Thursday, 29 September 2011

Sennheiser HD438

Short story

My father bought me the HD438. My first headphone. I was going to get the HD418 which is about $100 here, but he insisted that we get something higher up the line so I settled with the HD438, which is about $130. A couple of months later I bought the SR60i. He was pretty down about it... When I hear others say how crappy the cheaper Sennheisers are, I get a little mad inside, lol. These headphones are very special to me. $130 is quite a lot to spend on a hobby, especially since I don't have a job and my dad only earns enough for us. I mean srsly, if you offered me the HD600 to trade for my HD438 I wouldn't. Or maybe I would. I'd sell them and use the money to get a new pair of HD438s, and then spend the rest on pizzas. Hue.

Moving on to the review...

The Bad

This headphone is always overlooked and under-recommended.

The word that has been going around in audiophile circles since forever is that anything that is flashy is Skullcandy and anything Skullcandy is bad. The Sennheiser HD438 have got chrome spokes that really make you stand out in the crowd. In my opinion, they look pretty sleek and certainly not as bad as Skullcandies which are just so gaudy. I have a classmate that thinks my HD438s look too plastic.
The build quality of the Sennheiser HD438 is decent but they cannot be thrown around. They are not collapsible so storing them in your bag might be a little difficult. 

The Ugly
Not for use in hot tropical climates, unless you are always in a controlled environment. The velour pads can make your ears really warm. Not for anal guys who love their headphones FR to be flat either. 
The Good
They are circumaural closed headphones. Most closed headphones do not leak as much sound out as open headphones, even if you turn the volume up. You can use most circumaural closed headphones in quiet public places, such as libraries, public transport, etc. Of course there are exceptions like some Denon headphones. 
Very little sound leakage also translates into good isolation from the outside world. However, there is an important difference between circumaural headphones and active noise cancelling headphones. Circumaural headphones do not use any special technology to block outside noise, they just cover your ears like ear muffs. Active noise cancelling headphones require batteries. The mechanism in the headphone will produce some sort of wave that cancels out noise coming from the outside world. I'm not really sure how this works but you can read up on it on wikipedia. The HD438s are circumaurals that do not block outside noise.


The Sennheiser HD438 is very comfortable. This can be attributed to it's lack of clamp force and velour pads. Those wearing glasses will have no problem living with the HD438. They're also perfect for watching movies. Those who love to headbang claim that the lack of clamping force is a problem, and they're right. It really depends on what you use them for.   

The HD438 has the trademark Sennheiser sound signature. Sennheiser headphones have a very dark character as opposed to some headphones which sound bright like Grado or Shure. The problem with bright headphones is that they're fatiguing (imo).
The packaging on the HD438 says that the headphone has enhanced bass. They do have good bass extension which is to say that they reach really low into the sub bass region (good for dubstep) but they lack the bass slam or impact (bad for dubstep, good for rock) compared to other headphones like Sony XB5/700.
In stock condition, these headphones are decent. They do not really do anything exceptionally well, like how the Grados excel at guitar and drums. A little EQing will bring out the best in these but for $80, they sound pretty good. I'm a big fan of equalisers btw.
There are tweaks that you can do to the Sennheiser HD438. More on this in the next article. I will put up some images of the Sennheiser HD438 but they are not in stock condition, I've made a pretty huge cosmetic "upgrade".