By all accounts, the HD 530 use the HD 560 drivers and cost about 20-30 euros used.
I find the HD 540 Ref really good, especially in Baroque music listening with an OTL with a 6AS7, they are neutral but I think they are a little bit "thin" in their presentation. Directly compared to the T1 they aren't so complete and fast. The sound stage of the HD540 is not enough deep to compare to. To much difference between the two.
The Sennheiser HD540 has some good qualities that are difficoult to find in modern cheap headphones, like a good grain, imaging and separation. The most important, in my opinion, when I listen to classical is timbre, and the have a right one!
Directly compared to the HD650 they are quite at the opposite, the skinny and the fatty. The bright and the dark, too different to compare.
"Memory" compared to the K701 I prefer the HD540. To the Dt990 ad Dt880 I prefer the Beyers, but it's my taste.
I haven't listened a lot of HP under 100,oo $ or Euros, but all of them I've listened do not have the same audiophile qualities of the HD540. An exception is the Fostex T50Rp (modded), but the others felt unnatural.
About 15 years ago, when I replaced my original HD540 (old-style) pads with the newer velours model, I did find it affected the sound. I am not sure if Sennheiser redesigned the pads to be a good match for later HD540's, which may have a different sound balance. By experimentation I found a method by which I could get the older HD540 to sound quite similar to the original configuration when using the later style velours pads. It is a very easy, dirt cheap modification which is completely reversible if you don't like the effect.
What you need:
I describe the process for one ear-pad, obviously you will need to repeat it for the other.
Cutting / glueing:
What this will do is recreate the higher acoustic resistance the older style pads were providing into the headphones rear cavity. This will improve the very low bass response a bit. The new velours pads clearly lead to earlier bass roll-off than when using the original pads. It will also lift the pads a little higher to emulate the depth of the cavity provided by the original pads (which helps when you have protruding ears like I do).
I prefer this configuration. However, if you prefer the sound without this modification it is easily removed as no modifications to the headphones or pads themselves have been made. Maybe worth a try?
The HD540 Reference II is still the best performing headphone that I've used so far. It has its original soft velour pads and I've replaced the inner foam disk with a smart thin cloth that doesn't rot like foam. The sound presentation is pure and transparent, with (IMO) excellent self-control and full-frequency reproduction.The sound is very immersive and spatial, especially when driven from my Graham Slee Bitzie DAC or Solo Ultra-Linear DE.
I also have the original HD540 (Reference I) here for comparison. They are also very good, with a neutral frequency response, although the bass extension, treble control and spatial image are not as good as the Reference II. I even have a HD560 Ovation II here for comparison, which are very close to the HD540II but are not quite as spatial in their presentation. I will be selling my HD540I and HD560II soon.
I have decided to only keep the HD540II and Etymotic ER-4S for my headphone listening. Both are very close to the accuracy of full-range monitor speakers.
i own 540 ref / 540 ref II / 560 ovation / 560 ovation II.
i've spent a lot of time (way too much time) with earpads rolling.
in the end, the equation "velour pads = better sound" is not (always) true.
pleather and velour have both their strengths and weaknesses.
for 540 ref I, i like sennheiser hd 250 linear pleather pads the best (they are expensive though)
for 540 ref II, sennheiser hd 430 pleather pads are my secret tip (they are cheap and fit perfectly):
n.b.: my 540 ref II original velour pads are too shallow for MY taste (imo, shouty mids and average comfort), but i'm pretty sure that deeper velour pads would be the best option.
Oh... did i mention that imo all of these four Senns are headphones of the very highest calibre.
"For educated ears only" would be pretentious and stupid, but their timbre, neutrality and imaging are simply fantastic.
In other words, their realism is simply fantastic.
But, of course, if you want to impress "non head-fiers" friends, those HPs would be a very bad choice.
One of the HD540II headphones that I bought have flattened/thinner velour earpads, which result in the drivers being much closer to the ears. This reduces wearing comfort and noticably affects the spatial image that the drivers project. My other HD540IIs have earpads that haven't flattened and look like new, giving an optimal distance between driver and ear pinna. The HD540II isn't perfect but if one cannot appreciate its high standard of reproduction, I don't believe that they'll ever be satisfied with anything.
Any headphone that beats a HD540II or a HD560II has to be at the top of its game; as Hairspray has said, these headphone designs are no joke and should be considered two of the best performing headphone models that have ever been manufactured by any company. When you consider their date of original manufacture, it's actually quite tragic that very few modern designs are up to the same standard of performance. They tried to re-invent the wheel and came up with an octagon instead of a circle... *sigh*
"Can we hold on to what we have? Don't replace it. The age of innocence is fading like an old dream."
I don't know, guys... my HD 530 (HD 560 drivers) can't compete with modded planar magnetics from that era in timbre. And, as I mentioned earlier, properly modded Sennheiser Unipolar stats - about the price of the HD 540 - blow them right out of the water in realism.
Don't, just don't..
I know... it's like i'm talking to myself like an idiot...
But right now i'm listening to some classical music (Bach's Mass in B Minor - Collegium Vocale Gent & Philippe Herreweghe).
And the Ovation II sounds sooo much better than the 540 Ref II: soundstage, separation, female vocals... I hate this expression but it is "night and day".
This Ovation II is really growing on me.
Ref I's timbre and imaging are unmatched but Ovation II's soundstage and FR transition are amazing.
The HD530 appears to also be an open-back circumaural headphone. Whilst the appearance does resemble the HD560, the HD530 has elliptical/oval capsules, not circular capsules, so I assume that the drivers are not exactly the same even though they may be similar in appearance and materials. I would predict that oval capsules would produce a less spatial soundstage than a circular (symmetrical) design, although I cannot confirm this for sure.
HD560II is a fantastic headphone; VERY close to my reference HD540II however I still feel that my HD540II throws an image noticably better and is more comfortable to wear than the HD560II. I really enjoy listening to music with the HD540II. I can just forget about the equipment and appreciate the compositions, as well as the realistic instrument tonality.
My guess is the 530/560 should have the same drivers but different cups. Anyway, you can completely remove the 530 cups and get some improvement in sound quality.
My 530 measure about the same as the Golden Ears HD 540 in frequency response, so I wouldn't expect them to sound much different as far as tonality goes. But it seems there may be dark and bright versions of both the 530 and 560, so you might find otherwise.
The Sennheiser Unipolars are difficult to mod; the old planars relatively easy. You can find them on German eBay.