Sennheiser HD430 impressions
Mar 7, 2006 at 7:33 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 21

sgrossklass

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Today a mint pair of HD430s (from a collection, with cable and earpads apparently having been replaced a few years ago at most) arrived here, so here's what I think about these cans.

Fact sheet:
Made: ~1980..1985
Position: Sennheiser's top dynamic headphone at the time
Preceded by: HD424 (?), 1976...1979
Followed by: HD540, 1985...1991
Construction: Circumaural, open, circular earpads, double headband.
Impedance: 600 ohm
Freq response spec: 16...20000 Hz

Comfort: Large circumaural pleather earpads, the replaced ones being similar to what the HD535 uses in terms of material, could be a touch deeper though. Earcups can be tilted and swiveled, good head size adjustment.

Equipment used for testing: Grundig T7000 tuner with modded BTech BT928 amp (tone control defeated, output coupling caps replaced by 220µ 35V, gain reduced and bandwidth increased by swapping 100k for 47k resistors, run off regulated 12V supply), Terratec Aureon Sky sound card directly or via Onkyo TX-SV636 (the Onkyo seems rolled off in the highs though).

Sensitivity: Pretty much the same as HD420SL, thus about what to expect from 600 ohm, 94 dB/mW cans. Even a simple opamp based amp (BT928 or Cmoy) won't break into sweat provided the supply voltage is sufficiently high.

Sound:
Technically these are rather capable cans, easily reaching to 37 Hz and below like the best of my cans in terms of bass (50 mm drivers, I assume) and up to at least 16.5 kHz as far as the highs are concerned. They are, however, rather bright, with a big peak in the 10 kHz region (not overly much sibilance though). This very much reminds me of the frequency response that I've seen for the Beyerdynamic DT880, maybe with a touch less in the lower registers. Soundstaging seems better than with the HD420SL (not too difficult, given this one is a supraaural headphone with rather diffuse imaging), anything more is hard to tell with the omnipresent brightness. I'd only consider classical to be listenable with those, and even then you don't get that concert hall feeling as with the HD590. These cans might be something for a warm-sounding (tube) amp.
Honestly I must say that I prefer the sonic signature of the HD420SL, which is warm and mellow and somewhat mid-centric in comparison (even if a tad aggressive in the upper mids, which gives excellent speech intelligibility; it also drops off in the lower bass, which just doesn't sound right somehow, even if bass is rather tight and precise overall). Seems like I'm a HD650 guy - poor old wallet...
rolleyes.gif
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 5:08 AM Post #2 of 21

TomH

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Amazing to find this review in 2006.

I have owned a pair of these since 1982 and they sound pretty much exactly as you describe. I hope my newer cans hold up as well over the years. The 540 to my ears was a big improvement but still a tad bright.

I recently got a Gilmore Lite and was amazed how the 430s came to life with decent amplification. If the treble peak was not there, I would have felt worse about buying so dang many phones since 1982...
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 5:44 AM Post #3 of 21

pkshan

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The brightness of HD540G is because the ageing of the ear pads.
Here you can find some replacement pads for the 540g.
http://www.thomann.de/thoiw2_artikel...8cf89296e1c375

& these 540g really need a long time to break-in (>800hrs),they've slept too long.
After fully break-in,these phones really shine,I like it over my HD650+equinox cable alot.

The sound of 540g is very natural, transparent & musical,incredibly balanced tonal.
Whatever music I play through it(say classical,pop,vocal,hiphop,rock,jazz&techno)
I can always hear the expressiveness in the music,it never disappoints me.
340smile.gif


After listen to it, people will know why senn give it a fancy wooden box.
It's a gem in senn HD family
 
Mar 8, 2006 at 10:37 PM Post #4 of 21

sgrossklass

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Those HD540s (the oldschool 600 ohm variant, though not necessarily the noble "Gold" which mainly differed in closer driver matching, the golden looks, the individual serial numbering and the fancy wooden box) also are on my to-buy list... but probably after the HD650s. What's been written about the '540 reminds me of the '420SL (bass not very textured - well, it's kinda soft on the bottom end - , not very sparkly in the highs - like I once wrote, somewhat mid-centric easy listening cans), so it may well be worth a try. >800 hours of break-in?
blink.gif
Ugh. Admittedly it's not as easy to get such 600 ohm beasts to high volumes for break-in, and I'm not sure about diaphragm thickness which may well have been higher then.

Back to the HD430: Drivers appear to be well matched on this one, barely 2 ohms of difference in DC resistance between left and right (vs. 10 ohms on the '420SL). As I think has been mentioned before, these cans sit quite snugly, with a bit of clamp factor (yet still comfy). I hope my '430 isn't too angry about now having to use the somewhat clumsy cable formerly on the '420SL.
wink.gif
That means selling the '430 won't really be an option for the time being, but oh well - those cables are kinda expen$ive new.
 
Mar 13, 2006 at 3:54 PM Post #5 of 21

sgrossklass

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OK, the HD540 did come first in the end... Interestingly the "plain" HD540 and HD540 Gold do not seem to sound the same from what I found - apparently the "Gold" is quite a bit brighter, more along the lines of the HD430 possibly. Then it suddenly kinda makes sense that the HD560 still was rather bright.
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 8:05 PM Post #6 of 21

sgrossklass

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Quote:

Originally Posted by TomH
The 540 to my ears was a big improvement but still a tad bright.


That hits the nail right on the head, IMO - got mine today. It's about as bright as a HD590, with treble not quite being as smooth and refined; the low end is a bit less and "just right" to me (with seemingly well worn-in pads). A bit too analytical for my taste - heck, it's a mid-80s headphone -, but really not bad. (Supposedly the '560 is similar but a bit warmer sounding. I do not consider the '540 "cold" in the first place, that's reserved for the '535.) Bass reaches down below the 40 Hz mark with ease, I could trace highs up to 16..16.5 kHz (I don't hear beyond about 17.5 kHz anyway), and upon doing a sweep, there only seems to be a slight recession in the upper mids and the usual ~5...6 kHz notch. (FR spec was 16 .. 25000 Hz.) DC resistance measures 606 ohms for one channel, 607 on the other with the 37974 cable. (420SL and 430 are more in the 570...580 ohm vicinity.) These cans are fairly sensitive, a good bit more so than the '420SL - I wouldn't be surprised if they were closer to 96..97 dB/1mW. Regarding comfort, these cans are sufficiently clampy to not require much headband support, but with the large circular earpads - which incidentally have been replaced by the newer fluffy velour ones in this 540's lifetime - the force is well distributed. (Interestingly folks upgrading to HD580/600/650 tend to consider the oval earpads of these a slight disadvantage in terms of comfort.) The earpads can rotate, so you can move the headband back and forth and they'll stay in the same position - kinda neat. You do notice that the ears are partly touching the foam over the drivers then, since the foam moves with the earpieces. Overall, you can wear these for hours, no problem.
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 8:50 PM Post #7 of 21

Anarchy965

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can we have pics??! I'll bet these'd be awesome after some burn-in.
 
Mar 16, 2006 at 10:49 PM Post #8 of 21

sgrossklass

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http://headphones.warzone.org/ has some pics, of both the plain '540 and the "Gold". Since mine was used frequently enough to warrant new earpads (which are well broken in), I doubt it needs any more break-in - and if it should, it's currently getting some head time anyway.
wink.gif


Oh, and I suspect that the HD560 was a somewhat warmer-sounding (so one reads) but otherwise similar model using 300 ohm drivers with AlCu voice coils - which upped their FR spec to 30000 Hz -, apparently introduced in 1989 and possibly the first model to ship with an OFC cable. (The first 300 ohm / AlCu model was the HD530, ?1987? or so. The '540 still used plain copper voice coils.)
 
Mar 17, 2006 at 4:44 PM Post #9 of 21

sgrossklass

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These make great cans for the comp - the Aureon will drive them easily (no need to use the power-hungry Onkyo receiver; I still wonder why the switchable "headphone amplifier" = increased gain was implemented, not even HD420SL or HD424 require this), and since I can use the EQ here, something can be done about the brightness. The currently used Shibatch Super EQ preset:
Code:

Code:
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Did I mention that these are pretty amazing with "airy" recordings? Nice wide soundstage, too. Bass is fairly tight even though sufficient punch is there.

I guess I should join Team Oldie Senns, huh?
biggrin.gif


EDIT: Currently listening to some nice trance tunes, nicee. These cans have a sense of transparency and instrument separation that's just wonderful (dunno the THD spec, but they must have really low distortion), and I think I now have an idea of what soundstage *depth* is referring to... (To clarify, all listening done with EQ.)
Oh, and I came across some HD520 specs - 18..22000 Hz @-3dB, THD <0.3%. I'd guess the HD540 is somewhere in the 0.2% ballpark (that's the spec for the '545 anyway).
 
Mar 18, 2006 at 12:53 AM Post #10 of 21

sgrossklass

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I was just pondering over this statement...
Quote:

Originally Posted by pkshan
The brightness of HD540G is because the ageing of the ear pads.


Actually, less the earpads themselves but the foam over the drivers (which also ships with the replacement earpads; the "Gold" foam discs can be ordered separately as #32950). Many of the HD540 Golds up for sale have indeed rested in their boxes for years without having seen any use, and the foam had enough time to disintegrate slowly, with nobody minding to replace the earpads or foam. Seeing (or rather: Hearing) how the '540s are on the brighter side of things with the foam in fairly good shape, I wouldn't want to listen to them when "defoamed". Another piece of the puzzle put into place, or so I think...

EDIT^2: Looks like the HD540 Gold foam discs (also found on the '430) are a touch thinner and softer than the ones supplied with the standard HD540 earpads. That could account for the sonic difference - the earpieces themselves are identical.
 
Mar 19, 2006 at 12:46 AM Post #11 of 21

sgrossklass

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EQ tweaked some more...
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 6 8 10 9 9 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 6 8 10 9 9[/left]

These cans are excellent with large orchestral works, where their portrayed sense of depth definitely helps realism. They seem to be similar to what one reads about HD580/600/650 in soundstaging.

Edit:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 5 7 9 9 9 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 5 7 9 9 9[/left]

 
Mar 19, 2006 at 7:37 PM Post #12 of 21

sgrossklass

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Quote:

Originally Posted by yours truly
It's about as bright as a HD590, with treble not quite being as smooth and refined;


I'll add that while the treble may be a bit much, it actually seems flatter. The HD590 has this peak in the lower treble and then drops off to reduce fatigue, while the '540 presents a larger treble section without major peaks and dips (maybe a *slight* peak around 10 kHz), possibly similar to what the HD250 II shows (see freq response; the <6 kHz range is another story, the '540 clearly only has a "notch" there, perhaps the '250 II is more representative of the 560 II).

Edit - YAEQS:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 4 6 8 9 10 9 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 4 6 8 9 10 9[/left]

Edit^2: Treble detail these cans certainly have, even with the most laid-back - and possibly least exciting - EQ so far:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 4 7 8 9 10 10 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 4 7 8 9 10 10[/left]

On my other cans, you can only take a glimpse at cymbals through a "frequency window", these present them completely.

Edit^3:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 6 8 9 9 9 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 3 6 8 9 9 9[/left]

+1 dB here, -1 dB there, I guess there won't be any dramatic changes anymore...

Edit^4: That's phunni, I'm gravitating towards an EQ close to what I determined to be "linear" sounding via a sweep (which was the EQ in Edit#2 with the treble taken down another dB):
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 5 7 8 9 9 9 0 0 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 5 7 8 9 9 9[/left]

Let me add that the things that still stand out - to my ears, at least - are the treble resolution/detail (and that's with the treble reduced to normal proportions), the precise bass and the precision and instrument separation in general - even complex passages never become a mess. (Check out, say, Mike Oldfield's Amarok, one of my all-time favs.) The latter is also noted by aphex944 in his HD560-II review, though it seems he never was all too happy with his Senns in the end and ended up in the Beyerdynamic camp.
Negatives? Well, the soundstage isn't the absolute widest I've heard, but definitely OK (a trait that the later top cans share as well), and the earcups could be a touch deeper to avoid ear irritation. The headband had been bent inwards quite a bit during shipping, so they were rather clampy at first, but with some use and outward bending this has improved. HD590s still are more comfy.
Now the only thing missing is some nice pic of the '540, I need a new avvy. Well, a digicam is due for my birthday, but that's still almost two weeks and an exam away...
 
Mar 23, 2006 at 7:25 PM Post #13 of 21

sgrossklass

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That's interesting - apparently the '540 (not II yet!) was available in a 300 ohm version later (1991), with specs of:
FR
16 .. 25000 Hz @-3 dB
10 .. 30000 Hz @-10 dB

THD
<0.4%

The older (maybe pre-HD560?) 600 ohm HD540 (including "Gold") must have been closer to "<0.2%" distortion wise, this is the spec for the HD560, plus the old (600 ohm) HD520 was only spec'd at "<0.3%" either. Seems I was a bit lucky with my '540.

Oh, and here's the EQ in my avatar, the "why do you like bass" thread inspired me to do some more EQ to obtain a flat response in the lower bass:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 8 10 11 11 11 0 0 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 8 10 11 11 11[/left]

 
Mar 28, 2006 at 11:35 PM Post #14 of 21

sgrossklass

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I can't quite decide which of those two settings...
Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 11 0 0 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 8 9 10 11 11[/left]

Code:

Code:
[left]0 0 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 8 9 11 11 9 0 0 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 6 8 9 11 11 9[/left]

...is the better one, so I suggest you pick the one you prefer.
 
Apr 8, 2006 at 12:25 PM Post #15 of 21

sgrossklass

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YAEQS:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 8 11 11 11 9 0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 8 11 11 11 9[/left]

The mid-treble used to be a touch too present, that's fixed with this one. More refined sounding now.

Edit 2006-04-13:
In the meantime I've been using this:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 8 10 11 11 9 0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 8 10 11 11 9[/left]

Now it's:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 8 10 10 10 9 0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 5 8 10 10 10 9[/left]

Sounds better with crossfeed on (700 Hz, -8 dB, 0.250 ms, 50.00%). Without that, the EQ at the top of this post is plenty bright enough. Here's a variation of that with a slightly more upfront sound:
Code:

Code:
[left]0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 7 11 11 11 9 0 1 2 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 3 4 7 11 11 11 9[/left]

 

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