The Sennheiser HD 518’s are a great set of open back, warm sounding headphones. They have a great sound-stage, and really give the songs a lush, non-fatiguing, natural sound, complete with lots of detail and clarity in the mids and highs.
Patrick Bateman says “It really gives the songs a big boost.” Lol.
They are great for long listening sessions due to their comfort factor, and are a solid choice for jazz, classical, movies & gaming. They have a nice sound-stage that really immerses you in the music and enables you to hear a lot of subtle nuances that you would otherwise miss in closed back headphones.
The downside is that they will leak a lot of sound, and aren’t for bass-heads. Everyone will be able to hear what you’re listening to. They are also too soft and laid back for genres such as pop, rock, dub-step and rap. If you crave that heavy bass, you will want to look elsewhere.
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great for movies and video games
cable is detachable
very comfortable, great for long listening sessions
great sound-stage. A lot of subtle nuances in music, movies, and video games are heard and felt.
great for jazz, classical
gives off a warm, natural sound
pairing with a portable amp will give the bass a nice boost
great in studio, or just chillaxin’ at home in front of the TV.
clamp force very strong. You will need to stretch these a bit before they really get comfortable
The chord is defaulted as a 1/4″, with a 1/8″ adapter. 99% of the time, this is reversed. Usually the headphone will be defaulted as 1/8″ (3.5 mm) with a 1/4″ adapter.
Note: you can opt to purchase the aftermarket cable with these, which comes as your standard 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter.
People who want a relaxing and beautiful experience rather than an aggressive and adrenaline fueled one.
The 518’s are a great beginner audiophile enthusiast set of cans. They do well with more laid back genres of music, but also really excel with movies and gaming. The chord is a bit of a hassle, but can be replaced.
It should be noted that the M50’s are a bit different from the 50x’s. The 50x’s are in essence a slightly updated version, and come with:
A choice of different colors. Subject to change.
contoured ear cups that seal tighter for improved isolation
a bit of added bass emphasis!
Outside of these things, the two are nearly identical in sound & build.
Expect to put these on and be amazed. After listening with them on for the first time, I really got a sense of what I had been missing. If this is your first foray into audiophile type equipment, these will really make you look at music in an entirely different way.
They aren’t neutral per se, but do excellent as a mixing/reference headphone. They are colored in a sense, but to me it never feels over the top. I would describe the sound as huge, full, and detailed. You will start to hear things in recordings that had previously been lost. One of the biggest differences between these and the 280’s is bass response. These reach down really low, and give you a nice thump, without sounding bloated or artificial. They are tighter than a panty hose homie!
Think of it this way: They do extremely well in a variety of different listening situations and musical genres. My friend who just purchased the 50x’s bought them for this purpose. There’s a reason these are so popular. They are a remarkably versatile set of cans.
Versatile. Expect to be using these as your go to cans almost (if not outright) daily for a variety of different things.
Bass. It’s tight and controlled, while at the same time being loud and hard hitting. Contributes to the “wow” factor upon first listen.
Comfort. These are a bit more comfortable overall than the 280’s, and you will find yourself wearing them over a longer period without adjustment.
Flexibility and build. Contorts and folds in many of the same ways as the 280. A bit more flexible in this regard. This is one of their strongest suits contributing to longevity. There are simply less ways these can break given their ox like build.
3.5 mm jack. The little things are what impress me most, and the fact that these come with a protective coil at the end of the chord running into the 3.5 mm jack is priceless. I’m sure it’s saved these on many occasions since I’ve had them. Truly extraordinary.
Choice of coiled or straight cable. I normally opt for the straight cable, but the fact that you have a choice is nice. If you plan on using these out and about, I’d suggest the straight version.
Out of your head. Even as a closed back model, these do exceptionally well with instrument separation and sound-stage. You may frequently remove them from your melon to see where the sound came from. They have very impressive imaging in this regard.
Ear cups. While comfortable, the ear cups are prone to cracking over time. I wouldn’t advise wearing these right out of the shower, as this has probably contributed to mine having this issue. The ear-cups can be replaced, and should be because they also flatten out a bit over a long period of daily use.
Even being able to wear them over a long period, the sound can get trapped inside your dome, leading to fatigue/sibilance. Take a break man!
Bass-heads will love the tight, controlled, yet thumping quality these provide. Prepare to be amazed.
Producers who need a good mix-down. While not entirely neutral, these do excel in studio as a reference monitor.
People who are looking for longevity and versatility from their purchase
Those who want to be able to listen for long sessions with the occasional adjustment or break
A slick set of casual consumer headphones that also do well in studio. Highly versatile, comfortable, and built to last. The ear-cups have been known to crack over time, but are replaceable. Closed back design will force you to take a break every so often. Overall an amazing set.
Similarities & Differences
Absolutely none, besides the fact that they are both black in color.
Sound. The M50’s are closed back, while the HD 518’s are open and do leak sound. They are better suited in an isolated studio or home office environment, away from people. The 518’s are also a lot more neutral than the M50’s, which are more of a bass heads can.
Soundstage. While the M50’s do have a surprisingly good soundstage for a closed back model, the 518’s really excel better overall. They are more suited for open, airy music such as jazz and classical, and do extremely well with gaming also.
Construction/build. The 518’s are mostly plastic, and don’t fold up or really contort in any kind of way. The M50’s have some metal, which contributes greatly to their longevity.
Comfort. The M50’s are very comfortable, but may need adjustments over a long listening period. The HD 518’s, and generally anything with velour ear padding are going to be extremely comfortable (like pillows!).
Pleather vs. Velour. Going further, the ear-cups on both will deflate over time, but with the M50’s you may experience some cracking as well. The cups are replaceable on both however. I’ve had my M50’s since January 2013 and they do need replacements now.
Cable. The 518’s have a detachable cable while the M50’s do not. Note: The upgraded M50x’s do come with a detachable cable however. With the M50’s you get a choice of straight or coiled cable. The 518’s come with a straight cable by default.
Plug. The Plug on the 518’s is awkward. As mentioned above it terminates into a 1/4″ with a 3.5mm adapter. Trying to plug your headphones into a mobile device proves cumbersome. Luckily there is an aftermarket replacement. The M50’s come with the standard 3.5mm to 1/4″ adapter.
While the Sennheiser HD 518 is a great open back headphone, the HD 598 improves upon it in all regards. It’s sound is more refined with a better sound-stage and a choice of different colors. Overall it’s just a better, more highly regarded can. In it’s price range, there isn’t an open back headphone that I recommend more.
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?
If you’re looking for a closed back model, the ATH M50 makes an almost impeccable higher end consumer grade can. It’s one of those things that you have to experience first hand. While the “studio monitor” moniker that it gets it’s a bit misleading, it’s such an absolute joy to listen with. It does well with most genres, and it’s low end is tight and punchy without becoming overbearing or muddy.
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.