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Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition Over-Ear Headphones - Black

  • The HD 598 SE headphones is an open back, over ear, audiophile grade headphone that combines exceptional sound quality with extreme wearing comfort. This premium headphone features a padded leatherette headband and luxurious velour covered ear pads perfect for long listening sessions.
kignt likes this.

Recent Reviews

  1. bhima
    I expected more
    Written by bhima
    Published Jul 24, 2018
    Pros - Good bass resolution
    wide soundstage
    Cons - upper-mids/lower-treble veiled
    overall too laid back
    not a significant difference in overall sound quality from my $40 PortaPros
    OK, after a solid month of research, it was between the HD 598, K7XX, DT990, and the HD 6XX. I decided to go with the HD 598 because they are easy to drive, and according to many, have a solid soundstage and are great for gaming/movies as well as film soundtracks.

    I just got them in today from BLINQ. I must say that they are in exquisite condition, and this won't be my last purchase from BLINQ. Having said that, before I get into what I think about the HD 598, I'll give you a breakdown of what I actually own:

    1) Koss PortaPro (my most used headphones simply because they work with everything, I don't notice them on my head, and I love their sound even though I can hear their limitations
    2) HifiMan RE0: I really like these IEMs. They have quite a bit of headroom and can be tailored easily to what I like with a very slight 3dB bump to the bass
    3) Rock-It R-50: Great BA IEMs. The fit is a bit finnicky, but the sound is warm, yet resolving

    (NOTE: All songs I am listening to are either 320kbps MP3 or FLAC. I am driving the headphones with a Fiio E17K)

    Ultimately, I was looking for a full sized headphone that would give me a bigger and overall better sound/presentation/soundstage than the PortaPros. I really thought the HD 598 would be it. But I am completely underwhelmed by these. The soundstage is larger than the PortaPros, but sound separation, indeed sound resolution at the upper mid frequencies is worse on most tracks. This has to be what people dub as the infamous Sennheiser veil. Its not that the sound isn't there, its just REAAALLLY laid back. And I'm coming from PortaPros which aren't known for being particularly resolving, bright or accurate. In some music, instrument placement is more engaging on the Sennheiser, in other songs its distracting because the upper mid frequencies are so far back there, it sounds like someone is singing from down a round hallway.

    What the Senns definitely have over the PortaPros is much better bass accuracy and resolution. Here, there is a clear delineation of sound quality. The highs are resolving as well, though I can't perceive enough of a difference here that make them stand out whereas I feel my RE0's are likely ever so slightly more resolving than the Senns, with the PortaPros just behind the Senns but barely. Mids are solid, though when the sound starts to drift to the upper mids, they sound a bit muffled. A great example track I use is Peyroux's This is Heaven to Me:

    Her voice should sound like velvet just caressing your ears. The Senns absolutely fail on this. Muffled, veiled, Chloroformed vocals. The PortaPros don't do much better here, but I am comparing a $200 pair of full sized headphones with some $40 1984 on ear technology. The PortaPros get a bit closer, but the RE0's nail this when I bump up the bass to warm their more upper-midrange prominent sound. The background instrument placement is definitely more interesting with the Senns, and this is a good track that demonstrates their soundstage capabilities. Its not as large as I had thought it would be, but it is noticeable compared to the headphones I own.

    I am obsessed with big, ethereal orchestral tracks from games and movies. This type of music typically has a simple melody, and no words which mates perfectly for work where I often find myself needing to concentrate. Anything with words just messes with my concentration, as do complex Classical or Jazz music. I love the potential for this type of music to be huge in its space, as if the strings and brass instruments' sound waves traversed over huge mountain peaks, converge into the valley and into your ears. Three songs I use to test openness, expansiveness and imaging are:
    1) From Past to Present (Jeremy Soule)
    2) Welcome to Jurassic Park (John Williams)
    3) Ginnung (Jeremy Soule. Timestamp: 9:54)

    Here, the Senns do win in soundstage but they are a mixed bag overall in terms of instrument placement and that ever nagging upper-mid ultra-laid back nature. In the first song, the strings are missing the air on the Senns that can be heard barely on the PortaPros, better still on the RE0. Imaging is best on the Senns and that likely has to do with some of the lower mid strings and their overall soundstage presentation. Overall I like the Senns best here, but its not a resounding win for me.

    On the second song, The Senns are noticeably better everywhere but the upper mid timbre in the cello strings. This is one of the only songs where I feel the Senns are the clear leader.

    On the 3rd, the build up to the crescendo has good space on the senns, but once it finally hits, the upper mid veil takes away quite a bit of the impact. Instrument placement is best on the PortaPros here, with the RE0 winning the upper mid resolution of the trumpets. There is no decisive winner here, which to me is a problem since I'm comparing a $50 IEM, $40 on-ear to a $200 full-sized headphone.

    So the verdict: I have already boxed up the Senns to be returned and have decided to up my budget a bit and spring for the AKG K7XX from Massdrop. I believe they will give me the overall resolution I'm looking for with the large soundstage of the 598 (possibly larger). At the end of the day, if I'm spending $150+ on a pair of headphones, they should be noticeably better at just about everything than my $40, 40-year old tech PortaPros. For me, the HD 598 was just not that.
    1. liampanto
      So, you don't believe they would open up after some time...
      I didn't like my HD380 at first and was about to return them, but then decided to give them some time and was pleasantly surprised.
      Maybe you would be too.
      liampanto, Jun 18, 2019
  2. aafanatic
    Highly under estimated
    Written by aafanatic
    Published Nov 10, 2016
    Pros - Comfortable for long listening, bright, good looking, pleasing sound stage, non-fatiguing, removable cable, scaleable. great all arounder.
    Cons - Not as scalable as HD600, sub bass not as impactfull as the HD600,
        The Sennheiser HD598 SE I believe is one of the most under estimated and under valued over ear mid-fi headphone at this time.I do not particularly enjoy writing reviews when there are far more experienced and confident members who I believe could shed a more revealing light upon these headphones. But they have more important things to do at this time upon which we at head-fi heartily rely. So I am sticking my neck out; going out on a limb, as it were, and only time will tell. 
         I believe that part of why these headphones are so under valued at this time is because they are being replaced by the newer HD599 and Sennheiser will stop making them soon. I think that the SE moniker in collaboration with Amazon is to liquidate all of the existing stock of the HD598 SE while it is still has popular value. And there is the point of this review and hopefully the benefit of the immense reading that I've done over the years past here at Head-fi. 
        A headphones true value is not the sum of it's frequency response graph, it's model tier, (5 series) it's current lowest asking price, or even it's claimed technological advances; I believe that it is the joy it gives it's users. How many times have I read here a member admitting apologetically that although owning the TOTL headphone that we all would kill for, that they find themselves reaching for a headphone that is more of a dear old friend, and not this year's model? As though, because we own "the best", we damn well better enjoy it. I say, let us enjoy what gives us pleasure, regardless of price or significance.
           Sennheiser HD598 SE is a highly competent mid-fi headphone that is both extremely comfortable and ear pleasing. It has good bass extension, lively treble, and balanced mids that lend to an open sound stage. Is the bass amazing? No. Are the higher frequencies astounding? No. Do I giggle with unrestrained glee when I listen to my old music for the first time? No. These are not magic headphones. But they are really good headphones, and I believe that a really good headphone is a great place to start in this magical quest of diminishing returns. 
          The Sennheiser HD598 SE is handsome, comes with a 3 meter Single ended 1/4" removable cable. It also comes with a shorter (1.2 Meter) single ended 1/8" cable for more portable use. I do not think that portability is where this headphones shines. It is open back and can be heard by those around you, and, you can hear them as well. So, environmental sound attenuation is poor. They do not fold or come with any way to transport them. And even though these are only 50 ohm cans, I still believe that they benefit from amplification. It is not until recently that I have conscientiously amped my phones, and I found a noticeable difference in the performance and competence of these sporty cans. I liken amplification to putting premium gas in a car that deserves it, and finding that it really does run better. The bass extension is noticeable greater, the sound stage wider, the trebles twinkle just a little bit brighter, and the mids demand a focused attention.
         I know that I have written too much about a less significant can, but in so doing I hope to impart a greater hope. I almost didn't get these because they were not "important" enough, just as, long ago I almost did not get the HD590 because the HD600 was supposed to be better. Even though I brought my own reference music and seriously scrutinized them both, my head would not believe what my ears, and perhaps my soul was telling me: I just liked the HD590 better. "But shouldn't I get the HD600 if I can? Everyone is talking about it. Maybe I just have poor taste. Maybe I simply need to educate my ears." I heard myself, muttering in the high end phono boutique: "maybe I just have poor taste" I laughed out loud in the store, looked down at the phones in my hand, the HD590, and walked to the counter. That day a revolution began: I gave myself permission to "maybe just have poor taste". There really is nothing like poor taste and money, is there? Now, I try to let my ears decide, and I am at peace with the world. But I still want some HD800 S, even to just wear as a hat!
        As a post script I would like to point out that though this headphone has not undergone the Frankenstein-ian Modifications that some phones have suffered (HD700/800), the single ended cable attaches at the can with a 2.5mm TRRS jack, which would lend itself to balanced re-termination. 
  3. Aornic
    A bargain in audio
    Written by Aornic
    Published Nov 1, 2016
    Pros - Detailed mids, comfortably extended treble, lightweight, decent soundstage, removable cable, easily driven
    Cons - Slightly stunted bass extension, can get shouty at higher volumes with slight distortion
  4. Mikualotic
    Great sounding,but. . .
    Written by Mikualotic
    Published Oct 2, 2016
    Pros - Looks good. Decent sound stage.
    Cons - Can be harsh sounding. Don't like the pivot
    First real headphone. Sounded great for a first headphone. 
    1. zanox
      harsh sounding? thats news to me. My pair sounds very smooth with a hint of brightness.
      zanox, Oct 3, 2016
    2. Mikualotic
      Harsh sounding with some of the songs I listen to. I might have slightly senstive ears. 
      Mikualotic, Oct 3, 2016
  5. sunrise777
    The Senn sound, with comfort and style
    Written by sunrise777
    Published Aug 17, 2016
    Pros - all black for those not into retroHD598 style, audiophile sound, velvetty vocals, ample sound-stage, great all-rounder, comfortable large pads.
    Cons - bass and treble extension less for the fun listen, senn veil (laid back)sound, mid bass hump, less isolation, sound leakage (open back)
    IMG_20160817_172731.jpg  IMG-1
    IMG_20160817_172939.jpg  IMG-2
    IMG_20160817_172438.jpg  IMG-3
    IMG_20160817_172212.jpg  IMG-4
    IMG_20160817_171725.jpg  IMG-5
    IMG_20160817_172235.jpg  IMG-6
    I got these on independence sale on Amazon India, HD 598 SE are Amazon exclusive. The choice was between these and the crowd favorite ATH M-50X.
    I went for these because i read these have amazing sound-stage and are super comfortable, we will go through about that in depth below,
    and yeah these sound amazing with right source and gear.
    Inside the box :
                            The box look premium cant expect less from mid-fi headphone(IMG-1), you are greeted with the headphone,2 cable one standard 6.3 mm 3 meter long cable and SE exclusive 3.5mm 1.2 meter long (OFC) cable.1 6.5mm to 3.5mm adapter plug (IMG-2)
    Aesthetics :
                            These are identical to the HD598 but all in black,in simple words are just beautiful, metal mesh with aluminium accent and sennheiser logo beneath (IMG-4), the head band has good amount of padding and the stitching of faux leather with sennheiser name in bold letters (IMG-6), ear-pads are made up of hard velour(its a dust magnet) (IMG-5), In all these headphones are very pleasing to eyes, has a understated luxurious appeal to it, which other headphones in this price bracket lacks, even though its a all plastic build except the mesh. The hand stitch feel on the headband makes it aesthetically pleasing,a lot of thought have been given to the design of these stunning cans.
    Comfort :
                           The earpads are velour, little stiff and large, yes large was the other reason i went for these, having had really awful experience before with the HD499 elf shaped tiny pad, need to fold my ear to push inside them or wear like on-ears (did i say they have no clamping force, making the bass almost non entity in a bass lacking can), enough of the HD449 bashing back to the HD598, these earpad are large and deep (IMG-3), with no part of my giant ear touching the drivers. The clamp force is not strong and adequate enough for large Goliath head of mine, smaller head might experience similar snug fit due to the inward design or lesser clamp, the weight and clamp force can make it slip off the head after rigorous movement, these are comfortable for long listen as advertised though i feel little uncomfortable after prolonged 3 hr long listening section, due to the clamp (thank god i didn't went for the m50 they are famous for their death grip on the head).
    Note : Different head shape will experience different level of comfort, but in all these are the most comfortable headphones if you disregard the beyerdynamic velour pads.
    Sound/Separation/sound-stage/Isolation :
                           I used Fiio E17 with foobar in wasapi event set to only 16bit/44.1hz, Asus amp and Galaxy S3 for mobile 
    The song selection has all the variety from pop, classical, rock(especially areana rock) and bollywood.
    Bass : 
    These are 50 ohms headphone with a very wide frequency response of ​
    12 – 38,500 Hz, one would rather expect a very low and fuller bass with great extension, but bass on these are not hard hitting or its trump card, base-head should look else where, but these are not lacking in bass response in any way just the bass rolls off early, the bass presence is there with more mid- bass presence but inadequate lower bass extension, making it rather punchy in right amp/source but no rumble, though i am sure i felt the rumble when i used it to watch movies. comparing them to the bass extension of m50x or dt990 pro, you will not find that kind of bass here.
    Mids : ​
    Mids are the king here, as evident from the frequency curve which is rather well presented.The song with vocals shine here also the dialogue in movies and games.The vocals have a creamy velvety feel to it just perfect, the mid alone can put these cans in the audiophile grade.Now i know why people love the sennheisser sound, these are not U-shaped but rather flat sounding true to the source, yes source you need to invest on those flacs and amp/dac to unlock these gems, a mobile phone like S3( wolfson you beauty) can power them and sound loud enough for comfortable listen and beyond.
    Treble : 
    The treble is these are there with needed sparkle and extension ,but i was left wanting for more as the treble is almost perfect without being 
    fatiguing, like the bass the treble are also rolled of early, kept me wanting for just a tad bit more would have made it the best sound headphone with no competition in the price range. but the treble cut off rather early, though you will hear all the hi hats, cymbals clearly and precisely. if you want more extension in both frequencies then buy the HD600/650 for that, a little cleaner more extension and less sound-stage.
    Sound-stage : The reason i went for these, after reading about them how even the 6 series cant match the sound-stage, yes the sound stage is good thats why i use the famous wolfson dac E17 and S3, but not as wide as grados. For me the sound-stage depth was amazing vertically on y-axix, you can hear the sound from bottom of your earcups to the top as the sound moves giving you the deep sound-stage, but the wideness of sound-stage is affected by the environmental noise outside the headphone, these are open back and need a quiet place to enjoy the full spectrum of sound, in a noisy workplace environment or even chatty neighbor, barking dog, honking cars and babies will hamper the listening (yeah i said babies, no its not baby proof). I find S3 more wider only because i hide myself in a quiet room with it.
    Separation : Separation is precise and  all instrument one can point out, i think separation and sound-stage is much more depended on the source of music and the amp/dac even more. But these have the capability to sound extraordinary with the right combination (be ready to fiddle with combinations and setting, and now your audiophile journey begins, where you constantly fiddle with everything till you find that sweet sweet sound you desire which other mere mortals cant hear). the instrument will sound surround you with vocal in center(personal concert guaranteed), like all audiophile headphone above its price range these have the amazing ability to sound different with different audiophile gears.
    Note : the sound-stage and separation make it formidable gaming headphone, couple with a mod mike get ready destroy everyone and everything.
    Isolation : What you expect these are open back, if the sound is playing you might get immersed to even noticed the chatter, but louder sound will creep in, as i said before need a quieter environment for these, and yes they are leaky for a person sitting next to you will know your playlist, hope he is not a ****** to complain.
    Conclusion : These are the best way to start your audiophile journey, for the price its retail they are steal for the build quality and sound quality they are capable to produce.These are neutral and flat sounding depending on the source (i dont play with EQs, flat sound forever), as the same price you can go for m50x or Dt 770 which have totally different sound signature, But senn sound (the veil) is comfortable, encompassing and great to listen for long hours where the other fails, its a great all rounder and 80s rock never sounded so awesome, even EDM and hip hop wont disappoint with details.
    They wont get perfect score because of the bass/treble extensions that would have made it almost organic and all the other premium HD series absolute, you get what you pay for and more.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Bacci
      I think the description of the test rig (amp?) is too vague. Some of the characteristics/coloration described could be a bit more on the amp side than headphones. I find they scale up well with a powerful (e.g. class A) SS amp, especially the bass. 
      Bacci, Aug 29, 2016
    3. sunrise777
      I touched the same point in separations,  they scale up different with different amp/dac, and yes the bass is affected more with the gain for me it comes on the expense of sound-stage.
      Its not a professional test rig, its what i have with myself for my personal use. If i get to try chance to try it with amp i would surely mention it.
      though i dont think it will dramatically change the sound signature. 
      sunrise777, Aug 29, 2016
    4. sunrise777
      Veil is my way of saying its accurate and neutral, i can quote the frequency curve (harman) but that would make potential audiophile\\ too technical. As we all know nobody like perfect neutral headphone if we did only neutral headphones will be selling not the boasted ones.
      There is no specific universal audio jargon's, if there pls pass me the list. Like i said before i wrote here for entry and mid level audio enthusiast where this headphone belong in the contest of price not to win any prize on science essay.
      All ears are not equal, sound and preferences can be subjective, i tried to go over this review with a personal touch maybe its not your language but what you ask probably not my way. 
      The time you said its not for argue is exactly sounds like a argument, anyways i am thankful for criticism , though criticism is also subjective.
      sunrise777, Aug 29, 2016


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