Re-Review of my Sennheisers (and my Sony MDR-V6, as well)!
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Eagle_Driver

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I had reviewed the Sennheiser HD 280 PRO, HD 497, HD 590 and HD600 before - but that was on rock and jazz music CD recordings, which tend to suffer at least somewhat from the crappy processing that has been used to make those recordings "sound good" on crappy audio equipment. And I didn't use any classical music recordings at all because the only such recordings that I owned back then were those early-1980's "full digital recordings" issued by the big-name labels - primarily CBS Masterworks (now Sony Classical) - that obviously have suffered from that lossy digital compression (Sony Classical has NEVER been renowned for audiophile-quality digital recordings).

It changed very recently with the purchase of a classical CD issued by someone other than CBS/Sony, Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture (DSD version) (Telarc CD-80541). The earlier Telarc 1812 Overture release (CD-80041) was renowned for challenging the capabilities of audio systems that were state of the art 20 years ago - so it's no surprise that the newer DSD release (and its SACD counterpart, as well) will test the true capabilities (or crappiness) of today's "high-end" audio systems.

I have already known that the portable CD player/portable amp setup used in this shoot-out (a Sony D-EJ1000 mated to a Headroom Total Airhead) is at best capable of mid-fi sound, so I tested the four non-earbud Senns (HD 280 PRO, HD 497, HD 590 and HD 600) with the Telarc CD. As an added measure, I threw in a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones into the mix. Here are my results:

Sennheiser HD 280 PRO:
These headphones sound rather typical of the better closed headphones: slightly "over-punchy" bass, slightly recessed mids and slightly peaky highs. I just cannot recommend these - or most other closed headphones - for classical music listening.

Sennheiser HD 497:
These headphones may be better than nearly all of the other headphones that list for $70 or less MSRP. But in this shoot-out, they're the worst of the bunch. Boomy bass, recessed mids and highs, overall muddy sound... Blech! (At least that's how my particular sample sounds.) I wonder how Sennheiser can get away with designing its newer low-end headphones for pop or rock. But that equalization sure isn't kind to classical music.

Sennheiser HD 590
I gave these a second listen, having been spoiled by the sound from my HD 600's. Overall, my opinion of these headphones still apply: They're good, but not good enough for their $200 price. The bass doesn't go deep, it's a bit muddy, the mids are recessed, and the highs are peaky. Why would Sennheiser USA market these as "audiophile headphones" when I consider them to be "high-end headphones for the average Joe"?

Sennheiser HD 600
These are my latest full-sized headphone "toys". My jaw dropped when I listened to that 1812 Overture through these headphones. Bass that's deep without being boomy or muddy, mids and highs are coherent without being overbright or honky. And these are one of my two favorite headphones right now (the other being the Etymotic ER-4S, which I'm using less and less due to the fact that I now work less than two miles from home). I can imagine that the sound quality will only get better with an amp and/or cable upgrade.

Sony MDR-V6
I was very surprised that these classic closed Sonys acquitted themselves very well for their type on classical music. The mids are a bit less recessed/honky than the Sennheiser HD 280 PRO's, and the bass a bit less boomy (but still slightly so). If there's one significant shortcoming of the MDR-V6's, it's the obviously recessed highs (especially the mid-treble). If I were listening to only classical music, and if these were my only headphones, then I can live with their sound (knowing that there still is better out there).

Conclusion
Overall, for classical music, I'd rank these five headphones as follows:
Sennheiser HD 497 < Sennheiser HD 280 PRO < Sony MDR-V6 < Sennheiser HD 590 < Sennheiser HD 600
 
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Guyferd

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Good review ,but perhaps it isn't very fair to compar lower end sennheiser (the hd497 ) to its high end hd600.. sure it will sound sucks in comparison...
just my opinion
 
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Eagle_Driver

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In fact, I really threw in the closed Sennheiser and Sony headphones that cost a bit more than the 497's - and the closed headphones whoop the 497's soundly despite costing me $10 to $30 more than the 497's.

And I really compared the 590's and the 600's. If I bought the 590's from either The Great Indoors, GoodCans or Headroom, I would have paid $249 to $249.99 plus tax and/or shipping. My 600's cost me the exact same price as the 590's sell for at those places! The choice is definitely obvious between the 590's and the 600's. But again I threw in lower-end 'phones and closed 'phones just to see how they compare.
 
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bkelly

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Eagle Driver,

I can't believe you posted another one of your dismal reviews of the HD590. There is a good reason Sennhieser refers to the 590's as an "audiophile headphone" and that is because that is exatly what they are. At their price and considering that it doesn't take an expensive amp and aftermarket cables to improve on their sound I see the 590's as easily the best buy in headphones in the whole freaking world.

Fotunately, we agree on the Sony V6's.







Best
Brian
 
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Eagle_Driver

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Brian (bkelly), it's okay if you disagree with my assessment of the HD 590. The HD 590 isn't anywhere near as dismal as you think I've made that 'phone out to be. And you may not have been the only one who disagrees with me on this. I can think of beowulf, Vertigo-1 and acidtripwow who disagree at least somewhat with my 'crappy' judgment of the 590. But I still find an unnatural peak in the mid-treble sound from the 590, so the highs to me sound a bit 'sandy'.

That said, maybe I should go back to the 590 for a little while (leaving the 600 inside the box) - and "learn to like the sound"!
 
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bkelly

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Eagle-Driver,

I was just surprised that all you did was reheat n old thread when you started this one.

The good news is hhat we see eye to eye on the V6's.






Best
Brian
 
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zbuddah

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Good review, kinda gave me insight on the V6's

heheh I had to grow on my HD-600's at first i preferred my aiwa earbuds to it, but that was only for a couple minutes
. acually i remember why, the earbuds felt more involving... but not anymore.
 
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Joe Bloggs

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Well Eagle, when you said that the V6 has recessed highs, I was like
 
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Eagle_Driver

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Quote:

Originally posted by Joe Bloggs
Well Eagle, when you said that the V6 has recessed highs, I was like


That's right. The V6 just doesn't have the top-end detail that the better 'audiophile' 'phones have. My HD600's have more 'detail' than my V6's.
 
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BenG

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Eagle, I agree about the higher highs of the V6 being rolled-off and recessed - it's the upper-mids and lower treble that are spiky sounding. You're not crazy in this regard, Mr. Crap.

The ER-4S and my NHTs are the only transducers I own that really bring these higher sounds out more balanced.
 
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280 pros??? boomy??? honkier mids than the V6???!?!?! um no?
 
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Eagle_Driver

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Quote:

Originally posted by a1leyez0nm3
280 pros??? boomy??? honkier mids than the V6???!?!?! um no?


You can't fairly compare the 280 PRO's with any of the better open-air headphones. Well, the 280 PRO's - or any of the other 'better' closed headphones - will ALWAYS sound somewhat boomy and somewhat honky/plasticky compared to a pair of 'better' open-air headphones or a pair of Etymotic ER-4# series canalphones.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by Eagle_Driver
You can't fairly compare the 280 PRO's with any of the better open-air headphones. Well, the 280 PRO's - or any of the other 'better' closed headphones - will ALWAYS sound somewhat boomy and somewhat honky/plasticky compared to a pair of 'better' open-air headphones or a pair of Etymotic ER-4# series canalphones.


I don't fully agree with this, Eagle. I think it's a decent generalization, but I wouldn't say "always" -- for example, a1leyz was taking issue with calling the HD 280 Pro "boomy" and "honky" and I have to agree -- they really don't exhibit any boominess, especially in the bass. They do have a slightly "hollow" sound in the mids, but the bass is quite tight for a closed phone, IMO.
 
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Magicthyse

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I have to concur with MacDEF on this one. Not sure where you get boomy from, Eagle... They're definitely 'bthup'. Although I do agree with the slightly peaky trebles - but I've noticed this can be somewhat emphasized depending on the source. Perhaps it's your amp or settings?

I'm using them for editing audio that I record, stuff that I get sent, etc and I now find them pretty awesome for that purpose -often I prefer using these as opposed to the monitor speakers. Of course, I still have to edit with a paper bag over my head...
 
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I listened to a Brahms violin concerto (modern recording) on the Sennheiser HD 497s last night, listening closely with Eagle Driver's review in mind, and to me they sounded great, not boomy or muddy or with recessed mids and highs. For me, the low bass was emphasized, but in the low double-bass range (which I like), not in the boomy mid-bass range. The mids were maybe just a scintilla recessed (as I've noticed before in comparing them to other phones), but it's more than made up for with ultra-clarity and silky smoothness. The highs were just short of bright. Maybe I'll try the V6s and the Grados for contrast, but I've got to say, it really sounded great on the HD 497s. Of course, I don't have the 590s or the 600s as a baseline. Must be nice.
 
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