Originally published 4/29/19.
- 7/30/19. Added missing Imaging section. Thanks, Ron!
- 1/21/21. Article/link cleanup.
- 8/4/21. Article/link cleanup.
- 3/19/22. Article revisit.
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Let’s start with a quick chart!
Before we get into the Sennheiser HD 598 vs. HD 650 vs. HD 600 MEGA shootout, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
Table of Contents
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Video Comparison (Coming Soon!)
I’ve had extensive time with both the 500 series and 600 series, and there are some marked differences between them that will most certainly affect your decision-making process.
I’ve personally owned an HD 600 since Christmas of 2016, and have demoed an HD650 on many occasions. In fact, I have one in the apartment right now! A good friend of mine, Craig Boyles, has lent it to me many times and I’m really grateful that he has.
Nowadays I kind of prefer a 650 over the 600, but we’ll get into all that in a bit.
The HD598 is another headphone that was lent to me by a good friend I met at Audio Advice by the name of Luke. He uses his for gaming and it really is perfect for such activities. We’ll also touch on that later as well! 🙂
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check eBay!
- Type: Open Back. Open Back vs. Closed Back Headphones.
- Fit: Circumaural (Over-Ear)
- Impedance: 50 ohms.
- Sensitivity: 112dB.
- Frequency response: 12 – 38500 Hz.
- Material: High-gloss Burl Wood Detail Complementing Premium Metal Mesh, Velour Ear Pads, Leatherette Headband.
- Color: Ivory and Maroon or Special edition black!
- Weight: 247g (without cable).
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
- Type: Open back.
- Fit: Circumaural (over-ear).
- Impedance: 300 ohms.
- Sensitivity: 97 dB/mW.
- Frequency response: 12Hz – 39000 kHz.
- Material: Metal Grilles, Carbon Fiber, Velour Ear Pads, Plastic.
- Color: Speckled Blue Finish, Black.
- Weight with Cable: 315g (11.1 Oz.)
- Weight without cable: 262g (9.2 Oz.)
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
- Type: Open back. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
- Fit: Circumaural.
- Impedance: 300 Ohm.
- Sensitivity: 103dB/mW.
- Frequency response: 12 – 39000 Hz.
- Material: OFC copper (Kevlar Reinforced), Velour, Plastic.
- Color: Grey and Black Metal Flake Finish.
- Weight with Cable: 370g (13 Oz.)
- Weight without cable: 259g (9.1 Oz.)
The build quality of the Sennheiser HD598 is definitely not bad at all. It’s a fairly lightweight headphone but feels pretty good in your hand.
It’s not going to wow you in any way, but it’s serviceable and adequate. It doesn’t feel as lightweight as something like an AKG K240, but it’s still a little flimsy in your hand.
The cups here are of course velour, the headband is plastic with leatherette padding, and there’s that element of high gloss burl wood detail complimenting premium metal mesh for the grilles.
All in all, it feels pretty solid with all things considered.
The 598 terminates in a 1/4″ jack and comes with a 3.5mm adapter. The cable is also detachable, but it’s 2.5mm.
The HD600 is definitely heavier and feels a bit more substantial by contrast. We’ve still got mostly plastic, but there are also elements of carbon fiber, and of course velour for the ear cups.
The headband padding here is a soft foam and feels great to the touch.
The 600 is also larger than the 598. The headband adjustment is a thin type of metal, whereas with the 598 it’s plastic. The plastic is thicker but doesn’t necessarily feel more sturdy.
The 600’s headband adjustment has always kind of baffled me. It’s really nothing like I’ve ever seen before. At first glance, the piece that connects the headband to the cups looks kind of fragile, but it’s held up remarkably well over time.
Even though the 598 is all plastic, it’s a deceptively sturdy plastic and holds up very well to rough handling. I wouldn’t throw it across the room like an HD25, but it’s surprisingly solid for its weight and build.
For the HD650, everything is pretty much the same as with the 600, with a couple of small differences.
The padding is still foam on the 650, but instead of 4 individual pads, it’s one pad that has a sort of crater in the middle.
The wire on the HD600 is thinner and feels a lot cheaper than the HD650’s. It’s also a lot harder to pull out.
The 650’s wire is a breeze to get out and it’s also thicker at the base. You’re easily able to grasp it and pull with no issues. I found myself worrying about damaging the 600’s cable in trying to pull on it.
It’s very small at the base and seems to be lodged in much too tight. That said, all parts on both are replaceable: Grilles, Padding, Wiring, etc.
These are headphones that should theoretically last you a lifetime with proper care!
The other difference is that the 650’s cable terminates in a 1/4″ jack and comes with a 3.5mm adapter.
Sennheiser really wants to make it clear that this headphone deserves separate amplification in the form of a 1/4″ jack on your headphone amp of choice. Click here to skip to the Amp section!
On the 600, the termination is a standard 3.5mm jack and it comes with a very nice snap-on adapter with a black base.
What I appreciate about this adapter is that it’s instantly recognizable. I always know exactly which one goes with the 600 in a sea of other screw-on adapters that all look the exact same. 😛
The comfort on all three of these headphones is excellent, but you’ll find some slight differences between the 598 and the 600/650.
Both the HD600 and 650 are infamous for having very tight clamp pressure on your head at first. It does open up over time, so there is really nothing to worry about.
I personally just waited it out and was fine. Your mileage may vary.
If you do find them too tight at first, you can always stretch them out over some books or something similar. Just be very careful!
The HD600’s headband in particular has been known to snap under pressure, sort of like Henry Hill in Goodfellas. 😛
“I worry about you sometimes, Henry! You may fold under questioning!”
By contrast, the HD598’s clamp pressure isn’t as tight, but it still fits very snugly on your melon.
In all honesty, the 598 may just be the most comfortable headphone I’ve ever worn. You pretty much forget you’re wearing it after a while, and I really never have to make adjustments.
The HD600 and 650 are equally as comfy, but it will take some time for both to open up. Once they do, you’re in for a real treat! Do note that even after both open up, they still sit a bit tighter than a 598.
All in all, I would rate the 600/650 as about equal in comfort. The HD598 will be a bit lighter on your head and sit a tad more loosely.
Sound & Imaging
Starting with the 598, you’ll notice that the sound is very very relaxed. This is the best way I can describe the overall character of these headphones.
Nothing is really going to jump out at you. The bass is pretty good but does have a tendency to get kind of “bloomy” at times with certain files, especially at higher volumes.
I find that harmonic distortion is fairly common with these headphones, but then again it really doesn’t need any power at all at 112dB Sensitivity. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
Still, the bass can sometimes get kind of “stuffy.” Instead of being really crisp with good impact, it sometimes sounds loose and flabby, like it’s struggling to keep up. The reason for this is due to roll off. It really takes a nosedive after around 50-60Hz (somewhere in there).
The Mid-Range on the 598 is fantastic. It’s the best part about these headphones’ sound for sure. It’s relatively flat and provides great vocal and instrument presence without sounding too forward.
You never get a sense that the music is trying to force itself onto you. It feels natural and relaxed, while also feeling present and alive.
If there were ever a headphone that could claim “balanced”, I think the 598 would fit the bill almost perfectly. There’s a small presence bump around 2k which sounds great and is just the right amount.
The treble here does have a bit of sparkle, but it’s done tastefully and doesn’t sound nearly as bright as something like a Samson SR850.
That said, it is brighter than a 600 and 650, which is one of the main differences between the sound, along with the bass.
Let’s get into it!
HD600 & 650
By contrast, the treble on the 600 is going to sound more laid back, more relaxed, and some say more veiled. What is the Sennheiser Veil?
I kind of view that whole “veil” thing as kind of a myth, but I can see the 650 being more veiled for sure. In comparison to the 600, it’s even more relaxed, and has been accused of lulling you to sleep!
Greg Mahler wrote a great article on Head-Fi about 58 headphones he demoed. The HD 600 was one of 4 that got an A+ rating. See: Battle of the Flagships – 58 Headphones Compared
The other difference between the HD 600 and the 598 is the bass response. The 598’s rolls off quite a bit more, while the 600 sounds snappier and tighter.
The HD598 vs. 650’s bass?
The same type of thing. The HD650’s will be tighter with more impact and less roll-off.
The only difference between the bass of the 650 vs. the 600 is that the 650 has a tad more mid-bass emphasis, resulting in a bit of a warmer, more impactful response overall. It’s very pleasant actually!
The mid-range on the HD598 is a bit different in that it does have a presence bump at 2k but it’s not over-exaggerated like that of the HD600.
The problem with the 600 is that the area around 2-3k is just too forward, and there can seem like there’s too much presence. It doesn’t ruin the experience, but it’s a definite flaw and you will notice it sooner or later.
By contrast, the 650’s mid-range is a bit more similar to that of the 598. It’s toned back and sounds a lot more natural and organic. I much prefer the sound of the 650’s mid-range vs. that of the HD600. It’s just a lot more tolerable over long listening sessions.
The 598 is similar in that regard; you won’t find yourself wanting to take the headphone off due to annoyance in those regions of 2-3k.
Lastly, the treble on the 598 is going to be much brighter than that of the 650. In fact, the 650’s treble is even more relaxed than the 600’s, as mentioned before.
The 598 does have a peak around 9k, but it’s mostly going to be in line with the rest of the signature. You won’t really find it to be piercing or shrill.
The HD650’s treble is extremely dark, but it’s really really fun and pleasant to listen to. I find myself wanting to put the 650 on my head more so than the others by a wide margin. You may, as well. It’s simply a better experience for the casual listener.
In a world where the majority of headphones out there have way too much treble, the HD 650 is a welcome deviation from that norm.
So to sum it up
- The HD600’s sound is forward in the mid-range, snappier, and crisper sounding.
- The HD650’s sound is more laid back, more relaxed, and more smoothed over – sort of like sandpaper to wood.
- The HD598’s sound is very balanced and neutral sounding, with a pretty rolled-off bass and some sparkle in the treble.
The 598 has fantastic imaging as far as being able to pinpoint and locate sounds but also has a fairly wide Soundstage as well, meaning: there’s plenty of good spacing.
There’s a more out of your head sensation with this headphone and remains my good friend Luke’s go-to for Gaming specifically.
With the HD600, you’re getting great Imaging but a more narrow field. With certain DACs like the FiiO K3 paired with certain songs, there can be a ridiculously good out of your head feeling.
“Lights Out” by SONN, Ayelle is a perfect example of what I’m talking about. There’s a point in the song that startled me so badly I ripped the headphones off in a panic.
Even replaying the song and knowing that there’s a loud knock is almost too much to handle. It’s so realistic that I kept thinking someone was knocking on my apt. door, even though I knew it was coming from the song.
Keep in mind that the Soundstage on this song in particular has more to do with how it was recorded and mixed than anything.
This one in my estimation did a little better with Soundstage in that the image was wider. I could pinpoint things farther off in the distance while watching movies or playing Fallout 4.
With all 3 you’re going to get some nice Imaging, but I would take the HD 598 for positional accuracy over the others. It’s a headphone you’ll want to reach for first for gaming over the others.
I would personally never use an HD600 for gaming as it’s too boxed in sounding, but the 650 is a tad better in this regard.
Video Comparison (Coming Soon!)
Click to see the 3 homies!
At 50 Ohm and 112dB Sensitivity, the HD598 won’t resist power too much and doesn’t require much from an amp to sound loud enough. I was running it with a JDS Labs Element and didn’t have to turn the dial much at all.
For this headphone, the maximum you’d need is something like an E10K, which provides 200mW into 32 Ohms. It’s a great desktop starter Amp/DAC and sounds really good. Read: How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]
At 300 Ohm and 97dB Sensitivity, the 600 will resist power fed into it and also requires a fair bit to reach acceptable listening levels.
I wouldn’t purchase these headphones without also planning on investing in proper amplification. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be complicated. For desktop, I would go with a JDS ATOM as it outputs plenty of power and sounds pristine.
I also love the 600 with an Audioquest DragonFly Red if you want something smaller and more portable.
Truthfully, this headphone isn’t too picky about what you go with. It sounds good out of an E10K as well with the gain switch on and the volume at around 5-6.
Here’s a cool Shootout with 3 of my favorite Amp DACs including the DragonFly Red! Leave me some love if you found any of this helpful!
The HD650 at 300 Ohm and 103dB of Sensitivity actually requires a bit less power from an amp to reach an acceptable listening level. I find that it’s not quite as difficult to achieve peak loudness because it’s a bit more efficient than an HD600.
All of the same amp options apply, but if you were interested in some more options check out my article on The Best Headphone Amp for the Sennheiser HD 650!
Like the HD600, this headphone is also not too picky about what you go with.
For the 598, I’d mostly stick to lighter genres like Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Folk, etc.
I did listen to some Indie Pop, Rock, etc., and found it to be a mostly good experience, but that bass response is a little too lean for me to rely on it full time for bass heavier genres like Hip-Hop as well.
It’s just going to sound fuzzy and distorted at times, mostly because the sub-bass is lacking quite a bit. You’re not going to achieve that slam and impact that you’re looking for with this headphone.
HD600 & 650
With the HD600, you will be able to comfortably play a lot of the genres that the 598 won’t work for, namely Indie Pop, Rock, Hip-Hop, etc.
It’s been argued that Rock is the best overall genre for both the 600 and 650 and I can’t really argue with that. I think it has the perfect amount of bass for this genre, with a great amount of clarity and instrument separation.
I wouldn’t rely on either of these headphones for really crunchy guitars or genres like Hard Rock and Metal. While it will still sound good, it’s going to lack the raw power and excitement that something like an HD25 provides in spades.
If you need a Gaming headphone, the 598 is definitely going to be a bit better than either a 600 or 650. I’d rank the 650 second, as it really did surprise me in how well it handled gaming.
It’s got a better Soundstage than an HD600, and better immerses you into the environment.
The 598 is even better and is worthy of being your full-time dedicated gaming headphone. The Soundstage here is also more open.
Because the bass is lighter, you can better hear footsteps, as well as small, intricate details you might otherwise miss with the others.
I think the main takeaway here is to understand that the 650 is going to work better for more genres and also be more professional-sounding than a 598. The 598 is by no means a bad headphone.
I love it for Gaming, I love it for lighter genres, but it kind of loses me with the music that I most like to listen to.
While it still works for those specific genres, it won’t sound as refined or clean. You will get some distortion at higher volumes as well.
I got a chance to try the HD560S and I do think it’s a slight improvement over the 598/599. Learn more about it:
As for the HD600 and 650, I like both and have always liked them. I still keep an HD600 around in the studio as it’s an original made-in Ireland model and provides a nice reference point to compare the many headphones that come through here.
But, nowadays I may consider the 6XX over it. Learn more about why:
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sennheiser HD 598 vs. HD 650 vs. HD 600 Shootout.
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Marvin, what do you make of all this? I would love to hear from you. Until next time..
All the best and God bless,