It all started a few months ago when I was at a CD shop. They were using the Sennheiser HD202 headphones, and I was surprised at how musically involving those headphones were. I know we are all into high-end, high fidelity, audiophile, exotic, expensive headphones, and a $30 cans is the last thing we’ll look at when building a system. However, once in a while, a good cheap headphone can be fun.
We all know how picky high end headphones can be. Reading the review on the HD650, K701, and DT880 confirms that. As the level of fidelity goes up, somehow those headphones get more picky on the song they like and not like. Not to mention that the higher resolution reveals how crappy your favorite band’s recordings are, and that you can no longer listen to the Top 40 because most of the recordings have compressed dynamic range and overly bright treble. Then comes the requirements with the amps, which we all know is something our wallets hate. Last but not least, is the necessity to babysit your headphone, perhaps even more than your own baby daughter (if you have one)! Crap, that sounds like a world I don’t want to live in!
This is where headphones like the HD202 comes in. So while listening to it at the CD shop, I noticed that it was really good, even playing different genres of music. It can tell it was a true Sennheiser in the sense that it has a relatively smooth and laid back sound, and with a good low end. It is not as “heavy” (as in slow-paced) as the HD650, but it was pretty nimble and it still works really well with the faster Rock stuff. Of course, it’s not as fast and PRaTty HD25-1, but again, the HD202 does have a wider genre bandwith than the $200 HD25-1. This headphone can take on a lot of different music, and come up with an 8/10 presentation for every one of them, including Rock, Pop, Top40, Jazz, or even Classical.
One day, I felt like wanting to buy a new headphone but I didn’t want to spend $300 on it, so I went out and got the HD202. I got home, listened to it, and everything was as good as I remembered it to be on the CD shop. Of course mine was better since the one on the CD shop had old tattered pads that felt uncomfortable to wear. I also owned the HD201, and think it’s better to spend a little bit extra to get the HD202, mainly due to the added low end and better acoustics from the different housing design (the HD201 had more reverb issues, so it sucks for classical and jazz). And while the HD201 has a more neutral tone, the added low end body on the HD202 puts just the proper amount of weight to the music, while still quite far from a bassy headphone definition.
The laid back stance didn’t feel as dark as a HD650 either, most probably because the HD202 didn’t have as much bottom end as the HD650. And within the laid back stance, you get a surprisingly good treble presence, but toned in such a way that they don’t become intrusive on mainstream recordings. The midrange area is quite full bodied and smooth (something you wouldn’t expect for a $30 headphone). Though the vocal, strangely, can be a little backward on some recordings. You would never find the bass presence to be lacking (if you do, then let me certify you a true basshead), although the punch is not as good as I would like it to be (aka, a little weak). The bass is also a tad boomy, though I certainly don’t mind given the price point.
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