Home Headphone Comparisons The Sennheiser HD500 Series [Full Guide]

The Sennheiser HD500 Series [Full Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
Sennheiser HD560S Review

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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…

This article will cover and house all Sennheiser HD500 impressions and research that I’ve compiled over the years!

We’ll begin by discussing the general sound quality of the 500 series and then go into specifics for each comparison.

We’ll also cover genre, gaming, and amplification needs.

By the end, you should know exactly how these will sound and which one is most worth a purchase. Make sure to also bookmark this article and share if you found it helpful!

I will be frequently returning to it as I update impressions and/or add headphones. These include the HD555, 515, 590, as well as the newer HD559, 569, 579, etc. There are almost too many to keep up with at this point, but this guide will attempt to cover all bases.

With that, let’s get rolling!

Table of Contents

General Sound of the 500 Series
Genre
Gaming, Soundstage, & Comfort
Build
Amplification
HD518 vs. 558
HD595 vs. 598
HD558 vs. 598
HD598 vs. 599
HD560S
Final Word + Q&A

Chapter 1..

General Sound of the 500 Series

After owning, demoing, and researching various HD500 models dating back to 2014, I can tell you with confidence that the sound differences between them are quite marginal. It mostly comes down to some minor cosmetic disparities and subtle comfort changes.

Aside from that, the sound signatures are very very similar (at least as far as the ones we’re going to discuss).

There are some weird caveats though.

For instance, the HD559 looks to have a much more pronounced mid-bass rise (similar to the older HD518) which probably won’t sound that good per my own experience in headphones with similar-looking specs.

The Koss Porta Pro is an example of a headphone that has a similar rise in the same regions and one that I ultimately don’t think is ideal.

With most 500 models, you’re getting a supremely relaxed sound, with fairly significant sub-bass roll-off, a present mid-bass rise (albeit more tastefully done on some of the older iterations), an ultra-flat mid-range with a bit of emphasis in the presence region, and a bright-ish treble.

The treble on these is in no way dark as with the HD600/650, etc., but it’s also not overly bright or essy. It kind of sits in the middle, but may not sound as refined as some higher-tiered headphones.

With the 500 series, you’ll want to kick back and relax over extended listening sessions due to their almost impeccable comfort levels and overall non-fatiguing sound.

Genre

They work best with lighter genres such as Jazz, Classical, Folk, Acoustic, and generally more laid-back music.

You will also find that while they can and will work with harder genres, you won’t want to push the volume too hard.

They simply won’t respond well and may even introduce some subtle distortion. This is also apparent in AKG’s K600/700 series.

In other words, these aren’t headphones you’ll really want to bang your head with as they perform much better at lower volumes (Metal Homies I’M LOOKIN’ AT YOU!!)

The bass will have trouble keeping up, and the treble will start to sound fuzzy and weird. This was apparent to me when demoing the HD598 specifically.

Gaming, Soundstage, & Comfort

However, if you’re a gamer and/or watch a lot of film, you may want to stop everything and purchase a pair of 598s, 599s, or 560s’.

The reasons are twofold:

Comfort

One of the main reasons these headphones remain relevant after many years is their comfort factor.

Out of the 100+ headphones that I’ve demoed at the time of this writing, the 500 series is certainly in the top 3 most comfortable ever.

It may even be #1.

You won’t need to adjust or even take them off for any reason outside of bathroom breaks, to make food, or to, you know, go to sleep. Who does that anymore?

The clamping force is just about perfect, and the headphones don’t dig into the top of your dome.

They also aren’t heavy or bulky, and you can feel comfortable wearing them with the blinds open without feeling like someone’s going to break into your apartment and beat you up because you look like such a nerd.

It’s a win-win situation, friend.

The velour padding is soft and supple, and you can even replace the pads when they wear down.

Soundstage

In addition to that, the Soundstage on 500 series headphones is remarkable.

You’ll get frequent out of your head moments, but the spacing and separation of sounds are also quite excellent.

With film it’s more of the same; you’ll start to feel like you’re hearing stuff inside of your apartment or even outside.

This will frequently cause you to pause the film, game, or song and take them off to make sure you’re not about to get obliterated by Jason Voorhees.

FPS gamers should certainly consider a 500 series headphone because of all that I mentioned above + the fact that you can easily attach a Boom Pro and plug into a nice Amp/DAC.

Do keep in mind you will need a 3.5mm female to 2.5mm male such as this one. The reason being is because all HD500 series headphones have 2.5mm female slots into the earcup.

I’d recommend you snag a Creative SoundBlasterX G6 for the Amp/DAC 🙂

Creative SoundBlasterX G6

Gamer’s heaven.

My friend Luke, who let me borrow the HD598 a few years ago for a demo, still uses them to this day for gaming because of how good they are.

Update: His baby stepped on it and one side went out, lol. He told me he’s going to try and fix it. Those darned babies.

Build

The build of a 500 series headphone is light and nimble, but not cheap.

They’re made of mostly plastic, but it doesn’t necessarily feel like plastic that will break down over time. I can attest to this in owning a used HD558 for quite a while.

It feels a little flimsy meaning the parts move around a bit, but I never felt like it was going to break down or malfunction in any way. Do note that they may or may not survive if you happen to sit or step on them as in the case above with Luke’s.

Sennheiser employs their traditional click mechanism for the adjustments and a single cratered pad (hearkening back to the HD650’s) at the top for the headband on the 560S.

HIFIMAN Sundara vs. HD650 vs. HD600

The 650’s cratered pad.

The cups on all 500 models are oval-shaped and provide just enough room for your ears to tuck inside, and you won’t really feel your ear digging or touching too much.

I have the 560s on my head right now and I can feel the back of my ear touching the pad, but it’s not a complaint; just an observation. The fit will also largely depend on the size of your own auricles.

If you happen to have Dumbo-sized ones, you’re pretty much SOL buddy.

Oh my God look at the size of those things!

Amplification

Let’s take a look at all Impedance and Sensitivity numbers for the 500 series and determine if we will need an amp.

  • Sennheiser HD518. 50 Ohm Impedance, 108dB
  • Sennheiser HD558. 50 Ohm, 112 dB
  • Sennheiser HD559. 50 Ohm, 108dB
  • Sennheiser HD569. 50 Ohm, 108dB
  • Sennheiser HD579. 50 Ohm, 106dB
  • Sennheiser HD595. 50 Ohm, 112dB
  • Sennheiser HD598. 50 Ohm, 112dB
  • Sennheiser HD599. 50 Ohm, 106dB
  • Sennheiser HD560S. 120 Ohm, 110dB

As you may well imagine, none of these headphones are particularly hard to drive.

What’s interesting is that the 560S deviates a little in that its impedance is a bit higher, but I’m still not finding it hard to drive at all on low gain on my K5 Pro.

I’m at 11 ‘o clock right now.

I wouldn’t go too crazy trying to find the perfect pairing. A K3 or K5 will more than suffice.

Similarities

All of these headphones are open back, circumaural, velour padded, lightweight, and plastic. They all have roughly the same build and comfort levels. They all have replaceable earpads. They all have R and L indicators on the inside of the headband in small letters, all have the 2.5mm detachable half-turn click cable, and they all have traditional click mechanisms for the adjustment.

With that, let’s get into some individual comparisons before wrapping up.

Sennheiser HD518 vs. 558

Sennheiser HD 558 Review

Dope.

You’ll notice that they both feel pretty light in your hands and are made pretty much entirely of plastic. The HD558 that I owned at one point did in fact feel a bit flimsy, but it was still built well if that makes sense (mentioned earlier).

I didn’t get the sense that it was going to just fall apart on me or anything, but I was also a bit skeptical of dropping it on purpose even though I did so in the official video IIRC.

The other aspect that makes this tolerable is comfort. You’ll be able to wear them both for extended periods without so much as a single adjustment.

Main Differences

Padding

The 558’s pads are just a bit better and feel more comfortable on your head, but the distinction isn’t huge. They contain the velour padding that we’ve come to know and love in Sennheiser headphones.

The 518’s feel more like cloth, but the headphones are still very comfortable overall.

Bass

The mid-bass on the HD518 was definitely boomier around 100-200Hz.

You can clearly see this on a graph, and it was a semi stark contrast to Sennheiser’s traditional signature around that area in headphones like the HD558, 598, etc.

I wouldn’t call it jarring, but you did get the sense that it was trying a bit too hard; like Will Ferrel in Old School. xD

“WE’RE GOING STREAKING!! COME ON EVERYBODY! SNOOP! SNOOP A LOOP!!”

Soundstage

Some may also like the Soundstage better on the 558, and this is likely due to the mid-bass issue that we just discussed.

Sennheiser HD595 vs. HD598

Sennheiser HD 598 vs. HD 600

A Classic Original.

Main Difference

The main difference here was the treble, and likely why the 595 was discontinued if I had to take a guess.

It’s incredibly rolled off, to the point where you probably wouldn’t enjoy it even if it was still in circulation.

In fact, the entire signature after 1kHz seems to just kind of drop off gradually.

Another subtle difference is the build of the 595. It’s not markedly different but does feel a bit underwhelming in comparison to the 598’s.

Again, not a huge discrepancy.

Sennheiser HD558 vs. HD598

This was one of the most interesting comparisons for me because of the dialogue amongst folks going back then.

A lot of people claimed that if you took out the foam strips inside of the driver, the HD558 would sound nearly identical to the 598.

And they weren’t wrong.

With the strips in place, the sound is just a bit too relaxed for me. It’s actually boring if I can put it frankly.

Once I took them out, the sound signature mirrored that of the 598. Brighter treble, crisper sound, etc.

Again, keep in mind that these headphones can sound ever so slightly distorted at higher volumes; an unfortunate reality with the 500 series.

They’re meant to be listened to at quieter volumes with delicate and unassuming genres that place more emphasis on vocal passages, light strumming, and the intricacies of the instrument and human voice rather than the weight and impact that accompanies most pop, EDM, hip-hop, and dance music.

Even with that said, they’ll still sound remarkable with Rock; something that’s always been Sennheiser’s bread and butter when it comes to making good audiophile-type headphones. What is an Audiophile?

Weight

Another small difference, and one you’ll see in my review below, is that of weight.

The HD558 felt a tad flimsier than a 598 and my scale backed this up.

The 558 is 20g lighter and while it’s not a huge difference on paper, you will definitely notice it when they’re on your melon.

Sennheiser HD598 vs. HD599

Main Differences

The HD599 is perhaps the closest to resembling a true audiophile headphone; something in the neighborhood of its HD600 cousin.

This time around, the bass is considerably less rolled off than it was with a 598, and graphs clearly indicate this to be true. Instead of a roughly 10-12dB roll-off below 100Hz, it’s more like 5 or less.

This is a welcome change for peeps who do enjoy those types of harder genres.

Keep in mind that the mid/high bass going into 200Hz and on is still a bit elevated maybe more than necessary. This has always been a point of contention for me with this series: it sometimes feels like the headphones are trying a bit too hard to impress and aren’t entirely neutral in this region.

If I had to put money on it, I’d wager that in the case of the 599 and 560S, Sennheiser decided to make a headphone as close as possible to the HD600 without charging HD600 prices (They also boosted the bass on the 560S; more on that in a jiffy!)

I think Metal571 would agree as well, and I trust his ears quite a bit when comparing headphones that I’ve both heard and haven’t heard.

Video Review (HD 599)

Credit to my boy @Metal571. Check him out on twitter!

And if you were interested in my original HD598 review,

My Video Review (HD 598)

Don’t forget to leave me some love and subscribe! <3

Chapter 10…

Sennheiser HD560S

Rounding out this series full circle, and a headphone that represents a sort of 500 series “crux” or coda if you will, is the HD560S.

The HD560S takes the “500 sound” and amps it up a small notch. HAHA! No pun intended!

Do keep in mind that it’s still a mostly “500 sounding” headphone, but there is one noticeable difference.

Bass

There’s a subtle bass shelf now, and it’s a real treat to listen to. I think this is what mid-fi-bass-head-bass should sound like if you’re going to boost it.

It’s not overly forward and has some nice impact and thump in the mid-bass area without being overdone like your mom’s meatloaf.

You hungry?

LOL.

Outside of the bass, the trademark 500 sound is there; present mid-range, treble just north of neutral (read: it’s leaning towards bright but still knows its place), and a mostly flat mid-range with a bit of emphasis in the presence region; anywhere from 1-3k.

The trademark sound is there in spades, comfort is impeccable, and the build is solid.

A 560S definitely outperforms a 598 in terms of resolving power, and for me, that’s not debatable.

Any grain or fuzziness has been rectified. I no longer get the sense that pushing these headphones is going to result in any sort of perceived distortion. Transient response and timbre also seem a bit improved.

I would say that by and large, this is a mid-fi headphone on creatine. There’s a little bit of a boost in performance, but it still mostly functions as a mid-fi offering.

Listening to music is still enjoyable, it’s just that it can sometimes be kind of dull if I’m being honest.

This is something I’ve always taken issue with regarding 500 series headphones, and the 560S is no different.

I would liken my impressions to something like a K612.

The great thing about the K612 (and the 560S, etc.) is that everything sounds mostly correct.

The not-so-great thing about the K612 (and the 560S, etc.) is that everything sounds, mostly correct.

Do keep in mind that the 560S is light years better than a K612 when it comes to pretty much everything else. On paper, they’re both incredibly neutral, but the 560S is a superior headphone in every way. I talk more about this in the official HD560S review.

As far as the overall sound of the 560S, “dull” is something that most people are going to notice right away.

You put them on your head, you’re listening to music for a while, and then…

I don’t even know how to explain it.

Your attitude may become kind of ho-hum, or business as usual.

It’s like that scene in The Breakfast Club when Bender comments on Brian’s lunch after rummaging through the bag and embarrassing him.

“Well, Brian, this is a very nutritious lunch. All the food groups are represented. Did your mom marry Mister Rogers?”

to which Brian responds sheepishly, “Uh, no. Mr. Johnson.” 🙁

LOL.

That’s exactly what it’s like to listen to a 560S, (or any Senny 500 headphones for that matter).

It’s non-obtrusive, non-threatening, friendly, pleasant, typical, nerdy, geeky, etc., etc. (insert more word salad).

It’s the type of headphone you’ll listen to if you wear a button-up sweater and tie. Lol.

A sound that I love for certain things (gaming and/or long sessions), but not quite as much for listening to music and getting pumped.

Strong Points

The fantastic part about this very neutral, unassuming sound is that without a doubt you’re going to notice more going on.

Instruments have better decay and trail off, sounds are spaced out nicely, and the Soundstage is pretty expansive on all models. You’ll hear a lot more going on farther out to your right and left, and even above and below!

The problem for me is that I don’t really get excited when I listen to music through a 500 headphone, and that sentiment hasn’t changed in over 3 years now; even with the advent of the 560S.

It may be a bit more technically proficient than the HD598, and yes, the sub-bass most certainly digs down deeper, but it’s still by and large a very “HD500 sounding” headphone.

So it’s black and the grilles have some cool indentations surrounding a newly implemented holographic Sennheiser logo which is now elevated a tad.

If I could quote Matt Foley for a second,

“Well WHOOPTY FREAKIN’ DO!!”

Or la-dee-freakin’-dah.

For me, this is just another case of shiny object syndrome; an ever-growing issue with headphones and Amp/DACS specifically. Don’t even get me started on that one.

Don’t get me wrong. I like the headphone. It sounds good.

It’s just that the way people yammered on and on about it as if it was the second coming of Jesus left a bad taste in my mouth when I finally put it on my head and went, “This is what people were circle jerking over?”

Again, the 560S is still a mostly “500 sounding” headphone. In other words, it’s still mid-fi. It still mostly sounds like mid-fi.

Put another way, there’s a stark contrast between this and an LCD-2, Ananda or Utopia.

All of those headphones are infinitely more resolving than a 560S and pretty much no one will argue that.

Final Word

It may seem like I’m trashing this series, and in a way I kind of am, but not really? I’m more trashing lame reviewers than anything.

Whenever I make recommendations, I mostly bypass the 500 line in favor of a 6XX or K702. That will only continue after hearing the 560S. It’s not that I don’t like the sound or appreciate what Sennheiser has made.

It’s just that these may not be necessary when looking at the broader picture of headphones out there.

That is to say that I would not personally ever purchase one (in most cases, see below) because I have no use for it.

Why is that?

Well, because HD6XX, the headphone that almost completely turned the hobby on its head.

There are few reasons why I would ever buy a 560S (or any 500 series headphone) if I could just get a 6XX or HD600.

Either of those headphones is better in every way aside from the claustrophobic, narrow Soundstage – something that’s always been a problem with the 600 series. I would personally never use an HD600 for gaming and have said as much countless times in videos and articles.

So what do I recommend?

The Best Headphones For Gaming

K702 ready for action.

Let’s first outline some questions that will help clarify my answer.

Q: Are the HD600 and 6XX more resolving than a 560S?

A: Yes.

Q: Does it matter?

A: Yes, but only because of the fact that for only about $20 more, you can get that extra resolution in the 6XX. In 2016 I paid around $300-400 for the HD600 (It was $330 on the dot IIRC).

Q: Would I pay that now?

A: Not when I can get a 6XX for around $220.

Q: Would I pay for the 560S?

A: Not when I already have a K702.

Q: Would I pay for the 560S if I didn’t already have a 702?

A: I would lean towards yes.

As it stands now, and because I have the K702, I don’t really need a 560S for gaming and film; tempting as it may be to get one. You may need one though!!!

That is to say that listening to it doesn’t make me want to sell my 702 and get a 560S for full-time gaming and film duties.

It kind of sort of almost does? But not quite. I still like the 702 as my jack of all trades, but your mileage may vary.

I can listen to it with anything and everything and be completely happy and satisfied.

Interested in a full review?

 

As for an amazing complement to the K702, I like the 6XX. Learn why:

Even with all that said, you may still be interested in the 560S.

 

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Sennheiser HD500 Series Shootout 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.

Would you invest in a 500 series headphone? I would love to hear your thoughts and/or experience with any of these. 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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4 comments

Chris November 23, 2021 - 3:15 am

Hey what’s up Stu. Kinda random, but I’m looking for a budget headphone just for movies (under $100). With that being said, if you had to choose between the HD 559/518 and the Porta Pro, which one would you choose?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black November 23, 2021 - 2:05 pm

Hey man! For movies, probably 559 out of those 🙂 Thanks for stopping by!

Reply
Chris November 24, 2021 - 6:48 am

Ok cool. Preciate it man!

Reply
Stuart Charles Black November 24, 2021 - 2:38 pm

Welcome! 🙂 Keep me posted!

Reply

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