It's not without disappointment that I'm writing this post. I've given these HD598s a good few months now and I'm on the verge of selling them and wondering if anyone here has ideas about which alternative cans might be the next right choice for me.
I'd like to state that I've been into hi-fi for a long time (since about the age of 16, I'm 35 now) and sound quality is very important to me. I should also say that I'm a professional musician (trumpet player) and have years of experience sitting in brass sections of orchestras, big bands etc. in all sorts of acoustics, so I am very much aware of the dynamics and sound of being in and amongst environments like that. This is mainly why having a good sound system is important to me, to as closely as is possible to a certain budget reproduce these noises convincingly.
My music tastes are broad though, ranging from large scale orchestral stuff to solo piano, chamber music, jazz, big band, funk, hip-hop and rap, rock, heavy metal, death metal and electronic/industrial music. Big dynamic range, extended frequency response and accurate tonal colour reproduction are very important to me, but I've never spent mega bucks on my equipment and through testing and research have been able to satisfy my needs and even exceed my expectations.
My current gear is:
Cambridge Audio Azur 640C CD Player
Arcam Alpha 8 Amp
Acoustic Energy Aegis Evo 3 floorstanders, biwired with QED silver anniversary cable
Asus Xonar Essence STX
Focusrite Saffire 6 USB
I thought I'd treat myself to a new set of cans, as I've been having intermittent cutting out issues with my Grados. I love both Koss phones for casual listening and when I'm out and about or cycling, but I fancied a change and have never owned any Sennheisers before (except a pair of PX100s a few years ago, which were great). I did my research, and settled on the HD598s as I gathered that they punched above their weight (especially in soundstage and reproduction of acoustic material). They also looked gorgeous to me (for indoor use, anyway!) and fit the bill for a lovely audio treat for myself!
Anyway, I pulled the trigger on them and started listening. I was initially disappointed, but I also understood that coming from faster and more upfront and bright cans such as the Grados and the Koss, that I may need to let my ears adjust. I also burned them in for a while and continued. I have also used them for a fair few hours now, so I don't think that's the issue here.
To be specific, there is a big artificial colouration to the sound of these headphones in maybe the upper-mids that renders orchestral strings and brass in an unrealistic and almost electronic way (for want of a better way to describe it.). Putting my Grado 125s on straight away with the same piece of music showed an altogether more open and detailed sound (to the orchestral strings). I know the Grados are overly bright and lack bass, but the quality of the treble seems so much more accurate on them.
The HD598s lack the grunt of bass needed for most types of music for me as well. I mean, a cello and bass section needs that physical grunt to come across excitingly. So does a rock or metal drum kit. More electronic music fared better, as the drum sounds are very often artificially EQ'd or manipulated to sound more present anyway, but for most things, the low end wasn't anywhere near physical enough. I'm not a basshead, I just like some physical presence to the low end on playback! I've seen people describe these as 'reference' and cans to go to for critical listening. That cannot be accurate. They have an inescapable 'boxiness' to their sound that I don't think should be there on cans that cost this much and claim where they are in the rankings. It almost sounds like the plastic housings of the drivers are colouring the sound, for want of a better description.
In their favour, they sound great with movies and games. The soundstage is very open and telling and they do cope with dynamics very well. I also love how they sound completely different with different tracks, so much so, that I keep thinking I don't like them, then I listen to something else (such as Radiohead or James Brown) and they blow me away with how the sounds jump out in such an exciting and dynamic way! I'm torn basically. There is something fundamentally wrong with something in the mid or treble that makes acoustic instruments sound artifical. I have not yet heard them produce a convincingly realistic orchestral string sound, which really bothers me! I love wearing them though and would choose them over anything for gaming of movies, but my £10 Koss KSC75s reproduce most of my music collection with a more consistently inviting and realistic sound, which depresses me somewhat! Do I need to sell them, or will I grow to love them more? I really want to love them more, but I don't know if I will (but I will be sad to see them go!).
If I do sell, what should I go for next? If I don't like these, would I not like the HD650s as well? Everyone rates these HD598s except me, it seems! My research, which I don't trust any more has led me to consider AKG Q701s? Beyer DT770s? Hi-Fi Man?
What is important to me is open at all frequency ranges, great dynamics, exciting sound with realistic tonal colour and good with dynamic music like big orchestral stuff, films and metal.
Any feedback would be most welcome! Thank you!
Edited by amigomatt - 12/23/12 at 6:52pm