Sennheiser HD 580

Average User Rating:
4.89286/5,
  1. homesicalien
    5.0/5,
    "Complete headphones"
    Pros - neutrality, lack of any significant flows, genre versatility, comfy enough, replacable parts, fast and warm at the same time, noble and modest look
    Cons - cable connectors prone to defects, scene width is not awesome, some versions only for veiled sound fans, lack of sexy metal grills
    I've described my views on HD 580 versions widely on head-fi. The important thing is to be aware of significant differences between them. This review is about (probably) 2nd version: made in Ireland, dark driver screen, flat HD 580 inscription. These headphones are not perfect in every aspect. HD 540 for example are better as far as mids are concerned. But HD 540 can't handle rough music with many instruments playing at the same time. They are not any genre master, but for the price, I guess, it's hard to find so versatile headphones. Also, if you like sound being on the bright side, don't buy them. The sound is not dark, but definitely it's not bright either. High tones are really pleasant, present and smooth. Bass is well described and goes satisfyingly deep down. Mids are not overwhelmed and have a great timbre, not as good as HD 540 though.
  2. fjhuerta
    5.0/5,
    "The one and only. All in all, may be the most legendary headphone ever"
    Pros - Everything. It's the original Hi-Fi headphone, arguably the one that started it all
    Cons - No longer being made
    There's not much to be said about the HD-580. I've had mine for close to 20 years, and it's still my favorite headphone. AKGs, other Sennheisers, Sonys, Etymotics and Grados have come and gone, but these ones still stay. I've had their headband and earpads replaced, and they still sound as amazing as the day I bought them. They are the only headphone that I have never removed from my gear shelf. They are the ones I use when I try to decide whether any headphone is worth it.
     
    I actually bought an HD-600 to replace them around 2002, because I was afraid they may fail or degrade over time. That never happened, and the 600's are still inside their box ever since then.
     
    Cons? I don't know. Some people talk about "veiled" highs. I suppose they are if you compare them to a shrieking Grado. Some people may complain the cable is not a Kimber. Good for them. Kimber Cables are more expensive than a used HD-580, anyway.
     
    You can get 100% of this greatness by buying a new HD-600, which uses better materials anyway, and that sounds exactly the same (at least my set does). But there's something special about owning a legendary product. The HD-580 is a legendary product, and I'm glad I discovered it. It made me appreciate what a real headphone could do. And today, 20 years later, it still does.
     
    Still the one to beat.
    Vartan likes this.
  3. bpandbass
    4.5/5,
    "A real gem of a vintage Sennheiser to own"
    Pros - Very neutral, treble and mids are finely balanced, bass goes deep, modest clamping force, just enough musicality without being dull
    Cons - doesn't quite have the warmth of the HD600 nor scale of the HD650, out of production means mint examples are hard to come by
    Background
     
    After owning the HD650, I found that at times on my system, there was a little too much thickness and darkness. So I wanted to try another Sennheiser that had more forwardness to the treble and mids, and was leaning more toward the neutral side. And I didn't want a bright headphone; I usually hate bright headphones as they give me stabbing pain in my ears. I prefer the smoothness of Sennheisers, even if they lack a little excitement for certain moods. 
     
    The HD580 Precision was released somewhere around 1991, and it marked a change in direction for the sound of audiophile headphones. Headphones during the late 80s to early 1990s were generally treble forward and not very present in the bass region. This was especially true of German headphones of this time period. My experience from owning the MB Quart (German Maestro) QP220, and the less expensive sibling to the HD580, the HD545 Reference, seems to have confirmed this. Those headphones were quite loose fitting, very comfortable, but their treble was exaggerated and their bass lacked tightness and extension. In short, they sounded too top-heavy. The HD580 departed from this trend with what many other similar headphones, as well as similar-aged Sennheisers didn't have: a well extended sound without uneven exaggerations. This brought the HD580 to the attention of many audiophile circles and magazines, long before Head-Fi was founded, and it soon developed a fanbase. The HD580 was a game changer in the dynamic audiophile world. I noticed that most of the people who invoke the the "Sennheiser Veil" curse don't usually cite the HD580 as an example, but instead the HD600. I'll dive into this later in the review.  
     
    Nowadays all the attention seems to go to the 580's younger brothers, the HD600 and HD650. But those who do like the HD580 own it for a long time. Example being Japanese electronica composer Towa Tei. 
     
     http://www.head-fi.org/t/183565/lightbox/post/8580491/id/656038
     
     
    Build and Form Factor
     
    Build-wise the HD580 is the older brother to the HD600 and HD650, and the parts between the three headphones are interchangeable. The very overpriced earpads are the same, though the HD580's original earpads are said to be a little thicker than the 600 and 650 pads. The padding on the headband is the same 4-bump design as the HD600, and the thin dual sided cable that terminates to a 3.5 mm jack with a 6.3 mm stereo plug is also the same as the HD600. As aesthetics go, whereas the HD600 has a blue granite plastic finish with lacquer and HD650 a graphite and sparkled finish with lacquer, the HD600 has a blueish-gray satin finish on the headband and black bales with no lacquer. The ear capsule grills instead of mesh metal are color coded plastic with houndstooth-looking patterns. These aren't exactly as pretty looking as the mesh, but add a quaintness to the HD580 that I personally like. But if you so wish, you can change out the grills for 600 ones.
     
    A problem with the HD580 and some HD600s is the spring tensioners that make contact with the positive and negative terminals on the plugs, and carry the signals to the voice coils. Over time, especially with repeated removal and reattachment of the cable, these springs lose their tension and fail to touch the plugs, causing the sound to cut in and out. My HD580 does not suffer from this problem thankfully, but that is something to watch out for when shopping for used HD580s on Ebay or other sites. Make sure to ask the seller if they experience sound cutting out when wiggling the jacks, or if it was a problem, have the voice coil springs been replaced. 
     
    Another issue with the HD580 is simply due to the age of the headphone and the amount of time people have owned theirs. The  headband padding and earpads tend to go flat and need replacement. I haven't seen a single HD580 for sale on eBay (other than unused NOS ones) that didn't have a flat headband and earpads. So when you purchase the HD580, new earpads are a cost you need to take into account when purchasing the headphone. I purchased an aftermarket HD600 headband from a retailer in China for under 3 US dollars, and it is almost indistinguishable from the real deal. So there is 17 dollars saved. HD600 earpads will work, but unfortunately they do not come cheap. About 60-70 dollars, maybe a little less if you can order them directly from Sennheiser. I found that aftermarket earpads aren't as good when it comes to thickness and build, and using Brainwavz earpads can make the bass too strong and shelve off the mids too much. So I don't recommend cheaping out too much here. 
     
    Fortunately, earpads wear shouldn't be as fast on the HD580 as the HD600 and HD650, due to the fact that the 580's headband is a wider shape, and as a result it clamps quite a bit less. You can see in the picture below. The HD580 is on the left and HD650 on the right.
     

     

     
     
     
    Now, onto the sound. 
     
    I haven't heard the HD600, but I do own the HD580 and HD650, and from what I read, the HD580 is the neutral of the three, the HD650 warmest, and HD600 the halfway compromise between the 580 and 650. Or to a 600 fan, the 580 is the brightest, the 600 neutral, and 650 darkest. But I wouldn't call the 580 bright. 
     
     
    Treble
     
    The HD580's treble varies on how the pads fit around your ears, but without a good seal it sounds peaky and thin. With a good seal however, the HD580 to my ears sounds well controlled and smooth, with good upper treble detail in guitars, triangles and cymbals. There is a bit of an emphasis around 7-8 kHz, and on brighter systems this can sound more apparent, but it is not anything that I would call sibilant or metallic. It is just somewhat emphasized. The HD580 has a treble cleanliness that I haven't heard often. I relisten to songs and I hear cymbals off to the left and to the right crashing or ringing out, something I haven't heard before on the track and something that often gets masked over with the HD650. The HD580 does this while not being ear piercing or underemphasizing the treble, an excellent balancing act that still today new headphones do not seem to be able to do. They either recess the mid treble and hype the upper treble, which gives a grainy and uneven sound; or they overemphasize the treble to give people the impression of detail, which more often than not sounds metallic and artificial. 
     
     
    Mids
     
    The mids to my ears have an even and coherent presentation to them. They do not feel veiled, nor are they emphasized relative to the treble and bass. This isn't a mid-forward headphone. Compared to say the HD650, the upper mids aren't darkened to mute out shoutiness, and the lower mids aren't tuned to sound emphasized or rich. The HD580 can do female and male vocals equally well. Vocals and mids have an equally front and center feel. If there is any complaint I may have, it might be that the mids aren't inherently lush sounding like they may be on the HD600, and certainly less than the HD600. But the HD580 isn't dry or raw sounding. This is a headphone that can do rock and opera music equally well. The HD580 feels like the sort of headphone that you don't have to cut through distracting emphases in the treble or bass to get that right sounding tonality. Beyerdynamic DT880 fans might still feel the HD580 veils some energy and details, and AKG K702 fan may not get that biting rawness to the mids they 
    enjoy, but for the average person the HD580 is a great sounding midrange headphone. 
     
    Bass
     
    Bass on the HD580 has a very slightly wooden or swelling sound to it (Sennheiser house sound), but never gets bloomy like the HD650 can be. It remains tight and controlled from the upper bass to the sub bass. And as for that sub bass.....yep, it ACTUALLY has sub bass extension. Something people often complain the HD600 doesn't have. I'd say due to the fact that the bass is tighter, it has a better audible extension than the HD600 or HD650. Often the warmth has to be cut through on amplification to really make the sub bass noticeable. The HD580's bass is neutral with just the right sounding tonality to it. What I enjoy is how versatile the HD580's bass really is, with enough impact to sound right with trance, house music, and may I even say some hip-hop? Sure, but if you listen to electronic music predominantly, I'd recommend the HD650 more. 
     
    Soundstage
     
    The HD580's soundstage is comparable to the HD600's, i.e. sounding more "around your head" than if it was coming from all directions. Still, it is acceptably open, without being the least bit cupped-hands sounding, hollow or "in your head". Neither does it sound diffuse. As for classical music, the HD580 sounds best with string-emphasized sections or chamber orchestras; in other words, classical music that doesn't rely as much on depth and layering to convey the right sound. Where the HD650 pulls ahead of the HD580 is in depth and layering of the soundstage, which makes it a better choice for horn sections, and full symphonies with greater range of instruments. The HD580's true forté is in acoustic guitar genres like flamenco and jazz, where depth and layering isn't as important as quickness in the mids and treble. 
     
    Amplification
     
    My system consists of the Schiit Audio Modi USB DAC, and the Lyr 2 hybrid tube and solid state headphone amplifier. While my DAC definitely needs upgrading, the Lyr 2 is a good paring with the HD580, bringing out plenty of sub bass and mid bass, while keeping the midrange neutral and clean, and the treble behaved. The Lyr 2 is great for its solid sound in the bass and its solid state midrange, but for those of you who would prefer a tubey sounding midrange and do not require a lot of bass extension and impact, there are a couple of other choices. The HD580 is 300 ohms, which means it plays well with output impedance output transformerless tube amplifiers. Good pairings include the Bottlehead Crack, the Little Dot MK II and MK IV, and for more money another excellent choice is the Woo Audio WA3. The transformer coupled Woo Audio WA6 is said to be a great choice. There are plenty of different headphone amplifier options for the HD580. And since the HD580 is quite neutral, it is easier to fine tune the sound the way you want with your gear. You can choose to have a drier sound with solid state amplification, a lusher sound with all-tube amps, or have a more impactful sound like I have with a hybrid amplifier. 
     
    Conclusion
     
    The HD580 is a real ownership joy due to its sound that can still hold its own today among the best mid-tier neutral headphones such as the AKG K702, Beyerdynamic DT880, the new Audio-Techica ATH-R70X, and even Sennheiser's own HD600. Because of its sound and its ease of use with different amplifiers, transducers that are made to last, comfortable fit, ease of sourcing spare parts and replacing them, the HD580 is a vintage headphone that has none of the usability drawbacks that other cans of similar age do, and still feels as good as it did when it first rolled off the assembly line nearly a quarter of a century ago. 
    Raptor34, MrTechAgent and Pokemonn like this.
  4. Willy 2 Streams
    4.5/5,
    "Comfortable as an old pair of loafers..."
    Pros - Relaxed, even sound quality. Reference quality neutral.
    Cons - No longer made, unfortunately. Bass not as good as the HD 650's.
    I bought my pair 20 years ago, and I'm STILL listening to them! Everything else in my system has been changed, but these remain. I am now driving them with the excellent Schiit Valhalla, which was made for 300 ohm cans like these. Bottom line, these are long term keepers. I just wish they still made them! Since they don't, I've refurbished them with new earpads, head arch pad, and cable. I will replace the ugly gray plastic ear cup covers with HD 600 metal grilles, whenever they're not back ordered. Equipped thusly, I don't feel any need to upgrade now.
    But I did recently get a pair of HD 650's. The comparison is most instructive! First, let me say I WISH the 580's had the 650's BASS! The 650's just kill the 580's in that respect, with a bass that is probably half again as much in absolute terms, as well as a fuller, more lively and liquid quality. The 580's bass sounds kinda dry and tight by comparison. And while the mids of the 650 are a bit more lush, they are clearly cut from the same bolt of cloth as the 580's. But as far as treble extension goes, the 580's just KILL the stock 650's. HERE is the 'air' I was craving in my review of the 650's! Massed strings, and orchestral music in general sound more correct and lively with the 580's. I get more of a sense of the venue with the 580's. Surprised the hell of me...but look at the GRAPH of the 650's treble response...down by 10db or more between 5500-8000Hz or so...that's a LOT, and it explains what I was feeling with the 650's. The 580's are also more nimble, and 'let go of the notes' more quickly and cleanly than do the stock 650's.
    It's a toss up which are 'better'....for rock, jazz, string quartets, female voices, the 650's are very seductive. For orchestral music, I feel the 580's give a truer feel for the venue as actually recorded...I'll bet they're not far behind the 600's in that regard. As a neutral, truth-telling window into the recording, I feel the 580's are more accurate in absolute terms, much as I love some of the things the 650's do. Add to this the lighter weight and greater comfort of the 580's, and it's becoming clearer to me with every passing day which cans I'm going to keep. The 580's are THAT good, and I don't feel they need to apologize to anyone for anything, even 20 years later!
    Jim Parrett likes this.
  5. achelgeson
    4.5/5,
    "So far, my favorite open headphones!"
    Pros - Very natural (and neutral) sound, great balance, no sibilance, relatively easy to drive, comfortable!
    Cons - Treble heads may complain there's not enough highs
    This is my first review, but I will try to make it fast and straight to the point.
     
    I just received the HD580s from ebay, and before I bought them I did some research and found out these have the same drivers as the HD600s. However, that doesn't necessarily mean they sound exactly the same. But, I don't own the HD600s, maybe in the future I will. 
     
    I opened them up, and while they are used, they look very lightly used, except for the ear pads, which are filthy (and smell.....ewww)
    But anyway, they came with the stock cable, and without the 1/4 adapter unfortunately, so I couldn't hook it up to some good amps yet.
     
    I plugged it in to the FiiO E11, which is connected to my ipod. First thing that I noticed was how amazingly balanced the sound was! I own the Beyer DT880, AKG K240, K550, ATH-M50, and the Shure SRH-940, and it is more natural sounding than ANY of them. That is what I look for in headphones, a nice, clear natural sound. It's almost like sitting in front of speakers, just enjoying the music, rather than complaining about how there's "not enough bass" or whatever. For once, I could just enjoy my music. 
     
    That being said, people who prefer super detailed highs need to look elsewhere. These will not do that. I suggest the Shure 940s for emphasized treble detail retrieval. However, I think these are very detailed throughout the whole frequency range. 
     
    Edit: 3/22/16
    I have sold these headphones shortly after I did this review in order to try the HD 650. The main difference between the HD580 and the HD650 is the bass quantity. It has been about 2 years since I have heard the HD580, however I remember the bass not being as present with them. The 650s change that, with more bass from 200hz downward, giving more impact. The highs surprised me a little, as I remember the highs actually being less present in the 580s than the 650s. This may be because there are more forward mids in the 580, giving the impression of laid back treble. But to my ears, the HD650 has more treble extension with better detail. None of this "veil" people go on about.  I want to eventually buy the HD580s again to compare directly, for the price you can get them they are honestly a steal, and you are probably getting 95% of what the HD600 is for more than half the price. I have never heard the HD600, but I believe between the 580, 600, and 650, it is a difference in your preferred sound signature rather than sound quality. I do prefer the HD650 sound however. 
    If you want a comfortable, neutral headphone with enough detail for critical listening, or just sitting back and listening to music, these are for you! Highly recommended! [​IMG] 
     
    edit: 5/29/14
    I have tried these with the ODAC and O2 amp, more detailed but still the same natural presentation I felt with the E11. I think the ODAC and O2 bring out the best of the HD 580, while adding some more treble detail some might find missing in the HD 580 and 600. 
  6. gradoist
    5.0/5,
    "5-star headphones"
    Pros - easy to drive; amazing in every aspects
    Cons - Haven't noticed any yet
    Better than RS1i, HD700 and K812 in most aspects.
  7. angevoi
    5.0/5,
    "My bestest headphones"
    Pros - neutral, clarity, soundstage, lively, comfortable, easy to repair
    Cons - ear and headband pad replacement are expensive and doesn't last forever
    Personally i prefer this design over the HD600
  8. drizek
    5.0/5,
    "Excellent"
    I have been extremely happy with these headphones for several years now. A hair got stuck in my right driver which caused a rattling at certain frequencies, it actually took me two years before I realized what the problem was and fixed it. Today they are as good as new and I am sad that they are no longer available. I'm sure the HD 700's sound amazing, but for what I paid for my 580s, I think they are one of the best purchases I've ever made.
     
    They complement my much more bass heavy Triple.Fi 10s very well. These give me the soundstage I need to listen to classical, while the IEM's are used for most other types of music.
     
    They look kind of dorky, but they make up for it being being extremely comfortable. I use them to watch TV and movies when I can't use speakers and there is no fatigue or discomfort after several hours of wearing them.
  9. MeDotOrg
    5.0/5,
    "Thoroughbred workhorse"
    Pros - Comfortable, smooth
    Cons - None, really...they're not wireless...
    These headphones make you forget you are listening to headphones. They are so comfortable, so natural sounding, they are a joy. They have enough oomph to rock out (I don't think they are the ultimate electro/synth/rap cans) and yet present the most delicate classical music. 
     
    After about 12 years of CONSTANT use they finally gave up the ghost. Sent them back to Sennheiser for repair and was told they were beyond worn out. Got 50% off for a new pair of HD600s.
     
    I cannot think of any piece of audio or video equipment that gave me more pleasure for the money than my HD580s. Best bang for the buck I ever had. 
  10. edikat
    5.0/5,
    "My first true love..."
    Pros - Superb clarity, ultra comfortable
    Cons - expose flaws in the recording!
    Purchased in Moscow, Russia in a premium store, hence the high price.
     
    My first pair of audiophile headphones purchased without really reading any reviews but on the recommendation of the shop. Those Russians know a thing or two!
     
    Went home, put them on, plugged into my old Dell laptop.... and they didn't leave my head for *6* hours.
     
    I heard stuff that I never knew existed, it was a mind blowing experience that I can remember in detail six years later. A defining moment of my life.
     
    These 'cans' are legendary and rightly so.
     
    I just purchased a second pair (I gave my first pair to my old girlfriend) and look forward to some 600 grills and a decent cable.
     
    Magical, magical, magical.
    gevorg likes this.