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Sennheiser HD-280 Pro Headphones: Cheap Cans that Can

Are you looking to break the aural barrier of cheap headphones without breaking the bank? Sennheiser comes to your rescue with the HD-280 Pros: great sealed headphones for discerning listeners on a budget.

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INTRODUCTION

When I was in college, any free time I could muster up was spent recording music on my PC with programs like Reason 3.0 and ProTools. The problem was that my roommate had to rise and shine for a 6 A.M. class, and he just couldn’t sleep with two JBL monitors pumping out mega-awesome guitar until dawn. Quickly, we agreed that I needed a high quality pair of headphones on a student’s budget.

I did some research and bought factory refurbished Sennheiser EH-2200s, which cost all of $50.00. The headphones had a flat response designed for monitoring applications – that is, they let you hear recordings without any EQ bias – and were perfect for all my musical needs. After heavy use (6+ hours a day) for four straight years they finally gave out. I was so impressed with their performance that I stayed with the Sennheiser brand and recently purchased the HD-280 Pro model, which is fantastic for general use, and is reviewed here.

    

ABOUT SENNHEISER

Dr. Fritz Sennheiser founded the company in Wedemark, Germany in 1945, just as World War II ended. His original team included seven engineers working in electroacoustics, and they began producing microphones in 1946. Over the years, Sennheiser expanded its product output to include more diverse audio equipment, and they presently offer headphones, wired and wireless mic systems, assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired, teleconference and presentation equipment, and an entire subsection of technology dedicated to aviation. After 60 years of refining their craft in audiophile and professional grade goods, I’d say these guys know their sound.

Sennheiser Corporate Logo

PRODUCT DESIGN

If you spend a lot of time at your PC in an environment where speakers just won’t work, choosing the right pair of headphones is as important as choosing the right keyboard or mouse. Headphones have got to be functional, durable, extremely comfortable, and above all – they’ve got to produce great audio in a multitude of applications.

 

HD-280 Professional: Circumaural, Closed Headphones                        

The HD280 Professional is Sennheiser’s most significant closed, circumaural headphone to be introduced in years. Designed to exceed the demands of the professional environment, the HD280Pro boasts extremely robust construction combined with extensive features that meet the requirements of today’s most demanding applications. The unique collapsible design combined with swiveling ear cups, offers maximum flexibility in any application.

 

Features & Benefits

· Closed, dynamic stereo headphones

· Accurate, linear sound reproduction for critical monitoring applications

· Optimum impedance ensures universal compatibility

· Space saving design features collapsible, rotating ear-cups

· Up to 32 dB of ambient noise attenuation

· Neodymium magnets for high maximum SPL

· Single-sided, coiled cable with 3.5 mm mini jack with locking 1/4″ adapter

· Very comfortable, even if used for long periods of time
· Rugged construction with user-replaceable parts
· 2 year warranty
 

Indeed, but what does it all mean?

 
The Sennheiser HD-280 Pros are sealed (or “closed”) headphones designed to keep ambient noise out by enclosing your ears, and they do not feature the noise canceling circuitry of the higher end Sennheisers. The HD-280s provide a moderately isolating environment that severely reduces annoying noises like vacuum cleaners and chatter, and many people prefer this closed full-size design to open or in-ear-canal headphones for several key reasons.
 
Open headphones offer the ultimate solution for sound reproduction in a quiet listening environment, but they’re unsuitable for use around other people. Everyone within earshot will hear a thin, metallic rendition of what you’re listening to, and this exchange works both ways, so a room’s ambient noise will travel straight in.
 
The opposite is true for in-ear-canals: very little gets in or out, and because the isolation is so severe, a closed full-size design is superior here too when you consider comfort and safety.
 
The HD-280s surround your ears with plush leather-like padding instead of sitting clumsily inside, and they do not squeeze or inspire headaches. Also, when a friend runs into your room and screams “FIRE!” his or her warning will still cut through whatever you’re listening to. This can be a pretty important feature if you’re a music-loving commuter prone to zoning out in the crosswalk.

PRODUCT FEEL

The build feels solid and thick, as did that of my old EH-2200s. The hinges of the HD-280 Pros are in the right spots, making the headphones easily foldable for safe transport; and thankfully, this design doesn’t sacrifice comfort for portability. The jack on the HD-280 Pro is 1/8” and will fit into almost any portable audio device. An excellent locking ¼” adapter is included for users running these to certain aftermarket soundcards or mixing boards.
 
  

But what’s up with the cord?

Sennheiser advertises the cord as being 1 meter long or approximately 3 feet. I agree with them. Certain online retailers would like to tell you that it’s 10 feet long, but this is a bit of a stretch (no pun intended). The cord is really only comfortable to around 4 or 5 feet because of its tightly coiled design. My old EH-2200s had a great two-sided non-coiled cord which was superior to the HD-280 Pro’s in every way, and I’ll bet you can see why:

  

The EH-2200s had a mini jack in the headphone where the two-sided cord connected – meaning if someone tripped over the wire, instead of ripping the wire from the can, the mini jack released one side of the cable from the headphone. Simple. This was a great feature for DJs and sound engineers working in crowded rooms, and it’s a shame the HD-280 Pro lacks it. It also means that if the EH-2200 cord does break, replacing it is as easy as plugging in a new one. If you break the cord on the HD-280s, you’re going to have to do some home surgery. Luckily it won’t require solder.

Although occasionally inconvenient, every single part of HD-280 Pro is replaceable, which is a good thing. The first component to die on my old Sennheisers was the fake leather on the ear-cups. They just kind of disintegrated after three years of heavy use, but I replaced them and squeezed another year out of the EH-2200s because they sounded so good. The ear-cup material on the HD-280s seems to have been improved; the leather is suppler and softer, more rip resistant, and more resilient to moisture. Sennheiser has added a strip of the same padded leather to the headband for extra cushioning, and this will help fill some empty space for users with smaller skulls.

 

 

SOUND

 
Before we get down to the qualitative data that really counts, I will appease the true gear heads out there by slinging some straight-up specs from Sennheiser’s HD-280 Pro product manual:
 
Technical Data

Transducer

Dynamic

Ear coupling

Circumaural, Closed

Frequency response

8 Hz – 25 kHz

Characteristic SPL

113 dB (at 1kHz/1Vrms)

THD

<0.1%

Nominal impedance

64 Ohms

Weight (without cable)

285 grams
Connection cable 1 meter single-sided coiled cable, OFC copper
Connection 3.5 mm stereo mini jack with screw-on 1/4″ adapter
 
 
Unfortunately, we can’t hear the HD-280 Pro by representing its features in numbers. In fact, almost all of these specs are meaningless unless you have a sound laboratory chock-full of equipment for testing acoustics. Headphones with a wider frequency response or a higher Sound Pressure Level don’t necessarily equate to a better sounding product, and much of the determining factor in whether or not headphones sound sweet, is the way engineers design the earpieces.
 

Earpieces & Generic Tones

 
The entire headphone earpiece serves three major purposes: to suspend a quality transducer and enable its vibration, to keep sound in, and to direct sound towards our ears to create a sense of a larger listening space. The HD-280s are closed, so they keep the bass in your face without leaking low frequency out – but things aren’t too Miami in there.
 
The representation of longer, lower bass tones is achieved with an initial satisfying punch that never threatens to overpower the vital midrange, and levels are always directly dictated by the mix – not the headphone. The highs sing clearly without any detectable harshness and every distinct source of sound remains orderly and identifiable.
 

PC Gaming

 
Pair the HD-280 Pros with a Creative X-fi, enable Advanced HD and prepare to be amazed. My old EH-2200s would represent the position of lateral sounds (front, back, left, right) just fine, but sounds of vertical movement were often lost, or characterized in a disorienting way because of the arrowhead shape of the ear-cup. The more elliptical design of the HD-280 Pro excels at creating directional audio, and will definitely keep Bioshock fans exploring the ceiling or admiring the accurate reproduction of dripping water. There is a real ambience imparted to a listener through these headphones, and for sealed cans under $100, they create great headspace.


CONCLUSION

 
Sennheiser’s line of professional headphones keeps getting better and less expensive. The HD-280 Pros represent a benchmark for the company where price and performance have found a very benevolent relationship. Recording musicians on a budget will be hard pressed to acquire a better pair of circumaural headphones at this price, and if you’re comfortable with refurbished gear, the HD-280 Pros can be picked up for as little as $60.

Pros:

+  Excellent midrange clarity
+  Punchy, accurate low end
+  Superior spatial re-creation
+  Comfortable ergonomics in extended use
+  Replaceable components
+  Locking ¼” adapter included
+  Durable, sturdy construction
+  <$100 USD

Cons:

-  Single-sided cord

Final Score: 8.5 out of 10 and the Bjorn3D Seal of Approval

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