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3,655-word post, approx. 8 min read.
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Here are 5 reasons to consider purchasing the Sennheiser HD600:
- Comfort. This headphone is easily one of (if not the most) comfortable I’ve ever worn. 99% of the time you will not even notice it on your head (after the break-in period).
- The price to performance ratio is through the roof. All parts are replaceable, as it’s stood the test of time. It does well with any genre, it’s versatile with almost any amp, and it’s easily the most neutral headphone in its class. I use the HD600 as a benchmark for comparing every other headphone I come in contact with.
- Sound. There’s a reason why the HD600 is still relevant after over 20 years (1997). The sound will completely blow you away if you’re new to the hobby. Tonal balance, clarity/resolution, instrument separation, and more are all incredible with this headphone.
- Highly Rated everywhere you look (All ratings subject to change). It has a 4.79/5 overall rating on Head-Fi, and is surely one of the highest-rated products I’ve ever seen on Amazon (sometimes hitting 4.9 out of over 500 reviews). All subject to change.
- It will make you look at music in an entirely different way. This is a headphone that made me reconsider a lot of things that I thought I knew about recorded albums. The HD600 presents tracks in their most raw state and will have you revisiting a lot of old favorites that you’ve long since forgotten about.
Table of Contents
Click to navigate the HD600 Review!
Connecting With The Music
Pros & Cons
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 its 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 a while, 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 its 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…
You’ve come to the right place!!
Sennheiser HD 600
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
- Type: Open back.
- Fit: Circumaural (over-ear).
- Impedance: 300 ohms.
- Sensitivity: 97 dB/mW.
- Frequency response: 12Hz – 39000 kHz.
- Material: Metal grilles, carbon fiber, velour earpads, plastic
- Color: Speckled blue finish, black.
The HD600 is an 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. More on that in a bit! 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 a while, 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. The only issue for me and many others is the cable. It’s really thin, flimsy, and long. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve run over this thing with my computer chair. Unfortunately, they really look and feel like 1997, but surprisingly the cable has held up remarkably well for me even despite the borderline abuse it’s endured.
The overall build is very solid and these should last you a lifetime given proper care. All of the parts here are easily replaceable as well! The grille is made of metal mesh, the cups are velour, and both are very easy to take off of the headphone.
Some people don’t like the speckled blue finish, but I find it personally adds a bit of a unique touch to the headphone. Is it a bit retro-looking? Maybe. You may prefer the color the 650 more. It just depends.
BUILD SCORE: A+
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.
In fact, you will likely keep them on your head without realizing it, even after the music has stopped. I find myself wearing them when nothing is playing – a sign of very comfortable headphones.
The cups will wear out over time but are easily replaceable. I’m not entirely sure if worn pads alter the sound. I’d have to do a side-by-side with a new set.
Honestly, these are some of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn and I’ve demoed over 80 units.
COMFORT SCORE: A+
Sound-wise, like I said they are the classic reference. There are no hyped frequencies here aside from that 3k bump in the mid-range. 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. Also, the mid-range can be a tad too in your face but for the most part, I love the overall sound of these headphones.
In fact, every time I put them away for an extended period of time and then come back to them, I’m amazed all over again. Audiophiles really do get spoiled by the sound of these headphones! Headphonesty wrote a great article echoing this sentiment as well. Check out his Review of the HD600!
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
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.
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).
Here’s Tyll’s graph which does not show the 3k bump, but Golden Ears does show a couple of small bumps.
My Video Review & HD 650 Comparison
Connecting with the music
There is really something about these that kind of reveals the music’s 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 almost everything that went into the recording, good or bad. All of the subtle details are present, and you can hear the music in its 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 band’s history, Wright became less and less prominent in recordings as time went on. In Floyd’s early days you could hear his influence throughout their 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.
A while 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.
Tyll Herstens from Inner Fidelity also absolutely loves the HD600, as well as the younger and older brother.
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 really brings 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 SCORE: A-
- Soundstage. 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 Soundstage, but much more realistic and accurate for sure. What is Soundstage?
- Exceptional comfort. Needs a break-in, however, as mentioned in the summary.
- David Mahler (mentioned above) calls these the “Genre master”. They do well with almost anything! More on that a bit later.
- Lean, neutral bass response. It is much more present overall than the 701. It has a 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.
- Removable parts. As 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.”in extreme slow mo. They landed right on the headband and bounced up like spring, still perfectly intact. 😀 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 its age in my opinion.
- Clamping force a bit tight on your dome at first, but does open up over time.
Click to see the HD600!
Note: I put a watermark on them because other sites have been using my images without permission. There are also some images of the 650 in here as well for comparison’s sake. Check out my article on the Sennheiser HD 600 vs. 650 for a detailed discussion!
Fortunately for you and me, this headphone is not amp picky in the slightest. It will do well with just about anything.
I used the Schiit Magni/Modi stack for 2 years from December 2016 to December 2018. It’s a clean amp and I enjoyed my time with it.
The important things to know when it comes to deciding on an amp are:
- Headphone Impedance. The higher the impedance, the more the headphone will resist power fed into it. Related: What is Headphone Impedance?
- Sensitivity. A measure of efficiency. A low number is generally around 97dB and below. A headphone with a number over 100 indicates that it’s very efficient and does NOT need a lot of power from the amp to reach acceptable listening levels. Sensitivity is in my opinion a better indicator of whether or not a headphone needs an amp, but both metrics are important. Related: What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
- Power Output of the Amp. This is important when deciding on the amp + headphone combo you go with. Make sure that the amp provides enough power into the Impedance rating of your headphone. For instance, the Objective 2 provides 88mW into 600 Ohms. The HD600 at 300 Ohms only needs 20mW.
Armed with that knowledge, let’s take a look at some good options for the HD600.
I do like the Objective 2 from JDS Labs a bit better than a Magni as a long-term desktop solution. It’s got a squeaky clean signal and sounds phenomenal with the 600/650. Lots of great spacing, air, micro detail, etc. Recently I did a comparison to JDS Labs Atom and would also consider that for your desktop as well!
My Video Comparison
A Budget Option that will work really well with both the HD600 and 650 is the FiiO E10K or K3. I have used the E10K extensively with both and just got the K3 recently. The K3 provides a bit less power but still works and sounds phenomenal. Learn more: FiiO K3 vs. E10K [The Definitive Guide]
My Video Comparison
The Audioquest Dragonfly is my pick for people who want extreme convenience and the ability to easily listen with their phone. If I had to choose one Amp/DAC on a deserted island, of course, it’s gonna be the Dragonfly for a multitude of reasons 😛 Learn more: Audioquest Dragonfly Red Review!
The DragonFly Shootout
- Bottlehead Crack (I will probably purchase one of these in the future). It is a DIY project just so you know.
- Darkvoice336e. Highly endorsed for both the 600 and 650.
If you’re interested in some more options, I go over a bunch in my comparison article: Sennheiser HD600 vs. 650.
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. Here are some examples:
- Hip hop
They also benefit:
- Producers and beat makers, needing the most honest sound for their mixes. I love mixing beats on these because they are very close to neutral and remain super comfortable over long listening sessions.
- 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 its 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 its 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 (as far as reference) 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 Soundstage that lacks that all-important center image. The 600 is the go-to, and will likely continue to be for years to come.
As good as the HD600 is, Drop (Formerly Massdrop) did a fantastic collaboration with Sennheiser and birthed an absolutely stunning audiophile-grade headphone. If you’re new to the hobby, the 6XX is hands down the product to invest in. To my ears, it actually sounds better than a 600 and you can almost always get it for a ridiculously great price. The mid-range to my ears is tamed down, but still somehow sounds crisper and more lively than an HD650.
I recommend these headphones to people who want to know what the “audiophile experience” is like. It will get you 95% of the way there.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve gotten some valuable information out of my Sennheiser HD 600 Review!
Do these headphones deserve that Gold Standard moniker? Be sure to let me know!!
If you have any other questions or feel I’ve missed the mark on something, leave a comment down below or Contact me!
I very much look forward to speaking with you…
All the best and God bless,