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Sennheiser HD 202 II review: A comfortable over-ear headphone for audiophiles on a budget

Boasting a comfortable fit and an engaging sound profile, the Sennheiser HD 202 II is an excellent choice for your next pair of over-ear, closed-back headphones.

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Justin Yu
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Justin Yu

Associate Editor / Reviews - Printers and peripherals

Justin Yu covered headphones and peripherals for CNET.

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5 min read

The Sennheiser HD 202 II over-ear headphones have been on sale since 2009, but they continue to be a staple for music fans who don't want to spend over $400 on a flashy high-end pair. Sennheiser lists the retail price at $34.95, but you can get them at Amazon for just $22.25. Our UK readers will have to wait for their own Amazon release, but the UK Sennheiser site has them available now for £36.99. Aussies can pick them up at JBHifi for AU$63.

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7.3

Sennheiser HD 202 II

The Good

Closed-back design filters ambient noise, comfortable fit with extra padding on the headband, excellent sound quality for budget price tag.

The Bad

The 10-foot long cable is annoying to use outside the home, it lacks mobile controls and a microphone for smartphones, has a plastic frame.

The Bottom Line

If you're on a strict budget and can't spend more than $40, the Sennheiser HD 202 IIs are a worthwhile entry point for aftermarket cans, boasting a comfortable fit and the company's excellent signature sound.

Shopping for headphones is a personal choice both in comfort and sound quality, but when the price is this low you have to assume that Sennheiser designed these for the masses. Everything about these closed-back headphones are built for universal appeal, including a wide range of fit adjustments, replaceable synthetic leather earcups, and a relatively neutral sound profile with an emphasis on the higher end.

The company also markets these as DJ-specific headphones, but I recommend them for at-home private listening sessions, where you'll appreciate the nuances of Sennheiser's well-respected sound.

Design

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The HD 202 IIs have a closed-back design, meaning the earcups grip around your ears and filter out a decent amount of ambient sounds, which can be a useful feature if you want to block out noises on your commute or while you're walking around a loud city. Likewise, closed-back headphones keep your music private from the world around you and typically engulf you in a listening session more than their open-back cousins.

The "leatherette" material listed on the website is just a fancy word for fake leather, but that doesn't mean they're uncomfortable. Some users on Amazon complain about their initial stiffness, but the material will obviously get more pliable as you wear them. The headband holding the cups around your head is fitted with a range of articulation points and my unscientific jury fit testing with colleagues netted unanimously positive feedback.

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One design quirk to note is that the angle of the headband sits further toward the front of your head, which can take some time to get used to, but Sennheiser puts a little extra padding underneath the top of the band for extra comfort.

I spent about two weeks using these headphones as my daily go-to for music listening, and the comfort level is what you'd expect from a pair of headphones under $50. There's no extra frills here like memory foam or fancy spring-loaded adjustments -- these are plastic headphones, so temper your expectations accordingly.

Sarah Tew/CNET

That being said, the headphones are actually very durable compared with other plastic headphones like the exorbitantly priced Beats Studios and will very easily survive a fall from a reasonable height. The semi-rotating earcups don't give and flex as much as the competition's; Sennheiser includes a generous two-year warranty if you do happen to break them.

Still, if you're someone who listens to music all day long, you should consider replacing the earcups - the material has a tendency to heat up your ears after an hour or so of uninterrupted use. Luckily, it's really easy to just snap off the stock cups; the company even sells replacements pads online.

Features

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As with all headphones, you have the option to use these at home and outside, but there are a few limitations that keep me from recommending these as a mobile-friendly headset. First, the cord is 10 feet (3 meters) long which really secures them into the at-home category.

Sennheiser includes a clip in the box that lets you wind the cable around it and clip it to your belt, but who really wants to deal with that now that we have completely wireless headphones that are much more comfortable to use on the run.

The other limitation that favors the competition is the HD 202 II's lack of mobile controls and a microphone. Forget about keeping your smartphone in your pocket while switching tracks and adjusting volume on an in-line remote -- the wire on these guys is simply a straight cord that terminates in a 1/8-inch jack (a quarter-inch adapter is also included).

Sarah Tew/CNET

Finally, the headphones don't fold up for compact travel, nor does the company include a carrying case to protect the headphones in transit, which has me wondering why Sennheiser markets these as headphones for DJs.

If that's what you're looking for, you should pick up the Sennheiser HD 205 IIs, a step-up from the 202 IIs that come with rotating earcups for easy listening out of one ear, a storage pouch to protect your gear, and a fuller bass response.

Of course, none of those mobile drawbacks limit the HD 202 II's application at home, and I personally found myself enjoying them a lot more listening to records and MP3s around my apartment, where the long cable is actually an asset.

Performance

The HD 202 IIs carry a relatively neutral tonal balance with a frequency range of 18 to 18,000Hz and a 115 dB sound pressure level. Technical specs aside, that means you'll likely experience a big upgrade in sound quality if you're replacing the earbuds that came with your smartphone. By sound quality, I'm referring to the range of harmonies and details that amplify your listening experience, giving your ears a chance to access more instruments and sonic nuances in your music that would otherwise get buried.

Sarah Tew/CNET

I tested these headphones and compared them with a number of other budget and top-tier headphones including the MEElectronics HT-21 and the Koss PortaPros; both appear in our picks for the top headphones for the budget-minded on CNET.

Most of the cheaper headphones I listen to have a similar sound profile that's built for universal appeal no matter what genre you pump into them, and the HD 202 IIs are no different, although they do lack a bit of bass punch compared with the PortaPros, with a slightly tinny treble range than the HT-21.

Keep in mind, however, that those opinions are coming from someone who's listened to hundreds of headphones for comparison - if you're just looking for a pair of headphones that sound "good," you won't be disappointed by the HD 202 IIs.

Conclusion

Although the Sennheiser HD 202 IIs may not be the sexiest headphones in the game right now, it's unfair to criticize the design without mentioning the impressive sound quality, replaceable earcups, and comfortable fit that only gets sweeter with extended use.

You can explore other options in our roundup of the best headphones if you're extra picky about sound quality or want features like wireless connectivity and additional accessories, but anyone just shopping for a pair of great-sounding headphones for listening to music or watching movies at home should consider the Sennheiser HD 202 II.

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7.3

Sennheiser HD 202 II

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Sound 7Value 8