Sennheiser HD 500 Fusion Stereo Headphones Review - The MP3 Test
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Since I bought these for review purposes, my first stop wasat the place where I spend a good chunk of my time: the Developer Shed, Inc.central office. As soon as I got into the office, those puppies went fromin-the-box to on-my-head. Immediately, I noticed how light they felt. So muchso, in fact, that I began to wonder whether they were really as fragile as theyseem. As it turns out, they really aren't. Unlike other Sennheiser headphonesI've used, these had a standard 1/8 inch jack as the default, as opposed to thecustomary 1/4 inch. A 1/8 inch to 1/4 inch converter was included with theheadset, however*. Eager to test the headphones out, I plugged the 1/8 inchjack into my Dell Dimension 4600, which came pre-installed with a Creative Sound Blaster Live! sound card.I immediately found a few of my favoritesongs and started to jam along. The list included Ghanan Ghanan Ghir Ghir Badra from the film Lagaan, J.S. Bach's third BrandenburgConcerto, and Koda Kumiís RealEmotion (yes, I admit, Iím a FinalFantasy fanatic). I know MP3s are not exactly optimal for testing any sortof sound output device, but let's face it: if you're reading this, chances arethat you spend a good chunk of your music-listening time with MP3s on yourcomputer or portable MP3 player. I don't believe that these speakers were meantexclusively for sources like DVDs and CDs, and besides, I never make MP3s atless than a 256 bit rate, which ensures pretty good quality in most cases.
*For those of you whomight not be familiar, a 1/8 inch jack is the standard size connection found inmost computers, portable CD, and MP3 players. The 1/4 inch jack is normallyused with higher-end, as well as older sound equipment.
Right away, I noticed a couple of things. First, theheadset's sound quality was incredible; the sound was crisp and clean, as thespeakers beautifully handled stereo sound localization techniques. This had theeffect of making the sound seem like it was all in my head, instead of comingout of a pair of speakers. This allowed me to enjoy not just the music's beats,as felt in Ghanan Ghanan Ghir Ghir Badra,but also its subtle nuances, from the interplay between the chamber orchestra'sinstruments performing the Brandenburg to the precision crafted andengineered Techno/Pop sound of RealEmotion. Furthermore, tones were well represented across the spectrum,although the sound was a little bass-heavy, a common trait in closed-ear designheadphones, such as these at first seem to be. I'll explain why I say that abit later. Still, I noticed sounds and effects with this set that I had neverbefore heard. In fact, this was the case with almost everything I tested. Iwon't go into the specifics of what I heard within each piece, but it sufficesto say that in each I was able to discover a whole new dimension of sound.Truly a wonderful experience!
Just for the record, my tests consisted of using the basicsettings in Windows Media Player and MusicMatch Juke Box under Windows, as wellas XMMS, Xine, and GNOME-CD under Red Hat Linux 9, which is loaded on my dellInspiron 8000 and has a Maestro-3isound card installed. I also did a quick test with the Creative Sound Blaster MP3+ USB2 External Soundcard, but it wasn't particularly thorough. The headphone's quality shone acrossall programs and platforms, although the difference in audio sources wasnoticeable. This is the first set of headphones with which I've been able toclearly differentiate sound sources, revealing the superiority of the Sound Blaster in my desktop computer tothat of the Maestro-3i. This was aheck of an accomplishment for headphones this inexpensive.
Unfortunately, the rest of the people in my office couldhear the music coming out of my headphones. This is normally a problem withopen-ear designed headphones, but it's the first time I've encountered theproblem with the closed ear design. In fact, I could also easily hear soundscoming from outside the headset, something which, again, I haven't oftenencountered with quality, closed-ear design headphones. When Iím wearingheadphones, I donít care to hear anything but whatís coming out of them. Similarly, I don't care to hear what other people are listening towhen they're wearing headphones.Intheir defense, Sennheiser describes these as having a ďsemi-open-airĒ design, whichmight explain why sound could so easily come in and out of them. With paddingas thick as these headphones have, I found that a bit hard to believe, at leastat first. The more I used them, however, the more I could understand whySennheiser went this route; the design of these is geared heavily towardscomfort. Although the padding does some soundproofing, its focus on comfort mayhave compromised its capabilities to do so. The comfort of the headphone'spadding, which allowed me to wear the set for hours and, in once instance, fallasleep with them on, is something worthy of complement. I'd like to see somebetter soundproofing from these, but not at the cost of current comfort.
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