HD580/595 vs SR225 vs DT990 pros vs Ultrasone HFI-550 (a comparison)
Feb 16, 2006 at 4:24 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 13

glac1er

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During my search for best mid-fi headphones, I actually bought many of them(all used off course
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). I just want to share my thoughts to people who are considering these headphones. Please note that I may be biased and I'm not an audiophile.
I’m not going to keep all of them forever, so I might as well write a review for them
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All of the tests are performed in quiet environment.
The setting is PC>EMU0404>GoVibe V3 (AD8620)>Headphones
In this review, I listened to songs by: Alanis Morissette, Mariah Carey, L’arc~en~ciel, Chantal Kreviazuk, John Mayer, Lifehouse, Oasis, Dave Brubeck.

It's hard to review all aspetcs of my headphones, so here are some of them COMPLETELY IMO.
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BASS
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(in order of my preference)
DT990 pros: very satisfying bass both in quality and quantity. Very well controlled bass.
HFI-550: gives lots of tight bass without being boomy. These have the tightest bass of the bunch.
SR225: bass has impact and slam, just slightly less than the DT990 and does not go as deep
HD580: good quantity of deep bass
HD595: though placed last in this category, they still have good amount of bass that I am pleased with.

Generally I feel like all of them have a relatively heavy dose of bass, except HD595.

FEMALE VOCALS
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(for better evaluation, I chose acoustic songs which better picture the vocals)
HFI-550: Best of the bunch. Female vocals just have some hush in it. They are not as full bodied and as well-controlled as the Senns, but the vocals are just so clear without sibilance. What makes the female vocal special is the intimate feeling of it, especially in acoustic recordings. Different characteristic from HD595 but sure I like them better. This is my first full-sized closed-headphones so I may be biased on this category.
HD595: Because of good midrange, the vocals are airy and have body in it. Similar characteristic to HD580 but brighter and more forward.
HD580: also gives full bodied vocals.
SR225: the vocals sparkle which can sometimes cause sibilance. Not full-bodied like the Senns. It sounds more intimate than the Senns but not by much.
DT990 pros: definitely not the DT990 strength, clear vocals with less grain but not as full bodied as the Senns. The vocals are a bit drowned out by the music. I think this is caused by DT990's midrange that is a bit sucked out. Mariah Carey sounds like whispering with these.

MALE VOCALS
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HD595: the midrange really gives the body and weight that are much needed for the male vocals.
HD580: kinda similar to the HD595 but you are moved further back to the audience.
SR225: not as full-bodied as the Senns. Still pretty good though because they sound more intimate. Probably because of the high, the male voice gives lasting rasps which I think is good.
DT990 pros: the vocals still sound a bit drowned in by the music. The vocals still manage to sound very clear without sibilance or being nasal though.
HFI-550: the vocals sound intimate, that’s for sure, but sometimes sound a bit nasal. I think it is caused by the closed construction. Without air, male vocals do not have the body needed; thus sound nasal.

SOUNDSTAGE (I use Dave Brubeck’s Take Five for this comparison)
DT990 pros: huge soundstage. I can easily pinpoint the location of each instrument in Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five.”
HD580: wide soundstage. Not as wide as DT990’s but sometimes I feel like music are coming from behind and diagonally as well, more so than the DT990 pros.
HD595: kind of similar to HD580, but more forward sounding. The instruments felt like they’re closer to you. Liked the HD580 better.
HFI-550 & SR 225: closed headphones. What do you expect? People say Grados don’t have soundstage. I think they kind of have soundstage about a size of your head
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.

COMFORT (I have a fairly big head) (thx to spike33
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)
HD580: Just nice with velour . The grip is tighter than HD595, but feels more secure.
HD595: Velour earpads, light grip makes this a winner for long use. However, they seem to design these for people with huge cranium. The headband are a bit long and make me feel that they are not resting securely on my ears. And, if you move your head around, you can hear a squeaky sound from the rahter cheaply constructed plastic earpieces.
DT990 pros: Mixed feeling on these. Has a very big earpad with an O shaped hole. Because of that, your ears fit into the hole, giving more air. The velour is also softer than Sennheisers'. However, it has a rather tight grip. To make things worse, the headband has a plastic end that also hug to your head. Less comfortable for bigger heads. People with very big cranium might not be able to wear these as the headband extends rather short.
HFI-550:Very light, and the ear pieces can swivel in many directions. My only complaint is that the closed construction and pleather earpads make your ears sweat after 20 minutes or so though (room temperature).
SR225: Very light and small. Have the potential to be the most comfy but the bowls that come with these made my ears sweat a lot. I heard changing earpads cause change in sound signature, so these comments apply only to the bowls. People who don't find any issue with ears overheating may find the Grados to be the most comfortable.

[size=medium][size=x-small]Conclusion:[/size][/size]
Piano sounds best with the Ultrasone IMO. They are also the best at acoustic recordings and instrumentals. The intimate feel really push them ahead from the others in this area.
Another special thing that they have is that they also emphasize background sounds more than the others. In a recording, I can actually hear the drummer said 1,2,3 in the beginning of the recording when I can hear nothing with the other cans. That really amazed me. However, the lack of airy feel really affect their performance in music like rock and pop recordings. They might sound THIN to people who are not used to closed headphones. I usually like open headphones better. Still, they are really good for closed headphones. The bad thing is that their price/performance ratio fluctuates heavily. They sell for more than $150 brand new but only ~$80 used. Sometimes I can even find slightly superior HFI-650 for $135 brand new. I think the sweet spot is to buy them for less than $150.

Grado SR225 vs DT990 pros (in fast rock songs):
I think it is appropriate to compare them in this area. They really have different sound signature in handling this type of music. Grados are bright and Beyers are dark is the best term to summarize it all. The Grados are REALLY good at resolving fast music and give energy to it, but sometimes can be a bit harsh. The Beyers are less groovy; however, their low-end power, soundstage, and smooth sound are proved to blend very well with rock music. They have the tonal balance and accuracy that are better than Grados, yet still retain the energy. Think of the Beyers as a Sennheisers that are energetic enough to do rock. If you don’t like how rock music is done by Grados, try the DT990 pros.

Sennheiser HD595 and Sennheiser HD580:
These two really excel in midrange, giving them more full-bodied sound and vocals. The thing is, they are not as groovy as the Grados and the Beyers. They can be considered laid-back or some call it ‘refined.’ The HD580 are much more laid back in comparison though. However, the HD580 is better handling orchestra; the HD595 are a bit too forward for this type of music.
The HD580s are said to be very good for classical music; however I don’t have any kind of that music for comparison.

Of all the headphones compared here, I consider the DT990 pros and the HD595 as all-around performers. They will practically handle any music thrown at them pretty well. If you are listening to many type of music or mainstream music, these two are very good at it. The difference is that the DT990 is groovier while the HD595 has better vocals. Some people will complain about HD595's relatively laid-back approach and lean bass, some will complaint about DT990's emphasis on highs and lows that make the midrange a bit sucked-out.

If I can only choose one of all the headphones, I will choose the DT990 pros. They are really versatile. If I am to choose two, I think I will go with the HD595 and the SR225. I don’t really listen to classical, so these two will serve me better. The SR225 are AMAZING for rock, but only so-so for the other type of music. It can serve as complement but definitely nah for people who don’t listen or only listen to little rock.

Though the HD580 and HFI-550 look bad in this comparison, they are actually not. Think about the price/performance ratio for the HD580. They are $150 new and still excel in some areas compared to HD595. Also, in many areas they are comparable to HD595, except that they sound more distant.
The HFI-550s are the only closed cans here; yet, they still have strengths that cannot be beat by the supposedly better open headphones.


EDIT: Just got the Beyerdynamic DT880. As I have already sold SR225, HFI-550, and HD580, the afterthoughts bellow will involve only HD595, and DT990 pros.



Afterthoughts on DT880

Bass: The bass is pretty close in quantity to HD595. Definitely not in Beyer DT990 pros level. After careful listening, the DT880's feels tighter and a bit more controlled than HD595's.
Female Vocals: This is where DT880 really shows its strength. it produces vocals a bit bright without being harsh, and at the same time provides so much air, clarity, and detail. I will say it tops all the headphones above. People can still argue that HD595 do female vocal betters though. HD595's vocals still have more body which provides smooth and soothing vocals. However, the DT880's clarity makes HD595 feels grainy in comparison.
Male Vocals: the DT880's has real clear vocals with more detail than HD595. IMO, definitely better than HD595. HD595 is more laid-back in handling vocals though.
Soundstage: Has similar soundstage to DT990 pros.
Comfort: Very comfortable on the head. Retains all the DT990 strength and loosen the grip. The HD595 does not grip as tight, but DT880 provide more secure feeling. DT880 has bigger hole on the earpads and softer velour than HD595.

The sound of DT880 is truly hi-fi. Although it has somewhat bright highs, it manages doing so without being harsh IMO. Not nearly as harsh as Grados. At first, I thought HD595 and the DT880 are in the same level. However, after adapting my ears to DT880, when I went back to HD595, I really noticed the grain HD595 has. HD595 maybe more laid-back and smooth; however, the DT880 has a higher level of detail and clarity. Basically, DT880 and HD595 behave somewhat similarly, they are both all-rounders. Which is better will really goes down to preference. Majority will say DT880 is better. However, I can clearly imagine some people like the HD595 for its laid-back nature. Both are really excellent headphones at their respective price level. The DT990 pros will be a good complement for either one of them.

This mini review is open for suggestions as I’m going to edit them in the future. For others who have compared these headphones, please point out any disagreement with my findings. There are possibilities that I didn’t pay enough attention when listening. Hope this really helps people who are looking for headphones in this price bracket. Thanks for reading and happy listening.
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Feb 16, 2006 at 5:47 AM Post #2 of 13

spike33

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Nice informative review. I agree with most of your points.

I have not heard the HFI-550 but I'm shocked it beat out HD595 for female vocals (I have yet to hear another can that's better at vocals than HD595) yet it is last in male vocals?
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Now I really wanna hear this can
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Oh, you forgot to compare comfort!
 
Nov 20, 2006 at 4:40 AM Post #3 of 13

blessingx

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Old review, but while looking up a few phones and coming across this, I wanted to thank glac1er as this is pretty useful.
 
Nov 20, 2006 at 4:54 AM Post #4 of 13

mirumu

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I didn't notice this was from February when I read it but it is quite interesting and informative, many thanks to glac1er. Like spike33, it makes me interested in hearing some of those Ultrasones.
 
Nov 20, 2006 at 5:05 AM Post #5 of 13

Davesrose

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humm.....some of the results makes me wonder how the govibe's sound signature is.....Grados beating out Sennheisers for bass? That's a new one! But it is neat to see that glac1er says the 595s and 225s make a nice duo. That's exactly what I'm thinking of trying. Although it might be the 325i for a more dynamic duo.
 
Nov 20, 2006 at 6:36 AM Post #6 of 13

sulcata_geo

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>glac1er
Your HD595 look recabled.It's not fair.
My recabled HD595 have very wounderful sound.
But before recabled , the sound was slightly muffled.
 
Nov 20, 2006 at 12:50 PM Post #9 of 13

facelvega

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Wow, Glac1er, thanks for revising and bumping this old thread. It boggles the mind that this wasn't a thread with 50 responses the first time around. Of course, I'm one of the people who missed it back then too, though at that time only as a lurker and not a member. From the ones I've heard (all but the ultrasones), I generally agree with your comments. I do think that a standard pre-2003 DT990 would outperform the pro that you've got, in comfort and in slightly improved resolution and crisper bass due to the decreased clamping. Like people above, I was surprised at how highly you'd rated the HD595, but perhaps as they say we can attribute this to the recable. But even in these cases, I agree with your comments. A nice contribution to the usefulness of head-fi.
 
Oct 11, 2008 at 11:33 AM Post #12 of 13

glac1er

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Couldn't believe somebody actually dug this thread from the dead.

It surely made me smile
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Thanks to XSAlliN and all supports from other members.

Be aware of the limitations of the review though. I have to admit the amps, source, listening experience and even the recordings bitrate that I listened to back then were very modest by head-fi standards(even more so today
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).

And to address some 2 year-old questions, those HD595 are recabled and are the 120 ohm version. Those HD595 were bought used if I'm not mistaken it was 4-strands of 22ga teflon/silver plated coper, with techflex, and a neutrik plug. I've had 3 different versions of HD595(50hm, 120ohm, and 120 ohm recabled). All had similar sound sig, but differed slightly in clarity and general warmth.


@iQEM
Of course, but all those headphones are gone. Maybe I'll write one about the headphones I have now.
 

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