Pros - Detailed, neutral, sound quality. Does not change the tone of the music.
Cons - Needs a good amp to sound it's best.
The Sennheiser HD600 is generally considered the reference headphone for Classical music and opera. I have owned mine for 17 years. I have purchased 5 other headphones since then but I still use my HD600 on a weekly basis and it is still one of my favorites.
The Sennheiser HD600 is considered a neutral headphone. It will sound like whatever your recordings sound like; for better or for worse. The reason that I have 5 other headphones is that not all recordings sound perfect and many recordings benefit from bass and treble boost. But on the occasion that I have a recording that sounds great the way it is, the HD600 is the headphone I choose.
I use CD, Blu-ray, and DVD as my sound source. I mostly use a Marantz CD6005 but sometimes use an Onkyo C-7030 as my CD player. I use a bottom of the line Sony for video.
I drive all my headphones with a Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amplifier. Some of my other headphones sound fine being driven from the headphone output of CD player but the HD600 sounds significantly better with the Asgard 2 amp.
The HD600 is designed for home use. I do not use any portable listening devices and do all my listening exclusively at home.
I primarily listen to opera and orchestral music. I sometimes listen to jazz. If I watch a movie, the HD600 is my first choice of headphone. Movies are heavily equalized already and do not sound good with the added bass and treble boost of my other headphones.
The other headphones I currently own are the Sennheiser HD700, Beyerdynamic DT-880, Beyerdynamic DT-990, Beyerdynamic T51i, and Philips Fidelio X2.
My speakers are the Apogee Centaurs driven by an old Carver solid state amp and a passive preamp. I live in a small condo, so I cannot play my music very loud without disturbing the neighbors. I do most of my music listening with headphones and use the speakers for movies and television.
The HD600 is known for its transparent sound quality. The sound is clear and detailed with sparkling highs and deep and detailed bass. Some will say that the highs are veiled and the bass is lacking but I cannot attribute that to the headphone as much as to individual recordings.
Out of the 6 headphones I currently own, only the HD600 and Beyerdynamic DT-880 are ones that I would consider neutral. All the others boost the bass and treble. It is important to have a neutral headphone because recordings are normally already equalized by the sound engineer and when you use a headphone that acts as an equalizer, it can mess up the sound. To further complicate matters, if the engineer is using a loudspeaker that does not have a flat frequency response to mix the recording, the sound balance can be drastically altered.
The treble extension is a point of controversy among headphone aficionados. Many claim that the HD600 and other Sennheiser models have a veiled treble. I mostly use the HD600 for opera and most of my opera recordings do not sound veiled at all.
On the other hand, opera recordings that sound harsh on some of my other headphones can sound good on the HD600. So some people might want to call that veiled. I tend to think of the highs as “forgiving.”
I think the reason some people think the highs are veiled is that they are comparing the HD600 to some other popular headphones that have boosted high frequencies.
Regardless, the highs are fully extended and clear and most opera recordings.
The HD600 has a gorgeous, detailed midrange that I consider to be reference quality. The midrange is what made the HD600 famous.
The bass is another point of controversy. Some think the HD600 does not have enough bass. I think they might be comparing the bass of the HD600 to headphones with boosted bass.
The HD600 does not have a boosted bass but the bass is well extended and has detail. It all depends on the recording. Recordings with good bass extension will sound warm and deep. Recordings without much bass will sound thin.
Since most of my other headphones add bass, I use my HD600 for recordings that already have a bass boost applied. For example, the remastered recordings of the Schumann symphonies conducted by George Szell have way too much bass added in the remastering. The original budget recording was just right. I cannot listen to the remastered recording on any other headphone than the HD600.
The soundstage on the recordings is accurately represented by the HD600 but like all headphones, the soundstage will collapse if you play them too loud. You have to get the volume just right for the soundstage to come into focus.
One of the best examples is the recording of Handel’s Alcina conducted by William Christie. If you get the volume just right, it is like sitting in the first row, right behind the orchestra pit; with the orchestra below you and the voices coming from the stage.
The Sennheiser HD600 has been around for 20 years now. I have had mine for 17 and I love it more now than ever due to my recent purchase of the Asgard 2 headphone amp. It is my reference when I compare other headphones for addition to my collection.
When reading headphone reviews, the writer usually treats the review as if the listener is only going to use one set of headphones for every recording. That might be true for someone listening to digital files going through an equalizer program. But I am listening to CD’s, DVD’s, and Blu-ray without any equalizer, so I end up using my headphones as an equalizer.
The Sennheiser HD600 is the one headphone I use when I don’t want to change the tonal quality of the music. It is my reference for a neutral headphone.
I usually turn to the HD600 for opera, chamber, and solo piano. For large orchestral music, I like the added bass and treble of my other headphones.
The HD600 is excellent for movies since they are already equalized with added bass and treble.
The HD600 is very comfortable and I can wear it for a long period of time, even while wearing glasses.
If you are a fan of opera and chamber music, I highly recommend trying out the Sennheiser HD600. Many other headphones have come and gone but the HD600 is my reference headphones that all others are compared to.
Cons - Really needs a very beefy amp to open it up. The A-100 was the first that could throw it around.
Having owned this headphone for close to a decade, I feel that I definitely have the experience to write about it.
The first thing is..........if you don't have a headphone amp that likely costs as much or up to five times as much as this unit, you are wasting your money. This thing NEEDS a very powerful headphone amp if you want it to sound great. Otherwise it will merely sound good and pleasant. But you will miss the high resolution bass, the open treble. Pretty much everything that's amazing about them.
Luckily I found the Emotiva basx A-100 amp priced at about 200 and with its resistor jumper taken off, it was just the prescription for this headphones. And what a prescription that was! It threw it from - probably about right for the price to right in to the high end of performance imo.
So here's my review for it. If you are looking for an amp that can push unlimited dynamics with this thing look no further. Just remember to take the jumper off.
Y'all I bought this headphone amp and I couldn't believe it's selling for this price. It is a DREAM with the HD600s. The HD600's no longer feel dark or laid back. It simply came alive. Soundstage, resolution, unlimited dynamics. Oh and really low bass. Just insane really. Imo to beat this amp you are going to have to swing up to a Schiit Ragnarok. It has got huge amounts of power capability and I believe this is the reason the HD600's came alive. Lots of control.
I removed the jumper and absolutely heard a difference in dynamics - there was no smear. Just lightning quick transients. The first time I felt my headphone rig was not second class to my speaker rig. The jumper limtis the current output of the A-100 to prevent high sensitivity headphones from frying. Not a problem for the HD600. With the jumpers off, the A-100 pushes a godly 1300 mwatts in to 300 ohms. Doesn't sound like much? Check out how well other amps do at 300 ohms? You'll be lucky if they squeek out even a 100 mwatts. I've seen amp units that gasp out 14 mwatts at 300 ohms.
At lower impedances the A-100 will push 8.5 watts at 50 ohms more than enough to fry the headphones. Hence the jumpers to prevent over driving lower impedance headphones.
But with the HD600's....it's just a dream.
Speaker and DAC rig: (Axiom M80's fully balanced to Emotiva DC- to XPA-1 gen 2 monoblocks in class A mode + room treatments. With a source the Musiland Digital Times via BNC output. About a $4500 setup). I can't believe I'm saying this but it absolutely competed with this nice sounding speaker setup. In some aspects it did better as well.
I dare you to find anything close anywhere near that's price range.
Along with the huge torroidal transformer, you will see that it has a ridiculous 20,000 mf of capacitance and that performance really shows bringing very low bass and extreme control to this set of headphones. The treble also really opened up. I am definitely hearing more air. The control allows everything to sound holographic with large amounts of layering.
This is a review of the Sennheiser HD600 headphone. The HD600 has been one of the most respected headphones on the market for nearly twenty years. This review will cover construction, comfort, power requirements, sonic performance, comparisons with other headphones, and a conclusion about this world-renowned headphone. With that, let;'s begin.
Nominal Impedance 300 ohms
Weight w/o cable 260 gm
Jack plug 3.5/6.3 mm stereo
Transducer type open, dynamic
Cable length 3m
Frequency rewponse 12-39000 hz
Sound Pressure Leveel (SPL) 97 dB @ 1mw
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) 0.1%
The HD600 is constructed primarily of plastic with a small area of carbon fiber on the band. The pads are velour as is the headband, which makes for substantial comfort. Clamp force is fairly snug, but I can wear this headphone for hours with little discomfort. I have an average sized head. There is plenty of room in the band for those with larger heads. Overall, I would say this is a well-constructed headphone--and it must be because there are people out there who have had theirs for a decade or more.
One final note. My HD600 is brand new and it is not of the blueish hues that 600s of days past have been finished. Mine is black and the top of the band has a black and grayish paisley-like pattern where the word 'Sennheiser' appears. It is quite a beautiful headphone and is much better built than my HE400S is.
I used a wide variety of power sources for this review. What I can tell you is that the HD600 requires a decent amp in order to shine. My ipod shuffle will drive them to loud levels, but it will not provide adequate power to support solid bass and optimal midrange. So, if you are looking at an HD600, be sure to budget for a good amp. You see the ones I use and they all drive the 600 to lovely heights--even the Ocean.
My first impression of the HD600 was of its detail On Pat Metheny's As it Is, the vocals were lush and rich, with individual vocal lines etched out from one another. The air around the voices was clearly audible.I smiled. I knew I was on to something. On Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, the woodwinds blaze a blistering path through the piece. I am in the room with them. They are real. The timpani are blasting acoustic energy at me, their echo clearly audible. On Larry Carlton's Last Nite, Carlton's guitar is harmonically layered like the steps of a stairwell. On Metheny's Minuano, something important emerges. It has to do with the treble. More on that in a bit. On Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, Davey Johnstone's guitar is lush and rich. I have never heard it sound so good. Wow!
I keep spinning the music. And I sit back and listen. And settle in. It's going to be a long session.
HD598 vs HD600
The most profound difference between the 598 and the 600 is that the 598, which I like very much, has sluggish and muddy bass by comparison. It is very sluggish and cannot keep up with the music. This is true on the Pat Travers' Band's Heat in the Street, where the 600 is like a fine German car. The 598, tries its best, but it's an old out-of-repair Nova and it just can't keep up.. That said, the 598 soundstage is clearly better and wider than the 600's is. There is no doubt about it. Instruments occupy a much vaster space with the 598 than they do with the 600. Treble isn't as good with the 598. More on that later.The midrange on the 598 is very nice. But it can't compete with the 600. Vocals in particular are widely different on the two. The 598 is good. The 600 is superb.
HE400S vs HD600
The HE400S is a very good headphone. It has a gorgeous midrange and very nice treble. However, its bass is fairly rolled off starting at around 70-80 hz or so. Sub bass is kind of weak. This is especially notable on song's like Fourplay's Elixir, which has deep bass. The power of this line is lost with the HE400S. The HD600, on the other hand, plays that line with impact. It is not as powerful as my HD681 Evo, but it is still felt and heard. The treble is very interesting. On the aforementioned Elton John and Pat Metheny songs, the drummers use multiple different crash cymbals. On the HE400S, those cymbals all sound fairly similar. On the 600, on the other hand, those cymbals are all each totally unique and distinct sounding. It is remarkable the resolving power of the 600 compared even to the very good HE400S. With midrange, the 400S is thin sounding by comparison to the lush and rich 600. everything is just thinner. It still sounds good, but it is rendered less resolving and full by the HD600, which is just stunningly neutral.
My definition of neutrality is a headphone that sounds good on good recordings and like crap on crappy recordings. In short, it spits out what it is given without adding or subtracting anything appreciable This is what the HD600 does. It adds little and subtracts less from the music. In short, it is a remarkably neutral headphone that is a joy to listen to. Run out and buy two--you'll be glad you did.
The Sennheiser HD600 is a tour de force, lo these many years later. It has an absolutely spectacular midrange, exquisitely detailed treble, and a bass and sub bass that is more than adequate for me. They are musical. They sound like music. Not many headphones can say that. Though its soundstage is smaller than the 598 and HE400S, the 600 images quite well. Instrument separation is superb. It conveys the emotion of the music beautifully. As I alluded to above, run, don't walk, and pick one of these up. You'll find yourself listening for a long, long time.
Pros - Legendary sound, shows off the gear, all na-tu-ral.
Cons - shows its age a tad, kinda clampy.
This is by far the closest I have come to writing a 5 star review. Of course to get that, I would have to find the holy grail of headphones for me.
I had tried the HD558, HD598, HD650, and HD700 and figured I would simply fill in my knowledge gap. I had no intention of keeping the HD600 for any length of time. I found a new pair new for $200, thought it was worth the experience. Obviously, I got more than a fleeting memory.
These headphones sound like a dance in the ballroom. Calm, composed, simply natural. No hidden tricks, but all the skill is present. They are like a golfer who hits the ball 150 yards perfectly straight every stroke. Undeniably others have noted how neutral these headphones sound. Yes, they are correct. A little bass/sub-bass-light, but not many open back dynamics aren't. In fact, the more power you feed to the HD600, the more bass is spit back out. As some of you know, I don't really care what a graph tells me about headphones as cool as graphs are. What matters to me is how they sound, and what wonderful thing they can do to make my music more enjoyable, real, or revealing.
Thanks to our lovely community here, I bought a Project Polaris Amplifier from Garage1217 simply to bring more life to my new friend.
Yes, this made a difference. I plugged it all in real quick, and proceeded to be disappointed until I had the brains to move the gain setting up, and boy that made all the difference! There is now more bass, more extension, and overall more life. The Polaris also showed me something wonderful about the HD600. For the first time I found myself using a headphone to figure out what my gear was doing, rather than narrowing down variables with many other headphones. That is the definition of reference. I spent many hours with many headphones determining the exact sound of a FiiO e10, when it took 10 minutes and some HD600s to find out the same things I had spent so much time gathering.
In case you were wondering about the Polaris: there is a slight tubey hollowness, though not much, excellent extension, and enough low end power to fill out the sound. (The thing needs its own review).
I'm gonna sneek in the ugly real quick.
The clamp is real. The cord is typical Sennheiser (FIX YOUR CABLES), but I don't hate it as much as any other cord they make. At least it ends in a 3.5 default...Not to mention the 1/4 inch adapter is fabulous as well. There isn't really a veil (at least if powered correctly), but there could be more detail.
I came from daily using HD700s. I love them by the way. Now they are in rotation with my HD600s, mostly because the HD600s clamp becomes a bit uncomfortable after a while, or my ears get a tad hot. I can honestly say that there is very little I can find wrong with these headphones.
Would I mix with them? Yes.
Would I test the mix equipment with them? Yes.
The balance and tone are fantastic. Every other headphone I have tried is immediately Bright/Dark Warm/Cold. The HD600s took me by surprise with being none of these things. The only distinguishing factor seems to be the slight lack of lower bass, and the slight hike toward the treble. The best part is pretty much nothing is offensive about the sound. I can relax while listening to them. It is not so much a relaxing sound, but it allows me to be relaxed. Priceless.
As for my per review music recommendation; this is most difficult because everything sound wonderful on these. Nothing was hugely exciting, but everything was as it should be.
I had songs that I really didn't listen to anymore become part of the regular loop again simply because the HD600 did them the right amount of justice.
Song Recommendation: The Veldt (Original Mix) - Deadmau5
If any of you have some nice recommendations, please share. Questions are cool too.
Future comparisons go here: I have found that this is pretty much just describing the sound characteristics of everything except the HD600
HD600 vs HD700:
The HD700 has some warmth, more detail in many frequencies, way more soundstage, and sounds quite smooth due to the warmth. The problem lies in the treble spike which the HD600 simply doesn't have. The HD700 can be a little harsh at times from that spike. The HD600 clamps much more too. They are like cousins. They clearly are from the same family, but have enough difference to not be brothers. I think I like them both equally.The HD700 adds that magic spark to many songs, while the HD600 has a magic neutrality which works with EVERYTHING.
HD600 vs SHP9500:
The SHP9500 has far less clamp, much more shallow pads, and of course the wonderful advantage of having a single 3.5mm port for the wire. The sound is a bit grittier on the SHP9500. The SHP9500 sounds a leaner than the HD600 though they are very similar sound signature-wise. The soundstage is a bit better on the SHP as well. The SHP9500 is a wonderful deal for the price point. I also think the HD600 is a worthy upgrade, especially if you just want fuller, more cohesive sound. Simply put, the HD600 basically replaced my SHP9500 for daily use.
HD600 vs HD558:
Seems unfair right? Well, the Project polaris amp added much clarity to my HD558s, so now they are not far off of a very bassy HD650. Obviously still more veiled, a bit of a treble hike at like 10k? Much boost in the mid-bass. There is more extension in the HD600. The pads are thicker on my HD600, but wither pair can have the pads replaced with HM5 pads using adapters from ModHouseAudio.
They both share that Sennheiser smoothness.
HD600 vs Superlux 668b
Well, now you know my next review. The Superlux is much less forgiving and harsh, more treble, and gives excellent detail. The Superlux strikes me as a bit V shaped with emphasis on the treble comparatively. Definitely leaner than the HD600. some frequencies are a bit under-represented on the Superlux. The bass is a bit lean too, but it gives pretty good extension, and great soundstage. The real difference for me is that it sounds like you are monitoring a recording on the Superlux, While listening to music on the Senneheiser. Of course the 668b has far less "veil" and more excitement similar to the HD700, but not nearly as full as the HD700. I think these are wonderful as well.
HD600 vs HD650
With fairness that the HD650 did not get the Polaris amp treatment: While the HD600 is pure neutrality, the HD650 tries to become a bit more fun by adding mid-bass. The treble becomes slightly accentuated as well. the result is that the roll off in lower bass is more noticable, but the overall sound is smoother. The vocals are not quite as clear with the 650, but gains enough warmth to make up for it. I think it is just as capable as the 600 in detail retrieval. I recommend the 650 if you herd the 600 and wanted a little soundstage and smooth warmth instead of only raw neutrality.
Conclusion: If you have not tried HD600s on a good amp; make it a must for your audiophile knowledge. I now understand the well deserved status these carry after all this time. I not only put these on my list of approved headphones, they go right on top, right where they belong, on their throne.
Pros - Natural and Smooth Sounding, Modular Parts, Lightweight, Scales with Equipment
Cons - Too many people hyping the "veil"
So I finally have my hands on a headphone I never thought I would lay hands on. The Sennheiser HD600. Despite the high amount of positive reviews these get, I disregarded THEM in the past and explored other choices on the market. Even the Veilheiser HD598 that I bought were a slight disappointment. Mids sound too laid back and hidden behind a silk curtain, Japanese female vocals are slightly sibilant friendly from the sparkly treble, the soundstage isn't intimate enough and the bass seeped into the mids without much sub bass extension. But I like the mid bass presence, it is wide and gives any instrument; especially cellos, a meaty and down to earth presentation which was quite opposite of the Q701. Was it not for the Q701, I'd give the HD598 more praise. I know the HD598's are in a different price bracket now (150CAD) but at the time they were a bit more (200CAD) and costed the same as a Q701.
The Q701’s. Their Mids are sweet, clear, crisp and definitely haunted by the 2khz peak that introduced artificial tones. The peak is a double edged sword that could also give some fortissimo-like emotion to poprock music, boost metallic textures from string instruments and it's the reason for the sweetness in the mids. The treble has texture and it's easy to tell whether the drummer is using a brush stick, wood stick, crash, splash or riding. But treble lacks sparkle of the HD598. Bass extended deep, and the clean mid bass gave room to vocals that sounds much leaner compared to the HD600. But as much detail the Q701’s have, they're a specialized headphone, Japanese media shamelessly advertise the headphones and there's no doubt their music strives with the Q701. Although the flip side is fatiguing, dry, fast decay and indeed artificial with the wrong recording. No doubt a favorable characteristic for medieval renaissance or drum and bass.
The HD600 I believe has so many strengths that it took me 30 minutes to shelve my Q701’s. There were so many mentions of the HD600’s guilty of the infamous veil, I didn't want the weird mids of the HD598 to touch my beloved vocals. There was so much flak that the entire HD600’s simple truth was the treble recession compared to other headphones. Other than that, all instruments and vocals have such a natural decay, they're smoother and female vocals simply extended into the 1khz area that was overshadowed by the 2khz peak of the Q701. Mid bass isn't just bloomy like the Hd598, but it's thick, detailed and actually so great it's able to cover up the sub bass roll off that I could easily disregard. The HD600 has a hidden sparkle and the treble itself is significant enough to balance out the warmth and not show any sort of sibilance.
Ideally I wouldn't be able to recommend the HD600 for competitive gaming because of its lack of forward and rear soundstage. I'd say I recommend it now because valve has created the HRTF headphones setting for counterstrike global offensive. All it does is muffle rear sounds and create a wider soundstage that is not usable with the Q701 because of its already large soundstage. But the HD600’s soundstage and imaging is cohesive compared to a Q701. Some people say the hd600 has a small soundstage, I disagree. I've heard the hd800 before and I can simply say that kind of soundstage is enjoyable, but way too big. Others of course may disagree.
One of the absolute amazing feature of the HD600 is that it is modular. I can replace the headband, headband foam,ear cups, the shell, the cable, the driver, the inner foam of the ear cups that I replaced with pantyhose to give the headphone a luxuriously spacious feeling. All without using tools. It feels so much lighter than the Q701 too. But I wish my headphones were new, because I would have liked the stronger clamp. The other name for these are the snapheiser, and for that I won't risk trying to bend these back.
The HD600 is not dark and not too warm. Trust me, take it from a bright headphone user who is satisfied with a JDS Labs ODAC/O2 pairing of an ER4S or Q701. I can also gladly run them off my Sony C4 phone and it will not disappoint. However the HD600’s are definitely capable of equipment scaling.
My headphone search has ended, so you could possibly end yours with an HD600.
Pros - Clear, neutral, amazing sound, comfortable, everything is right about them.
Cons - You need an amp to get the best from them. (Subjective) - Clamp is decently tight.
They are AMAZING headphones, if you like neutrality and clear audio, there is really no competitor, Grados 325e? Not even close, Audio technica r70x? You're kidding me.
I can't emphasize enough, YOU NEED THESE HEADPHONES, they make sub-par songs sound great, you will love them, no matter how expensive your current headphones are. No more needs to be said....
Pros - Clear highs, rich and pronounced mids, tight accurate bass and sub bass, fully modular, price
Cons - Proprietary cable, dated design
Firstly let me just say that out of everything I own and have currently owned. The HD600s are my favourite in terms of sound. The headphones may have a high impedance, but they are not that hard to drive. Pretty much anything makes this beauty shine, and that’s what makes it great.
I purchased this headphone new from a local store in NZ. I got them pretty cheap (used to work there). I got them for $370NZD or around $250USD with current conversion. I WOULD HAVE PAID SO MUCH MORE if I knew the sound that came out of these headphones.
The HD600s are the type of headphones that make you listen to everything you’ve ever listen to again because it’s how it should have sounded at the time. I literally stayed up 4-5 hours the night I got them and skimmed through my library listening to everything. It was a revelation.
Now, I know there are a lot of reviews on this headphone already, so I won’t bore you with the origins and where it was made, who it was made for jazz. I’ll get down to the build, comfort and sound quality.
The majority of this headphone is made from plastic, whether it be the speckled stone kind or the industrial black kind. This doesn’t make the headphone feel cheap however. The build is quite precise and is great in my opinion for the price of the unit. I would much rather a company put money and effort tuning the sound than making a headphone out of metals for example.
The HD600s are very well put together. The biggest advantage of this type of build is the modularity and modability. Every part of the headphone, excluding the drive itself of course, can be disassembled by the owner and replaced if broken. I’ve read about broken headbands and cracking of plastic. I have not had this experience myself, but if I had I feel much more safe in the fact that I can fix the headphone myself if it is out of warranty.
The build is accurate and durable where it counts. The size adjustment is hard to move, clicky and metal. The pivots for the earpieces themselves are sturdy and strong. The terminals for the wires are also very accurate so that you can’t mix the cables when putting them in. Though I do have a gripe about them being proprietary.
Coming from the HD280s the HD600s were like clouds. Honestly the squeeze of the older monitoring cans could have burst watermelons.
The HD600 I can understand have slightly more clamp force than a lot of other headphones. For example compared to my HE-400i’s and TH-X00’s which are much lighter and more comfortable in comparison. This isn’t to say these aren’t though!
The HD600’s feel SECURE on your head. I’m not afraid to walk around or bend down to pick something up while wearing them. I’m not afraid they are going to fall off my head and break on the floor; something I would never do with the HD800s. I would happily wear these cans for a long session and have done so
The velour pads are super comfortable. They don’t feel hot and they don’t sweat after long listening sessions. The pivot and adjustability of the headphones are more than enough to fit a wide variety of different head shapes. The ear cups are large and accommodating without my ears hitting the inside or getting squashed.
Gripes. I know a lot of people like the headband. I think it isn’t bad at all. However when I wore them for extended periods of time, I began to feel the lumps on the top of my head. They begin feeling hard over time. Not physically, it must be in my mind but it does get noticeable.
What most people do and should care about
The HD600s can be best described as caramel going into your ears. I know the mental image of this does not seem appealing at all but the sound is just so warm and rich! Boring music sounds lively. Even classical music can be enjoyed in a slow relaxed manner on these headphones.
I won’t lie, the treble is rolled off a bit. It isn’t as sparkly clear as it’s bigger brothers the HD700 and HD800. However this isn’t a bad thing. Not everyone wants to hear piercing highs all the time. This headphone still has clear precise highs, but they know when to stop. They stop before it gets fatiguing to listen to. I can honestly say this is why I always come back to these. They give such a relaxed and pleasant listening experience.
The mids are very well pronounced. Vocals sound amazing on this headphone and it sounds cheesy I know, but it makes voices sound so real and human. This headphone preserves the personality in music. Something a lot of flat monitoring can just take away.
I’m a young guy, I like my bass haha. This headphone has plenty!
The bass it clean, tight and punchy. However there is also decent sub bass. The overall timbre of sound is enriched by the low end of this headphone. It doesn't colour the music as much as you think, but it does give whatever you’re listening to some heart and soul.
The soundstage of this headphone isn’t that big. Picture an oval 10-20% larger than your head around your head and sounds can come from anywhere in that area. For enjoying music this headphone is great. However I wouldn’t use them to experience an orchestra.
The soundstage might be smaller than some other headphones. But the area it does have to play around with, it does so accurately. You can clearly pinpoint where sounds are coming from.
For the price, or even for more than the price (especially what I paid) you get an amazing set of headphones. The type of sound that makes you question all your listening before these.
It’s affordable enough for even poor students (me) to get into the audiophile game. While giving so much in return. This is definitely deserving of the second spot for headphones
Pros - Wonderful mids, easy listen for long periods, great for audio work, nice comfort, cheap in Europe.
Cons - Sub bass, proprietary connections, plasticky design, highs vs. good planars
This is a classic for a good reason, it just does so much right. It basically excels at nothing (but the mids), but it's just so easy to believe in the way it represents music. It's my go-to headphone for checking out mixes and music production in general.
Here's my video-review of the HD600:
COMFORT, BUILD & CABLE
They sit tightly on one's head, but the clamp is pretty much spot on - a bit tight at first, but it gets very good. These fit my big head easily. The oval-shaped earpads are some of the comfiest (Beyers are maybe even better). They are very light and seem to take lots of beating too. For the price they are kind of plasticky, but all of the components can be replaced in needed. I once misplaced the input on the right side - I thought these 'phones were done for... Well, all I needed to do (after watching a tutorial) was take the HD600 apart (without any tools, mind you!) and move the socket back into place. This took me under 2 minutes.
I've had the HD650 cable from the start, that's what my used pair came with. Buying an expensive replacement cable would be the last thing I'd do to make them sound better. If you want different looks or length, go for it - but it's not going to affect the sound quality substantially. If the cable works, it works!
Let's get into sound quality! I listen to lots of rock, metal, pop, hip-hop and some jazz...
Very well proportioned, it's one of the few that get the amount right. It's not bass-deficient like AKG K701 or too fat like Philips Fidelio X2, it's somewhere in between. For me, it's the right amount of lows to make good judgments when mixing. It's also very pleasing when listening, as long as you're not coming straight from some bassy 'phones. It doesn't screw up the mids or seem lacking either. Bass is where my (150 euro) HD595 faltered, they were kind of all over the place in it.... BTW, I trust the HD600 much more when mixing bass frequencies than my Adam A7 active monitors (with a sub) because of the bad acoustics in my apartment. All in all, these type of neutral headphones are great for mixing the lows especially, much recommended!
The sub-region is not at all at the level of my Audeze LCD-2(rev.1), but this is very similar to most speakers without external sub-woofers. Just to mention, the sub-bass region isn't even that important in most mixes, it's very often cut out almost completely. The "meat" of any mix is above say 60hz anyway. There's no problem with the HD600 there. (When there is much information in the subs I grab my LCD-2's...)
Man, these do great here. Guitars, vocals, bowed instruments, you name it. HD600 rule the roost (HD650 too). Listening to Back In Black by AC/DC those rhythm guitars just sound so in-your-face, neutral and correct.... Very few headphones get to these levels of mids quality. My LCD's get there pretty much, but maybe not quite as realistic levels - the differences are not that big. This is where HD600 can compete with those 1K-headphones very well.
Those nice guitars by AC/DC are doing their their beautiful crunch in the highs too, and yes, they most certainly are. There is a boost in the 3K region, that might be the reason HD600 sounds kind of "dry", not dressing up any ugly things happening with the most important things in a mix (vocals, guitars, snare, kick etc.). The sound stage is very much controlled, not very big like K701. But, my Audezes sound audibly more clear in the highs - it seems as if there is more headroom and less distortion. They're at least more pleasant up there. That's for sure.
I used to have both of the HD6xx-models. But, once I got my LCD-2's, the HD650 became kind of redundant - they didn't match the fun factor of that Audeze low-end or have the same level of resolution in the highs. HD600 is dryer and more "boring" in some ways than the 650, but that's the exact reason I kept them. They are just great at telling what's going on in a mix. HD650 were pretty close, but slightly too nice and fat in the low-end... Bad mixes just didn't sound bad enough! If I could only have one pair of open headphones at home, HD650 just might be my choice. But, HD600 are more neutral and LCD-2 more fun.
I used to use these straight out of my Apogee Duet's headphone output. Recently I bought a Schiit Lyr 2 that makes the low-end slightly more balanced. But, the differences aren't huge (say it like Trump!). The Schiit brings a slight more subs into the mix and flattens the "hump" in the lows/low-mids. I bet I'd be quite happy with the Duet still though, if I didn't have my Lyr.
Thanks for reading! This headphone gets my recommendation easily, after +30 pairs of different models owned. As the prices for top models go up, these stand firm. Released in 1997, almost 20 years ago... They are still one of the best! Check out a pair if you haven't yet.
BTW, I'm not affiliated with anyone, I'm doing these reviews for my own (and your) enjoyment.
I bought these headphones because I thought that closed cans were getting a bit fatiguing (pressure on the ear-drum from closed environment), because I wanted a can that could adapt to a balanced cable well, and because I wanted a neutral sound signature. I got all of those things.
These are great all around performers and one of the best bargains that you can get in Head-Fi if you are willing to buy them used. I live in the UK and searched around for these in the UK and Germany used (always good to look at prices in several countries). I ended up picking these up for £135 off of a seller in Germany. I saw others go for more, and later others go for less, but I still feel they are one the most spectacular non-free bargains I have gotten in Head-Fi.
The pair that I got has older drivers in it, and newer ones are reported to sound better--they have different materials in their voice-coils. Mine had worn down pads that made the bass sound muffled and limpid. It was like someone had strangled a snake and bathed it in chip oil. It was terrible sounding bass. Luckily, that was easy to fix, as soon as I got my replacement ear-pads they sounded like a completely different headphone. The veil was lifted, the bass was released from it's greasy dungeon, and the headphone became much more enjoyable. It still lacks on the bass, though.
I listen to all kinds of music, from Miles Davis to Megadeth with stop-overs in weird Indie land, twee town, and the punk pits. These play what I like very well. I compared these to the stock HD800, and found that I thought the HD800 bass sounded loose and unsatisfying. The HD800 does space and bright lights well, like the Hubble telescope pointed to far away galaxies, but it's bass image was like if you turned that Hubble telescope at earth and didn't adjust the focus enough. I don't feel that way with the HD600, yay for my wallet!
In the not too distant past, I finally got to try these beauties with a balanced cable, thanks, @pedalhead. I hooked up some Cable Pro Panorama balanced cables, plugged them into the balanced headphone out on a LH Labs Pulse Infinity + LPS stack and pressed play. The sound stage expanded dramatically, note impact and fullness shot up, and I found these inexpensive used purported to be mid-fi headphones performing on par with MrSpeakers Ether playing out of a single ended amp. I didn't do a direct head-to-head with both having balanced cables, and both playing out of the same amp (the MrSpeakers Ether was playing out of a special Cary Xciter Moon Audio upgraded valve amp), but damn those HD600s scale beautifully. At the Cambridge Head-Fi meet in April I had a similarly surprising experience with the Icon Audio HP8 MkII valve amp (there is one in a used shop down the street from me, very tempted). The soundstage exploded at me like a pile of black cat fireworks on the 4th of July with insufficient length faulty fuses. Luckily, no one was injured.
I think everyone should own the HD600. If nothing else, it is a way to keep more expensive headphones honest. I know that I won't be buying a MrSpeakers Ether after hearing the HD600 with a middle of the road balanced cable, the MrSpeakers just isn't worth $1200 dollars more to me. I've also had the privilege of hearing this with the iFi iCan, and can say that the bass boost on the iCan made it sound like the headphone I've been wanting. The iCan and Micro iDSD are stellar choices, by the way, and drive the HD600 beautifully. One big advantage of the HD600 is it's neutral signature. If I listen with these, I know that any colour I'm hearing is from the source or the amp, so they are very good headphones for critical listening.
There is one caveat I should apply: my HD600s have been modded. I removed the neutral acoustic foam and replaced it with what is referred to as tights in Britain (panty hose in the USA). This mod opened up the soundstage a little and made the HD600 a little brighter and crisper. Not everyone prefers it this way, and when listening to my suddenly bright Feliks Audio Elise tube amp (it's the C3G tubes) it can be a little fatiguing. The HD600s have a similar signature either way, so I'd advise people to try both ways. You can put the foam back in and tights cost next to nothing. I'm curious to try with a bit thicker acoustically neutral material to tame some of the overbright pairings. Speaking of pairings, for 300 ohm headphones, these are actually pretty easy to drive. They are listenable out of my Dell Vostro's headphone jack, and my DX50 sounds good with them. More power is better, especially for bass performance, but is not required for an enjoyable listen.
If you don't have these headphones. You should remedy that, unless you are a basshead. End of review.
Cons - Intrinsic design elements (i.e., they're open), underrated because they've been around forever
If this is your first foray into high-end audio, you're listening at home, and you can afford a decent amplifier, buy these cans before you splurge for any others.
Let me first attempt to burnish my credibility. I've had my HD600s for a few weeks. I'm not Steve Guttenberg and I haven't heard every system on earth. I have installed a number of 4-figure 7.1 systems, designed and installed my own room correction, and annoyed the Magnolia people at Best Buy by spending way too long running my own demo material through 5-figure Martin Logan electrostats. Also, I didn't spend my youth at KISS concerts, so at least for now, I'm not deaf.
Some cans I've owned or still own:
Grado SR80 (open, dynamic, $100) Sony MDR-7506 (closed, dynamic, $100) Oppo PM3 (closed, orthodynamic, $400) Hifiman 400i (open, orthodynamic, $500)
I compared all of them back to back with these HD600s for many hours through a huge variety of well-recorded material, in all cases with an O2/ODAC. This latter component has ruler-flat response and zero audible distortion; I'm not messing with the output with anything that might favor one can at the expense of another.
My short take is this: start with these HD600s. Mixing, pleasure listening, whatever; if your environment allows for open cans, start here. Nothing cheaper is a more complete product in aggregate. You can spend more and get improvements in some areas, but almost always with commensurate disadvantages elsewhere. Plenty of folks with $1500 HD800s keep their HD600s anyway for when they get tired of the pointed treble of that otherwise stellar can. Orthodynamics and electrostats will top them in the midrange and highs, but often lose on bass impact.
Start with the HD600 so you can find out what you like. Because it's been around for 20 years as an audiophile benchmark that everyone's heard, you can find endless measurements and comparisons. A sentence that starts with, "I like my HD600 except for ..." is likely to bear more fruit than any other reference.
That in mind, let's talk about how they're designed and how they compare with the others above.
OPEN VS. CLOSED:
Headphones are just small speakers. With any speaker, you only want to hear one side. The other side makes the same noise at the same volume, but reversed in phase. If you could magically direct both sides at each other, they'd cancel out. (This is incidentally why it's important not to wire a channel backwards in your home stereo. Weird frequency nulls ensue.) We therefore need to do something with the reversed signal so it won't pollute the primary.
Closed cans (and conventional box speakers) cover the back of the driver with baffling material to absorb the sound energy. While this approach doesn't want for accuracy or frequency response, it does tend to make the listening space sound smaller. Open headphones (and "infinite baffle" speakers) solve the baffling problem by not solving it; they just vent the back of the speaker into a huge space. Great for acoustics (no need to account for backpressure and the like), but at the cost of treating the missionary one seat over to your collection of Eazy-E.
Sennheiser assumes you're listening at home with this can, so they've opted for an open design.
SOUND AND COMFORT:
Comfort is excellent. I have a big head and big ears. There's a lot of compression and I had to stretch the band a bit. After that, the light weight and plush cups that actually fit around my ears were easy to forget. The SR-80 are on-ear and uncomfortable, the PM3 are on-ear (for me) and very uncomfortable, the 7506 are on-ear and equally comfortable (because they have no clamping pressure), and the 400i are over-ear and equally comfortable.
Treble is very good. Clean, not strident, and neutral or very slightly forward. On par or better than the 400i for most material. The PM3 is noticeably recessed, but otherwise excellent. The 7506 has a somewhat forward mix with at least one frequency peak that can make it sound thin. The SR80 is quite sharp and tiring with trumpets, violins, and so on. This same treble overemphasis can add life to otherwise dull recordings.
Midrange is excellent. The 7506 sounds fairly good, but a bit "fake" and radio-ish back-to-back with the others. The SR80 has a large emphasis here suited to solo vocals, but becomes fatiguing quickly on any recording with more than a few things going on, particularly modern rock or pop. The 400i is stellar. The PM3 is almost as stellar, though ever-so-slightly colored. The HD600 has a very subtle, pleasing coloration I didn't catch until I equalized it. Detail resolution is slightly behind the orthos.
Bass is excellent. Both orthos play a little deeper and with better definition, but lack the HD600's "punch." The 7506 is decent here. The SR-80 might as well not have bass at all. There's a definite argument for the PM3; I might even prefer that one because, like all good orthos and unlike conventional dynamics, there's less distortion at low frequencies. Very pure, distinct tones.
My best description of the HD600 is "euphonic." There's nothing wrong with the sound. It doesn't sparkle or pound, or whatever wine-review description accompanies cans that try too hard. It's the kind of sound that makes you wonder where the last three hours went.
FILES AND DACS:
You can't talk about an output device without a parallel discussion about the signal chain. That includes your audio file, a DAC, and an amp.
The importance of file format is overrated. No one's ever been able to reliably tell the difference between 44 KHz / 16-bit CD "Redbook" audio and any ostensibly better (e.g., SACD, DVD-A) digital format. Surround sound and the limited dynamic range of analog records might be pleasing to some folks, but for pure 2-channel listening, there's no point chasing anything better than a CD .
In fact, even lossy compression may suffice. Much of the vitriol directed at lossy file formats stems from bad encoders. If you converted your CDs to MP3 at low bitrates with whatever terrible encoder we had fifteen years ago, you'll probably catch some noises you won't like in some material (e.g., a subtle warble in the ring of a cymbal). But modern 256 Kb/s AAC (Apple's preferred format) or 320 Kb/s MP3 encoded in the last five years? The confluence of factors necessary to be able to distinguish it from the original source (trained listener, good hearing, great gear, isolated sound, repeated listening, looking for that specific flaw) is so rare as to be irrelevant.
DACs (digital to analog converters) take your MP3, FLAC, MP4, or whatever digital signal and convert it to an analog signal that can be amplified. They're not that complicated; this conversion is very much a solved problem. Or would be if not for the lack of a line-out to skip the amplifier stage in most audio devices, or the tendency to bury the poor DAC among other noisy components that pollute the sound (read: every motherboard ever). If you decide you want a separate one, anything actually labeled as a DAC (ODAC, Modi, whatever) is fine. I spent a lot on an ODAC because it measures well enough never to need upgrading, but honestly, you could replace it with a $30 Fiio DAC and I might not notice.
Amps have one primary purpose: make the cans play loud enough. Your laptop, phone, iPod, and sound card all have amps already. Whether any particular amp/headphone combination plays loud depends on the sensitivity (dB/mW) of the headphones, their "ohm" rating (their input impedance; the electric equivalent of backpressure), and how much power the amp can output at that ohm rating. Cans with low impedance (e.g., 20-30 ohms) and high sensitivity (100+ dB/mW) are easy to drive. You could run them to deafening volumes off an iPod. Higher impedance cans, not so much. These HD600s have high impedance (300+ ohms) and middling sensitivity. They need more power. They need an external amp, whether portable and battery-powered or a metal box at home.
Just for kicks, let's do some math to prove the point. Loudness is all about decibels. Deafening is 120 dB, loud is 90 dB, and libraries are 40 dB. On this scale, things sound twice as loud every +10 dB, but every +3 dB needs double the power. You probably want to be able to hit at least 110 dB for transients. Maybe 115 dB if you don't like your spouse and want to never hear them again.
The iPhone 6 has pretty typical power output for a portable:
The scale is linear: double the ohm load and you (in physics land with spherical cows and amps that don't run out of current or voltage) cut the output wattage in half. These HD600s are 300ish ohms with sensitivity around 97 dB/mW. The iPhone manages 3 mW for a load like this, so we're looking at maybe 101 dB max. Weak sauce, particularly since that's the loudest possible volume and the average volume for most recordings (that aren't Metallica) will be quite a lot lower. (If you raise the average levels with a maxed-out amp, the peaks won't get any louder, but they will clip and distort.) Compare the PM3: that one does 101 dB/mW with impedance around 30 ohms. With 25 mW from the iPhone, we end up at 115 dB; much more potent. You'd need 60 mW at 300 ohms (about 25 times as much power) to get the same volume out of the HD600.
After power, the next challenge for the amp is to not ruin frequency response. That's hard for one big reason: the impedance of dynamic headphones (all of them unless labeled orthodynamic or electrostatic) changes with frequency. It might be 200 ohms at this frequency and 400 ohms at another. If the amp's output impedance is zero, that doesn't matter. If it's more than zero, the voltage sent to the cans (and by implication how loud they are at that frequency) will change over the frequency range. Whatever response curve Sennheiser had in mind ("Ve shall haf 14% less zeebilance"), high output impedance can result in something very different. This is why it's hard to take subjective opinions seriously if you don't know how the headphones were driven.
There's another benefit to low output impedance: better bass control. Speakers tend to get sloppy and distort with frequencies near their resonance peaks. That manifests as a muddy, definition-smothering bass hump. The best way to prevent this distortion is with electrical damping, the ability of the amp to electrically prevent unwanted movement (in the same way that it's hard to spin a motor if you've shorted the power terminals). To keep the bass tight and changes in frequency response inaudible, the amp impedance needs to be, if not zero, at least 8 times less than the headphone impedance. A few inexpensive devices pull this off with just about every can (e.g., the original Sansa Clip+ that measures 1 ohm), though not many (the various iPhones tend to be 5-10 ohms).
Everything else about amps starts to get subjective. To me, the perfect amp has zero distortion. To the folks buying tube amps, distortion is the whole point. Same thing with deviations to the frequency response curve; best-case, it's flat over the entire range, but if the "house curve" of your headphones is the typical V-shape with an emphasis on bass and treble, an amp that rolls both ends will make the cans an easier listen over the long term. Tube amps usually attenuate the high end; since the classic "audiophile" curve has strong treble to emphasize detail, softening that treble peak quite often sounds better.
Anyway, long story short, if the open design of these HD600s didn't already to consign them to home use, their high impedance almost certainly will unless you want to supplement your traveling kit with something like a Fiio E07K.
HD600 vs. HD650:
The HD600 is one of the most neutral headphones available. Everyone says that about speakers they're used to that don't have glaring response anomalies (and sometimes even if they do), but it's true here: the correction to flatten the HD600's frequency curve is minimal. Music tends to be mastered with a neutral output device in mind; if your hearing isn't unusual, neutral cans are likely to sound good over the broadest cross-section of material.
The HD650 is the same experience less some treble. It's constructed almost identically to the HD600; the $100 price difference is a marketing maneuver that has nothing to do with sound quality. Rolling the treble lends a "warmer" and slightly less detailed sound that'll flatter music mastered "hot" or with excessive treble or bass equalization. ("Warm" in audiophile parlance is akin to warm and fuzzy; "hot" mastering implies that the sound engineer compressed the dynamic range to make everything loud.) The HD650 also won't draw quite as much attention to themselves. Whether that's better is personal preference. The HD700 and HD800 take the opposite approach: you're getting detail whether you want it or not.
Incidentally, not all "detail" is the same. Detail comes from boosted treble or better drivers. Lesser cans favor treble. Bumping the high range sounds clear and vivid on first listen, but quickly becomes fatiguing. (Bose speaker demos are notorious for this.) Better cans opt for more powerful, higher-impedance, lower-distortion drivers (or different technologies entirely as with electrostats) so intrinsically revealing that the manufacturer can use a more relaxed tone curve. The most detailed dynamic cans (i.e., the HD800) have only a mild treble bump. Less, even, than the HD700, which makes do with a less sophisticated driver. It's unsurprising, then, that reviewers tend to find the HD700 a little harsh on direct comparison.
You could achieve the HD650's sound by plugging the HD600 into tubes, but if that's really what you want, there's a better way.
Here we enter controversy. Audiophile purists believe in maintaining the integrity of the signal from recording to output. 24-bit audio, SAC-D, fancy cables, and giant Class A furnace amps are not out of place in this crowd. I respect the motivations for that view, but I've abandoned it with the HD600 for the better. We've had enormous advances in signal processing over the last twenty years. The HD600 is a mechanical device. It doesn't, and can't, have an perfectly flat frequency response. The cups and driver enclosure impact the sound too much, even if the driver itself could be made perfect, which it can't.
But if we measure the curve, we can recreate any frequency response we want by digitally modifying the input. This is DSP: digital signal processing. The software equalizer in iTunes is a basic DSP, as is Autotune and every "enhance" button you've ever seen in a music player. The processing is almost never "free" (in the sense that it'll only have positive effects), but the benefits can vastly outweigh the downsides.
To jump straight to the point, a company called Sonarworks has measured and corrected the HD600. The plugin is about $70 from them, and in addition to making the HD600 a legitimate tool for mastering, it also improves ordinary listening sessions quite a lot. Bass impact in particular, always a weak point with headphones, sounds speaker-like through it. The Sonarworks VST plugin works through a VST-supporting player like J-River Media Jukebox or any of a dozen VST hosts (e.g, Audio Hijack on Mac). If you don't like the result, you can emulate a variety of other headphones. Grado GS1000? Sure. HD650? Yep. I hate spending money on things that aren't hardware, but in this case, I'm sold.
It gets better. After you've installed that, download Wave Arts Panorama5. It's a very powerful binaural emulator that'll take recordings out of your head and put the singer in front of you. Real binaural recordings use a dummy head with physical ears to create positioning cues that can sound wildly more realistic. Panorama (and free, albeit much inferior alternatives like 4Front and Psypan) use HRTFs (head-related transfer functions) to modify a conventional signal with math to recreate the dummy head effect. Done well and matched to your ears, it can leave you agog. ("Why is my neighbor pounding on the ceiling? Oh. Wait.") Likewise a program called "Out of Your Head," which is expensive because the author measured a bunch of high-dollar audio setups. Want your HD600s to sound (exactly) like a movie theater? That's now a thing.
To wrap this novel: definitely try the HD600s. They're frequently on sale in the low $200s. There isn't anything as good anywhere near that price. To give perspective, after demoing them against the 400i for a month, an ortho at twice the price that everyone raves about, I returned the 400i. But I'm a home listener. If you're on the go, have small ears, and don't want to annoy everyone, try the Oppo PM3 instead. Truly, you can't go wrong with either.