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Old 28-08-13, 01:13 AM
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Sennheiser HD 439 Headphones Review



Introduction

In today’s world of audio technology there are new names emerging every year trying to enter a fiercely populated market to show the old guys how it is done with their bold designs and new philosophy. On the other side we have old players that tested and perfected their designs from the dawn of time. Sennheiser is one of the grandfathers when it comes to audio technology, renowned for their high quality German audiophile devices and considered by many to be one of the best. Found in 1945 as “Laboratorium Wennebostel” by Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser they set their foot in the market by making microphones, headphones, wired microphone and monitoring systems, conference and information technology, products for assistive listening, and aviation headsets.

A great example of Sennheiser's top quality products from a few years back are the HD 800 and HD 700. Packing massive drivers in a stylish metal frame they have made loads of noise over the world influencing people start talking about the company once again and their vision for future designs. However, no matter how awesome those headphones appear they are still out of reach for 99% of people, so going down the line eventually we come across their Hi-Fi entry level products that are massively popular around the globe and are in a constant battle with big brands such as AKG, Beats, Denon, Audio-Technica, etc.

While competition is always good, a clever marketing push might result in people buying a glorified piece of shiny plastic instead of solid hardware. That is why today we will be taking a look at the Sennheiser HD 439 headphones to see if they are a viable solution for your audio entertainment needs while not breaking the bank.

We have to address upfront that HD439’s are not considered to be audiophile grade headphones like HD598’s, nor a flashy fashion statement in comparison to Beats Audio, although it does not mean that you should leave them out due to a subtle design and a lower price tag. From here on we will try to explain the possible benefits of such a product and even slight modification capabilities for you gamers out here, so stick around.



Technical Specifications

In the case of audio devices numbers will not tell a full story until you can taste the product. With HD439’s the specifications state an impressive frequency diapason, followed by a high decibel rating and practically no harmonic distortion across the board. So far the 439’s do pack highly compelling numbers on paper. That said, you can have all the numbers in the world on your spec list, however, when it comes to headphones one of the most important and valued factors for a pleasant experience is also comfort. So, let’s go up close and find out what is behind the marketing material.

Specifications
Model number: HD 439
Colour: Black
Impedance: 32 Ω
Frequency response: 17 – 22500 Hz
Sound pressure level (SPL): 112 dB (1 kHz / 1 Vrms)
THD, total harmonic distortion: < 0.1 % (1 kHz / 100 dB)
Jack plug: 3.5 mm gold / 6.3 mm gold adaptor
Cable length: 1.4 m and 3 m single-sided detachable OFC cables
Transducer principle: Dynamic, closed

Features
Powerful neodymium magnets for an enhanced bass experience
Closed circumaural headphone design isolate against ambient noise
Ergonomic design provides a comfortable fit
Choice of two single-sided cables for flexible length and convenience
Optimised for portable audio
2-year warranty

In the box
HD 439 headphones
1.4m and 3m detachable cables
6.3mm adaptor plug



Up Close

Headphones come in a traditional low cost plastic housing for this price point that provides a quick glance at the product and main specifications. The box itself can be a pain to open especially if the package just arrived and you are massively impatient, so be prepared to use a sharp object in order to keep your fingers intact.




Aside the headphones in the box we find an adaptor plug and two cables. We should say that it is nice to see gold plated connectors and relatively good quality cables for a product of this price.




The chassis are made out of quality mat black plastic that has a slight soft-touch feel to it and subtle silver accents on the sides. Despite the relatively unobtrusive design the HD439's actually look solid and premium when seen in the crowd. The plastic body sounds slightly hollow and might concern some owners but that does not impact the overall rigidity of the device.




Looking from the top we are greeted by a clean look and a sizable stamped logo. The headband itself is flexible and should perform well in all weather conditions. We are mentioning this because we have had bad experience with some of the older Logitech products that would snap in cold conditions.




Headphone shape is made to occupy a mug of any size or shape, but for those with a slightly narrower face we would recommend to bend them in to your preference for more pressure. Comfort wise it is perfect, but you will find a noticeable difference in sound quality if you push them slightly on the ears, at least in the lower end of the frequency.




The sides have stylish accents that complement the overall design and draws your attention to the central mesh cover. The headphones themselves are closed type, so the mesh serves a purely decorative purpose. That said we should point out that this is a perfect place to mount your magnetic microphone to convert the 439's in to a headset. Located under it is the Sennheiser logo printed on a piece of plastic that servers as a noise isolating cover. We took the headphones apart at some point and noticed that the previously mentioned plastic cover actually lets some of the air to pass through, but the drivers are located in a separate chamber and do not benefit much from the extra airflow.




Tilting the cup slightly exposes a nice design touch from Sennheiser, on the top parts where the cup usually comes in contact with the frame is a rubber damper. This prevents the shell from constantly smashing against the contact point reducing distracting sounds. The chunky plastic part is the hinge that swivels sideways to allow better fit, right next to that is the adjustable headband system hidden on the inside of the frame. If anything we believe that these headphones deserve a metal adjustable headband instead of a plastic one.




Located on the bottom of the left cup is the removable audio jack that allows you to swap for longer cables or replace them if eventually one of them snaps. Even though this is an absolutely handy feature, it is slightly disappointing to see Sennheiser's custom jack instead of a traditional one, but to play devil’s advocate, the custom solution fits firmly in to the port and feels practically impossible to pull out by accident.




We found the removable cable option especially useful if using one at home with your amp or sound card and the other while on the go. This is a logical solution that Sennheiser implemented with two different length cables, meaning that you never have to reach behind the desk to find your computer's audio jack.




Removing the ear padding is easy by popping out the plastic rings that are located under the cushions and in result exposes the drivers. All of the padding bits on the device are replaceable and washable if you so desire.




The drivers are smaller than those that you will find on the HD 598's but still larger than on your average headphones. Surrounding the speakers are special dampeners that reduce vibrations from the sound emitted by the driver and minimises ear fatigue. We can also see the plastic clips that latch on to the plastic ring of the padding.





Audio Performance

As with many headphones the HD439’s need a burn-in process in order to get an accurate sound from the neodymium drivers, the most commonly recommended is approximately 100 hours of playback.
Once the burn-in is complete we are pleased to say that the sound quality is far from average, the speakers have a rich sound with no noticeable distortion across the spectrum, provided that you use high quality media files and a decent playback device. It is also worth of mentioning that for those who like their music cranked all the way up, well, let’s just say there is more than enough juice.

We have tested a variety of music genres in different situations on several devices to see how they perform when used at home and on the go. HD439’s perform especially well for those who value a clear, warm sound in the mids and highs while listening to acoustic music. In comparison the popular Beats Solo sound quite muddy and even with this type of songs the bass is out of proportion to the point of annoyance. We have not compared other Beats headphones because they are in a completely different price market while the Solo are the cheapest. We were quite surprised by the fact how good the rock genre of Red Hot Chili Peppers sounds on these headphones even when you crank up the volume. That said, the music from the likes of The Scorpions, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Everlast, Linking Park, even Limp Bizkit will sound great, especially if you never had experience with big over the ear devices.

On the other side of the spectrum that involves low frequency sound the drivers perform nicely, but it is not a product for those that prefer Beats Audio’s overpowering bass-quake. Yes, you will not feel your eardrums shattering when listening to Black Sun Empire or Skrillex, but, what you will notice is a nice quality sound thanks to punchy lows. It sounds like a well-tuned car audio system more than anything, unlike those that drive by and all you can hear is the bodywork resonating and cracking to the beat. The bottom line is, if you are listening to Hip Hop, RNB, Drum & Bass, Deadmau5, you should not be disappointed.
But if you still wish for a slightly more bass heavy experience, we would suggest checking out the Sennheiser HD 419’s. Thanks either to the housing material surrounding the drivers or some other witchcraft, the 419’s sound more heavy, but they lack the spectrum width and a replaceable cable which snapped after a few months of use. Soldering a new, 3 times thicker cable, actually resulted in a better sound quality for them in our situation.

Watching movies in HD439’s is a delight. The dialog is clear and the speakers handle sudden frequency spikes well. If you have seen the latest Tron movie, we would advise watching it again if you are willing to purchase these headphones. Thanks to Daft Punk’s futuristic soundtrack and powerful effects the movie becomes way more immersive even for those who did not fancy the plot.

One might say that the benefit of a gaming headset like the Logitech G35 or any other equivalent is the presents of 7.1 audio, sad to say boys and girls, it is not the case. The best 7.1 quality would be achieved by using high-end stereo headphones with software that emulates the virtual surround sound. Most of you might also think that this product does not in to gaming peripherals category due to the lack of a microphone, but you would be wrong. As we have mention previously, thanks to the metal mesh on the sides you can attach a magnetic Antlion ModMic to communicate with your buddies in a heat of the battle. This is extremely handy if you are on a budget wishing for a flexible solution that would stay relatively inexpensive and would not skimp on audio quality.

Since these headphones are marketed as a great portable/home Hi-Fi solution, we decided to test the 439’s on a variety of devices. Starting with a 2007 Philips MP3 player, iPhone 4, Asus N61 Laptop, PC with a dedicated SoundBlaster card, Sony amplifier, and last but not least – an old Philips record player with a built-in amp.
All devices performed well with one exception, the old MP3 player was lacking power to drive the 32 ohm speakers, which resulted in a really low volume. However that is not the case for most modern players, phones, tables or laptops, pumping out more than acceptable sound.
On the other hand the best performance, as expected, was when pairing the headphones with an amp or a dedicated sound card. The Sony amplifier performed by far the best providing a great volume of sound quality and plenty of power while achieving tasteful results when playing around with the EQ. The record player was showing really interesting result in clarity and provides an incomparable result due to the way vinyl’s sound.



Ergonomics & Noise Isolation

The Sennheiser HD 439’s with their closed back and over the ear design create a slightly deeper bass than the open type headphones while isolating the ambient noise and reducing the chance of sound leaking to the outside. This is most useful for those who like to enjoy music in public transport without disturbing others. We can state that this function performs quite well, but not perfect. What we mean by that is even though the noise isolating works flawlessly in most situations, but in extreme condition like on a tube requires increasing the volume. In result when the train stops and all goes silent, nearest passengers probably will notice what you are listening to.

Sennheiser took comfort as a priority and as a result 439's are extremely comfortable thanks to the soft, breathable padding and a lightweight structure. They also do not get uncomfortably hot due to selected materials in the cups unlike some other headphones. This allows for long music sessions at home or out in the city while staying snug on your head with no excess pressure. Despite the fact that Sennheiser’s are geared more towards casual usage, they are also capable of staying in place while skating or going on a bike and rugged enough to withstand a sufficient amount of abuse. We particularly tested them in a inline skating scenario for an extensive period of time with no accidents and a positive conclusion overall.

In comparison the previously mentioned HD419’s are a solid option blocking most of the noise in day to day conditions and even more so if you need more bass for less cash, but on the down side they are slightly heavier but still stay comfortable. Beats Solo's might look better and isolate outside noise relatively well, but the sweaty ear cup design, slightly delicate feel, and the poor audio quality does not justify the price in our opinion.



Conclusion

Mentally, most of us are in the market for the best price to performance deals, however it might be tricky to pick a product that holds most of its value in the engineering side of things instead of a fancy name or a clever marketing campaign.

The Sennheiser HD 439’s are not cheap by any stretch of imagination coming at a price of 79.99 GBP, especially if you compare them to more conventional devices. Then again, if you look at the popular Beats Solo headphones they will cost you around 179.95 GBP, which is more than twice the money for a set and in result probably will get nicked due to flashy looks. So at the end of the day the question still stands - are the Sennheiser’s worth the price and your attention?

Absolutely, we were surprised how well they perform at this price point and the flexibility potential that they pack. Replaceable parts and nice design touches to complement users comfort actually indicates that the company is quite serious about this product and expects it to last for a long time (spares are available on the Sennheiser website).No matter what kind of music you prefer, rock, dubstep or classical, they cope easily with everything you through at them. The sound that they were chucking out was amazingly clear and not muffled by any stretch of imagination, couple that with a rugged chassis design and classy looks, we end up with an astonishing product that should appeal to many people. This is a perfect example of a company that knows how to create great entry level Hi-Fi headphones that tick all the boxes.

However in the future models we would like to see a simple volume/track control option on the shorter cable hence this is a portable device and meant to be used more than just in a home environment. We found it slightly frustrating to reach for your phone every time just to turn down the volume or switch the song. Our other critique would be towards the custom Sennheiser audio cable that goes in to your headphones. While swapping cables is a great idea, we believe that there is no reason not to implement a standard plug next time around other than to match the design lines. Because some of the higher Sennheiser’s products already have this feature, it is just a matter of time before it will be added to the entry 4xx line of products. And finally an included hard shell headphone carrying case would be most useful for those who cherish their devices.

Over the time of having these headphones we asked a few people to try them on with a connected amplifier and tell us their opinion. It was interesting to see how their expressions changed from what they experienced, even people that were used to good quality audio gave the HD 439’s the thumbs up.

We have recommended the Sennheisers a few times for people who were looking for an entry level solution and those who got them could not be happier. Our best example was when we recommended those headphones to a complete stranger in a store (mind you he was checking out Beats products and he wanted quality sound), so after a minute or two of listening he went and got them, leaving the Beats behind. When we asked why with the sudden change his explanation was simple, he just did not notice the 439’s because they were not in the front row and looked understated, but after taking them from the lower shelf and having a closer look, he found them actually quite beautiful, great in sound and material quality for a lot less.

After spending so much time with these headphones and getting the results that you have seen we came to a conclusion that it is hard not to recommend them, especially for those who appreciate their music and comfort at home or as a road warrior. Maybe they lack a few features as mentioned previously and the looks do not stand out as much, but that is a sensitive subject due to a variety of opinions. The bottom line is, if you are looking for your first decent Hi-Fi headphones or you are on an upgrade path, the Sennheiser HD 439’s are definitely worth checking out.

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Old 30-08-13, 02:41 PM
SPS SPS is offline
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Nice review, although I must say I did skim-read parts ha. Very nice photos as well mate.
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Old 30-08-13, 03:27 PM
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MicroAlex MicroAlex is offline
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No worries, I tried to explain in the best way I could. It is hard to do a review on sound quality because you guys cant hear it in person and so have to rely on the reviewer to explain, almost sign language in a way so, hence decided to add detail.

And thanks mate, appreciate that!
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Old 18-12-13, 09:50 AM
James111333 James111333 is offline
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Hey, great review, however, what would these be like for gaming? I understand that open backed would be better for spacial reproduction but that would defeat the purpose for me as my girlfriend will still hear all the shooting
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Old 18-12-13, 06:33 PM
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MicroAlex MicroAlex is offline
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Originally Posted by James111333 View Post
Hey, great review, however, what would these be like for gaming? I understand that open backed would be better for spacial reproduction but that would defeat the purpose for me as my girlfriend will still hear all the shooting
Thanks for taking interest in my review.

Haha, girlfriends... I hear yah!

Well, comfort wise they will be great! The padding is done well and there is no excessive pressure on the ears. Due to the materials that were chosen your ears might get slightly warm on reaaally long sessions, but definitely never had sweaty or uncomfortable experience, they do breath well.

The sound stage is quite good for the price, hence if you have decent audio you will distinguish incoming enemies from different directions with ease. And you can also play around with Razer's audio software to get virtual surround sound.
Yes, open type headphones do leak a lot of sound, yet, all will if you go completely bonkers with the knob. These are closed type, even tho made to look like open, hence the better isolation because the speaker itself is isolated in a chamber with only 3 small air ports to the outside. That said they do isolate relatively good, but if you so choose to go over 65-75% of the volume, your girl will notice the sound if the rest of the apartment is quiet and she is not too far away. MOST IMPORTANT, do not forget to lower the volume before taking them off, especially if connected to an amp, you will definitely wake up everyone. ))

Depending on the type of games that you play, you can opt for a mic, but I did cover that part in the review itself.


Hope this helps with your decision.
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Old 19-12-13, 07:43 PM
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Reloaded2 Reloaded2 is offline
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Love the photos in the review.
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Old 19-12-13, 07:46 PM
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MicroAlex MicroAlex is offline
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Originally Posted by Reloaded2 View Post
Love the photos in the review.
Thanks mate, much appreciate it Hope that the read was not too boring tho.
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Old 19-12-13, 07:51 PM
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ramoine ramoine is offline
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Great review , lots of pics and an honest opinion .

I may just have to add these to the Xmas list too .

Thanks
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Old 19-12-13, 08:19 PM
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Originally Posted by ramoine View Post
Great review , lots of pics and an honest opinion .

I may just have to add these to the Xmas list too .

Thanks
Thank you, means a lot! Got another review coming soon btw.

Fingers crossed
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Old 13-05-14, 08:51 AM
derini derini is offline
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I've registered on this website specifically to thank you for this review, one of the best ones i have read in a long time.

I wish I read it when I was looking for headphones however luckily enough I ended up choosing HD439 myself
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