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Why the Sennheiser HD598s are considered the best headphones in the world. Sennheiser HD598 review.

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by wind016, May 6, 2011.
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  1. wind016
    Quotes of comments that were made in discussion of the HD598 (may be taken out of context):
    “The mids are the SHOW STEALER, folks.”
    “headphone that resembles Amber Heard's tongue”
    “The only negative that I can think of is lack of sturdy chrome... That's all it really needs.”
    “The HD-598 is one headphone that seems to be a near perfect”
    “I don't feel sound pressure even at dimsum restaurant volumes.”
    “I like the HD598 in a majority of aspects over the HD650”
    “when I first unpackaged my HD-598 I suddenly had a craving for Banana Cream Pie.”
    “Yup, this is the first time that I felt Sennheiser made something that sounded right… but I would caveat 'in 15 years' on the end of that for me.”
    “I *THINK* the HD598 sounds like a mini-Stax Omega 2.”
    “If the HD800 was the king of Sennheiser land, then the HD598 is the romantic, smooth-talking prince of the land. The HD6XX brothers may be a bit more mature but ultimately more unattractive and fat. HD598 will inherit the land when he comes of age at 698 or 798. Time will tell.”
    “If I was to characterize the HD598 as a type of food, I would say they are cow tongue. Not foie gra, it's too expensive. More like cow tongue boiled a good 3 maybe 4 hours. It's sweet, smooth, soft, and slightly heavy. It tastes great with everything. If the HD598 was more refined, then maybe I would consider them to be foie gra, but they aren't fit for tables of high society. Maybe one day Sennheiser will make something that is worth being characterized as foie gra.
     HD598 is cow tongue.”
    “I already associated the other Sennheisers as older fat men. I guess whatever you can associate with maturity and obesity, that would be the other Senns. Pickles and garlic may be appropriate.”
    “It's my favorite dynamic driver headphone. Easily.”
    “HD-598 has better imaging, comfort, a larger soundstage, a more neutral sound and more engaging mids.”
    “Well that's comfortable...”
    “do i recommend them? Yes, definitely!”
    “HD598 is how headphones (or music) are supposed to sound.”
    “The DT880, HD6XX, or K701 maybe technically superior, but they are musically inferior”
    "Try the HD598. Be a believer. Hear the future."
    I liked these headphones so much that I decided to write a review for them. These headphones have some of the best midrange reproduction and soundstage out of almost all the headphones I’ve tried.  There are only three headphones that I know to have the HD598’s midrange and soundstage. One is near impossible to find (I only know two other people on Head-fi that own it and it took one of them three years to find one, ATH W11R), one costs you over $1600 not including the required $1000+ amplifier (Stax Omega 2 MK1), and this HD598 ($175).
    Amplification and source
    Amplification-wise, my Anedio D1 dac is more than enough for these headphones. They are dead simple to amplify so source is the most important part of the chain. The HD598s sound MUCH more spacious and less fatiguing through the Anedio D1 than through my computer’s audio out. Detail retrieval is incomparable. I heard more subtle echoes and sounds that I could not hear through my computer out.
    Generally, it's sound could be described as very wide and speaker-like with an intimate midrange. Instruments recorded at a distance sound as if they are coming through from a speaker at a distance. Close mic'd instruments and vocals sound more personal.
    It has one of the largest soundstages in a headphone that you ever hear without sounding disconnected. They sound even more spacious and airy than my car speakers. The star of the song sounds like it’s in front of you and the backing music sounds like it’s around it. So everything sounds right for being so spacious, which cannot even be said about some headphones like the HD800. As a bonus, the HD598s sound extremely effortless and non-fatiguing, almost like an electrostatic headphone. They are so easy to listen to that it’s surprising these are dynamic headphones. I have never associated the word “effortless” with any other dynamic nor orthodynamic headphone.
    Mid range
    The midrange is the star of the show as it should be. Music is all in the midrange and it’s surprising how many companies don’t voice their headphones this way. Any recession or peak somewhere in the midrange will render the headphone sounding unnatural. The HD598 breathes and lives because of this midrange.
    The midrange allows these headphones to sound good with any genre. Rock, pop, jazz, classical –especially classical-, you name it. The midrange is full, detailed, balanced. Male and female voices sound natural and acoustic instruments sound like they are made of wood.
    There is a slight upper mids peak that needs EQ adjustment to sound more natural.
    Congestion - The midrange can become congested in songs where vocals and bass are prominent. It is a common problem with headphones with this type of signature.
    Lows and Highs
    These are the biggest weaknesses of this headphone.  The bass lacks impact. Sub-bass and bass are there and it surrounds you, but it doesn’t hit you. You can feel the bass and the subbass rumble, but not as much as it should. The highs are balanced with the midrange.  I noticed a weird annoying 17-20K treble peak in these headphones and cymbals have a strange inaccurate timbre. Rolling the frequency down cures my problems. Imaging is improved and cymbal timbre sounds right. Also, I’ve never heard sibilance from these headphones even without the treble rolled off.
    The lack of bass will be a deal breaker for bassheads, but bassheads need to get closed headphones. There may be better rock headphones with better bass impact to match the genre, but for what it is, it does it very well. It's low range is the quiets of the sound frequencies. You can hear the low range notes, but it lacks texture. You hear the bass notes, but not the instrument I guess you can say. If you’re a music lover, you should appreciate having at least one of the 3 midrange oriented headphones I mentioned before. If you’re a detail freak, then take a shower and chill. Stop fessing, stressing, obsessing about the details. The HD598 can allow you to forget all of the silly audiophile analysis and listen to music. A $175 headphone isn’t going to give you the best detail though rivals, Beyerdynamic DT880 and AKG K7XX, may sound more detailed, but I’d like think they are technically superior, musically inferior.  
    Olivia Ong-How Insensitive

    Excellent for these songs. Her voice and echo floats over the band.  Saxophone sounds rich and the guitar sound full. Near end of the song the bass just surrounds you helping create the club ambience. The drum clacks sounds near the back of the room while the guitar and saxophone are appropriated placed at the sides. This song actually sounds more airy and spacious on these headphones than through my car speakers.
    MYK- Weekend Sesh
    This type of music is easily a match for these headphones. Guitar slaps can be felt. Male vocal sounds full. The singer is right in front of you. The ending of the song just surrounds you with voices
    Beethoven Symphony No.7

    Easily good with orchestral music. Extremely spacious. Excellent timbre and instrument separation. I don’t hear congestion even on the busiest passages.
    Rise Against – Audience of One, Entertainment

    Rock songs surround you with excellent instrument separation. Every instrument can be clearly discerned. The bass drum may lack some impact and the guitar sound too smooth for some people. However, the fact that rock still sounds so energetic but not fatiguing in any way is quite a feat. These headphones are great for rockers that don’t want ear bleed when they listen to their favorite rock songs.
    Lady Gaga – Telephone
    The HD598 just doesn’t have the club atmosphere for this song. The bass sounds too smooth. Everything surrounds you, but doesn’t make you want to jump.  My W11R was much more capable of reproducing that overemphasized bass to clubbing levels. However, you can still enjoy pop with these headphones, but for extremely bassy songs like these, it’s best to get a closed headphone.
    So Finally
    The headphones sound very natural and IMO closer to neutral than most of the headphones surrounding Head-fi that are touted as neutral but are in fact bright. However, they sound more speaker-like than the actual instrument, but for the price, it does what it does very well. If you wished the AKG K70X had fuller mids, these headphones may be for you. If you want something versatile, natural sounding, spacious, and not fatiguing, these headphones are for you. If you want the perfect headphones for games and movies, these are for you. If you listen to a lot of acoustic music, these headphones are for you. If you want the bass in songs to knock you unconscious and you only listen primarily to bass oriented music, then you can pass on this. Low resolution and high resolution music will sound good with these headphones allowing those with almost any kind of situation (except bassheads, though bassheads can still enjoy this headphone as a complement to their other headphones) to enjoy these headphones.
    Wrap-up: Pros + Speaker-like soundstage, intimate mid range, not very resolving
    Cons - Bass is quietest in the sound balance, mid range congestion, not very resolving
    MarcadoStalker7 and Mike46 like this.
  2. Proglover
    Thanks for this review:)
  3. kn19h7
    ok I just want to get a seat myself for this title ;D
  4. Proglover

    someting wrong with my browser, tried to type my post 3 times the way I want, now leave it be
  5. Deep Funk
    Have you ever tried the DT48E-25? If you are a midrange lover the DT48E-25 is worth an audition. Of course there are various other headphones that could be mentioned...
    Having tried a HD598, I did not like it. 
  6. xander90
    The cracking issue alone wouldn't make them perfect. I hope Sennheiser really fixed them though. 
  7. Bacci
    I agree with most of your review (well done!) esp. harsh highs and lack of bass extension, but imho the lack of bass impact is a review of your amp not the HD598. The HD598's impedance varies from 50 to almost 300 ohm between 20 and 100Hz, quite a challenge for any amp. 
    aliphares likes this.
  8. pp312


  9. jleewach
    Best headphones in the world? I think not...
    GeneraI likes this.
  10. jerg Contributor
    Yeah the title is too subjective. Sh%tstorms ahoy.
  11. tdockweiler
    I've loved these things since I got them. I originally got them just for gaming, but I found out they had a near perfect sound signature for my music. They're more grainy than the HD-600 and 650, but it's not too much of a problem for me. Both these and the DJ100 have my near perfect sound signature.
    I sure wish there were other headphones that sounded similar. Maybe the K601. It feels though that the K601 is less smooth sounding and has more treble. The mids are not quite as forward I think after all. Very similar though. The sound of the K601 is also a little more airy. It's a more upfront experience compared to the K702. People say the K702 has more bass, but I don't agree at all. The K601 definitely has less treble for sure. Unlike an HD-600 with stock cable, it doesn't tame the treble on any of my recordings.
    The only headphone I like a little more overall is the Koss Pro DJ 100. Want a headphone that sounds somewhat similar that's cheap and closed? Get the DJ100. It's a bit more aggressive and it has even more forward mids and more bass. The highs are rolled off a bit though, but it has more than enough treble for me. Believe it or not, the mids and vocals on my DJ100 are a tad more engaging, but the 598 is close. The DJ100 is also far more detailed and at first I thought there was no way. The sound of course is a lot thinner, but I don't mind. I always wanted an open DJ100, so the 598 is a nice option. Somehow the 598 sounds better unamped though and I'm not sure why. I always hoped the DJ100 would get more attention but it never did. I think it's the only headphone that turned me into a raving fanboy. HD-598 almost did, but not quite.
    For me, the most engaging headphones when it comes to it's mids are the HD-598, K601 and DJ100. HD-650 has some good mids with the right amp, but just not as engaging as the 598. Technically "better" of course [​IMG]
    K601 probably has a few advantages over the HD-598. Maybe more treble, a slightly clearer sound and maybe more detail. I'll need to do a review later. They're not quite as smooth sounding as the HD-598, but very similar in many ways. Vocals are about equally as good on each, maybe the 598 with the slight advantage. HD-598 is probably better overall, but I'll need to compare them more. HD-598 does very few things wrong. But yes, if they could make it as clear as say the K702, it'd be the best headphone in the world!
    For those that want a headphone for everything and only keep one headphone, the 598 and K601 are good options. The 598 is much easier to drive though. I can't wait to see some HD-598 and K601 reviews.
  12. Deep Funk
    Warmish neutral, bass response sounded too absent for Metal. My HD428 sounded better for my preferences at the time and I had two versions at the time: stock and recabled. 
    I was already used to the clarity of a K240 DF so the HD598 did not impress me the least. The last Sennheiser that really impressed me was the HD800 so I think very little of the HD598.
    Edit: sorry, the white space annoyed me. Weird...

  13. glac1er
    Though the HD598 has great soundstage shape, I think it is quite colored in the midrange especially upper midrange, which works really well for some but not for those who don't like that kind of coloration. It is also one of the grainiest sub $200 headphones I've ever listened to. 
    I got tired of the aggressive upper mid coloration along the way, I just want my vocal reproduction as the recording intended, without sugarcoat. For me, HD600 is better in every way except soundstage, as it can be musical without having to resort to bumped upper mid. 
  14. wind016


    As you can see from the EQ, the upper mids problem is extremely easy to fix. The HD600 is beyond the capability of EQ. It will take a lot to make that headphone sound right.


    As you see from the quotes, they disagree. Please list the headphones and equipment you've tried that are better sounding.


    I haven't had cracking and Sennheiser said they fixed it.


    Saying a headphone is bad because it's not perfect with just metal is ridiculous. I've never heard a Beyerdynamic that I liked. I'm sure the DT48 won't have the soundstage and effortless sound of the HD598. As mentioned, the bass response is the weakest link of this headphone, but it's not nearly as bad as some headphones with a big soundstage.
  15. wind016

    The highs are once again an easy fix. The bass impact is the weakness of this headphone.
    I'm surprised there are so many people complaining about the bass. It clearly has better bass than AD700/900 and has a better balanced sound than the Beyerdynamic T1. I couldn't hear the T1's bass under it's treble.
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