It is rare when, as a studio owner, a new headphone comes along that provides enough value and quality to make you consider ditching your current collection. Sennheiser’s new HD 280 Professional headphone ($199) may do just that.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, live sound, location recording, broadcast.
Key Features: Closed, circumaural headphones; 113 dB max SPL; -32 dB ambient rejection; two-year warranty.
Contact: Sennheiser USA at 860-434-9190 Web Site
The Sennheiser HD 280 Professional headphones feature a closed-back, circumaural design (the ear cups totally surround the ear; supra-aural headphones sit directly on the ear) with a cushioned oval ear cup. An attached three-meter coiled cable terminates with an 1/8-inch gold-plated connector; a screw-on 1/4-inch adapter is provided.
The ear cups extend laterally, and also pivot in/outwards on Y-shaped brackets, accommodating a variety of head sizes and shapes. A pivot mechanism at the point where the Y-brackets attach to the headband allows the ear pieces to collapse inwards for storage and portability.
On the technical side, the HD 280 Pros feature dynamic, neodymium magnet-equipped transducers capable of producing a maximum SPL of 113 dB at 1 kHz/1Vrms. Nominal impedance is 64 ohms, THD is less than .1% and the stated frequency response extends beyond the human hearing range (8 Hz-25kHz, no +/- dB tolerance given).
In general, the HD 280s sound excellent. They are slightly weighted towards the upper-mids and above, with a tight bass and slight scoop in the “low-muds.” The HD 280s provide a wide stereo field, due in part to their clear top end. This makes them perfectly suited for critical analysis and evaluating stereo field placement.
The HD 280 is no lightweight, weighing in at over ten ounces and featuring wide, heavy-duty structural components. Durability and reliability are key in heavy-use commercial applications; after extensive use, I can confidently say the HD 280s are up to the task.
Equally impressive is the HD 280’s superb ambient isolation, providing up to 32 dB of external noise rejection. As described below, I benefited from this fact from both sides of the control room glass.
As a performer, less ambient noise meant less headphone volume was needed which, in turn, reduced ear fatigue. Better hearing response and happier performers during long sessions resulted.
As an engineer, I especially appreciated the reverse benefit of the HD 280’s ambient isolation and lower-than-usually-necessary headphone volumes: far less headphone bleed on the microphones!
In addition to several other brands and models of headphones, I compared the HD 280s to Sennheiser’s own similarly priced Evolution EH 2270 model.
In general, the Evolutions have a slightly “rounder” response (more upper-low and low-mids, less extreme highs), resulting in a solid center with less apparent channel separation. The HD 280s were noticeably lighter in the low-mids with a wide, pristine high end that succeeds in not crossing the line into “brittle.”
The biggest difference, however, is in the construction. Like any studio engineer, the common sound of performers dropping headphones on the floor after a take makes me wince; not so with the burly 280s.
On the downside, the heavier, bulkier build of the HD 280 reduces the “head is one with the headphones” feeling that lighter, smaller profile phones can impart. The width of the oval ear cup also proved to be a bit narrow for a few larger-eared folks.
Also, while ease of maintenance was clearly taken into consideration (two small screws provide transducer access and solderless pins allow for quick wiring changes!), I would prefer if the HD 280 either came with a straight cord instead of the stock coiled one; or, like the Evolution model, include a 1/8-inch jack for swapping cables.
As someone who has, through the years, owned upwards of 100 pairs of headphones, it is easy cast a cynical ear towards manufacturer’s claims of a breakthrough headphone product. But that is exactly what Sennheiser has produced with the HD 280.
Excellent acoustic isolation, rugged construction, ease of maintenance, good sonics and a bargain price make the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphone an unqualified “best buy.”
Samson S-phone headphone distribution amp; Hafler P3000 amplifiers; Shure KSM-44, Neumann U 87 and SM 69 microphones; API 251 and Drawmer 1969 mic preamps; Zaolla Silverline analog and digital cables.