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Sennheiser HD 598 Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by Headstar, Feb 22, 2011.
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  1. pl4stik
    I think a lot of people have inaccurate beliefs about audio in general.  For example, a lot of people say things like "these headphones are good for this genre, and these are good for that genre", but the truth is, when a song is not producing enough bass or fails somewhere on the mids and highs, it's the song itself at fault or lacking, not the 598's.  Of course this may be a result of the headphones used in the studio where the song was created.  
    For example, if they're using a bass heavy set of headphones, they are probably not going to realize the bass may not digitally and from a frequency standpoint, be as strong on a less bass heavy headset. And if they try to tighten up the bass, it is going to sound weak compared to what they just heard.  They will reach a point where it either sounds just right (but lose clarity) or too weak and having too much clarity.  They in effect, lose objectivity.
    Dare I say, these bad quality fad headsets like beats by dre and turtle beach, are creating a whole generation of audio with glaring issues and imperfections, born distorted.
    The same goes for sound stages.  Many songs simply aren't setup for them by design.  Sure all of the instruments are there, but basically all of them can be normalized to the point where they all sound the same basic volume and distance on the soundstage, so you end up with this kind of unrealistic sound stage that represents something more akin to a one man band.   
    ElMarcado likes this.
  2. Bansaku
    You forgot to mention the attitudes and skill level of the engineers. Simply put audio engineering seems to be a lost art. 
    If you like the sound of over-processed, highly compressed, bass heavy, auto-tuned, modern music streaming services, stick with the fashion headphones, or highly consider the Momentums, otherwise you will be highly disappointed with the HD598; They will show you how ugly the music really is.
    If you like recordings from Chesky, Telarc, B&W, or music recorded before 1995 (the start of the loudness war), the HD598 is music nirvana.
  3. Malfunkt

    While you may be right that many people have inaccurate beliefs about audio, you are incorrect with regards to songs being mastered with headphones that are bass heavy. 

    While yes, there are many bedroom producers out there perhaps using inferior monitoring headphones keep in mind they are creating multichannel mixes on modern DAWs (Logic, Cubase, Reason, Protools, Digital Performer). Also, most studios will have studio monitors, and while these themselves aren't perfectly accurate it doesn't matter. The stems are typically sent to their label mix engineer and then to a mastering house. 
    Those engineers absolutely know what they are doing and use top end gear. 
    Most music if its pop, EDM, rap, pretty much anything that hits the radio or a dancefloor is quite compressed (dynamically, not file compression) and put through a heavy limiter (not normalized, that is a different process and used only on short samples and not on the entire track). The result is that there isn't much dynamics, but it will sound good out of earbuds, car stereos, bluetooth speakers etc.

    Bass absolutely isn't messed up in vast majority of productions. It's engineering basics. 

    Many headphones, HD598 and even HD650 do not accurately produce the bass that is actually in the recording. 
  4. pl4stik
    A lot of people say bass type is preference, but I believe that is all it is.  You have to have a reference point, and I believe that reference point is tight controlled bass, not rumbly muddled bass.  When you lose clarity in bass, you are outside of the zone of this reference point.
    Here's an example of a most likely 'professionally' mastered song, that just sounds like garbage.  Soo much for the mastering house. 
    Now maybe they didn't intend for a lot of bass, but the clarity and quality of the bass isn't even good. It's DOA. If you look at it from their intentions in the studio, you can surmise they had over extension on the bass when listening.
    Now here's an example of strong, deep, rich, tightly controlled bass made by basically a bedroom producer, and it's a remix at that.  
    here's another example of a song with very little in the way of sound stage, but still controls its bass quite well.  
    Here's another song, not for comparison, just for good listening :wink:  Sounds amazing in FLAC, but still pretty good on youtube.  
    But ironically, the bass in this acoustic guitar is stronger with greater clarity than the first example video.  
  5. amigomatt
    I would say that by their very nature, neutral headphones don't tend to wow by default.  Given a spectacular recording, believe me, they wow.  I have had countless jaw dropping moments with the HE560s.  After hours of listening to them, they do not impart any obvious tonal character or colour to the music from their construction.
    What they do do in a most impressive way more than an other headphone I have heard is separate the different layers of the recordings and lay each element out in a very impressive and detailed way.  Such is this presentation, that the dynamic, effect and placement of each layer is so discernable and separate that it is quite uncanny.  This is not to say they sound disjointed though, just like an X-ray of the recording with impressive space and attention given to every element.  In that way, the HE560 hold your attention and really draw you into exactly what has been layed down by the artist(s)/musician(s)/engineer(s).
    If the recording is bright, they sound bright.  If the recording is dry and lacking bass, that is what you get.  There is also extension in both directions of the frequency range and a speed of response that exposes details I've never heard before, such as the sub bass of an orchestral musician's chair moving against the hollow stage, or just the sense of 3D air in the room that is palpable.  It's really something else how it manages to present this level of detail without any harshness or glare in the top end.  They are REALLY natural sounding headphones, veering if anything on the very slightly warmer side, which is so refreshing for such detailed cans. I really am lost for words how HifiMan have tuned these sometimes.
    My experience with the 598s has also been a great one.  Obviously, the 598s do not resolve with the same level of detail as the HE560s, but I have never felt left wanting for more detail with the 598s.  They definitely have a character that lends itself to everything, as do all my other headphones besides the above mentioned HE560.  I think I'd sum up that character of the 598s by saying they are definitely 'warm' in their presentation.  The midrange is lush and fluid, adding an almost romantic tint to the music that really works for some things.  The soundstage, as I mentioned earlier in the thread is VERY impressive and for a consumer's first foray into a higher end headphone sound, this aspect will certainly impress as the 598s present a holographic 3D image of the music over a wide and deep soundstage that is really quite entertaining.  Given a movie with a good source, the 598s will absolutely blow your mind with it's almost surround sound imaging, with plenty of dynamic clout to make action scenes really come to life.
    However, despite their great dynamic abilities and similarly impressive frequency response (except sub bass), there is something inherently 'slow' about the drivers of the 598s.  It's not necessarily a flaw and in many cases, this quality I find to be an advantage.  This slowness, allied to a big, airy soundstage can mean that certain recordings and genres come across as slightly too polite.  For instance, well recorded fast metal or rock will come across with all the detail presented and separation and clarity but will somehow sound slightly distant and slower/softer.  Like the aggression is kind of smeared away slightly.  For most ears, I'm sure it wouldn't be a problem and I'd certainly take this kind of presentation any day over something too bright and fast that is fatiguing/painful to listen to. Think luxurious/well mannered and you will be close to what I'm trying to explain.  For some genres, this is perfect, such as acoustic/vocal and small scale orchestral/chamber works.  Well recorded jazz really benefits from the 598s soundstage, detail and openness as well.  For late night, chilled out listening, the comfort and liquid smooth presentation of the 598s can't be beaten.  I love them.  I even preferred listening to Carlos Kleiber's recording of Schubert's Symphony No.3 with the Vienna Philharmonic on the 598s over the HE560 the other day, just because their added mid range warmth and glow kind of moved me more than the 560s slightly brighter, more detailed and accurate rendition.  As I've said before, a techincally better performance from a headphone doesn't always move us more than a coloured and affected one.  That's whay I love my range of headphones and will always keep the 598s as they do things that none of my other headphones do and I just LOVE putting them on my head! 
    KopaneDePooj and ElMarcado like this.
  6. Gammon2004

    This is an excellent description of what I love about these headphones, too.  I also agree that I never find myself wanting 'more detail' when I'm listening to them...possibly that's because I'm too busy enjoying the music.
  7. pl4stik
    I disagree with anyone who says the 598's don't have enough bass, especially if they're not using an amp.  The 598's bass does scale better with volume, because headphones in general are not bi-wired, and volume = energy.  I've seen people say bad things ranging from no bass to muddled bass, and that is why I say it is the source, not the headphones.  If you listen to a different set of bass heavy headphones, you will assume a song has more bass by default than it actually does.  And people, even those who claim to be audiophiles, don't take that into account, or ignore it entirely.  
    That's partly why the 598's are soo good on the mid-high's, because it doesn't attribute excessive bass to them, muddling everything up.  Here you have many headphones, giving bass to a high pitched violin! It's silly.  Some people even think that because they can hear the inherent imperfections from an especially hard strum or fingers sliding down the string, are the headphones fault!  That's not imperfection, that's quality and clarity.  
    I would also expect that if you don't use an amp with the 598's, you probably will find things lacking.....but you would also find things lacking in any other headphones with an even higher impedance, like the 600's and 800's.  Many devices barely put out 10-20 ohms, and the 598's are what....60hms?  So someone could literally be pushing 3-6 times below the actual impedance specs.  Bass will suffer greatly on the 598's.  Of course, there are headphones that can produce stronger bass at lower ohms, but it doesn't mean it's better bass or better headphones.  
    Spending hundreds of dollars on something like turtle beaches or beats by dre, and liking things like over extended bass, doesn't automatically make one an audiophile.....no more than buying an expensive car makes anyone a race car driver.  But I don't think anyone needs to be an audiophile to recognize the qualities of the 598's, they just need common sense and a lack of bias.  I find that many people just use the term audiophile to describe themselves, in hopes of making their opinion carry more weight.
    I think some people incorrectly attribute its strengths, as weakness, in almost every regard.  Such as, when people say there is distortion, or the mids-highs are too separated.  Well if your source is distorted, or lower quality, of course the 598's will make that apparent.  And if you're using a different set of headphones, those defects may be hidden through lack of frequency response or bad sound stage meshing everything together.
    There's also a side effect people underestimate, and that is the effect of harmonics on frequencies inaudible to the human ear, affecting frequencies that the human ear can hear.  The 598's frequency response range reproduces sound in ranges humans simply can't hear, and that's a good thing for 2 reasons; the first being the harmonics effect I already discussed, and the second being that the wider the range, the better control it has of the ranges that we can hear.  
    There's also 2 reasons why harmonics outside of human hearing may be misunderstood; the first being if the author of a song creates harmonics they never intended without realizing it, and the second being that when the harmonics are intended, the person used to hearing the song on a headset incapable of reproducing them, to them, the music will sound 'off' compared to what they are used to hearing.  But neither of these are the fault of the 598's, but rather, mistakes or misconceptions on part of the author or listener.  
    The 598's have a way of bringing forward intended details, that you never hear with lesser headphones.  But if those details also contain unintended defects, you will hear those too.  Just because a different set of headphones hides these details doesn't make them better.   It's like saying to take your glasses off if you don't want to see something obscene.  
    It's pretty funny that I'm making this case about bass too, because I am a big fan of bass heavy genre's, just as much as I am of acoustic guitar, violin, and piano masterpieces.  But overextended bass for lack of a more refined description, is as annoying as someone blowing a fart noise in your ear for 5 minutes straight.  That simply can't be the reference point for what bass is supposed to sound like.   Yes, some people may prefer muddled powerful ear rumbling bass, but that doesn't mean that should be the reference point for benchmarks to follow.  
    ElMarcado likes this.
  8. amigomatt
    You make some good points there and I generally agree with what you are trying to say, but be careful when you talk about impedance as that is not a measure of power, but the measure of how a circuit impedes the flow of current when a voltage is applied.  It's is nothing to do with the power output of either the amp or the headphone.  Also, there is no evidence that frequencies outside the standard range of human hearing affect how we hear things, despite the theories flying around.  Recordings from CD sources are inherently limited to 20-20000 hz, so no information either side of that is present in the recording, despite the headphones being capable of reproducing those frequencies.  Hardly any microphone pick up outside the upper range of that too and even if they did, unless the recording was in 48khz/88.1khz and higher sample rates, those frequencies are not even recorded.  The way digital recording works, the highest recorded frequency is hlaf that of the sample rate it is recorded at.  I'm not digging, just making sure that misinformation isn't passed down through these forums!
  9. pl4stik
    I would say this applies more to newer genre's like dubstep/trance/electronica (or whatever other names you can think of) which use sounds purely digital in nature, that is to say, they weren't recorded on any microphone.  We're also getting a lot of music in the present day, that has gone straight from the studio to the internet.  
  10. amigomatt
    It makes no difference what genre or whether the music is electronically or acoustically made, there still won't be frequencies above 20000hz though (the upper range of human hearing), unless the file was recorded with a sample rate that can do that (of which 99.99% of people don't use as the file sizes are huge and not appropriate for streaming or distribution on the web, or even worth the extra information, which can't be heard anyway).
  11. Malfunkt
    The HD598 are great headphones, incredible for the prices they sometimes go for, and they have bass, just not sub bass. It's not really a dispute, its just their tonal signature. However, that tonal signature is not reference. In reality, there is a lot of bass information that is not represented properly on many headsets, HD598 included. And an amp is not going to magically make that sub-bass appear. That sub bass range, when properly reproduced, is so so important. From piano recordings, to electronic music, I can't go back to the curve of the HD598 or HD650 after hearing headphones that fully extends with resolution. In this graph below, the Audeze isn't 'bass heavy', its accurate. 
    and the 50hz square wave response:
    I think we'll eventually see the technology become more affordable, and when this hits consumer headphones, we may see a change in what people prefer in music. Without headphones/speakers that can reproduce a proper dynamic range, its harder to appreciate certain music styles. 
    Also this may be of interest:

    From the research linear responses are preferred, along with headphones with good bass extension. 
    Anyhow, welcome to head-fi, and thanks for sharing the tracks. You were right about that first track, the bass was just totally off (sounded like it was clipping in parts, I can only imagine this was intentional to make it sound more bad-ass). Wow 270million views... 

  12. Bansaku
    This is true. Look at a high-res frequency spectrum analyzer when listening to tracks that you think should have more bass (/sub bass) and you will see that ALOT of headphones get it wrong. People's ears lie to them (mine included), whereas what the analyzer shows is absolute. What people hear as sub bass on their bass heavy headphones is merely nothing more than bloat.  Anything short of some extreme electronica tracks, maybe some hip-hop, the HD598, when properly amped, produce bass with great accuracy. Besides commenting on how light they are, when I audition my HD598 to my friends and family, the first thing they say is 'Wow, that is some good bass!'. My 2 cents. 
  13. Strill
    Has the cracking problem been fixed? I've got a dilapidated HD555 that's been held together with duct tape for the past few years. I love the soundstage, but want something more durable and I wanna make sure that the HD598 won't crack like my current ones have.
  14. Bansaku

    No problems. The issue was promptly fixed.
  15. Headstar
    No cracking has been reported for over two years now. I think it's safe to buy. [​IMG]
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