I’m gonna start doing what I call “Quick View” to preface my reviews. It’s meant to give some concise cliff notes that outline important bullet points. It serves as sort of a TL;DR (too long don’t read LOL). So here’s the quick scoop on the HD 600:
Rated #2 in Over-ear headphones on Head-Fi with 100% Positive Reviews(Subject to change).
May be the most neutral headphone in it’s class or otherwise.
Called a genre master. Does well with any type of music.
Longevity through the roof. Been around for 20 years and counting (1997).
Amp versatile. Does well with most any amplifier of your choosing.
A+ price to performance ratio. More on that in the actual review.
Supreme comfort. You may forget you’re wearing them!
Amazing tonal balance, with a touch of warmth for added pleasure. 😉
Removable parts. Many of the parts used in the HD 600’s construction, including the ear-pads, cable and grills are replaceable. Parts are still easily obtainable from Sennheiser. Goes back to that longevity factor.
The perfect reference point for buying other headphones, meaning: It’s a great example of what any headphone should strive to be, and serves as that ultimate standard and benchmark. At the end of the day, you should compare everything else to these!
The Gold Standard as far as mixing/reference in fact. There isn’t a headphone out there more recommended in this regard than the HD600.
The Official Review & Introduction
I’ve put this off for a long time, but finally I’m here today to deliver you the acclaimed Sennheiser HD 600 Review! My goal for this post is to outline as much information as possible, while also hopefully convincing you that above all, this is the absolute, without a doubt best mixing/reference headphone on the planet in it’s class or otherwise.
I’ve done a plethora of headphone reviews, a countless amount of research hours, talked to some really knowledgeable folks within the audiophile world, and tried them myself. For awhile I went back and forth between 3 options: The HD600, the DT880, and the AKG K701. After discovering potential problems with the K701 (unnaturally large sound-stage/lack of bass, & build quality issues), I was torn between the DT880 and 600 for the longest time. Recently I stumbled on some of Metal571’s reviews (specifically his 600 review), and reached out to him. He said without a doubt the HD 600 is the go to because of the issues in the 880’s loss of detail in that spiked treble range, which can lead to harshness/sibilance. Check him out on twitter!
The consensus is almost universal though: If you need the flattest, truest, and most neutral sound, absent any coloration or hyped frequencies, The HD 600 is your best bet. It is the classic reference, the go to, the veteran, the Gold Standard, the tried and true. About as close to perfection as it gets (in it’s class). Insert any positive phrase or statement here and it’s most likely an accurate one. Add to that longevity. The 600 has been around since 1997 and doesn’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon!
Before we get into the specifics though: Grab a snack, sit back and relax because ..
Material: Metal grilles, carbon fiber, velour ear pads, plastic
Color: Speckled blue finish, black.
The HD600 is a open back, reference headphone made for use in an isolated studio or quiet home environment. Closed back vs. Open back headphones. They do leak sound, and really aren’t meant for on the go situations. I would also urge you to purchase proper amplification to go with these bad boys; they will not sound anywhere close to their potential coming out of a mobile device, laptop, PC or otherwise. The sound is much too quiet to be anywhere close to enjoyable. How to choose a headphone amp!
Build and construction wise, they are solid, but light, and are made of mostly plastic. The headband is metal, which is a huge plus, but be aware of their clamping force when you first put them on. It will likely take a bit of continued use to wear these puppies in. Don’t fret though. After awhile they will start to fit very snugly on your melon. Other highlights include a removable cable and those comfy velour ear-cups that we all love. I did have to make a slight adjustment because the headband was digging into my dome piece, but for the most part these are extremely comfortable. I didn’t have to take them off at all.
Sound wise, like I said they are the classic reference. There are no hyped frequencies here. What you get is about as close to neutral (if not outright neutral) as it gets within this price range. The sound, as originally recorded, will come through good or bad. Because of this, the price to performance ratio is absolutely astounding. The mid-range is a hare forward, so instruments and vocals really come through well. Be aware though, with bad recordings this can make the 600’s sound a bit harsh/grating.
The HD600 is the third iteration in a line that includes:
1993 – The HD580
1995 – The HD580 Jubilee Edition (Sennheiser’s 50th anniversary celebration)
1997 – The HD600
2003 – The HD650
2017 – The HD660S
I have not gotten a chance to try out the HD660S, but stay tuned as I will attempt to demo it in the near future.
As for a measured graph, the bass does roll off after around 40-50 Hz which could be problematic to some. I personally find there’s enough as it’s tight and controlled, but if you’re specifically looking for a deep EDM or Hip-Hop type of bass these won’t suffice like some other offerings. The mid-range takes on a very revealing quality, and for the most part is very flat and balanced aside from the bump at around 3k. This can result in some harshness and at times gives the 600 a bit of a loud/in your face type of character (kind of like Michael Scott from the Office). Haha. As far as the treble, it’s crisp and detailed, but some may call it veiled. This basically just means it’s not as revealing as some brighter offerings (the DT880 comes to mind).
Anywho, here’s Tyll’s graph which does not show the 3k bump, but Golden Ears does show a couple of small bumps.
Connecting with the music
There is really something about these that kind of reveals the musics true colors. Think of them like that best friend you have; you know more about them: the intricate details, their personality, perhaps their heart and soul. You’re intimate with them. This is what I feel like when I listen with the HD600. It’s as if I’m getting a glimpse into the spirit of the artist or band. The naked truth. It’s hard to explain, but it’s almost as if someone took a huge blanket off of the sound. You are now able to hear everything that went into the recording, good or bad. All of the subtle details are present, and you can hear the music in it’s most raw state. It really is a treat to behold on great recordings in particular.
For instance, on Pink Floyd’s“One of my turns”, Waters sings “Would you like to watch TV? Or get between the sheets?” Right after this line, you can actually hear pants unzipping. In all my time listening to the Wall, I’ve never EVER heard that before. It’s the little things that make the 600’s really stand out. On the opening track “In the Flesh?” I’m able to clearly hear Richard Wright on the keyboard. If you’re familiar with the bands history, Wright became less and less prominent in recordings as time went on. In Floyd’s early days you could hear his influence throughout the records; It helped cement their legacy as a band actually. By the time The Wall came out, he was kind of an afterthought, which is quite a shame considering how great he was on the keyboard. The fact that I can hear every note he plays as if he was in front of me put a huge smile on my face.
Awhile back I came across an audiophile guru on Head-Fi named David Mahler, out of Brooklyn, NY. Out of 58 headphones he reviewed, only 4 got an A+ rating. The 600 was one of them. The DT880 was also one. This is, in part why it became so hard to finally decide between the 2.
In this new section, I document how many times and with what song the HD600’s broke me down because of how beautiful they sounded. Stay tuned for more!
Pink Floyd – Great Gig in the Sky. Just an amazing vocal performance by Clare Torry. The 600’s really bring her voice to life. It’s like I got a sense of who she was at the core. Her personality and spirit shone through magnificently.
Grateful Dead – Terrapin Station. I really identify with the beginning of this song, and the 600’s just magnified that feeling. Crybaby supreme.
Fleetwood Mac – Landslide. Honestly who doesn’t cry when they listen to this song? Lol. It was something about being able to hear the intricacies of Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar. There’s something about the whole piece that really makes you just break down man. I don’t know. 🙂
Sound-stage. It is open, and refined, but not wide like the K701 or DT 880. It’s more narrow than the 880, but the imaging has a laser precision quality about it. The instrument separation is nothing short of exemplary. Overall, not quite as “exciting” as the 880 or 701 in regards to sound stage, but much more realistic and accurate for sure.
Exceptional comfort.Needs break in however, as mentioned in the summary.
David Mahler (mentioned above) calls these the “Genre master”. They do well with most anything! More on that a bit later.
Lean, neutral bass response. It is much more present overall than the 701. It has nice extension and digs deep, but does have some roll off.
Mid-range. Some call it the most uncolored headphone, being that it’s extremely flat. However, the mids are a little forward, which gives it some nice added energy. Think fast and detailed here.
Natural. Metal 571 called it the most natural, honest, and neutral headphone he’s ever heard. It kind of gives you a blank stare, which is what you want if you’re mixing down a track.
Great tonal balance. All the frequencies are integrated beautifully. No one sound overpowers another. Think John Bender from the Breakfast Club: “Well Brian, you have a perfectly balanced and nutritious lunch. All the food groups are represented. Did your mom marry Mister Rogers?” “No, Mister Johnson.” Lol.
Removable parts.Discussed in the open, the cable is removable, and most all of the important components can be replaced.
Treble. While about as natural and smooth as it gets, it’s been accused of having a “veiled” sound. This simply means that the high end is lacking in air and harmonic content. Some energy/sparkle is lost, as well as detail. The upside of this is that the 600’s aren’t grainy or harsh at all. One of the main gripes with the DT880 is sort of the opposite: it is very bright and can be fatiguing, but also lacks detail. I suppose it all depends on your taste. A lot of people prefer that sparkling quality. While I do enjoy that as well, I prefer not to have my ears blown out in any capacity. What is the Sennheiser Veil?
Cable may feel a bit cheap to some. I honestly do not like the cable at all. For one, it’s too long. It actually got caught on my computer chair and ended up yanking the headphones right to the floor. I was able to witness first hand as time slowed down and I went “Noooooo.” They landed right on the headband and bounced up like spring, still perfectly in tact. 😀 For as much as I’ve read about the headband being a bit fragile, I was thoroughly impressed. The second gripe with the cable is that it’s the type of wire you’d expect to see on a cheap set of cans like the Sennheiser HD202, no joke. But I’m kind of nitpicking. One thing you have to remember is that these came out in 1997. The wire is simply showing it’s age in my opinion.
Clamping force a bit tight on your dome at first.
They feel a bit underwhelming when you actual hold them in your hand.The upside is that they’re light and can be worn for long periods.
Credit to my boy @Metal571. Check him out on Twitter!
Luckily for you and me, this headphone is not amp picky in the slightest. It will do well with just about anything, but a great option starting out is the Schiit Magni/Modi combo, which I own and recommend for an entry level audiophile stack. I’ve seen it endorsed so many times that I feel compelled to put it up near/at the top in almost every review I do. It simply does exceptional with a variety of entry to mid level studio headphones, and the 600 is no exception. Because it also has an output impedance of less than 0.1, it will work wonderfully for most mid-tier to hi-fi headphones that you pair it with. What is Headphone Impedance?
Called the genre master, it does well with pretty much anything you throw at it. Just don’t actually throw things at the 600, it’s sensitive 😛 I’ve seen it endorsed with everything, and personally have not been disappointed with any genre pairings that I’ve tried:
They also benefit:
Producers and beat makers, needing the most honest sound for their mixes.
Casual listeners who want to re-discover all of their old favorites.
Listeners in a quiet and isolated environment.
Listeners on the go.
If you want to hear what was recorded in it’s purest state, the HD 600 is the headphone for you. Hands down. About as close to perfection in this price range or otherwise, it’s been called the Gold Standard for a reason. It’s neutral, honest, flat, but also remains immensely enjoyable, especially with regard to instrument separation/clarity, timbre, and it’s slightly forward mids. What is Timbre? The mid-range gives a tinge of color which contributes to a fast paced and energetic sound that you can get excited about.
I think I’ve pretty much summed it up, but if you’re on the fence between the K701, the DT880, and the HD 600, just go with the 600. It’s Sennheiser’s cream of the crop, and has somehow stayed relevant for over 20 years, despite an influx of newer headphones saturating the market. The DT880 is a phenomenal headphone, but suffers from a slightly harsh high end/treble range. The K701 is super neutral as well, but lacks any sort of bass impact, and possesses an unnaturally wide sound-stage that lacks that all important center image. The 600 is the go to, and will likely continue to be for years to come.
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.