Sennheiser HD448 Review

I am a contented IEM (in-ear monitor) user and the HD 448 was an impulse buy which turned out to be AMAZING! So you now know what to expect further into the review. The Sennheiser HD 448 is a closed-back full size headphone that performs admirably well in the pool of headphones that it competes with.

I have been listening on the Sennheiser HD448s for almost 3 months,  if over-the-ear headphones are you’re thing then there just isn’t anything (in this class) under the $100 or 100€ mark that will best this beauty. Now that earlier statement may not hold true for long since there are always price cuts!

The HD448 fall into the over-the-ear class of full size headphones. These envelop the complete ear lobe (the over-the-ear) and the ear-cups are designed with sufficient space to do the job.They also fall into the closed design class which means they do not leak sound and offer some isolation (more on the isolation later). The HD 448 was designed for use with portable music players (as Sennheiser says) and their size is quite reasonable. and generally does provoke stares from people around (oh, I should say that if you do get some looks it’s probably the styling on the ear-cups ;-)).

Sound Quality

The biggest advantage that the 448 offers is the clarity/resolution that just blows away anything I’ve heard before. Clarity of sound is something that I’m not sure that I would be able to explain satisfactorily, but let me try. Every chord or beat or frequency is so clear – the best way to experience this is the first time you put on the 448 after using your regular headphone. Now if you go back to your older headphone you’ll definitely notice the muddy spectrum of sounds. An example that strikes me is with photography, you’ve shot with point & shoots and then switched to a SLR with a fast prime lens – now you suddenly notice how you’re primary subject is so sharp! That’s exactly what I’m talking about in terms of sound.If you’re a bass lover, stay clear of the 448s – there are other cans out there which will satisfy you more. Though the bass on the 448 is decent but it’s nowhere close to the oomph  that even a cheap pair of in-ears (though the bass is going to be muddy!) can deliver (Check the frequency response of the Sennheiser CX-300s in the image below). My earlier statement should not be misconstrued as “no bass”, the bass response is clean but not very deep nor is there much “attack”.  If you like balanced or neutral sound then the 448s are definitely the way to go.The HD448s were designed for midrange beauty or vocals and that’s where it shines. Its not easy switching to neutral listening styles, I started out with the CX300 and have been moving down/up ever since (Koss porta pro and the Shure SE 210). Initially, I felt that the bass was too faint but I gradually settled into the levels within a few days (though not without withdrawal effects ;-)). I can’t stress enough that these headphones are tuned for midrange response – and it really does that very well.The vocals on most pop and Indian music is fantastic and very musical. Soundstage is good after the initial burn-in period though initially it was a bit constricted (guess I am making an unfair comparison with my semi-open headphones!).

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For more detailed technical  test data check out Inner fidelity headphone data sheet.

Comfort

Wearing comfort is a primary concern when going for a full-size can, the Sennheisers are just masters at making the best fit. The longest I’ve managed to wear my 448 was about 5hrs and after which I actually fell asleep with my cans on..I had totally forgotten that they were there in the first place! The clamping force is gentle, yet the fit is firm – which provides decent noise isolation. The isolation can ofcourse not be compared to in-ears but the seal is decent enough to get you through busy streets and on flights. The isolation may not be sufficient in really noisy environments such as underground transport stations.

To amp or not to amp?

Sennheiser suggests the HD448 as a great accompaniment to portable music players, which it definitely is – but does it really flex the muscles of this headphone? Unfortunately the answer is no! A 32 ohm impedance rating on this headphones suggests that it should play very well with most of the portable music players. The reality is though the HD448 does a good job with most portable music players including mobile phones, it just seems to lack that shine which is very prominent when an amplifier is introduced. I’ve listened to the HD448 on an iPod Nano, iPod Classic and the iPhone as well and always noticed that… something was just lacking!. Throwing in a Fiio E7 or an iBasso T3 just made the HD448 outshine itself. The tonality and the attack on the base notes and the timbral response definitely seem to be enhanced by introducing an amplifier. Ofcourse that could just be a personal subjective opinion, but I would earnestly ask you to give it a try and see if your experience is the same.

Verdict

I have no second thoughts about recommending the HD448 as a worthy buy for the discerning music listener. Remember that most music lovers are inevitably addicted to inordinate amounts of Bass (with a capital B), though the HD448 has a “decent” amount of well textured low-end it might not be enough for everyone and I would therefore recommend that you try the headphone before buying it! The headphone definitely gets better with burn-in (around 20 hrs) and the bass as well gets a little better. The HD448 is on the Headroom’s Top 10 list which adds to my opinions about its value, that said if you love bass and strong bass – look elsewhere!

Update:

Sennheiser has recently come out with the follow-up to the HD448, you guessed it right! HD449 – which looks equally cool and from the specifications online seems pretty much the same. But, it’s never a good idea to judge a headphones by its looks and specification so if you’re looking into the HD448s check out the HD449 as well – unless you get a good deal on the HD448 ;-). I’ll post a review of the HD449 when I get a chance to test it out.

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Philips 9550 headphones – Review

After a year of use my Shure SE250’s cable as well as the rubber seal around the headphones have given up. I still got a year of warranty on it so would be sending them in for repairs. In the meantime however I needed a cheap but quality headphones to sooth my music cravings. I didn’t want to go in for pricey pair (anything above €50..yeah..that’s kinda pricey for a student!) so went shopping for the cheapest in-ear canalphones that I can get away with. I’ve used the Sennheiser CX300 before and have recommended it to my friends as well, but I was in a mood to try something different (or even cheaper than the €27 that the CX300s cost). The Philips 9550 retails on Amazon for €20 (there’s the Creative EP630 coming in cheaper at €15! but that’s kinda scarily cheap!) and seemed appealing.


On the outside the headphones are well designed (and they come in black only!) the package comes with a standard 3 set fit kit of rubber seals and a cable winder thrown in for free. The cable of the Philips 9550 comes in at 1.2m which is about right for a 6ft guy carrying the ipod or any other music player in the jeans pocket – but i still feel its stingy! and the cable winder is just sarcastic! Anyway that’s about the only gripe with the Philips 9550 that I had. I’ve a full review up on Blogcritics and would definitely like to underline the verdict..this thing is a mean bass machine! remember to wear the headphones over the ear (like the shure models) and the angled audiotunnel gives you a comfortable and effective fit canceling out background noise as well as pumping bass into your earcanals. The Philips 9550 is a fantastic buy for the money, and will definitely satisfy bassheads and casual listeners alike. If you’re looking for anything better than good…then this isn’t the pricepoint you should be looking in.


iPhone apps every biologist needs



After writing a previous post about the productivity boost that iPhone & iPod apps provide to a research student, it was time to update the topic, considering the constant barrage of apps coming into the app store. Here is a link to my article on The Scientist magazine website listing my current top 10 apps that would be of immense help to a (biology) grad student.
Image : William Hook


Samsung U900 Soul Review

I wouldn’t call it serendipity, but i haven’t found an equivalent for the experience i am going through. Its that time of the year, to look for new phones. My contract with O2 will be ending in a month or two and should be looking for greener pastures. And ofcourse the new iphone is out! 😉

I still made up ma mind as to whether it would be a worthwhile investment, first things first – the job of a phone its to serve its user to communicate in the most efficient and cheap manner as possible. Well that isn’t going to be possible with the T-Mobile phone contracts..so i’ll put the iphone on hold for a while now.

My choice with the 02 phones weren’t anything exciting. The Nokia N82 looks promising but I’m still recovering from my 2 years with the N73 symbian OS which was life in slow motion and infrequent freeze ups! so this time my choices were for non symbian handsets. The samsung soul U900 was an attractive handset that caught my attention immediately. Fifteen minutes later i was busy charging and getting to know the “soul”.

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U900 soul is a slick slider phone with all the standard features and more;

* 5 megapixel camera with 4x digital zoom, face-detection autofocus, image stabiliser and Power LED flash
* Video camera (MPEG4 / 3GPP) / 3G video calling
* Display: TFT, 16 million colours, 320 x 240 pixels
* Music player (MP3, WMA, AAC, AAC+, e-AAC+ formats, OMA, WM digital rights management)
* FM radio
* Bang & Olufsen power amp
* Ringtones: MP3 ringtones / 72-voice polyphonic tones
* Messaging: SMS, MMS, email
* Voice memo & voice mail
* Speakerphone
* Java games
* Document viewer
* Offline mode
* WAP 2.0, GPRS, EDGE, 3.5G (HSDPA 7.2 Mbps), web browser
* Connectivity: Bluetooth, USB 2.0
* Memory: 100 Mbytes plus MicroSD memory card slot
* Personal organiser functions
* Triband GSM (900/1800/1900 MHz) plus 3G
* Size: 106 x 50 x 12.9 mm
* Weight: 112g

U900 soul appears to have a full metal chassis, which doesn’t make it a light weight phone for its looks — sure feels sturdy and solid when you hold it. It’s definitely slim and attractive. The slider mechanism is pretty well made and doesn’t feel cheap. The body with a lush metallic finish attracts a lot of fingerprints (get a invisible shield to cover it). The package includes standard charger, stereo headphones and the battery. The phone is pretty fast for surfing, when you manage use the really pathetic browser that’s bundled in. Its a pain to navigate with the bundled in browser, I tried opera mini which worked effortlessly.

The 5mp camera is a treat, picture quality is better than my older nokia N73. Advanced features such exposure, white balance, autofocus, face detection are also thrown in. I have no complaints regarding the camera. The mp3 playback is also good though lacks playlist organization and file browser could have been better, but then the samsung interfaces were never great in the first place. The audio is supposed to have powered by Bang & Olufsen power amplifier but i haven’t noticed anything special. I must also say a word about the battery life, eventhough there are mixed views regarding the battery life, mine has been running great – infact its so good that i can afford to leave the bluetooth feature on for the whole day with no noticeable effect on the phone’s standby time!

The other attractive/most talked about feature of the phone is the “Magic touch interface”. The navigation key or the rocker is replaced by a touch sensitive pad which changes contextually and is a breeze to use. Of course you’ve to get used to the interface first, at least i did not have much trouble with it. The only difficulty i faced is the quick switching between the touch and the normal button interface. Sometime i forget where to do what and keep touching the buttons and pressing the touch pad! may be that’s just me but i would have preferred all the buttons on the touch pad 😉 (what a geek!) The volume levels aren’t very comfortable to hear, its a little on the low side even when the volume levels are cracked up to the maximum. This problem is for the incoming all alerts, the audio and call clarity are just right and i couldn’t notice a difference between my N73 and the samsung. I am not sure of the inbuilt memory but if i m right its about 100Mb ( which is generous), anyway my o2 handset came with a 2gb sd card (mini) which is more comfortable. Yes the memory tops of at 2gb! there’s no way to add more 😦

All in all the u900 soul is good balance of features and looks and is sure to get everybody’s attention when you flip it out!