Pros: Build, comfort, durability, lightness, design
All parts are replaceable
Big ol' packaging, nice presentation
Neutral but not boring, smooth in every way possible
Snappy and fast bass
Incredible midrange, one of the best vocal reproductions in a headphone
Supremely handed treble that shines with higher volumes
Tonality is pretty much spot on
Can be easily took as a reference point
Good dynamics, detail retrieval and imaging
They work with every genre of music
They scale a lot with better gear/more powerful amps (apparently, they are married with tubes).
Great pricing at 300$, still holding a very good value after 20 years
Cons: They really need an amp to sound their best
Big, bulky and open back, things that restrict portability a lot
Pretty narrow soundstage and not very deep
They aren't as engaging/fun as some headphones at their price range or even lower
Clamping force is a bit too tight at first, but gets down over usage
Not great for those with super ThiCC glasses like me.
Subbass presence and extension is a bit disappointing
Unforgiving to bad recordings/low quality files
You know them, he knows them, they too, everybody does. So what are these?
From their first debut in 1997 to today, the HD600 and HD650 have been one of the most loved and used headphones in the audiophile community.
What made them so special? What was the key that Sennheiser managed to develop to let them stand to the testament of time?
Let's find out.
Packaging and accessories:
Pretty basic I would say, with a nice presentation.
That's the big chungus of the boxes.
Black cardboard on the outside, gray foam on the inside. As you open the package you'll find the warranty and the instructions, under it lies the headphones themselves with the cable and a 6.3mm adapter.
Sennheiser proprietary connector ... Atleast left and right are weel identified.
As you can see the left one is a bit bigger and you can insert them only in one direction, with the letter pointing on the outside of the cup.
Build quality and comfort:
The HD600s are built really nicely, even tough they are almost entirely made of plastic, they feel sturdy and light at the same time, not quite flexible, but enough to make you think these can last years to come.
The cups are of an oval shape and they are tilted a bit, they can pivot and swipe up and down. They are covered by a metal grille to protect the driver from dust and objects. The velour pads are really nice but pheraps a bit stiff, I wish they could be a bit wider.
The pieces that connects the cups to the headband are made of steel, you adjust these depending on your head size.
The plastic headband is heavily padded with 4 nuggets of what seems foam, but I can't really tell.
You might ask what's the strongest point of this old yet extremely practical design... And it's the capability to take it apart by hand and reassemble it like you drink water.
Now, that cable... It's too damn long and it's thick as spaghetti, 3 meters of spaghetti, I'm constricted to wrap it with a cord.
However it doesn't hold it's shape and it's really light, the 6.3mm adapter is indeed proprietary , but it's pretty nice.
Comfortwise, I can keep them for hours and hours on my head and I don't need to adjust them every second.
Yeah, the clamping force is pretty damn tight at first, and even if it goes down after some weeks, it could still cause some issues.
For example, me, who wears some thick glasses, can't stand to put them on more than 1 minute while wearing the HD600s... They pads presses the ears on them and it literally hurts.
However the clamps manages to make them one of the most secure headphones out there, like, I could run with these, never questioning if they would fall off my head anytime soon.
I was a bit skeptical about this factor, reading forums, watching videos and learning that they needed an Emotiva A100 (it's a speaker amp and it has an headphone out that is obviously limited for preventing the drivers to explode/going on fire, however you can install some jumpers on the circuitry, bypassing the resistance and giving some FULL FLEDGE 8WPC to 50ohms... To your headphones...) to unleash their full potential.
Now, you can get these at listenable levels through your phone (better would be a DAP), however I can attest that they like a lot of current, as much you can feed them to sound like they would like to.
Obviously you don't have the extreme need of that much current, in fact one of those sub 100 dollars amps can get the job almost completely done (JDS Atom, Shiit Magni, Monoprice Liquid Spark, Geshelli Labs Archel Pro... Etc.), but be sure to pick one up while you're at it.
They have an extremely good sinergy with tubes and if you can make them balanced too, that would be amazing.
Here's the answer to the questions at the start of this review... It's really simple.
There's nothing special about the driver, it's just a thin plastic diaphragm with a coil and magnets behind it.
And it's even littler than the average, having 38mm of diameter.
However... the amount of effort that Sennheiser put into it and it's tuning must have been ridiculously great, this shows you how simple things can get so much up there with work and development behind them.
Neutral, midrange forward, with a hint of warmth overall.
The bass isn't so bad, considering that it's definetely not the highlight of this headphone.
It slaps rather than punchs, it's really quick and works nicely even with EDM or dubstep, even tough there isn't a lot of it, it's enough to hit you when needed and it retains a lot of tightness.
However when you switch to something like the Neon Demon soundtrack or that from Ex Machina I noticed that subbass is a bit subdued and it rolls off pretty fast.
There isn't even a big quantity of it, it's still there, you can ear it, but not that much.
But again, this is not the main focus of the HD600.
In one world, beautiful.
It's buttery smooth but resolving and detailed at the same time, the instruments tend to give the illusion of being played in real life (at the right volume).
And now, the vocals.
They are BIG and extremely well separated from the mix, with incredible amounts of energy, body and intimacy, I can't prise them enough, definetely the best performer under 500 in this department.
Everybody knows of the HD600 and HD650 midrange, and I think nobody would be disappointed with their performance in this category.
I love the treble on these
While not being super resolving, it gives the music a good amount of air and sparkle but maintaining a sense of fullness to them that I personally enjoy.
There are too many people hyping the "veil", I don't think that this is a veiled headphone at all but I can get why they say that:
The highs get better at higher volumes, and I know it sounds weird, but they really open up and breathe when you turn up the dial.
They don't ever offend until you blast them to ear-damaging levels, and since I'm a bit sensitive to treble, I absolutely like this capability.
Imaging and soundstage:
The imaging is good and pretty accurate but it can get a bit lost between the center-side space, nothing mind blowing.
Same goes to the sounstage, it's an intimate headphone, the sound stays between the two drivers, however when you catch that crazy wide song these manage to display that.
The sound is presented more in front of you rather than inside your head, and it's not very deep.
The HD600s doesn't have the most amazing detail retrieval out there, but it's great and will surely not left you wanting for more.
Naturalness and tonality are another story, these are the strongest points of this headphone, going toe to toe with the 1000$ offerings out there... They sound just "right", nothing feels out of place and the music just flows, it grabs you and you're there. Certainly the smoothness contributes to that.
The HD600s get my full recommendation, for everybody.
These don't soud almost like anything and they show you what a simple, well tuned driver can deliver.
I can't get enough of their smoothness and naturalness, they even have the potential to be an endgame for somebody.
However if you want something more fun, I'll rather look at something else, I don't consider these boring, but ymmv.
So, ladies and gentlemen, thanks for reading, catch you next time, ciao!
Neutral precise engaging sound
All parts can be replaced
Cons: May not be exciting enough for some
Dated color scheme
SENNHEISER HD 600
“The Venerable Palate Cleanser”
Why this elder statesman?
Because the HD 600 is as relevant to personal audio today as it ever has been! The HD 600 is IMHO the best value in high end audio today. Over time the quality of this item remains the same but the price keeps going down. How often can that be said.
Why would I review an elder statesman?
Three years ago, I happened to be content with my closed back tank, the Sony MDR-7506 until………. I happened to be at a friend’s house and he said “try these out.” I put on his HD 600’s and WOW the light came on. That was the first time I heard in a headphone crisp, clean, sound with space for all the instruments. I said to myself I need to have one of these. The mistake I made at that time was thinking that the quality came from the HD 600 being an open back headphone, not from being what they are: true, neutral, engaging headphones.
I went straight into the Oppo open back headphone world, then into the Audeze LCD world and then into the ZMF headphone world. The Oppo PM 1 was not engaging enough. Yes, Audeze and ZMF Headphones are engaging but at a price. About a year ago I convinced myself I needed an open back headphone at work. One I could take on and off a lot. One that I could hear if someone needed something from me. One that was relatively affordable and solidly built. That brought me back to the HD 600’s and also back to the day the light came on! My first kiss, the HD 600 is my go to palate cleanser when I want to truly taste the music as intended to be tasted.
Driver:Dynamic Frequency Response: 12Hz-40,500Hz Headphone Type: Open back over the ear Sensitivity: 102 dB SPL/V Impedance: 300 Ohm Weight: 260g Cable Length: 3 meters Jack Plug: 1/4thplug with 3.5mm adapter
Currently can be purchases from Amazon Prime for $267
1997! Yes 22 years ago is when these Headphones first arrived. They evolved from the Sennheiser HD 580. Then in 2003 Sennheiser introduced the HD 650, the HD 600 partner in crime. I have been reading incessantly about headphones for three years now. It is amazing how often HD 600s and HD 650s are referenced when talking about the sound signature of other HPs. Drop (formerly known as Prince, I mean formerly known as Massdrop) introduced not too long ago the HD 6XX. It is an HD 650 with a different color and a shorter cable. The HD 6XX can be had for $220. I will compare the HD 6XX sound to the HD 600 toward the end of this review.
Sennheiser sells these direct for $400 so the obvious choice would be purchasing from Amazon for $267. That is exactly what I did a little over a year ago. The Amazon box they come in fits perfectly with the Sennheiser box. So, note to self: keep the original box they come in just in case there is ever an issue needing repair under warranty or um Gottes willen you ever decide to sell these (they go quick used for about $180-200 these days).
The box it comes with is very nice and protective. I would feel safe shipping these in the original box with all the foam cushioning. The velvety cloth earpads do supposedly go flat after a few years. We all do but with these everything can be replaced. EVERYTHING. That is such an added bonus. Replacement parts are easy to come by and are affordable.
The cable it comes with is my only minor gripe. It comes with a 3 meter cable (9.84 ft.). That works well when the main rig is a bit away but is too long for when the rig is next to the bed or next to a comfy chair. A 6 ft to 8 ft cable would make more sense to me. Once you start talking about main rigs then people start getting into balanced connections anyway. I ended up getting an aftermarket 8 ft balanced cable to use with my main rig and a 4ft cable to use at work where I do not want much slack to get in the way.
Yes, I know I need to branch out into OTL tube amps with such high impedance headphones. That day will come.
I listen to mainly “HiFi” quality of music through Tidal.
Fit and Comfort:
These headphones feel super light. They clamped a little tight when I first got them. Now they fit perfectly and I honestly forget I have them on sometimes. Now that is rare with a Headphone. The cloth pads are comfortable and welcomed when it is a little warm.
There is 100% leakage and no blockage of outside noise. More than any other open back headphones I have tried. This is not a negative but is part of the open back world
And how does it sound?
I will start where some people feel the HD 600 is lacking and that is in the bass. I disagree with the lacking part. The mid bass is not colored. It is present and to my ears what makes the bass of the HD 600 so special is the very small hint of colored sub bass. If you close your eyes and focus on each instrument the sub bass is what comes out more than any other individual sound. This in my mind is what makes the HD 600 engaging.
I have owned other headphones (Oppo PM 1 for example) that are not lacking anything specific. Overall coherency may be excellent but the joy of listening is not sustained. That in my mind is the fault of a lot of neutral headphones. The sub bass of the HD 600 is what sustains the joy of listening. This small hint of elevated sub bass is what keeps me engaged and coming back for more.
The treble could be a weak point of these. I would disagree. The treble is present and accounted for. The treble does not jump out at you. This lack of sibilance is another factor that allows longer listening sessions.
The midrange is the key to these. The midrange quality can go head to head with any other headphone. The mids are what allow longer listening sessions to still be a joy. Vocals are neutral. They are not forward and not too far in the background like a lot of headphones that have colored bass or too sibilant of treble. Acoustic guitars sound so natural. The best word I come up to describe the mids of the HD 600 is lush!
The HD 600 provides a super clean sound. These are not so clean that they are bright. I would consider them to have a warm clean sound. There is a lack of distortion with very good instrument separation. Clean, lack of distortion, and good instrument separation are not things said at this price range.
A weakness of these headphones is the lack of a wide soundstage. Both horizontal and vertical soundstage does not extend very far. A positive side to this weakness is that these headphones do sound intimate.
The HD 600 can be your open back headphone end game. What a cost saver that would be and what a spousal relationship sustainer that would be. Of course, audiophiles lack this reasoning. Therefore the HD 600 is an excellent addition to any audio collection. It is my go to palate cleanser along with my ZMF Auteurs. I do have other headphones and IEMS for when I want to get into daytime or nighttime fun and games. The ZMF Atticus or NCM Bella V2 fit perfectly into this role.
A huge benefit of the neutral sound of the HD 600 is that you can listen to them for endless hours. There is literally no fatigue and no boredom. They are engaging enough to keep interest but the interest is to be had when you want to be interested. Now that is a relationship we long for. There is no fatigue from the HD 600 demanding your attention all the time like forward sounding headphones tend to do over time.
300 Ohms is a rather high impedance. A caveat to this discussion is that that the HD 600 needs ampage. You can run it through your phone and most anything but at a loss. The dynamics of this headphone do not come to light properly until you are using an amp that does it justice. Then it opens up and shines. This is not a headphone for on the go nor was it intended to be. It is for someone that cannot have their 2 channel speakers playing. It is for someone that is in a quiet environment and sound leakage will not annoy anyone else.
Sennheiser HD 6XX/HD 650:
No HD 600 conversation can happen without a reference to the HD 650. I think the HD 650 is Sennheiser’s attempt to add color to the HD 600. People tend to prefer one or the other. The difference is the warmth added to the 650. The notes are rounded rather than coming to a point as they do with the 600. They both have quality treble and stellar mids. The biggest difference to me along with the rounded notes is in the bass. The 650 has a slightly elevated mid bass while the 600 has a mild sub bass lift. I thought I would enjoy both the 650 and 600. I was wrong. I did not find the 650 engaging enough to keep.
The Auteur is the grand HD 600. The Auteur is 6 times the cost of the HD 600. Should they even be compared? Yes, they should and that says a lot for the HD 600. They are both revealing. They are both neutral, they both have a slight bump in sub bass (hence the engagement factor). With both of them I feel like I am sitting perfectly in the center of a concert hall. The Auteur is a few rows forward as compared to the HD 600. The stage is wider and the instrument separation is better with the Auteur. But for $267 vs. $1600 there should in reality be no comparison to be had. The greatest gift of the HD 600 is that is can be compared to an indisputable amazing sounding $1600 Headphone. The HD 600 is 80% of the Auteur at 1/6ththe cost. Drop the mic right there and walk away!
I have discussed the qualities of the HD 600. It is neutral sounding. It is engaging. It is detailed. I use it as a palate cleanser when I want to get back to the heart of the sound. I use it when I want to get back to how the sound was intended to be heard.
In my opinion the best qualities of the HD 600 is what it is not. It is not tiring. It is not boring. It is not sibilant. It is not annoyingly colored. It is not expensive. It is not flimsy. In my opinion it is a must have!
Pros: Incredibly natural frequency response, amazing value.
Cons: Dated cosmetic design
I don't write many reviews, but I feel like I need to for the HD 600. Practically everyone on this site has heard them at some point, and they have been around for over 20 years. The fact they have been a benchmark that many companies have tried to emulate for two decades is a testament to how good they really are.
Before trying the HD 600, I bought and reviewed the HD 580 back in 2014. I understood the hype from this Sennheiser HD 580/600/650 line, but there were a few things I did not like about the 580. It may have been my pair with their flattened ear pads, but they had basically no bass. This was at least when compared to the only other mid-fi headphone I had at the time, the Beyer DT 880. I sent them back, and I decided to try the HD 650 after much research here on Head-Fi. I noticed a huge difference between the 580 and 650, and I have since used the 650 as my daily driver up until a few months ago.
I now own the 6XX, 58X, and 600, and out of all of them, the 600 gets the most listening time. Over the years, I got used to the warm bass hump of the 650, and when I first tried the 600, I thought they were bass light. However, the more I listened and compared the 600 and 650, I found the 600 to have clearer and tighter bass. I also found the 600 to respond incredibly well to EQ in the sub bass, and actually got it to hit harder than the 650 with the right settings.
The mids are where the 600 outperforms every other near or above its price, in my opinion. I have tried other high end headphones such as the HD 800S and LCD-X, and I still prefer the smooth mids on the 600s. There have been many times where I thought real instruments were playing in front of me. The mids are that realistic and natural. I don't know what engineering magic Sennheiser did with these in the 90s, but they clearly did something right. In comparison to modern V shaped headphones, these will sound forward to the majority of people. However, I find them to be just perfect.
The treble, to my ears, is as good as the mids. I hear no grain whatsoever. This may come as a surprise, but I actually find the 6XX to have more treble sparkle than the 600. It may be unit variation, but from memory, I also remember my original 650 to have had more upper treble emphasis as well. This doesn't show up in measurements, so I don't know why I'm hearing it. Anyway, the 600s treble to me sounds perfectly flat and neutral, with no emphasis anywhere. Things sound just as they would in real life. And that is exactly what these headphones do best.
You can find hundreds of headphones that have a defining characteristic that makes them have their own "personality" if you will. Of all the headphones I've tried, the HD 600 does the best job at getting out of the way and just letting the music itself be the personality. I know that is a very cliche thing for reviewers to say, but I really mean it. The 600 is almost like a sound portal, where you just hear what is really there, with nothing taken away or given to the recording. With the exception of ultra low sub bass extension, everything that was recorded can be heard plainly with these, with no exaggeration or detraction. The HD 600s to me sound like they are not trying to be more than a simple pair of headphones. That may sound bad, but let me put it this way. I think many other headphones try to sound like something other than headphones, by making the imaging and soundstage super wide, or having over emphasized bass, or giving the treble more detail than what was in the recording. What makes the 600 so great in my opinion, is they focus mainly on replicating the natural frequencies of the music, and not attempting to change anything in the recording. I think what I'm trying to describe here is neutrality, and I guess one thing nearly everyone can agree on is how neutral the 600s are. In a way, the simplicity of the HD 600 makes it one of the world's greatest headphones in my opinion.
If there is one criticism I have for these, it is the dated design on the headband. I don't mind the speckled blue-grey marble most of the time, I would just prefer if it was a plain color all around. I think a refresh of the look of these would do Sennheiser a lot of good. Or, you can go crazy and paint them like Z Reviews.
Well, I think I've hyped these headphones up enough. Needless to say, these are currently my favorite headphones of all time, and I doubt I'm going to find a replacement for them anytime soon. Thanks for reading all this!
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 !