1,959-word post, approx. 4 min. read
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Before we get into the Sennheiser HD 201 vs. HD 206, grab a snack, kick back and relax because…
I’m Here to Help!!
Because these headphones are basically identical, I’m just going to outline the HD 201 and give a quick comparison to the 206 towards the end. 🙂
Table of Contents
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Sound & Imaging
Similarities & Differences
Final Word & Recommendation
The build of the HD 201 is rather flimsy, but users have reported owning these for a very long time without issue.
They aren’t quite as light as an AKG K240, but they are a tad wobbly and loose in your hand.
The unit is made of all plastic, with a non-detachable cable and faux leather padding.
The chord itself is rather thin and cheap feeling; it resembles and feels like something out of a 1990’s drug store (think Eckerd or Kerr Drug).
Likewise, the padding is very cheap as well. It’s the type of material prone to cracking and peeling over time, something akin to a Sony MDR V6’s pads.
The headband adjustment feels pretty solid, however, and I’m not that worried about these breaking down. They feel like they could withstand some abuse despite feeling rather underwhelming to hold.
Consider this snippet from an Amazon review:
I’ve owned 2 separate pairs of HD 201’s, and each time I felt like they would last a long time even though I didn’t hold onto them for a long time. I gave the first pair away and sold the second pair.
For the price, the build isn’t too shabby!
BUILD SCORE: B-
Comfort is a bit dicey, as you’re not going to be able to wear these for long periods of time without some adjustments.
The main problem is that they tend to make your ears hot and/or sore. They kind of dig in all the wrong places, causing fatigue after a semi-short listening session.
Clamp force is rather good, but the headband also digs a bit more than I’d like into the top of my head. I’m finding myself making adjustments there as well.
The fit is also not quite what I would consider Circumaural (Around the Ear). It’s more of a hybrid Circumaural + Supra-Aural (On-Ear). This in part contributes to its somewhat lacking comfort levels.
COMFORT SCORE: C
Fortunately, the sound of the HD 201 is its saving grace. I talk in my video about how this is what a Drug Store headphone experience should have been like growing up in the ’90s.
I remember the quality of those headsets was horrible, but it was all we had. We made it work. I don’t ever remember complaining about it either.
Back then it was more about the music and not the gear. Today it’s different. We’re obsessed with the product itself rather than the experience it provides us. This isn’t always the case, but the sheer amount of crap for sale says otherwise.
People have an obsession with “stuff”, and audiophiles are no different. Companies understand this and latch onto it. That’s why there’s an overabundance of everything. They know we’ll never be satisfied, so they feed on that.
That said, I like the sound of the HD 201. I dogged this headphone quite a bit back in 2015, but I think it represents what a $20 headphone should sound like.
We’ve got a somewhat rolled-off, articulate bass, good mid-range clarity, and a pretty decent treble.
The caveats here are that the treble can sometimes sound kind of grainy and artificial as if it’s struggling to keep up.
The other issue is the mid-range: it just sounds too forward and in your face at times.
Other than that, the headphone provides a strong sense of detail retrieval, clarity, and instrument separation. If this is your first foray into audiophile land, you won’t be disappointed.
What HIFI provided a nice snapshot of this headphone’s sound:
The soundstage itself isn’t that great, but that’s kind of to be expected out of a closed-back headphone such as this one.
Still, you’re going to get a nice sense of spacing, even though the music itself doesn’t really take on a 3-D like quality (something you’d find in a more expensive open-back headphone).
SOUND SCORE: B/B+
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In short, the HD 201 won’t need any but could benefit.
Its low impedance and high sensitivity make it so it can be driven right out of a smartphone or laptop.
If you do want to get some separate amplification, I’d probably wait until you upgrade to something like a Sony MDR V6 – it’s not going to really be worth it with the 201.
I say this because pushing a 201 is asking for harmonic distortion. It simply struggles to keep up and is best listened to at lower volumes.
In the official video, I mention the E10K, which I think would be the maximum of what you should pay for an Amp/DAC. What is a USB DAC?
Really anything that is kind of more on the quiet side: Acoustic, Jazz, Classical, Folk, etc. will all sound great with the 201.
Rock, Hip-Hop, and EDM also sound pretty good but as I said, the HD 201’s transients aren’t all that great. You’ll find it start to sound kind of lacking in terms of speed and decay.
Even so, the 201 does excel really well as your budget mixing, mastering, and reference headphone. You’ll be able to hear nearly all of what’s going on, finding flaws in the recording fairly quickly. This is what makes it a nice option for beginning sound engineers and beatmakers.
If this had been my first mixing headphone I wouldn’t have complained at all. It gets the job done just fine.
All in all, stick to softer stuff with the occasional harder song and you should be okay. I’m just not advocating these with really intense music is all.
Similarities & Differences
In short, these 2 headphones are identical in appearance, weight, comfort, and sound (to an extent).
The only real difference is that the headband is a bit more narrow.
Other than that, the sound is identical to the HD 201, with perhaps a bit of a subtle bass boost.
While I do still enjoy the sound of the HD 201, the 206 is obviously not an upgrade. The headphones are basically identical.
What do I recommend?
I think you should save some money and go with a true entry-level reference headphone. Something like a Sony MDR V6 is going to be a pretty significant step up from either of these.
The sound is markedly better in all aspects: Bass, mid-range, and treble are all an immense improvement. The build is also better on a V6. It provides peace of mind because the headphone itself folds and contorts in a myriad of ways and is built out of better materials.
Comfort is a little bit better too, but you’ll find that the sound is absolutely phenomenal for the price. A headphone of the mid ’80s, the V6 is a product that has stood the test of time for many years and still remains in production to this day (IIRC).
I firmly believe every audio engineer, producer, and music enthusiast should have one as it represents your first taste of good sound. If you’re anything like me, you’ll never be the same after you hear it.
I’ll leave you with a couple of quotes from guys I recommended the V6 to, which can be found on the front page. These are also people I still keep in contact with!
Well, that’s about it for today folks! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sennheiser HD 201 vs. HD 206 Review & Comparison.
Would you invest in a Sony MDR V6? Be sure to let me know down below!!
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Let me know in the comments below or contact me!! I would love to hear from you…
Until then, all the best and God bless…
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