I was recently given the opportunity to review the new Sennheiser HD7 DJ headphones by the friendly Sennheiser rep Rosmadi. I've been using various Sennheiser headphones since I started Djing, so I was very curious as to how these new ones measure up.
Before I get into the actual review, let's talk about what the HD7s are intended for. The box clearly says professional DJ headphones, and while that's true, I think Sennheiser is making a larger play for the “lifestyle headphone” market as well. Look at how beautiful some the products Sennheiser has been releasing lately (momentum headphones), and I think you'll agree these too would have some crossover appeal with the “headphones as a fashion accessory” crowd. The extra attention to appearances doesn't mean these aren't serious headphones for the working DJ though.
The headphones arrived in a large, box that reeked of luxury. Again, nothing to do with performance, but it's a nice padded box containing a somewhat large padded zipper case. Two cables are included, a straight and coiled cable that can be attached to either earcup. These cables are kevlar reinforced and have gold-plated connectors. In my experience with headphones, it's the cables that usually break, so I like how easily replaceable these are. For Djing, I went with the coiled cable. If I was using these for listening to music, I'd go with the straight because it's lighter. By the way, the 3.5 tip is slim, so these will fit through phone cases, if for some reason you're not actually using these to DJ with.
Also in the box are a second set of ear pads. I prefer the leather type, but there's velour if you want that. They're easy to swap, try both and go with your preference.
The actual HD7s are quite nice looking. The dark grey and metallic blue color scheme is subtle, but stylish enough to compete with the crazy looking headphones other companies are putting out these days. One of the features I was curious about was the way these folded up instead of folding in like most headphones. If you mix with one ear, you will love this feature. An important note is that these only click into 3 positions. You can flip up one side, and they'll stay on your head like those one-sided headphones. I prefer mixing with both earcups on, to isolate outside sound, so I'll probably never use this feature except for storing them.
Speaking of sound isolation, the HD7s have the best isolation I've ever experienced. This is important to me because I like keeping my headphone volume low while mixing to avoid hearing damage. My regular headphones are Sennheiser HD280s which have up to 32db of noise attenuation. According to the Sennheiser product manager, HD7s have up to 40db attenuation! I have no way of measuring this, but they definitely perform well in high noise environments, so I don't have to take advantage of their high SPL capabilities.
Finally, to answer the most important question. What do they sound like? The HD7's have excellent sound, fairly balanced throughout the spectrum, tight, and with bottomless bass extension. (Ends around 10 hz.) I know it's a little cliché, but listening to Glitch Mob's Fortune Days with these, I picked up details I hadn't heard before. I was a little startled when I recognized a sample as actual recorded drums, not samples. Other reviews have said these are basshead headphones, I disagree with that assessment. They produce a great amount of bass, but not at all overpowering the mid or high frequencies. If you mix with the snares or high-hats, these will still work well. The bass is tight sounding, not muddy like a certain popular fashion headphone brand. I do own a measurement mic, when I get some time I'll see if I can rig up something to create actual data on these.
I took a trip to Best Buy last night to compare these with some other headphones people may be tempted to buy in this price range. The Monster DNA on-ear and over ear headphones are pitiful by comparison, mostly because of their poor ear fit and limited bass. Beats Studio headphones had a much better fit and frequency range than the DNA over-ears, but the sound quality wasn't nearly as good as the HD7. Comparing the HD7's to Pioneer's HDJ-2000's gives closer results. I've DJed previously with, and like the HDJ-2000's, but the Sennheisers fit better and have lower bass extension.
I also compared the HD7's to other headphones I own, DJ and consumer. Compared to my HD280's, these feel and sound similar, but upgraded in every way. They look better, isolate better, and sound better. I really wanted to compare these to the HD25's, but I don't own a pair at the moment. So sorry guys, I know that's probably the comparison everyone wants. From what I remember, the sound is similar, but with more bass from the HD7s, and of course better noise isolation. When I acquire a pair again, I'll post an update. At work I use Bose QuietComfort 2 headphones (hey, they were free) which oddly enough have a very similar ear cup fit. Sound quality and noise isolation goes to the Sennheiser by a mile, but if you're familiar with the fit, it's nearly the same.
What don't I like? Not much. The carrying case is a little large, and it'd be nice they were made in Germany or Belgium like many of the other product lines. It's also not clear if these are as repairable as some other Sennheiser headphones. HD25's can last a very long time, because you can fix the parts that normally break. I hope Sennheiser lets people do that with the HD series.
Bottom line? These are worthy of the Professional DJ label. For the way I mix, needing high background isolation and good sound quality, they're perfect. If you mix with one ear, you'll probably like these a lot too. If you prefer headphones that are more fashion statement than useful tool, I hear Skull Candy has a new Realtree line.
Thanks again to Sennheiser for providing these for review.
Any questions? Ask away.