Part of the “Before You Buy” Series
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Originally posted 1/22/16, Revised and refreshed 9/8/21.
At A Glance
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).
- Price to performance. 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 music. 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!
Specs/Graph/In The Box
Build & Comfort
Connecting With The Music
Pros & Cons
I’ve owned the HD600 since 2016 and thought I’d revisit and clean up this article, adding some thoughts and impressions while also answering some frequently asked questions as well.
So don’t click away because you’re in the right place! We’ll cover everything you could possibly want to know about Sennheiser’s venerable reference headphones, the 3rd in a line dating back to 1993.
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
- 2016 – The HD6XX Drop x Sennheiser collaboration (I can’t find an official year of when these first came out, but someone can correct me in the comments if this is wrong).
- 2017 – The HD660S
- 2018 – The HD58X Drop x Sennheiser collaboration
By the end of this article, you’ll know without a doubt whether or not you should buy an HD600. Making the wrong decision could result in a lot of wasted time and money, and we want to avoid that… at all costs.
Back to the future
Back when I was considering purchasing one, I had read a plethora of headphone reviews, researched countless amounts of hours, and talked to some really knowledgeable folks within the audiophile world before taking the plunge.
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. I’ve also since bought a K702 and absolutely love it, but that’s a story for a different article.
Back before I knew Metal571, I had stumbled on some of his reviews (specifically his 600 review) and reached out to him. He said without a doubt the HD600 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 HD600 is your best bet and still stands head and shoulders above most mid-fi offerings, which is shocking when you consider it came out over 2 decades ago.
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). In my opinion, it still easily makes the list of best studio headphones for mixing as well. Specs/Graph/In The Box…
In The Box
Sennheiser HD600 Headphones
Limited 2-Year Warranty (not pictured)
Shoutout to Crinacle for the graph! This is Crinacle’s graph. There are many like it, but this one is his. 😂
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | 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
- Cable: Detachable 2-pin proprietary, 9.8 ft.
- Color: Speckled blue finish, black.
Build & Comfort
Over 5 years later, the HD600 has held up remarkably well for me even despite quite a bit of abuse, drops, mishandling, and general wear and tear.
In other words, I don’t worry much about breaking it because it functions a lot like Mick Foley and keeps coming back for more.
The headphone is light and nimble, but deceptively robust, containing metal for the headband, metal mesh for the grilles, as well as carbon fiber, plastic, and velour to round out its compact profile.
One thing to keep in mind right away is that it clamps rather hard at first, but does open up over time. Be very careful when you stretch them because they’ve been known to snap under pressure like Henry Hill in Goodfellas.
Other than that small caveat, I haven’t had a single issue, and even despite complaining quite a bit about the thin, drug store-looking cable, it’s been a real trooper over the years.
I’ve probably run over it with my computer chair hundreds (if not thousands of times) and it still hasn’t batted so much as an eyelash. As it turns out, looks can be incredibly deceiving.
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! You can pretty much take the headphone completely apart and replace elements as needed – the grille, the pads, the cable, etc.
I would highly recommend going ahead and just purchasing a set of replacement pads up front, that way you won’t have to worry about it later when the pads wear down and you’re short on cash money.
Ya feel me dough?!
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.
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 pretty much never have to take them off at all for any reason.
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 cans and in fact, they do make my most comfortable headphones of all time list rather easily.
BUILD SCORE: A+
COMFORT SCORE: A+
One thing about open-back headphones that sets them apart from closed-backs is their propensity to deliver a clearer, airier sound, almost causing you to feel as if the music takes on somewhat of a live flavor.
The HD600, while not possessing that great of a Soundstage, does that, but also does an incredible job of separating instruments and providing an almost perfectly tuned headphone with a fantastic overall tone.
The bass, while not thumping quite as hard as an Ananda or Audeze LCD offering, sits in the mix rather well and sounds clean, articulate, and accounted for. It won’t jump out at you but will sound enjoyable and revealing. It rolls off below 100Hz, but still doesn’t sound anemic or bass light – an issue with a headphone like the AKG K240.
There are no mid-bass bumps here either, which is an area in the sound signature that can be problematic and one that many companies, unfortunately, don’t do quite right.
Sennheiser knows better.
Choosy moms choose GIF, whatever.
The mid-range is a hare forward, so instruments and vocals really come through well. Be aware that bad recordings can make the 600s sound a bit shouty and in your face.
This is an issue that many people squabble over, and I personally believe that it can be a problem at times though it’s kind of a minor nitpick at the end of the day.
For instance, the HD600’s mid-range does sound more forward than both the 650’s and 6XX’s. This is why if I had to do it all over again, I may opt for one of those over the 600, for that reason as well as a few others. More on that in the final word.
Even despite my whining, every time I put the HD600 away for an extended period of time and then come back to it, I’m amazed all over again at how good they sound as a whole.
ME LOVE YOU LONG TIME!!
In short, the HD600 may make you a… BELIEBER. HAHA!
Audiophiles really do get spoiled by the sound of these headphones, regardless of what some snobs say.
Headphonesty wrote a great article echoing this sentiment as well. Check out his Review of the HD600!
This is another point of contention among snobby audiophiles and as it turns out, makes for a very interesting discussion.
Is it veiled? That’s a great question. I would say yes and no, as the answer, in my opinion, lies somewhere in the middle. People have been arguing about this for what seems like an eternity, but I can see both sides.
On one hand, the treble absolutely never becomes fatiguing which is something that makes the headphone super valuable. This, combined with its excellent comfort levels makes for a truly amazing experience as you can quite literally listen to music for hours and hours without feeling like you need to rip the headphones off.
The problem for some is that the high-end can sometimes lack detail and sparkle – certainly a fair gripe if we’re being objective and not dogmatic.
I used to think the veil accusation was a bit overdone like your mom’s meatloaf, but I kind of understand where those people are coming from now.
In the past, I found the treble on the darker side, but it never sounded weird to me. I think part of it has to do with the fact that I’ve demoed over 100 headphones at the time of this article, but I’ve also been listening to brighter, more open, and/or crisper-sounding cans.
In short, I heard the veil, but really only once since I’ve owned it.
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I’ve also embedded the general discussion containing some more personal experiences with these headphones:
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 you will likely feel when listening to the HD600. It’s as if you’re 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, in 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 600s 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; 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 and made me appreciate his contributions all the more.
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 HD600 was one of them. The DT880 was also one. This is, in part why it became so hard to finally decide between them.
Tyll Herstens, who retired from the now-defunct Inner Fidelity, also loved the HD600, as well as its younger and older brothers 650 and 580 respectively.
In this new section, I document how many times and with what song the HD600s 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-
- Instrument separation. The HD600s have a laser-like precision quality about them. 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 may suffer from a sense of almost “artificial” detail depending on who you ask. 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.
- Clamping force is 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 picky in the slightest but does require some sort of amp + dac (separate or combo). It will do well with just about anything and only needs around 20mW from an amp.
I used the Schiit Magni/Modi stack for 2 years from December 2016 to December 2018 and it was just okay. There are much better options nowadays although Schiit has improved their product line from what I’ve heard.
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.
- 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.
- 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 for 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.
Instead of boring you and writing a bunch more unnecessary words, I’ll just link you to a shootout containing some of my best options for the HD600 when you’re just starting out.
Here’s a short list:
- iFi Zen: Pairs extremely well with most headphones. A great match for HD600. Amp/DAC Combo.
- FiiO K5 Pro: My personal favorite, all of the above applies. A tad warmer than the Zen. Amp/DAC Combo.
- JDS ATOM: Definitely the most neutral and honest, perhaps the best overall pairing. You will need a dac. Pair it with the ATOM DAC.
- Bravo Ocean: A tube-hybrid with a hint of warmth. You will need a dac. I used a DragonFly Red.
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- 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, but do keep in mind that you absolutely shouldn’t purchase these for gaming. 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.
- Hardcore Bass-head NOOBS.
If you want to hear what was recorded in its purest state, the HD600 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.
Many headphones have come and gone from my studio over the years, but the HD600 remains.
As mentioned in the open, I do like having both the K702 and HD600 here because they each have their strengths and weaknesses.
The fact that the HD600 has somehow stayed relevant for over 20 years, despite an influx of newer headphones saturating the market should tell you all you need to know.
But wait, there’s more! xD
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, you may actually consider a 6XX instead.
If I had to do it again, I would choose the 6XX over the HD600 although it is pretty close. To my ears, the 6XX actually sounds better than a 600 and you can almost always get it for a ridiculously great price. The mid-range isn’t quite as in your face, but still somehow sounds crisper and more lively than an HD650. To me, a perfect cross-section of both headphones.
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 for a fraction of the price.
With that, check out the next video in the Before YOU Buy Series, I know it will help you out immensely on your journey.
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,
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!!
Sennheiser HD 600
- Extremely Comfortable (after break in)
- Mostly neutral, with great resolution
- Fantastic Imaging and Instrument Separation
- All Parts Replaceable, Great Build
- Genre Master
- Clamp force is tight at first but does open up
- 3k Area Shouty and too forward at times