Sennheiser HD 201
There are a lot of things you can buy for £17 – four boxes of 20 Chicken Mcnuggets with BBQ sauce, for instance. Or these Sennheiser headphones. They are neither new nor particularly advanced. Nor are they packed with fancy hidden features. Frankly, these over-ear headphones are as basic as they come, but they are also seriously good value for money.
They’re made from the light and bendy sort of plastic you might associate with airplane headsets, along with thin plastic ‘leather’ on the earpads and headband. But the Sennheiser HD 201s are tough and will happily survive being thrown about or squashed in a rucksack. That’s important, considering they don’t have hinges and cannot be folded.
No mushy strokes
“It’s a coherent listen, just not the most engaging one. But what did you expect for a mere £17?“
The HD 201s are comfortable and lightweight enough to wear for hours, although your ears might get a little warm. On the flipside, noise isolation isn’t great. Though a closed-back design, they do little to block out background sounds.
It would be understandable to expect inferior sound from a pair of headphones costing £17, but the HD 201s are surprisingly competent, with key strengths being insight and balance. It’s not the sort of fine definition that lets you identify how many violins are in the orchestra, but it’s not broad, mushy strokes either.
As for balance, the HD 201s put out a tonally even performance that is acceptable across the whole frequency range. The top end is never hard and the midrange is direct. There’s enough bass too, even if it doesn’t reach the depths required to make the most of Massive Attack’s Angel.
The one area that could do with some work is dynamism. The HD 201s don’t make the most of the dynamic shifts so prevalent in Prince’s When Doves Cry, and the result is more flat than funky. It’s a perfectly coherent listen, just not the most engaging one. But what did you expect for £17?
The Sennheiser HD 201s are far from perfect, but they are competent. If you’re attracted by that low price, there aren’t many options that offer such good value for money. Except 80 chicken nuggets, maybe?