Home Open Back Headphone Reviews Sennheiser HD6XX Review – Still #1 In Mid-Fi?

Sennheiser HD6XX Review – Still #1 In Mid-Fi?

by Stuart Charles Black
Sennheiser HD6XX Review

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Shoutout to Shawn Quint for lending me these!

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…

Video Discussion

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At A Glance

Preview
Sennheiser HD6XX Open Back Professional Headphones - Black
Title
Sennheiser HD6XX Open Back Professional Headphones - Black
Color
Midnight Blue, Black, White
Weight
9.2 oz (260g)
Fit
Circumaural (Over-Ear)
Type
Open Back, Dynamic
Materials
Plastic, Velour, Carbon Fiber (AFAIK)
Connector
Proprietary 2-pin, 3.5mm
Headband Style
Traditional
Impedance
300 Ohm
Sensitivity
103dB/mW Sensitivity
Frequency Response
10Hz - 41kHz
Primary Use
Mostly Everything
Cable Length
6 ft. (1.8m)
Cable Detachable?
Folding?
Amplification Required?
Prime
Price
$399.95
Preview
Sennheiser HD6XX Open Back Professional Headphones - Black
Title
Sennheiser HD6XX Open Back Professional Headphones - Black
Color
Midnight Blue, Black, White
Weight
9.2 oz (260g)
Fit
Circumaural (Over-Ear)
Type
Open Back, Dynamic
Materials
Plastic, Velour, Carbon Fiber (AFAIK)
Connector
Proprietary 2-pin, 3.5mm
Headband Style
Traditional
Impedance
300 Ohm
Sensitivity
103dB/mW Sensitivity
Frequency Response
10Hz - 41kHz
Primary Use
Mostly Everything
Cable Length
6 ft. (1.8m)
Cable Detachable?
Folding?
Amplification Required?
Prime
Price
$399.95

In The Box

Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX Headphones 

⅛–¼ in (3.5–6.35 mm) adapter

2-year manufacturer’s warranty 

Specifications

  • Price: Check Drop!
  • Type: Open Back.
  • Fit: Circumaural (Over-Ear).
  • Impedance: 300 Ohms.
  • Sensitivity: 103dB/mW.
  • Frequency Response: 10Hz – 41kHz.
  • Material: Metal grilles, carbon fiber, velour earpads, plastic.
  • Color: Midnight Blue, Black.
  • Cable Length: 6 ft. (1.8m)
  • Weight: 9.2 oz (260g).
Sennheiser HD6XX Review

Pancakes go really well with the 6XX.

The HD6XX has long been #1 on my Top 5 Under $500 list, but that could change after hearing HIFIMAN’s updated HE400se. I haven’t completely decided yet as I’m still demoing the 400se, but I’m leaning that way.

Still, the 6XX was certainly a “market disrupting” headphone and continues to be.

In other words, it still easily makes the list and will likely stay there forever, even if it ends up dropping a spot or 2 down the road.

The reason it was market-disrupting?

Well, the 6XX routinely sits at around $220, but it’s gone as low as $195 AFAIK. That was around 2019, but since then the price doesn’t come down quite as often – really only around the holidays.

Even at $220, they’re basically giving it away considering I basically paid retail for the original HD600 back in 2016.

The introduction of this Drop collaboration with the Ireland-based company essentially made $400-500 for a mid-fi Sennheiser much too expensive.

In the early to mid-’90s, people probably wouldn’t think twice about paying retail for these headphones. They were groundbreaking and almost revolutionary in a sense.

Nowadays? Well, let’s just say there’s an overabundance of almost everything in this hobby – from headphones to DACS and Amps, to cables and earpads, the list goes on and on.

Almost by default, the oversupply relegated once worshipped headphones into nothing more than a great deal. A staple in a good diet, if you will.

Now, that’s not to say that the 6XX should be an afterthought – because it’s anything but.

There’s simply way more competition in this niche than there has ever been, and that can be both a good and bad thing depending on how you look at it.

If I had to do it all over again, I’d probably invest in an HD6XX, for a few different reasons.

Before we get into that, let’s begin with some things that haven’t changed.

#1

Build & Comfort

Sennheiser HD6XX Review

The 6XX is vintage Sennheiser, meaning it’s more or less a carbon copy of the original mid-fi line in terms of its physical appearance, weight, structure, etc.

The cables still terminate in Sennheiser’s proprietary 2-pin connection into either ear-cup, but you can swap them out for balanced cables if you wish.

The headband and earcups are the same as well, though they opted to continue with the single uniform cratered pad of the HD650 rather than the 4 nugget pads on the HD600.

Fortunately, comfort is still top-notch even despite the clamping factor when you first start to break them in.

The clampy nature of the headphones is well known at this point, but they do tend to open up the more you listen.

I personally love how they feel on my head and have compared it to receiving a warm hug from an old friend in past videos and articles. 🙂

The HD580/600 line easily made my Top 15 most comfortable headphones of all-time list, and the 6XX is no different.

#2

Longevity

Sennheiser HD6XX Review

As mentioned previously, the 6XX is basically identical to the others in the line, meaning all parts here are replaceable.

I will say that the grille tends to be fairly fragile; as in, it may dent a little over time under duress.

The good news (for people who love bad news) is that you can replace everything as needed, with the pads requiring the most replacements over time.

They will flatten out in addition to collecting dust and other undesirables, so plan accordingly.

Not only that, but pad wear does tend to alter a headphones’ sound signature, and it’s no different here.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the grilles unless they really get damaged.

For instance, the left grille on my HD600 is slightly dented towards the bottom, but it wouldn’t even be noticeable to someone unless I pointed it out. This was caused by me pressing a little too hard whilst pushing it back into place.

In other words, don’t push the grille itself, push the outsides when returning it to its position.

Some of the other differences boil down to minor cosmetic variations: The logo at the top of the headband is black vs. white for the HD600, the terminations into the earcups mimic the HD650’s instead of the smaller HD600’s (which also happened to have the very convenient Red color for the right side), and the 6XX’s midnight blue contrasts the Gray Metal Flake and speckled blue of the HD650 and 600 respectively.

Sennheiser HD6XX Review

Sennheiser HD6XX Review

Sennheiser HD6XX ReviewOn 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. It reads “HD 6XX”, 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.

I’m not sure if either is still being made in Ireland, but my HD600 and the 6XX model I demoed both were.

Sound

One of the burning questions is that of, “Is the HD6XX the same as the HD650?”

Well, if you frequent Reddit and don’t think for yourself, then yes.

Before we dive into the question, let’s discuss what these headphones sound like on their own for those reading this who are new to the audiophile hobby.

There are a few reasons why the 600 line has remained popular over the last 3 decades or so.

In addition to build and comfort, not only do the headphones sound excellent, but they’re a huge step up from what most people are accustomed to.

For instance, I let a friend (who was brand new to the hobby) borrow my HD600 in 2019 and she never wanted to leave her room. This will likely be your reaction as well, especially if you’ve never heard anything better than glorified drug store crap.

The overall sound signature is almost dead neutral, with an emphasis on the presence region (the mid-range if you will), around 3kHz.

This is where our ears (and subsequently our brains) expect a rise of some sort.

It renders vocals and instruments with plenty of life and thus ends up sounding incredibly realistic – at least more so than we’re used to.

Likewise, both the bass and treble deviate from the norm, and in the case of the latter, it’s become quite a hot button topic ever since I’ve been a part of the hobby (and likely much longer than that).

Yes, people actually get upset about other people’s opinions. Shocker, I know.

The debate is whether or not the HD600 is “veiled.”

Sennheiser HD6XX Review

Is it veiled? Idk, give me a cup of coffee first and then I’ll tell you.

Some say there’s a loss of detail, others enjoy the fact that you’re able to listen without fatigue; in other words, the “essy”, “bright”, or otherwise sibilant nature of sounds that fall within this range of frequencies – generally 6-10kHz and beyond, are not an issue.

Personally, I don’t have a problem either as I find I can listen for hours on end without needing to take the headphones off.

That is to say that I’ve only heard the “veil” once, and subsequently made a video on it in an attempt to clarify that no, it’s not a black and white issue and both sides have a legitimate argument.

The result?

People still got upset.

People getting upset?

Boy, I didn’t see that one coming… said no one, ever.

The HD600, like Grado headphones, is an extremely divisive topic. Imagine 2 people arguing about something that in the grand scheme of things, means absolutely nothing.

We call those people “Audiophiles.”

I call them “AudioFILES.”

Anyway, yes, the HD600’s treble leans “dark”, meaning it’s not bright. ?

No, it simply means that you’re not going to experience the same sparkle as you would with something that places more emphasis on the treble. It’s really that simple.

Bass

If you’re a bass head and used to headphones like Beats which place almost unnecessary emphasis on 100-200Hz (i.e. the mid-bass bloat), listening to a headphone like the HD6XX may end up being quite a jarring experience.

As Metal571 hilariously pointed out once in a video in the nerdiest voice possible, “But where’s my Beats Bass?!”

Not only do we not have that bloat/bump, etc., but the bass below 60Hz tends to roll off considerably.

It’s not enough to render the bass response “anemic” – as in the case of the K240, but you’ll definitely know it’s not overly emphasized.

Again, this is a matter of taste but I tend to really enjoy this type of signature even despite being a former bass head.

One of my favorite descriptions of the HD600 came from Metal as well; he likened it to a blank stare.

As if to say, the headphones will portray the music exactly as it was recorded, good or bad.

This is probably the best way to describe the sound. There’s not much here that’s overemphasized, although you could argue the mids are a bit too forward.

I’ve certainly experienced that myself in the past, but overall, there’s not much to complain about here. The headphones work for a wide variety of genres and especially go well with Rock.

But are they identical to the HD650?

I would argue no.

Let’s take a gander at a comment I received a while back on one of my YouTube videos:

Happy New year Stu!. I hope that you are doing well. I guess that you know that rtings.com issued recently the results of the tests of the Sennheiser 6xx.  https://www.rtings.com/headphones/reviews/sennheiser/hd-6xx Unsurprisingly it scores very high…but surprisingly the results are different from the HD650, concluding that they are not exactly the same Headphones. So once more it was proved that you are a pioneer, my friend!. You were the only one among all reviewers who always said that the sound profile of the 6xxs was not identical to the HD650 :-). José Pedro

Here are 3 graphs of the HD600, 650, and 6XX:

Sennheiser HD600

Sennheiser HD650

The HD650 has always been the warmest, smoothest, and most glossed-over headphone out of the bunch.

Few people would argue with you on that and graphs back it up. It can be rather dull-sounding for sure.

When I first demoed the 6XX, it sounded markedly snappier than a 650, and as we can see from the graph above, those findings back that up. Heck, one listen to each of them should make it pretty obvious that they aren’t clones at all.

From a purely graphical standpoint, the headphones are not identical. In fact, you could make a better case that the HD600 is the same headphone as the 650 (which it also isn’t).

I’m not going to dig up a bunch of Reddit threads right now, but pretty much everything I’ve read is people parroting the same exact thing.

I have to wonder, did these people actually sit down and demo the 6XX, or are they just repeating stuff that others say?

I’m inclined to believe it’s the latter.

To me, this is a clear example of misinformation getting spread around the internet, but again, it probably doesn’t matter much in the grand scope of the universe.

Is the HD6XX hard to drive?

Sennheiser HD6XX Review

No, it’s not hard to drive, but in reality, none of them are.

Any of the FiiO K5 Pro, JDS ATOM, or iFi’s Zen DAC will work well here.

DON’T OVERTHINK IT!

A 300 Ohm Impedance may sound like a lot, but their Sensitivity is also pretty high meaning they’re efficient and don’t need much power from an amp to reach acceptable listening levels. Related: How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]

In other words, don’t go too crazy. The HD600 line pairs well with many different types of amps and will sound fantastic regardless. I wouldn’t purchase a FiiO K3 unless you strictly plan to use them balanced, but it can work in a pinch. I’d just rather have more power.

Something like an E10K is perfectly fine, but I’d still go with one of hte above options because you’ll likely just upgrade later anyways.

Circling back to my original point that I’d probably invest in a 6XX if I had to do it all over again, here are some reasons why:

Price

If you have the option to pay $300-500 or $195 – $220, you’d probably choose the latter every day and twice on Sunday – especially if it means you have more cash left over to invest in an Amp/DAC.

This is really a perfect scenario since the cost of the 6XX + a Zen is still only around $330-350.

$330 just so happens to be the price I paid for the HD600 back in 2016; not quite the retail price that Sennheiser advertises on their website, but definitely not cheap.

Most regular folks would gasp at the thought of spending that much on a pair of headphones, but we’re not like most people, are we?

We’re AudioFILES and proud.

Sound

To me, the HD650 is much too warm. There’s not enough variance in its sound signature to get all that excited about it. It sounds good but lacks oomph and impact. It’s too glossy for me.

The HD600 improves that to a degree and sounds much snappier by contrast. The issue I have with it is that the mid-range can sound too forward at times.

In my mind, the 6XX is the perfect counterbalance between the 2.

It’s not overly warm, but the mids aren’t overly forward. It’s crisp and has punch, but doesn’t ever sound artificially boomy or anything.

While I would recommend these for mixing, I wouldn’t use them for gaming.

The Soundstage is much too narrow although I did find the HD58X to be a fairly decent gaming headphone!

Sennheiser HD58X Review

Do keep in mind that the 6XX’s image is slightly wider than the HD600’s, but that could be my imagination. The 58Xs’ is definitely not as narrow as either of them though.

Final Word

If it wasn’t obvious by now, I do wholeheartedly recommend the HD6XX as the go-to in the line.

I still hang on to my HD600 for sentimental reasons (plus it’s made in Ireland), but if I went back in time to 2016, knowing what I know now, I’d purchase the 6XX and get a Zen.

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sennheiser HD6XX Review 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!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

Is this product worth an investment? What are your thoughts on the hobby as a whole? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

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