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Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

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Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

Postby Wonks » Sat Aug 24, 2019 5:50 pm

The Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones have been available from the beginning of 2019, but I haven't noticed them until now, when a Facebook ad brought them to my attention (one of the few worthwhile ads I've seen on Facebook). Numerically, they will obviously draw a comparison with the Sennheiser HD 280 Pro headphones that have been one of the tracking headphones of choice from home to pro studios for over a decade. I've got two pairs of HD 280 Pros, one pair of which are getting very long in the tooth (and partly held together by insulating tape) , so I thought I'd take advantage of Sennheiser's current offer on the HD 300 Pros. I was so impressed that I thought I'd write this review, comparing the HD 300 Pro against the HD 280 Pro.

Don't confuse the HD 300 Pro with the very much cheaper HD 300, they are very different beasts. Why do companies use near-identical naming for very different products?

The HD 300 Pro:
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On paper, the specs of the 280 and 300 are quite similar. Both are circumaural designs, with the size of the earcups being identical. Both have a nominal 64 ohm impedance. The quoted frequency range of the HD 300 Pro at 5-25,000 Hz is slightly extended over the HD 280 Pro's 8-25,000Hz, but there is no indication of how many dB down from nominal those frequency points are. I'd guess at least 10dB, maybe more.

The HD 300 Pros benefit from a replaceable cable, whereas the HD 280s cable is fixed. The HD 300 Pro's cable is about 1.8m long and comes with the now ubiquitous 3.5mm TRS jack with a 1/4" adapter. The cable is straight, apart from a small curly section near the 'phones that acts as an anti-shock spring. Cable entry is single-sided and feeds into the left earcup (as with the HD 280 Pro). The cable is held in place by two screws, so won't get pulled out if the cable is jerked.

The HD 280 Pros have a longer, all-curly cable, which adds quite a bit of weight compared to a straight cable. Whilst a curly cable does allow a bit more freedom when moving around, you won't want to perform with any pull on the cable as it will lift the earcup away from your head.

Which leads me to one gripe with the HD 300 Pros, that there is no L & R indication on the 'phones at all (unlike on the HD 280 Pros); not even a mention in the accompanying literature as to which way round they are supposed to sit on your head. You've got to work it out for yourself (the cable entry cup is the left cup).

Like the HD 280 Pros, the HD 300 Pro has earcups that can swivel along both the horizontal axis (by 350°) and vertical axis (by 100° from against the head to facing forwards), allowing them to conform to even the most convoluted of skull shapes, and also allows them to fold up into a compact form for storage or travel.

The HD 280 Pro:
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The maximum output of the HD 300 Pro is significantly more than the HD 280 Pro, with a quoted 123dB vs 113dB. The HD 300 Pro's transducers are certainly more efficient, and are noticeably louder at the same volume setting, so beware having them too loud for too long to avoid hearing damage. There is a more expensive version of the HD 300 Pro, the HD 300PROtect, which has a built-in volume levelling device (more like a compressor than a limiter by the sound of it) which prevents peaks above 110dB. Still very loud and not to be used for too long at those levels, but if you are tracking a whole band with loud drums and guitars, then you'll need to be able to play the mix through the 'phones at a quite high volume.

One big requirement for tracking headphones is noise isolation. Whilst both the HD 280 Pro and the HD 300 Pro have a quoted 32dB of attenuation (a very vague number as it's very frequency dependent), the HD 300 Pro certainly has a lot more HF attenuation than the HD280 Pros. Listening back to the same track playing through speakers whilst just wearing the headphones, low frequency attenuation seemed similar to me. But the mids' and even more so the treble, were a lot quieter when wearing the HD 300 Pros. This bodes well for using them when recording vocals, where HF cymbal bleed is an ever-present problem, as this should be greatly reduced for the HD 300 Pro over the HD 280 Pros.

In order to keep the sound in/out, the cups are pressed firmly against the sides of your head. You certainly know you are wearing them (unlike the feather-light feel and minimal pressure of my AKG K712s). The padding around the cups is soft and comfortable, but they aren't going to be 'phones for prolonged and relaxed listening. I don't think the padding is replaceable, which is a shame as experience with my HD 280 Pros shows this deteriorates in feel and stiffness over time. This is probably not helped by the tight-fitting of the cups causing sweaty ears.

HD 280 Pro (L) and HD 300 Pro (R):
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So what do the HD 300 Pros sound like? In a word, great!

I always though the HD 280 Pros had a pretty good sound for closed-back 'phones. but the HD 300 Pros simply blow them away. It's not the most neutral sound in the world but it's far from all boom and tizz. The bass-end is slightly hyped, but for me, the mids and the treble are smooth and well balanced. Not quite the detail or airiness you get from open-backed 'phones, but it's not too far off. There should be no reason why a performer can't get a good mix on these cans and hear clearly all that's going on. Tracking headphones have never had to have wonderful fidelity (Beyer DT100s anyone?) as isolation has always been the main priority, but these are certainly good enough for enjoyable detailed listening outside the studio (if rather uncomfortable if worn for too long).

HD 300 Pros showing the earcup swivel joints:
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And the price? Well, Sennheiser (and stockists) currently have them on a half-price offer until 15th Sept 2019, at (for the UK) £83 inc. shipping and VAT. That's the same price as the HD 280 Pros! The full Sennheiser web store price is £169, at which point you have a different set of 'phones to compare them to, but I'd hope the future street price would be well below that. It would be nice if the street price could be kept to a similar level as at present, but even if they end up a bit more expensive but under £100, I'd say they would be the best tracking 'phones available in that sub-£100 price bracket.

So what are you waiting for? Grab some now!
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Re: Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

Postby Mike Stranks » Tue Sep 03, 2019 11:12 am

Nice one! :thumbup:

Would definitely be on my shopping list if I was still 'in the biz'.
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Re: Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

Postby Random Guitarist » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:25 am

Thanks for this, I bought a pair and they are definitely good for tracking.

Not the same airiness and accuracy as the 650s, but a fraction of the price, good comfort and isolation.

I endorse your review :thumbup:
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Re: Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

Postby Wonks » Tue Sep 10, 2019 8:27 am

Why, thank you kind sir. :)
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Re: Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

Postby ef37a » Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:07 am

Wonks wrote:Why, thank you kind sir. :)

I do quite like my AKG K92s but do have a birthday in a month or so!

Re the L/R no show? Have you looked at the inside of the earcups?
I did not find that on my 92s for a while but then I doubt you are as old and daft as me!

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Re: Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

Postby Wonks » Tue Sep 10, 2019 10:36 am

I did (taken at the time):

Image

However after one more look, I finally discovered small embossed 'L' and 'R' on the inside of the hinge area, partially covered up by the earcups. A touch of white paint in the indents wouldn't have gone amiss as they are very faint!

There are also three vertical dots on the other side of the hinge, which is 'L' in Braille.

Image

So partial apologies to Sennheiser - but they really should be more obvious!

Just be aware that the Sennheiser direct 1/2 price offer ends on 15th Sept, and I have no idea what their price in the stores will be afterwards.
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Re: Sennheiser HD 300 Pro closed-back headphones

Postby Trevor Johnson » Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:41 pm

Just be aware that the Sennheiser direct 1/2 price offer ends on 15th Sept

Thanks, Wonks, for an excellent in-depth and real-life review, I have been looking at some closed backs for tracking and ordered some. The 1/2 price offer is still on, looking at the website just now, so Dave, perhaps a good opportunity to buy now for your forthcoming birthday!

My observations: very comfortable and I have quite a wide head (7 and 5/8, I hesitate to say big!!) and I used them today whilst editing a video for my new postgrad students. Sound quality is what you expect from closed backs, and way, way better than than £83 should buy: even at full price they are a relative steal. Also, I love the screw-on 1/4 inch adapter. My only minor criticism is the cable length, which I can appreciate at this price point, but on the Sennheiser store there are no options for longer lengths. No worries, I shall get an extension cable.
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