Sennheiser HD205 II DJ Style
Sennheiser is usually associated with words such as "elite" and "expensive," but you can now add "budget-conscious" to that list as well. The Sennheiser HD 205 II DJ Headphones ($80 list price, $49 to $59 online) are part of the company's HD 200 series budget line and designed for use by DJs and recording artists.
The HD 205 II is a midsize pair of headphones that incorporates a semienclosed circumaural design and is backed by Sennheiser's two-year warranty. Included is a large, thick vinyl carrying bag and a 1/4-inch gold-plated adapter that screws onto a 1/8-inch plug. The construction is decent, but it does flex a bit. Longevity may be an issue, but how much wear and tear is inflicted ultimately depends on the user. After moderate use, however, we did a notice a distinct creaking sound coming from the left side frame of the headphones when adjusting the band.
The company's logo is modestly displayed in silver on top of the headband, while its emblem is embossed in silver and prominently displayed at the left and right hinges. The replaceable pads are black, circular, and primarily made of vinyl, with a cloth interior sewn in. The right earcup rotates slightly upward at a 40-degree angle, in both directions, for monitoring with one ear, and helps keep the frame of the headphones in place. The outside of the cups is accented with a circular silver design, while the rest of the frame is black.
The hard plastic adjustable headband is a snug fit, but is adequately padded on the inside of the crown, providing exceptional comfort for long-term use while limiting ear fatigue. (Note that comfort level may vary based on head size, as the tight fit may be an issue for some and not for others.)
The single-sided, non-detachable, 10-foot-long straight cord exits from the left earcup 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 swiveling cord inside the cup raises questions about how securely the cord is attached and how long the unit will last over time.
The semienclosed design of the HD 205 II shields against ambient noise--whether underground, in the street, or in the office--so well that we couldn't hear a conversation going on between two co-workers sitting 8 feet away from the testing area. Correspondingly, there was minimal sound leakage from the headphones, even at high volumes; the only way others could hear music coming from the headphones was if they were less than a foot away.
We used the HD 205 II headphones in conjunction with a Toshiba Qosmio X505-Q880 laptop (with 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 32-ohm impedance level, it takes little power to drive these headphones, so they're easy on the batteries in portable devices.
As far as sound goes, the bottom ends aren't as detailed as those of the 7-year-old HD 212 Pro, but the HD 205 II is accentuated, and is much better than the Shure SRH440 Professional Studio Headphones, which had insufficient bass. The high frequencies are dialed back a bit on the HD 205 II, but the tops and bottoms are more in balance than the 212's. The bass is rock solid, tight, and surprisingly deep without being too aggressive--more than enough to keep the head bouncing.
The mids are noticeably recessed in the overall mix. The uppermost treble range remains reasonably well-controlled, managing to avoid the deadly sin of edgy harshness. This is important when using portable digital audio sources that may tend toward a brittle sound in the higher frequencies.
The highs on Major Lazer's "Guns Don't Kill People...Lazers Do" album sounded crisp and clean, while the lows were subtle yet smooth on Marvin Gaye's "Midnight Love" album. The overall soundstage for a variety of genres ranged from great to just OK. Most electronic music and instrumentals failed to achieve the transcendent significance intended by the DJ or artist, while big band struggled to create that toe-tapping feel. Dub-step and hard rock sounded somewhat muddled and not as powerful on the downbeats.
The HD 205 II's bass levels came across dynamic and powerful when we tried watching "Inception"--one explosion after the next had noticeable impact and shattered glass was loud and clear. Still, precision and clarity seemed to weave in and out--the sound of a gun being cocked or Cobb's totem spinning was crisp, but crowd murmurs and some background noise, such as traffic, were a bit lackluster.
Adjusting the equalizer settings on your device or adding a headphone amplifier increases the performance and overall clarity, but don't expect miracles, as the Sennheiser HD 205 II DJ Headphones are budget cans, after all. To expect professional-grade sound would be asking too much, but they do perform well for everyday casual listening and for DJs in training.