Sennheiser HD 518

Average User Rating:
4.39286/5,
  1. PETEBULL
    2.0/5,
    "A way to stumble"
    Pros - Nice feel
    Cons - Generally bad and muddy sound with lack of resolution
    Another review of a product I rejected after a brief test at a store. You may overestimate some headphones at first sight and regret buying them later. But a feeling that something is very-very wrong from the start is rarely deceiving. Wouldn't have written this review if I hadn't seen most of you adore them. Muddy upper bass interfering with mids is unbearable. I really don't remember what was with the treble, but I clearly got the impression of cheap, muddy sound. Even if treble was flawless fault points limit would still had been reached.
     
    The only reason to buy them is to try modding them into some kind of HD 598. Sennheiser just gone too far purposely debilitating sound quality to provide diversity to the market. Use it to your advantage. As they are they can't compete even in $50 category.
     
    Every headphones should have either something good or at least special about them. These have neither. Typical thing you gonna say "will do, will have to".
  2. UncleGamer
    5.0/5,
    "Amazing Value"
    Pros - Decent base, open back, comfortable
    I saw an article that showed the sound output of the 518 vs the 558 and 598. I was amazed to see that the sound signature for each headphone was practically identical. So I decided to take a shot a but a pair. I have NOT been disappointed.
     
    Comparing the three headphone for myself I can tell you they all share a very similar sound. The HD 518 have a slightly stronger bass, the 558 a bit more highs and the 598 a bit more neutral of the three. As a gamer the extra bass is welcome to my gaming experience and I find I personally prefer the sound of the 518.
     
    The open back, teamed with solid bass results in an incredible PC Gaming experience. The reasonable pricing means these are easily within reach of any gamer. They are not the most comfortable of the three mentioned but they are still a very comfortable headphone, I easily can wear these and have for long gaming sessions. Connect these to a good gaming sound source and you have a great product at a great price for a great experience.
  3. Saniva
    2.5/5,
    "Great for the price."
    Pros - Treble, Soundstage
    Cons - Bass- too much of it.
     

    Sounds: FLAC 96/24, 192/24, DSD64 and DSD128

    Currently own: Beyerdynamic T1, T90 (Current Favorite), Sennheiser Amperior (First headphone), Momentum 1st Gen, HD 414 Anniversary, Mr Speakers Mad Dog, Fostex T7, Aurisonics Forte IEM, Audioquest Dragonfly Red DAC
    Testing Chain: Toshiba Satellite Laptop; Foobar 2000 running flac and DSD codec; amiMusik DS5 Headphone Amp.
     
    Really was curious how this one would sound and I have to say I'm surprised. I generally rotate all my headphones and I love them all. I didnt audition this one before I purchased, I just went on the reviews of others. Fair to say this was an impulse buy- it was on sale in my local office supply store. I was buying coloured pencils, if you must know.
     
    Build: 
    All plastic construction for the cups and headband- probably for the price point this is to be expected, there are a LOT of Sennheiser headphones in the '5xx' series that appear with the same aesthetics more or less. The grill looks good - it has some function being aerated and the headphone looks good on my head. 
     
    Comfort:
    The velour / terry towelling of the earpadding and headband is fantastic. The cups are big enough that they are true over ears. These cans do clamp tightly. I have the Amperiors which rank highly in the clamp stakes and they would be in the same intensity.The difference is that an over ear clamp creates a stuffy cupboard feel. The silver lining is that these wont fall off if you decided you wanted to headbang or walk like an chicken down the street.
     
    Sound:
    Bass:
    Yes this has lots of it, so much that it eclipses other spectrums in the mids. The bass plays deep and thorough, and is the major contributor to the darkness in the headphone. The bass is also a little slow and sounds like a reverb. So music like Joey Purps Girls where the bass + drum need to be snappy and attack, the resulting sloppiness of that bass makes it a bit a of an energy sapping listen. Similarly, Rapture's Jealous Lovers cant afford to have the bass lag what with all its hyper jumpiness, but there it is: the bass, front and center, and late. Where this kind of bass behaviour works, is in tracks like ACDCs Let there be Rock where the bass drone accompaniment is a great benefit to the thick mids of the guitar which brings us to...
     
    Mids and treble.
    The midrange is busy. You can't pick apart the details that you could tell exactly whats happening all the time. The mids could definitely be better engineered, as tracks that are midrange busy end up sounding humid and muddy. In tracks like Radiohead's Burn the Witch, the vocals sound like they are coming from a cardboard box, and the choppy strings sound like low resolution. To my ears, the congestion created by the bass and mids is problematic only once you have heard it when you compare other headphones in the next price range up, those headphones are simply more clariffic. The treble, though I must say is pitched nicely and lets you know that the HD 518 is on the audiophile spectrum. Given the balance here, this headphone couldn't be accused of being bright,  which is actually one of the nicest aspects of this phone, as its still subtle. Tracks like the sparkly Guiding Light from Television benefit from the HD 518 voicing, elevating it from a pretty album track to an outright epic.
     
    Summary:
    The HD 518 is a dark headphone (to my ears) with some rays of sun peeking over the clouds. The closest I have in my collection that sounds like it would be the Momentum. The HD 518 that has some nice aspects to it, such as the wide treble soundstage, but the muddiness of the midrange is a let down. As I write this after only playing it for 3 hours, I will report back after its burn in to see if I have changed my mind. 
    macabong and PETEBULL like this.
  4. reggionh
    4.5/5,
    "Audiophile sound "
    Pros - Value, Comfort, SQ
    Cons - I don't like the grille design; sounds muffled on low volume.
    This cans are not that expensive, but I'd say the sound quality is already in or very close to the 'audiophile' range.
     
    The first few hours will not impress you, but once you get used to it, you will understand what you've been missing all this time and you won't settle for less. You would also want to crank up the volume to actually enjoy them and to discern the differences.
     
    The transient response is amazing. Music sounds detailed and reproduced with an agility I've never heard before on a sub-$100 set of cans. 
     
    Fleetwood Mac, Steely Dan, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, and the likes sound stellar on these.
     
    Bass is just about the right amount, but it's a little bit sloppy and this is not the strong point of these headphones.
     
    Comfort is very good for its size. Soundstage and instrument separation are good.
     
    If you're really budget-conscious, don't bother buying the more expensive HD 558 and 598 since all HD5*8 use the same drivers. 
     
    If you like the sound and feel of Sennheiser's most famous full-sized open-back headphones (HD600 upwards) but are constrained by budget, these babies are able to some extent replicate the experience with a fraction of the cost and without the need for additional amplification.
  5. Roy Lay
    4.5/5,
    "Awesome Bang For Your Buck!"
    Pros - Amazon just dropped price to $50. Thumping bass and good soundstage.
    Cons - There are better headphones, but you aren't likely to find them for near the price. Lacks some punch in the midrange.
    I paid $65. for these, and thought they sounded as good or better than headphones I've heard that cost twice that.  Now, you can get them on Amazon for $50., which makes them a great deal.  One warning -- as these are over the ear headphones, glasses can become uncomfortable to wear with them for a long time.  When they start to bother me, I just pull them up above the earpads.  It doesn't seem to effect my ability to read, which is all I use glasses for.  Anyway, if you are looking for headphones with a lot of soundstage, that can thump on the bass, and that won't hurt your pocketbook,  you are looking for these.  When the price went down, I ordered another pair for my girlfriend.  At that price, it didn't hurt at all.  Sennheiser makes great headphones in general, and these are about the cheapest audiophile quality headphones you are going to find anywhere.  I do boost the midrange a little on my pc, to give them a little extra punch, and after I do, it's like aural candy listening to stuff that really tests them, like classical or modern electronic.  But I'm mostly a classic rock sort of guy.  Pink Floyd Echoes and CCR sound amazing.  Just listened to Big Brother & The Holding Co. live, and it sounded like you were there.  What more could you ask for in moderately priced headphones?
  6. jthom320
    5.0/5,
    "Quality headphone"
    Pros - Large soundstage, Clear airy sound, Great mids
    Cons - For the price - none. Fairly anemic bass however
    I'm standing on the precipice of turning my in rotation headphone collection over and now seems like a good time to write a HD 518 review.  My HD 700's and 598's are in the mail and instead of listening to those I'm back on my back up pair the 518s.  These were the first open backed headphones I ever heard.  They are also the first headphones I ever did an ounce of research into and started my love of the Sennheiser sound.  I've owned them for several years and since then I've also listened to most of the rest of the HD line.
     
    The amazing thing about these 518's is they truly are about 85% of anything else in the entire lineup.  After listening to the 700's precise imaging, detail and soundstage for the last month or so I'm shocked at how little is actually lost here.  These were initially bought as gaming headphone and they work excellent for that purpose.  A full wide soundstage that's not quite as good as the best in class options but certainly up there.  Bullets whizz by your head and footsteps are audible.  
     
    With music mids are forward and very pleasent.  Treble is not harsh but the headphone seems to have a bit of sparkle to my ears at the same time.  Bass could be better but this is far from just being an HD 518 problem.  I find that all the way up the lineup Senn's open backed models lack bass punch.
     
    Last piece I'll cover here is comfort.  I find these more comfortable then the 598's due to the difference in headband material.  I think the leather on the 598's can make the top of your head hot.  No complaints here.  Not as great as the HD 700's but very easy for long term listening.
     
    I'm going to be trying different types of headphones going forward and getting away from the Sennheiser sound for awhile but I really appreciate where the 518's stand.  They are the first headphone that got me to care about audio quality and the now sub-75 dollar price tag makes them an excellent option for anyone in the same situation I was then.  A perfect way to dip your toe in the waters of high end audio.
    jesuguru likes this.
  7. uncopy87
    4.5/5,
    "gooou"
    Pros - cheap
    Cons - not the best sq
    If you are new to headphones this is the one to get if you also don't want to spend too much!
  8. STRMfrmXMN
    4.0/5,
    "Comfy (after a couple weeks of long wear), sound pretty good, have some issues."
    Pros - Solid highs, earpads that breathe very well, removable cable
    Cons - Boomy bass, lacking mids, dumbest cable ever, cups don't turn into the shape of a "V" enough, too closed
    I got these on a killer bargain from Fry's late last month. After two weeks I can say that my initial impression of them has improved but, in short, you should get the 558s and do the foam tape mod instead of buying these.
     
    First thing I noticed was that these clamp HARD to the top of your head if you have the right (or, I suppose, wrong) shape of head and it's extremely fatiguing and uncomfy. After two weeks of frequent wear and about 4 hours of "stretching" with pillows they have gotten significantly more comfortable and I can say that with one of the most sensitive heads around. However I will be replacing the earcups with HD 558 earcups as they have more give and, I think (don't quote me on this) they leak a bit more bass than these do which leads on to the next thing.
     
    They have a bit more bass than I would like. It's very deep and sounds great with bass guitars (listen to "Life in the Fast Lane" by Eagles if you wanna hear dat bass guitar strum) but it's a bit boomy and it drowns out the mids. Vocals are quite hard to hear without a proper EQ of the mids. Listen to "Don't Stop Me Now" by Queen and you'll see what I'm talking about. Freddie's amazing tenor has no effect when wearing these without a good EQ mids boost. After messing around with an EQ these do sound much more balanced now and I like the sound.
     
    As for the "closed-back" mention I made in cons - if I were to compare these to the AD500X from Audio Technica with those being a baseline 100% for openness, these would be about a 55-60% openness effect. They don't have the widest soundstage and when I'm not playing music through them I can hear my Cherry MX Green keyboard (loud) though it sounds deeper and somewhat muffled. The HD 558s are more open by design and, if you take the foam tape out of the cups they sound amazing - better than these for certain. I'm contemplating modding these cans to see if I can get a more open soundstage by doing what this guy on Reddit did. https://www.reddit.com/r/headphones/comments/2t8jtw/my_modified_sennheiser_hd518/
     
    The cable is stupid and you need to use the terrible adapter to use it with most audio equipment and you can get replacements but only from Senn. Seems like a money grab to me. 
     
    However, with all these negatives I listed I still like them enough to keep them for as long as possible. They were $60. Come on, hard to beat that. Would buy again but would grab a pair of HD 558 earpads on the way out.
    jesuguru and trellus like this.
  9. Thymen Frederik
    4.5/5,
    "Great entry level headphone"
    Pros - Comfort, balanced, decent soundstage
    Cons - long cable, 6.3mm plug (adapter included)
    This is my second review on Head-Fi so it won't be the review you'll ever read.
    I will try to use as much terms that are described in the "describing soung glossary".
    Please note that English isn't my native tongue, so there will be a few grammar and spelling mistakes.
     
    Build Quality:
     
    These headphones are made out of plastic entirely (except the earpads of course), but they don't feel cheap. I think this is due to the fact that the plastic is high quality and has a nice finish on it.
    The plastic doesn't make annoying sounds like on some headphones that are even cheaper.
     
    Comfort:
     
    All headphones in the 500 series are really light and the HD 518 is no exception, but unlike the HD 558 and the HD 598 the earpads aren't padded with velour. That doesn't mean that they're uncomfortable.
    It just means that they aren't as comfortable as the higher end models. The HD 518 has a slightly stronger clamping force than the HD 598 and 558, but you can easily stretch them by putting them over a big pillow or just wearing them. The headband is padded with the same material as the earcushions but the foam inside seems slightly softer to me.
     
    Bass:
     
    The HD 518 has the best bass quantity out of any headphones in the 500 series according to the following graph:
     
    graphCompare.png
    I have listened to both the HD 518 and the HD 598 and while the 518 has more bass, the 598 has cleaner, more detailed bass.
    But both headphones are not bassy or boomy at all.
     
    Mids:
     
    The mids on this headphone sound more forward and are more present than on most headphones that I've listened to. This is great for vocals, but it might get a little overwhelming when listening to more brutal/heavy genres of music. The mids are also very clean.
     
    Highs:
     
    Just like the mids, the highs are very clean. Not too bright, but I did notice some sibilance when listening to brighter records (can't remember which ones).
    When listening to the beginning of "Ghost of Perdition" by Opeth, the lower highs and upper mids sounded slightly muffeled, but it is barely noticable.
     
     
    Soundstage: 
     
    The soundstage is not huge, but definitely noticable due to excellent seperation. When playing planetside 2 I could hear where enemies are coming from. Playing Skyrim with the HD 518 felt more immersive and just walking around the forests was awesome.
     
    Pros:
     
    These headphones are great for gaming and listening to classical music, jazz, metal that isn't too brutal (Opeth's latest albums, Porcupine Tree etc.) folk, and classical rock.
    They are really comfortable, even so comfortable that when the music I was listening to stopped, I just forgot that I was wearing headphones.
    You can also drive these headphone very easily even my old Ipod classic can drive them.
     
    Cons:
     
    The stock cable is the biggest problem with this headphone, because it ends in a 6.3mm. Luckily Sennheiser decided to include an adapter, but this makes the end of the cable very bulky.
    Another small problem I had with these is that they're not really fit for faster and heavier genres of music like death metal and dubstep.
     
    Picture:
     
     
    DSCN7271.jpg
    trellus likes this.
  10. ajlan
    4.0/5,
    "Senn's Gift to Common People"
    Pros - good at all but stellar about mids&vocals
    Cons - needs good amp/dac for real performance, slightly dark-muted soundstage, can be hot, cord is too long to use practically, too much sound leak,
    Everyone here said everything that could be said about these cans. My contribution is about overall experience.. You can get good to very good performance with standard devices according to their hardwares. If you need real performace you need solid amp/dac.My Asus U3 gives very good performance and I am really satisfied indeed but this is review and to be fair with U3 it is not that stellar. If you want that you should use it with real systems.Overall V-Shape character which I prefer in most genres. It is comforty and well made even it is all plastic.It can be hot after 1 hour of usage in spring-summers. It has unnecessarily long cord and its phone connector coming from 70-80's. It is a bargain for sure. I gladly use it when I watch movies and listen classics of all sorts in my cave. Audio performance is 4,5 star (slightly dark-muted soundstage makes me uncomfortable in some genres maybe it needs more burn-in or my ears need more time to tune-in) but cons listed above prevents me using it as main monitor.