Review: Sennheiser HD400 PRO
Can you transform your studio monitoring for only A$400? It’s an open (back) question.
I’ll kick off with a philosophical question. What’s ‘Pro’ mean? I’d suggest that Forrest Gump had the answer: ‘Pro is, as Pro does’.
Sennheiser has pitched these HD400 headphones as ‘Pro’. I suspect some studio professionals will take a quick look at the HD400 PRO’s impedance (120Ω) and conclude: ‘Nup. Not Pro.’
By way of comparison, Sennheiser’s HD600 (which many consider to be the gatekeeper of a superior listening experience) are 300Ω. At this level of impedance you need a decent headphone amp to drive them. The 300Ω rating is a recognition that you are in the sweetspot; in your Jason recliner; tethered to the headphone amp of your audio interface, mixing console or hi-fi.
Meanwhile, at 120Ω, the HD400 Pro headphones won’t grumble about being plugged into your phone or laptop. So are they ‘Pro’? Well, Pro is as Pro does, and there are plenty of audio professionals using laptops in hotel rooms or iPads in the field. Ergo, the answer is ‘yes’.
There ends my musings on the term ‘Pro’. Let’s get into the review!
A pair of open back headphones are not going to be your first choice studio purchase. The true workhorses of the studio are always closed back designs. The likes of the Audio-Technica M50, Sennheiser HD25s, etc are classics for being jacks of all trades. You can wear them while recording without fear of bleed spilling into open mics, you can wear them on the train without annoying your neighbours, while they’re sonically up to the challenge (if you’re willing to invest) when you need another reference while mixing.
That said, everyone loves the sound of open back headphones. Compared to a close back design, or even an in-ear design, great open back headphones will provide added transparency, a more open sound stage, and are able to handle the task of reproducing bass frequencies more naturally. Sure, studio pros have always been using open back headphones for listening sessions but like I said, they’re hardly a studio workhorse. But that’s changing.
Sennheiser has noted that producers are increasingly relying on headphones to make mixing decisions as they become more mobile, and less reliant on acoustically treated rooms.
And if you’re producing and mixing with headphones for hours and days on end, then comfort, combined with a natural, un-hyped sound are absolutely paramount.
The HD400 PROs are a lightweight (240g), open back, over ear headphone that are supremely comfortable, sound natural and are non-fatiguing.
NEED TO KNOW
Sennheiser HD400 PRO
Open Back Headphones
If you don’t own a pair of open back headphones, then Sennheiser’s HD400 PROs represent excellent value and audio quality. They have a refined natural tonal balance that immediately instils confidence — no smiley face EQ curve that might get people excited about cheaper models.
If you produce and mix in an acoustically compromised room with budget studio monitors, I would recommend you consider the HD400 PROs as an upgrade to your setup. They will transport you to a far more expensive mixing space than the equivalent studio monitor purchase (not withstanding all the of the usual caveats regarding mixing on headphones, such as being fooled by extended stereo spread and detail that mostly doesn’t translate in the real world). I mean, what realistically-priced studio monitors can you think of that will give you a super-extended frequency response [6Hz to 38kHz (-10 dB)], super low distortion, and ‘remove’ all the room nodes in your space?
The 120Ω impedance means the HD400 PROs will happily play ball with just about any source — including your phone and laptop — while responding positively to a more primo headphone amp.
The HD400 PROs are a genuine professional package. Okay, you can’t vibe to them on the train but when you consider that a huge chunk of most audio producers’ work time is spent in glorious isolation, comfort and a balanced frequency response are a far bigger concern. And in that regard, the HD400 PRO headphones have you covered.