Sennheiser PX-100-II On-Ear Stereo Headphone review

Discussion in 'Headphone Reviews' started by dalethorn, Jan 5, 2015.

  1. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Youtube review:


    Sources: iPhone6+ with Portaphile Micro/PA2V2/Decware Zen Head amps using the LOD, various computers using Microstreamer/Beyer A200p/v-moda Verza DAC/amps.

    Review notes: My first impressions of the sound of the PX100-II are based on direct comparisons to other headphones - the v-moda M100 and XS, the FAD Pandora VI and IV, the Beyerdynamic T1 and T90, the AKG K812 and K712, and notes that I've accumulated from many prior reviews. I'll describe how I relate to the PX100-II (i.e. my personal tastes and how I use the headphone) only after covering all of the objective issues.

    I've avoided most low-cost headphones at this point for several reasons, the biggest reason being that the low cost of manufacturing doesn't allow the kind of detailed quality control in driver matching etc. to guarantee that the sound will be exactly the same (or close to it) from sample to sample. A second reason is the approximately 24 work hours required to test the headphone, make a video, process a couple of photos, and write the report - a lot of work if customers purchase the item and it doesn't sound very close to what the review describes. But, I had a PX100-II put away in storage with earpads that were essentially disintegrated, which happens naturally with these simple foam pads over time. When I discovered the headphone in storage, I ordered new earpads and ran some tests, at which point I decided to write this review. My previous review of 2011 did not include certain experience and associated utilities that I'm applying with this review.

    The primary utility I'm using for this review is the Audioforge equalizer, which allows me to 'flatten' the sound (to reduce resonance effects mainly), which in turn produces a chart that shows how the sound of the PX100-II varies from the average of the best headphones I've had. This review is aimed at audiophiles with extremely limited budgets, who use portable music players, and who need the very best headphone they can get for $49 or so. All other users should skip the critical analysis of the sound in the next paragraph, and read on from there.

    Out of the box, the PX100-II sounds great - in fact, I've had a number of headphones up to $200 that didn't sound as good. Some of those are made by Audio-Technica, Bose, Klipsch, Marley, Marshall, and Phiaton. The thing that all of those headphones share with the PX100-II is a basically good physical quality and drivers, such that applying EQ as I did made the sound very hi-fi with a great soundstage etc. The thing that the PX100-II does not share in common with those other headphones is the low price (the PX100-II price ranges from $49 and up). Without EQ, the deep bass is fairly weak and the treble is somewhat recessed. The amazing thing though is the lack of resonance effects that produce strong colorations in those other headphones, particularly the 'constricted' effect that other reviewers usually mention in their reviews. The PX100-II's lack of those colorations is due in no small part to being an open-back headphone, which of course limits its use outdoors or on public transport.

    The PX100-II has no isolation and leakage is total, so this headphone wouldn't be acceptable in offices, libraries, and possibly not even on noisy trains and buses etc. Both the overall weight and earpad pressure are very light, and I'd judge the PX100-II to be one of the most comfortable headphones I've ever used. This is an ideal portable headphone in the sense that it can be pulled off the head when not in use and worn around the neck with no comfort issues, but of course the isolation and leakage are the limiting factors for portable use. The range of adjustment for different head sizes is excellent - even better than many full-size headphones - about 1-3/4 inches on each side, where my average size head fits in the middle of that range. The cable is single-entry (ideal) but non-detachable, and while it's thin, it looks to be durable enough given the extremely light weight of the headphone. There are no music player controls or microphone with this model of the PX100-II.

    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 PX100-II compares with each individual track. Note that the comments below apply to the PX100-II's sound played with the Audioforge equalizer as noted above.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Sennheiser PX-100-II review part 2 - music tracks

    Animotion - Obsession (1980's New Wave/Techno): The upper bass synth has excellent detail and tone, and both male and female vocals sound natural without favoring either. The PX100-II plays this very well.

    Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead (~1980): Strong midrange sound effects - this is a good worst-case test for resonant-type sounds in the most sensitive midrange area. Handled perfectly by the PX100-II.

    Beethoven Symphony 9, Solti/CSO (1972): Excellent overall sound. Of special note here are the bass impacts beginning around 10:30 of the fourth movement. Those impacts are soft and well in the background, but you can feel some of the weight they carry with the PX100-II.

    Black Sabbath - Iron Man (Classic Rock): Very good instrumental detail and the vocal sounds very natural. As with most classic rock tracks, there is very little or no deep bass. The PX100-II plays this music smoothly, and the lack of deep bass doesn't unbalance the treble.

    Boz Scaggs - Lowdown (1976): Great sound quality - this is a good test for any nasality in the midrange. Handled extremely well by the PX100-II.

    Cantus - Danny Boy (Traditional/Male Choral/Acapella): The PX100-II plays the voices with enough low end warmth and weight to sound very natural, yet there is no added emphasis of the lower register of the male voices on this track.

    Cath Carroll - Moves Like You (1980's New Wave/Techno): This track's percussion and voice are crisp and well-balanced, and there's a good sense of space or soundstage around the voices and instruments. The PX100-II reproduces the space and detail very well.

    Catherine Wheel - Black Metallic (~1991): Goth with industrial overtones - I like this since it's a great music composition and the sound effects are smoothly integrated into the mix. This may sound distorted or mushy with some headphones, but the PX100-II renders the deliberate instrumental distortions clearly.

    Chris Isaak - Wicked Game (Pop/Rock): The PX100-II plays this high treble energy recording very smoothly - the voice and instruments are very detailed but not edgy - very musical in fact.

    Chromatics - I'm On Fire (Synth-Pop, female lead): This track has a good amount of space around the voice and instruments, making for a very pleasant stereo image. The voice is excellent, and the tambourine is clearly recognizable.

    David Hazeltine - Fur Elise (Jazz): A very high-quality recording from HDTracks. The PX100-II reproduces the instruments smoothly with a spacious ambiance. The wire-brush-on-cymbal harmonics are normally very extended and detailed, but the PX100-II needs some treble boost to get the full upper-harmonics effect.

    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 PX100-II plays this music perfectly.

    Hans Zimmer - Dark Knight-Aggressive Expansion (Soundtrack): The percussion in this track hits really hard, and the bass tones beginning around 0:45 have the ultra-deep "shuddery" kind of sound that indicates a solid deep-bass response, although the weight of those tones is somewhat light. The PX100-II plays this music extremely well.

    Heaven 17 - Let Me Go (1980's New Wave/Techno): The bass instrument (guitar?) has excellent detail, and the voices and ambiance have a "you are there" quality that's uncommon in early 1980's pop music. The PX100-II plays this track perfectly.

    Hugo Audiophile - 15-16 (Electronic): I'm not sure what the 15-16 stands for - perhaps track numbers from a CD album. The deep-bass tones that start around 33-34 seconds into the track reproduce very well with the PX100-II. 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.

    Jimmy Smith - Basin Street Blues (early 60's): This track has several loud crescendos of brass and other instruments that don't sound clean and musical with some headphones. The PX100-II provides great detail. Listen particularly to the second crescendo at 15 seconds in for best-case detail. I'd like to emphasize that these crescendos are probably the worst-case test I have for instrument separation and detail, and the PX100-II does those very well.

    Kellogg Auditorium, Battle Creek Michigan, Aeolian-Skinner Organ (1933) - Pedal, 32', Resultant, Arpeggio: This 16 hz organ pedal tone differs from other music tones in that you won't "hear" the tone - you'll only feel it. Although most music tones have harmonics (including this one), the harmonics from this tone will be too weak to provide any "feel", so whatever you actually hear would not be part of the fundamental 16 hz tone. There are ~30 hz sounds in the outdoor environment in big cities, generated by large trucks, buses, and subway trains, and they have a quality of "rumble" that's similar to some deep-bass tones found in music. This 16 hz organ tone is easily distinguished from those sounds when compared on a headphone that has good undistorted response at 16 hz. The PX100-II plays the fundamental tone fairly well, and the relatively low distortion is impressive.

    Mantovani - Sunrise Sunset (Easy Listening, ca. 1972): A master musician and conductor who specialized in light classics and orchestral pop music, Mantovani's accomplishments were overshadowed by music critics who couldn't tolerate the notion of "light classics" or "semi-classical" music, even when those recordings were no threat to the classical music genres. In any case the later Mantovani recordings from the mid-1960's through mid-1970's had the advantage of being mixed for much better hi-fi systems than those which the music critics possessed at the start of the Long Playing (LP) record cycle. Here in 2014, at least some of those digital remasters have improved the sound further, although it's not always the case. This track as played on the PX100-II is a perfect example of the sheer musicality lurking in those later recordings, and is highly recommended for soundstage, instrumental tone, and musical balance.

    Michael Tilson Thomas - Rhapsody In Blue (20th Century Classic): Great sound and soundstage, and terrific piano playing and tone. There are some very deep bass impacts starting around 38 seconds into the 17:24 length track, and the weight of those impacts is subtle with the PX100-II.

    Pinback - Non Photo Blue (Pop-Rock): Crispy sound with "crunchy guitars and bashing drums" - the PX100-II renders this music as perfectly as I've heard an energetic pop-rock recording played with any headphone.

    Porcupine Tree - Trains (Pop-Rock): This track opens with some nicely-detailed string sounds and a forward-sounding male voice with a higher-than-average register. There are a series of "clip-clop" effects starting at 3:19 that should sound like they were made with wooden blocks of some kind. The PX100-II reproduces that sound effect perfectly.

    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 PX100-II conveys that experience to some extent, but with less impact than the better headphones I've used. The Tympani have good impact here.

    Scarlatti-Kipnis - Sonata in E PX100-II K381 (Classical, Harpsichord): The harpsichord here is normally fairly bright and detailed, but the PX100-II needs some treble boost to render the tones and transients properly, and to reproduce the full upper harmonics of the harpsichord.

    Tiger Okoshi - Bootsman's Little House (Jazz): The trumpet here is recorded fairly close up and is somewhat bright with a significant "bite". The PX100-II's reproduction is near-perfect, and the close-miked piano is also a treat. For comparison, I have several Maynard Ferguson tracks that feature a similarly strong trumpet with lots of brassy bite.

    Trombone Shorty - Backatown (Jazz-Funk): The deep bass impacts here are strong and work extremely well with the horns and other instruments. The PX100-II delivers the impacts with decent weight and detail, and the horns have the kind of bite that gives them a wonderfully realistic sound.

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