Right off the bat, I’ll tell you this: The HD 280’s are not particularly exciting. They are just about as neutral as it gets. The sound isn’t as loud as I would like, but they certainly get the job done. Just don’t expect to be amazed or anything. They do remarkably well as a mixing/reference can because of the even sound across the spectrum. The best way I can describe these puppies is, honest. They have revealed flaws in my mixes that actually make me not want to listen. It’s like I’m in denial or something 😛
Sound. Flat, neutral, honest, even sound. Insert adjective here. They define “mixing headphone.” If you can make your mix sound amazing on these, it will translate magnificently on other speakers and headsets.
Very comfortable. You may have to make some slight adjustments, but overall this is a comfortable set over a long listening session.
Durable. This may be the most durable set of headphones out there. They are made of a really thick and solid plastic, but don’t feel cheap in the slightest. They can take quite a bit of abuse. Just don’t go chucking them into the wall 😛 Mine have been dropped, slept on, gotten stuck in weird places, and the cable has been constantly tugged on and they still come out on top. One thing to note: the 3.5 mm jack has a slight bend in it. No doubt due to my excessive abuse. No effect on sound.
Longevity. They will last you quite a long time. I’ve seen numerous reviewers on amazon who claim to have had these for upwards of 10 years. I can definitely see that. They are built to last, even in the face of extreme abuse 😛
Isolation. As a closed back model, these do very well blocking out incoming noise and won’t distract others around you at high volumes, if you do plan on wearing them out. Check out the differences between Closed back vs. open back headphones!
Flexibility. These contort and adjust in a number of different ways, similar to the M50’s. Very compact design, even being as bulky as they are.
Replaceable parts. The ear-cups, headband padding, and cable can all be replaced if need be.
Bulky. These won’t do well on the go. In fact they haven’t left my house yet, and I don’t plan on taking them out unless I was to visit another studio or something. Meant for in house mixing only. They do travel well, but people may look at you funny if you wear these out, lol.
Coiled cable? Some love the coiled cable, I am really not too fond of it in general. They are good if you’re sitting down to mix a track, but kind of an annoyance otherwise. The cable doesn’t get tangled easily however, so that’s a plus.
Not exciting. Even knowing these are for mixing, I just can’t get too excited about the sound. As strictly a reference headphone, they are perfect. For anything else, you will be a little underwhelmed.
Treble. Due to a lack of bass, for easy listening from my audio interface these may be a little shrill for you at high volumes. I’ve found that I can’t really keep the volume knob turned all the way up without experiencing some fatigue. Be weary my friend. Maybe I’m getting old 😛
No carrying case
Can become hot around your ears after awhile. Light sweating.
People who prefer a neutral sound over a colored one.
People who are looking for durability and longevity out of their purchase.
People who value comfort over long listening sessions
As a entry level mixing/reference headphone, these fit the bill and then some. Your mixes will be rendered with startling accuracy. For some they may be bulky and unattractive. The sound is accurate but underwhelming in some circumstances.
Audio Technica ATH M50 and 50x
Just a bit of clarification
Audio Technica has since come out with the 50x model, which is basically the same as the 50, with a few additions and improvements. In a nutshell:
A Removable cable.
A choice of different colors. Subject to change.
contoured ear cups that seal tighter for improved isolation.
Expect to put these on and be floored, unlike the 280’s. After listening with these on for the first time, I really got a sense of what I had been missing. If this is your first foray into audiophile type equipment, these will really make you look at music in an entirely different way.
They aren’t neutral per se, but do very well as a mixing/reference headphone. They are colored in a sense, but to me it never feels over the top. I would describe the sound as huge, full, and detailed. You will start to hear things in recordings that had previously been lost. One of the biggest differences between these and the 280’s is bass response. These reach down really low, and give you a nice thump, without sounding bloated or artificial. They are tighter than a panty hose homie!
Think of it like this: They do extremely well in a variety of different listening situations and musical genres. My friend who just purchased the 50x’s bought them for this purpose. There’s a reason these are so popular. They are a remarkably versatile set of cans.
Versatile. Expect to be using these as your go to cans almost (if not outright) daily for a variety of different things.
Bass. It’s tight and controlled, while at the same time being loud and hard hitting. Contributes to the “wow” factor upon first listen.
Comfort. These are a bit more comfortable overall than the 280’s, and you will find yourself wearing them over a longer period without adjustment.
Flexibility and build. Contorts and folds in many of the same ways as the 280. A bit more flexible in this regard. This is one of their strongest suits contributing to longevity. There are simply less ways these can break given their ox like build.
3.5 mm jack. The little things are what impress me most, and the fact that these come with a protective coil at the end of the chord running into the 3.5 mm jack is priceless. I’m sure it’s saved these on many occasions since I’ve had them. Truly extraordinary.
Choice of coiled or straight cable. I normally opt for the straight cable, but the fact that you have a choice is nice. If you plan on using these out and about, I’d suggest the straight version.
Out of your head. Even as a closed back model, these do exceptionally well with instrument separation and sound-stage. You may frequently remove them from your melon to see where the sound came from. They have very impressive imaging in this regard. What is Soundstage?
Ear cups. While comfortable, the ear cups are prone to cracking over time. I wouldn’t advise wearing these right out of the shower, as this has probably contributed to mine having this issue. The ear-cups can be replaced, and should be because they also flatten out a bit over a long period of daily use.
Even being able to wear them over a long period, the sound can get trapped inside your dome, leading to fatigue. Take a break man!
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At 38 Ohms, none!
Who these headphones benefit?
Bass-heads will love the tight, controlled, yet thumping quality these provide. Prepare to be amazed.
Producers who need a good mix-down. While not entirely neutral, these do excel in studio as a reference monitor.
People who are looking for longevity and versatility from their purchase
Those who want to be able to listen for long sessions with the occasional adjustment or break
A slick set of studio monitoring/reference cans that double as easy listening devices. Highly versatile, comfortable, and built to last. The ear-cups have been known to crack over time, but are replaceable. Closed back design will force you to take a break every so often. Overall an amazing set.
Similarities & Differences
Both do well in a studio environment.
Both are comfortable, and sport the same type of pleather/leatherette/faux leather type padding.
Both are flexible and durable, contorting and folding in many of the same ways.
Both have the wire coming out of the left ear cup.
Both have been known to last a very long time.
Size & Weight. The HD 280’s overall are more bulky, and less suited for on the go purposes. I could see the 50’s breaking down faster than the 280’s, but both are durable sets.
Coiled vs. Straight. As far as I know, the 280’s only come with a coiled cable option. With the M50’s, you get a choice. The 50x’s also come in a plethora of different colors.
*Sound. The 280’s sound is straight neutral and more subdued, while the 50 utilizes that hard hitting bass that many producers crave. The M50’s are also a bit more colored overall, while the 280’s remain about as flat and honest as it gets.*
Versatility. The M50’s do well with a variety of different uses, while the 280’s are mostly for mixing only. I use the 50’s daily for nearly everything. Expect these to be your go to cans.
Material. The 280’s use all plastic, but the M50’s have instances of metal in the headband adjustment, right left indicators, and on the outside of the ear cups.
Carrying case. The M50’s come with one, the 280’s do not
Coil protector. The M50’s have that really amazing metal (or steel, don’t know which) coil protector on the end of the wire that runs into the 3.5 mm jack. This has aided greatly to their overall durability. The 280’s do not have this feature.
The Sennheiser HD 280 is more conducive to mixing in studio, and it’s sound is really as flat and even as it gets at this price range. There is nothing particularly exciting about this can, but in terms of raw honesty, it’s something you will come to appreciate over time. Don’t put the 280’s on and expect to be floored. Expect to get an accurate representation of whatever you are listening to.
The Audio Technica ATH M50 by contrast is a bit of a brighter headphone, and sports a tight, punchy bass response that doesn’t become bloated or artificial. While significantly more colored, and louder than the 28o, it’s not overkill. It also does well in studio as a mixing/reference can. When you put the M50 on, expect to be floored. Also expect an accurate representation of what you are listening to, but know that there is a bit more of an added emphasis & coloration on the sound overall. This is a bass-heads can!
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.