA with bass boost, and whatever else I buy before then
 
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