Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.
Sennheiser offers a wide range of headphones, from inexpensive earbuds to full-blown audiophile extravaganzas. Its HD 515 'phones sit in the middle, with a list price of $109.
These contemporary-styled 'phones look a little bulky but weigh just 9 ounces, so their wearabilty is first-rate. The HD 515s feature especially large cushions, a deeply padded headband, and a nine-foot cable that terminates in a 1/4-inch plug (a 1/8-inch minijack adapter is also provided for use with portable devices). They have an open-backed ear-cup design, so they won't be the first choice for private listening.
Gothika, a creepy DVD starring Halle Berry as a psychologist wrongfully locked up in a mental asylum, palpably evoked its scary setting over the HD 515s. This movie is loaded with atmospheric effects, such as thunderstorms and driving rain, but our favorites were the noises from the asylum's faulty light fixtures, which constantly buzzed and rasped, sometimes sounding like they were actually over our heads.
The HD 515s sounded similar to Sennheiser's headphones but didn't match the more expensive model's rich bass response. CDs sounded brighter and more immediate, which suited David Bowie's vocals on the Ziggy Stardust SACD. We actually preferred the 515s for rock music because of their edgier, more exciting sound.
Hooked up to our iPod, however, the HD 515s sounded too bright and forward and wouldn't play terribly loud. The iPod didn't seem happy driving the 515s, which means they definitely won't be a good match for other MP3 players, most of which are much less powerful than Apple's trendsetting model.