Pros: Very comfortable; gorgeous looking, IMO
Cons: They're fine, but nothing special.
Most of my at-home listening is done via speakers, but if I'm in bed and not wanting to disturb the rest of the house, I have Shure SE 530s, via the laptop or a Sansa Clip. However, I've never been particularly in love with the Shures, which have spent most of their life in their case. I'd pretty much stopped listening to music on headphones.
I thought I'd try these. I don't know why I expected $250 'phones to sound better than $500 ones, and they certainly did not. They sound exactly like what they are: mid-range, mid-price.
That's not to say they're bad - they certainly aren't; they're just middle of the road. They're lovely and airy, and the sound stage gives a fair illusion of being out of the head. The bass is very nicely controlled (and there's plenty enough extension for this classical music afficionado). The highs are clear without being tiring. The mids... Ah, this is where I noticed where I (hadn't) spent the money. "Transparency" is probably one of the most abused words in audio, but once you've heard it (truly heard it) you're never happy without it.
Although I've never spent crazy money on hi-fi I've some decent kit over the years, transducer-wise. I've had Quad ESL 57s, 63s and 998s; Spendor BC1 and SP1 and currently B&W 802. HPs have included Stax Lambda Pro (which I sold because they were just so bloody hot and uncomfortable!). All these transducers have what I think is true transparency - and none more so, IMO, than the positively ancient ESL 57, which I have never ever heard bettered in that department. They didn't have deep bass, and they weren't much use for a party, but I miss them to this day (thirty years after I had to sell them. Sob).
I suppose what I'm trying to say is that I was stupid to think the 598 would somehow defy the price/performance equation. I should probably simply have got the Visa card out and bought the HD 800s, but I wanted something easy to drive. And that brings me to...
The Fiio E17! I bought this little miracle at the same time. Oh, my. Suddenly, I realised just how good the SE 530s can be. I've always shied away from external DACs and amps for 'phones. Too much trouble and bulk for what's supposed to be a neat/portable alternative to my main system. I took a chance (at that price, why not?) on the E17 and to say I'm thrilled is an understatement. In combination with the Shures (and my laptop or Nexus 7) we're definitely in touch with the high-end. I've never been a great believer in the post-1980s philosophy of "spend most of your budget on the front end", but the E17 has made me realise that proper hi-fi does demand a little more than a Sansa Clip (amazing as that little device is), or the headphone output of a Samsung laptop.
However, though I'm very happy to discover just how good the 530s can be, I'm afraid the 598s (although improved by the E17) still remain firmly earth-bound, and nowhere near as fine as the Shures.
I'm not familiar with all the 598's competitors at their price point, so I can't say if they're a standout in their market segment. What I think I can say is that they're neither a bargain nor a rip-off. If someone put them on my head, blind, and asked me to guess the price I'd say $250 (or £164, in our money).
Before I go, I can't stress enough that the 598s are very good - but if you're fussy and spoiled, these won't do it for you. I'm tempted to keep them, though, because I really like the design. They go so well with my few treasured pieces of Art Deco furniture!
PS:I'm not sure if the rating system on Head-Fi is absolute or relative, so I've given them three stars for audio quality. If that's wrong maybe a mod could change it to four or five (though I'm not sure how logical that would be).