Simply put, the bass. As is, it’s very light, and has a difficult time registering low bass notes, and as far as sub-bass just forget about it. However, the rest of the sound signature is fantastic, but a great trick to make the sound really come alive is the rubber strip/foam mod. More on that later.
Also, while the build is pretty decent, they do feel a bit flimsy in your hand. That said, comfort is probably the best out of the six mentioned in this series. This is a headphone that you will not have to adjust 99% of the time. Clamp force is perfect, and both the ear pads and headband padding feel like pillows.
Overall, the 558 deserves an obvious spot because the sound is extremely balanced and pleasant, and works incredibly well for stuff like Jazz, Classical, Acoustic, Folk, and more laid back genres. That said, it can also work with stuff like Rock, Pop, and Hip-Hop, but won’t be your go to headphone for these.
What I will bring you in this review
Who these headphones benefit?
Thoughts from Stu’s Notepad
Foam Mod Tutorial
Foam Mod Impressions
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
Lightweight and Durable. These don’t feel like they’re going to break, despite being extremely light.
Extremely comfortable. The velour ear-pads and perfect clamping force make these a force to be reckoned with as far as comfort over long listening sessions.
Genre happy. They do well with most any music you throw at them, especially after removing the rubber strips inside. It’s real easy and I provide a short and quick tutorial in the review. 🙂
Magnificent sound signature. A mid-range oriented headphone with emphasis on instrument separation, detail, articulation, accuracy, and enjoyment.
Great out of a phone, amp, or audio interface. Though these babies really shine with an amp or interface of some sort, they will also work great out of your mobile device.
Great Soundstage. These will frequently have you wondering if the sound just came from outside of the headphones.
Price to performance ratio is startling.For the price, it’s hard to get a better sound. I frequently talk about the law of diminishing returns in my articles. The 558 is going to provide you 90-95% of what a headphone is supposed to sound like.
The Sennheiser HD558 is an open back, circumaural headphone that specializes in making you feel at ease. Lol. If I had to use one word to describe this extremely comfortable set of cans, it would be: Non threatening. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
First off, the headphones are built like a tank, but feel rather light in your hand. Putting them on is like resting two mini pillows against your ears. The reviews don’t lie; they are really that comfortable. While I think the HD600’s clamp force is rather tight at first, the HD558’s clamp is pretty comfortable right off the bat.
They feel pretty lightweight, but not like they’re going to snap in half. The build quality is very solid, and I don’t have any doubts these would hold up for a long time.
Sound wise, the best way I can describe them is non confrontational and warm. They’re not the type of headphones that you’re going to rock out with really hard. They’re more for analyzing music, relaxing with it, and kind of observing sound. They enable you to take a step back and relax a little.
Honest, straightforward, and balanced sound signature.
Very comfortable. You’re not going to have to adjust these very often.
These headphones do best with more laid back genres, but I still think they can be used with many types of music, as long as you accept the fact that they’re not going to blow you away. If you buy these specifically for stuff like EDM, Rap/Hip-Hop, R&B, Reggae, Dubstep, etc. you’re going to be disappointed. Just know that before purchase. They are meant for quiet days in studio, really analyzing the sound and relaxing with it. For instance, I’d probably take a bubble bath and listen to jazz with these before I threw on some Rap and tried to jam out. 😛
I really love these for Jazz specifically. With most headphones it sounds okay, but the instruments tend to sound kind of distant with not much clarity. With the HD558 it’s like the band was moved from 20 feet away to about 6 feet away. I can hear everything going on, and not only that but it’s got this laser like precision and detail. Drums start to sound fantastic and to top it off, there’s no sibilance whatsoever. What does Sibilant mean?
What you’ll find is that the bass and kick drums are extremely textured and clear. It’s quality over quantity here, but the sound is very full, lively, and intricate.
Thoughts from Stu’s Notepad
Nearly all headphones terminate in a 3.5 mm jack. Of those, most audiophile headphones come with a 1/4″ adapter as well. This enables you to plug them into various devices such as receivers, headphone amps, audio interfaces, etc. The 558’s are a bit different in that they actually terminate in a 1/4″ jack and come with a 3.5mm adapter. This can become a bit of an issue with cell phones specifically. For instance, if I want to listen with my Android device, I have to take off my Otter Box because the plug won’t fit. A small inconvenience in my eyes, but for others it may be more of a hassle. My pair actually has an after market NewFantasia LYSB00KAKBHKM-ELECTRNCS Replacement Audio Upgrade Cable for Sennheiser HD598/558/518 as I mentioned before, and I absolutely love it. I got the 1.2m which not only cuts down on cost but saves me a lot of headache. I really don’t like long cables because they tend to get tangled and end up just getting in the way. This cable feels very durable because it’s only the second one to have that protective spring at the end. My beloved M50 is the only other headphone to feature this, and it’s made a world of difference in the overall build. I’ve had zero problems with it since January of 2013.
One thing to keep in mind: If you’re not getting sound out of one ear, it may be because the headphone jack is not actually plugged in all the way. It must be plugged in correctly and twisted to lock it into place. I had this issue with the Audio Technica ATH M40x’s as well. I thought I got a defective pair until I plugged them in correctly.
Just so you know, these are open back headphones and will leak sound. Many of the negative reviews online were ignorant to this fact, and left 1 star because they didn’t know better. The headphones also don’t emphasize bass, or any frequency for that matter. I would say they are mid-range oriented, so you get that nice clarity and instrument separation. These aren’t for bass-heads. It’s a balanced overall sound. To sum it up, they are made for the studio and aren’t that portable (Though I know a girl at work who wears them and loves them). I’m sorry if that rant came off as rude but the more you know. 🙂
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
Please let me know if you like this sort of video and what you would like to see in the future!!
Foam Mod Impressions
In actuality, the strip is actually made of a soft rubber type of material.
I found that without the strip, the sound is more aggressive, fuller, and also crisper. The mid-range in particular seems to really come to life.
I did notice an increase in the bass response, but it tends to get more bloated in the sub-bass regions, and isn’t quite as tight without the strips. They have a hard time handling very low bass notes. Aside from very deep bass, these babies perform almost magically without the strips as far as the overall sound of the bass . If you tend to listen to more bass heavy genres, the foam mod will work quite nicely for you. In listening to Chon’s“Waterslide”, I was able to detect an even greater amount of detail that I had not heard with some other more expensive models, namely the SR80e, Focal Listen, Focal Spirit, etc. The 558 is a pretty special headphone indeed!
They seem to be more revealing with the mod. I can hear more going on, but it’s not all necessarily good. You tend to hear more strange artifacts from certain songs. For instance, I’m listening to John Coltrane’s “Traneing In – Live” from Bye Bye Blackbird, and there’s some strange fuzz going on in the background. It doesn’t make me want to change the song or take them off, but it’s present regardless. This could simply be due to the source quality also. I was listening to the song on Spotify. Regardless, you’re going to hear a lot more of what’s going on in any song.
Balanced overall sound with a great soundstage. Durable and comfortable. Does better with more laid back genres, but still remains a versatile headphone with most music selections. Not for bass heads. 1/4″ to 3.5mm adapter is strange, but again, these are meant for the studio and aren’t that portable (in theory).
I really love the Sennheiser HD558, and would recommend it in a heart beat. For the price you’re getting an almost flawless sound signature. The price to performance ratio here is akin to headphones like the Sony MDR V6 and Sennheiser HD600. You’re just getting so much for so little of an investment.
I think without the rubber strips, the sound opens up remarkably well, and functions as a sort of all purpose headphone, especially with genres like Hip-Hop, Rap, and EDM. Add to that they’re extremely comfortable, durable, and you’ve got yourself an amazing little open back entry level unit. Interested?