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 ). 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.
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 . The soundstage is big and wide, if you wanna know that people talking about, then they talking about soundstage, listen for these headphones . 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 . 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
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 . 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 :)
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