MSRP: $99.95 (discontinued)
Current Price: $60 from amazon.com
Build Quality (6/10): While the higher-end HD238 uses sturdy-feeling matte plastics and metal hinges and fittings, the HD228 is almost entirely made of a far less impressive glossy plastic. While it still attracts very little attention when worn, the glossy HD228 looks and feels cheaper than the higher-end model. The pads are also simpler than the HD238 pads – no cloth lining is present on the HD228. Instead, the pleather is stretched right over the foam backing. The single-sided cord is identical between the two headphones – quite thin for a headphone and terminated with a nickel-plated 3.5mm plug that lacks proper relief and is several sizes too large.
Comfort (9.5/10): Due to the less substantial construction and materials, the HD228 is even lighter than the higher-end model. Though the two headphones are equally small, the pads are thinner, but not any less soft, on the HD228. The padding on the headband is adequate and the flat-folding cups have enough rotational freedom for a compliant fit. As with the higher-end model, the HD228 is not ideal for those with small heads or for active use – the clamping force just isn’t adequate to comply with any sudden head motion.
Isolation (5/10): Though advertised as closed and noise-isolating portables, the HD228s are not really tight enough in fit or large enough in size to isolate significantly. For all intents and purposes, the HD228 can be called semi-closed – the closed-back design reduces leakage substantially but does little to genuinely isolate from outside noise. For casual use the attenuation may be plentiful but those looking for heavy-duty commuter phones may do well to look elsewhere.
Sound (6.5/10): Unlike the shockingly inefficient HD238, the benefits of amping the lower-end HD228 are close to negligible for those with moderately powerful portable players. Though the HD228 are not particularly easy to drive, hooking them up to an amp for the most part simply raises the volume headroom. What is surprising, however, is how much more sensitive to positioning on one’s ears the HD228s are – I found the ideal position in terms of sound to be a bit farther back than what comes naturally. The HD238s, which coincidentally also have bigger meshes in the pads, are far less sensitive to how they are worn. Side-by-side with the higher-end model, the HD228 lacks most notably in dynamic range and detail. The low end is not quite as extended or full as that of the HD238 but it is rather well-controlled in comparison to the latter running unamped. The bass of the HD228 tends towards being boomy rather than muddy and distorted, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
The mids are warm and quite clean. As with the higher-end model, the midrange of the HD228 is just a tad recessed in comparison to the low end. Both the midrange and treble of the HD228 are not nearly as textured and detailed as the HD238, which makes them less involving but actually easier to listen to, especially for long stretches. As expected, the treble of the HD228 is very smooth but lacks extreme extension. The overall tone is on the dark side but surprisingly not quite as dark as that of the HD238. Positioning is similar as well – the HD228 is not very good at conveying intimacy but also not as good at portraying distance as the open HD238 and, while the separation is quite decent, the presentation of the HD228 still does break down on busy passages.
Value (7/10): Like the higher-end HD238, the HD228 is a very comfortable portable headphone that’s unobtrusive and easy on the eyes. Though the attention to detail and build quality of the HD228 isn’t quite on the same level, it isolates slightly more than the higher-end model due to the closed design. The lesser technical proficiency of the HD228 in comparison to the higher-end set actually makes the faults that the headphones do share less glaring. Also, while the HD238 may be the better headphone technically, the HD228 is easier to bear for extended periods due in no small part to the poorer detailing and texturing. The cheaper price and lesser necessity for amping help make the easy-going HD228 a decent value in the portable world, though new users should be mindful of the headphone’s picky attitude towards how it is worn.
Frequency Response: 18 – 22,000 Hz
Impedance: 24 Ω
Sensitivity: 110 dB SPL/1mW
Cord: 4.5ft (1.5m), single-sided; Straight Plug
Space-Saving Mechanism: Flat-folding