I’ve owned the Sennheiser HD 600 since December of 2016. It’s been a mostly great relationship. The 600’s are a fine headphone and they will likely continue to stand the test of time for many reasons.
However, there are a few things I don’t like about them. Things that have always bugged me. We’ll also get into that.
Long story short, I got the chance to demo Massdrop’s newer HD 6XX iteration. Big shoutout and thanks to Shawn Quint for sending me them! Shawn is a real nice guy who frequents my blog. I enjoy talking with him about all things audio, and he was nice enough to entrust me with his baby. No, not a real live baby mind you; I’m talking about the headphone. Lol.
You see, Shawn was doubly sure to send these bad boys packaged as if they could withstand a nuclear holocaust. Have to make sure we can still listen to music in the midst of all that rubble and destruction, right? 😛
Seriously though, I’ve been loving my time with these and wanted to do an A/B comparison to the venerable HD 600 that I have in the studio.
Material: Metal grilles, carbon fiber, velour earpads, plastic.
Color: Midnight Blue, Black.
Cable Length: 6 ft. (1.8m)
Weight: 9.2 oz (260g).
What about build?
Fortunately, not a lot has changed here in terms of overall build quality which is a good thing. What has changed boils down to some cosmetic differences and other more subtle nuances.
We’ve still got the same headband adjustment, velour ear cups, and grilles. Like it’s older brothers, all parts are still replaceable here which has always been a huge selling point. You could theoretically have one of these for the rest of your natural-born life given proper care!
The headphone looks, feels, and functions exactly like an HD 600 or 650. Related:Sennheiser HD 600 vs. 650. The cups move in the same way as the original too (slightly in and out and nothing more), just enough to ensure a snug fit on various sized melons. Your big melon is included here. 😀 (Don’t worry, I was accused of having an “Apple Ass Head” once). Your secret’s safe with me.
Both have the Sennheiser logo engraved at the top of the headband, but on the 6XX it’s a bit harder to see. I’m not sure if this is intentional as to keep the headphone more low profile or not. I personally don’t like it and thought it should have stood out more. It’s black and kind of clashes with the very dark blue/midnight blue/gray/whatever color it is apparent on the rest of the headphones.
On the inside of the right headband adjustment, we have the “Massdrop” logo silk-screened in white. On the outside of the headband adjustment at the bottom, the familiar lettering appears again inside of Sennheiser’s ‘ol rectangle, giving the headphone its distinct look. “HD 6XX” it reads, which hearkens back to the “HD 600” lettering on the older model.
The other similarity is that both say “Made In Ireland” on each side of the inner headband adjustment, right near the start of the padding. You do really have to look rather closely for it, but it is there.
The differences here are five-fold:
Color. The speckled blue finish is now replaced with a “midnight blue” color. In the dark or not in direct sunlight, it appears to be very dark gray or black. I personally am not a huge fan of the color but would still purchase the headphone because I’m not a total snob. 😛 Overall, the 6XX is more simplistic and utilitarian in appearance vs. the more retro-looking HD 600.
The wiring got a much-needed upgrade. Instead of the archaic, cheap, and flimsy wiring present on the 600, we’ve now got one almost identical to the 650. It’s much thicker at the base and a lot easier to pull out of each ear-cup. The cable itself is also nice and thick. Dummy thicc. What I also love about the 6XX is that the cable is now a lot shorter. I’ve lost count of how many times my chair has run over the 600’s cable, but fortunately, it’s held up remarkably well over these last few years. It just tends to get in the way more often than not.
The cable also terminates in a 3.5mm jack and comes with a 1/4″ adapter like the HD 600. The difference is that the 600’s adapter kind of matches the headphone and I’ve always really liked how sleek it looks. The 6XX’s adapter is gold, but both are of the snap-on variety which cuts down on the time it takes to get set up and listen to music.
Third, the headband padding is identical to the HD 650’s padding. It’s that one uniform pad with a sort of crater in the middle. On the original HD 600, there were 4 small pads. I do think the 600’s are a bit more comfortable over the long haul though. More on that in a jiffy!
Lastly, the 6XX does not have that convenient Red color at the base of the wire, indicating which side is which. We instead have to turn the headphone and take a gander at the ever so tiny “R” and “L” indicators right below the lettering and above the headphone’s respective grille. This is a bit more of a hassle but as long as you keep the headphone lying in the same position, it shouldn’t be much of a problem.
Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get into comfort!
Comfort here is mostly the same. I did notice the HD 6XX tends to dig a little into the top of my head after a while, but this comes after quite an extended listening period. Simply put, both of these headphones are some of the most comfortable you’ll ever wear, but I do think the 4 padded HD 600 takes the cake, slightly edging the 6XX.
What’s interesting though is that the clamping force on the 6XX is a bit lighter than that of the 600, even after a break-in period. I still find that the 600 clamps a bit harder, but I tend to enjoy it more. It makes me feel safe and snug like a bug in a rug. They sort of make you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. By contrast, the 6XX is still extremely comfortable but just feels a bit different on your head. It’s hard to explain.
I suppose it sort of has this feathery lightness about it and feels a bit less claustrophobic. Your preference will entirely depend on your own set of parameters for how a headphone should feel situated on your dome.
One thing of note: My left pad looks like it has been worn in a bit more than Shawn’s left, which may have some sort of effect on the sound. This is understandable as I’ve had the 600 longer than he’s had his 6XX, but it’s important to mention regardless.
Let’s get into that there sound, shall we?!
Sound & Imaging
Source: Tidal, FLAC, Masters. Spotify Premium.
Amp(s): FiiO K3, JDS Labs Atom, Audioquest DragonFly Red
That hallmark Sennheiser sound is still there in spades!
There’s a reason the HD 600 has remained relevant since 1997. It’s vintage audiophile sound.
You’ve got an almost completely neutral signature with loads of detail, pinpoint accuracy, and a relaxed but still detailed treble that pretty much never gets out of line. Add to that some amazing bass texture and a fluid mid-range with plenty of presence, and you’ve got essentially all you’ll ever need in this hobby. What’s not to love?
The Law of Diminishing Returns runs rampant with audio gear especially, and it only gets worse with each passing day (especially with regard to Amps & DACs). At this point, it’s just getting beyond ridiculous.
Before I go off on a rant, let me take a deep breath.
Okay, I’m good.
The first thing you’ll notice about the updated HD6XX is that it just sounds a little more airy and feathery by contrast. It isn’t a huge difference, but it is noticeable. It’s got this natural grace about it that’s truly wonderful to behold. It sounds effortless as if it’s never trying too hard.
“As for seeming effortless, the HD 6XXs never sound like they are working hard to reproduce music, whether connected to a laptop, a smartphone, or whatever. Some headphones allow you to more easily experience and enjoy your music without distractions from the things on your ears. The HD 6XXs are these kind of headphones.”
One back and forth listen reveals the mids on the 600 to be more forward and less relaxing. In listening to the 6XX for about a week straight, the switch to the 600 indicated an easily identifiable difference between the 2. John Coltrane’s Tenor Saxophone in particular on Miles Davis’Blue in Green sounds more aggressive with the 6XX.
Another note of contention is air and texture. The 6XX seems to excel better at both. I got a sense that the 600 is a bit clammier and more congested by contrast, and even though it’s technically crisper sounding, it’s a little too in your face. The 6XX seems to open things up to a greater degree while coming across as more relaxed and mellowed out.
Overall Imaging and Soundstage has gotten a slight upgrade with the 6XX, but don’t expect miracles. It mostly sounds about the same as far as width and depth go. What is Soundstage?
The HD 600 has long since had a pretty narrow image. All the pinpoint accuracy is there – you can pick out individual instruments, sounds, and other subtle nuances, but the picture of said elements is fairly small and does feel a bit boxed in.
The 6XX basically continues this trend, but because it’s got a bit more air it gives off the illusion that Soundstage is a tad better (at least in my opinion). It might be a bit wider. It’s hard to say because the overall image on both is very similar.
Even with that said, you’ll still experience some nice out of your head moments with both of these headphones.
I just feel like the HD 600’s mid-range around 1-4k has always just been slightly too in your face. It can really get fatiguing after a while, as if the vocalist is shouting at you or raising his/her voice.
Joan’s“Take Me On (Chilled)” is a perfect example of a track that just sounds too aggressive with the 600’s. The vocals stand out, but they do so in a way that’s invasive. Listening to the same track with the HD6XX is just a better, lighter, and more enjoyable experience overall. The vocals sit perfectly in the mix, and the headphone overall exudes so much class that I’m having a hard time justifying holding onto my HD 600.
Call it a form of Cognitive Dissonance.
Of course, you can always EQ that area down, but out of the box, the 6XX is just more professional sounding. More refined. It’s like a woman who has matured with age. In her younger years perhaps she was a bit rough around the edges. As she’s gotten older, her aura has changed a bit. She’s not brash and reckless in her appearance, or even in her emotions. She doesn’t fly off the handle so easily.
The HD6XX resembles a woman who’s sure of herself and doesn’t have to put on a front any longer. The HD600 resembles a young lady who’s still got some growing up to do.
Now, could all these perceived differences in the mid-range be attributed to the one pad on the 600 being slightly more depressed than the other? Perhaps, but my money is on no. I’ve had the headphone for almost 3 years and that area has always bothered me. Add to that, a few millimeters isn’t going to completely change the sound signature. Some may disagree and that’s fine. You’re wrong. Lol. Just kidding. Maybe I’m wrong. Whatever. Here’s another picture.
Quick HD 650 Comparison
I have also had extensive time with the HD 650 although I don’t own it. I would say the sound is similar, but I find the 650 to be a warmer affair while the 6XX sounds a little crisper.
The 6XX, if you weren’t aware, is actually a rebrand of the original 650, which makes sense. Both have 103dB Sensitivity, both have very similar cabling (The 6XX’s cable is shorter, however), and both have that uniform crater pad on the headband.
The other difference between the HD 6XX vs. 650 is that the 650’s cable terminated in a 1/4″ jack and came with a somewhat bulky/cumbersome cable. The 6XX’s cable is really a dream of sorts. It’s the perfect length, girth, and has a durable feel without resembling and/or feeling like an Anaconda.
The 6XX on the whole just makes more sense for a beginning audiophile because it’s stripped down and simplified. With that..
How about some photos?
Click to see them in action!
Don’t forget to leave me some love on the channel!! Any support is much appreciated 🙂
Let’s talk a bit about amplification and genre pairing!
Amplification & Genre Pairing
I’ve been using the HD6XX with a FiiO K3 paired up to a JDS Labs ATOM. In this case, the K3 functions as just the DAC, into the ATOM as an amp. A wonderful combination!
I’ve also used just the K3 as the Amp/DAC combo to nice effect. The Audioquest DragonFly Red is also a fantastic option here as well.
There are so many amps that will likely work very well, so don’t get too hung up on what you go with. Both the HD 600 and 650 are well known for being able to scale well with just about anything, so don’t stress out too much about it. Some audiophiles would have you in a tizzy about it – I’m not one of those people.
The original E10K that I have outputs 200mW @ 32 Ohm. The K3 out of the single-ended jack outputs:
220 mW @ 16 Ohms.
120 mW @ 32 Ohms.
Quite a bit less on paper, but in reality, you’re only turning up the dial a bit more than you would with an E10K. What’s even better is that the HD600 can be driven just fine by the K3. I was surprised to find myself not using the gain much at all. Some tracks will need a slight boost, but even then it gets plenty loud enough and sounds fantastic.
I am making a conscious effort to minimize how loud I listen to music nowadays, as it will go a long way in helping to preserve my hearing (yours too)!
Sometimes you just have to let loose, but I’d recommend against that most of the time. Now I sound like an old Grandpa. Lol.
Anyhow, there are many great choices to pair with these headphones when it comes down to it. The ones mentioned above should provide you a great start. If you have any questions or need help choosing, let me know and I can steer you in the right direction. 🙂
The original HD 600 and 650 have long since been known to work with nearly any genre, and the same holds true for the HD6XX.
Rock has always been the 600’s bread and butter, but the sheer amount of music that sounds great with these is staggering.
I tend to listen to mostly Indie Pop and Jazz nowadays, with some Classical, Hip-Hop, and Oldies thrown in for good measure. I still listen to Classic Rock, Progressive Rock, Math Rock, and Hard Rock/Metal from time to time, but sparingly.
For those, I prefer bands and artists like Chon, Plini, Animals as Leaders, Rage Against the Machine, and some Megadeth. That’s about the hardest I will go. It’s plenty good enough to gauge how certain headphones will sound with various genres.
Just know this: The 600, 650, and 6XX will sound fantastic with all of the above. Chon’s self-titled follow up to 2017’s “Homie” in particular sounds wonderful with the 6XX.
It’s good, you like!
With that, let’s take a look at my notes..
What’s the final word?
Well, I think you know what I’m about to say. I’d definitely take the HD6XX over the HD600. It improves on that mid-range but also doesn’t sound as sleepy as an HD 650. What I mean by that is the 650 can almost sound too relaxed at times. Almost too warm.
It seems as though the 6XX is basically a rebranded HD650 for cheaper. Sounds like a win-win situation to me. I find the HD6XX is crisper by contrast, and it’s more affordable than an HD 650.
I still love the HD600, but sadly it’s outclassed here and that’s the honest truth. The cable and connections are both better on the 6XX as well. I’m absolutely loving the length of the 6XX’s cable. It’s a perfect size and hasn’t once gotten in my way.
This headphone would make a fantastic gift for someone because it represents a true foray into better sound at a crazy good price. Anyone you introduce this type of product who doesn’t have a clue (no offense to non-audiophiles) to is likely to go ape sh**. Seriously, I let a friend borrow the HD 600 and an iFi xCAN and she told me she literally didn’t want to leave her room. Like ever. Haha.
Even with that said, there are times when I do prefer an HD600 still. It’s a tough call. When I’m craving that slightly crisper sound, the 600 delivers mightily. It’s just that it can get fatiguing after a much shorter period of time and I’m inclined to want to take it off and put the 6XX back on my melon.
If you’re on the prowl for something that will handle your mixing, mastering, and reference duties, I think the HD600 still slightly wins out. You’re basically sacrificing EARitation (Okay I’m sorry) for a crisper and more detailed sound. If that sounds like you:
If you’re looking to kick back and relax with your music, the 6XX is the solution. I can listen to it for a LONG time without wanting or even needing a break. It just the perfect headphone to mellow out with for like, ever. Haha. Zero fatigue, better mid-range, better and more practical cabling, and a bit more efficiency.
Stu is determined to help you make sound decisions, and strives to deliver the best and most in depth content on the internet! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, pray, rap, make beats, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His sense of humour, coupled with a knack for excellence and strict attention to detail are what allow him to stand out in an crowded industry.