Sennheiser HD 202 II review

Choosing headphones is a tricky business if you’re an audiophile, the small percentage of people on this planet who (gasp!) care about the quality of the sound that goes into their ears from the equipment they paid money for. Other people just go to a shop and pick up whatever falls in their budget. Or the white ones. Audiophiles are the ones who adjust their budget according the equipment they want.

I’ve been using a pair of Audio Technica AD 700 for close to a year now. For those who aren’t aware, these are some of the most well respected pair of headphones around, known for their pristine clarity and a soundstage that extends three light years in either direction of your head. But as amazing as they sound, they have a flaw. They are not genre independent. The reason for this is the thin, lifeless bass response. Despite my hankering for a flat, neutral and uncolored sound, I do enjoy a bit of thump in my music, especially in genres that benefit from the aforementioned thump.

Any audiophile will tell you there is no such thing as a perfect pair of headphones. I’ve had the privilege of testing headphones that cost more than the GDP of several countries and although they are about as enjoyable as a unicorn ejaculating in your ears (I’m led to believe everything unicorns do is enjoyable) they only sound great with certain genres of music. Listening to hip-hop on a pair of audiophile quality headphones is like taking a yacht on land and expecting it to work just as well.

So the idea of a second, less expensive but more genre-independent or at least ‘fun’ pair of headphones has been going around in my mind for a while now. Headfonia seemed particularly fond of the Sennheiser HD 202 for this purpose. I’ve never heard these headphones in person but their description sounded close to what I was looking for. So I got the HD 202 II for myself. I’m not sure what’s the difference between these and the HD 202 but the older ones are no longer on sale and I’m guessing these are only better, if not worse (although they look identical).

I’m usually very wary of the audio equipment I purchase. I don’t trust anyone else’s opinion on the sound, other than my own. So I was hoping to not be disappointed with the sound after ordering these without any prior experience and based solely on online reviews. Fortunately, they turned out to be great.  Continue reading “Sennheiser HD 202 II review”


Audio Technica AD700 Review

I’ve had these for a while now and I’ve been holding out on writing this because first of all I wanted to put some hours on them, wearing the drivers out a bit, a process commonly called burning in. Secondly, I was waiting to get a headphone amplifier, which would let me get the best out of these headphones. Now that both things have happened, let’s get on with the review. 

I’ll start off with the sound because that’s what most people care about. Despite their audiophile credentials, the AD700 has a fairly colored sound, but it’s the exact opposite of what you usually find in mainstream headphones. Usually you find bass heavy sound with recessed mids and highs but the AD700 is nothing like that. 

Let me just put this out there right now, the bass on the AD700 is disappointing. No, I wasn’t expecting gut wrenching, ear canal cleansing bass from them anyway; I’m well aware of how audiophile headphones present bass. The emphasis is more on letting you hear the instruments that produce the bass rather than just create a meaningless thump, to create accurate, articulate low-frequency sounds, nothing more, nothing less. 

But the bass on the AD700 is not accurate. It’s quite simply, less. And this is my problem with it. I understand and prefer an accurate bass response but I don’t like this less-bass business. It just means I’m hearing less than what is actually there in the recording, which I find more offensive than pumped up bass. 

To describe it, I would say it is very tight. You feel the diaphragm of the drums in the music are suddenly being stretched tighter than usual, restricting their movement. Like hitting a table with the thin edge of a wooden ruler, the bass produced by the AD700 lacks sufficient body. It comes and goes quickly, without letting you revel in its presence. 

Moving on to other frequencies, the mid-range is colored. The upper mid-range is nuanced, which gives the sound an airier feel, especially when put together with the exaggerated high end. Yes, the treble is hot, with a bit too much sparkle. On some recordings it sounds fantastic, on other, sibilant. 

And that’s my other problem with the AD700; it’s too genre dependent. Stuff like trance, hip-hop, techno, any kind of electronic music and even pop lack the soul, which comes from their inherent bass response. But play some classical music or even rock and the AD700 really shines. Listening to a high-quality recording of a violin, for example, will give you goose bumps. Listen to Skrillex and you will feel your ears are being raped. But that just might be his music and not the headphones. 

The widely acclaimed soundstage is always there in full force, engulfing you with its three dimensionality. It’s why these headphones are so popular with gamers. That’s one of the reasons I bought them too because I love a big, wide sound. And it doesn’t get bigger or wider than the AD700. Not at this price point. But the games also have big bass, which the AD700 cannot produce. 

The design is another good thing about the AD700. To me they look great, even with that color combination. The unique floating wing design means they adapt to the size of your head automatically without manually having to set the headband length. I do however find them not clamping tight enough, even on my fairly large noggin. They are comfortable though, but you won’t quite forget they are there. 

Sound isolation is practically zero. You can hear everything around you and everyone hears what you listen to. That’s just how open-back design works. 

I think that’s about it. They cost Rs. 5,999 on Pristine Note ($120), so they’re not quite cheap. Unless you like the kind of sound I described above, don’t go for these. Go for something a bit more versatile, like the Sennheiser HD 518.