Headphones, especially ones for field production really aren’t glamor items the way high end mics are. In fact its one place I see people often going with whatever is cheapest rather than what is good. Good headphones are very basic and essential tool for monitoring your recording where it counts most – at the initial recording.
Perhaps the most common headphones I see out there are the Sony 7506’s folding headphones. They are certainly very common for good reason: decent sound, reasonable price, they fold up small and the other guys and gals all seem to be using them. They are something of a standard. However I think the “everybody uses them” think more than the rest is why they are so common. Personally having used them, I can’t say I’m thrilled with them. Why ? well for starters they are always falling off your head. That one thing alone drives me crazy because try booming on the run and all of a sudden your ‘phones are hanging over your shoulder in the middle of a shot. Then there is the fact they have pretty poor isolation which means cranking the volume up. This is very bad for your ears, and when working close to your subject there can be bleed or feedback.
Enter the Sennheiser HD 280’s for about the same price, give or take literally a couple dollars.
What I Like About Them
They Stay On Your Head. Go ahead, run with them on and they stay put until you take them off. Look up, down, around and they are still on. If you wear a hat with a brim, they’ll also still stay on. This is a huge advantage over many other sets of ‘phones in the market. I’ve even split worn them. That means putting just one side on your ear, the other on the side of your head. This way you can also slip on a set of intercoms too at the same time. This is very valuable when doing live TV shots in the field and you need to hear the truck, the director and your own sound all at once.
The other major advantage of these headphones is their isolation The HD 280’s are a closed style design. They offer 32db of isolation blocking out external sound. This lets you monitor with lower levels which is better for your ears. It also helps a lot in deciding if background noise is really intruding too much into your good sound or not. Lower monitoring levels is a very good thing that you should not underestimate, especially if you do sound as a part of your income.
The overall sound quality is very good with specs of 8hz-25khz, although no graph is supplied. However, thats still way more than good enough for normal dialog and music recording. They tend to be reasonably neutral sounding with minimal sound coloring. This is good because you want headphones that tell you the truth about what you are getting.
Real World Use
In everyday use, I find they are very honest about what I am getting. They are detailed and don’t color the sound in any significant way. This means I’ll usually hear even really small stuff in them that you’ll not normally notice in the edit room even with decent speakers. Its always better to hear everything and be able to decide if it matters rather than not. You eventually learn to know what matters and what doesn’t. The improved isolation is a part of this experience. By reducing external noise you get a much better sense about what you are getting without having to over crank the volume to hear that. Saving your ears is a big deal, especially if audio is a part of your normal income making.
I have one pair that lives in my audio bag full time. They store into my Petrol Pegz-1’s front compartment and then route to either my FP33 mixer or DR-680 recorder. I swap out the mixer or recorder depending on the job. I’ve been using one pair now for several years. They have worked literally in falling snow, rain and hot summer sun without a problem. Thats what you expect. Even with several years of use, they have very minimal signs of wear. UPDATE : many years later and they are still holding up despite harsh conditions and weather.
If you do managed to shred up the ear pads, they are replaceable.
The HD 280’s have a 1/8″ ( 3.5mm ) jack as its native connector. Included in the box is a screw on adapter to get you to 1/4″ if you need it. This is the same 1/4″ screw on adapter that is used on Sony’s. If I have any complaint, its going to be that the connector is a straight connection rather than a 90 degree one. I know most headphones come this way and its not great because it makes them much more easy to break. For these headphones and just about any I highly recommend putting a 90 deg adapter on them. There are even 1/8 to 1/4″ adapters if you look around a bit. Generally speaking if you find them online they are pretty cheap so getting 2 or 3 is often a good idea to have a spare or for your other headphones you may have around.
I’m doing audio for national networks ( live feeds and ENG ) and there are no excuses or second chances. You get it right or you don’t work again for them. In this kind of high stakes environment you tools have to work correctly every time. A quality set of headphones has to be a sound person’s most important tool after their mic and mixer. For once its nice not to go broke for quality gear that performs. Its certainly easy to spend a lot more for pro level headphones, but the HD 280’s are real performers that work day in day out and won’t break the bank. Its nice to have reliable quality gear at a very reasonable price.