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.
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.
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.
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.
That being said, the headphones are actually very durable compared with other plastic headphones like the exorbitantly pricedand 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.
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.