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Sennheiser HD 518

100% Positive Reviews
Rated #18 in Over-Ear


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Pros: Comfy, Good for long listening sessions, Great sound

Cons: long cord

First off id like to say i am not an audiophile and this is the second time on this forum that ive wrote a review.


Now with that said these headphones are really great and well worth the money i paid for em.

The sound i bright and the highs and mids are clear and crisp and the bass is not at all overpowering which i personally love about them. They are quite an improvement from the HD 202s that i have.


When i first got these i put them on and at first it didnt seem all that different from my 202s till i went and put my 202s on and realized that i was very wrong. The highs and mids seemed to muddled due to the bass. So i put the 518s on and i could just hear how different they were then. They are amazing. Again though im not an audiophile.


Id recommend these to anyone looking for good entry level headphones.


Sorry if this review isnt all that helpful to anyone.


Pros: Big step up from HD 515, Mids and Highs are clear and vivid, Bass is more pronounced but still laid back, Comfortable for long listening sessions.

Cons: Plastic material (still feels and looks good though)

Design - The louvered design is something people will either like or hate. I personally like it since it gives it a very engineered look, just like a German car. The color combination is stylish and gives it a high end feel, very nice use of graphite and black with some silver highlights. I personally prefer these colors versus the 598.


Comfort - The velour pads have an edge in the inside but are still very comfortable, but the 558 pads are still a little bit better, they're rounded on the inside edges and are not as 'springy'. I can still listen to these cans for hours on end though. I also wanted to add that one of the reasons (I assume, aside from making it more affordable) Sennheiser chose to use plastic versus metal, is because it has less weight and therefore has less stress to the head and neck resulting in hours of listening pleasure.


Audio Quality - The mids and highs are clear, the sound stage is excellent! You can actually hear the little nuances in the different instruments being played (Have a listen to the Cure's - A Forest, the acoustic version or something similar) and where they are positioned. In terms of bass these cans actually have good bass, albeit more on the laid back side (also one of the reasons these headphones are not tiring to the ears when listening for hours) when played without an amp. Speaking of amps, when used with one it starts to really shine. I used my fiio E11 and the overall sound becomes warmer and tighter, the bass becomes fuller and deeper. Remember this still has the Sennheiser signature 'veiled' sound but with more presence.


Value -  For it's current price of $120 I think it's a winner, though if you could get these for somewhere around the $100 mark you're golden! It sounds fantastic and with the sound quality you won't feel like you over paid (unless you're a bass head that just wants deafening lows). Another plus with these cans is it can be powered by a portable amp with no issues like the Fiio E11. Once paired, you can't go wrong! Remember though, even without one as long as you setup your EQ properly it still sounds excellent (not for bass heads though)!



EDIT (Jan 6, 2013 update): After 100+ Hours of burning in these headphones, they have definitely improved in the low frequency area making the the bass sound tighter. This applies to people who use no amps at all with these headphones.


For people who use amps, please note that there can be a difference how the low end is delivered. My example would come from my experience with the Fiio E11 versus the ZO2. I personally prefer the ZO2 with these headphones since the bass is definitely tighter and it helps the headphones literally cover all music genres I listen to (alternative, rock, classic rock, rap, hip-hop, r&b, punk, dub step, electronica, classical, some pop artists). For the comparison between amplifiers it's broken down into the two below:



Fiio E11:


Overall sound

Darker and warm overall while giving the HD-518 oomph in the lower frequencies



When listening to these types of music: Jazz, Pop, and Classical it is perfect and no muddling happens. The bass presented is tight and responds well. It has a tendency to be muddled when listening to R&B (Mary J. Blige), Rap (Dr. Dre and Snoop) and Linkin Park.



Still presented very well and retains the HD-518 personality here, which is mid forward.



Still presented very well but slightly recessed and retains the HD-518 personality.



Overall the sound stage is retained with very little loss in placement.



It helps retain the overall Sennheiser signature while givng it some low end oomph. Awesome for Classical, Pop, Rock, Classic Rock, Metal, Vocals and some Alternative music.



It muddles the bass when listening to R&B, Rap and some Linkin Park and the likes.






Overall sound

Warmer and fun overall making the HD518 shine in all types of music



No muddling of Bass happens here, the issue I had with the E11 when listening to Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre , Snoop and even Linkin Park disappeared with this amp!


Bass response was quicker so the Linkin Park songs sounded nicer when the lower frequencies were presented. Bass oomph I wanted when listening to R&B and Rap were tighter and faster with no muddling, making Mary J. Blige, Dr. Dre and Snoop music when low frequencies were presented sound outstanding!



Still presented very well and retains the mid forward Sennhesier signature.



Still presented well and slightly recessed.



Overall the sound stage is still there but not as open compared to the Fiio E11.



It makes the HD-518 a perfect all rounder. With this combination I can definitely listen to any type of music genre and be happy with how the High, Mid and Low sound. Bass is tighter and no muddling happens! Makes the HD-518 fun cans to listen to!



It slightly changes the sound of the HD-518 reducing the veil sound signature of the Sennheiser. Not powerful enough (volume is limited when using LOD) to drive HD-518 and higher impedance cans when using LOD. You need to use the headphone output to drive to make the headphone and the amp shine.



NOTE: These cans (as with most 500/600 series HP) tend to highlight poorly recorded or low bit rate recordings. You will hear the imperfections in the track if you don't use flac.


Overall rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars


Pros: soundstage, amazing bass and mids, non fatiguing, great all- arounder

Cons: highs are slightly veiled

I'll keep this review short, im a beginner, and this review are all my own opinions so please bear with me.  thank you! :smile:


This headphone sound so good for its price.


For me, its sq is almost excellent that every time i put this on, i always have a smile on my face.

Others may not appreciate this because the sound is warm or dark.


It really shines on its soundstage, bass and mids.


Soundstage- big or wide, lots of airiness, because of its open back design and the E.A.R., it makes you feel that you are in a live recording, or you are sitting in front of high end speakers.


Bass- Its not lacking neither overpowered. it's deep, controlled bass, also has a great mid bass, making the mids luscious.


Mids- It is very rich, or i would say very sexy.



Moving on,


the highs are slightly veiled, its there, but  for me it is lacking.


Overall, i think this is a great all arounder.  jazz, rock, classical etc... I would definitely recommend this headphone for all of us who loves music and cant afford high end gears :wink: thank you. Happy listening! :beyersmile:


Pros: dark, smooth treble, strong bass impact, very comfortable, easy to drive, sounds good with cheaper amps, excellent for movies and video games

Cons: annoying 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch adapter, bass is a bit obese and undistinguished, not the best transparency in mids, vocals are a little veiled

I purchased the HD518s for a good price lightly used, and have been very satisfied with them. They are darker Sennheisers, and have the signature Senn smooth sound. I have never owned Senns before, so these were my first pair. I am fairly used to how AKGs sound, so when I first listened to the HD518s, they initially wowed me with how smooth their mids and highs were, and how strong the bass was. There definitely is a "wow" factor when you first listen to them, especially if you listen to brighter, leaner sounding headphones. They are all plastic, but feel well made. They have that Sennheiser vice grip on the head, but you get accustomed to the grip, they do not present a comfort problem. The earpads are fairly stiff, but do not munch my ears whatsoever, and the cups absolutely deep enough that my ears have never touched the drivers and never will. The headband has some cloth padding, and hasn't given me any problems. They have a detachable 10 foot cable, so that is a plus. The standard plug is a 1/4 inch stereo plug, but they come with a 1/8 inch adapter. The problem is that with the adapter on, the jack becomes absurdly long, and presents a hazard of sheering off when connected to a laptop, iPod, iPhone, ETC which use 1/8 inch headphone jacks, and require use with the adaptor.


Sound wise, the HD518s are dark and smooth, so they are easy to listen to brighter music with for longer periods of time. Their bass impact and open back design also makes them excellent for watching movies with, as well as playing video games. Soundstage for music isn't very wide, however. The HD518s have a polished sound, but this may be problematic to some. The highs don't have the sparkle to them that I am used to with AKGs, for example. They have stronger bass, but the problem is that the bass is a little obese and loose, and tends to have its main impact in the lower mid-bass region. That makes the HD518s sound as if they have somewhat indecisive, slightly confused bass. The mids are a little too smooth and veiled, and tend to lack a lot of musicality. Vocals are fairly veiled, and tend to be a bit too thick and unemotional to my ears. They do every genre competently, but tend to excel at darker, downtempo music with a strong bass impact. RnB, Quiet Storm, Chillout, Liquid Funk (downtempo Drum n' Bass), and smooth jazz sound great on the HD518s. Genres that require a quicker, more transparent and leaner sound do not sound their best on the HD518s. 


Don't get me wrong. The HD518s are great headphones. They are just a little bit too veiled in the vocals and obese in the bass to be my everyday headphones for music listening. A bit too vanilla sounding for my tastes, but I can completely understand why people like the Sennheiser sound, and why Sennheiser has such a loyal customer base. I strongly recommend anyone looking for good starter open backs for a variety of genres, or want good headphones for video/computer games as well as movies, and do not have a higher end equipment to drive headphones with, check out the HD518s.  


Pros: Bass, soundstage, comfy, great all-arounders

Cons: Vocals in music (fixed with eq)



I would like to share my impressions of my first a bit more decent headphones - Sennheiser HD-518. I'm no audiophile, so this review will be more for a "normal" people, who want to use it not just for music, but for games and movies too.


Build quality and design


  Headphones is all plastic, so no suprises where. It have strange grills that could look a bit silly, but hey, you will not go out with them outside. You could and I did it few times, but cable is just too long, you end up in wire mess + headphones are open, so no isolation from outside noise, you just don't enjoy your music with these outside.

  Pads are made just for me. They just perfect, they are a bit stiff, but this is what i like, you can wear them for hours and just forgot you have headphones on your head. I usually listening for music while I'm laying in bed, no problem with these being on your head ( I fall a sleep few times with headphones still on my head, glad didn't brake them bigsmile_face.gif). They fall few times from a table, still in one peace. They are ready for some brutal force.

  Cable. Cable is long, 3m to be exact. I can walk around in my room with no problems at all, and I live in not that small of a room. I can see having a problem using a laptop, but these are perfect for a stationary pc use.


Audio Quality


  I must say, then I first heard hd 518, I thougt I just wasted my money. They sounded dirty and kinda bad. I was disappointed. But I read about burn in thing, so I said I give them a chance. And my God they sound wonderful now. I had quite a journey these headphones, so read on if you wanna know that a life changing journey I had. I will talk about music, games and movies.

  Music. As they advertise, sennheisers have deep bass. And yes, yes they have. The bass is thigt and pretty bad ass. If you looking just for a bass, look elsewhere, at closed headphones, because the bass is there it should and is not overwhelming. After going to sens from closed headphones it was strange at first, but i'm loving it now, it is big then should be, like in electromusic, but then listening to AC/DC for example, it doesn't overwhelm other instruments. Lets say bass knows its place wink_face.gif. The soundstage is big and wide, if you wanna know that people talking about, then they talking about soundstage, listen for these headphones smily_headphones1.gif. But it took headphones(or me to get use to the soundstage) to open up, because just recently I started to enjoy my music in all different way. It was quite an exiting journey too, to rediscover all the music for the third time. As good as these headphones sound in a music department, then we talking about instruments, but they have one big flaw for me, and it is vocals. To describe how vocals sound in hd 518, it will be if the band is all in one room with you and singer is behind the wall singing. It sounds a bit distant, a bit too quite, sometimes hard to understand. I guess you can fix it with a EQ, but I had no luck. Everything else changed in these headphones dramatically from a day I bough it, but vocals stayed the same way, distant, and a bit hard to listen to. I read few other reviews saying the same, so it is not just me.

  Games. Games sound wondifirus. You can hear everything around you. In skyrim I never got attacked from a back. With these your oponents don't have a chance to attack you from behind. Explosions in company of hereos sounds powerful(deep) and i will never getting tired to listen to machine guns shooting at enemies. So for games, I say YES to HD 518. But keep in my mind it is not a gaming headset, if you looking just for it, look at gaming companies like razor or such. Games sound good and open design helps a lot, but I imagine on dedicated headphones it will sound even better.

  Movies. Strangly enough, I don't have any problems with actors sounding bad, as singers sound in music. You can hear everything. I mean I watched scott pilgrim vs the world for the 5th time with these. I can say it was like I watching it for the first time. So many things I missed just because I watched it with cheap headphones. You can hear everything clearly, every little sound Edgar Wright placed in where. And now, with new XBMC Frodo realese and new audio-engine, that reproduce 5.1 surround in a way it should sound and opened soundstage of sens, I can hear everything so clearly it makes me cry atsmile.gif.  While watching transformes I could pin point from that side every explosion coming from and it really makes you appreciate sound in movies. For movies these headphones gets a HELL YES from me.




It was a great jorney with sennheisers and now, then they reached the point of a maximum performance(if not, edit is coming), they are just amazingly amazing. Yes, these are my first mid-fi headphones, not even high-fi, but I'm guessing I will not change my headphones for a long long time. So if you are like me, want a great quality and don't wanna cancel your christmas, get these and don't look back. For a closer, I will say a quote that made me buy these: " If you wanna buy high-fi headphones just because they are high-fi and you really don't know that are you going to do with them, don't waste your money and just buy sennheiser hd 518". Quote might not me that accurate confused.gif


EDIT 2013-07-20


So I ended up the university and now I can delete my windows partition and use linux all time ( damn you ms office). So I had a time to play with sound of my sennheiser in linux and pulse audio is a bitch. But then you get it right, YOU GET IT RIGHT. And guest what? They sound even better than they sounded on windows. MUCH better. In  a bass department they now have a real "oouf" in their sound, you can feel it. It is pretty nice. While watching Dark knight rises I felt like in a cinema. For a moment I was afraid drivers might explode. As for my biggest complain with singers voices, it is finally fixed. Voices of singers doesn't sound behind and distant, they feel closer more intimate and smoother sounding it just flows now.. Finally i can enjoy my favorite female singers voices from metric to the cardigans. So i guess the conclusion is it wasn't headphone fault, but windows fault etysmile.gif. And other conclusion would be, that these headphones is very sensetive to source and equalizing. You need to really play with them do get the best out of it. I'm planing on upgrading my creative card to asus ST, so another edit might be coming in maybe three-four month, depending on how my budget will be :)


EDIT 2014-03-04


So instead of asus ST I get  a fiio e10. First impressions - not a big difference from creative sound card. BUT when I think to myself, that I equalized my creative sound card to "perfection", so I should do the same for my fiio 10. So I did. Soundstage opened up and got even wider, vocals got a bit foward and sounds very clean, bass tightened up ( I use bass boost on fiio e10). Without mentioned changes, sound itself that e10 reproduce is very clean, probably because it is far from computer hardware which created a small hiz when listening to my creative card. Also, it is now powered properly.  Sound card really struggled to power 518, I had almost always to set volume to max. Now it is around 5 on e10 and 50 proc. on my volume in OS and it is very noticeable. It is hard to explain, but it gives a life to headphones and also to music. It sound more lively. If you feel your sound card struggles to power sens 518, you have your volume in windows, mac or linux set up high, I will recommend you to upgrade to e10. If not, well if you expect to be blown away by an dedicated amp vs your sound card, it is not going to happen. It will sound a bit better, but not "OMG AMAZING" better :tongue_smile: 


Pros: Really comfortable after a bit of a headband stretch, rich sound, natural vocals, above average design.

Cons: Stock cable is quite long, 3.5mm adapter is oversized and clumsy.

So I was recently in the market for a pair of open back headphones, and after hearing praise of Sennheiser for their offerings, i decided to purchase the HD 518 with my budget of about 100 dollars. 


I think that the design is something you love or hate, and personally i love it. The louvered sides look quite nice to me, and the Sennheiser logo in the middle just looks elegant. The earpads are made of what i can only think are some sort of cotton material, and they're exceptionally soft. They aren't the largest however, so if you have ears that stick out they might touch the drivers, but i didn't find this to be an issue. The headband is made of the same soft cotton material, and is just as comfortable as the earpads. I didn't find these headphones hot in any way (longest listening session this far being about 3 hours).


The sound, again, is something i think some people would love, but others might dislike. It's a very rich sound, not a reference type sound in any way, but it still sounds outstanding. The bass isn't overpowering, and isn't at all floppy. The highs are clear and detailed, and don't leave much (to me) to be desired, especially at this price point.


The mids, however, are where these headphones shine. Compared to the other frequencies, the mids are slightly elevated, which makes for a rich, warm sound, and very natural sounding vocals. Acoustic instruments like guitar and piano sound great on the HD 518, and I found myself listening to songs with these instruments more and more, because they sounded so good. Overall, the soundstage was average, but the separation of different instruments and sounds in music was better than I expected, and overall i'm very pleased with the sound on the HD 518.


My only minor gripe is the included cable, which is incredibly long (about 10 feet) and has a goofy 3.5mm adaptor for using on devices with that size jack. However, since the cable is removable, you can simply replace it with either a shorter cable directly from Sennheiser, or any number of aftermarket cables available on Amazon. 


Overall, i don't think that you can go wrong with the Sennheiser HD 518, especially if you can get it for under 100 dollars. And if you're a fan of mids, like myself, than i really don't think there's a better option at this pricepoint.


Pros: Good overall sound.

Cons: Lack of bass, no isolation.

I bought these from Amazon about 2 weeks ago, and felt buyer's remorse when I wasn't blown away by the sound.  They aren't bad, but they do lack bass and the feel is cheap.  They were somewhat comfortable, though, and the overall sound stage was alright.


Pros: price, sound quality, build quality

Cons: ok design, the 558 and 598 look much better

Sound stage is average, but separation is awesome. Some people clam that bass is lacking, however, I think the sound signature is absolutely great.


Sounds good even when driven by laptop and phones. This headphone uses the same driver as 558 and 598 but the outer shell and ear pads aren’t as good, that is the only down side. But you can't expect too much for $80.


Edit: after 1 year of use i replaced the cushions with the 558 one (555/595), more confortable, and i have pop out the grill and replace it with a piece of very thin cloth.. so lightly modded, sounds bit more airy, if you still planning to get one of the 5 series should really jut buy the 598, pretty cheap now.. though now i prefer brighter headphones like grado 325. but I'd keep the 518 forever


Pros: open sound, sufficient bass, mids are awesome, no sibilence

Cons: not for treble fans

These cans offer great multilayer-ed sound especially in comparison to entry level headphones. As I am upgrading my gear in a linear fashion, my last cans are HD448 just a step below these.I believe you already have a decent idea of how these cans sound if you frequent here often, for variety sake, I will try to base review in context to my prior experience ie what such an upgrade brings to the table.


When I put these for first time, I was disappointed. After plugging in amp, they sounded as muddy as my $10 earbuds. I had heard these cans needed short break in which was absolutely spot on. In less than 10 hrs, sound started taking its place.


These cans are clear upgrade over hd448. Sound is 3 dimensional, multilayered, which I believe brings biggest improvement. It enables much better instrument separation, does justice to each one of them and bring in a lot more detail. A higher end can like HD650 may do a better job at doing this, but thats why you pay more for those.  HD650 are described by many as dark cans having great bass, smooth mids and good sound stage when used with right amp.


I will use similar adjectives to describe these except these are much more lenient in amp requirement. Sound stage and open sound is a given no matter the source. Though a portable amp must be used. Bass is punchy and mids are well rounded. So I find these to be great all rounders suitable with all genres I tried. Sibilance is  not a problem as these are dark sounding cans.


I think I like this sound signature so upgrade path is clearly paved unless I venture around for variety sake.


All in all I did'nt gave it a 5 star cause I don't wanna come back and reduce rating after hearing a much better can. 


Edit 1: Some observations after extended listening:


Moderately diffused presentation: Instruments sound like in a mid sized room and a bit distant. They don't sound close or in your face at all.


Slow and laid back: Really good if you listen to them to relax.


Smooth, not utterly detailed: Micro details are a bit of mixed bad. Some time they come out note to note, sometime it doesn't. Overall smooth sounding.


Tend to hide some instruments when a lot is going on.


Black backgrounds on my amp. Good contrast between instruments.


Thick sounding and rather natural mid range. Bass is extended but texture varies from song to song.


So not an end game headphone but extremely enjoyable. You will love what you hear if you are just enjoying music instead of looking for technicalities.


Edit 2:


After owning these for 2 years, I have very clear cut use for these hps.


Best hps for relaxing. Period. Nothing is better.


Why I say that? A no of reasons:


1. Relaxed treble. These are some of the darkest hps I have heard. Treble is just enough to give a them a natural and relaxed presentation.


2. Diffused airy presentation. Not a focused presentation. Dissipates energy in songs gives a natural presentation.


3. No hyper resolution. Sound is grainy, does not have very high resolution. But instruments are well defined, according to price range. imo this contributes to their relaxing character.


Now all these aspects may read like negatives to you, it all depends on what you are looking for. I find all these make them ideal for non critical listening.

Sennheiser HD 518

The HD 518 open, circumaural headphones prove that quality and affordability can go hand in hand. They are fitted with Sennheiser’s innovative E.A.R. technology to ensure accurate channeling of audio signals into your ears while their sophisticated Duofol diaphragms reduce unwanted resonances to an absolute minimum. And to amplify your listening pleasure even further, their ear pads and headband cushion provide outstanding wearing comfort, even for long listening sessions.

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