During a session with an R&B artist, I was laying down some new songs which were starting life as stereo acoustic guitar and vocal, so three tracks. It wasn’t certain at that point how the final arrangements were going to work out. We knew that one of the songs would have the full works, so drums, bass, acoustic and electric guitars, vocals but the others were less certain.
So we decided it was sensible to use a click track and that’s where the problems started …
The artist had toured as a drummer for many years and his hearing was, well let’s just say less than 20:20. I tried a variety of headphones but at the levels he needed to use there was serious bleed of the click on to the vocal microphone.
I had a frantic hunt on-line for a pair of headphones with really good ‘closed ear’ isolation and next day a pair of Sennheiser HD280 Pro’s arrived. Sennheiser had described them as having ‘aggressive noise isolation’ and I was crossing my fingers that the description was accurate. I was heartened by the number of DJ’s and FOH engineers who recommended them for noisy environments. Of course my issue was the other way round … I wanted to keep the noise in!
A quick test with the artist in question found that the HD280’s were up to the job. Click track leakage into the vocal mic all but disappeared and we were back in business. After the session I had the opportunity to have a critical listen to the HD280s and evaluate their comfort levels and sturdiness.
The HD280s have a black plastic based construction with sealed back circumaural earpieces i.e. they are designed to completely enclose the ears, hence the high levels of isolation. The headband is adjustable for length and the top and ear cushions are just the right softness and very comfortable. Unlike some other high isolations headphones, the pressure against the side of the head is quite modest. This combined with low weight (285g excluding cable) means they are very comfortable to wear even for long sessions.
I’m not a great fan of coiled cables but at least the HD280s have a 50cm uncoiled section of cable as it exits the left ear driver. As it usual these days, the jack plug is 3.5mm with a screw on ¼” jack adapter, both gold plated. Sadly there is no all straight cable option and the jack cord is hard wired.
Usefully, the head pieces can be folded flat for storage and spare ear pads are available as a spare part from Sennheiser.
Coming to the audio specs, frequency response is quoted as 8Hz to 25kHz (but no curve is provided) and THD is spec’d at 0.1%. It’s not clear what level this THD measurement is taken at but Sennheiser do quote a max SPL of 113db. The drivers present a load of 64ohms to the headphone amp and in practice they don’t need to be driven very hard to obtain a decent listening level.
And how do they sound?
Both the bottom and top ends (so bass drum, bass guitar, cymbals) are crisp and low distortion even when pushed, with no false extension. The top end in particular is very well balanced.
Vocals have good clarity but can sound a little bit boxy when sitting in a complex mix. Overall the song elements are distinct but also cohesive in the mix.
Closed headphones are never going to have the spacious reproduction of a pair of quality open backed headphones but if you have this in mind then the Sennheiser HD280s will serve you well when tracking in the studio, or for live mixing duties.
At the time of writing, the HD280 Pro is selling for around £92 €105 $100
Highly recommend when you need a high isolation headphone.
Full specification on the Sennheiser website here