Fifteen years ago, I doubt there were more than a handful of headphones that would best the cans I review here. It really is amazing how far headphones have come in the last couple of decades. None the less, these cans are in a difficult price range where manufacturers have to be very careful about eeking out performance without blowing the budget. As a result all four headphones here suffer from a slight lack of refinement in one way or another.
[caption id="" align="alignnone" width="425" caption="Frequency response of the Denon AH-D1001, Sennheiser HD 448, Shure SRH440, and Sony MDR-V6."]
Measurements show all these cans hovering in a good place, with Denon and Sony showing better bass extension, and all being slightly different in the highs. Let's have a listen and see how well the data holds up.
The Denon AH-D1001
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="The Denon AH-D1001S is the silver version of this can and is available cheap!"][/caption]
The smallest and lightest of the four phones reviewed here, the Denon AH-D1001 is also the most expensive, and only making this review because the silver version is on sale for much less than normal, but it's such a good headphone that I just had to allow the D1001 to budge into the mix on the technicality.
As you can see from the frequency response measurement, these cans have good bass extension and reasonably even response up into the highs where it does wiggle around a bit ... but not excessively so.
[caption id="" align="alignright" width="255" caption="Frequency Response of the Denon AH-D1001S"]
[/caption]As I listen to the D1001 I find them pleasing, warm, and laid back. The bass does sound slightly woolly and soft, not quite having the impact and punch I'd like, but none really do at this price range. The treble range is somewhat laid back and overly polite, as I mentioned before, but is resolving enough; certainly not dull or overly rounded. The mid-range fills in quite nicely, with nicely rendered vocals sans any undue tonal shading, though it does fall short of that liquid sense of mid-range bounce found in more expensive cans.
These headphones are the lightest and smallest of the bunch reviewed here, but surprisingly feel the roomiest and most comfortable on my head. I worried a bit about the sturdiness of these cans until I had a look through our returns log and found not a single broken D1001 in the mix. They are also the most efficient of the cans here, making them a good choice for work as a portable headphone.
All in all the D1001 is probably the most pleasant headphone of the bunch for me -- I rather like a laid back presentation --- but remember they're actually about $40 more expensive than the rest normally.
The Sennheiser HD 448
More in part 2 of this review
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="360" caption="The Sennheiser HD 448 is an excellent general purpose can."][/caption]
Like pretty much all of their products, the Sennheiser HD 448 is a masterful compromise of price and performance. This is the top headphone in their HD 4X8 series of sealed cans designed for general purpose home and portable use. They are all quite good, but the HD 448 is certainly the stand out in the line for sonic performance and worth stretching the budget for.
|Bass lovers will find these cans a little weak in the lows, but the bass that is there is tight and punchy, and most folks will find the lows satisfying. The rest of the audio spectrum is nicely balanced with neutral mids and highs; altogether even, detailed and well behaved.[caption id="" align="alignright" width="255" caption="Though lacking somewhat in the lows, the response otherwise is well controlled."][/caption]You'll notice a little notch in the response around 5kHz; Sennheiser believes this is a good thing and helps to control a sense of harshness in their cans. I certainly hear nicely articulate highs without any sense of strident or aggressive artifact.The HD 448 is a light and well-built headphone that fits very securely on your head. The ear cups are slightly too small for my fairly average ears, but not uncomfortably so. And though they are the least efficient of the cans I review here, they are efficient enough to achieve solid listening levels on an iPod or other portable player.All in all, a very good general purpose headphone.