Sennheiser HD 201 headphones
Can these budget cans revive your record collection?
Review Now that German's Beyerdynamic has returned to studio-level audio equipment, it's let Sennheiser carpet the portables market with the kind of spread that Beyer boasted in the 1990s. At the same time, Sennheiser has updating the looks and prices of its headphones to make them attractive enough to replace regularly with the latest model...
I first discovered the HD 201s in Ireland, and at €30 (£20) we thought they were being sold off after being discontinued. Yet they'd only recently won the IF design trophy.
Put on the phones, even when new and brittle-sounding, and you'll understand why the set won an award - they can be worn for hours without tiring you or causing earache - though in the summer you may have to have a cloth ready to wipe off the sweat.
Once the HD 201s have been 'run in', you'll find the most open sound heard in a pair of closed-back cans in a long time, as if you had speakers right next to your ears, which is how voices will sound.
This review took longer than expected because I was looking for faults, some way to trip these cans up with many more CDs than our test set. It was almost impossible - you can crank up the volume through an amplifier only to find the music distorting - but at that level the listener would probably go deaf long before fussing about the loss of sound quality.
I took the first major challenge of testing: the soundtrack to Batman Begins. From the start, this album features sampled effects and powerful kettledrum rolls, which give bookshelf speakers a pounding. The Sennheisers lapped up the percussion with ease, allowing the listener to hear the whole orchestra with none of the parts drowning out. Kettledrums are also the star of the 11-minute main theme from Master and Commander, and the HD 201s' soundstage makes you feel like the drummers are in the room right next to you.