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Sennheiser HD-558

Posted

Pros: Comfort, style, and sound are 2nd to none in its price range.

Cons: 3.5mm connector too large to fit some portables. Cable replacement is hard to find. Price continues to go up with demand, specially outside the US.

 

I have only owned this for a couple months, but it did not take long to see why these are highly regarded. They quickly became my favorite all-rounder headphone for home use. I also own the Sennheiser HD 25-1 II, and Grado SR60i, I will make some comparisons to these also. Although sound quality is important, I will take a more balanced look at how practical these are to use on a daily basis.

 

Comfort/Design

 

I consider the comfort and design of a headphone to be just as important as sound quality, because this is what will ultimately determine whether I will find it practical to use on a daily basis, and whether it will last for many years to come.

 

The HD 558 is hands down the most comfortable headphone I have ever worn. The open design, the Velour headband and ear pads, the light weight construction, the perfect clasping force, and the roomy size inside for the ears all work in harmony to create what many consider to be one of the worlds most comfortable headphones, in any price range. I can wear them all day long (even with my glasses on), with no hint of discomfort, no heat or sweat issues. Grado SR60i's being on ear style do get slightly uncomfortable with glasses on over extended periods. This is a non issue with the HD 558. In terms of style, these look fantastic on your desk, or on your head. The fusion of comfort and style is truly a feat of engineering on Sennheisers part.

 

Some have concerns about the plastic construction, and what affect it will have on durability. Although I have only owned them for a couple months, I have no doubt they will last many years. The Sennheiser HD 25-1 II has legendary durability, and is completely plastic also. The look and feel of the plastic is top notch. There were reports of cracking on earlier models, but this has been addressed with newer models. Sennheiser has been great in honoring their 2 year warranty from what I have read of those affected. Heck, you have 2 years to “break” them in ;).

 

The only real conn in terms of design for me is the cable. The 3.5mm connector is huge, and wont fit many portables, specially ones with protective cases. And even if your lucky to have it fit, it will stick out by nearly 4inches, more than doubling the size of most portables, making them not so portable anymore. On my desktop, I use Logitech Z-2300 2.1 speakers, which have a 3.5mm input on the remote control that I used to use for my other headphones, but this connector is too big to fit, really annoying.

 

The length of the cable at 3m is over double what most people need. The fact it's replaceable is nice, however, I can't seem to find any of these cables to buy. The headphone connector is 2.5mm, but its a really narrow shaft, and most 2.5mm cables I found are too fat to fit. Plus, theres that nifty locking mechanism that only the official Sennheiser cables have. My only option seems to be to cut this one down and re-terminate it myself, or find a pro to do it for me.

 

Sound

 

The sound stage on these is similar to the Grado SR60i, that is to say, its fantastic. Yes, it will occasionally have your head turning to locate that “noise” behind you, on tracks you heard hundreds of times already. The HD 558 does this all with slightly better separation on more complicated compositions, especially in the mid range. In comparison to the SR60i, the highs are more subdued, which I consider an improvement. SR60i's are great, but the highs are a little overdone in my opinion.

 

The area where the HD 558 really takes the cake is the mids. The mids are in your face, right where you want them. They are far superior to any headphone I have in this regard. The only real conn in terms of sound, for some, will be the bass response. It is a noticeable step up from the SR60i. It keeps up well, you hear it all, but not with that satisfying punch or rumble that you would get with a closed or more expensive ($400+) open headphone.

 

The nice thing about these is your average source or portable will be able to to run them with no problem. It seems when you break the $250 price range your going to need to double your budget to get a decent source to enjoy their full potential. Not the case with the HD 558. As with most higher end headphones, these can shine even more when connected to high end amplification, but it is by no means required.

 

Verdict

 

If your looking for a great all-rounder for the home under $200, these are hard to beat. At home people tend to leave headphones on for extended periods, and you will have a hard time finding something more comfortable or better sounding in this price range. The only way I can't recommend these, is if your a complete bass head, in which case, your alternatives in this price range will be destroyed in every other area besides bass, and will leave you in a puddle of sweat within the hour. And if your looking for something portable, you should not be looking for an open headphone, specially a full size one. My HD 25-1 II is my portable headphone of choice, and the HD 558 has become my home all-rounder of choice. Between these two, I have a quality headphone for any application, at home, or on the go. Viva la Sennheiser!

Posted

Pros: Mostly neutral tonality, quality timber meets or exceeds expectations for the price, good presence across the spectrum, great all-rounders

Cons: Sennheiser veil, bass can bleed a little and doesn't go all the way down, mids not always as forward as I would like ideally

My chain: Lossless -> Foobar 2k -> HifimeDIY Sabre DAC -> E11

 

The HD558 are doing it for me right now. I was not blown away, but they really don't do anything wrong. The bass is not boomy but does bleed a tad, not ideal for classical but it's not hugely problematic.

 

The mids are nice. Never overly resonant, just enough bite to give realism but not intrusive. Imaging is very nice, but transients are a little weak.

 

Having started my hifi game at IEMs and gone far enough to see the kind of soundstage they are capable of (TF10, SM3), and opting for my first real can to be closed yet with a good stage (DT770), I feel like I can really discern the elements of sound presentation that are unique to open headphones, and they are well-present in the 558s. The sound is not necessarily much "bigger" than my DT770 in terms of the size of the stage or how far away certain sounds are; the DT770 actually wins out on this in some cases, especially with certain types of electronic music (psytrance in particular). However the benefit of the open sound is literally the dimensionality of the sound: the individual "sounds" themselves actually have distinct dimensionality and spacial presence of their own, rather than simply being placed at relative distances to each other. It improves the actual realism of the sound and makes it sound more speaker-like or even "live" sounding. 

 

Timbre and decay are both superior to any phones I have owned; the warmth is obvious, and I can hear the "Sennheiser veil," but it doesn't really interfere with detail or realism when you listen closely. It is more noticeable with some music than others; it makes violins and pianos sound a bit veiled, meaning these are not the BEST cans for classical, but they are VERY far from the worst; again better than anything else I own.

 

These guys really show their strengths with music that combines synthesized and analog sounds, like Lindsey Sterling and Massive Attack. They give a very pleasant fullness to instruments and never let synthesized bass drown out real instruments, isolating everything neatly without giving that slightly artificial separation that some multi-BA earphones can showcase.

 

I will say that I personally I wish I had thrown in the extra $80 and gone with the HD598; I would like a little more upper midrange presence out of these guys, and the bass could be tighter. However that doesn't detract from the fact that these are definitely quality cans, they make a great compliment to my DT770 for when I want a more laid-back listen. Overall the sound is laid back yet involving, almost seductive; it doesn't have tons of punch in the bass, so some electronic like Justice or other dubsteppy-like stuff is underwhelming (my DT770s are better suited there) but more intricate, atmospheric stuff like psychill, Lindsey Sterling, later Simon Posford stuff (Shpongle, Younger Brother) is very involving. Even deeper house like Deadmau5 and Jackbeats is good. It can't quite keep up with some of the faster, super-intricate Shpongle tracks (I found the album Nothing Lasts...but Nothing is Lost more problematic than the rest), but then the only thing I've yet heard that can is the SM3, which handled anything I ever threw at it.

 

Overall I am happy with my purchase, these make a great compliment to my LEs; now to complete my mid-fi conquest I am going after something fast and aggressive with tight, extended bass, maybe a Grado? Perhaps HD25-i-II...any recommendations? ^_^

Posted

Pros: Everything

Cons: none

So I bought these hd 558's and I cant be happier, they rock and are a amazing headphone in all ways especially for the price!

Music like Frank sinatra and the ink spots sound awesome on these! The bass is absolutely perfect for this kind of music and the bass reminds me of a old console stereo with 12-15 inch drivers.

They are clear and precise as well, all vocal music sounds amazing but so does rock and dubstep/bass type music.

I would highly recommend these phones 

You do NEED a high quality source! I want to build a tube pre-amp or something for these to make the sound even more warm.

Posted

Great sound quality and value! The sections in the ear piece can touch your ears if they are large and they are made entirely our of plastic, but overall they are extremely good headphones!

Posted

Pros: Forward, engaging mids. Overall euphonic, non-fatiguing, super comfortable, etc.

Cons: Lacking deep bass extension

At the time of this writing, these headphones cost less than $130 on Amazon.  At that price point, they are an incredible value.  For some reason, these headphones seem to be damned with faint praise in many reviews on the web.  I think some of the professional headphone reviewers are afraid to give top marks to inexpensive headphones, so they use terms like "more refined" for the more expensive ones.  I enjoyed listening to the HD558 more than my $400 HD600 (yes even with a good DAC/AMP), so I sold the HD600 and continue to enjoy the HD558.  If that makes me unrefined, so be it!

What the 558 offer:
-Beautiful, natural, relatively neutral sound overall
-Forward, engaging mids (what I like best about these)
-Non-fatiguing highs
-Rich bass with good bass impact but not exagerrated bass (look elsewhere for "bass monsters")
-Wide soundstage
-One-sided, replaceable cable (my favorite type)
-Good looks (my second favorite looking current-production Sennheisers after the HD650)
-Easy to drive (50 ohm impedance means you can drive these easily with iPod, phone, etc)
-Supremely comfortable on my fat head

What they don't offer (and neither did the HD600):
-Great sub-bass extension

Other points to consider
-As an open design, these do not offer noise blocking or prevent leakage (this is not a con, per se)
-They come with a 10ft (really long) straight cord terminating in a 6.35 mm stereo plug. The 3.5mm adapter is a bit unwieldy for use with phones, etc. However, Sennheiser offers a separately sold inexpensive 4.5ft replacement cable with a 3.5mm termination, perfect for such uses

If you are not using a dedicated amp and are looking to plug headphones directly into your phone/MP3 player/laptop/computer, don't need closed headphones to keep sound out/in, then IMO these are the best Sennheisers available and one of the best choices of any brand at any price point.  Of course they sound even better with a dedicated amp.  I'm primarily using them with a Schiit Modi DAC and Asgard 2 amp, and they sound fantastic.

 

The only limitation I find is that the bass extension is not adequate for 2% of my rap and electronic music.  Eg, ODB's "Harlem World" or MF Doom's "Hey".  Otherwise they sound fantastic with all genres (including rock, jazz, pop, and 98% of my rap/electronic).

Posted

Pros: Rich sound, very comfortable earpads, great mids, punchy bass, great soundstaging

Cons: bad 3.5mm adapter (way too large)

My opinions

 

Sound

The sound produced by the HD558 is rich, a bit light, and isn't bloated with bass which is a good thing. It has a crisp treble and punchy bass, very great soundstage(expected from an open headphone) but sometimes the bass lacks. The great thing is this headphone will play any genre of music well, even from rock to classical(they play very well with classical).

 

Comfort

The HD558 is very great for listening to music for hours. The velour pads very soft and comfortable, when you put it on, your head will still feel very light, and the pads are well shaped and pads are also great at managing sweat.

 

Build

The design isn't very interesting/eye

Posted

Pros: sound, comfort, looks and value for money!

Cons: slightly pricey!

This is brief version of my review on my personal blog.The highs were initially a bit shiny for my tastes but with time they did settle down. In general the highs are crisp and clean (probably my Cambridge DAC Magic rubbed off some of its upper end shine).The mids are lovely and smooth, right there along with both highs and lows. If you enjoy jazz and vocals you’ll appreciate the tone of the mids greatly. It definitely stands up in comparison to my previous Sennheiser HD448 (and it should considering the price difference, and it definitely would be the recommended upgrade from the 448s). Bass is in sufficient quantity for non-bass heads, though it does get slightly boomy when extending further down, all-in-all quite good for the price and I did notice slight betterment with burn-in (I recommend atleast 50 hrs of burn-in). I have been recently listening to a HiFiman HE500 and a Sennheiser HD650, so its very much likely that I have been “spoiled” with regard to the quality of bass that I expect ;-) . That said, I would definitely rate the treble performance of the 558’s higher than its bass.The HD558 retains most of the laid-back style house sound of Sennheiser which goes very well with a lot of listeners but if you are a serious rock and electronica nut these may not provide that pace or “zing” that adds a great feeling to such tracks. Though I cannot exactly pin down the flavor in the HD558, I see it as a more “popular” deviation from the previous HD6xx line. The HD558 is not as laid back as the previous generation of Senns, and I don’t see that as a disadvantage – it probably reflects the fact that Sennheiser is updating it’s house style with a bit of popular music listening styles. Overall the HD558 can be described as a very pleasant and slightly colored listening experience.

 

I am not completely satisfied with the pricing and would urge prospective buyers to look for a good offer on pricing! Currently there seem to be little in the way of a direct competition to HD558 but that may soon change!

Posted

My thoughts on the Sennheiser 558

 

First, off, I would like to begin with the standard "I am not an audiophile" disclaimer.

 

The package came from Dahmart and on time - within 2 days of ordering with expedited shipping. The headphones were in mint condition but without the box. As I looked at them it became increasingly harder not to plug them in, and so I did. Thus starting my first lesson in "enthusiast grade" headphones. In the coming week I would learn a lot about the headphones I had ordered, sound signatures, and the kind of sound I was after.

 

Believe me, I spent hours scouring the internet for information on the 558, and there is plenty of it. And so far I have yet to find a review that truly shows the Sennheiser 558 for what they are. I stumbled upon threads about how to do the foam mod to make them sound like the 598, claims that they have the "Sennheiser veil", claims they are absolutely amazing, and claims they are over-rated. Lets sort through it all and dive into the HD 558.

 

When I put them on they were easily the most comfortable headphones I have worn, then I listened to them. One word comes to mind when I think of the first time I heard them: underwhelmed. I had a playlist of different music to try with them when I first got them. There was no aggression to the music, the bass was too polite (read passive and recessed), and I didn't feel engaged by the music. I close my eyes actively searching for qualities above my old headphones, a year old pair of Sennheiser HD202s. And there was. As I focused on the music I noticed the lyrics easier to hear and understand, and presented more harmoniously with the instruments. I try hard to imagine I am listening to a live concert, as I have read they sound like, but it doesn't work for me. They do sound more "outside my head" than closed headphones, but only just. If you try really hard you can try to convince yourself that the music is playing in the room, but even that takes effort. By this time I am frightened about my purchase. Within 15 minutes I desperately perform "foam mod" surgery on only the left side, and wore them for 20 minutes to see if I could tell a difference. I liked the results, it seemed to enhance what I then perceived to be the strengths of the headphones. They sounded a little more airy and detailed - although the bass seemed to take even more of a backseat it was amazing for some genres (Inception soundtrack comes to mind). I took the other one off and stuck the foam pads onto the top of a CD in one of those cylindrical plastic blank CD packages and put the lid on to keep dust out. I then proceeded to leave them running even when I wasn't listening to them in case they needed to "burn in".

 

By this time I was truly worried that I had made the wrong purchase. I checked the Dahmart return policy, which sucks by the way. They will gladly take any return for a 20% restocking fee. I wasn't about go for that. I tested my Sennheiser 202 again, and then it happened. They sounded sloppy, unrefined. The bass was boomy and didn't seem to know its place. It would impede on the other sounds. The vocals were not as clear. I realized then that what I first recognized as "lack of bass" was not a lack of anything. The bass on the 558 simply knows its place and isn't loose at all, it's tight and smooth; something I knew nothing about before I put on the 558's. In fact, the bass on the 558 is every bit as powerful as the HD202 - even with the foam mod. I spoke with StreetDragon and we shared thoughts about them. We largely agree the they are not in-you-face engaging, but they have a very musical, beautiful sound. He was kind enough to share some of his equalizer settings with me to bring out certain qualities that may be lacking for some kinds of music, like electronica. I am starting to realize that I might be a "basshead" due to what I want out of a headphone. I wanted a headphone that was clear, with prominent mids, and quality bass, and that's what I got, but the saying "be careful what you wish for" was prominent in my mind. The headphones were by no means bad, but not what I was expecting.

 

Fast forward 1 week of nearly constant listening....

 

 

I'm not sure if it's me or the headphones, but they sound better every day. Fuller, more detailed, more engaging. I don't know if I believe in burn-in, but the sound I get from them is different than it was when I first got them. I am accepting them for what they are, and what they aren't. They are good at most any kind of music with even with a flat EQ. They excel at music that is less aggressive and less dense. They seem to do best with laid back music. They are somewhat revealing, some music sounds bad due to sloppy mixing (read 50 cent "get rich or die trying" as a prime example). But, keep in mind no genre fails with these. If you have a hardware based EQ you should be able to make them sing with just about anything. With the EQ set as flat is a good way to start - these headphones are very mellow with a flat setting. I keep thinking about the "veil" because they sound very warm with some sacrifice to highs, but you can remove the veil easily with a simple EQ tweak.

 

Fast forward to today...

 

The headphones are getting warmer and warmer. I notice some of the otherwise great bass control in some songs, and I realize it's time to put the foam back on. I perform the necessary surgery, and find that the foam I put onto the CD has become very much fused to the surface. I had to be very careful not to tear the foam on account of how stuck it had become to the CD. Once again I did the mod only to one side (right this time), and I liked what I heard. The sound was more forward - more aggressive. The bass cleaned up and gained additional punch. The sound stage closed up a little, and it lost some of that "airy" quality it had. I whole heartedly agree with the opinion of a poster from another forum that the mod doesn't make it sound better, just different. As much as I would like to think that Sennheiser purposely crippled the 558's with the foam because it uses the same drivers as the 598, I'm not so sure that is the case. I'm taking the "Sennheiser knows best" route, and leaving them in for the time being. The undoing the mod makes them more up front and engaging. It almost seems like the mod tries to make the headphones be something they are not. I would suggest everybody who has a pair try them with the foam again if you have taken it out.

 

Conclusion -

 

If you have read this whole post, I hope it was enjoyable and worth while. Now for a word on my rating scale: I don't rate on a curve. If the ratings seem low to you it's because I'm not rating them for their price, I am rating them for the criteria and the criteria only. I have seen $20 headphones get 10/10 and 5/5, I feel that reflects off the fact that they only cost $20, and I save the value rating for the value rating. So, without further ado, here it is:

 

Comfort 9/10 - The plush earcups and headband are great, they don't heat my ears up, and even my wife who thinks expensive headphones are a total waste of money gave a nod of approval and wanted to know more about them. They clamp ever so slightly on the firm side, but are very stable on my head. I don't think there is any combinations of movements I could do to knock them off save using my hands. I can wear them with glasses and/or a beanie without problems. Very nice.

 

Sound 7.5/10 - I am rating these on what they are, not what I think they should be. After almost 2 weeks of listening for hours every day I know what these are about, and they are quite good at what they do. The 558 includes listeners of classical, jazz, new age, etc. In fact, I would say they are geared slightly toward those listeners, as the sound is designed to be beautiful and relaxing, not aggressive and adrenaline-inducing. The 558 can be poured into just about any mold and successfully thrive with some EQ tweaking, but it seems to prefer to be mellow. If you listen to rock, techno and rap, and want a sound that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, there are probably better choices depending on the sound you are after because they lack what I will call the adrenaline element. Like I said, they are mellow and beautiful - you may be inclined to sway back and forth (as I frequently do) and hold your lighter high during some live performances because they are capable of truly making music sing, picky as they may be, as they are uniformly good, but every once in a while they make me pause and close my eyes to savor the sound. They are an easy 8 when in their element, a 6.5 or 7 for some fast, dense, heavy music.

 

***IMPORTANT*** Source is a Xonar DGX internal sound card streaming 320kbps music from the subscription service MOG. My opinions are based on this source.

 

Value 5/10 - I'm giving this a 5 for one reason: I bought them for $115 shipped, but I am assuming that the reader will pay the full price of $179. For just over $100 I am very happy with them and would gladly give them an 8 star rating. If I had paid full price for these I would feel like my money could been better spent. If you can get them for under $120 shipped then go for it, but if you are thinking about paying $179 for them I would make good and sure that you know what you are looking for in a headphone.

 

 

Posted

Pros: Comfortable, solid look and feel, detachable one sided cable, replaceable cushions, low impedance and high efficiency.

Cons: Boomy sounding, cable too long and ends in a 6,35mm plug, rediculous 3,5mm adapter.

When I first listened to this headphone I was disapointed with how it sounds. Frequencies close to 150Hz are elevated and the trebles are damped. That results in a boomy sound as if I had a piece of thick cloth between my ears and the headphone. I removed the pieces of foam inside of the HD 558 but it improved the sound only marginally.

 

However once I played around with the bass and treble knob the sound of the HD 558 became more pleasing to my ears. I have never listened to music with a headphone before where I lowered the bass and raised the treble significantly. Only on very bright recordings like 80s pop & rock I found the headphone to sound about right.

 

Soundstage is an often used term in this forum. The HD 558 lets me localize instruments with a higher accuracy than I ever experienced it before. Sometimes it feels like I could grab the sound. A lovely feature that helps to improve the general listening experience is that I can feel vibrations on my earlobes.

 

If you have wide head these headphones would certainly feel tight. But the cushions are soft and the headphone feels comfortable. I even forget that I am wearing them. Over time cushions get dirty. They can be replaced. You have to pull quite hard on them before they let go. Putting them back on is a bit tricky. The headband can be replaced too. It is held in place with double sided adhesive tape.

 

The cable is only on one side. I like that. It can be removed but I haven’t seen any replacements for it. The connector on the headphone is a 2,5mm plug. On the other end it is a 6,35mm plug. An adapter is included. However it connects directly to the plug without a piece of cable in between. Very dangerous. You don’t want to stumble over the cable.

Sennheiser HD-558
Description:

With their special internal Surround Reflector, the HD 558 open, circumaural headphones are able to generate an extended spatial sound field, making them ideal for listening to home cinema as well as music. They are also fitted with Sennheiser’s innovative E.A.R. technology which ensures accurate channeling of audio signals into your ears, as well as sophisticated Duofol diaphragms which reduce unwanted resonances to an absolute minimum. The HD 558 come with skin caressing velour ear pads and headband cushion which provide outstanding wearing comfort, even for long listening sessions.

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