Sennheiser HD410, HD414, and HD424

If you A/B these cans with a newer, more modern headphones, you will immediately hear that the vintages loses in technical capabilities. They lack the extension at both end of the spectrum, the detail, and the bass capabilities of modern open phones. Strangely enough, everytime I put these Sennheisers, there is a certain magic with them that puzzles me. Where any modern cans impresses with the punchy bass, the clarity and every other technical superiority, these vintage Sennheisers have a plain uncolored sound that attracks you as long as long as you have good music playing behind it.

From rock tracks to opera music, these vintages keep you attached to the music for hours and hours without any fatigue or coloration. When a friend came by and I told him to take a listen to the HD424, I asked him, “What modern phone can you compare this headphone to?” We thought for a long time, and we couldn’t come up with anything that is similar to these Senns.

They remind me of listening to old vintage recordings where the recordings seems flat, without any extreme mixing or digital effects that we find on the modern recordings. Side by side, the modern recording will have a more intimate vocal, more detailed instruments, while the vintage will sound flat and dull. With modern headphones, you sort of have the same treatment as modern recording: a boost here and there to make the listening experience more euphoric. But the problems with modern headphones is that they often have an unnatural sound and coloration because of that “treatment” to the sound.

It’s a bit like Equalization, where you find that a certain equalizer setting do wonders with some music, but ruins another type of music, and eventually you settle for a flat setting or no equalization. These Senns are like having no equalization. They sound flat and neutral, but they just plays anything and as long as the music is good, they will keep you attached to the music for hours and hours. They have no sharp treble, no overpowering bass, no strange coloration, no frequency spikes, and almost no genre limitations. They were built for monitoring, they have to be flat.

I would nominate these Senns for the best low-level listening headphones. As I’ve said, it’s perfect for the office. I’m listening to the HD424 as I’m typing this. If a modern phone sometimes is so euphoric that they distract you from your work, the vintage Sennheisers are involving enough but still lets you focus on your work. I think everyone ought to give these Senns a try and see if they have the same magic they do to you. I can’t seem to take these Senns off of my head.

From all three, the HD424 is the most desirable model. It has the biggest, fullest sound, and it is the most comfortable to wear. Of course it also needs the biggest gain, but if you plan on using it only for low level listening, you should be fine with a regular amp. The HD410 is sort of in-between, having a high impedance that it needs an amp, but still doesn’t offer the big full sound of the HD424. The HD414 Anniversary Edition is probably the easiest one to try, being the most widely available and the lowest impedance out of all three headphones. Regardless of which version you end up getting, these vintage Sennheisers are really worth a try.

 


GOOD:
Very flat and netural sound that doesn’t color the music. Fairly affordable.

NO GOOD: Lack the technical capabilities, and the groove of modern phones. Can be very hard to drive.

System for auditioning:

Headphones: Sennheiser HD410, HD414, and HD424
Source: CEC CD5300 CD Player
Amplifier: Beta22 3-Channel

Special thanks to Neob and Edwin for making this review possible.

Sennheiser HD410, HD414, and HD424
4.4 (87.27%) 11 vote[s]

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33 Comments

  • Reply July 6, 2011

    Tjpines

    I’ve had my HD424’s since the mid-1970s, and I still enjoy them today.  I drive them from the headphone jack on my Yamaha C-55 preamp; power amp is a Marantz 15.

    • Reply July 7, 2011

      Anonymous

      Nice! I miss listening to the HD424.

  • Reply July 14, 2011

    Johnny Siu

    I have had my HD410 since 70’s.  Now my children have grown up and they love their dad’s headphone.

  • Reply December 16, 2011

    Chris in LA

    The 424’s you have pictured above, with black end caps, seem to be scarce as hens teeth. Nearly every pair I’ve seen on the market have silver caps (the part that says, “Sennheiser HD424”, etc.). I’ve had both and the drivers in the black version are significantly lighter. What’s the difference? Is the impedance different?

    • Reply December 16, 2011

      Mike

      Hi Chris,
      Looks like you’re more knowledgeable about the different HD424 versions than I am. I absolutely have no idea what the differences are.

  • Reply February 19, 2012

    Dominik Howland

    I have an old pair of Sennheiser HD 410’s and wonder if I could sell them. Do you think I will find somebody who buys them and how much would it be worth (if it is worth)?
    I couldn’t find any information about their price usw.

    • Reply February 20, 2012

      Mike

      Aww I have no idea what they would be worth today.

  • Reply March 7, 2012

    Clondoner

    I love my HD 424 phones; bought them in the late 1970’s and have changed the ear pads periodically. Very light weight but must use a good amp to get quality sound….will play softly if the amp has the power to replicated the softnpassages.

    • Reply March 7, 2012

      Mike

      The other day I was just telling my friend who collects vintage headphones to go hunt the HD424 as I still remember how pleasant it was.

      • Reply March 8, 2012

        Clondoner

        Mike, I’ve read that the HD424 had several evolutions with each one having a different sound to it. Mine are the older ones I think; they are very flat on bass, and very bright on middle and upper tones. I enjoy all kinds of music with them but of course must use a Receiver because the impedence is 250 Ohms . I have no idea if they will respond to an mp3 or an Ipad requirements.
        Carroll A. Londoner, PhD
        Professor Emeritus
        Virginia Commonwealth University
        Adult Education & HRD
        CAPT (Ret). CHC, USN

        Sent from my iPad2

        • Reply March 8, 2012

          Mike

          Oh yes they definitely won’t run out of an MP3 player or an Ipad. Need a receiver or a big amp for the HD424s.

  • Reply January 20, 2013

    Calvin Purnomo

    Curious here, is it as thin as AKG K701? One of local headphone store here was selling it pretty darn cheap. Just curious how thin-ish this little fella sounds. 😀

    • Reply January 21, 2013

      Mike

      Ummm
      Definitely not like the K701. If you can get it cheap just go for it, it has quite a fan base and I think it’s a pretty nice sounding headphone.

      • Reply January 21, 2013

        Calvin Purnomo

        Okay, just snagged it. Let’s just hear it as soon as I get it. Thankies Mike! 🙂

    • Reply January 23, 2013

      Calvin Purnomo

      Just got it and made a cable for it (Hard time soldering the HPSC plug btw). A very fun sounding headphone indeed! And yes it’s far away from the AKG, much more Grado-ish. Still, got enough detail and brightness for a headphones I got at this price point! Bright enough sans the sibilance. My DT880 now sounds a lot more sibilant.
      Light enough to be driven right out of my Mac. Durable build can be seen from how solid it is.

      Best buy of my life.. :))

  • Reply October 28, 2013

    Evan Caverley

    I Actually still have a pair of the original (white) 2000 ohm impedance HD414s, while I understand you were testing newer available gear, The sound reproduction is completely different to the modern (anniversary edition pair) I have actually tested all the models tested here over the years and still opted to keep my original pair of HD414’s because to peformance was quite noticeably much better from the earlier models. So in conclusion I would seriously suggest to anyone keen on obtaining a pair of retro style earphones with outstanding sound reproduction, try second hand, And if looked after the older the better as they reduced the impedance periodically during their production run, also, the company produced of 10 000 000 pairs of HD414 from 1968 so there are still definitely great units out there to be continually enjoyed!!!

  • Reply June 28, 2014

    Yohan Seris

    I’d love to try these out for their neutrality albeit high impedances.

    I would say the best cans I’ve ever used are the Sennheiser HD25 1 ii, ATH-M50 by Audio Technica and the BeyerDynamic DT770 Pro not necessarily in that order and they are all around the same price at around the £139 mark

    • Reply June 29, 2014

      dalethorn

      I had the original HD414 and it was awful. The 30th anniversary HD414 was much better (ca. 1998). The HD424 was much better than the original HD414, but not nearly as hi-fi as the 30th anniversary HD414. Sennheiser included printed freq. response curves with the HD414 and HD424, and they sounded exactly like the printed curves.

  • Reply September 22, 2014

    Frustrated Teacher

    Had a pair of 414’s when I was a teenager. They were the best phones I have EVER had but unfortunately they didn’t survive High School (I think I had a wire go bad and just threw them out…>DUH). NOTHING made today matches them for lightness and sound quality. It didn’t feel like you were wearing phones at all but they had a big rich sound…….sigh….

    • Reply September 22, 2014

      dalethorn

      The 424 came with a printed response curve that actually matched how it sounded! I sure liked mine.

  • Reply March 28, 2016

    Ocelotty1

    My HD242’s were the mutt’s nuts. Best sound ever. Long gone to history and I’m damned if I can find a replacement, but I sure would like one

    • Reply March 28, 2016

      dalethorn

      The problem is, the 242 was apparently a Russian or other non-standard edition, so a google search turns up nothing that gives a clear picture of the sound. But there are other headphones in the $100-$150 USD range that should compare pretty well. The Edifier H850, the Brainwavz HM5, the AKG K553, the KRK 8400, etc.

      • Reply March 29, 2016

        Arthur Johnson

        but are not gorgeous

  • Reply October 21, 2016

    Paul

    Anyone know if the Fiio E 12 will run the 424 well? I dragged mine out of storage a month ago and it’s working well on my iMac. with an incomparable sound. I’d like to give it more portability and hook it up to the iPod through the Fiio but I have no idea if it will sound good. Anyone know?

    • Reply July 12, 2017

      Paul

      My 424s work very well with the Fiio A5 on my iPhone 6s.

  • Reply April 4, 2017

    Mark

    Wow. Just read your article while shopping for new pads for my 30 year old HD410. I didn’t realise that mum had bought me such a great pair of headphones ! I’ve always loved the sound quality though. Mine had yellow pads originally but I can only find black now.
    So the yellow HD 424 are compatible ?

  • Reply February 6, 2018

    Mmmike

    Anyone know if and where 410 SL’s can be repaired?

    • Reply February 7, 2018

      Lieven

      Mail Senn? 🙂

    • Reply November 27, 2018

      Trung

      I have 410sl and it’s my best one. My other hp is hd480, hd430, hd540, AKG K550, K601, Hifi man he400. HD410sl beats them all if you have a right amp.

  • Reply April 11, 2019

    Nathan

    Just found a pair of 70’s Hd424’s and the sound is amazing through a modern 7.1 Onkyo amp with effects off. Even without the pads as they’d disintegrated, sound is bright, crisp and they certainly love to be driven without distorting. I own Irish made Sennheisers from the 2000’s before they went to China to be made but they sound thick, almost muddy and less clarity- almost tinny!.
    Certainly beat the Bose I have as they can come across as brash/ harsh and clinical where the 424’s have a natural spatial warmth like listening to great 180 gram LP’s on a great turntable and speakers vs CD’s or digital which compresses the hell out of original recordings .
    Best ever………..find them while you can!!!

  • Reply May 9, 2019

    isidroco

    Anyone has an idea on how these compare to hd480?

  • Reply July 9, 2019

    Anthony

    This review is very on point. I have the hd414 and 424(my dad gave it to me) the 414 is too harsh for me but the 424 has this special addicting sound that I can’t describe with words. It has a very flat sound signature without sounding boring. It might not have the frequency extension like modern headphones, but it does very well within the range.

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