The professional audio space has become increasingly competitive over the past few years. With more and more brands expanding their portfolio across price brackets, it’s difficult to find the right pair of headphones for your use that offers the best balance between price, performance, and quality. Most pairs, especially those in the sub-₹20,000 range, tick two of the three boxes.
So, when the Sennheiser HD 300 PRO headphones showed up at Digit’s Test Center, I was curious to see how many boxes they would tick. Considered to be one of the best that Sennheiser has to offer, their offering ends with the PROtect version of the same headphones, which according to the brand are equipped with ActiveGard, which ensures that your ears are protected when it comes to sound . The level of pressure level (SPL) is above 110dB.
After using the Sennheiser HD 300 PRO headphones daily in the office for 15 days, I had a few observations. Some good, some not so good. Here are the full details of my experience using these headphones and how they fared when I put them through my rigorous testing process.
Sennheiser HD 300 PRO: Build, Design and Comfort
The Sennheiser HD 300 PRO headphones scream class and quality as soon as you take them out of the box. The build is completely plastic, but the plastic used is of amazing quality. The headphones are built well and almost to perfection. My fellow audio reviewer, Dhriti, put these through her signature ‘cracking test’, and these headphones didn’t rattle in the slightest.
The headband of these headphones is also made of plastic, which initially did not inspire much confidence in me. However, after the ‘creaky test’ and daily use (considering the fact that I have a slightly large head), all my inhibitions about the headphones’ durability were knocked out of the park. There’s also a thick shield around the cable, and the 3.5mm jack is gold-plated. Even the quarter inch adapter has gold plating.
While it has been proven that gold plating does not have much effect on the quality of the sound output by the headphones, it does have an effect on the durability of the connectors. The gold protects against corrosion, that sticky enemy of your headphones. Hence, it is always beneficial to have gold plating on the connectors of your headphones.
Coming back to the cable, it is not swappable. When you look at the connection point between the headphones and the cable, the connector is screwed onto the headphones. Because of this, if your cables get damaged in any way, you’ll need to have them serviced by Sennheiser. If you’re handy with a screwdriver, you can try replacing the cables yourself. But would you want to risk breaking an expensive pair of headphones?
For the cushioning on the earcups and headband, the viscoelastic material used by Sennheiser makes wearing the headphones extremely comfortable. I wear glasses and have these headphones on for at least 7 to 8 hours a day, and I hardly felt any discomfort. The headband didn’t pierce my skull nor did the ear cups cause pain around the area where they sit.
The swivel on the earcups may seem limited at first. But once you start using the headphones, you will know how great it is. The limited range of motion on the earcups does more good than harm, ensuring the headphones sit snugly on your head and don’t fall out, even when you decide to headbang to your latest creations.
One thing I liked about these headphones is that not only the cushioning on the earcups but the one on the headband is also replaceable. It’s always nice to have easily replaceable parts that we know are going to go bad.
There isn’t much to talk about with the design of these headphones. They have the quintessential studio look, and you wouldn’t want to wear them in public unless you want everyone to know what your hobby is or what profession you practice. The earcups and headband have a matte finish, with two glossy sections present on both earcups. There’s raised Sennheiser branding at the base of the headband and the usual labeling all around. Nothing fancy to write.
Being wired headphones meant for studio use, these don’t have any of the fancy features we look for on consumer-grade headphones. If you get the Protect variant, there’s the ActiveGuard I already talked about. Now, let’s move on to the performance part of the review.
Sennheiser HD 300 PRO: Performance
When it comes to performance, these headphones are directly competing with their 400-series cousins, the Sennheiser HD 400 PRO, which are just ₹2,000 more than these headphones. Given that I tested the Sennheiser HD 400 PRO, the winner of our Best Buy Awards last year, I had an idea of what to expect from these headphones. However, I was also confused as to why Sennheiser would have two headphones with the same price tag? Let’s save the answer to that question for the last bit, and for now, let’s focus on the 300 PRO headphones’ sound signature graph.
As you can see, the sound signature is pretty neutral for the most part. All the way from 20 Hz to 1,000 Hz, the line is parallel to our baseline and pink noise benchmark readings. But, as soon as we cross the 1,000 Hz mark, there’s a slight dip, followed by a massive jump in the low to high treble range (i.e. between the 3 kHz and 10 kHz range). This is pretty common with professional-grade headphones from Sennheiser. However, in this case, the boost was much greater than expected. There’s also a drop off in the roughly 1 kHz range, which was also in these headphones, but not as significant.
Because of the massive increase in frequencies, we get comfortable. This is the over-amplification of the sounds of the letters ‘S’ and ‘T’. And, if this happens for a long time, people experience fatigue and in some severe cases, a headache. But, if you prefer, you can use a third-party EQ and reduce that boost to get rid of the sibilance.
Coming to everyday music listening and content consumption. In songs like Selkies: The Endless Obsession by Between the Buried and Me, all the quintessential metal instruments make their presence felt with authority, each one standing apart from the rest. Bass response was a bit muted, so bass lovers stay away. In the test center, we play Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars as a benchmark to test the bass response and the punchiness of the bass. And, with these headphones, the bass was present, and anyone who prefers neutral sound will be able to choose it right away. However, if you’re looking for the thump that many consumer headphones have, you won’t find that here.
These headphones are closed back, which in most cases limits the sound stage of the headphones. However, in these headphones, the sound stage can be compared with some open-back headphones. Some are keywords.
There’s no active noise cancellation on these headphones, but the passive isolation works wonders. I used to listen to tracks at the office at about 30 percent volume, and my colleagues actually needed to tap my shoulders to get my attention. And, given that isolation is great, thanks to the fit, sound leakage is also minimal. There was no leakage until I cranked the volume up to 50 percent. There is a lot of leakage crossing the figure of 60 per cent. However, I can’t think of any scenario where you’d listen to these headphones past the 25-30 percent volume mark for an extended period of time. Especially if you’re in a studio setting where there’s practically no background noise.
Being gamers we also play some Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Trackmania, Guild Wars 2 and F1 2022 while using these headphones. And, from the moment I got into my first game of Counter-Strike, it was clear that this is not for gaming. However, once I got used to the rather hollow sound of these headphones, I really liked the way they sound. But, it’s purely my preference for sound, and for most gamers, these aren’t the headphones to go with.
Sennheiser HD 300 PRO: Verdict
So, let’s address the question with which I opened the performance section – why release the HD 300 Pro when you already have the HD 400 Pro? That too, at a price that is around ₹2,000 more than these headphones (at the time of writing).
From what I could guess, after using both the headphones, they don’t target the same audience despite being in the same niche. The Sennheiser HD 400 PRO headphones have an open-back design, with a high frequency range (which explains the price), and are aimed at professionals working in a closed space. They aren’t as portable as the 300 PRO and the open-back design leads to less isolation and more leaking of audio.
With the HD 300 PRO you get a more portable design with a closed-back design that has better isolation and less sound leakage than the HD 400 PRO. The only trade-off is the narrow frequency range, but my impression is that if you’re on the go, you’re not hunting for perfection. 99.99 percent of what you can achieve in a studio environment will be ideal. And that’s what you get with the Sennheiser HD 300 PRO.
Should you go for it? Yes. If you are a working professional in the music production industry and always on the go. The logic is clear. The headphones sound great, are portable, and have a closed-back design, minimizing sound leakage and adding great isolation. However, if you’re someone who mostly works in a studio, I’d say pay the price difference and go for the Sennheiser HD 400 PRO.