HD25-1ii - highly recommended superaural
I'm still burning my 25 in (and I do believe in burn in - partly because NwAvGuy says that he does, partly because I *thought* I noticed a difference with phones I burned in left connected to my PC when I picked them up a week later) but already I'm in love with them. So as I couldn't find a review here I thought I'd create something...
- I mostly used a Cowon J3 but also Sansa Clip+
- Files used included my one FLAC SACD (a Pixies album on loan from a friend so I can try SACD quality out), various bitrate MP3.
- Reviewer biases and perceptions: past experience has led me to believe that is little relation between price and quality in audio (I'd rate the $25 JV 51 IEM as having sound quality than Ety HF5s, but a step below $150 Yamaha EPH100s for example) and bought the 25s half-expecting I'd send them back, as I just had the 100s.
What they are
The 25s are portable monitors much favoured by DJs and TV news crews. They're superaural, meaning they sit on top of the ear rather than around the ear. They're acoustically closed and have very good isolation for non-IEMs. They're tough and user repairable.
They're often cited as being a superb rock phone and having a rather Grado-ish signature instead of the laid-back Sennheiser house style. They're the 5th highest rated headphone in the head-fi rankings (which put me off buying them for a while) and the choice of Joker (of "Headphone and IEM shootout" fame) as his everyday portable phone.
What they sound like
I'm going to eschew words like "forward," "dark, aggressive" etc because they're meaningless, subjective, and subject to change by EQing.
You can make the 25s sound bassy, mid-range dominated or trebleish by using your EQ. These things are very responsive to EQ!
Did they reveal detail well?
Yes! I literally heard things in tracks I'd never noticed before. Tracks I've listened to for years, often using my supposedly detail revealing Ety HF5s.
For those who don't know, prAT! (I think I have the capitalization right - I didn't know the word yesterday myself, other than its English slang meaning) is a the ability handle sounds with lots of attack - ie sharp beginnings and ends - convincingly. So drums need prAT! big time, and human voices and acoustic guitar much less so. Electric guitar otoh needs it quite a bit - and so does piano. (Imo.) The 25s excel in prAT! Drums and electric guitar sound better than I've ever heard them before. And I've just switched to a Ben Folds album and the piano sound amazing.
..Is there, but it's ***tight***. You don't just feel that you're on stage instead of an auditorium seat (as people say of Grados) - you feel that the band has formed a tight cluster around you, and start wondering why can't smell Gillian Welch's breath and why you're not getting sprayed with sweat by the Replacements. You remember that story about John Cale beheading a (dead) chicken on stage and wonder if the blood will wash out of your clothes. The instruments separate out magnificently, and you have a feeling of intimacy with the performance. I love it - but you might not.
I didn't test with orchestral classical music - my classical tastes are more for piano and chamber music. If the Eroica is the sweet spot in your listening tastes, then I can imagine that the 25's presentation might seem rather bizarre.
How do vocals sound?
Amazing. Ms Welch really does sound like she's standing beside me singing directly into my ear. From a range of about 5cm.
How do bad recordings sound?
I've heard people say that certain high end phones won't tolerate bad recordings and sound worse with them than cheap phones would. I have no idea if this is true, but to my ears it isn't the case at all with the 25. I have an awful bootleg concert recording of the Replacements and the 25s, in cooperation with the J3's EQ, let my ears cut through the fog and murkiness to hear hidden detail. The result was a recording that sounded better than my studio albums did yesterday - you can still hear a lot of the sonic flaws, but the good stuff dominates and that's what matters.
I bought the 25s looking for phones that would make music sound as exciting to me as my old Mission 70 speakers did (these things were real killers for their day...) They've done everything I hoped there, mostly by way of that prAT! thing, but they've also revealed so much I wasn't hearing before that a lot of music has changed for me - I can see myself buying a lot more jazz, for example. And some later Clash recordings have just opened up and revealed magnificent textures that I never suspected they had - stuff quite at odds with my assumptions about them.
Mine are fresh and the ear clamping is a little hard - I'm feeling some real pinching at the top of my ears. I understand that it would be less if I swapped to the velour pads, and that the band will become a less aggressively springy in time. At the moment it is a small price to pay.
A nice feature is that the band consists of two arms. You can adjust the gap between these from zero to lots - the idea is that the twin arm design will cradle your head keeping the phones on under all conditions - these things are designed for news pros and DJs.
The phones themselves are *very* light.
Useful hint picked up from the net: you're supposed to set these so that they're slightly loose and then tighten the fit by widening the headband split. If you do this they're much more comfortable - I can barely feel mine on my head now, although they've also had 12+ hours of wearing to break-in. If you're a DJ or in a TV news team, then someone will tell you this, I suppose. But for everyone else Sennheiser really should have included a manual...
I've had these things for less than a day, so its not surprising they haven't fallen apart. But these things have a rep for toughness - news people and DJs use their gear hard and they survive it for years. And because they're meant for pros, all the parts are user replaceable - you can buy every component from Senn and swap out broken band or a driver for a fresh one.
There's one spot on each side of the band where the cable running between the ear cups can get trapped and damaged if you completely close the two bands together. There's a notch to prevent this, but the cable might not stay in it. If you're going to repeated close and unclose the bands completely - which is pointless - then you will want to watch this or add a dab of tape or something.
Sounded great on the Clip+ and J3. I *think* they sound better on the J3, but I didn't do an ABX test and really don't trust my own feelings on this sort of thing. There was no problem getting them loud enough on either player. I keep them at about 22-26 of the Cowon's 40 level volume control.
Industrial in the functional rather than the designer sense. These things are designed to blend into the background of TV news and sports broadcasts.
But... the 25s are *very* customizable. You can change pads and cables for coloured ones, and even paint the band and shells. Or you can buy some amazing pre-customized phones from http://www.customcans.co.uk/ . For example -
The owner of Custom Cans posts on head-fi as jfunk, btw. They also sell coloured ear cushions and what have you - including from an ebay store. They're based in the UK, but I think they ship everywhere. They customize other several phones, but the 25 seems like the core of their business.
- If you want a high sound quality portable with excellent isolation and toughness, these are a great bet if you're willing to pay the price.
- If you want a great rock phone that is also an excellent all-rounder... well, some people for whom the 25 is the cheapest phone in their collection also say its the best for rock.
- To my ears the 25 sounds jaw-droppingly, oh-my-gawd-I-can't-stop-listening good with rock, folk, blues and jazz.
- If I lost all my other phones and IEMs then I'd replace the 25s without hesitation and supplement them with some cheap JVC microdiver IEMs for working out.
- Downsides are pinched ears (at least initially) and, depending on your tastes, that very tight soundstage.
- I've avoided giving numerical scores but for those who must have them, choosing some widely known comparators: if I gave the HF5 a 5 for sound quality, then the EPH100s - which are widely being compared with some of the best IEMs around - would be a 6.5 to a 7 and my Superlux 668Bs a 6 or maybe a bit more. The 25s would be, oh, a 9.5. Maybe they'll be a 10 when they're burned in. But I'd be the last person to deny that a lot of what makes a good set of phones is subjective, so ymmv.
- The HD25-SP has different drivers and a simpler headband; I've no idea how close it sounds to the "real" 25
- The Standard edition comes with a (cheap, unpadded) bag and two pairs of cushions - pleather (fitted) and velour
- The Basic edition comes without the bag and velours
- The Adidas is a slightly prettified version of the standard edition.
If I was buying again I'd go for the Basic and use the money saved to buy funkier velour cushions from Mr JFunk - he also sells what looks like a very nice bag. Or I might go crazy and buy one of JFunk's special editions.
Finally, as so often, UK buyers get an awful deal on the price of 25s compared to Americans. So if you're in the UK and making a trip to the US, you might put buying a pair of 25s on your to-do list. But also, as mean and obsessive about US-UK price differences as I can be, I am ***really*** glad that I bought these!
The estimable Mr JFunk of Custom Cans has provided a guide to tweaking the 25s acoustics here:
..And a guide to painting them here:
This is the most negative review I could find on the net:
- The reviewer loved the sound quality, but thought the industrial plastic components looked and felt cheap. (He went on to suggest that people buy Dr Dre Beats instead... comments on this reviewer's sanity and intelligence were not kind. But he did point out that problem with the cable getting cut between the band, so all power to him.)
And this is Joker's review:
I'll just add... these are three phases of HD25-1ii ownership:
Now I've ordered these I'll just check the price in the US and compare it to what I paid in the UK... What!? Those Germans ripped me off for THAT much?? These are SO going back to Amazon for a refund - although I suppose I should listen to them first....
I cannot remove these phones from my head. Music has never been so compelling. When my girlfriend interrupts me with mundane concerns I shall rant at her about how marvelous the HD25s are until she goes away.
Phase Three (the saddest):
I can't get my HD25s back from my girlfriend...
I had mine arrive after going to a Rammstein concert - I was so damn happy to have a really great day & night. I love mine, I'm glad you feel that love too.
And, you did an excellent review!!! I hope others enjoy it as much as I did - I actually READ IT!!!
Now, to browse those links you provided,... :cool:
BTW: I had these and the AIAIAI TMA-1 to compare side by side. I DID have an issue with the fit of the TMA-1. But, fit aside, I prefer the sq and CLARITY that the HD25-1 II provides. These just sound so "correct". And when eq'ing these they get even better.
I kept my HD25-1 II's, the TMA-1 I got a refund on.
I can imagine that 25s are very effective for Rammstein! The TMA-1's would seem to be one of the obvious rivals to the 25s in the same price range and there are reviews around comparing them.
What I'd like to hear is what cheaper alternatives might be to 25s for people who want something similar, either in sonic qualities (lots of prAT! and detail resolving power) or toughness and isolation in a portable size.
For the first, I was wondering if anyone can compare the 25s to PX200s - although 200s do seem to have a rep for falling apart? And for the second, maybe those Cortex CHP-2500 phones that people are raving about? Or are they over the ear phones and too big to be as portable?
I have the CHP-2500 & the HD25-1 II, but I haven't listened to my HD25-1II's in a few months. I'm on an iem kick ATM. I still us the CHP-2500, but I'm busy w/my denon and Xeport's for the time being.
I'll try to do a comparison sometime soon, time providing. But be forewarned - I'm no professional reviewer.
I about burn-in: mine have to have logged at least 50 hours of playing time now, but I haven't noticed anything. But I don't think that I would; my 25s are so much better than anything I've used before before that my jaw dropped the moment I heard them. However, I'd ordered a second pair of 25s (for the aforementioned girlfriend) before I wrote this review, so I'll be able to compare fresh and burned in phones when they get here. (Although not totally scientifically - for that I should have assured that they were matches before burning in either pair.)
Burn-in schmurn-in,...just enjoy them!!! ;)
I have wanted a set of these for a while but 2 things have held me back.
1) money, duh.
2) the on-ear fit. It always appeals to me from an appearance and portability standpoint but I have owned 3 and have ditched them all quickly. I just don't like the feeling of something pressing on my ears. I am hesitant to spend so much money on something I may easily not like on my head for more than 20 minutes.
Does anyone know of a good head to head review of the HD25-SP II and the HD25-1 II? Its a pretty big price difference.
These are ear-crushers bro, no matter what anyone tells you. The headband ALWAYS goes back to cranium squeezing pressure every time. It's just something some of us don't mind all that much.
Besides, after owning the AKG K81DJ these are comfy as HELL!!!
I agree with the positive sentiment here - I've been using my HD 25's for about half a year now and love them. While it took me a good while to get used to the pressure these put on your head (these are indeed headcrushers...) now that I am used to them, I love being able to listen to my music in such high quality while walking to school, or while studying in the library. They are really portable if you have a backpack and are study as hell.
As for the HD-25 SP, the only place I've seen them reviewed is on Head-fi...and there I read that they use a completely different driver and aren't nearly as great sounding (granted this is head-fi).
Oh, and great review by the way :)
I'm glad people like the review, but... the 25s are not ear crushers worn right! Fit velour pads and follow that DJ's advice - put the bands together, move the pods so that the phones are a little loose still, but almost a fit, then widen the gap between the bands.
Really - my head is so damn huge that I have problems finding hats that will fit - most hiking gear manufacturers idea of an XL head is at least a size smaller than mine. I look like something out of This Island Earth dammit, but I can *sleep* in my 25s. You just just have to wear them right.
LOL!!! You're the exception to what "comfort" is with these. I can also sleep with these, and I also have a big noggin. Still, I love them & the adjustment to getting my head smooshed is well worth it. Compare these to the AKG's I have and these are the most comfortable cans you can own!!!
And, BTW, all I use IS the velour ear pads. And the recommendation on sizing and adjusting the comfort level really doesn't help all that much. These are an acquired taste where comfort is concerned. Still my FAV can,...the Cortex CHP-2500 is #2.
I've owned my HD25-1II's since Christmas.
Investigated Beyerdynamic & AIAIAI as well, but I just wanted these. I read enough reviews in the last few years to make my choice easy.
Basically 2 months of burning in. Just this week have I entered the bliss zone. I too can't remove them from my head.
Used them so far with my Cowon S9 and PC with Auzentech X-Meridian 7.1 2G Sound Card.
I find them comfortable, and I also agree with tightening the fit by widening the headband split, makes them more comfortable.
I mainly listen to Electronic music, Deep House and Trance. Also, majority of my tunes are 320kbps or FLAC. The HD25-1II's simply allow me to enjoy my HQ tunes with sheer joy.
The Sounstage is tight and precise, very personal and studio-esque. My
Sennheiser HD555's are more spacial, broader sounding.
The bass is punchy and precise, not too heavy or over-bearing, just perfect.
Vocals are precise and up-front, very personal sounding.
Overall, the HD25-1II's possess fantastic clarity, and a balanced, natural sound. I tried to push them, but the sound never becomes muddy.
I've listened to some Youtube stuff and the HD25-1II's do bring out bad recordings....
For a long while, I read happy reviews from many satisfied customers, and now I am one of them :)
BTW, bought mine from Amazon, $150 USD.
I got mine for $150.00 as well,...worth every penny IMO.
These also sound fantastic with the Digizoid ZO2 headphone amp/ bass booster. The naturally aggressive higher frequencies of the headphones are balanced by the solid bass enhancement of the device, and are more than up to handling it.
While the two are related, they have very different characters.
Nice review. I only want to point out one thing: when you said "Files used included my one FLAC SACD", what did you mean? That you managed to rip the DSD SACD content into FLAC files? I don't think that is possible. Well, what you really have is the PCM stereo tracks of the SACD (it's a hybrid format, so that it can be played through a redbook CD player) converted form wav to FLAC. It's like converting a normal CD to FLAC. The DSD on SACD can only be played with SACD players and listened through its analogical outputs. (or if you have an external DAC that can convert DSD into analogic).
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