Sennheiser HD-380 Pro Studio Monitor Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Nov 30, 2013.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    Youtube review: Sennheiser HD-380 Pro Monitor Stereo Headphone Review by Dale - YouTube

    Sources: iPhone5 alone, iPhone5 with FiiO E07k using LOD, various computers using the Audioengine D3 and HRT Microstreamer DACs/amps.

    First impression of the Sennheiser HD380 Pro: A strong bass, slightly recessed treble, and a somewhat distant perspective in voices and midrange instrumental sounds. Adjusting up the treble by about 3 db to match my ideal treble strength (the B&O H6, which isn't bright and never sounds harsh or sibilant), the sound becomes less distant and the bass seems better balanced. With this correction, the overall sound of the HD380 Pro is wonderful, in a word. I rarely compare two headphones for very fine detail since most headphones sound very different from each other, and the colorations in those headphones command much more of my attention than the usually minor differences in detail. But even though the HD380 and the Shure SRH1540 are far apart in price, they have a very similar design and fit and the sound is also similar. But the 1540 does have noticeably better detail, so in this case I feel comfortable saying that each sounds great and offers great value for the price. Especially so the HD380.

    The HD380 build quality seems quite good, but the bulky projections of the sides of the headband make it a home or studio headphone for me, not a portable. My most important qualifier for portability is to be able to pull the earcups down and wear the headphone around my neck all day when not listening, and even though I can do that with the HD380 by folding the earcups flat, the earcups bump against my chin much of the time, so it's not an especially comfortable around-the-neck carry like so many other headphones. The headband has a very strong clamp compared to most modern headphones, but the earpads have the soft squishy foam inside, and that combined with the large earcup interiors that don't press against any of my outer ear parts makes for a very comfortable fit. People who aren't familiar with many of the studio monitor-type headphones may have an unfavorable first impression of the HD380 when they experience the clamping force for the first time.

    While the HD380 earpads are very comfortable due to the soft foam they contain, the earpad covers are a very low-cost paper-like plastic that Sennheiser also uses on the PX-200 series and the HD280 Pro. In any case, if you use the HD380 heavily, expect to replace the earpads within a year after your purchase. The soundstage seems at least average or better for a good closed headphone, and it improves noticeably with a good headphone amp. Sennheiser specifies the HD380's impedance as 54 ohms, and my experience says that it's very efficient, so I would expect uniform performance on nearly any music player or headphone amp, with the only differences being the improvements that DACs and amps at various quality and price points bring to the sound. The isolation is at least average for a closed headphone, and leakage is low enough that if you're in a very quiet office in a cubicle right next to other cubicles, the adjacent co-workers won't likely hear any of the sound unless played at very loud volume levels.

    The cable is very strong, and seems to be detachable only in the sense that the earcup can be disassembled and the parts replaced as needed. The plug is the standard 3.5 mm 'miniplug' type, and comes with a screw-on 1/4 inch adapter. A very nice slim, stiff zippered carrycase is included, and that alone is worth $20 or more given what I've paid for comparable cases for other headphones. Summarizing the sound of the HD380, with a modest treble boost it's marvelous, but even when played flat it's quite good, especially for the price. In previous reviews I've included the following music examples with comments about how the headphones sound with each track. My suggestion is instead of reading each one as an absolute unto itself, you could compare my notes here to those other reviews and see how the HD380 compares with each individual track.
     
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Active Member

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    HD-380 review part 2 - music tracks

    Ana Victoria - Roxanne (Pop Vocal): Spacious sound, good bass tone and impact, and the vocal sounds very natural. Excellent reproduction by the HD380.

    Ben Goldberg - Root and Branch (Jazz): Realistic you-are-there sound with great instrumental reproduction. The HD380 plays this extremely well.

    Benedictines Of Mary - O Come Emmanuel (Medieval/Female Choral/Acapella): Very spacious sound and natural reverb for a large recording venue (cathedral). The HD380 makes the voices come alive.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Excellent instrumental detail - the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The HD380 plays this music very smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Candy Dulfer - Lily Was Here (Jazz): Narrow soundstage, but excellent detailed instrumental tone. The HD380 gives this a reasonable sense of space, but in spite of being a modern recording, the net effect is only slightly better than enhanced mono.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The HD380 plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural. In spite of my impression that the HD380 has a strong bass, there is no exaggeration of the low end of the male voices on this track.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The HD380 plays this high treble energy recording with perfection - the voice and instruments are highly detailed but very smooth.

    Daft Punk - Lose Yourself to Dance (Electronic/Disco): Less than hi-fi quality recording, but the voices are very good. There's a decent amount of bass impact, but the bass doesn't have much detail.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The HD380 reproduces the instruments perfectly with a you-are-there ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are very extended and detailed.

    David Lynch-Lykke Li - I'm Waiting Here (Soundtrack/Vocal): Dark, moody song - Lykke's voice is very detailed, the strong bass impacts are very good, but most of the instrumentation is soft and kept in the background. The HD380 plays this music very well given the sonic limitations.

    Dream Theater - Take The Time (Metal): The sound quality here is limited, but the HD380 is smooth enough to bring out the details in this very busy music without verging on harshness.

    Genesis - Follow You Follow Me (Pop/Rock): The HD380 plays this old and less-than-ideal recording well enough to enjoy, but the soundstage is fairly narrow.

    Giant Drag - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): Annie Hardy's version of the Chris Isaak hit has a lot of energy, but the quality is limited - still the HD380 pulls out enough detail to be a pleasant listen.

    Grieg (Beecham-Royal Philharmonic) - Peer Gynt-Solveig's Lullaby (Classical): This very old (late 1950's) stereo recording must have been made on the most expensive gear in the world, since the overall sound quality and especially Ilse Hollweg's amazing voice are as close to "being there" as I've heard with some of the better classical recordings made since the year 2000. The HD380 makes this an outstanding listen.

    Hubert Kah - The Picture (New Wave): This track has great bass detail and weight at the same time, which I find unusual for this type of 1980's pop music. The HD380 plays this music very well.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The strong deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the HD380. This is a great recording for evaluating whether a headphone's bass will be sufficient for most environments, since for many headphones that have a weaker bass, the deep bass gets absorbed and mostly lost when the environment contains a lot of low-frequency energy.

    Korn - Another Brick In the Wall (Rock): Aggressive rock that's very satisfying for hard-rock fans. The HD380 plays this perfectly, which is to say, with proper edginess and bass impact, yet without unintended sonic harshness.

    Kunika Kato - Fur Alina (Vibraphone): A very unusual instrumental - the tone quality is unlike anything I've heard before. Recording close-up is part of the magic here, but the HD380 does the rest in reproducing the full harmonics of this amazing instrument.

    Michael Buble - Nice 'n Easy (Easy Listening/Jazz): This is the only track I bought by Michael Buble, but it's a great recording and vocal performance. The sound of the backing band here is rendered extremely well by the HD380, and the voice isn't pumped up for Loudness Wars thankfully.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone, brought to life by the HD380. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and those impacts have a very impressive weight with the HD380.

    Muse - Madness (Rock): The bass in this track has great impact and detail with the HD380, and although the voice is somewhat forward, it doesn't interfere with my appreciation of the bass line here.

    Phaeleh - Afterglow (feat. Soundmouse) (Electronic/Vocal): The instrumental sounds that begin this track are played very nicely by the HD380, but the voice tends to overwhelm those background sounds - until the heavy bass impacts kick in. If there is any doubt about whether the HD380 will play heavy impactful bass with good detail (if such sounds are really in the recording), this track is the proof. If you were to begin your HD380 listening with this track, you might think you were listening to a headphone that has a very boosted but tight and detailed bass. Simply amazing.

    Richard Strauss (Mester-Pasadena) - Also Sprach Zarathustra (opening) (Classical): The granddaddy of bass is in the opening 1:50 of this recording, and I've heard it only once on a large and expensive loudspeaker system in Cleveland. For most people, that experience would be indistinguishable from being in a fairly strong earthquake. The HD380 conveys as much of that experience as is possible on headphones. The tympani also have excellent impact here.

    Sargis Aslamazian - The Sky is Cloudy (Classical/Armenian): The National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia has a great classical program, and the HD380 plays this music with good separation, tone, and big-orchestra precision.

    Satri-Tomoko Sonoda - All The Things You Are (Jazz): This track came from Bakoon Products, who make high-quality audio amplifiers. There's a lot of upright bass plucking in this track, and the HD380 plays it well, although it's recorded pretty close-up and may sound somewhat boomy at times.

    Tommy Smith - Johnny Come Lately (Jazz): Small-combo jazz - sax, piano and drums. The sound is fairly close-up but well-recorded, and sounds very nice with the HD380, although the wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are not as extended as on the David Hazeltine track above.
     
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