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The Gizmo Report: Sennheiser's HD-280 headphones

A quick review of Sennheiser's HD-280 headphones.

I like to listen to music. I fell out of the habit for a while, but then I got an iPod, which got me interested again. Now I probably buy more CDs every three months than I did throughout the 1990s.

I'm addicted to New Music Tuesdays on the iTunes Music Store, mostly because of the "Free on iTunes" section. There's a lot of good music out there! And a lot of bad stuff, too, but when it's free, that's not so much of a problem.

Oddly, I can't seem to get interested in radio, whether delivered by terrestrial broadcast, satellite, or Internet. I just prefer to be my own DJ with iTunes on my MacBook Pro. I have a smart playlist that shows all my 4-star and 5-star music in reverse Last Played order, so it's easy to find something I like that I haven't heard recently.

I generally prefer to listen with headphones, even at home, where I use and love the HD 595 from Sennheiser.

But for the last couple of years at work, I've been using a cheap pair of headphones that happened to be the only acceptable closed-back product in stock at the local Fry's Electronics the day I decided to go shopping. Most headphones these days seem to be the open style, like the HD 595, but I figured I'd be polite to the people in adjacent cubicles at the office and keep my music to myself.

Finally I got around to upgrading, and I chose Sennheiser's HD 280 Pro.

I won't attempt to give a sound-quality analysis; I haven't been trained in that particular style of writing. Suffice it to say that the new 'phones sound excellent, much better than the cheap pair they replaced.

Unfortunately, I really wasn't happy with the fit. I had to choose between an acceptable level of pressure on my ears and a good fit for the headband. It was clear I had to adjust the tension of the headband, but it isn't designed to be adjusted.

Carbon-fiber stiffener
A piece of carbon-fiber reinforced plastic to be used as a stiffener for the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones Peter N. Glaskowsky

After studying the problem, I realized that if I could just straighten out the curvature of the top of the headband, I could get the fit I wanted. I measured the size of the stiffener I needed: 23mm wide, 80mm long, preferably not more than 1.5mm thick. Initially I figured I'd use a scrap piece of titanium for this purpose, but then I remembered some carbon-fiber scraps I had left over from panels I'd made for an earlier project, and one had a nice section remaining of just the right size. CFRP (carbon-fiber reinforced plastic) is much easier to work than titanium. I cut the piece I needed with a hacksaw, then smoothed and rounded the edges with a belt sander.

The stiffener installed
The stiffener installed on the headband of the HD 280 Pro headphones Peter N. Glaskowsky

The next day at the office, I removed the padded cover from the headband, attached the stiffener to the headband with several loops of strapping tape, and put the cover back on-- that was difficult because it was already a fairly snug fit. But it was made of vinyl, so it stretched enough.

The last thing was to add little rubber bumpers to the top outer surface of each earpiece to adjust the earpiece angle and balance the forces applied above and below my ears. (I'm not providing a picture of these bumpers because they're pretty ugly right now. :-)

And now... they fit perfectly, look almost unchanged, and sound great.

So if the shape of your head is within their adjustment range, or if you have some carbon fiber sitting around to make this kind of adjustment (I'm pretty sure titanium will also work), I can heartily recomment Sennheiser's HD 280 Pro headphones.