Editors' note: The rating on this review has been lowered because of changes in the competitive marketplace.
Sennheiser's ruggedly constructed HD 280 Pro high-performance headphones feature comfortable leatherette ear cushions, a headband, and a foldable design for compact storage. Weighing a relatively lightweight 10 ounces, this $199 model has a 10-foot coiled cable fitted with a 1/8-inch miniplug. Sennheiser also includes a 1/4-inch adapter for use with a home stereo.
Our listening tests started in our living room. The naval battle scenes sprinkled throughout the Master and Commander DVD amply demonstrated the HD 280s' power and glory. These 'phones can play loud, and their bass definition was quite good, though not the equal of Ultrasone's mighty HFI-650s. But this well-recorded DVD sounded crisp and clear on the HD 280 Pros, with the sort of detail you hear only from high-end speakers.
The Sennheiser HD 280 Pros also brought out the details in rock-and-roll CDs such as the White Stripes' Elephant. Oh boy, Jack White's buzz-saw guitar sounded gloriously distorted, and Meg White's heavyweight drumming kicked butt. And since the ear cups are sealed, you can crank your music as loud as you want and never disturb other people in the room.
These headphones are a lot of fun yet still have enough suave refinement to sound right with classical music. The delicate interplay of harpsichord and strings on Vivaldi's The Four Seasons CD was utterly beautiful, demonstrating the HD 280 Pros' versatility with all sorts of music--a rare feat.
If you're thinking of using the HD 280 Pros with an iPod, you won't be disappointed. The headphones' resolution came through loud and clear with ours. That said, Sennheiser's HD 555 headphones sounded bigger and richer, so if portable use is a priority, we'd go with them.