Before we get into the best Sennheiser headphones, grab a snack, sit back and relax because…
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What I will bring you in this article
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!!
Ah, Sennheiser. For me, this is the biggest name in headphones. Sony, Beyerdynamic, HIFIMAN, Audeze, Grado, Shure, V-Moda, Samson, Philips, Oppo, Focal, Audio Technica, and AKG are all brands that I have come to really respect, but there is something about that Sennheiser name. What is it exactly? I’m not really sure myself, but when I think of the name, I think quality, transparency, and honesty more so than any other company.
It may be the fact that they rarely ever put out a bad product. In fact, there’s really only been a few. The HD201 comes to mind as a complete dud, but other than that there are really no weak links. Couple that with them being the second oldest company in producing headphones (Beyerdynamic being the oldest), you can see why what they’re doing is so valuable. They have a long track record of making excellent products, and are responsible for the first-ever open-backed headphone!
Notable companies and their founding dates
Philips – 1891, but didn’t start offering headphones until recently. If you know the exact year, please let me know because I cannot find it online. 🙂
Beyerdynamic – 1924, and at the end of the 1930’s they developed the first pair of dynamic headphones.
Shure – 1925, but didn’t start offering around-ear headphones until 2009.
Sennheiser – 1945. In 1968, they released the world’s first open headphones. This drastically altered the market, as they were able to cater to the demographic of people that wanted a more natural sound.
Sony – 1946
AKG – 1947
Grado – 1953, but didn’t offer headphones until 1991 which was 1 year after Joseph Grado retired, selling the company to his nephew John.
Audio Technica – 1962
Focal – 1979
Samson – 1986
Oppo – 2001
V-Moda – 2004
HIFIMAN – 2005
Audeze – 2008
If you have any more companies you would like me to add, also let me know!
The goal today is to narrow down some of Sennheisers best and leave out the rest. I’m not big on exhaustive lists here at Home Studio Basics. One exception is The best audiophile headphones, as it’s necessary to include a longer list because of the more general nature of that article. Here, we are narrowing down Sennheiser cans specifically, so we can kind of omit models that don’t quite make the cut.
That said, these are definitively the best out of the bunch as far as I’m concerned. Because the times are always changing, expect this to be updated as new models come out, and/or I add to and take away. I want articles like these to always be relevant, so keep checking back for future revisions!
It’s hard to place anything above the HD600, in the Sennheiser category or otherwise. This headphone represents everything you could ever want or need, and it does so at a fair price. The important thing to remember is that above this price range, the law of diminishing returns will set in. I believe the 600 provides about 95% of what you’re missing in junk headphones, but if you want to experience that last 5%, you’ll pay for it dearly. The unfortunate part about high-end audiophile cans is that the price is almost never justified when you get to a certain amount. I would place this number at around $600. Spend any more than that, and the increase in sound quality will only get smaller and smaller.
Luckily for you, I’m here to set the record straight. If you want to hear what you’ve been missing out on, the HD600 will show you in spades. All you’ll need is a good amp/DAC combo to pair up! How to choose a Headphone Amp!
Things to be aware of
The chord feels a bit cheap, but it’s not a deal-breaker.
The headphones clamp very hard at first, which is pretty unanimous. They will loosen up over time, but to speed up the process you’ll need to stretch them over a few books if you’re impatient.
All parts are user-replaceable, which adds to their value.
Be careful stretching them, as the headband has been known to snap under high pressure.
Update: I am now mostly recommending the 6XX. Learn why:
The HD650 is very similar to the 600, but with less bass roll-off and an overall warmer sound signature. So depending on the kind of sound you’re after, you may prefer this over the 600’s more sterile sound. Also, there’s less treble energy here, rendering them a fair amount dark. If the accused veil was ever correct, it’s probably the most apparent here. What is the Sennheiser Veil?
The HD800 is one of the more well known “expensive” headphones out there, as even some of the most casual consumers will know about it in some capacity. The great thing about these is that they will deliver to you 100% of the audiophile experience at about a grand. What’s even more, like Metal571 said in part 2 of his review (below), if you can get them for under about $700 it’s basically a steal. I know I said that above $600 a headphone is rarely worth the price. I think the HD800 is one of those exceptions. The 800S will run you a bit more, but you could always just buy these and EQ that treble spike down. The 800 is known for its excellent Soundstage, perhaps the best in the business, and overall provides you with an incredibly natural (if somewhat bright) overall sound. What is Soundstage?
The reason they are placed second behind the 600’s is that out of the box you will most likely want to EQ them in some form. The 600’s sound just about perfect as is, and it’s one of the main reasons why I always recommend them in nearly all circumstances.
Differences between the 800 & 800S
The only flaw in an otherwise perfect headphone was that 6k peak that everyone complained about in the original. With the 800S, Sennheiser listened to user feedback and dampened down the treble, which renders them just about flawless. They also changed the color to all black, which I personally like but your mileage may vary.
Things to be aware of
1. The 6k peak.
Credit to my boy @Metal571. Check him out on Twitter!
Update: I’m no longer recommending any from the 500 series. My thinking on this is: Why would you waste your money on a 598 or 599 when:
You’ll just upgrade later anyways.
The sound is good, but the 600 series is much better for not much more (Read: 6XX is dirt cheap nowadays). Knowing what I know now, I’d simply never buy a 599 if I could get the 6XX or even 58X for around the same price.
Another easy recommendation. If you’re wondering what an audiophile headphone sounds like, but don’t have the money to drop on a more expensive model, the 558 will get you most of the way there. These have an incredibly natural sound as well, but I find that with the foam/rubber strip mod it’s almost too relaxed for my tastes. Luckily you can easily take these apart and get to where the driver is, taking off the strips that kind of tame the overall signature down. Without these strips in place, the sound opens up considerably, rendering them much more exciting, intense, and lifelike. Now does that defeat the purpose of these? Not really. It adds a touch of bass, while also making them even more revealing. If you ask most people they will tell you the same.
How do the 598’s compare?
Overall, the sound of the 558 is just about the same as the 598 without the strips. IN fact, the overall sound without them is pretty similar, so I wouldn’t fork out the money for the 598 at this juncture. The 558 will do you just fine.
Things to be aware of
They are very lightweight but don’t feel cheap per se.
Sub-bass is lacking quite a bit. I wouldn’t buy these if you’re specifically looking for a hip-hop can, but they can work without the strips to nice effect.
My Video Review
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The HD599’s are an updated version of the 598’s, with a bit better bass extension but a very similar overall sound to the HD598. They’re worth a look simply because they improve upon a few things while not regressing in anything really. The important thing to keep in mind though is that the differences between the 599 and 598 are about as negligible as the differences between the 558 and 598. Basically, that means don’t stress over it. If you’re strapped for cash, I’m always going to recommend the 558 and tell you to take the rubber strips out because you’re getting basically the same sound out of them as you would with a 598.
Things to be aware of
They don’t have numbered adjustments on the side.
They sound very similar to an HD598.
All credit to @Metal571. Check him out on Twitter!
The HD700 continues in the vein of the 800, but as the evvvilllll twin brother! HEH HEH HEH. It’s like Mario vs. Wario. The HD700’s are super articulate as well, but with a bit of a brighter treble overall. The graphs bear a striking resemblance to one another, and the HD700’s can be thought of as a cheaper alternative if you want to get your feet wet investing in a great Sennheiser can that’s not as amp picky as an 800. Its 150 Ohm impedance will still require an amp of some sort to power optimally, but you’re not going to have to labor over which you choose.
One of the more interesting things about the 700 is that they are very polarizing. People either love or hate it, but I’m not sure entirely why. There’s nothing groundbreaking about it. It’s got a relatively flat frequency response, a super articulate bass, excellent mid-range, and bright treble. Nothing out of the ordinary, but people make a huge deal about the treble and I can’t figure out what the issue really is. The only thing that stands out is the mid-range does tend to bottom out a bit quicker after 1k, but that’s it. The sound as a whole is fantastic, and definitely worthy of a top spot in this article.
The HD380 is the more exciting version of the 280, with more Soundstage, better padding/comfort, bass and sub-bass that digs deeper and has better overall quality, a removable cable, and better instrument separation, and a better overall sense of refinement. So why even include the 280’s in this list? Because I still think they are an important headphone in the line as far as mixing/mastering goes. If you disagree, let me know!
I would also say that the 280s will do a bit better as a reference headphone, while the 380s are more for pure enjoyment being a V-shaped kind of can.
Things to be aware of
They have a lot of plastic but still, have a good build.
They are meant to be used in the studio and don’t work well as portable headphones.
I had these puppies for a while, and while I don’t particularly like them, I respect them for what they are. This is not a headphone meant for enjoyment. It’s a reference can that does its job excellently. Comfort and build are both great, but they will clamp rather hard at first. That said, these will likely always be on a shortlist for best entry-level mixing/mastering in the closed-back because of their ability to give you a blank stare, much like an HD600. In fact, everything about these cans is fantastic except for one thing, which I will mention now:
Things to keep in mind
1. The mid-bass is somewhat sucked out, which is really the only flaw in an otherwise great can. This is what keeps them from being perfect because it kind of renders them lifeless at times.
Sennheiser HD25 Professional
Differences between the old and new outlined below.
The HD25 is a legendary professional DJ headphone that has stood the test of time remarkably well. I would consider this a headphone for pure musical bliss, as it provides an intense, exciting, and crisp overall sound. Build wise, these are absolutely remarkable and are probably the single most durable headphone I’ve ever owned. In fact, I did a stress test video and really put them through hell, and they still came out on top! More on that in the official review. 🙂
Things to be aware of
These will fatigue you after a while, as the sound is very in your face.
Comfort isn’t the greatest.
My Video Review!
Please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. I would appreciate any support! Even a dislike! 🙂
Not entirely sure why this video has a lot more dislikes than likes, but I’m pretty sure it was because I came off like a prick that day. Fortunately, my other videos all have done very well so far. That said if you don’t like it, comment instead of thumbing down. I get no valuable feedback when people dislike it, though it still does help me in the rankings. So if you don’t like me, the best way to “stick it to me” is by not reacting at all. 😛
Well, I hope I haven’t overwhelmed you, but these are the headphones you should consider if shopping for a Sennheiser can specifically. So what do I recommend? Of course, the HD600, but I’d go with the 6XX nowadays. It represents everything a headphone should be. It has great articulation, instrument separation, and a natural sound with great Timbre. What is Timbre? It’s the audiophile standard and has stood the test of time since 1997. How many headphones have remained relevant for that long? The fact that a 20-year-old + headphone can remain not only relevant but miles ahead of everything else, in such an ever-changing, Attention deficit disorder market is a true testament to its quality and longevity.
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.