The $30 Sennheiser HD 201 headphones are a great value aimed at the infrequent user who's simply looking to upgrade from poor-quality stock earphones without spending a ton. The HD 201s are far from audiophile quality and lack the low-end oomph of pricier headphones from the competition, but we do recommend them to casual listeners who will find satisfaction in their comfortable build, balanced sound, and affordability.
Design and features
The HD 201 headphones are a full-size pair that incorporates a circumaural (over-the-ear) design and includes a 1/4-inch gold-plated adapter that easily pops onto the 1/8-inch plug. A limited swivel design is implemented into the hinge of the frame, and each earcup pivots slightly back and forth allowing one side to stay in place while the other side is off.
The oblong pads are black, replaceable, and primarily made of a leatherette material and foam padding with a cloth interior sewn in. The right and left earcups tip 20 degrees forward and back to its original position, although we can find no desirable benefit to this feature aside from its ability to fit a range of head shapes and sizes. The outside of the earcups are accented with an oval-shaped silver and black design, and the rest of the frame is black.
The hard plastic adjustable headband is well-padded inside the crown, and lightweight materials add comfort so little pressure is put on the head; however, the headband tends to focus its weight onto a small patch that touches the skull. As a result, the headphones tend to slide back and forth quite often. The HD 201s feel lightweight albeit slightly flimsy, but they survived several of our drop tests to prove their durability.
The traditional dual-sided, nondetachable, 10-foot straight plastic cord exits from both ear cups and terminates at the 1/8-inch plug--not exactly ideal for travel, but roll it up and it's not a big deal. The cords inside the cups are snug and secure.
We listened to the HD 201s with a Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q880 laptop (includes Dolby Home Theater technology), an Onkyo TX-L5 receiver, and the Apple iPod Classic, Creative Zen: Vision M, and Zune HD MP3 players. With a 24-ohm impedance level, it takes little power to drive these headphones, so they're easy on the batteries in portable devices but require a lot of current (i.e. a strong headphone jack or an amp) to sound best, especially when it comes to the bass.