Pros: Beautifully natural, very comfortable after a bit of use, great value for money
Cons: Does need to be powered by a decent amp to get "the best" sound, pet hair can easily get into grills, be wary when stretching headband
First off I'm going to say I was rather hesitant about buying these headphones.I had recently purchased the Hifiman He-400's, and while I very much enjoyed the SQ on those i found them far too cumbersome and uncomfortable. This was most likely due to the weight of the cans and lack of cushioning on the headband (which you can buy cushioning for). I also found that the velour cups didn't form a precise seal on my head which i suspect really didn't help with the bass.
My preferences for headphones have to date been a rather bright sound signature. I was brought up on a healthy dose of AD900's and i freakin loved the comfort they offered. The bass was a bit lack lustre. This was my incentive for searching for a new headphone.
I read a lot about the Hd600 and was struck curious by the sound signature that it offered. A much more natural sounding headphone, with a mid emphasis. This was most definitely different from my normal tastes. I demo'd a HD600 at a friends and was really quite unimpressed. I have a feeling that something was up with his setup (he was running a Matrix M stage amp and dac combo which i suspect was not genuine, as were his various headphones).
Still after a lot of trawling through forums, friendly help from the lovely folk here, and a nice discount from the local audio store I made my purchase.
Quite impressed with the packaging truth be told. It has the feel of a quality product. It comes enclosed in a hefty black box with metal clasps. To open the lid has the feeling of opening the lid on high fidelity music. There on a foam bed lie the HD600's with an instruction manual on top.
Build Quality & Appearance:
Straight out of the box the build quality seems solid. The first thing that struck me was the 'marble' design. From pictures I was anxious to see what it looked like in person. I had a bad feeling it would look tacky and cheap but this was not the case. You can immediately appreciate the build of the headphones, the marble finish is actually quite sophisticated.
Coming from the Hifimans I was quite suprised at the comparative light weight of these cans. They really don't weigh much.
When I first put these on I was a bit taken aback at the clamp. I have a medium sized head (i would like to think) and the force was quite apparent. I was told however this would ease with time and it has. I have had these headphones on for the past four hours straight and they are sitting very nicely. They stay firmly in position if i say feel the need to bob my head vigorously, which is quite a bonus if you like to have a bit of quiet time at the desk and place you're head on your forearms. With the hifimans they would immediately slide out of place and I would be constantly needing to adjust them. Given time these headphones seem to adjust and stretch naturally to your head.
That Sennheiser veil. It had to be mentioned. This was one thing that I was again anxious about. I like my music to be upfront and alive, not be distanced. Having listened to the Hifimans for a few weeks I had gotten used to that sound signature. If theres anyway to describe the Hifiman's in one word it would be 'alive'. Music on the hifiman's sound almost electric, very energetic and present. I enjoyed it. When I loaded up 'Beast' by Nico Vega the very first chord was like two cymbals crashing together at the center of your head. That was one of the moments where my eyes widened, I sat back and went 'huh... that.... sounds *******... awesome.' I have come to understand that this is a characteristic of the planar technology in the Hifiman's. To give a quick quick summation the sound signature I would describe as being present and alive if one can use those terms. The high's are good, the mids are a bit recessed from what I could tell, and the bass is pretty good. I was however a tad dissapointed with them as I was led to believe the bass would be something that it clearly was not. When users describe the bass as 'phenomenal' I expected it to be super impactful, deep and rumbly, almost visceral. This was not the case and I unfortunately regarded the Hifimans as having not met my expectations. Despite this the bass was deep and quick, it made rock music sound awesome whenever a snare was present. After listening to the Hifiman's for more than half an hour things tend to, for me, get a bit uncomfortable. The weight of the headphone caused strain on my head and having to constantly readjust the strap was a bit of a pain. I also found that despite the comfort factors my ears started to get quite fatigued from the headphone itself.
Now back to the Senn's. As a comparison when I first started listening I was a bit shocked and intrigued by what I was hearing. There was none of this excessive 'im alive' sound coming from the music anymore. It sounded different, and in a good way. To put it bluntly it sounded the way it was supposed to sound. I then realized that what I was hearing on the Hifiman's was really something that I didn't overly care for. They did sound good but in comparison to the HD600's they sound a bit fake and overemphasized. I would liken it to getting a new girlfriend, and finding out that your recent ex had fake boobs, and your current gf had the real deal. For some reason they just seem better. This was really a turning point for me in appreciating a different sounding headphone. While i did enjoy the bright sounding headphones I found an immense pleasure in the reality of the Senn's. Listening to music the way it was meant to sound without any artificial meddling to accommodate the 'mass audience'. By this I mean the treble centric and bass heavy headphones that seem to popular these days......coughbeatscoughcough.
As I have previously mentioned I am or was a fan of bright headphones. I liked hearing that sparkling treble as I listen to a lot of female vocals. I was absolutely terrified that I would lose that sparkle and a lot of my music would lose that magical allure that sends shivers down your whole body. The infamous sennheiser veil was something of a dealbreaker for me. I am very happy to report that the highs on the sennhieser while not able to be as in your face as other bright headphones (a good thing it turns out) does a remarkable job.
Now. This is what really suprised me. The HD600's have changed my perception of what I consider sounding 'good'. I listened to a lot of music that centered around mid's. One track that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to was 'Iron Man' by Nico Vega. That whole album in my opinion is very well recorded. The guitar, piano, pipes(organ?) that come in half way through the song redefined my perception of good music. It was also conincidentally the moment where I knew I would not be getting rid of my HD600's for a very. very long time. The HD600's seem to bring the mid's forward a tad, it makes male vocals standout a lot more which I find pleasant. Michael Buble has never sounded better. One thing I will note, and I can't say for sure. Is that it really depends on the quality and recording of the source as to how much these come through. For Buble's music his voice is very prevelant, if it was any more so it would be in danger of becoming uncomfortable. When I switch to Tool however the whole band seems to have taken a step back from the microphone, sounding ever so slightly distant and far away.
The bass was something I was not expecting to impress me. The Hifiman's were allegedly a bassier headphone both in regards to the quantity, impact and depth. I have a feeling people will have very different opinions as to which bass sounds better. The bass on the Senn's in comparison with no EQ has roughly the same quantity with a marginal amount more impact which I would I would say comes to its alleged slightly boosted mid bass. I would say that in general the bass does not extend to the depths of sub bass that the 400's can (Pun. Bet that's never been used before). There are moments when you are listening to some recordings when the Senn's delight the socks off you with some rather visceral subbass. You kinda just sit there thinking where.... the fudge did that come from. Despite the inconsistency in subbass I do find it more enjoyable than the 400's. The impact is greater and that really does add a lot of value to music for me. Whether it be Part of Me by Katy Perry or Flume's latest album (which sounds freakin dope by the way. If you own the HD600's please give it a listen. It is fantastic). The bass never ever overpowers the rest of the frequencies and is very consistent. If a song calls for an appropriate amount of bass it will deliver, if it doesn't then no bass for you.
These headphones... LOVE EQ'd bass. While I love the natural sound they produce 90% of the time. Increasing the bottom two frequencies in the STX centre releases the inner bass head. For stuff like flume or Mt Eden Dub where just a touch more bass really does add a lot to the music its incredible. Just bumping up the frequencies makes the Senn's breathe new life into the bass. The impact becomes a lot greater and the subbass more prevalent (although not greatly so). What is best is that in doing this, it doesn't mess with the rest of the frequencies. No distortion, no nothing. With the 400's I couldn't increase the bass without the rest of the spectrum suffering a noticeable amount.
I'm a competitive gamer. Not professionally but I play a lot of FPS to the point where if I'm not in the top 3 I'd be dissappointed. With my current soundcard the Asus Essence STX I find the game and EAX settings completely useless. Not to say they don't work, but they don't work with the Senn's. Once you activate them positioning becomes completely indistinguishable. Sounds become muddied and it sounds like its all coming from center stage. If you keep the HQ option ticked where the source is the cleanest you can get a fairly good idea of where things are. Not pinpoint accuracy by any means but you can get the general gist of where things are coming from. For non competitive I jammed some Mass Effect 3. Focussing just on the audio experience the Senn's do a good job. The mids do a good job of making dialogue clear and the overall experience is pretty flawless. Only option I could mention is again upping the two lower frequencies a tad. Just allows for a more immersive experience.
Just as a note, if you are planning on getting the 600's the source and recording of your music will impact on you're listening experience.
Also as much as I may have whinged about the Hifimans the SQ is still stellar. A great headphone and the after sales service at Head Direct was nothing short of spectacular. After a month of owning the 400's and finally (and at the time slightly begrudgingly) returning them, Head Direct had no problems with extending that two weeks when I was due to travel to HK so I could avoid the rather steep return shipping fee. If you find the Hifiman's comfortable (or perhaps invest in the cushioned pad if you don't) they would be a fantastic addition to any headphone collection.
To finish I will say this. The HD600's have redefined my perception of quality audio. Whilst i was previously a pure bass and treble fan the HD600's have grown on me at a lightning rate. The detailed an prominent mids have made music I have loved that much more enjoyable and that really is priceless for me. Best of all In the hour it took me to write this, I have listened to a large portion of a Tool album, with this being the 5th consecutive hour of wearing the 600's. I have absolutely no fatigue and have no need to readjust them. I may as well sleep with them on.
Apologies for the poor grammar and spelling errors but it is now 3am. Bloody Sennheisers.