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Headphones

Sennheiser's surprisingly decent, low-cost headphones

Even this company's dirt cheap headphone model sounds good, and comes with a two-year warranty.

Now Playing: Watch this: Sennheiser HD 202 II closed-back headphones have universal...
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I review a lot of very expensive headphones, and not so expensive ones too. This time I wanted to look at a set of very affordable headphones, so I went for the Sennheiser HD 202 II headphones that cost $24.50 on Amazon in the US and £20 in the UK. I really liked what I heard, and it's not just me: CNET's Justin Yu and Amazon readers loved 'em too. The HD 202 II had 4,370 Amazon reviews, and 80 percent of them were four and five-star reviews!

The Sennheiser HD 202 II headphones.

Steve Guttenberg/CNET

I agree, it's a really nice, very well balanced sounding headphone. The bass, midrange and treble are fairly smooth, and it weighs just 4.6 ounces (130 grams), so it's reasonably comfortable. The biggest downside to the design is the cable, it's 10 feet (3 meters) long, but the HD 202 II comes with a belt-clip spool to help make the cable more manageable. Impedance is listed at 32 ohms, so these headphones are super easy to drive and played loud with my iPhone 6S.

Sure, the HD 202 II is made out of black plastic, so build quality is a far cry from what I see in $100 'phones, but Sennheiser backs up the HD 202 II with a two-year warranty. That's double the length of most headphones, including a lot of much more expensive ones!

Listening to Vanessa Fernandez's mostly acoustic Led Zeppelin cover album "When the Levee Breaks," the HD 202 II sounded especially natural on her voice, but the bass was too thick and muddy for my taste.

Undeterred I pitted the HD 202 II against MonoPrice's very decent $16.99/£17.59 Premium Hi-Fi DJ Style Over-the-Ear Pro Headphone (aka the Monoprice 8323). While the HD 202 II had a smoother and more spacious sound, the 8323 is a tad harsher and more closed-in. I selected the 8323 because it too has a large following with budget-minded audiophiles, but I preferred the HD 202 II for its superior clarity. Its sweeter treble was also apparent, the 8323's high-end is coarser. Frankly, there's no comparison, the HD 202 II is a better sounding headphone.

It just goes to show that it's possible to buy terrific headphones for very little money, and the Sennheiser HD 202 II is an outstanding value. Then again, hiking your budget to $80/£68 for the 1More Mk801 over-the-ear headphone gets you dramatically better sound and build quality.