The Most Excellent Sennheiser Amperior and HD 25-1 II
You know what I hate? Companies that change products just to have something new to tout. "New!" is such a powerful word. It's better than "Sex" for consumers, PR people, manufacturers, and, yes, journalists ... even I salivate at the thought of "new" headphones from someone like Sennheiser. (Sex is better in private, of course, but problematic to sell.)
For example, a couple of years ago Denon had a great little headphone in the AH-D1001, but they decided they needed something NEW!, so they discontinued it and produced the markedly inferior AH-D1100. (Fortunately, Creative picked up the AH-D1001 design from Fostex and produced the Creative Aurvana Live!, which sounds great, but we're not going to get that lucky all the time.)
Heck, even Sennheiser let the HD 580 die, and the HD 600 is quickly disappearing. Now we have the HD 650, which is arguably not quite as good as the HD 600 and is much more expensive. And if the HD 580 were still in production, it just might be the best sounding full-size, open headphone at around $199. A little more gasoline? I'd love to have my old pair so I could hear it again, but I'm thinking the Beyerdynamic DT-801 of 20 years ago would be better than many of the current offerings.
Alright, I'm whining too much, but it does piss me off. Which is exactly why I'm so stoked Sennheiser decided to yet again breathe more life into the HD 25-1 II and produce the Amperior. Their development team left the good bits alone, and made incremental improvements with razor sharp engineering skills that few other manufaturers in the world possess. I love these headphones!
The Sennheiser Amperior ($349 MSRP) and HD 25-1 II ($199 MSRP)
I've already reviewed the HD 25-1 II, but I think it's important to review the Amperior in context with it's older, but much less expensive brother. I will be skipping some information in this review, so if you're interested in these cans you may also want to read my previous review to complete your reading about this product.
These nearly identical headphones are on-the-ear, sealed headphones, with a split headband. This configuration provides excellent stability on the head, and when positioned properly, deliver a good seal on the ear and good isolation from outside noise. These are both great headphones for DJs, ENG (electronic news gathering), location audio recordists, and any pro audio application where good sound quality, isolation from outside noise, and stability on the head during movement are required. For all but critical listening applications like mixing and mastering, the less expensive HD 25-1 II will easily suffice; for the critical listener, the Amperior is a treat.
What's New in the Amperior
The most obvious differences are the sexy aluminum ear-cups and headband button, and a one-piece cable assembly (the clamp is molded to the cable, see photo next page). From the outside the Amperior's earpiece housing looks like it might just be a stamped part, but crack it open and you'll see it's milled out of a solid piece of aluminum. That's not cheap! Is it more than just cosmetic? Does it really make a difference? I took the headphones apart for a look-see.
In the picture above, we can see that the inside of the blue anodized aluminum Amperior capsule is a machined part, and there are two pockets into which some sound absorbing foam are inserted. The HD 25-1 II capsule housing is an injection molded plastic part with stiffening braces. Other than that, both headphones are very similar. The earpads shown are different, but the HD 25-1 II does come with both earpad types. The driver assemblies look identical but for the markings. The drivers do have different impedances, but measurements show remarkable similarity, so I think they are much the same internally.
The idea of the "stiffness" of the capsule housing itself is very important in the case of these headphones. Let's take a look at why that is so ....