Pros: Tried and proved build quality and reliability
Epitome of neutral sound
Not Fatiguing, easy to listen to for longer listening sessions
Intimate presentation (subjective)
Cons: Clampy out of the box
Somewhat narrow soundstage compared to other competitiors
Doesn’t extend very well on both ends
Not very exciting
Welcome to Sennheiser HD600 review of mobileaudiophile.com. This is by no means my first review but I see it as beginning of greater things in the future so I will rant a little if you don’t mind. Still, if you are not interested you can skip this part.
Many of you have a pair Sennheiser HD6** series headphones or at least heard one at some point. So probably there is no need for another review of one of the most popular headphones of all time. After all you can read review of another, more accomplished reviewer that you feel more familiar with. However what I am trying to accomplish here is setting a stone; defining a benchmark. So in the future when I review a pair, I will probably compare them to HD600 regardless of the price along with other competitors, so that you will have a better idea of the reviewed headphones and understand where they stand in the grand scheme of things.
Another reason to review such a well known headphones is so that you get to know me better. If you like something I don’t like or vice versa, it is more likely you know it this way. I hope when you get confused about a remark you will come back here and say “Oh, so that’s what he means by that.” These are Fahrettin’s take after all.
Lastly I would love to help you in anyway I can and I hope you would help me to improve myself too. That’s what I have been doing in audiophile groups and forums, helping others and asking for help myself. I see reviewing products as a means to grow up as an audiophile more than anything and definitely saw the positive results of listening with the purpose of reviewing a product. Rant is over, now back to the review.
Without boring you too much, I don’t necessarily have a sound preference. I tend to enjoy different sound profiles as long as they do well what they intend to do. I’m not very sensitive to treble so I can enjoy the most notoriously bright headphones, however I’m somewhat sensitive to upper mids area. Please keep these in mind.
Build, Comfort and Trivia
Most of you know that Sennheiser HD6** series are very old and still going strong. Strange thing is, from the series, only HD580 is discontinued. HD600, HD650 and newest addition HD660s are still made. Apart from the newest brother HD660s, HD600 and HD650 are revised visually but the sound didn’t get changed, or if there was a change, it was not so meaningful to make note of. Also with the addition of Massdrop (Drop) collaboration HD6XX, which is an alternative skin to HD650 essentially, HD6** series headphones reached to a wider audiance.
I don’t need to go in detail about the build but have to mention anyway. The Sennheiser HD600 headphones are mostly made out of plastic and metal. One can wish to see more metal but believe me, as someone who has more premium headphones made out of mostly metal, light headphones are something you miss a lot. They may look flimsy but I assure you they are not. This build is around for more than 30 years and some people are still using their 20+ years old pairs.
They may come as clampy at first, especially if you have a big head but you can stretch the headband a little or bend the spring metal outwards to make it more comfortable. Power requirement is not too high. They don’t sound good from a headphone or laptop jack but don’t require a power plant either.
These are not bassy headphones, we all know that. But before we pass this section I would like to elaborate a little.
Before HD600, I had a pair of Massdrop x Sennheiser HD58X. I liked those headphones but at some point I wanted to try a more refined sound and applied some modes and to some degree I achieved to make them more clear and refined. Then when I found a deal on a pair HD600s, I jumped on it. In my initial comparison I didn’t hear much difference tonally, however difference in refinement was definitely there. Earlier I chose HD58X over HD6XX because I thought my less educated ears would appreciate more bass and extention, also HD58X required less power. But bass of HD600 was tighter, more impactful and had more texture if that makes sense. You could hear the same amount of bass from HD58X but could not “feel” it. Long story short I sold HD58X immediately.
Still HD600 don’t extend into sub-bass very well. I did my test on several songs and can’t say Sub-bass is non existent, it is there but barely. I don’t like too emphasized subbass, but here the sub-bass is simply not enough.
This part needs no explanation. Intimacy is the name of the game and HD600 headphones are one of the best in this area. Vocals are exceptional. I didn’t find them shouty ever but I know some people do. To get irritated I need to increase the volume more than comfortable listening levels. Well, since these are kind of mid-forward headphones, if you increase the volume, mids irritate you before bass and treble so that’s fair. It’s just that the rest of the frequency range is lacking a little compared to mids.
Most of the detail is here in the midrange. You can hear tiny changes in vocalists’ voices. If the song you listen to consist of mostly midrange instruments, you will have a really good time. If not, well…
If last part might made you think treble is lacking. That’s not entirely true. Upper mids and lower treble is just right. It is a pleasure to listen to. I want to say I feel the slightest veil that some people make note of when I come from another headphone. But shortly it disappears as my ears adjust to the sound. What doesn’t dissappear is, just like the bass, treble also don’t extend very well. With metal songs I can’t feel the energy and excitement up top. The cymbals sound like they are too far or in another room. It makes to want to turn the knob but then mids become unbearable.
I want to say these headphones are detailed but I won’t. Like I said earlier, detailed information only exists in the midrange. I know drivers are capable to produce details for a fact. But tonaly this performance don’t spread out evenly throughout the entire frequency range. Most headphones known as detailed are bright because forward treble makes information up top more audible. Even mediocre drivers may come as detailed with this gimmick. Sennheiser makes the opposite so even if driver produces the sound, that sound masked by other notes and you can’t shake the feeling of missing something. Strangely I don’t get this feeling in my Clear MG and that headphone is even darker. Difference in quality I guess.
Soundstage is also somewhat narrow as you may already know. I feel like I am parroting other reviewers here but I have wider closed-back headphones, like Fostex TH610s. Still being open-back, they don’t fell claustrophobic. However I need to mention, there is a fact named Sundara. They are similarly priced, have better clarity and detail, decent intimacy unlike other mid-dipped Hifimans, wide soundstage and better extention on both sides. I haven’t tried HD600s on tubes unfortunately because the tubes I tried until now were sloppy and I don’t want to dive into that rabbit hole yet.,
Timbre is as natural as it gets, I sense nothing wrong with it and nothing to elaborate, which is a good thing.
That didn’t end on a high note, did it? Let me address to that. What I made out of HD600s is, they are neutral for the most part but not an all rounder. For vocals, classical or acoustic music, they are a delight. I also enjoyed some low-fi lists people advertise these days a lot. It was a great match. However I couldn’t enjoy Opeth or bass heavy EDM songs, no suprises there.
Let’s take a step back and think. How many headphones do you know that is made in 90s (1998 if I’m not wrong) and still crowd favorite? Maybe other brands learned how to make headphones and competiton got fiercer but people still suggest HD6** series headphones and HD600 arguably best of the iterations. In my opinion HD6XXs are bargain for 200~$ (240$ MSRP on Drop if there is no discount). And if you can find others during sale seasons less than their MSRP, I say grab them. However in 2022 400$ for HD600 (550$ for HD650 and 500$ for HD660s) is a bit stretch. If full size headphone market improved as fast as IEM market, Sennheiser would be in great danger (and they were until they released IE600). But for now, they are still going strong.
Pros: - Great tonality with accurate yet musical vocals
- Modular and replacable with easy to find parts
- Not difficult to drive, beginner friendly even when plugged into a PC or digital piano
- The cheapest audiophile tier headphone to begin your journey
Cons: - If it's not your sound signature, nothing you do will make you like it
- Pads need replacing
- Headband can be uncomfortable for some
I first heard this headphone in an audiophile shop when I was 22, fresh in my first job.
I wanted to reward myself after a hard year of barely staying afloat at work, and only wanted a small upgrade IEM from the terrible RHA MA750 I was using at the time. I eventually settled for a FiiO K3 and Final Audio E4000 which has followed me to 4 years of work.
At the time the HD600 felt like too expensive an investment for me, but I wanted to try it all the same. It looked so angular and tastefully designed. So I auditioned it in store.
I was blown away instantly by how it sounded for vocals. I wanted it right there and then. But not for $500.
I eventually made the mistake of buying a HD6XX hoping it would be a cheaper copy of the HD600. It was not. It was bad.
The HD600 to this day is on my desk as the reference headphone of choice. I break it out for every new album I'm interested in finishing a listening session for. And I use it as a measuring stick when I audition any other potential gear I'm adding to my collection.
Sure it doesn't have all the flavor of a fun headphone like the EMU Teak, sure it doesn't have the magical treble of the ADX5000, and its warmth isn't as all encompassing as the Aeolus.
But what the HD600 does right, is working as a pure benchmark for good, tonally correct vocals. And it does these basics without sacrificing comfort or build. Some Focal headphones do sound more exciting somedays, true. But they can be so heavy and uncomfortable just for that extra pizazz which I may not want on another day. I also don't fancy straining my neck using an Aeolus for a 3 hour Zoom course.
It does all of these for a quarter of the price of a standard high end headphone. The HD800S goes for $2400, the Aeolus for $1700 and the ADX5000 for $2400. The HD600 sits in the same room with these headphones, without embarassing itself, all while coming in at $500.
Some colored headphones make some albums sound better. But when I need it vanilla, I need it through the HD600.
For movies, I would probably move to a set of speakers or a bassier headphone. But I cannot skip the HD600 if it is for personal listening.
An easy 4.5 rating with a 0.5 deducted purely because it's not the ADX5000
Very decent, but certainly not as good as I expected based on all the hype
nice, unoffending signature
can handle quite high volumes well
Cons: quite boring, unengaging sound
somewhat muddy, veiled
music sounds rather "distant", not "in your head"
Personally, I see as the main issue how boring, unengaging it sounds. I dont really feel like I am in direct contact with the music I am listening. Besides, there is slight muddiness. Still recommendable, but from all the hype for these headphones being recommended everywhere across the internet, I would expect better. I am not keeping these.
In direct comparison with Beyerdynamic DT250, I can immediately tell how much more lively DT250 sounds.
Yes, they are closed and have some issues too, but anyway, in comparison of these two, I really had no urge to switch back to HD600.
garbulky: Great review ! It's the insight (from long-time listener's/owner's) that is most critical when defining a components sound quality (potential). As you've done with your review.
I too will purchase the Emotiva A-100 (basX) for my recently purchased Hifiman 400i's -a fantastic (accurate.neutral, transparent, nuanced) reproducer along with layering and finesse that competes with far more expensive makes/models. And this, from the (average?) headphone socket (that I didn't know I had -lol) of the superb Cambridge Audio 840E preamplifer.
For headphone enthusiasts, Massdrop is offering an HD-600 clone for $149. US$ ! How can one resist ?
nec3: (Not a) 'Veil'Heiser. Touche' ! Yeah, that is fair label for some of the company's models, not to name names (HD-650).
At any price point really, an open, neutral extended "sound" should be expected. At the truly 'entry-level' price, consider the superb Koss 'Porta-Pro' ($50.-$75.), or in the full-size category, the excellent Hifiman 400i - a shockingly open, articulate, nuanced and accurate headphone -and a 32 ohm load !