After a year of vacillating, I finally caved and bought an HD 300 Pro.
It wasn’t because of some shocking revelation or trusted review, but rather due to a 50 percent discount that’s still on-going as of this very moment.
The standard $199 price point of the HD 300 Pro was always hard for me to swallow.
Sennheiser promised it had improved comfort and acoustics over the old 280 and 380 Pros, and even likened it to the much-lauded HD 250 Linear, a headphone they no longer make.
But online reactions at launch last year were all over the place, with some finding it muddled, bass heavy, and not much of an upgrade over its predecessors.
I’ve spent two days with this pair, and that’s all it took me to clock it after years of 280 Pro experience.
It’s a solid iterative upgrade on that older pair, and its MSRP shouldn’t have doubled.
The Sennheiser HD 300 Pro is a closed-back, wired, high-passive-isolation headphone designed for monitoring use.
Its standard price is $199.
That’s twice the price of the $99 280 Pro, and a ~$50 increase over the now-discontinued 380 Pro, both of which this model aims to succeed.
As of today (8/31/2019) the headphone is still on sale for $99 instead, and that’s a good deal. I have no idea how long the discount will last. Sennheiser should consider making it permanent, or at least lower the standard price a bit.
Just like the newer iteration of the HD 280 Pro, the headphones are just sort of tossed inside their cardboard box with a unimatch 6.3mm adapter attached.
Thankfully, the cable is detachable…though you’ll need a T9 Torx screwdriver to actually remove it. The ear pads and headband pad are also easily replaceable.
I was expecting a complete disaster from the different impressions I’ve read online, but honestly…these share a whole lot in common with the classic 280 Pro sound signature.
Small refinements are the order of the day.
Bass energy and impact are a little elevated compared to Sennheiser’s older design, but not anywhere near the point of making these “basshead” headphones.
The midrange sounds smoother and more natural to me than the 280 Pros, which were already a decent performer there.
The upper mids and treble are a little bit relaxed, but still plenty detailed. It’s not sibilant or harsh-sounding in the slightest.
Highs are further back in the mix than on some other “studio” cans like the M50X, but right in line with what I’d expect from the type of sound signature Sennheiser usually targets.
These sound good to me, honestly.
Reasonably flat, with some fun extra bass energy, a pleasant midrange that isn’t muddy or sucked out, and treble that’s relaxed enough for hours of monitoring or listening but still just detailed enough to pick out issues.
Sound is subjective, and I’ve been a fan of the 280 Pros for a long time. So I was already inherently biased towards this type of sound coming in.
These are a little bit better sounding than those, to my personal ears and tastes. You might hate them, and that’s cool, but I was surprised at how nice these sounded to me right from the off.
The soundstage is nice and wide for a closed-back, thanks in part to the massive ear cups here.
I’ve never personally heard the HD 250 that Sennheiser mentioned in their initial hype, so I can’t comment about whether it’s disappointing compared to those.
But the rest of the marketing claims seem fine to me. It’s like a 280 Pro but with more bass detail and a slightly smoother sound overall. That’s a win in my personal opinion.
Exceptional…if you can handle some clamp.
I’ve always liked the wearing feel of the 280 Pro. The New model, with its improved headband padding, made that even better.
The 300 Pro mixes things up.
It keeps the highly-padded cutout headband of the New 280 Pro, but has entirely different ear pads.
The openings are massive, and the pads are made of a thick foam covered in a very nice leatherette. The cheap-feeling leatherette of the 280 Pro is finally a thing of the past, and I’m so happy about it, as that’s always been my least-favorite thing about that classic pair.
No worries if you have a big head either, as the extension range is large and the cups have a good amount of swivel.
The clamping force here is tighter than the average headphone, even some other studio models, and that helps give them a high degree of passive isolation.
Due to the similar design, they clamp just as much as the 280 Pro, but the softer pads help it to not feel as bad.
I really felt the clamp for about the first hour I wore them, but here at the end of day two of solid listening they’re quite comfy.
The 280 Pro pads feature an extra foam ring layer inside in case your ear runs into the inside of the cups. That ring of foam is gone here, but the extra thickness of the actual padding means my ears never run into anything inside these.
The pad openings are so massive that only the largest of ears will hit anything. But not so massive that they didn’t seal on my head. The overall profile of the pad is the same size as the 280 pad, but the foam wall is taller and thinner.
Isolation is great too. This is among the better choices you can buy for passive cancellation. The loud coffee shop I write in totally goes away when music is playing.
DESIGN AND BUILD
Just like the 280 Pro, the 300 Pro makes it look like you’re wearing an old telephone receiver on your head.
The sides of the ear cups are trimmed down a bit, with a smoother profile and less angular bits sticking out, but this otherwise looks just like a 280 Pro on first glance.
Fortunately, the build quality is a little bit higher. The frame is a touch thicker overall. The plastics used are more premium, and the rotating joints that attach the ear cups have a smoother action to them.
These do fold down for storage and fold flat…though the direction they rotate when going flat means the cups will point upward if you flatten them around your neck. A weird choice I’ve seen on a few other models, too.
The cable is no longer coiled along its length, and instead has a tiny wee lil’ coil right near the top, but it won’t extend much beyond its standard 1.5m length. The strain relief on the plug side of the cable is very nice and flexible.
This new design with a tiny coil at the end eliminates the microphonics present in the 280 Pro cable. If you bump into the cable below the coil you won’t hear it.
I like that the cable is replaceable, but I don’t like that you have to use a T9 Torx bit to remove it. This keeps it compatible with the cable system Sennheiser uses on some of their other pro/broadcast headphones, but also isn’t that convenient for users not already entrenched in that cable system.
In other words, most of us.
Instead of the standard screened-on white lettering featured on the 280 Pro, the 300 Pro shouts its name at you with bland text under a little removable plastic plate.
At one time Sennheiser was offering optional custom printing of this text so you could have your own message there. If you buy the HD 300 Protect, which has a built-in volume limiter, the activation switch for the limiter lives under the left plate.
These plates are glossy and scratch and smudge very easily, and I don’t love them.
The Sennheiser HD 300 Pro is a better-built, more comfortable, slightly better-sounding take on the HD 280 Pro with nicer ear pads and a removable cable.
It should never have been priced at double its predecessor.
That’s truly baffling. It implies that this model is twice as good, which it absolutely isn’t. The extra touches are all nice, but I could never recommend paying $199 for these.
Sennheiser also killed off the 380 Pro when they put these on the market, and that was a weird mistake. They discontinued the wrong headphone, in my opinion.
The 380 Pro doesn’t fit my personal head very well, but it has a lot of fans, an easier-to-use detachable cable system, and a sound and design very different from the 280.
The upgrades here over the 280 are nice enough that I would have set the price at $140. If Sennheiser really wanted to go for it, these would have knocked the 280 Pros out of the lineup entirely and thrived as an easy buy at $99.
I hope the current sale is showing them that.
I love that old headphone. It was the first one I reviewed properly on the internet.
And I know a lot of people would be sorry to see it go and would go on a rage crusade if Sennheiser ever discontinued it. Perhaps that’s why they axed the 380 instead?
The 300 Pro maintains enough of the 280 DNA while adding some good improvements, and it’s a worthy successor to that classic.
It’s just not worth $200.