Covering the Sennheiser HD 380 vs. HD 558 is going to be a lot of fun, largely because the 380 seems to be such a forgotten headphone. It doesn’t really get much attention at all. I know quite a bit about both though, and I’ll be doing an in depth comparison of each for you!
So grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
of each headphone
Who this headphone benefits?
Similarities and Differences
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
** = Many people have commented on this
Sennheiser HD 380
price: check amazon! | check eBay! Type: Closed back Fit: Circumaural (Over/around the ear) Impedance: 54 Ohms. What is Headphone Impedance? Frequency response: 8Hz-27kHz Material: Plastic, Pleather Headband: Padded Color: Black
The Sennheiser HD 380’s are a direct descendant from the HD 280’s, which were an exceptional pair of closed back reference headphones as well.
The 380’s seem to improve upon a lot of the shortcomings of their younger brother. I’m not going to get into that too much, but it helps in describing them as a reference point regardless. The HD 380’s have angled ear-cups, a very comfortable fit, and pads that don’t touch the ears for added comfort. The build on these is also fantastic, and they utilize an even more analytical sound than their sibling. I had the 280’s once. The clamping force was like putting your head into a vice grip, and then tightening it all the way. Lol. The 380’s have a snug fit, but it isn’t as overpowering. Someone did say that wearing the 380’s is like having your head eaten by an alligator. Hm. Very interesting. Know that both are pretty tight.
Be aware that they don’t do particularly well with sound-stage, given that they are a closed back model.
Bass wise, they give a lot more impact, but still remain tight, focused, and accurate. The HD 280’s were an incredibly durable set, but had some headband issues. The 380’s improve on that aspect as well. The headband is more straightforward in it’s construction, and doesn’t have any easily breakable parts.
Something that greatly benefits this headphone in particular is burn in time. Some believe in it, some don’t, but after about 100 hours they may sound like a totally new headphone to you (in the best way possible). They really open up and the clarity becomes crystal clear. A big plus with these is sound isolation. While not 100% noise canceling, they still do an exceptional job of keeping sound out, while also making it so you can’t hear much going on around you.
They are a mostly neutral headphone with a touch of warmth.
Stock cable and ear-pads are replaceable.
**Construction. Very well built and should last a long time. A standard for all Sennheiser products really. They also fold quite nicely, and aren’t nearly as heavy as the 280’s.
Mid-range. This is probably the 380’s strongest attribute. The mids are slightly forward, which gives the sound a nice added energy to vocals and acoustics.
**Sound Isolation. These have been praised a lot in this regard. Not noise cancelling, but about as close to it as it gets. Great for travel, the office, and noisy environments in general.
Pretty flat and Neutral. These are pretty honest cans, which come in handy mixing in studio. They do have a touch of warmth, and are less neutral than the HD 280’s.
Detail. Reveals some really nice subtlety and nuance to recordings that you may have missed in other headphones.
Ear cups. They will start to peel and shed after awhile, not unlike the Sony MDR 7506’s. I have to say that was one of the things that drove me crazy about that headphone. The pieces got everywhere, including getting stuck in my ear! They are also prone to getting hot/sweaty after awhile.
**Vice-grip. Some folks commented that the grip isn’t as bad as the HD 280’s. Others said it was just as bad, if not worse! The clamping force is known to settle in over time however.
Bass is generally tight, controlled, and accurate. It can get muddy in certain instances of high speed, or where it has to reach down farther than it’s comfortable doing. Some are saying this isn’t your typical Sennheiser sound, meaning the bass is a bit over done. Still to many people there just isn’t enough of it, and what is there is very clean, but unnoticeable.
**Respectable sound-stage. Not quite as open as a true open back, but not as closed off as say, The M50x. Surprisingly good for a closed back model.
**Coiled cable.Does extremely well in studio, not so much on the go. Luckily it is replaceable should you choose to go this route. A straight aftermarket cable is always an option.
Carrying Case. It’s nice that one is provided, but some say it’s much too small for these headphones with the added bulk of the cable. Who wants to have to force these in that tight of a space?
**Unforgiving. This can be a good or bad thing depending on who you ask. If you want something analytical, these more than deliver. If you want to enjoy music from a variety of sources, you may be disappointed. They don’t do well with badly produced recordings. Think 128 kbps vs. 192 kbps. The higher the quality audio file the better. Lossless comes to mind here as sort of a benchmark.
At 54 Ohms, it doesn’t need an amp. It isn’t known to bring out the sound all that much with the HD 380’s. The overall effect is mostly just added volume. One or two people said it tightened the bass.
They are kind of an all around set. I’ve seen them endorsed for:
The HD 380’s are sort of a mixed bag. They are pretty neutral, but do have some warmth. They are built solidly, but have some issues with the ear-cup material. The vice-grip prevalent in the 280’s is improved, but still clamps pretty tight at first. Overall, their sound isolation is as close to noise cancelling as you’ll find, but they aren’t worth the asking price in the eyes of many.
An open backed model, the 558’s sport a tight bass response that knows it’s place. The sound only gets better the more you listen with them. A revealing set of cans, you will start to notice a bad mixing job from a good one. They tend to excel at more laid back music, and struggle with aggressive, dense tunes. They do really well with classical and jazz. They do not particularly do well with rap/hip-hop, so buyer be warned. What they will make you do is sit back, close your eyes, and relax. A warmer, more beautiful sounding set.
Tight, smooth bass response
Neutral and balanced
Immersive music, movie, and gaming experience
Comes with adapter
Lightweight and durable
Good channel separation (instruments can easily be picked out and listened to)
Chord is a bit long; can get tangled easily.
Clamp force will squeeze your dome piece when you first put them on. Takes a bit of time to get used to.
The 1/4″ to 3.5 mm adapter is awkward, since usually it’s the other way around.
A replacement chord must be purchased to avoid the inconvenience of the 1/4″ to 1/8″ adapter issue.
A secret to getting a better sound-stage and a bit of a punchier, more pronounced bass is modding them. The ear pads on both sides can be taken apart and a small piece of foam can then be removed. Check out this video on how to do it! Really easy! Some people say that doing this enables these headphones to sound identical to the HD 598, while others claim it does not at all. It does however make a difference in sound regardless..
My Foam Mod Tutorial
Let me know if you liked this type of video and what you would like to see in the future!
My Video Review!
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At 50 Ohms, you’d be hard-pressed to find a size-able difference with an amplifier. I say don’t bother. The most you’re probably going to get is a bit louder overall sound, but not enough to justify the cost.
Who these headphones benefit?
These have been praised mightily for being very versatile. They do great with fps gaming, music, as well as movies. Also, there have been numerous nerds reporting that these things are great for CSGO. I had to look that up; it is the name of a game called “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.” The sound-stage for gaming will knock your effing socks off, no joke. You will be able to tell where every sound is coming from with pinpoint precision and accuracy. Guy shooting at you from behind? 360 spin and WASTE HIM!
They do well with laid back genres like classical and jazz.
Also do well with rock.
They are very open and have an airy, laid back sound. A beautiful sound.
What they aren’t good for
They are not for bass heads. Please don’t buy these expecting to be blown away by the low end. The bass will however improve with time/burn in.
These are open backed, and not for noise reduction or noise cancelling. People will be able to hear what you are listening to at higher volumes. They are best suited in an isolated studio environment where you can really critique a mix or game out in your underwear. 😛
A really comfortable, versatile set of cans that handle a variety of applications such as gaming, music, and movies well. The cable however is a bit of a liability, and the 6.3 mm jack is a bit of an inconvenience for the casual listener.
Similarities & Differences
Color. The HD 380 and HD 558 are both primarily black.
They are both made by Sennheiser, and come in at similar price points, depending on fluctuations within amazon.
Both are neutral, although I would say that the 558’s are more-so.
Both are lightweight and durable.
Neither the 558 or 380 are for bass-heads. The 380 is a bit more bass heavy, and places more importance on it overall.
Cable. The HD 558 comes with a straight cable while the HD 380’s is coiled. Both are replaceable.
Type. The HD 380 is closed back while the 558 is open back. The 380’s are meant to isolate and block out sound from the outside. The 558’s by contrast are airy, and let sound leak quite a bit. They are best in an isolated studio environment. People will be able to hear what you’re listening to if you wear them out.
Ear-cups. The HD 558 is made of velour, and are a lot more comfortable over long periods. The 380’s are made of pleather, and are prone to cracking and breaking down over time. Velour is also known for giving you less of a bass response because the cups cushion your ears farther away from the drivers of the headphone.
Application. The 558’s do much better with genres like classical and jazz, since they have more room to breathe. The sound-stage is also a lot better because of the aforementioned open back moniker. You will start to really get a sense of depth and space. Songs may take on a 3-d image. With gaming the 558’s are astonishing as well, because of the sound coming in at all angles and directions.
If you’re looking for an open back reference can that does exceptionally well with most genres, and remains a joy to listen with, the 558’s are a great option. However, I would actually go with the HD 598’s over them. The frequency range is improved, and the sound is more refined across the spectrum. They also come in a choice of ivory and maroon, or all black. Overall, they are more highly regarded than the 558’s, and make an amazing reference point for entry/mid level enthusiasts. Just be aware that neither is particularly bass heavy.
If you’re looking for an open back headphone that won’t break the bank, the HD558 is the solution for you. The HD598 is a little better overall, but there’s a trick that you can employ to make the 558’s sound really open up. It’s the foam mod, and it’s very simple. So if you don’t want to pay the price for the 598, but want roughly the same sound, go with the 558. Interested in learning all about them + the foam mod?
By contrast, if you’re looking for the best closed back reference can, the 380 isn’t your best bet. I have found in my research that the AKG K550 is about the best in this regard. It gives you some elements of an open back while remaining closed, and above all, benefits producers looking for the best mix-down.
Finally, you may not want to pony up the cash for the K550. Understandable. The best option in the true entry level range would be the MDR V6 in my opinion. It’s pretty much a steal, and will also work as a casual listening headphone. Interested in learning more about it?
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.