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Sennheiser HD 595 (stock cable)
Sennheiser HD 600 (HD 650 cable)
The HD 595 were purchased new in late Summer 2005 and the HD 600 used and fully burned in from grandenigma1 on Head-fi about a month ago (I think).
Side Note: Before I begin, my goldfish are staring at me again. I believe they wish to be fed. If you'll excuse me...
Now, I must note that the vast majority of my listening has not been side by side with both headphones. This is not a proper, scientific review. I apologize in advance for skimping in some areas. I'm grabbing this stuff from memory, mostly. It is also not lain out chronologically. The HD 595 has been located on a mic stand while I've been acquainting myself with the HD 600, and I believe this has been to my benefit. Also, some of the music mentioned in the review, which has an effect on my opinion on the HD 600, had been purchased since the temporary exile of the HD 595 from her (Yes, her. She's too pretty not to be a her.) beloved clamp.
I'll attack this review by genre. Once I've proclaimed the winner of the battle, I'll go into greater detail later as to why each headphone performed the way it did.
In both small and large scale classical music I think the HD 600 takes the lead, although the HD 595 also performed well.
American/Celtic Folk and Acoustic music:
Although the HD 600 wins by a fairly wide margin for solo acoustic folk such as Bob Dylan's Blood On The Tracks and Nick Drake's Pink Moon, the more forward nature of the HD 595 lends itself to the more rockin stuff (i.e. some tracks from Bob Dylan's Highway 61)
Lorena Mckennitt's "The Visit" was a mindblowing listen with the HD 600. Just perfect. I haven't heard it yet with the HD 595.
HD 600 hands down. Granted, I only have one disc that can really be called bluegrass, which is "Magic Stone Mountain" by Cornmeal. It only took a few moments with the HD 595 to make me want to switch back to the HD 600. The soundstage was very clearly not wide enough with the HD 595. Might I add though, that I enjoyed this disc quite a bit before I got the HD 600, so it's really just my taste that decides this one. The HD 595 still sounded very good, soundstage aside.
Oooooh. Now this is a tough one. I'm listening to Stone Temple Pilots "Tiny Music from the Vatican Gift Shop," which has always been one of my reference rock discs, through the HD 600 right now and I'm very impressed. I'm hearing layers of music, and in some cases whole instruments, that I've never heard before. Through the HD 595 though, the wicked bass of Robert Deleo and unique guitar distortion of Dean Deleo just cut this groove that feels so right. On this particular disc there is no clear winner because I feel that both headphones present the music in a way that I like quite a bit. The HD 595 are more forward and fun, while the HD 600 is a little farther back, allowing greater sense of separation between the instruments.
With the Queens of the Stone Age song "Go With The Flow" the HD 595s win. It sounds good, but this is not a well recorded track (in my opinion) because there is no space for the instruments. It is compressed and limited in such a way that the peaks have very little variation. The HD 595 were simply more sympathetic, and because they are more forward, they helped out with the muddied top end witch was VERY obvious with the HD 600.
With the Beatles "Rubber Soul" the HD 600 takes it, but the HD 595 wins over on Revolver. Revolver is not great sounding, and the HD 595 is more sympathetic to that. Rubber Soul was pressed in West Germany, where as Revolver is a digitally mastered U.S. pressing.
The winner for rock? It depends heavily on how well recorded the track is, and what your preferences are. I like them both most of the time.
As with classical, the HD 600 is the clear winner, but the HD 595 has it's strong suits as well. In the bass region, the HD 595 attacks the double bass in a tight (and I do mean tight), fast, well defined way. The HD 600 certainly is fuller sounding, warmer, and more comforting. With small scale (Diana Krall "Love Scenes") and larger scale (Count Basie "Basie Big Band" xrcd) Jazz, the HD 600 wins out with its more expansive soundstage and better instrument separation, as well as a sweeter midrange.
World and other music I can't come up with a genre name for:
Now, here's the real shocker. For whatever reason, I thought the HD 600's were going to suck with this genre of music, but I stood up and took notice with these. I popped in Peter Gabriel's "Passion," which is the soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ. With this kind of music you need a full yet well defined bass and a wide soundstage. Oooooo boy did the HD 600's deliver.
But, this is another genre where I can't declare a clear winner. The HD 595 are just so well controlled and detailed in the bass that I can't in my right mind call them a loser, although the bass isn't quite as big as with the HD 600s. This is another matter of taste, and I like them both, A LOT.
Moving on to another great Peter Gabriel effort, "Up" is one of his best albums yet. More african influenced drums on this disc, albeit a little more "electronic" than the prior album "Us" which I'll get to in a moment. It's more akin to the album Security but not quite as accessible, and yet completely different. Yeah, that makes sense. Anyways, the bass on tracks like "No Way Out" and "I Grieve" is just GORGEOUS with the HD 600. There are some albums that could almost put me in a coma that they're so involving, expansive and hypnotic. This is one of them. True to form, the HD 595 is a little more tight in the low end with this disc. For this one, I have to say that the HD 600 is the winner.
The HD 600 also wins with "Us" The powerful, effortless low end of the HD 600 is like none other I've heard.
Sarah McLachlan's "Afterglow" is her most well recorded album yet. The 600's are more relaxing and the HD 595s are more forward. I like them both, but the HD 600 wins by a slight margin.
The HD 600 is a full, warm, laid back headphone which contrary to popular belief CAN rock when fed the right music. It has a wide soundstage, great instrument separation, and is highly detailed even though the treble is not as exciting as that of headphones commonly thought of as such. With most music the so-called "veiled" treble is not even an issue for me. Only on dense rock music and really, really fast bright treble recordings can I even hear it if I've been listening to the HD 600's long enough. They're also dark, which I now equate with the phrase, "Mmmmm...yummy." As much black space between the notes as I've ever heard.
The HD 595 is the top of the line Sennheiser for a forward sound (unless the Daddy or Baby O are forward, which I wouldn't know because I've never heard them). The bass is a little shy, but still great sounding as it is well controlled and defined. The midrange is so glaringly different from the HD 600 that on some recordings the instruments take on an almost wrong tonal personality when switching back and forth. The thing is, with midrange-y guitar rock the HD 595s are a little more faithful. The HD 600, while pleasing sounding, doensn't kick you in the gut like the musicians intended. The HD 595 is a great hard rock headphone.
I find that while I prefer the HD 600 for a lot of the music I listen to, the HD 595 is so good at what it does that I couldn't bare to part with her. I think I've mellowed out over time, which would explain my fondness for the HD 600. In my opinion, there is no overall winner, just different voicings. On a lot of recordings they are both so good, and my favoritism towards one headphone or another may be due to myself spending more time with that particular headphone with that recording.
The Infamous Sennheiser Clamp was in effect for the first few hours of my wearing the HD 600, but it went away and these are now very comfy. I especially like the headband pads. The HD 600 are sturdily built and therefore a little heavy, but that doesn't detract from the overall comfort. I can still wear them for hours without discomfort.
The HD 595 are also very comfy. They don't seal quite as tight as the HD 600s and they are lighter. The headband pad is a little hard compared to that of the HD 600. They don't feel as sturdy as the HD 600 (i.e. heavy), but they're no slouch in that regard either. They've never been Sennheiser's dynamic flagship headphone sold at a $300+ pricepoint either, so for what I paid, I think they're built well enough. I don't see them falling apart like my HD 280s did. Their dandy little headphone clamp is such a neat little thing.
The HD 650 cord on the HD 600 is pliable. Although it is physically bigger than the HD 595 cord, I find it a wee bit less intrusive, even with the HD 595 being single sided. The HD 650 cord also doesn't wind itself up like the HD 595 cord.
Winner? HD 600, but only a little bit because of the softer headband pad.
With these two headphones I've got my tonal spectrum well covered, so I'm keeping them both. I highly recommend either one. I'm sure the HD 555 and HD 580s are also great buys at their respective price points.