It is time again for me to buy new headphones to take the place of previous ones--Superlux HD668B, Audio Technica ATH-m50--which have found a lucky owner on eBay. To keep this simple and self-explanatory, I will give some background on my audio preferences and preferences:
I used to own the Sennheiser HD555 which has been the most satisfying headphone for me. It had a decent soundstage, good low-level detail extraction compared to the HD280, ATH-m50, SR225i, HD668B, and even DT880, as well as a wide genre bandwidth. However, it was a little too polite in its signature. One day, I tried to modify it to compensate for it and melted the driver. Soon after, I bought an Audio Technica ATH-m50 and later a Superlux HD668B, both of which did not provide nowhere near the air, resolution or soundstage of the HD555 but were the only satisfying headphones among the others listed and the AT even had mind-shocking bass depth which is not important to me, but was a nice benefit.
Recently, I came to the conclusion that I needed to get a better headphone again. I went store to store to try many different headphones, both open and closed. I went to Guitar Center and not one closed headphone was worthwhile. Sony, echoey and false. AKG, artificial and boring. DT770, somewhat good balance but with unfocused hiss. However, I saw a DT880 and tried it. It was smooth everywhere but spiked in the treble then rolled-off, too, and the midrange seemed too distant. It was as if the treble was designed to give the impression of detail which it did not have. Even so, it was better than any other headphone I have mentioned but the HD555, which I felt had an upper hand in detail and musicality. I then went to Best Buy and demoed the headphones in the Home Theater section. I tried the Sennheiser HD558 and I had a pleasant surprise. It had all the strengths of my HD555 with a much more engaging and accurate midrange and even better detail extraction throughout the whole frequency band. I then went to the pro-audio section and tried the AKG q701. Even more impressive--it was the most sonically realistic device I ever heard. Extension, detail, warmth. I immediately decided to get it for Christmas.
I am now trying to decide between the Sennheiser HD558, HD598 and HD600 to see which will compliment the AKG q701. I would be satisfied with the HD558, with its slightly more impactful upper bass and overall warmer sound, but what advantages or disadvantages do the other HD598 and HD600 headphones have? Some say the HD598 has more treble extension and midrange accuracy than the HD558, but others say it is too close to tell the difference. Some say the HD600 has the best balance of any headphone on the market but lacks uppermost treble extension. Stereophile and several other sources suggest that it has more extension than the HD580 and HD650, the first pair which I haven't tried but has many fans and the other which I have tried and enjoyed considerably.
(On a side note: To me, the Sennheiser HD650 which I demoed over five years ago had a more defined and natural treble extension than all others except the q701. It, however, seemed to have even richer and slightly more involving bass and impact than the q701-in other words, HD555/HD558's bass in another league. Yet it could have a slight raise in the treble, and opinions of the HD600 seem to consistently suggest it does have this added treble which the HD650 does not have. To me, the HD558's soundstage seems to be better than the HD650, but it has been a while since I heard the HD650.)
I have read these articles and comments thus far to help answer my question. You can read them to understand my point of view:
http://www.overclock.net/t/515746/sennheiser-hd600-and-akg-k701-an-8-track-one-night-showdown - This comparison makes me want to get the HD600 now to see if the AKG q701 is even necessary.
http://www.stereophile.com/content/2012-recommended-components-headphones - I noticed the Sennheiser HD600 is in there. I went to the linked article ( http://www.stereophile.com/headphones/408 ) where I took note of the advantages of treble extension over the HD580 and naturalness over the mentioned Stax setup. It is old but maybe still applicable.
General comments of tdockweiler - I read a lot of articles on head-fi, many of which do not have much seem to correlate with my findings except his. He likes the HD598 (similar to HD558) and the q701. However, I do not agree about the assessment of cables because of a cable change which I performed and unsuccessfully deperformed on a Sennheiser HD555. (I noticed no difference in sound quality with the new cable, but the sound quality was still better than after I melted one channel driver.) He calls the HD600 a "snore fest," but prefers the HD580. Yet Stereophile and a few others say the HD600 extended further in the treble. Is the midrange boring or just boringly natural in the HD 600? If I could live with the boring midrange of the HD555, would the HD600 be even more boring, or more tonally inviting and accurate? Would it compliment the q701 well in this hypothetical case?
http://www.head-fi.org/t/598828/how-much-better-are-sennheiser-hd598-compared-to-sennheiser-hd558/15#post_8524421 - The user states the HD598 was much more balanced than an HD800 although still in a different league compared to the HD800. He adds that it goes deep in bass, midrange, and treble.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/387991/advice-please-hd595-vs-ad900-vs-hd600-without-amp#post_5094761 - The user indicates that the HD595 (similar to HD598) and HD600 both have wonderful sonic qualities but admits that when going from one to the other, there is "no contest." Be it "unamped" or with any genre, it wins hands down.
http://www.headfonia.com/hd600-and-hd598-comparison/ - Mike at Headfonia says the HD600 has less distortion and grain, but says the HD598 is better with soundstage and involvement. It seems to be similar to my comparison of the HD555 and HD650 more than five years ago, but I would further add that the HD650 has a lot more low-level detail and, thus, lets the recording come through better than the HD555. It is for this reason I do not like many headphones outside of the open Sennheisers and the AKG Q701. To me, Grados (SR60 to RS1) add treble and bass to create the perception of detail and fun, but steal the dynamic range and detail from recordings. It is the same with the DT880, but more refined and detailed than any Grado. It is also the same with the Superlux HD668B, which has a smaller soundstage and low-level detail than the DT880 and is very "foggy warm "yet treble laiden at the same time--but better to my ears than any Grado. Would the HD600 give me more of the music as the HD650 did compared to the HD55 or slightly "editorialize" here and there as some headphones do?
(I will add and edit this over time as I find the links to other places where I have gathered opinions and ideas.)
With what I have told you, which headphone--the HD558, HD598 or HD600--best fits me?
Edited by Hifihedgehog - 9/22/12 at 3:20pm