How canny are new cans
Popular though open headphones are becoming these days, there is still a great deal to be said in favour of 'closed' types — not least of all the entirely practical aspect that they do not annoy other inhabitants of your bed/bath/boudoir or wherever you happen to be listening on them. Further, they do not suffer from any form of intrusion from outside — for stage use they are essential in many roles.
If the theoretical advantages of closed cans appeals to you then one maker whose products you mustn't ignore is West German producer Sennheiser who have a first class reputation in both this field and the production of ultra-high quality mikes.
Having several uses for high quality headphones (studio/Hi-Fi listening and on-stage tuning) the musician buyer must think hard before deciding which make of can he will buy. One contender would probably be the new-ish Sennheiser HD 230 model which retails at £74.95. We sampled a pair over several weeks' hard listening and these are our findings.
Probably the first consideration with any pair of headphones is not, as one might expect it to be, sound quality, but rather maximum comfort. However good a pair of cans may be, if they hurt after two sides of an album then they're useless to man, beast or heavy metal listener. The HD 230 Sennheisers certainly presented no problems here. The design of the cushion pads is such that they lightly grip the ear, forming a good closed seal from the outside air which rendered outside interference virtually absent. They weigh only 260 gms, so there is no problem there either. Some users, however, may not like the way in which the high quality reinforced cable joins beneath the chin, rather than leaving from one side of the headset. We didn't find it a problem, however. From a comfort and convenience point of view the Sennheisers scored 100%.
From a specifications angle the HD 230's look excellent. The quoted frequency range is 10-30,000 Hz - far outside the range of human hearing (which, at best is usually reckoned to stop at or before 20KHz) so why go up that high is anybody's guess! Still, it looks good on paper and may help in that it enables the headroom of high frequencies to be vastly more than with some other types.
"THE DESIGN OF THE CUSHION PADS IS SUCH THAT THEY LIGHTLY GRIP THE EAR, FORMING A GOOD CLOSED SEAL..."
Impedance is a nominal 600 ohms — a figure which created some problems which we have experienced with other headphones in that it didn't exactly match the output of our Japanese-made Alpage AL 80 cassette reference source, the sound level (even with the Alpage set up full) being too low for most tastes. Worth checking this vital matching question when buying your cans, of course. Nonetheless, the HD 230's were impressive with well controlled bass response, balanced with a very pleasing treble and quite realistic reproduction when compared with our reference JBL monitors.
The overall sound quality of the Sennheisers was good although there was, we felt, just a slight lack of real 'meat' in the sound when used in direct comparison with some other cans we have known. The sound tends towards the neutral, which may well not be what the rock listener wants, especially if he is looking for the sort of extended bass sound which a lot of players we know seem to like.
Nonetheless the Sennheisers cannot be considered to be in any way bad; rather, perhaps, not quite the sort of sound which some listeners more used to rock might be used to. For balance, however, the new two-way dynamic transducer employed here must be considered vey successful indeed.
Available with standard jack plugs, DIN connectors and a very clever device which Sennheiser call a 'Universal' connector (which enables multi headphone connections to be made from the one amp socket) the HD 230 is almost as much a system as it is a set of 'phones. There are optional extras available too such as stereo control units, distributor boxes and suchlike. Final verdict? Well, not to our personal, very subjective tastes when up against some other types — but that's just our ears, yours may tell you a different story altogether. Certainly the Sennheisers are very well made and designed and would appeal to many users. Worth checking out, no doubt about that, if you are prepared to audition carefully and know the sound you personally need.
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