ESS 252 Closed-Back Headphonessearch

ESS 252 Closed-Back Headphones

ESS 252 Closed-Back Headphones

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Collapsible Wood Cans With a Warm, Rich Sound

ESS has been in hi-fi audio since the 1970s, and now the company brings its expertise in speakers to the world of headphones. The 252 headphone is particularly eye-catching, with medium-density walnut ear cups and a shiny metal frame. It’s easy to travel with, too. The cables are removable, the frame collapses to fit in the included carrying case, and the 32-ohm impedance means you can drive this headphone with mobile sources. Built with custom 50-millimeter moving-coil drivers, the 252 aims to showcase the different traits of the amplifiers you pair it with, revealing the true nature of recordings while infusing them with its own personal sonic traits. Major Hi-Fi  praises the headphone’s warmth and richness, saying, “These cans sound great in almost every genre, especially rock. And for listeners with a softer temperament, the ESS 252 works perfectly for classical, too.”


  • ESS
  • Driver: Custom 50mm dynamic moving coil
  • Ear cups: Walnut
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz–20 kHz
  • Sensitivity: 107 dB +/- 3 dB at 1 kHz, 1 mW
  • Impedance: 32 ohms +/- 15%
  • R and L balance: < 3 dB (20 Hz–10 kHz, 1 mW)
  • Rated input power: 30 mW
  • Maximum input power: 50 mW


  • Carrying case
  • Detachable ⅛ in (3.5 mm) cable with ¼ in (6.35 mm) adapter


All orders will be shipped by Massdrop.

Estimated ship date is Oct 3, 2018 PT.

After the drop ends, payment will be collected and the group’s order will be submitted to the vendor up front, making all sales final. Check the discussion page for updates on your order.

Recent Activity

I bought a pair of these 252's and also their 422h model which features a hybrid design with both a dynamic driver as well as a Heil air motion transducer (folded ribbon / accordion style tranducer). I had called Rick Caudillo at ESS (the CEO of ESS and also the head designer) to ask him about the sound character of each of these models, as I was attracted to the price, closed-back style for travel, and the beautiful wood construction. At the Massdrop price of $99, the 252's represent a tremendous value. They sound very good. I wanted to compare them to one another. initially, both were weak on bass, but that was because they weren't broken in. I ran them both continuously for 3 days on a bench to loosen up the dynamic driver suspensions. Ahhh, very nice after break-in. So here's the skinny: I like the 422h's the best. I'll give the 252's to my teenage daughter and they will absolutely punish the ear buds and "Beats" all her friends have. The 252's are well balanced, forgiving for any overly compressed music, and they have amazing bass response. But the 422h's...that Heil AMT is the secret sauce and brings Rick's design to the next level. The mids and highs are more clear, detailed and shimmering. They are unforgiving of poorly mastered / distorted / overly compressed music, but I don't listen to any of that garbage anyway. I'll use the cliche that swapping from the 252's to the 422h was like looking through a hazy window vs. looking through one that is so clean you almost cannot see that the glass is present. The 422's also have more space / air /'s a bigger soundstage with the 422h. 422h are $199, so double the price of the 252's, and not on Massdrop. So, back to these...are they worth it? For $99 - yes they are. Tremendous value here...they sound very nice, and if I didn't have the 422h to A/B back-to-back I would be quite pleased to own the 252's as a primary closed-back design p[air of cans. Build quality on both is impeccable...the wood is stunning, pads are comfortable (although both pair out of the box are heavier than some other brands of cans and also the clamping pressure is firm. My head is somewhat narrow so they are a good fit for me, but folks with a giant head may find these too tight. The 422h earcups are bigger than the 252 (I like the bigger cups). In summary, I'd say the 252 are well worth the $99 if that is your budget, but the 422h are definitely worth double the money if you have the cash. Remember the dynamic drivers will nothave their final amount of bass when new right out of the box until you run them for a few days with some good bass tracks to loosen up the surrounds on the drivers. I used Techmaster PEB's "Bass Computer" to break them in.