Exploring the New 2011 Sennheiser Headphone Models

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Sennheiser recently announced a slew of new headphone models featuring everything from updates of old favorites like the venerable HD-25, to brand new designs like the MM-550. Check out this post for a rundown of every new model, and a clear description that highlights what makes each one different and why it commands a certain price.

New headphones are not like a box of chocolates. It's possible to know what you're getting before you bite off a piece and start chewing. So here's my rundown of the new 2011 line up from Sennheiser:

New HD 25 Headphones

I'm an old fan of Sennheiser's HD 25-1 II headphones, so my curiosity was piqued by the new HD 25 Originals. First of all, I should make something clear. The older version of the HD 25's are called the HD 25-1 II, and the brand-new version is called the HD 25 Originals. HD 25 headphones are very popular among professional DJs, location audio people and sportscasters. This new version is aimed squarely at the DJ crowd, with its bright blue colors and the adidas-style logo on each ear cup. The makeover is almost entirely cosmetic. The specs of these two models are nearly identical. One thing that's different is the new HD 25 Originals come with soft blue velour earpads installed (and a replacement white set is included too). I find velour earpads much more comfortable, so this is a nice touch. I should note that if you own a set of HD 25 headphones, you have the option of buying a set of black velour earpads for them.

There was another update to the HD 25 line as well. The HD 25-SP has been replaced by the HD 25-SP II. The only difference between them is a slightly higher SPL rating, and a nominal impedance of 60 ohms as opposed to 85. Pretty nominal changes, eh? And speaking of nominal changes, have you heard about the new HD 202-II headphones? I went over the specs between the new version and the old version with a fine-tooth comb, and I couldn't find a single difference. But this is a good thing. The old HD 202's were always wildly popular. People loved the way they sounded. I'm sure this adoration will continue with the new model.

New Deluxe Travel Headphones

The new MM-550 headphones would be right at home in the first class section of a Boeing 767. Every detail has been fine-tuned to be the best. In addition to having noise-cancelling circuitry that reduces 90% of ambient background noise, they have excellent sound drivers, ultra-plush padding, surround-sound emulation and an invisible microphone. A stereo bluetooth functionality lets you take telephone calls and listen to music and movies wirelessly. When a flight attendant asks if you prefer truffle oil or beurre à l'ail with your escargot, you can press a button that activates the external microphone, so you can converse without having to take these headphones off. They are powered by an internal rechargeable battery, which can be charged through a USB cable or an AC adapter (both of which are included). International converters for the AC adapter are included as well. The MM-550's collapse so they'll fit easily into your carry on. If you like these features but don't need the microphone talk-through capabilities, the new PX 360 BT headphones are a great option as well. If you don't need the Bluetooth connectivity, wireless features or active noise cancelling, the new PX 360 are for you.

New Open-Back Headphones

You can file "open-back headphones" under "Things That I Don't Yet Have, but I Want." Open-back headphones are exactly what you might think, headphones that lack a solid ear cup. In a way, they're the opposite of noise-cancelling headphones. The ear cup isn't solid, so that sound waves can pass through them more freely. This freedom causes less sonic distortion inside the ear cup, and allows for a clearer overall sound. One of the nice things about the new HD 518 headphones is that they're made by Sennheiser, who builds some of the best sounding open-back headphones in the industry. The other nice thing is that they're relatively inexpensive, compared to similar models. So what really sets the HD 518 apart? Well, it has something called Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement (E.A.R.—get it?), which essentially claims to direct sound waves into your ears. Marketing drivel aside, I'm sure that these are going to be comfortable, excellent-sounding headphones that will please budget audiophiles and music lovers of all kinds.

If you like the idea of having a good set of open-back headphones but you want to go for a little higher quality sound, you should check out the new HD 558 headphones. They have a more involved open ear cup design, which includes internal sound reflectors that improve the performance. If you really want to treat yourself to some stunning open-back headphones, the new HD 598 headphones are the way to go. In addition to having more luxurious padding, their frequency response is a whopping 12Hz–38.5kHz.

New In-Ear Headphones

The CX 310's are the latest model of in-ears from the collaborative effort between Sennheiser and adidas. You may recall the hands-on review I did on the first Sennheiser/adidas sports earbuds around a year ago. Those were the first headphones that the two companies had designed together, and they were really nice, so one can only assume that they've stepped up their game since then. If you look at the picture to the left, you'll notice that one side of the ear cables is longer than the other. This asymmetrical design is intended to make a more comfortable fit for people who wrap the cables around the backside of their neck (which is a good way to wear earbuds when jogging and being active). These headphones supply you with everything you'd expect from a good set of in-ears, and have a pleasing blue-and-white color scheme. You get a matching carrying pouch, different sized ear tips (to find the perfect fit), and of course, awesome Sennheiser sound quality.

Here's one minor non-in-ear headphones note: If you like the style of the CX 310's, but you favor traditional on-ear headphones, you should check out the new HD 220 headphones. They feature the same slick color scheme as the CX 310's, and above-average features like extra noise blocking ear cups, the ability to fold flat for travel (and an included case) and once again, the famous Sennheiser sound.

If you're looking for a set of in-ear headphones that have a built-in remote control for Apple's iPhone, iPod and iPad, then you should consider the new MM 70 iP in-ears. It's a great way for Apple heads to get that great Sennheiser sound and still be able to control the volume, navigate songs and even take telephone calls with the MM 70 iP's built-in microphone. This set has gold-plated connectors, and claims to do a better job of isolating noise.

Another model that Apple fans should consider are the CX 880i in-ear headphones. They have a nearly identical built-in remote for Apple products with the microphone and the whole bit. Mainly, what's different here is the styling. The CX 880i was co-designed by BMW, and they kind of do resemble the fine Bavarian motor car.

If you've been around the block a few times with decent quality in-ear headphones and you're ready for a set that will truly knock your socks off with their sound quality, consider stepping up to the IE 8i. They're by far the best performing new model from Sennheiser. Not only do they sound great, but they allow you to adjust the bass response to your liking, and they've got the same Apple-friendly, built-in remote and mic.

New Extra KLEER Wireless Headphones!

In May of last year B&H Insights published a hands-on review of Sennheiser's KLEER wireless headphone systems. These systems proved to be popular, but one thing that was really missing was the ability to add additional headphones to your existing system. Well, those days are over! Sennheiser has released the HDR160, HDR170, and  HDR180 extra headphone models. It's time to enjoy your wireless sound with a partner.

New Sennheiser Headphones which Defy Categorization!

Well... these headphones don't exactly defy categorization; I'm just running out of ways to group them together. It seems like there's something for everyone in this new crop of products, myself included. I'm the kind of person who prefers traditional on-ear headphones, like those snazzy new HD 218i's (pictured on the left). What's nice about this set is that they give you that great Sennheiser sound and include the built-in Apple-friendly remote with a microphone. That's a handy little combination of features. If that sounds good to you, you might also want to consider the new HD 238i. They look very much like the HD 218i on-ears, with the built-in remote and mic, but they have even better sound quality. They have Sennheiser's "Open Aire" system, which pretty much means that they're open-back headphones. The person sitting next to you on the bus may not like hearing the sound leak out of the HD 238i, but the you'll be too blissed out to notice.

We'll wrap up this roundup with a couple of lighter-weight headphones that pack a big punch. If you like on-ear headphones, but you prefer something even smaller than the last two models we discussed, then you should lend an ear to the new PX 90. They may look slight and unassuming, but they deliver a big bassy sound, while still maintaining a nice and even mix in the mids and trebles. If you're a fan of behind-the-neck headphones, then the PMX 90 is the way to go. They have the same kind of comfortable and awesome-sounding phones as the PX 90 in the classic, behind the head form factor.

Thanks for checking out this B&H Insights article. If you have any questions about these headphones, or if you want to share your experience using Sennheiser headphones, we'd love to hear about it in the Comments section below!