Well, it took me a week of researching customer and tech reviews, but I finally settled on the Sennheiser EH 350s and I have been exceptionally happy with my choice.
The primary point of purchasing new headphones is because I play a bass guitar and I wanted a pair in order to hear the nuances of the music I am playing. Also, I own a couple MP3 players and I wanted some headphones to use with them as well.
The first pair I bought, just willy-nilly really, was the Skullcandy Skullcrusher “subwoofer” headphones. Big mistake, it was the worst $45 I ever spent. Their mids and highs were lackluster, and the so-called “bass” was really just vibration with little really true bass frequency. Sure I could “feel” the vibration of the bass, but it was impossible to pick out individual notes because it drowned everything out. Then my dog chewed them up because he was disgusted as I was, and although I share his enthusiasm I was sad to see I couldn’t return them :)
Anyway, the EH 350 is like night and day with the Skullcandy’s. The Sennheiser’s really try to reproduce the original studio sound, hence why they are called monitor headphones, and they do an excellent job of it. The sound is flat, as the sound is not artificially boosted, which also means that music that comes out of it will sound slightly quiet. But I found that if I just jack up the volume on my preamp or mp3 player the sound comes out strong and loud. I use a 30GB Zune, and it has plenty of power to blast out a sound that is just tolerable at highest volume. This is good because some headphones out there have troubles producing a good volume with mobile devices. Now onto the sound quality.
The mids and especially the highs are very well defined with these headphones. They shine through with exceptional quality and precision, and although the highs are a bit stronger they actually balance well with each other. The highs were a little too high upon first purchase, but after a couple days it mellowed out nicely without losing any of the previous power. After only a two hour burn in, you will notice an appreciable improvement in sound quality. I am excited to think how these will feel a month from now.
Of course, I really bought them for the bass. Upon first purchase the bass was a little too quiet for me, or perhaps it might be better to say that the highs drowned it out too much. Actually I think it was a mix of both, but now that a few days have passed the bass has become excellent. Some reviews listed this product had a bass that was slightly too quiet. The fact is, that is how bass usually sounds in the studio. The key with bass is that you train your ear to hear it, rather then just try to buy headphones that artificially boost the bass. If you want to hear a tight, true bass sound that has the power to blow your mind away, go out and buy a pair of $1000 dollar monitor speakers and feel the love. Otherwise, you wont be able to beat the well balanced richness of the EH 350's bass.
The end effect? Although the sound of monitor headphones can tend to be flat, the EH 350 sound comes out exceptionally well balanced. Although I couldn’t call them “golden with richness”, they will however produce a sound that is so accurate to original studio that you will pick up hidden nuances and stylizations that you will have never heard before. With these headphones, you can hear each of the individual instruments and voices of your favorite music instead of them all muddled together like other headphones who might sound more rich. I would highly recommend these headphones to any musicians who are looking for monitor headphones on a budget but who don’t want to sacrifice sound quality. I also recommend these headphones to anyone who has ever wanted to play an instrument or sing, these headphones make it easy to tune your ear to individual instruments and puts forth and incredibly accurate note and pitch.
Note however that the EH 350s, like most monitor headphones, are open ear. That means that sound is allowed to pass freely out of the headphones. This allows the sound to extend past the headphones and makes it so that the shape of the headphone cup does not distort the sound like a lot of closed-ear headphones will do, and it has the additional benefit of keeping airflow within the cups, so your ears never sweat or become uncomfortable. On the other hand, although the EH 350s are pretty good at keeping at least moderate noise levels out, other people around will be able to hear what you are listening, especially in quiet or small quarters. These might not be the best headphones for you if you are wanting to take them on the bus or be in crowds. Some headphones are large and noticeable. I have noticed that the Sennheiser’s are small and stylish enough to at least go largely unnoticed, but I wouldn’t call them attractive.
But how do they fit? It is true that Sennheiser’s are slightly tight as many reviewers have stated. But this is how they are designed. I am a male with a reasonably sized head. I wont say I have the biggest head out there, but I have been known to have a sizeable noggin. Although the EH 350s sit tight, they do not sit uncomfortably so. In fact, the tight fit is actually a necessity to the open ear system of the headphones and improves sound quality, and as I stated previously this makes them able to reasonably block out moderate external sounds without losing the benefit of open ear headphones. They also are slightly too bulky to take jogging and undoubtably would be uncomfortable if you took them running with you.
One other point before I move on, the cups on these headphones are slightly small. I would say I have slightly smaller then average sized ears for a man and they go around my ear and sit on my skull, but people with large ears might find the cushions lying on the ears instead of around them. It is also very important to note that the leather cushion on the top of the headphones should rest firmly upon the top of your head as to hold some of the weight. If you over adjust these headphones the weight will fall on the cups and your ears will begin to rest on the hard plastic within. After about an hour, this will cause discomfort. This is, of course, easily alleviated by simply properly adjusting them to fit your head.
What about value? At prices well under $100 dollars, these headphones are easily worth twice their price. I don’t think any headphones at any price will be able to beat the 350s precision. You will have to begin looking at the $200 dollar price range if you want headphones that will have the precision of the 350s and have a more full bodied richness. I hear the 595s might be what your looking for if you have dough to spend.
Overall, the Sennheiser EH 350s get a five star, 9 out of 10. With a perfect balance of precision and value, you can’t beat these headphones if you have less then a hundred dollars to spend.
Oh, and thankfully, my dog has decided to spare these headphones... for now...