Shoutout to Patron David Rupp for the loaner unit!
Greetings mate, and Welcome aboard!!!
Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music, (NOT gear) all over again, so…
This is going to be long-winded, but by the end, you’re going to know exactly how the 560S sounds, how it compares with other headphones, and if it’s worth a purchase or not.
If you’d like to skip to the actual sound impressions, they start at “K612 Comparison” in the table below.
So let’s get rolling!
At A Glance
Table of Contents
In The Box
Build & Comfort
Sound + Stu’s Notepad
Gaming & Film
The HD600 Conundrum
Q&A + Final Word
In The Box
Sennheiser HD 560S High-Performance Headphones
1/4″ to 3.5mm Adapter (not pictured)
Limited 2-Year Warranty
- Mostly plastic. Doesn’t feel cheap. Terminates in a ¼” and comes with 9.8′ Cable as well as 1/4″ to 3.5mm Adapter. The cable is a detachable 3.5mm and snaps in. The other end of the cable is a detachable 2.5mm and snaps into the earcup. This is your typical 500 series headphone with regard to build and comfort. It’s lightweight and nimble.
- R and L indicators on the inside, common to all 500 model headphones.
- The crater pad in the middle is similar to the HD650.
- Velour padding mimics the shape of your ear. Your ears will touch slightly, but by and large, it’s a perfect fit with minimal clamping pressure. You can wear them for extended sessions without an issue.
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H!
- Source: Spotify, YouTube videos, general listening, film/gaming on PS4
- Amps & DACS used: iFi Zen V2 (Upgraded), iFi Zen (Original), xDuoo TA-20/DragonFly Red, FiiO K5 Pro.
- Playlist: Here!
Does the 560S replace the K702 for full-time duty?
This is a question that I was forced to ask myself the more and more I listened to the headphone in terms of Soundstage, gaming, film, and genre versatility. Both are pretty similar in these regards, but we’ll get to that later.
These are loosely written notes that I jotted down during my listening sessions.
- Genre. With the right music, oh my god. Lane 8 – “The Rope” (treble), and Dayglow – “Close to You” are 2 examples that really stuck out as sounding absolutely sublime in every way. I’m finding Jazz (Stan Getz specifically) sounds incredibly natural and effortless with the 560S.
- Accurate. They just sound so correct and perfect, but maybe boring?
- Treble is delicate and present without being overbearing, essy, or sibilant.
- Soundstage. I’m constantly thinking something’s going on outside the headphones. Great width but not unnatural. You’re frequently feeling like you need to take the headphones off to make sure that subtle hum directly behind you and about 25 feet away is actually coming from the song or if it’s something going on in your apartment complex. The Soundstage here is really that good. The sensations you’ll experience will vary from song to song depending on the composition in question.
- Instrument separation and imaging are also very good.
- Female voices sound lush and realistic. Very intimate, present, lively, etc. Tonality is just about perfect. Even so, sometimes the mids can sound just a bit too forward. Voices on certain tracks sometimes sound a little in your face, but the distinction can be pretty subtle. Rhye’s “Open” is a good example of a track that’s a bit forward in terms of her voice. Common’s “The Light” is another example and a song I’ve heard probably a thousand times since it came out. Common’s voice is a tad too aggressive, and the song itself feels like it’s trying too hard to impress.
- Extension. There seems to be more sub-bass extension, but it’s still not as resolving as I would like. Bass notes are still a little wooly and kind of boomy-sounding. That lush, hi-fi quality is missing. In short, remember that this is still a 500 series headphone through and through. Foreign Exchange’s “Come Around” doesn’t sound quite as good or snappy as I would like in terms of the bass, but it may come down to how the bass was actually recorded.
- Bass. The bass should in theory provide more impact and weight but it still mostly comes up a bit short. It’s missing the life that you would expect when looking at the graph. The Ananda would be an example of bass that hits hard while sounding incredibly lush and realistic. The 560S is trying, and the attempt is admirable, but in no way does it come close to that mark. Perhaps it shouldn’t matter being that it’s a $200 headphone? I fully realize that.
I’ve been doing quite a bit of gaming with the 560S and iFi’s Upgraded Zen V2. Yes, they just came out with a firmware update that makes the V2 compatible with my PS4! A dream come true, really.
I love this combo for gaming and film, which is perhaps the BEST reason to snag a 560S without question. The gaming environment is super immersive and the Soundstage is again, exemplary.
The Zen, while good for single-player games or film, won’t really work with the boom pro. You’ll want something like a Mod Mic wireless instead.
If I had to rank them in terms of best to worst gaming/film experience?
I played some Fallout 4 this morning and found it super convenient that it was raining in-game. I decided to analyze the 5 headphones in terms of voicing/dialogue/intimacy, Soundstage, clarity, immersion, comfort, as well as spacing of the sound as a whole. Here are my conclusions:
- Intimacy: Above Average.
- Soundstage: Poor.
- Clarity: Average.
- Comfort: Above Average.
- Overall Spacing: Average.
- Immersion: Below Average.
This is clearly the worst out of the lot for gaming.
It’s too relaxed sounding and the Soundstage is pretty bad. Most people already know this about the 20+-year-old headphone, but it’s absolutely not the ideal choice for FPS shooters or even casual single-player gaming.
The treble will also likely bother you as it’s much too dark for picking out sounds and making you aware of what’s going on in the immediate vicinity; as well as farther off.
It’s not that the HD600 sounds bad, it’s just that it was absolutely not made for gaming and that becomes apparent almost immediately.
- Intimacy: Average.
- Soundstage: Above Average.
- Clarity: Average.
- Comfort: Above Average to excellent.
- Overall Spacing: Above Average.
- Immersion: Average to slightly below average.
As much as I trash the K612 for music, it’s always been a pretty good performer in terms of watching films or playing games.
Obviously, the Soundstage here is going to be much wider than an HD600, but the overall sound is still a bit too dull and warmed-over for my tastes. Things are spread out nicely, but there’s not much life to the dialogue or sounds.
Voices and the like still sound too distant without having the clarity of a K702.
In other words, it’s more of a relaxing experience rather than an immersive one.
It’s a headphone that can definitely work in a pinch, but there are better options.
- Intimacy: Above Average.
- Soundstage: Average to slightly above average.
- Clarity: Above Average.
- Comfort: Above Average.
- Overall Spacing: Average.
- Immersion: Above Average.
The 58X brings up an interesting conundrum. On one hand, the sound has plenty of life to it – probably the most out of this lot.
On the other hand, it’s bordering on too much. As with music, the sound here has a sometimes overly holographic character, as if it’s trying a bit too hard to impress you.
Soundstage is definitely a bit wider than that of an HD600, but this still isn’t a 560S or K702.
Newbies will likely love this sound for gaming initially as stuff is spaced out decently enough and the sound doesn’t feel nearly as claustrophobic in terms of Soundstage as an HD600.
- Intimacy: Above Average to excellent.
- Soundstage: Above Average to excellent.
- Clarity: Above Average to excellent.
- Comfort: Excellent to exemplary.
- Overall Spacing: Above Average to excellent.
- Immersion: Excellent.
It was so hard for me to decide between the 560S and 702, but I think I prefer the 702 more. Some may prefer this one and that’s completely fine.
If the 58X is opening things up a bit more, the 560S is in its final stages of flowering. Sounds have much more room to breathe now, and the Soundstage is nice and expansive without feeling too far off.
The sound itself also feels a lot more natural and organic vs. the somewhat forced nature of the 58X. As with music, everything sounds just about 100% correct which makes for a distraction-free experience.
- Intimacy: Average.
- Soundstage: Excellent to exemplary.
- Clarity: Excellent to Exemplary.
- Comfort: Excellent to exemplary.
- Overall Spacing: Excellent to exemplary.
- Immersion: Excellent.
As much as I love the 560S, I personally believe the K702 is just a hair better (at least for my needs).
If the 560S is just about flowered, think of the 702 as a peacock. Things are spread out pretty wide, and while some may call it unnatural, I find it perfect for quickly surveying a situation and figuring out who, or what is where at all times.
In other words, your head is always going to be on a swivel when listening to these headphones; an ideal scenario when gaming competitively.
Unlike the K612, the 702 has a much snappier character so you’ll never feel like sounds don’t have definition or distinction to them.
It’s all there.
Intimacy isn’t as good as some would like, I get that.
For me, it’s not a big issue because the clarity of the sounds is on point and I can hear and experience everything going on without an issue.
The 560S’ sound is also going to feel a bit closer to you, but it may not always be a good thing when you’re trying to hear what’s farther off in the distance. For that, I still love the 702 for gaming a bit more.
The 560S isn’t very hard to drive, but interestingly enough does have a higher impedance than most other 500 series headphones.
By now you may be wondering what you should go with. I would go ahead and get a Zen since the 560S already terminates in a 1/4″ and it’s meant to be used in a quiet environment. The Zen also isn’t overly warm or clinical and will provide more than enough power for these headphones. The combo sounds great!
Here I was comparing with music.
HD560S vs. K612
On paper, these headphones are almost identical and both are pretty much dead neutral/flat. However, the K612 sounds noticeably more muffled and wonky in comparison to the perfectly tuned 560S.
The K612’s bass is a bit less elevated, but there’s still not much roll-off in the sub-bass regions.
Even so, the K612 seems more distant as if you’re listening to music in a smaller, less expansive tube or congested space. It doesn’t sound good at all when placed side by side.
The 560S easily outperforms the K612 in pretty much every way.
Imaging is much better, the impact is better, and the 560S generally sounds livelier and more engaging.
With the 612, everything is mostly pushed back and sounds farther away from you, while the 560S is right there, present, and accounted for.
If I was close to tossing the 612 out the window and never listening to it again, the 560S actually makes me do exactly that.
It exposes the K612 for what it is; a really God-awful headphone in all regards the more I listen.
Listening to the K612 actually seems like you’re hearing music through a wet cardboard box in contrast to just how good the 560S sounds. The difference is truly night and day.
You can hear the subtle treble spike on the 560S when comparing it to the 612, and that’s part of the difference.
Crinacle talked about this and I think he’s right on. By itself, you don’t really notice it, but when listening to another headphone (in my case the 612) and then swapping, it was definitely apparent.
Still, the treble isn’t going to annoy most people and for the most part, you’ll never feel like it’s overbearing. In other words, unless you have a bunch of headphones to go back and forth with, you’re not going to know or even care.
For me, it strikes a perfect balance. There’s a good amount of life here without bordering on essy or sibilant. It’s got a wonderfully wispy quality that hits just right.
HD560S vs. 58X
You can immediately tell the mid-bass is more pronounced and less neutral than the 560S’, even though technically there is more sub-bass roll-off in the 58X.
After going back and forth for quite a while, I think I prefer the 560S. It’s cleaner and more accurate sounding than the 58X to my ears.
This has a little to do with the mid-bass, but to me, the 560S is a tonally more accurate headphone with slightly better resolution.
There’s something about the 58X that sounds strangely artificial, but it’s not completely obvious when you’re not going back and forth between headphones.
It’s only when you put the 560S up to the 58X that it becomes apparent.
Maddie Jay’s “CR78” is a prime example of a song that almost sounds overly holographic and in your face on the 58X. Vocals feel more present, but in a way that feels slightly forced and unnatural.
The bass thumps on both, but on the 560S it feels a little more controlled. The 58X is fun, but it’s starting to veer towards sloppy.
“I MADE ‘EM EXTRA SLOPPY FOR YA!!”
HD560S vs. HD600
The difference here is rather obvious. The 560S’ treble is noticeably brighter than the HD600’s.
This again goes back to the fact that on its own, the treble on the 560S only seems bright when you put it up against another, darker headphone like the HD600. On the surface, this may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised at just how much it comes out when swapping back and forth.
This is in large part why I’ve always liked comparing headphones even when doing single reviews. It really helps to clarify sound signatures and sort out what’s what.
In The 1975’s “Be My Mistake” the distinction is apparent.
The 560S is more intimate and livelier sounding than the darker homie HD600.
Do keep in mind that my HD600’s pads are fairly worn, but you’ll still notice the mid-range is very similar on both. There’s plenty of vocal presence and forwardness in each. In fact, even the snobbiest of audiophiles would be hard-pressed to find huge differences in the mids here.
These are Senny mids through and through.
The other difference you’ll notice is a sense of air missing in the HD600 that’s there in spades with the 560S.
In fact, the more I listen to the 560S and compare it to other headphones, the more I realize just how good it actually is. Worn pads or not, the HD600 doesn’t sound nearly as good to me, which is fairly surprising.
One of my favorite test tracks for bass of late is No Rome & 1975’s “The Narcissist” because it rolls and thumps incredibly well. In other words, it’s mixed properly. If that groove doesn’t make you want to get up and dance, you have no soul.
But Gingers do.
“GINGERS HAVE SOULS!!!”
Had to throwback Thursday that one.
The 560S renders The Narcissist with a bit more punch, but it’s not overdone like your mom’s meatloaf.
It really warmed my non-ginger soul.
The bass is still there and sounds great with the HD600, but it’s a bit more subdued. What I like about the 600’s rendition is that it’s just a hair more resolving. While you feel it more with the 560S, you hear individual notes better with the HD600.
This is something that I’ve talked about before with the 9500’s bass, and something that doesn’t make much sense to our natural intellect.
“But Stu,” you ask. “If there’s more sub-bass on the HD560S, wouldn’t that mean I can hear those notes better?”
I’d say no, not necessarily. I’d argue that keeping the sub-bass a bit more rolled off allows it to breathe and express itself a little better, and this is certainly apparent when swapping back and forth between these 2.
The question is,
Will you enjoy that rise and subtle bass shelf that the 560S provides?
That entirely depends on taste.
David, in a rather hilarious email, put it like this:
“Sometimes in a person’s life, there is a moment, when they doubt everything they thought about themselves. Comparing the 560s and the 702 is that moment.
I now know I have been living a lie.
I have lied to myself, my friends, my loved ones.
I thought I wanted neutral, I thought I wanted balance, I thought I wanted soundstage. I looked into the mirror and I did not see who I thought I was.
“I am not a bass head!” I screamed.
Well after listening to the 560s on my iFi Zen Dac, I saw who I really was. I am going to say it out loud for the first time, I like bass and I am proud!!!”
HD560S vs. K702
Speak of the devil.
This is the moment of truth because the 702 has been my daily driver for quite a while now. There are no other headphones I’d rather listen to in my ever-growing but completely unnecessary collection.
The reason for this is because the 702 does well for anything and everything:
Gaming, film, mixing/mastering, any genre, etc. It has all bases covered with a great Soundstage, great imaging, and out-of-your-head moments aplenty.
It’s tuned perfectly and has a bump around 2kHz for extra spice and lively flavor.
The 560S is similar; you can use it for all of the above. Both are open, both are lightweight and incredibly comfortable, and both come in at similar price points as well.
The question then becomes, which headphone is tuned better? Which is more resolving?
We’ll get to that in a second.
Imaging & Soundstage
Right away you’ll notice the 702 is spread out a bit more than the 560S.
It’s not that the 560S is “in your head”, but it’s certainly more closed in sounding than a K702.
Because of this, the 702’s sounds are imaged a bit better. Sounds have a more distinct “Spot” in the image if you will, but the center image can sometimes go missing.
The other thing that will probably jump out at you is that the 560S, like the contrast with the K612, feels closer to you and more immediate/intimate than it does with the 702. The same happened above when we discussed the merits of each for gaming.
I can’t decide if this is a good or bad thing at the moment, but I’m still leaning towards the 702 as preference.
As much as I hate to say it, I think the 560S is tuned a bit better and I think it comes down to the 2kHz bump that I mentioned earlier, in addition to the treble. You can tell both are emphasized a bit more than a 560S.
In that sense, the K702 is exposed a bit for being somewhat less neutral and flat than a 560S. It’s a subtle distinction, but still apparent.
So 3 things that immediately make themselves known are the following:
- The mid-range is more forward on a K702.
- The treble is brighter on a 702, but still not essy even though it’s getting there more than a 560S is.
- The Soundstage is wider on a 702.
The K702’s bass is almost completely neutral. It doesn’t roll off (if it does, it’s not by much), there are no weird mid-bass bumps, and it sounds really good. Nice and clean.
The 560S’ bass also doesn’t roll off, but it’s more emphasized around 40-60Hz. The 560S has a very tastefully done bass shelf that may make a believer out of you as it did David; to the point where you’re screaming at yourself in a bathroom mirror.
Lol, I just can’t get over how funny that was.
As mentioned earlier, to me this doesn’t make it sound better. It’s trying to be hi-fi bass but falls short even though the attempt is admirable.
By contrast, the 702’s bass is exactly what it is and I like it a bit more for that aspect. It’s not trying too hard and understands its mid-fi bass without attempting to be something else.
You’ll notice the 560S’ bass thumps a bit harder, but it may not necessarily be a good thing with regard to every track. I think whether or not you enjoy it will depend largely on the song in question and how it was recorded, mixed, and mastered.
This is something I harp on quite a bit on the blog and channel and it’s no different here. Dayglow’s – “Close to You” sounds fantastic on both. You’ll notice the 702’s bass is a smidgen leaner but still retains some nice thump, all things considered.
The slight issue I have with the 560S is that it sometimes feels almost too present; as if everything is sort of in your face and lively, but not necessarily in a good way.
The problem I have with the K702 is that it sometimes feels like sounds are spaced almost too far apart. With certain tracks, the 702 may feel a little bit too holographic and overly bright. Overly bright in this context doesn’t actually mean “Oh my God I can’t listen to this” though – the distinction is rather subtle.
These are minor nitpicks in both headphones, but should be noted.
I think the K702 is slightly more resolving because of the 560S bass. You can immediately hear the difference when going back and forth, and dare I say the 560S’ kind of gets in the way of the mid-range here, at least in comparison to the 702.
I think because the 702 is more neutral (outside of 2kHz), it sounds clearer and comes across as slightly more detailed.
The HD600 conundrum
At the end of the day, The 560S is another similar headphone in a long line of 500 series products dating back quite a ways.
It’s not exactly a 500 headphone in that the bass is a bit more elevated and tonality seems a bit better, but it still behaves mostly like the others in the line.
Detail, resolution, and the overall sound more or less mimic the overall signature of a 500 headphone; incredibly accurate, but can also sound a bit dull and boring.
It’s a fine entry into the series but may still not be necessary because of the HD600/6XX.
This is something I’m currently wrestling with, and my cognitive dissonance is rather strong right now.
In some ways, I think the 560S kind of does outperform my HD600 in terms of a sound that’s neither too dark nor too bright. It actually feels and sounds more neutral than an HD600, even though on paper this may not quite be the case.
I think it has a lot to do with the fact that I actually prefer the treble on the 560S in comparison to the darker HD600.
So yes, I think the 560S is actually tuned a bit better than an HD600.
It seems more open, airy (but still natural) without getting out of line; an issue apparent in a LOT of entry and even mid-fi audiophile headphones. It’s a signature that almost impeccably represents what music is supposed to sound like if it was 99% unbiased.
The HD600 is noticeably darker than the 560S, and this may or may not bother you depending on who you are. Is the HD600 veiled? It’s a debate that’s raged on since the headphones’ inception, only really flaring up and getting out of control within the last few years.
My stance has basically always been,
“On its own, not really.”
But when pitted against other headphones? Sure, you can definitely hear it. Big fax. For me, this isn’t really debatable but there will always be Senny 600 fanboys ready to fight you tooth and nail about it. Whatever.
This may be the million-dollar question. Is the HD600 tonally a better headphone than the 560S?
I would say yes, ever so slightly. As good as the 560S is, in comparison, it kind of leans towards holographic, at least when doing a side-by-side with the HD600.
It’s just a smidgen unnatural sounding when listening to the build-up of a song like Joan’s “I loved you first.” It felt a bit overwhelming to the point where I had to dial the volume back a bit, but only in terms of energy.
When considering the song as a whole and how it performed technically (how the instruments and voices interacted together), it was darn near perfect.
The volume thing could have simply been due to the fact that the HD600’s are harder to drive and thus I just needed to turn it down a hair when switching back to the HD560S’. I’m fully aware of that.
Still, as mentioned earlier, the HD560S has this “in your face” quality to it that can manifest itself on certain tracks, but not necessarily in the best way if that makes sense.
“Do I make myself clear, Mr. Bender?”
Clarity & Resolution
Let’s be clear about what these terms mean to me.
Clarity = The sound signature and frequency response as a whole. As noted earlier, the 560S is basically a perfectly tuned headphone, so clarity is wonderful.
It’s crisp, lively, and sounds impeccable from the standpoint of “This is what a good headphone is supposed to sound like.”
Decay is likely better than the average headphone.
Sounds and voices trail off noticeably better.
No frequencies overpower others.
You can hear everything going on with good accuracy.
Everything’s easily accounted for.
Imaging and instrument separation is above average or excellent.
Resolution = Micro detail & detail retrieval as a whole.
How well the headphone portrays music in its most natural, organic, and realistic state. Think of an instrument as it may sound in real life vs. the way it sounds through a device – as if you were there with the artist or you could at least get a sense of the space they’re in.
More detail in most cases = a more realistic and engaging listen.
Good headphones can make this distinction better than average headphones, and amazing headphones do an even better job. Resolution and instrument Timbre go hand in hand here.
Again, the 560S is still a mostly “500 sounding” headphone.
In other words, it’s still mid-fi. It still mostly sounds like mid-fi.
Stu & A
Q: So, are the HD600 and 6XX more resolving than a 560S?
Q: Does it matter?
A: Yes, but only because of the fact that for only about $20 more, you can get a more resolving headphone in the 6XX.
In 2016 I paid around $300-400 for the HD600 (It was $330 on the dot IIRC).
Q: Would I pay that now?
A: Not when I can get a 6XX for around $220.
Q: Would I pay for the 560S?
A: Not when I already have a K702.
Q: Would I pay for the 560S if I didn’t already have a 702?
A: I would lean towards yes, as a complement to an HD600/6XX.
As it stands now, and because I have the K702, I don’t really need a 560S for gaming and film; tempting as it may be to get one.
That is to say that listening to it doesn’t make me want to sell my 702 and get a 560S for full-time gaming duties.
It kind of sort of almost does? But not quite. I still like the 702 as my jack of all trades, but your mileage may vary.
For me, the reasons come down to,
- The 702’s Soundstage is wider and separation tends to be a little better. I like that extra width and depth. Some may call it unnatural and that’s completely fine.
- I personally enjoy the leaner and more neutral bass response, though the 560S’ is certainly growing on me. This is coming from a former bass head!
- Both are pretty neutral (702 a bit less so), but I like the mid-range boost on the 702 and always have. The 560S, while being light years better than a 612, is still a little too flat and dull for me even despite its impeccable tuning. There’s some sort of excitement missing that I can’t quite explain.
When I make recommendations to people, I always bypass the 500 line in favor of a 6XX. Why buy one of those when you can just spend $20 more and get a superior-sounding headphone? To me, it’s an easy decision.
The problem is that the HD600/6XX aren’t very good for gaming. This is why I have both the HD600 and K702. They complement each other perfectly.
I’m of the mind that if you’re reading this, you should either get an HD6XX AND a 560S as complements, or an HD6XX AND a K702 as complements. Get an HD600 if you want to be all original and hip.
I have both a 600 and 702 as complements and don’t plan on selling either because they both do fantastic for different uses, though the 702 has become my daily driver for everything really.
Here are my final recommendations:
What you go with as far as the complement to the 6XX is up for debate, and a bit of a toss-up. Both sit at similar price points, but which you prefer depends mostly on taste. I think I’ve outlined that pretty well in the article, but let me know if you have further questions! For now,
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sennheiser HD560S Review/Shootout and came away with some valuable insight.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
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Would you invest in a 560S? I would love to hear your thoughts and/or experience with any of these. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,
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Album, Film, & Gaming
More to come!
- Incredibly comfortable.
- Built well despite its weight.
- Soundstage is exemplary. Perfect for gamer nerds.
- Balanced sound.
- Perfectly tuned.
- Sound can be dull and/or boring. Lacks excitement even despite bass shelf.
- Value suffers because of the HD6XX