Sennheiser’s HD 280s are a perennial favorite among budget-minded audiophiles. And listening to their balanced, flat tonal presentation you can see why. If there’s any hint of coloration (anywhere), I certainly couldn’t find it. That’s great if you happen to be mixing an album. It’s not so great if you just want a pair of general purpose cans to play some highly compressed audio files on. Granted, plenty of people love a clinical headphone. But frankly, I found the 280’s pronounced lack of bass and mids a little boring and not at all suited for everyday, on-the-go listening. What’s really weird is that Sennheiser markets them as DJ headphones, typically some of the most bass-forward cans you can buy. Nevertheless, you can forget about listening to (or at least enjoying) anything resembling rap, hip-hop, house or trance on these. Sonically, things did eventually better when we had the chance to fiddle with EQ and pump some FLAC files into them. But in general, it’s odd to see an such an analytical headphone marketed to the masses.
Other than doing a fantastic job of blocking out noise from the outside world, the headband’s formidable clamping force doesn’t really help matters either. For the first few days of wearing them, the 280s were supremely uncomfortable. So much so that it became painful to wear them for longer than 15 minutes. I did eventually manage to loosen things up after a week or so. Still, even with their cold, uncolored sound signature, things tended to get hot and swampy in the ear cups.