Ever since Sony pioneered the use of samarium cobalt magnets in their MDR series two or three years back, the headphone market has undergone something of a transformation, with affordable designs now predominating in the under-£30 sector. However, not all of these perform as well as their appearance would suggest, and many of the models supplied as standard with personal stereo cassette players and recorders are not capable of doing justice to the machines they are partnered with.
In contrast to many headphone manufacturers, Sennheiser are a specialist concern (microphones are the only other things they produce) with not inconsiderable experience in their field. The MS80-2s represent the company's attempt to produce a 'quality' piece of equipment (though still at a budget price) with a broad range of appeal. They are a logical step forward for the personal stereo owner dissatisfied with his current pair, or alternatively they are a natural adjunct to a personal multitracker such as the Fostex X-15.
The MS80-2s are by no means the smallest headphones available: in fact they're larger than most of their current rivals, and considerably more bulky than the 'Petit Phones' made by Trio and others. Nevertheless, they're far, far lighter than a corresponding pair would have been five years ago, and in any case the slight increase in pad diameter makes them more comfortable over long periods than most smaller models.
Subjectively, the Sennheisers are a considerable sonic improvement over most of the models supplied as standard with personal stereo recorders. The sound balance is more neutral than many compact designs, with high-frequencies recessed into their proper place. If you like hi-hats hitting around inside your head at high volume levels, the MS-80-2s will disappoint you.
What you get instead is a tighter and more extended bass end, due I suspect to the larger-diameter cones mentioned earlier. This isn't to say they'll provide you with LF levels akin to that supplied by a pair of heavyweight JBL monitors, but it does mean you at least have a chance of hearing what the bass drum is doing, for instance, something that simply isn't possible with many similar pairs.
The MS80-2s are perhaps not quite so sensitive as some of their competitors, due to a slightly higher nominal impedance. This doesn't mean you can't use them with half the tape machines on the market, merely that they might take a bit of getting used to after a £7.50 WH Smith Made In Hong Kong device.
The Sennheisers' neutral (and natural) sound balance makes them suitable for small studio monitoring like no other compact design I know, and they have the additional benefit of being better constructed than many of their competitors. At less than £18 typical selling price, they really are quite a find.
Further details on these headphones can be obtained from the importers, Hayden Labs, at (Contact Details).