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Wow! Sennheiser HD 540 Reference are so good.

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by hairspray, Jun 29, 2013.
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  1. Hofy
    This is all I am finding on my 600 ohm.

  2. jon parker
    That looks like a 600 ohm. 99% of the time, if there is no '300' stamped on the cup then it IS a 600 ohm
    the 600 ohms were early models...the 300 versions coming later
    Is the headband smooth or ridged?
    The early iterations are ridged and are 600 ohm
  3. lantian
    top of the headband
  4. sennsay
    My Ref1s are the second gen first series, 600 ohm, no ridge.
  5. Hofy
    Both my Ref1 are first gen with the ridge. No serial number on the headband. Only Gold series have a serial number?
  6. sennsay
    Maybe so, my second gen Ref1s have no serial number on the headband, but do have 600 ohm stamped in the capsules.
  7. Malfunkt
    Not sure how long I've had my 540s but these are quickly approaching desert island status for myself. Listening to a recording of Scarlatti as played by Corina Marti & Capella Tiberina, it is absolutely captivating. The timbre of the woodwind instruments is so natural, without deviation, and hits the perfect balance - richness and clarity.

    While there are more technically sophisticated headphones (estats, Utopia, etc). this headphone just gets the mid-range and upper octaves right in tuning. In addition, I find myself using it over my HD800 for a number of reasons including comfort - it is both lighter, cozier, and more breathable - as well I have a short cable that makes it easy to cart around.

    I never think about how old this headphone is. To me it is reference standard.

    I'm going to be borrowing a Utopia again (one of my favourites) and will also be getting another rare gem - a Sony MDR-F1. Will have some more comparisons coming up.
    trellus likes this.
  8. Grumpy Old Git
    The 'Wanderer' returns............

    After a few months of listening to various cans that include (not in chronological order)

    Audeze LCD-2 (Fazor)
    Audeze LCD-3 (Fazor)
    AKG K712 Pro
    Hifiman HE-400i
    Hifiman HE-560
    Beyerdynamic T5P (second generation)
    Beyerdynamic DT 880 Headphones (Classic 1980's Model)
    Stax 4040 Headphones/Stax 006tA energiser.

    As you can see, some of these cans cost as much as 20 pairs (or thereabouts) of pre-owned HD 540's.
    Let me make this clear, NONE of them produces anything like 20 times better sound. In fact, I only found the considerably more expensive Stax to be a generally superior headphone at a substantially higher price.

    I've said this before and I'll say it again, there are headphones out there that can outperform the HD 540 in certain area's (and it's not a day and night difference), but you really will have to pay a premium for that sound that in some instances is only a 'sidegrade' as opposed to an upgrade.

    Anyway, I've returned to the fold with a pair of early (ribbed headband) 600 Ohm HD 540's.
    I've upgraded them with our favourite Chinese ear pads and the really excellent cable below.
    How do they sound? These are probably the best pair of HD 540's I have owned! The detail retrieval and bass depth and control is just superb!

    Want a GOOD cable for your HD 540's? A VERY GOOD cable just shy of 25 quid?
    Look on a well-known auction site for a Van Damme UPOFC Coretech Cable...Very nice!
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2018
    trellus, Hofy, rodel808 and 1 other person like this.
  9. sennsay
    And this is still my own experience too. I have been cleaning up a series of home theatre amps from Sony and Pioneer lately and the Ref1s always still sound organically and tunefully alive with all of them, even if not always the very best choice for a particularly amp. I kept the Pioneer VSX-D512, as it's a cracker of an amp with a really nice, clean and very tuneful DAC on board, with transparency and depth perspective, for heaven's sake! It's just for my lounge system and has surprised me with it's lithe rhythmic abilities, especially with the already lovely little lithe and open Gale Mini Monitors MkII and a Jamo sub.
    Good job that you have all those cans on hand to make the comparisons :) It's still a genuine reference headphone for re-creating the life and humanity in music, instead of variances of electronic representations thereof and I'm fairly certain that it's the 600 ohm impedance that plays a large part in that, every other 300 ohm or lower Senn can I've heard doesn't seem to portray quite that sense of real Life to the same degree, regardless of age or youth, with a few exceptions from other brands ...... so I hear, since I don't own most of them. It could be just a rumour :) The HD430s have a very similar communicative ability, though are certainly trickier to amp-up and lose out big time in bass depth and can overload easily with bass heavy tracks.
    I will check out that cable though ....

    I've been using the Ref1s with both the R2R-11 as a DAC running into a Magni 3 via the usual silver cables and with the Mimby/M3 combo and the Ref1s effortlessly and clearly show the differences between the systems, yet still sound fabulous with both. The R2R-11 DAC being warmer, denser, weightier/meatier, yet also darker and less transparent, though no less enjoyable for that. The Mimby/M3 noticeably more transparent, 3D and open. Both are so rhythmically adept and explore that same fantastic trait in the Ref1s. Brilliant.
    Thanks for that update, Mr Git.
  10. lantian
    Well after owning the hd 540 reference 600 ohm versions for couple of months, I have finally got a amp that can drive them. they are extremely hard to drive. Schiit magni 3 had no chance whatsoever. It was pretty good for the 300 ohm version of reference gold, but way to under powered for the 600ohm version. I have had the luck of getting my hands on Lake People G5HP from the late 80's.
    Originally meant for studios headphones with medium to high impedance loads. This thing has way more power than I expected, barely ever have to move past 2 never even approached 3. This is the first amp that can actually drive the 600ohm version of this headphone the way it is meant to be driven. After having had this amp for two weeks can clearly say these are my favorite and in my opinion best dynamic driver headphones ever made, hd 800 has nothing against the realism that these produce with every note. Could not be even more impressed by them. The sound they produce is in one word REAL. Clarity of them is amazing, while it is a older amp, it still holds it's own against modern amps, though unlike schiit magni 3 it does color the sound a bit. All the while being just as resolving as the magni 3, perhaps with even better resolution. Also can say that the 300ohm version is a completely different headphone. It is not even close to what the 600 ohm version offers when properly amped. Make no mistake they sound great but not as great as the 600 ohm ones. That is simply the best dynamic driver sennheiser have ever made. Would never trade it against anything else.
  11. lantian
    The normal hd 540 reference 1 and 2 have no serial numbers on them they where mass produced, only place such a number would find itself is the original retail box. Only thing on them will be the resistance of the drivers.
  12. dakanao
    Well I actually have both the HD 6xx and 300 ohm HD 540 Ref 1, and the HD 6xx sounds clearly better to me no doubt. More realistic timbre, smoother upper end, fuller bass. The only things my HD 540 beat them in is imaging, soundstage and upper treble sparkle. Both driven by the Chord Mojo
  13. lantian
    Can not comment on hd6xx, since I have never heard hd 6xx. Though compared to hd 650 i definitely would chose the normal reference 1 or 2 over the 650 every day of the week.Then again I have 3 pairs of reference 2(two of which I gave to my brother, one is still in my closet) and I had 1 pair of reference 1 600ohm version(gave as a gift to a friend), neither of which I can listen to since I have bought the golds. They are just a different headphone, would never trade it for anything else, least of all modern sennheiser's.
  14. sennsay
    I DID choose my 600 ohm Ref1s over the HD6xx every day of the week! Sold the latter quite happily after giving them my best shot, I really only enjoyed them as 'slightly better' in a couple of areas on only one or two albums, nowhere near enough justification for me to keep them. I found I would always go back to the Ref1s and just continue listening with no desire to hear anything else. Me and modern Sennheisers? Meh. I've listened to quite a number of them excepting the HD800 series and from almost everything I've heard about them I have no desire to go there at this time. The Ref1s with either of my systems are so satisfying that I just don't care for anything else, only a curiosity to hear the new Focal Clears.
  15. sennsay
    Blimey, mate, I have no issues with my Magni 3 driving the HD540 Ref1s at all, regularly running the amp between 12-4 o'clock with PRaT galore, alive clarity, plenty of dynamic range, transparency and no distortion or sense of running out of steam excepting for very low recording levels on a few albums. Mind you, I almost always use the amp via the Mimby and QP1R with optical in to the DAC, I find it sounds more refined than the USB input, as good as that one sounds.
    Maybe you like your volume much higher than I do? Funnily enough I didn't really like the HD6xx with the Magni 3 much at all, creamed by the Ref1s.
    Certainly, I couldn't agree more about the Ref1s being the best dynamic driver Senn have made, I've never heard one that is overall 'better' in the finest musical sense. I was thinking about it the other day after a good listening session the previous evening, the Ref1s and my Schiit stack/QP1R/Slinkylinks cables sounded just like a really great tube system that had none of the foibles of using bottles (I did sell my Valhalla 2, the Magni 3 was significantly purer and more transparent and I bought the Mimby with the V2 money, a most excellent exchange!). A natural organic warmth that, just in one aspect alone, allowed the human voice to be human; rounded flesh and blood, soft lips, with a solidity and weight in space that makes all other headphones I've heard, no matter how good they may be in ultimate detail retrieval etc, sound flat and artificial to varying degrees. I can still listen to them and enjoy the music, but on returning to the main system with the Ref1s, they are just so obviously more real. Like you, Lantian, my Ref1s are going nowhere! In fact I'm considering finding another set in case anything drastically untoward should ever happen to my 29 year old faithfuls. Only 600 ohm versions will do!
    trellus and lantian like this.
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