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.