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DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X Review (Headphone)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X gaming headphone, i.e. has microphone included. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $159 (normally $169).

The PC38X is made entirely out of plastic but somehow feels better than "cheap" with tightly fitting parts that have a touch of class:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X review Gaming Headset.jpg


Two sets of cups are provided, one is the knit-mesh which is what I tested and the other, velour. This is a very light headphone at just 250 grams:

lighest gaming headphone review.png


Cup inside dimensions are 69, 28, 31 mm (height, width and depth). The narrow width slightly pinches my ears but overall comfort is good. I almost forget I am wearing them.

Note: The measurements you are about to see are made using a standardized Gras 45C. Headphone measurements by definition are approximate and variable so don't be surprised if other measurements even if performed with the same fixtures as mine, differ in end results. Protocols vary such as headband pressure and averaging (which I don't do). As you will see, I confirm the approximate accuracy of the measurements using Equalization and listening tests. Ultimately headphone measurements are less exact than speakers mostly in bass and above a few kilohertz so keep that in mind as you read these tests. If you think you have an exact idea of a headphone performance, you are likely wrong!

Fitting these headphones on the fixture seems to be challenging at first but on first try, I achieved excellent results with channel and frequency match so I ran with them.

Sennheiser PC38X Measurements
As usual we start with our frequency response:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X frequency response measurements Gaming Headset.png


Wow, what a pleasant surprise! The response essentially hugs the preferred target from 100 Hz and up. The main thing it leaves on the table is sub-bass response. Seems like someone has been paying attention to proper research into headphones and what makes them good sounding. Interesting that such a performance comes in the bargain headphone but not higher in the tier.

Relative response then shows small variations:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X relative frequency response measurements Gaming Headset.png


As usual ignore the massive dips as they are cause by multiple paths to the measurement microphone due to natural reflections. The peaks match the target which is the main thing.

All is not milk and honey though as distortion is fairly high:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X distortion measurements Gaming Headset.png


Notice that peaking at 675 Hz in distortion. It coincides the same in frequency response which you can see a bit better here:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X THD distortion measurements Gaming Headset.png


So clearly something has gone awry there. Bass distortion is unfortunate as we need to boost that area to get our sub-bass.

Group delay is not revealing of much:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X Group Delay measurements Gaming Headset.png


Sensitivity is better than average:
most sensitive gaming headphone review 2021.png


Combined with relatively low impedance, you should be able to drive it with many sources:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X Impedance measurements Gaming Headset.png


I am listening to it with RME ADI-2 DAC and have the volume at -25 dB.

Sennheiser PC38X Listening Tests and Equalization
Out of the box the PC38X immediately impresses with correct tonality in my standardized list of reference tracks. Spatial effects though were non-existent resulting in rather uninteresting experience. Sub-bass was also absent, adding to that sensation. So I brought out the EQ and step by step, made some corrections:

DROP + SENNHEISER PC38X Equalization EQ Parametric.png


The two filters on the right were there to fill the small dips in frequency response. Tonality they made the headphone a bit brighter but boy did they bring out spatial qualities. We went from C- to B+ here. I then added the sub-bass boost to balance the tonality. That was challenging as I was easily greeted with all kinds of distortion as I turned up the volume on sub-bass heavy tracks. So I played with them and at the end settled for lower levels than what I started. As is however, you need to keep the volumes to moderately loud. Anything above that and you are better off without the boost as distortion gets annoying.

Speaking of distortion, there are clearly some bad ones there. On one track I was hearing this resonance that I had not heard before. On a hunch, I went after that 675 Hz distortion peak and put in a mild notch filter. The bet was that the frequency response error was less audible than distortion. While this is a subjective assessment, I think it worked! I could not detect any penalty and I thought overall clarity improved.

I was still not super happy with the sound so went after the mild but wide peaking centered around 1400 Hz. That did it! Now we had open sound with impressive bass, and spatial qualities. I could not put down the headphone at this point and listened for the remainder of the evening. Even this morning post photography, I put them back on and am listening as I type this.

If you want a test track that shows off a headphone with great response, here it is: the Hans Zimmer's Games album and track, Wonder Woman 1984


Even without EQ the PC38X sounds good. With EQ, it is incredible.

Conclusions
Amazing what happens when you follow the science: you get a very nice sounding headphone out of the box despite the budget price. Compromises there to be sure in the form of high distortion that is clearly audible when pushed. And spatial effects that are absent. Can't do much about the distortion other than one notch filter but the rest of the experience is substantially improved with a few filters elevating this headphone to one of my favorites!

I struggled as to what rating to give it given the audible distortion post EQ. Normally products don't get a pass from me on that front but at the end, this is a headphone that attempts to do the right thing and delivers post EQ, an experience that is special. I routinely would notice a note or two in my reference tracks that would make me go, "ooh, that sounded nice." This only only happens with best sounding headphones and speakers.

Net, net, I am going to recommend the Drop + Sennheiser PC38X without EQ. With EQ, it is elevated to one of my favorite budget headphones for for medium to medium high level of listing.

Sennheiser, please bring us more headphones with this kind of tuning!

------------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Appreciate any donations using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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sweetchaos

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To import this PEQ profile into 'Equalizer APO', use:
Preamp: -7.4 dB
Filter 1: ON LS Fc 35 Hz Gain 4.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 2: ON LS Fc 65 Hz Gain 3.0 dB Q 1.0
Filter 3: ON PK Fc 675 Hz Gain -6.0 dB Q 6.0
Filter 4: ON PK Fc 1400 Hz Gain -2.5 dB Q 2.0
Filter 5: ON PK Fc 4200 Hz Gain 3.0 dB Q 4.0
Filter 6: ON PK Fc 6975 Hz Gain 3.0 dB Q 4.0

To import into your favorite PEQ app, enter it manually.
Otherwise, see my PEQ guide.
..................................................................................................................
For those who don't have PEQ-capable app, and want to use GEQs instead.

Preamp: -6.9db
32 6.5
64 0.9
125 0.0
250 0.6
500 -1.1
1000 -1.8
2000 -1.1
4000 2.3
8000 1.6
16000 0.1
Preamp: -6.5db
20 5.2
25 5.1
32 4.1
40 2.9
50 2.2
63 1.7
80 0.9
100 0.4
125 0.3
160 0.3
200 0.1
250 0.1
315 0.2
400 0.0
500 0.9
630 -4.5
800 -1.1
1000 0.1
1250 -1.9
1600 -1.6
2000 -0.1
2500 0.0
3150 -0.0
4000 3.0
5000 0.7
6300 2.4
8000 1.7
10000 0.2
12500 0.4
16000 0.4
20000 -0.1
If you want to import into "Wavelet" (Android App):
GraphicEQ: 20 -0.2; 21 -0.2; 22 -0.2; 23 -0.2; 24 -0.2; 26 -0.2; 27 -0.3; 29 -0.5; 30 -0.7; 32 -0.9; 34 -1.2; 36 -1.4; 38 -1.7; 40 -1.9; 43 -2.3; 45 -2.5; 48 -2.8; 50 -3.0; 53 -3.2; 56 -3.5; 59 -3.7; 63 -4.0; 66 -4.2; 70 -4.4; 74 -4.6; 78 -4.7; 83 -4.9; 87 -5.1; 92 -5.2; 97 -5.3; 103 -5.4; 109 -5.5; 115 -5.6; 121 -5.6; 128 -5.7; 136 -5.8; 143 -5.8; 151 -5.8; 160 -5.9; 169 -5.9; 178 -5.9; 188 -5.9; 199 -5.9; 210 -6.0; 222 -6.0; 235 -6.0; 248 -6.0; 262 -6.0; 277 -6.0; 292 -6.1; 309 -6.1; 326 -6.1; 345 -6.1; 364 -6.1; 385 -6.2; 406 -6.2; 429 -6.3; 453 -6.3; 479 -6.4; 506 -6.6; 534 -6.8; 565 -7.3; 596 -8.1; 630 -9.9; 665 -11.9; 703 -11.0; 743 -8.9; 784 -7.8; 829 -7.3; 875 -7.1; 924 -7.0; 977 -7.1; 1032 -7.2; 1090 -7.4; 1151 -7.7; 1216 -8.0; 1284 -8.3; 1357 -8.5; 1433 -8.5; 1514 -8.3; 1599 -7.9; 1689 -7.6; 1784 -7.2; 1885 -7.0; 1991 -6.7; 2103 -6.6; 2221 -6.4; 2347 -6.3; 2479 -6.2; 2618 -6.1; 2766 -6.0; 2921 -5.9; 3086 -5.7; 3260 -5.5; 3443 -5.2; 3637 -4.7; 3842 -3.9; 4058 -3.1; 4287 -3.0; 4528 -3.7; 4783 -4.4; 5052 -4.8; 5337 -4.9; 5637 -4.8; 5955 -4.6; 6290 -4.0; 6644 -3.2; 7018 -2.9; 7414 -3.6; 7831 -4.4; 8272 -5.0; 8738 -5.3; 9230 -5.5; 9749 -5.6; 10298 -5.7; 10878 -5.8; 11490 -5.8; 12137 -5.9; 12821 -5.9; 13543 -5.9; 14305 -5.9; 15110 -5.9; 15961 -5.9; 16860 -5.9; 17809 -6.0; 18812 -6.1; 19871 -6.3
Otherwise, see my GEQ guide.
 
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Anmol

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I wish this came as a Bluetooth- would be perfect at work. mic and quality music headphone!
 

PeteL

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I am no gamer, but wouldn't a Gaming headphone with poor spatial qualities out of the box would be a dud? Can you even EQ videogames sound and if so would that help in localizing your opponents? Just curious, it's seams than specifically this would be the very most important thing in gaming no? I have zero experience with that type of use case for headphones so I ask.
 

Propheticus

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I have the PC360. Liked it, but lacks (sub) bass.
The real issue is the volume control in the earcup. While handy, the potentiometer has worn out (or became dirty?) and now often causes channel imbalance, soft/no sound until turned a couple of times and distortion.
I'm thinking of opening it up and bypassing the potmeter. It's just all those plastic tabs I hope wont permanently break. Then there's those tiny wires with paint like thin insulation that are hard to solder as an amateur without ruining them.
 

Doodski

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I am no gamer, but wouldn't a Gaming headphone with poor spatial qualities out of the box would be a dud? Can you even EQ videogames sound and if so would that help in localizing your opponents? Just curious, it's seams than specifically this would be the very most important thing in gaming no? I have zero experience with that type of use case for headphones so I ask.
I use a system wide EQ on my ASUS motherboard. It EQs everything including games.
 

Doodski

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Hmmmz... looks like a Sennheiser HD 598/599 with a microphone :D Speaking of which @amirm do you still have a HD 599 in for test?
 

vkvedam

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Surprised :eek:, now we are talking. I found another Sennheiser set to be extremely good which is made for communication. Sennheiser HP 02-100
 

Robbo99999

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Interesting opposing angles in this review (in terms of good frequency response and poor'ish distortion) and ending up with one of the highest recommendations during the listening tests - I am also of the notion that you can get the frequency response right and yet not always have perfect sounding headphones, so the measurements don't always follow the story, same is true on the distortion measurement front of which these didn't measure particularly well. Mostly to me it's the spatial aspect that is the unique attribute that doesn't relate 100% alone to the measured or EQ'd frequency response.....so there is some secret sauce to headphones once you've covered off the "routine bases" of EQ'd frequency response.

But hang on, Amir mentioned two different pads included with the headphone. @amirm , are we measuring a stock headphone here or are they aftermarket pads.....are these the pads that are supplied with the headphone when you buy it? We could be potentially be reducing the relevance of your frequency response measurements as well as your listening tests if you're using pads that aren't stock. I know we've discussed this before in other threads, but it's important to know if these are stock or aftermarket pads.
 
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OP
amirm

amirm

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But hang on, Amir mentioned two different pads included with the headphone. @amirm , are we measuring a stock headphone here or are they aftermarket pads...
Drop ships with the two different sets. I tested one in the review.
 

Robbo99999

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GWolfman

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Interesting opposing angles in this review (in terms of good frequency response and poor'ish distortion) and ending up with one of the highest recommendations during the listening tests - I am also of the notion that you can get the frequency response right and yet not always have perfect sounding headphones, so the measurements don't always follow the story, same is true on the distortion measurement front of which these didn't measure particularly well. Mostly to me it's the spatial aspect that is the unique attribute that doesn't relate 100% alone to the measured or EQ'd frequency response.....so there is some secret sauce to headphones once you've covered off the "routine bases" of EQ'd frequency response.

But hang on, Amir mentioned two different pads included with the headphone. @amirm , are we measuring a stock headphone here or are they aftermarket pads.....are these the pads that are supplied with the headphone when you buy it? We could be potentially be reducing the relevance of your frequency response measurements as well as your listening tests if you're using pads that aren't stock. I know we've discussed this before in other threads, but it's important to know if these are stock or aftermarket pads.
See above post (sorry forgot to quote your reply initially).
 

Fernando

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Please! Another pad thread noooooooo !!

Excellent analysis with surprise in the result!

$ = good
$$$$$ = bad
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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I am no gamer, but wouldn't a Gaming headphone with poor spatial qualities out of the box would be a dud?
I hear this all the time but sadly don't have any experience myself as I don't play games. But I would imagine that any necessary spatial quality is provided by the signal processing in the game and not relying on these subtle effects. I don't even know if these effects are positionally accurate that we talk about here.

What is a Window's game that I can play in demo mode or something to experience such effect?
 

thyristor

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That song from Wonder Woman 1984 soundtrack is a horrible test track. It has heavy dynamic compression and distortion. It distorts so badly because of hard limiting it's impossible to detect any headphone distortion under that. Here is a waveform of the song Games from the official 24/44.1 download from Qobuz:
2021-06-24-011302_1920x1080_scrot.png
 

dorirod

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I hear this all the time but sadly don't have any experience myself as I don't play games. But I would imagine that any necessary spatial quality is provided by the signal processing in the game and not relying on these subtle effects. I don't even know if these effects are positionally accurate that we talk about here.

What is a Window's game that I can play in demo mode or something to experience such effect?
Does this do it?
 
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