Life has a funny way of punching us in the mouth sometimes. Circumstances that happen in our lives either change our perspective for the better or worse.
If I can get morbid for a second, it can and will utterly destroy some people via suicide or some type of weird seclusion, where the person is shut off from everyone and everything. Their heart might turn cold and hardened, to the point of bitterness and indifference towards others.
If you let it shape you for the better, then you start to recognize that being happy all the time is not only unrealistic, but also impossible. Emotions come and go. We can’t really try to control or change them. All we can really do is react to them. That’s why self help often times is stupid. It teaches you to try and control the situation at all a times and be this bubbly, happy bundle of sunshine when life doesn’t really work like that.
Nowadays, if you’re even sad for 5 minutes, it automatically means there’s something wrong with you and OMG we have to fix it!
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Back in the day, if my Grandpa was sad, he’d say something like “Wow. I feel really sad today. Oh well, that’s life. Back to shoveling snow.”
This morning I woke up to a YouTube notification on a simple headphone review and went “Oh Boy! I haz a notification! I can’t wait to lend a helping hand or get my ego stroked!”
When I clicked on the bell, I was greeted with this: “stupidest dude ive ever listened to.”
In the past I may have gotten offended. Today I didn’t. Perhaps I will again from a future comment, and that’s okay. Part of life is accepting the fact that you will get your feelings hurt sometimes. People will offend you. People are mean and nasty, and they project their insecurities onto you.
Sometimes what you’re doing makes people feel uncomfortable because it’s everything they wish they could do. Putting yourself out there, being bold, being vulnerable, being transparent, being who you are and doing what you love will always incite some sort of reaction, whether good or bad. Or maybe I’m just stupid. That’s okay too. 🙂
It’s not really that I wasn’t offended by his comment. I guess I sort of was for a second. But my reaction to that negative feeling that I experienced wasn’t extreme or misplaced, if that makes sense. My blood didn’t boil. I didn’t have this deep inner desire to get back at him or even the odds. “Yeah? Well YOU’RE STUPID TOO, PAL!” or “Yeah? Well. That’s just like, your opinion, man.” Ha. Totally got him.
I just kind of stared at it for a second, and moved on to doing something productive without even responding.
It was sort of like the disappointed black guy meme.
Before: Yes! Notification!
After: Sleeping Male Asian with Boobs. Lol.
Anyways, I said all that for a reason believe it or not.
Because my perspective has kind of shifted, it gives me the ability to see comments like this in a different light.
The HD 201
Likewise, my perspective on the HD 201 has changed. When I first bought the headphone back in 2015, I hated it. I thought it sounded kind of boring and bland.
Because I was still a bass head back then, I had a warped perception of the 201. I was expecting it to sound a certain way based on my own limited experiences with headphones, and it just didn’t. You could say I was audiophile challenged. I was immature when it came to pure sound. I hadn’t yet experienced what music is actually supposed to sound like, vs. what I was always told it should sound like.
In short, I ended up giving the headphone away, partly because I didn’t like it, and partly because I wanted to be a good Samaritan and earn brownie points with God (which is also a losing proposition) and a conversation for another day.
Yay for charity!
For now, let’s take a look at the specifications before we dive in..
Now that the boring stuff is out of the way, let’s talk about build!
The build of the HD 201 is pretty underwhelming, but we should also remember that this headphone is worth around $20. It’s like a drug store headphone if drug store headphones were actually good. It’s everything a drug store headphone should be.
A drug store headphone should be a little drug storey, but not too drug storey. Often times it’s too drug storey. The HD 201 strikes that perfect drug store balance.
It’s a lightweight affair, and a smidgen on the flimsy side, but surprisingly doesn’t feel “cheap” per se.
It honestly just feels like a headphone of this price should. Light and plasticky. NO BIG DEAL.
Everything is plastic. The headband, cups, adjustment, etc. Plastic. It even feels like my head is plastic. Fake Plastic Trees, brah.
The padding itself is a cheap faux leather, and hearkens back to the 90’s when the Sony MDR V150 was a staple in my collection (Okay it was the only headphone I had Lol). Man I miss those days.
Why do we complicate things so much? Back then, I listened to DMX with a crappy pair of headphones and a Disc-Man, and I was completely happy.
I didn’t have this impulsive desire to want more. To want the best. I just accepted what I was given and enjoyed the heck out of it.
If only we could channel some of that energy into this weird and convoluted digital age. Buy. Consume. Obey. If only.
BUILD SCORE: B
I think that’s fair. No more needs to be said.
I have them on my head right now, and they feel pretty good. You will be making slight adjustments from time to time though.
Like the Sony MDR V6, I would classify the HD 201 as a cross between a Circumaural (Around Ear) and a Supra-Aural (On Ear).
It doesn’t quite achieve either with certainty.
The issue is that because of this, the pads will start to kind of dig into the bottom portion of your ears. Clamp force is still good for the most part, and the headband doesn’t dig too horribly bad into the top of your head.
Fortunately, an adjustment with the 201 isn’t too involved. Just put your hand on the cup and wiggle. Do it for the other side. Now you’re golden for awhile. This is the type of adjustment that I would consider minor.
It’s not a headphone that you’ll want to rip off your head due to discomfort, but it’s also not comfortable enough to where it feels like air, or that you’re not wearing anything. It sits somewhere in the middle.
Now, put some pants on while we talk about Sound & Imaging!
Sound & Imaging
This is where I was inspired to completely re-write this review. If you read the comments after this revision is finished, it probably won’t make sense. It was the shortest review ever. It was negative. I completely shat all over this headphone.
It’s amazing how our perspective changes in just 4 years. I haven’t touched the headphone since then. The only reason I picked it up is because I wanted to do a comparison to the 206, which I still don’t have at the moment.
I’m sure whoever has my original HD 201 is probably like “I wonder who the idiot is that gave this awesome headphone away. Be he feels like a complete schmuck right now.” Or he might have had the same dumbo reaction that I did. Whiny voice: “This headphone doesn’t have enough bass.” Wahh!
Anywho, I actually did a measurement of this headphone and it sounds like I remember. Rolled off bass, forward mid-range, darker treble.
It’s actually a perfect reference headphone because it sounds incredibly neutral aside from the mid-range. The mids do sound forward but I find for the most part it’s not an issue. They have some really nice presence but can sometimes standout out a bit much. The Japanese Houses’ “Still” is a good example of vocals that are just a bit too forward for my tastes. Those same vocals, as well as instruments sound really crisp, lively, and engaging though. It sounds mostly natural and very organic with all things considered.
I think What HIFI? summed it up nicely:
“The level of clarity is such that instruments and vocals, while not as explicit as we might like, are apparent enough to paint a fairly detailed picture. It’s not the sort of fine detail that lets you identify exactly what’s going on, but it’s not broad, mushy strokes, either. Leading edges are solid enough to do the job.”What HIFI?
I think that kind of echoes my feeling pretty well. Let’s be real. This is a cheap headphone. You’re not getting the extreme garlic powder type detail, spacing/realism and precision that you’d get with a Focal Utopia, but it’s admirable that the sound is even competitive with others outside of it’s price range at all.
Yes, the bass is rolled off, but it has nice texture and detail. It’s just very lean sounding, which simply won’t work for some, despite my diatribe on how headphones are supposed to sound.
Personally, I don’t really care about bass nowadays unless it’s done well. I do like a flatter bass with impact – see: HIFIMAN Ananda or really any Audeze headphone. But I also have appreciation for a more rolled off bass because it allows me to understand that the bass is not, nor should it be the focal point of the song. It should provide a solid base for the music to build around. See what I did there?
Becoming an audiophile not only makes you realize this fact, but also helps you accept it and relish in it. I’d rather hear details and the subtlety of the music vs. feeling the impact, through some over exaggerated portrayal of it. And yes, I still listen to Hip-Hop and feel that same way.
The treble here is much darker than what you’re probably used to, and that’s most certainly a good thing. Instead of that bite and sibliance that you’re accustomed to (which makes you want to gouge your eyes out), we have a more subdued but still detailed sound which is conducive to longer listening sessions without fatigue. You don’t get that essy, metallic hue that’s apparent in other, brighter headphones. What does Sibilant mean?
If you’re new to this type of sound, it may be kind of awkward to you at first. But don’t freak out! It’s okay. Just give your ears and brain some time to get used to it. I think you’ll really come to appreciate it after awhile.
SOUND SCORE: A-
As far as Imaging, sounds are separated nicely but you’re not going to experience a very wide Soundstage. What is Soundstage?
But that’s okay. We’re not really expecting miracles here. It’s a $20 headphone that sounds like a $100 one. Another cool thing about the 201 is that it doesn’t really sound like a traditional closed back. Often times, closed headphones sound just that; really boxed in and in your head sounding.
What I found interesting on ON and ON’s “Drifting”, is that right at the beginning the thumping sound in the track actually caused me to look up towards the garage door, thinking that the sound was coming from about 10-15 feet in front of me (I’m sitting in the kitchen at mom and dad’s).
So in that sense, it sort of does provide an out of your head type of experience, but I wouldn’t buy these expecting that all of the time.
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Let’s get into amplification!
You don’t need one per se, but I’m running it out of an Oppo HA-2 and it sounds marvelous. I would recommend something, even if it’s just as simple as a FiiO E10K or a K3.
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As for the technical side of it, the HD 201 at 24 Ohm Impedance won’t resist power. At 108dB Sensitivity, it will also not require much power from an amp to reach peak loudness. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
So you can use it with your phone and it will sound great, especially if your phone’s DAC is really good. I’ve generally found through reading, and other peoples experience/conversing with them that the iPhone internal DACs are very good (I’m not an iPhone user). If you have a phone like this, you likely won’t need separate amplification.
With a laptop however running something like Tidal, I would probably not rely on my Lenovo’s internal Soundcard to get the job done. What is a Soundcard?
PC manufacturers rarely make audio a main concern, and that’s a shame considering it’s kind of important. Oh well. Now we can just buy all the amps!!
This is the type of headphone that will work well for most genres, but there is a caveat. This caveat comes with most headphones of this type with a somewhat darker sounding treble.
It won’t work that well for Metal. I’ve noticed a running trend in headphones with this type of sound signature (AKG K240 for example). There’s a raw sense of energy and liveliness missing. You won’t get that slam and impact that you will with something like a Sennheiser HD 25.
So let’s wrap this up, shall we?
B+. Don’t ask me why. Just accept it. Haha.
I would most certainly recommend these for beginning audiophiles on a budget who want to hear what an HD 600 kind of sounds like at a much lower price. It’s kind of like a baby 600 without the refinement. It tends to sound a tad grainy with certain tracks, but that’s okay. It’s a glorified drug store headphone but does satisfy me all the same.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.