There are few items in DJ lore as iconic as Sennheiser’s legendary HD25 headphone. Originally released in 1988 as a monitoring headphone with the professional broadcast crowd in mind, the HD25 found its way into various professional applications, from news reporting to the go-to communications headset for British Airways, but this was only the beginning of what was to be the HD25’s crowning legacy.
In one of those perfect moments of cultural serendipity, the initial release of the HD25 just so happened to coincide with the advent of Germany’s underground techno scene and the parallel emergence of Acid House in the UK. It was a match made in heaven. The HD25’s high output and top-notch isolation, features originally conceived to help outside broadcast engineers monitor in particularly noisy environments, made the HD25 a remarkably adept DJ headphone. Its minimalist aesthetic and replaceable components made it an instant classic. Before long, it was commonplace to find HD25s in DJ booths and pirate radio stations all across Europe. Slowly but surely the world caught up, and before long the HD25 was one of the most popular (and recognisable) headphones on the market, its signature U-shaped voicing making it an ideal playback vessel for the many genres and sub-genres of bass-heavy club music that were growing in popularity through the 90’s and 00’s.
Fast forward to this year’s NAMM show, and the announcement of Sennheiser’s latest addition to the HD25 family tree, the new HD25 Light. Suffice to the say the HD25 Light is a welcome addition to the series, bringing the HD25 to a whole new corner of the market: the average Joe (or Jolene), fixing its sights on the scores of budding bedroom DJ/producers who seem to be multiplying like rabbits at the present juncture. So how does the ‘Light’ version of the HD25 stack up against its very famous predecessor? The answer is remarkably well.
Retailing at considerably less than the classic HD25, the HD25 lights are an attempt to trim what little fat there was on the original design and update it for a rapidly evolving customer base. The fact of the matter is that the collapsible construction and various swivel points found on the original HD25s - the very features that made it a must have for gigging DJ’s around the world - aren’t all that applicable in the context of the bedroom DJ/producer, where they are likely to remain connected to their associated DJ controller or interface for the majority of their lifespan.
Sonically, the HD25 lights have the same Herculean output and robust low-end that has made the series the industry standard that it is today. The infamous U-shape voicing is still apparent, giving the HD25 light the same defined, chiselled reproduction that has made it a dance music staple for decades. This U-shape voicing might not be for everyone (anyone working in rock or other mid-heavy genres may have a hard time carving out EQ on these guys), but rest assured that for the money, few headphones offer this much bang for your buck. And that seems to be the MO for the HD25 Light: to bring the industry standard for DJ-ing and electronic music production into as many homes as possible, by keeping the pricepoint in check and eschewing all but the most vital features.
While I’m still more likely to buy the classic HD25 (being able to mindlessly stuff them into a DJ bag post-gig is still a primary concern of mine), I was suitably impressed by the familiar sound coming from these much cheaper headphones. For someone dipping a toe in the DJ world or looking for a crossover headphone for both creating and casual listening, few budget headphones offer the kind of upside that the HD25 Light has going for it.
The absence of the once lauded portability features are, thankfully, one of only a few obvious differences between the light version and its more famous uncle. As for the drivers and sound quality, I’m happy to say that it’s all still there. After all, why stray too far from a classic?
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