Sennheiser’s HD 219s headphones are a fairly unassuming pair compared with the typical, bulky, around-the-ear style pair we often see from the German manufacturer. At $79.95 (direct), the lightweight, comfortable headphones are also atypical in terms of their sound signature—yes, the usual crisp highs we associate with Sennheiser are here, but the low frequency response of the HD 219s seems less powerful. At top volumes, there is also a bit of distortion on deep bass tracks—worshippers of low frequencies should look elsewhere. Those seeking a more flat response-style pair in the price range will enjoy the HD 219s’s overall sound signature. The headphones include an inline remote and microphone for mobile devices, and almost no accessories.
The lightweight, supra-aural (on-ear) design of the HD 219s consists of a black matte plastic headband and pivoting earcups. The ear pads are amply cushioned, as is the underside of the headband, and the frame rests gently on both the ears and scalp, making this pair ideal for long listening sessions.
The earcups fold down flat, but the headphone frame doesn’t collapse down for easier storage, nor do they ship with a carrying pouch to stuff them in. The only included accessory, in fact, is an adapter for the cable to fit Nokia-type phone jacks.
Call clarity through the inline mic is fine. The remote control has a single button that controls playback, track navigation, and call answering, depending on how many times you tap it and when. There’s a volume slider built-in to the control compartment—a nice solution that keeps the remote universal while still allowing for volume adjustments. (Most three-button remotes, with volume controls, are for iPhones only, and most single button remotes lack volume controls.)
On tracks with intense sub-bass content, like the Knife’s “Silent Shout,” the HD 219s distorts a bit at maximum volume (on both the remote and the volume source—in this case, an iPhone 4S). At more moderate volumes, the distortion disappears, and the low frequency response is rich and articulate, but not as powerful as it would be on a pair with seriously boosted bass response.
Bill Callahan’s voice on “Drover” is delivered with an ideal combination of crisp high-mid presence and rich low-mids, allowing a little bit of treble edge to add some definition to his smooth baritone vocals. The drumming on this track often sounds unnatural on heavily bass-boosted pairs, but the HD 219s doesn’t seem to add much of anything in terms of low end to the constant thump of the drums, which can make the track sound a bit thin at times. If you favor a crisp response with nice detail throughout the mid-ranges, however, the HD 219s delivers—it’s obviously just not a pair for bass fiends.
Jay-Z and Kanye West’s “No Church in the Wild” gets the best and worst of the HD 219s’s sound signature. On the one hand, the attack of the kick drum loop gets a nice, crunchy attack that sometimes sounds dull on pairs that boost the bass too much. On the other, since the HD 219s doesn’t do a whole lot of boosting of the lows, in general, the sub-bass synth hits that punctuate the beat fade into the background here. The focus on the mids makes the HD 219s an ideal pair for listening to vocals, however, whether they’re Callahan’s or Kanye West’s—voices are clear and crisp, but never brittle or overly-sibilant.
Classical tracks, like John Adams’ “The Chairman Dances,” predictably end up being a showcase for the higher register strings and brass through the HD 219s—these are the instruments that tend to take the spotlight anyway on classical recordings, which are more transparently recorded and mixed than modern pop and rock records. This means that the lower register strings and deeper percussion hits don’t get much of a boost at all. The track doesn’t sound brittle, but again, this is a sound signature that will appeal more to flat response-seekers.
If you’re not a deep bass lover and don’t listen to a lot of electronic music or hip hop with deep low frequency content, it’s easier to look past the distortion that only occurs at maximum (unwise) listening levels. But if you’re looking for a pair in this price range that can pump out deep lows at high volumes, the Skullcandy Navigator is a solid option. If you’re looking for crisp highs paired with a bit more bass than the HD 219s offers, the Sennheiser HD 429s is a well-balanced, distortion-free pair with solid bass and crisp highs. For a bit more, the Logitech UE 4000 offers great balance, as well. If all of these are out of your price range, the RHA SA950i is an affordable option that is far from perfect, but offers decent audio performance for the price. At $80, the Sennheiser HD 219s provides solid performance if you don’t need the deep bass, but it’s a non-option if you do, and it exists in a field full of capable headphones.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc