Sennheiser HD 471 Affordable Sealed Over Ear Headphones Page 2


Sound Quality
To my ears, the HD 471 is a relatively neutral headphone, with the treble gently shelved down, and a slightly weak bass response. Let's say mildly mid-centric and a little rolled-off up top. When I compare it directly with a very good (and expensive) sealed headphone like the MrSpeakers Aeon, I hear the Aeon as having a smoother, more liquid, more coherent representation of the music. Switching back to the HD 471 I hear it as slightly incoherent, boring, and less able to portray the whole of the music with its subtle detail. What I don't hear, other than the slightly weak bass and modestly rolled-off treble, is any clear flaw in reproduction. No boxiness, no harsh spots, no hardness, no bloat in the bass. In other words, without direct comparison with something much more refined, the listening experience with the HD 471 is simply good. Your mind will accomodate quickly to its sound, and will become relatively transparent over a short time.

Delving a little deeper, the measured bass response is quite flat from about 1kHz and below. Personally, I think a 2-3dB bass boost below 150Hz sounds neutral, but I know others don't necessarily hold that to be true. Those who like a measured flat bass response will be quite impressed with the HD 471 in that area and its extension into the lowest octave. I like a little more bass though, and I think many consumers will find that as well.

However, just achieving flat low frequency response in a headphone at this price is remarkable. Far too many low-cost headphones either have excessive artificially boosted, bloated bass response, or a rolled-off bass response (which is what occurs naturally below the primary driver resonance), or an uneven bass response that destroys a sense of the whole with distracting features (peaks and valleys). The absence of the nuanced and articulate resolve of a really great headphone tends to make the HD 471 sound a little boring in comparison (because it doesn't engage the senses as intensely), but it certainly doesn't sound erroneous.

Above 1kHz, the presence area begins to sound laid back a bit; this relaxed character continues on upward through the entire treble spectrum shelved down about 5dB throughout, but for the top octave which is further reduced. This is not an airy sounding headphone.

Imaging is slightly forward and up in the head, and has appropriate width. The reduced response above 10kHz seems to reduce the apparent depth of the image; not delivering the "air" around the sounds seems to colapse the space perceived. None the less, left to right separation and specificity seems surprisingly competent at this price.

The only thing folks may need to be aware of is that the HD 471 is a little inefficient and won't play really loud on portable devices—it plays loud enough for me, but I know some will want to crank is up and won't be able to.

At the top of this article I made a point to recommend this headphone to aspiring media producers, here's why: At this price level, sealed headphones are almost universally flawed in some obvious (to trained ears) ways. Early in your journey to become a audio producer it is important to have a headphone that is truthful so that you have a solid ground to work from. The Sennheiser HD 471 does a great job of providing a truthful starting point as you begin your journey experimenting with sound production.

Now, it's not perfect, you may end up turning the bass and treble up just a bit to compensate for the HD 471's slightly boring sound, but it's far more neutral and less peculiarly flawed than most headphones at this price. This is the most pleasing and well balanced sealed headphone I've heard below $100.

I need to add at this point that the HD 471 has a less expensive sibling in the HD 461. This headphone is claimed to have more bass than the 471. I have contacted Sennheiser for a sample as it may also be a contender for amateur media producers. I will report soon.

A Couple of Comparisons
Currently on the Wall of Fame for over-ear sealed headphones below $100 is the Creative Aurvana Live! In direct comparison I find both the bass and treble levels to be closer to neutral in level than the HD 471, but the bass and treble don't have the characteristic quality of the HD 471. The CAL! bass is quite a bit looser and more distorted sounding causing to be less texturally resolving. The CAL! treble response a little hazy with an excess of "ssss"-like sound. Even though slightly less tonally neutral, I find the HD 471 a less artificial and more truthful sounding headphone.

The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is about twice the price of the HD 471 and has a more naturally lively sound, but may err on the side of having a bit too much presence around 2kHz. A slight bass boost gives the lows a more pleasing weight. Both lack the refinement and ease of reference level sealed headphone. I'd take the M50x over the Sennheiser, but the HD 471s solid performance has kick started the diminishing returns curve early in this category. The twice as expensive M50x is better, but not twice as good...not by a long shot.

A more expensive over-ear sibling to the HD 471 is Sennheiser's HD 569 reviewed recently and priced at $179. I tend to find the problems with the HD 569 more audible (mid-bass centric; less bass extension; slightly papery sounding treble; veiled presence region) than the HD 471 faults of treble shelving and slightly under-emphasized bass...sins of omission. But, quite oddly, it has that smoother, more liquid character that begins to hint at the liquidity and nuance of a reference headphone that tends to more immersive and engaging. This is one of those things that don't show up in the measurements: Both are mildly flawed in various ways, but the HD 569 is markedly more pleasing to my ears.

Don't let the light weight, all plastic build, and low price fool you, the HD 471 is a very high price/performance ratio headphone. The styling in matte black and silver are tasteful and understated. Though the materials are no doubt low cost, the build quality appears to be robust. Its light weight allows low-cost pads, foam, and pleather covers to confidently provide a comfortable fit. This is "cheap" done right!

Sound quality is close to neutral with a mildly rolled-off treble and a very slightly under emphasized though well extended bass. There are no glaring faults, but it's performance is clearly not as liquid and coherent as reference cans. I find them inherently truthful sounding and my mind quickly accommodates to their sound and simply listens to the music. I can't tell you how rare it is to hear this much competence in a low-cost headphone.

Heck yeah, this one is hitting the Wall of Fame, and will be knocking the long time resident Creative Aurvana Live! off the Wall as a superior sealed headphone below $100. It seems to me that Sennheiser's batting average has been going up of late, and the HD 471 is a home run.

Click for YouTube.

Sennheiser USA home page and HD 471 product page.
Head-Fi thread.

Sennheiser USA
1 Enterprise Dr.
Old Lyme, CT 06371

metal571's picture

Sennheiser is killing it lately - so many new models that we need reviews like this to prove that they are still competitive in the market. Thanks. I wonder how this compares to the extremely similar looking HD 200 Pro and HD 461, both of which are even cheaper.

IgorC's picture

Interesting and economic stuff from Sennheiser.
I wonder whether there will very-baby version of their electrostatic headphones

Something around of ~ 1500-2000$ for "poor" people.

Argyris's picture

Sennheiser's on fire lately. These are the kind of products I like to see: inexpensive, well built and good value. Sure they have flaws (in the HD 471's case, it's probably a bit too shelved down for my taste), but for the price Sennheiser is offering these models, it's entirely forgivable. In fact, leaving out the treble shelf on the HD 471, just the smoothness of that response line and the tight channel matching would be an exemplary result for any headphone, regardless of the price.

Just as an aside, I like the direction IF has been going lately. More frequent content, and more coverage of lower cost headphones. The uber flagships might be fun to look at, but they're out of most people's price range. I would imagine most are looking in the sub-$200 range. There's a lot of choices there, including entries by well known makers, but there's surprisingly little information and few in-depth professional reviews for most of these models. I know that this is because companies are eager to send out samples of their latest and greatest, rather than sending lesser models which by design aren't as impressive--it's probably difficult to get hold of samples of lower end models. Still, it's nice to see coverage in this space, and hopefully other makers will follow suit in sending along big boxes of their not-flagship models for review.

Argyris's picture

Looking at the full-sized version of the measurements, the channel matching isn't quite as good as I initially thought. Still probably better than most $70 and below headphones.

brause's picture

Sure, it will have its shortcomings, but it will also work well with a phone or dap.

drm870's picture concur with the others that it's exciting to have a major headphone company making good products with real consistency from the top to the bottom of their product line. (Though I can't say I'm surprised it ended up Sennheiser.)

Magick Man's picture

I don't think these are quite as good as the OG CALs, sonically, but they are a lot more solid and comfortable, so I'd recommend people try both, if they can.

brause's picture

Since this headphone has control buttons, it should be easily driven by a phone. I ordered it from at 41.05 CAD (32.74 US Dollar). The item has small cosmetic imperfections. But the leaves me cash in pocket for more Hawaii shirt (silk).

GNagus's picture

This feature was not mentioned in the review. Can I hear myself in the headphones?

donunus's picture

The only bad thing about these inexpensive senns is that they distort at pretty low volumes. Based on my last few purchases anyway... like the hd461i, HD598SE, and the smaller on ear models. The hd600 and 650 doesn't really have that problem.

brause's picture

I eventually paid $20.55 CDN for the Senns HD box with adapter and pouch missing...bargained down on the phone.

This left me with cash in hand for new top-of-the-lineHawaii shirts...Tyll, you must be blushing when watching the following...where Dr. Schweinsgruber takes on a real Sennheiser clone:

GiovanniZ's picture

I've written a couple of articles about headsets, and I have included a Sennheiser models in one of them. They make amazing headphones for gaming and listening to music.

Good job with the article, very informative.

Smartseoworld's picture

I have similar one like this, but I think this is better and I will definitely want to check it out

ksx4system's picture

Thanks for this amazingly insightful review. You've helped me to choose the best headphones within its price range the most :-)

I can happily confirm that it doesn't clamp over head too hard (actually clamping force is VERY light even out of the box - I've only stretched them as shown on video once, then it's just perfect even for multiple hours of listening).

ad meritum: Sennheiser sold one more pair of HD471i to a happy customer and Inner Fidelity got new VERY happy and regular reader :)

alex costa's picture

The only bad thing about these inexpensive senns is that they distort at pretty low volumes. Based on my last few purchases anyway... like the hd461i, HD598SE, and the smaller on ear models. The hd600 and 650 doesn't really have that problem.Teer results today

youreye's picture

Hi Tyll, all! Just wondering, got the 471i now. They sound really good I think. I've used some aftermarket ear pad from Brainwavz on my Monoprice headphones and they felt very good. The question is what kind of pads ca I use with the 471s? Will de 569 pads fit? Thanks!

HeadPhoneFAN's picture

Hi Tyll,
Great review as always. I appreciate that.
We are waiting for your HD 461 review.

chezib's picture

it got ruined and i'm using the long long cable which is not very comfortable....

Daryn Plasticmask's picture

An open letter to anyone who might know enough about HEADPHONES to help me:
I’m profoundly deaf, which is to say that I can hear above 126 decibels. Barely.
What I’m needing, what I’m looking for, is a set of headphones that will handle at least 130 decibels.
I have a little 40 watt amp that I use with my PC’s soundcard, and a headphone booster. But the closest I can get it to manage, is around 126 decibels, and the headphones blow out EVERY TIME. Some sooner than later, but without fail, they will eventually fail.
So I asked the manufacturer of the amp if I needed a bigger amp (more watts) or what… in order to achieve that 130 decibel goal. He responded that even with FOUR watts, there’s no reason why I can’t get 130 decibels out of “the right set of headphones”.
When pressed regarding what he meant, I’ve gotten no response. So I do not know what to look for.
I have learned that the size of the driver isn’t the issue, the kHz isn’t the issue, and the only thing I’ve noticed about the ohms that they list on the box is that the higher the ohms the less I can hear; the quieter the headphones are, when the ohms are higher.
So, can YOU help me? If you know what you’re talking about when when it comes to headphones… what do I need to look for to get 130 decibels out of a set of headphones??
Thanks very much