Sennheiser HD 598

General Information

Not only are the HD 598 aesthetically pleasing to the eyes but they also provide an impeccable sound quality and unrivalled comfort. These beige-coloured open, circumaural headphones come with high-gloss burl wood parts and matching ear pads for a sophisiticated, premium finish. With Sennheiser‘s innovative E.A.R. technology, audio signals are directly channelled into your ears. These headphones also incorporate a special diaphragm geometry that minimizes intermodulation distortion while delivering an impressive frequency response range, plus a highly constant compressed cellulose fleece to hold harmonic distortion to less than 0.1%. And to accentuate the already outstanding listening experience even further, their high-quality leatherette headband and velour ear pads provide outstanding wearing comfort, even for long listening sessions.
Features

* High-end open circumaural headphones with E.A.R. technology for outstanding sonic accuracy and clarity
* Sennheiser's innovative “Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement” (E.A.R.) design channels audio signals directly into your ears
* State-of-the-art, advanced Duofol diaphragms for transparency and minimal distortion
* Highly optimised, field-strengthened neodymium ferrous magnet systems for an excellent dynamic response
* Surround reflector for extended spatial sound field
* Lightweight aluminium voice coils for high efficiency and excellent dynamics
* Special diaphragm geometry reduces intermodulation distortion
* Highly constant, compressed cellulose fleece reduces total harmonic distortion
* Premium beige and high-gloss burl wood parts for a sophisticated finish
* Extremely comfortable velour ear pads and headband
* Excellent connectivity, also with home Hifi equipment
* 2-year warranty

Delivery Includes

* 1 HD 598 headphones
* 1 3.5 mm adapter

Latest reviews

Used to be okay headphones 5-7 years ago but overshadowed now by newer headphones
Pros: Comfortability
Good for female vocals
Guitar and violon sound good, pretty realistic
Relatively easy to drive
Non-fatiguing sound
Cons: Slow, can not play fast music well
Poor instrument separation, can sound congested at times
No sub-bass
Mid-bass bloom makes low end sound muddy
Mid is a bit grainy
Treb is rolled off
May get boring during a long listening session
Outclashed by Sen 58x, Hifiman he400i etc
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voja
voja
I have the HD 6XX. It definitely sounds more open and has more bass, but in no way does it come anywhere near to the build quality of the HD 598 Not even close

When it's matched up to a good source, it sounds good

Sennheiser HD 598 will never be a bad sounding headphone, and I can disagree about it being boring. Without any source it does sound boring, but I know that it doesn't sound boring with my TR-Amp
Pros: Soundstage
Build quality feels nice and sturdy, it's not cheapish
Quality long cable
Ergonomic
Easy to drive, don't need an amp
Full body mids
Detail
Very comfortable
Cons: The stock cable with the adapter is just bulky, it's sticks out quite a lot
They are open-back, and are not suitable for places where you need to be quiet
They lack in bass and don't provide the punch in the low end


The Sennheiser HD 598 is an entry-audiophile headphone from the well-known German manufacturer, Sennheiser. In the sub-200 USD category it's a king of its own, and this is how many people perceived them as for years. If you catch these at a discounted price, they are a steal. It truly is a great overall choice, it's non-fatiguing, very comfortable and enjoyable to listen to.

Build quality

Judging its build quality by the price I managed to get them at (~€140), the build quality IS something to write home about. Sennheiser made sure to use sturdy and high quality plastic. There is nothing that presents a concern about them breaking. The leatherette headband feels nice; nothing to complain about, especially when they are on your head. Each ear piece features just enough tilt and pivot to let the HD 598 adapt to your head and make them a comfortable fit.
Of course, there is a metal grill on the ear-cups; pretty standard for open-back headphones.

The included cable is 3m long, and has a 6.3mm jack, the 3.5mm adapter is included. The cable is tangle free and overall, it's a nice thick (rubber) cable which you don't have to worry about.. especially because of the 3m length. Actually, let me state how good the cable is; It's one of the most durable and best cables I have seen. At least judging from it being run over with my chair (the rubber withstood the "blow"); I even accidentally had my full weight distributed on them when my cable got under the leg of another chair (this chair didn't have wheels). Durability was definitely something Sennheiser had in mind when making the HD 598.

Build quality meets the standards of its price range. Although not quite the most valid comparison (because I believe Massdrop x Sennheiser 6xx was made with different intentions), if we were to compare the build quality of the HD 6xx and the 598, HD 598 is far superior and more premium than the 6xx. When Massdrop was having the collaboration headphone with Sennheiser (HD 6xx), I think their focus was to build it for as cheap as possible, but not cheap out on the sound. That's why I say it's not a fair comparison, but it is still worth mentioning because overall, it contributes to the experience.



Design

The whole headphone is in a beige finish, mixed with nice dark chocolate brown accents. These accents are present on the earpads, the "ring" around the grill, and the high-gloss burl. Overall, it has that retro feeling to it. In my opinion the colorway is what makes the HD 598 authentic.

You either love the colorway or you hate it. Or.. you just buy the HD598SE which is a special edition of the HD598, which is a blacked out version.

There is a labeling for "Left" and "Right" on the facing side of the ear cups. They are printed in the same dark chocolate brown as the rest of the accents, and they are printed in a large font. It's a nice touch, although it isn't necessary (since you can only wear the HD 598 one way). In fact, they are shaped in a way that you can actually tell if they are facing the correct direction just by feel when you pick them up. I can mainly tell this by the touch sensation of the plastic piece which holds the earcups (it's the curved part to which the ear cups are attached to), when it's facing the correct way, it's facing you.


Photo reference: 2.5mm housing in chrome finish (left ear cup)

The left ear cup is the one where the 2.5mm input is (where you connect the headphones). This is another feature which I would consider iconic - the twist-lock mechanism. Before I get into a bit more detail about the twist-lock mechanism, I want to mention that the inner side of the 2.5mm input (where you connect the cable to the headphones) is at an angle, and the inner side of it is in a silver chrome finish. It's a very sleek design, and it's designed in a way that you don't have to "search" for the input hole but rather, it acts as a guide. This way, you can literally just slide the 2.5mm cable inside. The chrome finish helps it glide; overall, very thoughtful and convenient. Onto the twist-lock mechanism - so what Sennheiser did is very neat. Once you plug the 2.5mm cable, you can twist it to secure it. This is genius, because there is no way that it can detach, unless you untwist it on purpose. Long cable + the secure lock mechanism is the way to go; it ensures that you can have both great mobility, and also you don't have to worry about the cable falling out/detaching.

The earcups are oval-shaped and are made of velvet. Velvet is a material very comfortable to the skin. However, dust easily gets trapped inside it. Overall the design is very clean, and I personally don't find anything which should be changed about it. It's just a very well designed headphone, I think the design of the HD 598 is timeless.



Comfort

Comfort is one of the elements which make the HD 598 so pleasing to use. They are simply amazing, very comfortable... I mean, they are Sennheiser's. When was the last time you heard a higher-end model from Sennehiser being uncomfortable? The velour pads just disappear after a certain period of time. I didn't get any itchiness with the pads - very comfortable and pleasant to the skin. The headband isn't the softest; it's rather semi-rigid, but this is only to the touch. When you put them on the head, they have similar qualities to the pads; you just forget that it's there. You can wear these for hours without complaining. The tilting and pivoting movement really help out with getting them adjusted to your head.

There are 17 full steps to adjust the "height" - why do I say 17 full steps? Because the 18th step isn't full, but you have plenty of room to tailor it to your head.



Sound quality
What can you say about an open-ear headphone? Simply beautiful.

Bass is on the lighter side. These are definitely not for bass-heads. I myself love to feel the thump from the bass, and the HD 598's definitely weren't able to do that. However, I didn't find that to be a problem. Even though the open-back design gives you different sound characteristics from the usual closed-back headphones - it's definitely an enjoyable experience.

This being said, if you are looking for that punch and thump, you are better off with a closed-back headphone. Just as some other members said, the lack of low end is what makes the HD598 itself. They will not provide the rumble, punch or thump some are looking for, but with this being said, it lets you focus on the vocals and other aspects in the music that you probably didn't focus on before (that's what I found interesting with the lack of low-end). I personally prefer the spacious sound + no basshead level of low-end of an open-back headphones over the narrow soundstage + the thumb and rumble in the low-end.

Update with EarMen TR-Amp:
Tr-Amp opens up the frequency response, allowing the bass to have more impact, punch, and weight. The lower frequencies have noticeably more definition, and can be felt and told apart much more clearly than without TR-Amp.

For example, the sub-bass present in Hans Zimmer's "Why so Serious?" - mark 3:30 - is more defined and clear, it's much cleaner sub-bass. Or, in the introduction of "Do I Wanna Know?" by Arctic Monkeys, there is more bottom-end present. This is something that is subtle, yet contributes to the sound in a major way. There is more depth and layers to the sound.

"Paper Trails" by DARKSIDE is a beautiful example where you can see how TR-Amp can impact the low-range. The whole track sounds much fuller, and even has more space to breathe; (TR-Amp) it truly brings the life out of the Sennheiser HD 598.

Further speaking upon the lower frequencies, while the differences with TR-Amp are subtle in music genres where lower frequencies are used with a rational amount, in electronic music, the difference is much more prominent. And when I say "much more", it's really day and night. I accidentally came upon a song "Smoking Mirrors" by Lee Curtiss, and the amount of depth and more volume (not referring to loudness) the lower frequencies have when TR-Amp is used - it's something that really does make a large difference. Not only is there more space for the lower frequencies to breathe and overall have more space for full-body sound, but there is just so much more definition and presence in the lower notes.


Photo reference: Sennheiser HD 598 plugged into Earmen TR-Amp
Mids Gorgeous full-body mids (but are they full-body? Read my update). They are sweet. They are on the warmer side, and you will find yourself enjoying the vocals and instruments for days. They never fail to satisfy you with their mid-range capability and performance. I found myself completely absorbed in the music when I had these on (p.s. the long cable helps you with showing off your dance moves, and how well you can play a guitar... without a guitar). The mids are where the HD 598 shines - this is their special ability. They are smooth, and sweet, just like a good baklava. Should I also mention the clarity? Absolutely amazing. They have very good clarity - just play a song where a guitar is plucked, and you will understand what everybody is talking about. I mean.. I think you get the point, this is their sweet spot. I believe that Sennheiser put their main focus on the mid-range when developing the HD 598, and they definitely did a good job. However, it is worth mentioning that the warm sound signature limits some vocals - you only notice this after using a good source with the HD 598.

Update with Earmen TR-Amp:
This is where it gets serious. Once you use TR-Amp, there is no going back. Or any other good source. However, I am strictly speaking from my experience with TR-Amp. I did say that the mids were full-body - but wait until you pair them up with TR-Amp.

I believe that the warm sound signature (which limited vocals) is gone with the TR-Amp, or at least it's tamed down by a great amount. It truly opens up the vocals, it opens up the range, and let's you hear more of the frequencies present. It increases the range which Sennheiser HD 598 can produce as a whole.

Let's talk about real examples through music; Deep Purple's "Soldier of Fortune", mark 2:00. At this mark, David Coverdale's vocals hit a peak - without TR-Amp, this part seems very bland and doesn't deliver the sparkle. It's almost as though the higher frequency is cut off, leaving David Coverdale's vocal limited, not presenting it's true range and capability - the energy isn't there. That's one of the pleasing things when using the TR-Amp.. after all, this device is the same price as the HD 598 (even more expensive when I consider the price I got them at). However, it does live up to its price, and transforms the HD 598 into a whole another story - a much better and enjoyable music experience. Without the TR-Amp, the whole sound performance sounds thin (compared to the sound performance with the TR-Amp, I am not implying it is thin!).



Highs I absolutely can't stand bright and piercing sound. HD 598 is far from brightness. I found them enjoyable for listening to stringed instruments, such as violins, and also generally enjoy vocally-intense music.

Not much to complain about; they definitely deliver a pleasant experience. I think that they could be a touch brighter so the highest notes hit a bit harder. I found the highest notes from the Stevie Wonder's mouth harmonica in "Stop trying to be God" from Travis Scott a bit lacking, especially at the peak.

While they lack sparkle at times, in all the other aspects, the treble was very enjoyable and clear. This is one trait of a warmer sound signature; the top-end is rolled off, but this does ensure that you can listen to them forever (in theory, at least).

Another beautiful top-end experience was with Pink Floyd's "Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Pts. 1-5) at mark 6:07 - focus on David Gilmour's guitar performance.. even though you could focus on his performance in the entire song.

Update with TR-Amp:
Yet again, TR-Amp doesn't fail to do its job. If anything, the treble is the region it affects the most - at least it's the one aspect which is the most noticeable.
While the HD 598 was doing just fine in the treble region without TR-Amp, it's the combination of extended mids and extended highs that truly put it all together.

As mentioned before, the difference is very noticeable, while at the same time subtle. More can be felt, and that's the beautiful thing about music; at certain times, it's not easy to describe when it's about the sensation of feeling.

Another great example: Deep Purple's "Soldier of Fortune", the guitar at the very beginning (the introduction) - it sounds more real, the plucks can be felt. Even though HD 598 does pretty well at this section without the TR-Amp, the subtle difference does contribute to the overall experience. The guitar sounded more like a guitar - I can almost say it had better timbre with the TR-Amp.



Soundstage is quite open. To be quite honest, it's no surprise - soundstage is where open-back headphones make the biggest difference. They are enjoyable to use for both music and gaming. While it's not the widest, it's very enjoyable, as it should be with an open-back headphone.

Update with TR-Amp:
Pff.. not the widest. Talk about wide.

TR-Amp does it; the extra space in music which TR-Amp allows is the single element which I personally enjoyed the most. Not only do the sound and music elements have more space to breathe, but that extra space also allows the sound to be fuller.

With any of these tracks, you can notice the beauty of space: Burial’s “Archangel”, “Letter” or “Bubbles” by Yosi Korikawa, “Hunter” by Björk, Daft Punk’s “Giorgo by Moroder”, or the majority of records from Pink Floyd.

Conclusion

For its price, the HD 598 gets many things right, and nowadays you can find them for great deals. Overall, they offer a pleasant experience and are a headphone which you can put on when you are sitting in your chair - play some music, and just fall asleep. Relaxed is the best word I'd describe these headphones with. They aren't the most lively and crazy experience - these are elegant.

Overall, a very good option. If you find them at a good deal and haven't experienced the open-back sound, these are a great option to do that for its price range. They are a great introduction to Hi-Fi in general.

When paired with a good source, they can deliver quite a sonic performance. Being a sub-200 USD headphone, they are among the better-built headphones out there. I believe some of the best plastic was used, and it's overall a very premium-feeling headphone. With their lightweight quality and the comfort aspect, they are an easy recommendation for long listening sessions. If you would like to start somewhere in this hobby, I can say that the HD 598 may be one of the best starting points - from there on, there is a lot you can learn about sound.

Update with TR-Amp:
When HD 598 is paired with the TR-Amp from Earmen, it's another beast entirely - it makes a large difference and overall, greatly contributes to the performance of the headphones.

I cannot find any other way to put it but to say that it adds more depth to the sound. Now, do not confuse the term "depth" with what I am trying to say here; "depth" usually refers to the sense of distance, and I am not referring to that "depth". I meant that there are more layers in sound, more frequencies, more range - essentially, I think detailed would be the correct term here. The following would be the definition that better explains what I am referring to: "The attention to a full reproduction with all sound/notes being audible and present" (Audiophileon's definition).

Think of it as in photography: an image is more detailed when shot in RAW format, and once it's converted to JPG, it loses the detail, the color, and all the other information stored by the sensor.
In RAW format, there is a wider dynamic range, and the difference is noticeable (well... only if you don't do any editing, and just convert the original RAW image to JPG). This is how I would explain what TR-Amp is doing - reproducing more frequencies and more "information". The Sennheiser HD 598 is doing that, but TR-Amp is the one that is making that possible.



Enough about cameras. As Earmen wrote on their page, it "allows music, not the amplifier to be heard". This is exactly how I experienced it - there is overall more energy, more can be felt.

Felt is the key word here, that's what music is about. You know when there is a really great vocal, or a really great guitar performance, and there is just that vibrating sensation in your ears? That's what I'm talking about. TR-Amp lets the HD 598 do that. Guitars sound more like guitars, plucks can be felt; snares and cymbals are more present, have more sparkle. Vocals sound more like vocals, more energy is transferred - more can be felt, more can be heard. Drums and bass have more body, more bottom-end.



It's very interesting, since HD 598 is the very headphone which got me into Hi-Fi, and to hear what it's capable of.. it's just a very unique and personal experience to me.

The way that TR-Amp opens up the musical performance and the frequencies it can reproduce; it's something that you notice straight away. The way it can open up the vocals, like Freddie Mercury's vocals (Bohemian Rhapsody), or let's take Meryl Steep's vocal performance in ABBA's "The Winner Takes It All" for an example; the way TR-Amp opens her vocals up, and allows the higher frequencies to be reproduced - this is something which can be felt. The vocals are more present, and the detail in them is what make such a large difference. One of the magical moments I had was when I played Pink Floyd's "Dogs" and "Shine On You Crazy Diamond". It was a gorgeous performance. Just pure music. Or even "Dogs" from mark 3:40 onward. Ahh, the atmosphere you get from Pink Floyd's songs, always refreshing.

The major difference is separation. I think that the detail and clarity qualities of the HD 598 greatly contribute to why TR-Amp is making separation so much better and clearer.

I would recommend to everybody to give "Brasileiro" by Sérgio Mendes a listen. It's one of the best-engineered albums - it also won a Grammy Award for Best World Music Album in 1993. It is a very dynamic album. You can hear great use of panning, a variety of instruments, a variety of frequencies. It's a great album to listen for separation, imaging/staging, lows/mids/highs, and timbre. There isn't a single track which I would say sticks out - the whole album is great and each track is unique on its own; each track is worth a listen.

I like to think of it like this: the TR-Amp enhances the performance of the HD 598. It doesn't change the overall sound signature, it just expands the range that it is capable of. I truly appreciate the fuller sound, the wider dynamics, the deeper lows and mids, the higher mids and highs.
To put it simply: TR-Amp brings the life out of the HD 598.

While the total cost of the HD 598 and EarMen TR-Amp adds up to around 500 USD, I personally think it's worth it. It's really important that you invest into a quality source, because it can be equally important as the headphones themselves. TR-Amp is one of those sources which just enhance the performance, but doesn't change the sound signature (doesn't add color). It's very arguable whether this combination is worth it, but to me, it's worth it mainly because of the significance that the HD 598 has to me. You may very well be better off with the new HD 6xx or newer headphones.. You must go out an test these headphones in person, and make up your mind. If you do test them, make sure you are testing them with the same source, that way you are giving each pick an equal chance.

After around 9 years of it's initial release, I still enjoy this headphone, and definitely enjoy it even more with the TR-Amp from EarMen.

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Pros: Almost very good sound, very comfortable, durable, vocals are almost natural sounding
Cons: Slight graininess, plastic construction
I can wear it all day with no problems and it can last for years.

Sound: Depends on the song and takes time to adjust to. ( 1 day or so )
Bass
It can be deep, rich, and tight or simply present in mild quantities but pleasantly so. It can also be lacking and recessed but this is compensated nicely by the almost very good mids and highs.
Mids
Generally, vocals either have very good tonality/timbre and good details or vice versa. In some cases, vocals are just good. Instrumental timbre is very good. In the case where tonality is good but detail is very good, there is mild graininess.
Highs
Forward and bright. Instruments have a nice texture, a lot of details, and are sparkly and rich with the exception of cymbals, they lack detail but timbre is still acceptable. Computer generated beats like those found in pop and EDM sounds good. Also, it is not fatiguing to listen to.
Overall presentation
Rich, deep, bright, forward, clean, clear, smooth, crisp, and dark. Not veiled at all. The dark sound is not overly so and with it's bright forward signature, it makes these really nice sounding.
Soundstage
It's wide and deep and has good positioning and imaging.

Amplification: Good amps like the Fiio e10k or those found in MacBooks and iPhones is needed for it to sound good. Without a good amp, you should look into other headphones such as the Sennheiser Urbanites or ATH M50X.
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