The Sennheiser HD598’s have been my personal headphones for quite a while now and are really my first foray into real, quality headphones. Throughout my ownership of these headphones I have definitely grown to appreciate and enjoy them, but that experience has also formed my taste and experiences. This review I decided to take a critical look at what I have grown to love and really analyze the why and understanding behind them. Do I still think these headphones are great headphones? Yes, I do. But are they the best headphone for you? That may be a different answer.
The Sennheiser HD598’s are an open back, over-ear headphone design with a “classic” feel and color scheme. The beige and browns bring immediate reminiscent of classic audio equipment, with unfinished wooden enclosures and a design direction away from the current technology focused shiny and smooth aesthetics you would find in current headphones design such as those from Beats or Sennheiser’s more current beats competitor, the HD-1 series headphone. The cream colored body takes a more relaxed and less aggressive approach to design aesthetics, making these headphones feel right at place in a home listening environment.
This design and color scheme will be something most users either love or hate, and generally these headphones are not striking, or something to accessorise without and about like Beats or the HD-1 would be, however for an Audiophile listening experience and expectation, their design emits the exact nostalgia-inducing tones that match the comfortability and relaxing nature of their sound.
Sennheiser has constructed the 598’s almost completely out of plastic, which both benefits the headphones feel and fit, yet detracts from their feeling of, “quality”.
Wearing the Sennheiser HD598’s is a dream. The headphones disappear and are comfortable for listening sessions of any length, making them great headphones for use paired with a desktop computer or dedicated home listening environment. Adjustments made to the bands of the headphone have a satisfying click and resistance, and the tip of each band is highlighted with a wood veneer highlight. This wood veneer is also featured around the headphone grills to reinforce their design aesthetic. The materials used also give the headphones their incredible light weight, while also allowing some amount of flex to fit heads of any proportion. These headphones never feel too tight and fit comfortably.
The Velour earpads and are comfortable and warm on your ears, yet never cause your head or ears to sweat or cause discomfort. This material I would highly recommend for additional headphones to use, as I have experienced discomfort or sweating with faux leather ear cups on competitors headphones.
With that being said, and considering the price point, seeing some premium grade materials on the headphones would be beneficial in gauging their perceived “quality” for build quality. Each ear cup has a silver ring surrounding the speaker grill that is obviously plastic next to the metal grills of the of the headphones. Having this ring be made of metal would have gone a long way toward delivering a premium feel for build quality.
What is presented is well manufactured, sturdy, designed with purpose and I have had no issues with wear and tear over time. However, I would expect the use of higher grade materials for this price point.
The HD598’s are an Open Ear Design headphone featuring a dominantly lightweight plastic build, with velour earpads and headphones. The design allows them to keep a rather low weight of 270g. Connecting the headphones is a stock is a 6.3mm (¼ inch) headphone jack with a 3.5mm (⅛ inch) adapter included in the box. The cable connects to the left earcup with a twist lock style 4 conductor connector that keeps the cable from unintentionally being tugged out of the headphones. Driving these headphones is not as simple as something like Apple AirPods or Beats, especially considering they sound best at louder volumes. However, the 50Ohm load is not dramatically more demanding than your typical headphone and can be powered for a personal media player such as a cell phone. When listening, the headphones are able to reproduce 12Hz-38.5Khz, with the low end being rather impressive with that rating. However, a +/- dB range is not published by Sennheiser with that frequency range. As far as volume is concerned, we are rated at 112db at 1Kh/1Vrms, which is rather strong amplification. You should not expect these levels out of your cell phone headphone amp. However, these headphones have no issue getting to the point of being, “too loud”, despite never being harsh or fatiguing.
The Sennheiser HD598’s provide an extremely full, neutral, yet highly dynamic and detailed sound quality. The Low-end bass extension is extremely impressive while being very detailed in producing individual tones and notes. Listening to Deadmou5 Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff Nero Mix provides the type of undistorted, musical low bass extension that I would not expect in headphones at this price point. The low-frequency bass sweep that starts at 1:50 through 2:40 are handled with individual notes and are fully discernible without any blending or distortion. Hearing complex and individual notes are never straining, and extended listening sessions are never fatiguing. Listening to more complex and potentially bombastic musical mixes such as the last minute of Giorgio by Morodor by Daft Punk results in never losing individual notes with no direct sound signature pushed or colored above the others.
The overall sound signature is relaxed. However, these headphones have no issues reproducing brighter and orchestral content. Listening to a personal reference track, Duel of Fates from the Star Wars Episode 1 Soundtrack, horns and flutes shine without completely overpowering the violin backbone that controls the pace of the theme. Continuing with John Williams score, the brass, xylophone, and strings absolutely sing on these headphones, with the timpani never sounding bombastic despite the low-end frequency response of these headphones being so capable.
Listening to female vocals are also quite the highlight despite the relaxed nature and sound signature. Due to an extremely airy and open sound stage, highs are allowed to resonate. Listening to Lisa Lovbrand's 'Let’s Get It On', each string of the accompanying guitar is heard from the pluck to the resonant vibration sound, with Lisa's voice sounding like it is existing in the room, not directly from the headphones themselves.
This open soundstage, neutral, non-fatiguing yet detailed sound does come with a rather large catch.
The sound I have described to you is the sound these headphones reproduce at what I would describe as a “loud” listening level.
When fed with a quality signal and amplifier, and listening to at what I would describe as potentially an, “above average” level, these headphones provide their full-bodied sound that I highly recommend. However, at low or moderate volume levels. Certain aspects of the sound loose their balance, specifically mid-range detail. At lower volume levels, the strong bass and detailed highs are discernible and musical. However, the mid-range nearly disappears. Listening to the same reference tracks, individual notes have to be focused on to heard in the mid-range, and the sound is anything but, “full”. The low end is still distinct though obviously without the same extension, and details highs chime distinctly, but everything in between becomes a wash. This creates a potential problem for any owner of the HD598’s. Once you hear them at an appropriate volume, you will not want to listen to them any other way, however listening at the required level for these headphones to really shine, can create a large amount of noise in your room. At these levels, the headphones are nearly speakers and will disrupt all that is around you. You will not be able to enjoy your music on a plane with these headphones, plain and simple, or late at night next to a significant other.
If you're listening scenario is a dedicated personal space where you have the ability to listen at impactful levels without interrupting those around you, you can experience the sound quality of these headphones as I do. However, if your listening conditions demand lower volume levels due to your surrounds, you will not get a satisfying audio listening experience from these headphones.
The Sennheiser HD598’s provide and absolutely amazing extended listening experience when listened to at full volume levels. Due to the open ear nature of the headphones, listening to the HD598’s is not a private experience. With the combination of the required volume level for these headphones to sound their best, their open air nature puts this headphone directly into a category of headphone that is best suited to listen to alone indoors, in a dedicated listening environment. With a design aesthetic that is favorable to classic audio, but questionable to current “technology” focused designed, this is also a headphone that you would not necessarily want to take with you for travel, especially when in close proximity to others ( in subways, trains, planes, etc.). Because of these factors, the Sennheiser HD598’s will not be the only pair of headphones you own, which detracts from their overall value.
As a stand alone, dedicated listening environment headphone. As a headphone that you listen to as a personal listening experience, for dedicated music listening, or especially in a desktop computer environment, these headphones can be incredible. When allowed to breath, the neutral, uncolored, yet dynamic and detailed sound is never fatiguing. For a dedicated listening headphone at this level of sound quality, and for a current market price of $150 ($250 MSRP), these headphones are an incredible value for this customer. However, you do need to accept that this will not be the last pair of headphones you buy, and will not be appropriate for many settings where you wish you could have good sound. You will need another pair of headphones to wear in any setting that does not put yourself alone in a room. As long as you can live with that fact, you’re going to love these headphones, just don’t expect these to be the last headphones you ever buy.
As a stand alone, dedicated listening environment headphone. As a headphone that you listen to as a personal listening experience, for dedicated music listening, or especially in a desktop computer environment, these headphones can be incredible. When allowed to breath, the neutral, uncolored, yet dynamic and detailed sound is never fatiguing. For a dedicated listening headphone at this level of sound quality, and for a current market price of $150 ($250 MSRP), these headphones are an incredible value for this customer. However, you do need to accept that this will not be the last pair of headphones you buy, and will not be appropriate for many settings where you wish you could have good sound. You will need another pair of headphones to wear in any other setting that is not yourself, alone in a room. As long as you can live with that fact, you’re going to love these headphones, just don’t expect these to be the last headphones you ever buy.