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Senn HD590 vs. Senn HD600 (vs. Sony MDR-R10)

post #1 of 49
Thread Starter 
Thanks to the generosity of bkelly, I recently received on loan his Senn HD590s and his pair of Senn HD600s. Why would he do such a thing? We've dealt with each other in the past on some fairly big-ticket items, plus we've corresponded a lot in the interim.

Brian really wanted me to finally get the chance to hear the HD590 for the first time and to compare it to the old war-horse, the HD600. As many of you are aware, bkelly is very fond of his 590s, to the point of preferring them over the HD600. This seems to be a controversial opinion. If Brian and I share one thing in common, it's our feeling that the HD600 is over-rated. I would never in a million years suggest the HD600 is a *bad* phone; on the contrary, it's quite good. Just not as good as the Sony CD3000, the Audio-Technica ATH-W2002, or the Sony MDR-R10, all of which I've had the chance to hear in my system on my time.

In the past, I have owned the HD580 for many years, and the HD600 for about one year, and they both gave me a lot of satisfaction. Sadly, I never had the chance to compare either of them head-to-head with my Sony MDR-R10-- I had long since sold the Senns before I got my hands on the Sonys.

However, I did do a comparative review of the HD600 (with Clou Cable Blue) vs. the Sony CD3000: http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/showt...=&threadid=429

I also did a shoot-out review of the Sony MDR-R10 vs. the ATH-W2002: http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/showt...&threadid=8302

My comprehensive review of the Sony R10 can be found here: http://www4.head-fi.org/forums/showt...&threadid=5008

You will notice that my associated equipment was in a constant state of flux during this period (although all equipment was in the higher-end of the headphone-system spectrum, I’m sure you’ll agree), but my current rig used in this comparison is:

Source: Sony SCD-333ES SACD changer with Modwright Mods and Bybee Filters.

Amp: Melos Maestro with NOS Siemens 6922's from the early '60's.

Cables: Virtual Dynamics Nite power cord, VD Signature Power cord, VD Reference ICs (all cables cryo treated)

The comments below on the HD600 and the HD590, in this initial post at least, refer to both headphones with stock cables only. I will be receiving a Stefan Audio Art replacement cable for the HD590 soon, but since I have no replacement cable for the HD600 on hand, I decided it was most fair to compare them both with stock cabling. Later, I will add a separate post to this thread that comments on the performance changes that the Stefan cable makes to the HD590.

WARNING
Those of you who manage to get perpetually annoyed with my preference of the Sony R10 to all other phones should stop reading NOW. My comments herein will not make you any fonder of me or of my opinions.
This test confirms for me just how much more I prefer the sound of the R10 to any other phone I've tried. Neither the HD590 nor the HD600 are in the same league as the R10, IMHO.
To those who say that the difference between the HD600 and the R10 is *minor* (and there are a lot of you) I still beg to differ. Not many people on this board have had the chance to properly audition the Sony MDR-R10 in their own environment, on their own time with high-quality associated equipment. In most cases, I feel these "rush-to judgements" were based on unfamiliar listening environments coupled with unfamiliar associated equipment, with little time to form a coherent opinion. To me, the difference between the R10 and all other comers is obvious. So there you go—deal with it!
All the comments about the 590 and the 600 (which might seem overly negative) are made in reference to the R10 as my standard.

Sheesh-- that was the longest pre-amble in Head-Fi history! Especially for such a short review. Every second away from my R10s is a second away from happiness for me. These comments were written on-the-fly, after 6 hours or so of switching between the 590s and the 600s, which was about all I could handle. So sue me! You still with me? OK, here are my comments, starting with:

Senn HD590

Build Quality/Fit 'n Finish
A little more "plastic-y" looking than the HD600, but a little more modern in styling than the hum-drum HD600. Neither the HD600 nor the 590 scream: "wow, look at the build quality!" Based on appearance alone, they both could cost between $75-$150. One assumes it is sound quality that constitutes their asking price.
The 590 has a similar "clamping action" as the HD600, which doesn't bother me a bit, but bugs some people. They are both tighter than the "invisible" Sony R10.
The 590 fit very well on my head, gave plenty of room for my over-sized ears, and was generally quite comfortable.

Sound
I took notes as I listened which are transcribed here, so these are not so well-organized. Here's what I wrote (in contrast to my reference MDR-R10):

1. Less bass than the R10? Where's the bass? Everyone complains that the R10 has no bass, but there's much less with the HD590. What's there is hazy and un-defined.
2. The 590 has some signs of "sibilance", which is a hiss-y sound on s's and t's. The sound is *slightly* spitty and distorted on these consonants.
3. Smaller soundstage than the R10. Empty space in the middle, where the R10 provides a complete wide-screen view of the soundstage.
4. The HD590 exhibits the same "wooly-ness" that plagues the HD600. This translates into a sort of gauze-y, foggy, hazy soundstage that isn't as clear and focused as could be.
5. Less detail and less room ambience is preserved in the HD590 compared to the R10. Low-level detail retrieval just doesn't compare. Could this be due to the "open-aire" design of the HD590? Does it allow small details, directional cues, and room ambience to escape into the "open aire"?
6. Tone and timbre are great with the HD590. Everything sounds exactly like it should. This phone (aside from its "foggy-ness") is almost as un-colored as the R10.
7. The HD590 is a very pleasant, somewhat bland phone that shouldn't offend anyone.

HD600

Build Quality/Fit 'n Finish
There are plenty of comments on this. Overall, comfort is equal to the HD590.

Sound
1. Yuck! This is even more bland than the HD590. Same gauze-y formless soundstage with no image depth. Please remove the cheese-cloth from the lens! I can't see the singers' faces! Blah!

2. Even less bass than the 590? Say it isn't so! I remember getting incredible, head-rattling bass out of the HD600 when it was hooked up to the EarMax Pro. Yet with my Melos Maestro, it's just not there at all compared to the R10. Color me surprised!

3. The HD600 does not seem to exhibit the same *slight* sibilance that I got with the HD590.

4. There is not that much difference between the HD600 and the HD590, aside from the fact that I have to turn up my Melos *a bit* to get the same volume level on the HD600 as I get with the 590 (and the R10). It would take a very, very long evaluation period to fully figure out the differences between the 590 and the 600. That's a period of time that would take me away from the R10, and that's asking a lot. Too much, in fact…

5. The HD600 exhibits some weird “effect” on the sound that is not present with the HD590. This is a slight coloration that’s hard to put my fingers on, but it’s there. A bit of tubby-ness/chesty-ness. But that’s not quite it, either…

Headphone Ranking
So, after this test, how do I rank all the various “hi-end” headphones I’ve heard (in my environment)? Here goes:

1. Sony MDR-R10 (surprise, surprise)
2. Audio-Technica ATH-W2002
3. Sony MDR CD3000
4. Senn HD590
5. Senn HD600
6. Grado RS-1

Yes, I rank the HD590 above the HD600, but not by much. To my ears, it’s very hard to hear the difference between these two phones, despite the big controversy. They are much closer in character and class than either one is to the R10. Sorry, but that’s how I hear it. To those who pooh-pooh the HD590, I just don’t see where you’re coming from. It’s a fine headphone. Period.

Also, my current system has been built entirely around the Sony MDR-R10 to make them sound their best. It was not built around the HD590 or the HD600 (yet, it’s hard to fault my source or amp, period). Is it possible that either of these phones, attached to a different amp and/or a different source, would fare better against the Sony R10 in my current set-up? You bet. Do I think that difference would swing my allegiance in the direction of the 590 or the 600—not a chance.

Mark
post #2 of 49
Not so surprising overall results. OTOH, very surprising results on the bass. Everywhere I tried the R10s, including the RKV MKII which is known for its infamous massive bass response, they consistently came out with much less bass then either Sennheisers...not the other way around. Perhaps most surprising of all is the fact that the system IS supposed to be tailored to the R10s. I would imagine any system tailored to the R10s would exhibit enormous amounts of bass with headphones that have obvious headphone bumps, considering how hard it is to get bass out of the R10s.

I agree with everything else that was said otherwise, particularly the point regarding the "veil" that the Sennheisers have. Switching over to the R10s allows you to suddenly "see through" into the deepest passages of the music.

Just my two cents, not that it's worth much nowdays.
post #3 of 49
Thanks for the review, Mark!
post #4 of 49

Re: Senn HD590 vs. Senn HD600 (vs. Sony MDR-R10)

Quote:
Originally posted by markl
1. Yuck! This is even more bland than the HD590. Same gauze-y formless soundstage with no image depth. Please remove the cheese-cloth from the lens! I can't see the singers' faces! Blah!

2. Even less bass than the 590? Say it isn't so! I remember getting incredible, head-rattling bass out of the HD600 when it was hooked up to the EarMax Pro. Yet with my Melos Maestro, it's just not there at all compared to the R10. Color me surprised!
wow, what balls.

reading that makes me think that you just.. i don't even begin to know. i have never heard the r10's though, not even once for a short sitting, so i won't make any insults-- err, comments.

but by your description, it sounds like the r10 is like one of those hondas driving down the street with the 4x12" subwoofers in the rattling trunk..
post #5 of 49
I just listened to jazz recordings again with my HD590's, and all I can conclude is that they're both fine headphones; they're just different from each other. The HD600's to me are the better of the two on classical symphonic recordings and some jazz recordings; on other recordings though, the HD590's equal or exceed the performance of the HD600's.

OTOH, I didn't care much for the Sony MDR-CD3000's. I've heard annoying tinny ringing in their sound. Maybe I'm with Tomo on this point - that ringing turns me off.

To quote Vertigo-1's sig: "Don't be dissin'... till you be listenin'... "
post #6 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
OTOH, very surprising results on the bass. Everywhere I tried the R10s, including the RKV MKII which is known for its infamous massive bass response, they consistently came out with much less bass then either Sennheisers...
All I can say is that my results were counter to my expectations. This lends them more credence in my mind...

Quote:
I would imagine any system tailored to the R10s would exhibit enormous amounts of bass with headphones that have obvious headphone bumps, considering how hard it is to get bass out of the R10s.
So would I!! I just can't explain my results, unless the answer is that--despite their reputation-- the R10's give you more and better bass than the Sennheisers. What else to conclude?

Mark
post #7 of 49
Hrm, maybe Sennheisers just don't like your specific tricked out Melos amps. Or maybe the voodoo gods don't favor you tonight.
post #8 of 49
Quote:
2. Even less bass than the 590? Say it isn't so! I remember getting incredible, head-rattling bass out of the HD600 when it was hooked up to the EarMax Pro. Yet with my Melos Maestro, it's just not there at all compared to the R10. Color me surprised!
You DO get great bass from the HD 600/EMP combo. Perhaps it's the phome/amp combo that doesn't cut it, as opposed to the phone itself. Never hearing the R10, I don't experience what you do with my HD600/Sugden combo. Great bass and soundstage.

What you saying is that with your setup you prefer the R10, right?
post #9 of 49
Thread Starter 
Quote:
You DO get great bass from the HD 600/EMP combo.
I thought I did. But I didn't have the R10/Melos Maestro to compare against.

Quote:
Perhaps it's the phome/amp combo that doesn't cut it, as opposed to the phone itself.
Let me quote myself:
Quote:
Is it possible that either of these phones, attached to a different amp and/or a different source, would fare better against the Sony R10 in my current set-up? You bet. Do I think that difference would swing my allegiance in the direction of the 590 or the 600—not a chance.
Quote:
What you saying is that with your setup you prefer the R10, right?
Yes, in addition to my memory of all the other headphone/amp combos I've heard (and there are a lot).

Mark
post #10 of 49
Gotcha, Sorry foy my oversight.

I've heard the Melos Maestro with Grado's, albeit briefly, and found the bass to be really vibrant.

Joelongwood thought my HD600's had good bass when he listened to them with the Sugden and the EMP, but that could lend itself more to how I broke them in.
post #11 of 49
Hey markl, have you had a chance to listen to the ER4S?

I love mine, but I would be interested to read your impressions, and I think I could even take it when you call them crappy.

As far as your review goes, I REALLY appreciate it when you guys review stuff. Thanks a lot!

Also, it's one more drop in the bucket inspiring me not to buy any more Senneheiser cans. I like the HD280 Pro, but I did not like the HD497 at all, and it seems like the HD600 and HD590 would probably be a disappointment considering the type of sound I prefer (very not laid back).

I'm extremely happy with the Etys, but if I buy any more it will probably the Sony CD3000 or the Beyer DT770 from what I have read around hear, but I doubt that I will be buying anything beyond my Etys without auditioning them with my system if possible because I *cannot* afford to upgrade my system any further, nor would I want to.
post #12 of 49
Thread Starter 
radrd,
Yes, I certainly have owned the ER4S, and I neglected to put them in my list, due to forgetfullness.

I'd list the ER4S below the HD600 but above the Grado RS-1. Almost anything is better than the Grado, including the ER4S, which is fine, but hardly ergonomic.

Mark
post #13 of 49
What don't you like about them in comparison to the HD600? (Not asking for a full review, but just their weaknesses in your experience)
post #14 of 49
Thread Starter 
If you mean the HD590 vs. the HD600, the only real weakness that I could detect was a *slight* tendency in the 590 toward "sibilance". But this is outweighed by the 590's other attributes...

Mark
post #15 of 49
No actually I meant the Etys versus the HD600. Any thoughts?
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