It’s been a good run, my friend
After nearly four years of dutiful service my regular pair of closed back headphones, a Bang & Olufsen H6 (2nd gen) has finally started showing signs of physical material deterioration. More specifically some of the glue that kept the right side of the headband together has dried up and/or lost its adhesion.
The result is that the right side material is starting to dig into my head when I wear them now which is not comfortable. As this is a headphone I wear for many hours of my usual day, this situation is obviously not ideal. The warranty period for this pair had expired in 2018 and I don’t have the know-how or required glue/other adhesive material to fix this at the moment.
So I set out to look for a new pair of headphones for my daily usage.
So going into this set I had a few requirements for what I wanted in a replacement:
- closed back
- comfortable to wear for hours on end
- neutral sound
I wanted closed back because I prefer the natural sound isolation that they provide, this is ideal for my common situations like really listening to a album closely or using music to focus on another task (like writing this blog post for example!).
Comfort is one of the most important requirements because as I mentioned earlier I am going to be wearing these for hours on end and the bar for comfort had been set by the aforementioned B&O H6 2nd gen.
Wired is a requirement because I do not want the audio quality degradation that comes from Bluetooth usage and also I did not want another battery to have to worry about. This requirement is seemingly is getting harder to meet these days, a lot of consumer audio brands really seem to have start focusing on Bluetooth wireless audio. For example, one of the first places I started my search was the B&O website where I found that they no longer make wired headphones at all.
I should note at this point that I am not completely opposed to Bluetooth wireless audio and in fact I have a pair of the Apple AirPods Pro which I love using, its just that wireless is not suitable for my desktop audio listening use cases.
The last requirement will require a section of it’s own so I will come back to it later.
The Chosen One
The second place I looked was the Sennheiser website. This was because I already had one of headphone products, a Sennheiser GAME ONE, which was essentially one of their open headphones with a mic attached to it. As the model name suggests, it was targeted at a gaming use case which is what I used it for. More specifically I used the mic for voice communications when playing video games. While these were open back they were comfortable enough for regular usage so that was a promising sign.
Upon further browsing, I came by the Sennheiser HD 300 Pro in their pro audio section. It advertised all my requirements right up front and the price point was reasonable for a headphone of this calibre from Sennheiser so I pulled the trigger on the purchase directly via Sennheiser’s website.
They arrived on the 4th of May and I’ve been using them ever since. Let’s get into the specifics. I am going to start by talking about physical aspects like the build quality and the comfort.
Straight out of the box this headphone looked like it was well designed and the material felt sturdy. They aren’t particularly heavy but not very lightweight either, it felt just the right weight.
The headphone comes with a 1.5m cable with a 3.5mm jack at the end which is adequate for my needs. Sennheiser also provide a 1/4″ adapter jack if you have one of those audio output ports to plug into. I don’t but I think that’s a nice touch.
The other end is screwed into the left side of the headphone with T10/TX9 screws and looks like a proprietary Sennheiser interface of some kind. So these are replaceable but I would imagine you would have to buy the replacement from Sennheiser and also have the right screwdrivers. The ear cushions and the headband padding also seem to be replacement from a glance at the quick guide documentation provided in the box.
Now, let’s talk about the comfort factor of these headphones. Immediately after readjusting the headband sides to the right amounts and putting these on I realized they were just perfect from a comfort perspective. The headband cushions made it so that the headphones rested comfortable up top. The clamping force onto my ears from the pads was just right. To confirm that they would be comfortable for long periods of usage I spent most of yesterday and today with them on with no discomfort. So, kudos Sennheiser this particular aspect was exactly as advertised and I am very glad it is.
The Audio and the Neutrality Factor
Before I get started on this section I should outline my setup: the Sennheiser HD300 Pro is plugged into the 3.5mm headphone port on my FiiO E10K which is a USB DAC connected to my desktop computer. These headphones have 64 ohm impedance which is well within the E10K’s recommended impedance range (16-150 ohms).
I started my testing with one of my most favourite albums, The Weeknd’s Starboy and then followed by Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories. Both of these albums sounded absolutely fantastic on these headphones. Random Access Memories especially really shone, the small details in the production were delightfully audible and just listening to it put a smile on my face.
Let’s talk about the neutral sound of these headphones and why I prefer this particular sound. The HD300 Pro is targeted and designed for audio professionals so it is a monitoring headphone with neutral sound.
In my opinion, this is what every headphone should be aspiring to do. The headphones should stay as neutral as possible in their output and let the audio source’s production shine through. I don’t think a neutral sound is necessarily a “cold” or “sterile” sound either. The aforementioned Daft Punk album is one of the warmest sounding albums I’ve ever heard and all that warmth can be heard on these just fine.
A neutral sounding headphone also gives you much more flexibility in the kinds of audio that can sound good on them and you can use a equalizer if you want to tune how certain kinds of audio sound without having to worry about the headphone getting in the way. To put it in a different way with an example, if a headphone is tuned to be bass heavy that is in my opinion extremely disrespectful to a music producer who probably had a certain sound in mind when they produced a track and it also may hide certain other aspects of the track that the producer wanted to highlight.
To conclude this particular section, headphones should get out of the way and let the user tune the sound using software and/or hardware means like a equalizer or specific DAC/AMP specific effects instead of tuning towards a particular sound.
All in all I think the Sennheiser HD300 Pro is the perfect headphone for me. It meets all of my requirements and also in fact exceeds expectations on the comfort side of things. I would gladly recommend these to anyone who is looking for a good pair of closed back headphones.