When Rosmadi @Sennheiser handed over the HD 25 ALUMINIUM to me, he specifically mentioned that this is just a minor update Anniversary Edition, and that though there is an improvement gained from applying the Aluminum housing, the difference is marginal. Well that was to be expected, given the fact that everything else is the same except for the application of Aluminium for the housing material — following the footsteps of the Amperior. Based on his comment, I told him right there that I probably can’t write much about the headphone as I don’t think that there is much to be talked about and he understood and gave me the nod.
I still think that this should be a short article but that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t let my excitement show. The excitement right from the first time I listened to the 25 ALU, it’s like first love to the HD25 all over again. Yes the difference is slight, but boy, the improvement produces the legendary HD25-1 sound and makes it even better. For those of you familiar with the DT770 LE review, this review is pretty much going to take on the same tone. There is more to this anniversary editions, it seems, and I wouldn’t be surprised if like Beyerdynamic, Sennheiser suddenly decided to make this a standard, non limited product on their line up.
Bass is now fuller and hits lower. Midrange is more refined, and while the HD25-1 treble has sounded a bit harsh compared to the newer headphones, the ALU makes a big improvement on that. I’ve been raving about the Vmoda M100, but it seems that the ALU is Sennheiser’s answer to the M100. I don’t even think they know they have such a big winner in their hands here, as I don’t hear them talking that much about the ALU.
The pace is still fast and aggressive, though less than the original 25 but still ahead of the Amperior. And unlike the newer Sennheiser portable closed backs, the HD25 ALU belongs to that camp of classic Sennheisers that has that gutsy, punchy bass for guaranteed toe tapping. For some reason, the background is also blacker on the ALU and the overall sound is cleaner and less grainy (the HD25-1 is quite grainy). The sound stage is still narrow and focused, but I think that’s part of the HD25’s character and strength (to focus the music). However among the improvements are a slightly improved sound stage and instrument separation.
The HD25 ALU may look like an attempt to put the Amperior (now discontinued) in a different packaging but it really is quite a different headphone. Tonally, the two are more alike to each other than to the original HD25-1, but that’s where the similarities stop. Sound quality is a step up from the Amperior and HD25-1 couple. And while I’ve always considered the Amperior sort of a side-step rather than an upgrade to the HD25-1, the ALU is definitely the version to get from the entire HD25-1 line up. I only wish for two things: black color finish on the Aluminums and actually if they could bring the weight down to the HD25-1 level, that would’ve been better.
Notable design decisions include the return of the sturdy steel cable which far beats the flimsy cables of the Amperior. The pads are also very much improved. Rather than the soft but brittle alcantara soft leather, Sennheiser now uses a much better quality, softer faux leather than the one found in the standard HD25-1. Likewise the headband pads also use the same leather.
I think Sennheiser has got a winner in their hands with this headphone, though the $329 MSRP is a little steep since everyone by now knows that Amazon sells the HD25-1 II for $199. It’s a bit tricky though as I definitely think it can compete with the best $300 portable headphones in the market (and that I’d happily take the 25 ALU rather than the M100), but it’s just that we’ve been so used to seeing the HD25-1 II at $199 that it becomes difficult to justify the 60% increase just for an aluminum cup (though the sound improvement is a totally different matter). Good thing that right now Amazon has them for $263.