Sennheiser’s HD 201 is a full-size headphone, which means it uses a thick headband and large earpieces. The headband itself is made of rigid plastic with a thin “pleather” pad at the top for comfort for the crown of your head. Each earpiece is circumaural — surrounds your entire ear — thanks to large pleather earpads. Unfortunately, thanks to the HD 201’s low price, these aren’t the most comfortable earpads out there, and they don’t seal around your ears very well, which means the HD 201 don’t block as much external sound as many other full-size, “closed” headphones. In fact, as a whole, the HD 201 feels like an inexpensive set of headphones — light and plasticky (although it also feels like it would absorb a good amount of abuse).
That’s how the HD 201 looks and feels; how does it sound? In that department, Sennheiser has hit a budget home run. We actually purchased our review sample of the HD 201 from Amazon.com for only $10, and I was shocked by how good the HD 201 sounds for the price. It can easily be driven by the meager headphone jacks built into iPods and other portable players, and provides fairly good detail and midrange along with surprisingly good — for the price — bass. Compared to more expensive headphones, the HD 201 sounds a bit muddy in the midrange and doesn’t reproduce treble detail as well, but, again, we’re talking about headphones that are so inexpensive you’ll have to sacrifice only a single CD purchase to finance them.
In fact, the HD 201 just may be the best bang-for-the-buck headphones I’ve come across. (My favorite budget headphones, in terms of overall sound and comfort for the price, are still Koss’s KSC-75, but they were $20 on sale. We’re talking $10 here — that’s just crazy.) If you’re looking for full-size headphones on a budget — or if you just need a second set to throw around — give these a try.–Dan Frakes