Sennheiser HD202-II Headphone Review: Solid Bass, unremarkable everything else.

Sennheiser’s HD202-II(~$20 online, list price $34.99) is one of the cheapest headphones they make. And yet, it sells pretty consistently month-over-month, and it has several not-terrible reviews.

So I bought one.

These are clearly cheap plastic, but they don’t feel like they’ll shatter in your hands. Quite the opposite in fact.

Is it a good headphone for $20? Yes!

Is it a good headphone in the grand scheme of things? Well. It’s okay?

If you’re just getting started in the headphone world, you should probably save up some money, and go for the Koss Porta Pro (if you like relaxed sound signatures) or the Sony MDR-V6/7506(if you like a brighter sound). I’ve also heard great things about the Creative Aurvana Live, though I haven’t yet tested those myself.

Still, if you’re looking for a cheap headphone to throw around/carry in a bag/abuse without worrying, a good basic headphone for a gift, or something bassy to play around with, these might fit the bill.

Sound

These have a cheap version of the trademark Sennheiser sound, which some derisively call the “Sennheiser Veil.” To wit: The bass and low mids are more prominently featured, and the highs are rolled off. You can see this in frequency response graphs quite easily: Two big humps followed by a recessed treble. And a strange dip in the upper mids around 5K.

The packaging for these, and Sennheiser’s web site, both repeatedly mention powerful bass response. And they aren’t kidding. Bass is the star of the show with these headphones, and it’s not bad, especially for 20 dollars. It’s not terribly distorted, it reaches deep, and it’s just shy of muddy. It’s not the most textured, articulate, or punchy bass, but if you like bass, these will likely satisfy.

Unfortunately, it bleeds noticeably into the midrange, giving vocals and certain instruments a bit of a hazy, muffled sound. It’s immediately obvious coming from just about any other headphone: voices sound a little distant, like they have something on top of them, or they’re a little “thick.”

Highs are surprisingly clean for how withdrawn they are, though the lack of emphasis and the muddled mid-range can make them sound a little tinny compared to other headphones. They don’t get totally drowned out by the other sounds, but they can get lost in music with a lot of bass and mid information. This is not a great set for studio monitoring.

And yet, after some brain burn-in I totally got used to their sound. Listening to other, nicer pairs provides a marked difference in clarity, sure…but these are ~$20. That they don’t sound like hot garbage is commendable. If you like a bass-boosted sound signature, you might be surprised at how fun they are for the price. If you’re a detail head, skip them.

Soundstage is…okay. Everything is in-your-head, but channel separation is fine. It’s muddled a little by the thumpy bass response.

They are not at all good enough to be your only headphones. But they don’t sound aggressively awful either.

Design/Build

The headband on the HD202 looks like a thin slice of Darth Vader’s helmet, with two ear cups attached to it. It’s a single black curved piece of rigid plastic. The build is better than it needs to be for $20. The ear cups can easily detach, and are easy to take apart if you want to try adding damping material, different pads, or other mods.

Weird curved headband shape!

Let’s talk the worst part here: the cable. The cable is 10 feet long, and terminated in a straight 3.5mm plug. I don’t know why it’s 10 feet long. I guess Sennheiser means for this to be used in studios/at home? Instead of producing an alternate mobile version with a 4 foot cable, Sennheiser includes a little plastic spool with the Sennheiser logo that you can wind the excess cable around. It has a belt clip on the back.

Little plastic spool nonsense thing included free of charge!

This is one of the jankiest solutions to cable length I’ve ever seen. Yes, it works, but seriously Sennheiser: just save the additional plastic and make a version with a shorter cable. I bet you’d sell even more of these, and it would cost less.

They don’t look stupid on your head, which is impressive for $20. I can’t get over the weird shape of the headband though.

Comfort/Isolation

Comfort is on the very low side of average. The ear cups are not big, and pads are half-way between on-ear and over-ear. They pinch my left ear into my glasses. Adjustment is actually great, with plenty of rotation to the cups and ample height adjustment. The padding is surprisingly robust on both the headband and the cups for the price…but I wish the ear cups were either fully over-ear, or fully on-ear. The Sony MDR-7506 is a vastly superior execution of a similar hybrid ear pad idea. Sennheiser’s other cheapy cheap headphone, the HD201, is more comfy. But I don’t think it sounds as good.

Clamping force is pretty high for such a light headphone, though it’s known to calm down over time/with use. You’ll never forget they’re on your head.

The clamp and decent padding means isolation here is great. Combine that with the bass response, and these are totally suitable for portable use…if you can get past the goofy cable spool.

Conclusion

This is an okay headphone with decent bass and not much else going for it, save for the cheap price. I don’t love it. The cable spool/cable length are both stupid. The highs sometimes sound a bit poor. The comfort is not where it should be.

If you really need a headphone to throw in your bag and you’ve only got $20, I guess these are okay. If you’re a basshead looking for something cheap, or a modder looking for something to break without feeling bad, these are perfect. If you’re doing studio work, or want something truly portable and convenient…keep looking!

These look totally okay out in public actually, and not like they cost $20. At least until someone sees the plastic spool hanging from your belt.