And probably boring.
I compared my Sennheiser HD 570 (as the reference) and Senn PXC 250 (as the phones to be replaced) to 3 other headphones: Sennheiser HD 280, Sennheiser HD 25-SP, and AKG K 81 DJ. (see everyone? I can choose different brands sometimes...
Here's the short of it: The 25-SPs are going back. While they may be bulletproof and theft proof (due to the fact they look about 25 years old), they are also audiophile-proof. They're very muddy.
The 280s and the 81s, well, those are another story. I'm still debating--a lot of it may depend on my BART rides over the next few days. Very different character, but enjoyable.
The 280s are more similar to the 570s--a little airy, with better bass and worse imaging. They're also huge-almost as big as the 570s in the cups, and larger in other dimensions. Very comfy, but enormous.
The 81s have surprisingly good detail and treble for all their strong bass. And this is quality bass-not muddy, not thumpy. They're more forgiving than the 280s and the 570s.
Anyway, if people want to slog through my notes, here they are. Bear in mind, these are unedited, written as I was comparing the cans. Feel free to skip 'em...
I'll probably post more on the noise resistance of the 280 and 81s later this week.
The o'clocks refer to the volume knob on my Creek headphone amp--really, I'm not a headphone geek, I just like knobs for my volume control on the computer.
The source material is AIFF files ripped directly from original CDs using iTunes 5.
The music is all off of my favorites disk that I sent around to various people last year--if someone's interested in this, PM me and I'll see if I can dig up some more envelopes.
You have been warned-rambling ahead.
airy, well blanaced. good bass. Not overpowering-nice treble, easy to hear details, including pluck on guitar, brush on cymbal. good imaging. (shocker) slightly muffled on Hanger 18, probably recording-but the bass guitar is distinct. seems a little muffled on Hung My Head, too. damn. it's the recording, I don't get that on Don't Follow. Niiice imaging. Excellent sound. Gods, I can hear everything. Love these cans. The handbells aren't too sharp.
Senn PXC 250
less open, still kind of sharp on the claps on Unsquare. hiss from noise cancelling. lots of treble, not so much bass. Don't even want to listen to these on all the tracks. Kept turning 'em down. Hangar 18-what bass? The ears get used to 'em, though... there goes my aural memory. Enough already.
Senn HD 280
it's like being in a bank vault with a stereo. I can hear details, but the lack of outside noise is strange. Nice echo on Unsquare Dance. Treble is not overpowering. Gillain Welch sounds really nice. Ooh, there's a bass there--I didn't realize that before! I don't think the imaging is as good as the 570s, though. And god, the isolation is weird. Well, there's the bass on Hangar 18, certainly. Nice kick to these. I want to turn them up! Ooh, Sunscreem sounds fantastic. Like having a subwoofer in my head. Bass is the strength on these things. Treble's not bad, just not outstanding like the 570s. I don't think. Listening to Vic Wooten on these is amazing. All the resonance from that bass-I hear the overtones so well. A little hollow sounding on Dust for Life. Treble's actually pretty good on A Home. Not painful at all on the handbells. These things are keepers-other than the sheer size. How silly do I want to look?
Senn HD 25-SP
Nice detail. A little sharp on the high end. Much lighter (physically) than the 280s. Decent bass on Unsquare. Almost too much bass on Until it Sleeps. Gets muddy. Too bad... Nothing special. Gillian doesn't sound too good, damn, there's a bass there, but where's everything else? Similar feeling of isolation in these to the 280s, but not the comfort in it. The cymbals kind of get mashed together. Not bad at all on the Sunscreem, though. I'm kind of warming to them, but they're no 280s or 570s. OH geez, they're terrible on Dust for Life! Too much bass. I fear for the AKGs... Certainly better than the 250s, but... Not painful on the handbells. Surprise. And every time you tap the cord, even lightly, you hear the plastic sound of the headphones. Almost as good as the 280s, my foot. These go back.
AKG K 81 DJ
Nice bass. Doesn't seem to overpower the banjo in Bela Fleck. Handclaps in Unsquare are not painful. Decent imaging, not as echoey than Unsquare. Better clamping feeling to the head than the 25s. Ooh, nice guitar on Gillian Welch. There's a little echo behind her. These are pretty nice! I keep listening to stuff on these for a long time. Nice presence, seems like good isolation. Perhaps not as good as the 280s. These are really, really nice. And the cheapest! They gonna hate me at headphone.com... Nice impact on Hangar 18. I can hear the bass distinctly, but it's not overpowering. Sunscreem works well on these, too-I can hear the subsonics-ok, well, not really, but I can tell they're there. OK, I'm trying to find something wrong, maybe the treble's a little weak. Or maybe not, at least judging by the AIC. There's those resonances on Vic's bass. A tad muddy on Dust for Life, but that could be the recording. I'll have to check it on the reference cans. Oh geez, there's a lot of noise on Dixie Chicks. Live recording, surprise. No, the treble's actually pretty decent. Handbells aren't too sharp at all.
Back to back on 280s vs 81s, Bela Fleck--
Clearly the 81s have more bass, the 280s are more treble. Both are excellent. I think I might like the 81s better, though. The 280s seem a little hollow, more like, well, large closed headphones. The 81s don't necessarily sound more natural, but they've got a bit more presence.
Back to back to back 570 vs 280 vs 81 on Dust for Life
280s are too much. 570s are lighter. 81s have a nice punch. I kind of miss the airiness of the 570s. A lot of that may be physical feel, though. The 81s seem more fun than the 570s, but I'm sure the 570s are more accurate. Hmm. Now the 280s are sounding pretty good-volume equalization is important, people! This is going to be harder than I thought. Now the 81s sound a bit bloated. Arrrg.
Back to Back 280 vs 81 on Megadeth
The 81s fill in for the lack of bass on the earlier recording. The 280s have some impact, but not as distinct. Surprisingly, the 81s seem more crisp. Yeah, the 280s lose a lot on this recording.
Back to back 280 vs 81 on Dixie Chicks
280s sound really nice on the intro to this. So do the 81s, but not quite as enveloping. Or maybe they are. The 280s are a little pointed. More resonance on them, and this isn't necessarily a good thing. The 81s get a little chesty on some of it, but I'm willing to sacrifice that for general listenability, which these have in spades. Nope, put the 280s back on, and I'm back to liking them a lot.
As a postscript, I'm listening to the 81s as I post this stuff...