Sennheiser has outdone themselves with the higher-end sibling to the HD 280 Pro.
I’ve written often on this site about how happy I am with the pair of 280s that I’ve had, going strong, since 2005. They’ve always been my office headphones, staying at work through three different jobs, affixed to my head for many hours per day. They passively block outside sound very well, and my coworkers can’t hear my music because the 280s are not “open”. Coworkers have always been so impressed by my 280s that many of them have bought their own. Whenever I fly somewhere, I bring the 280s, even though they’re huge and have a big, coiled, unwieldy cord, because they’re so comfortable for long periods and block out the plane noise so well.
But recently, Sennheiser quietly released a higher-end model: the HD 380 Pro. (Well, it was released two years ago. In the world of headphones, that’s “recently”.) I wasn’t motivated to try them since my 280s were going strong and I could never find the 380s in a store to test. But I recently got them as a gift (thanks, Mom!). And I’m sure glad I did.
I knew it would be difficult to surpass my love for the 280s, and I wasn’t sure if the 380s were worth almost twice as much money:
In short: the 380s are completely worth it.
Headphones are difficult to compare objectively, and different listeners have different preferences, especially regarding comfort. But they’re remarkably better than the 280s:
- They sound much better. The new angled speaker design makes the soundstage (sorry) seem much wider and more open than the 280s. It’s a completely different and better sound, not just an incremental improvement. The 380s are the best-sounding closed headphones I’ve ever heard.
- They’re slightly lighter and apply less pressure to your head, making them even more comfortable for long listening periods than the 280s (and that’s saying a lot).
- They fold flatter than the 280s and come with a semi-hard case that’s not too bulky.
They share the 280s’ other good qualities as well:
- They block outside sound just as well, and they keep your music in just as well (confirmed by the ruler test).
Like the 280s, they can be driven to very high volumes by the low-power amps in iPhones, iPods, and computers. It’s uncomfortably loud for me to surpass about 75% volume on my iPhone.
I tested the 380s with my NuForce Icon uDAC-2 headphone amp, and I didn’t notice any difference in fullness or bass power compared to plugging directly into my iPhone or MacBook Pro.
I’d love an option to replace the heavy, coiled cable with a shorter, straight one. (The cable is replaceable, but I don’t know of any alternatives to replace it with.) Otherwise, I have no complaints.
If you’re looking for a great pair of closed headphones for mostly stationary use, I can’t recommend these two models enough. The 280s are great. The 380s are greater. And neither are very expensive, as good headphones go.
If you already have the 280s and wonder whether it’s worth upgrading, it depends. How much do you use your headphones? How much do you care about these differences? And how much will you miss the money?
I wear my big headphones constantly while working, and if they’re anything like the 280s, it’s probably safe to assume that these 380s will outlast at least my next four computers. An extra $80 for a significant upgrade on such a long-lasting, heavily used product is an easy sell for me.
If you’d like to buy a pair of 380s, I’ll get a small commission if you use this Amazon link. Thanks.