Home Resources What is the Sennheiser Veil? | Is It A Myth?

What is the Sennheiser Veil? | Is It A Myth?

by Stuart Charles Black
Sennheiser HD600 Review

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This is part of a FAQ series! Please share and comment if you found any of these articles helpful!

  1. What is Soundstage?
  2. What is Latency?
  3. What is Timbre?
  4. What is MIDI?
  5. What is XLR?
  6. What is SPL?
  7. What does Sibilant mean?
  8. What is the Sennheiser Veil? (You are here)
  9. Do Headphones Need to be Burned In?
  10. How Do Noise Cancelling Headphones Work?

Hi friend and Welcome!

What is the Sennheiser Veil you ask? That’s a great question and bugged me for the longest time.

This post isn’t going to be as expansive as some of my others…

But grab a snack, sit back, and relax anyway because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

What I will bring you in this article

  1. Introduction
  2. What is the Sennheiser Veil?
  3. Examples
  4. Timeline
  5. Final Word

So without further ado, let’s get rolling!

Here’s a video I did as a sort of updated impressions thingy:

Video Discussion

YouTube video player

Introduction

I always thought the term “Sennheiser Veil” was thrown about quite loosely – that is, until I did some research 😛

It is a real thing, but it’s a bit exaggerated. It’s most closely associated with some of the mid-fi Sennheiser offerings: The HD580, HD600, and HD650 most notably.

I haven’t really come across too many other headphones with the supposed issue. For instance, The HD800 is kind of the opposite. And I will get into that now…

What is the “Veil”?

In a nutshell, it means that these models possess a treble range lacking in excitement. That’s it.

But we’ll go a bit further.

The HD800, Sennheisers ultimate flagship headphone has a treble range that is said to be too bright, and too harsh at times.

According to many, it’s the only thing they got wrong in an otherwise remarkable set.

It’s what holds the 800 back from being absolute perfection.

Way back when, Sennheiser came out with the HD58o; a great headphone in its own right.

Tyll Herstens over at Innerfidelity said (not in so many words) that it was akin to an epiphany.

He just had to tell his friends all about it. A rare moment as a headphone enthusiast when you go,

“Wow, so this is what I’ve been missing.”

Not long after (in 1997), the HD 600 came out.

This headphone is considered the Gold Standard as far as mixing/reference, in its class or otherwise.

It represents the absolute best price-to-performance ratio on the market, and one of the best buys a headphone enthusiast can make when starting out.

If you want to hear what was recorded, you pick up the 600, pair it with an amp, and get taken away to another place.

It is also different from other headphones in the fact that the treble range is warm and smooth sounding, rather than overly bright and potentially harsh.

You’ll notice that the vast majority of entry and even mid-level cans have two things:

  1. A hyped low-end and
  2. A bright top end.

The 600 has neither, and that’s what makes it special.

The low end is definitely there, but it’s tight, controlled, and knows its place rather than being too flamboyant.

The high frequency is clear and clean, but yes, a little laid back if you will.

The debate on Head-Fi for many years was that this supposed veil made the 600 sound dull and lacking detail or articulation; as if it was lulling you to sleep.

A lot of people disagreed, and even to this day, the debate carries on.

It’s not nearly as heated as it once was, but it’s always been an issue for some.

Regardless of this, it remains about as close to a neutral headphone as you will ever find.

The HD 650 on the other hand may warrant the “veiled” moniker because it’s even warmer, lusher, and almost too much of a good thing.

There were many reviews on Amazon echoing this sentiment: The 650s may actually put you to sleep because of how relaxing the sound is!

There’s also more bass on the 650, but The 600 still gets the nod because of a more neutral, tighter sound, at a lesser price point.

The 580s were a remarkable set, but had a slightly grainier sound to them, which of course was improved upon in the later installments.

Drop has also since come out with a 58X; a newer iteration of the original 580.

Years ago, there was also a problem with the contact springs inside the earpieces.

They improved upon that with the later versions of the 600 as well, and to this day they remain a “masterfully built headphone.”

Nearly every piece of the trio of these guys is removable and replaceable.

They could potentially (given proper care) last you a lifetime!

If you plan on purchasing them, be aware that they are open-back cans, and will leak quite a bit of sound.

They are best suited in an isolated studio or office environment.

The timeline

  1. 1993 – HD 580
  2. 1995 – HD 580 Jubilee Edition (Sennheiser’s 50th-anniversary celebration)
  3. 1997 – HD 600
  4. 2003 – HD 650
  5. 2017  – HD660S. Have not gotten a chance to try this out, but stay tuned!

Three’s company.

Closing Remarks

With as much research as I’ve done, I can tell you without a doubt that the “veiled” moniker, at least for the HD 600 was blown way out of proportion.

The 650s do suffer from this a little bit, but you simply won’t get much better than the HD600 as far as the price-to-performance ratio.

There’s a reason these models have stood the test of time.

They remain to this day mixing/reference staples and serve as that sort of benchmark to which all other cans should be compared.

Ready for a shootout of all the HD580/600 models?

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend. I hope I answered your question –  “What is the Sennheiser veil?”

Do you have any experience with any of the above-mentioned models? Need me to clear something up?

Don’t hesitate to reach out below in the comments section, or Contact me! I look forward to hearing from you.

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

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19 comments

Janelle February 7, 2016 - 6:25 am

Do you think it really is possible to get too much of a good thing? I really love that shmoosy laid back treble sound. Too sharp at the top is hard on the overall vibes of a beat.
Speaking of. Thanks for the freebies. Nice work. Is there any chance you will be reviewing any of the more compact cans?

Reply
Stu February 7, 2016 - 5:02 pm

Hey Janelle!

Yeah I’ve heard that the HD 650 has the potential to actually lull you to sleep because it’s so laid back. The HD 600 doesn’t suffer from this ‘issue’, and remains overall a better buy especially considering it’s much more affordable and gives you a flatter sound.

I agree, I don’t like my music shrill in the least, especially if I’m really pushing the volume..

Compact cans? Did you have anything specific in mind?

-Stu

Reply
Brad November 29, 2016 - 4:14 am

My first good phones were 580s and I used them to record on both sides of the console as well as for playback at home for nearly 20 years. They started to show their years (but still sound as good as ever) so a few years ago I decided to get some 600s and I’m so glad I did. The 580 is definitely leaner and meaner, even with Cardas Fat Pipe and an Audioengine D1, both known for their somewhat plump presentation. I find the 600 JUST right. On their way presently are a Moon Audio Blue Dragon V3 Furutech cable and a Schiit Bifrost/Valhalla 2 stack. I auditioned quite a few DAC/amp combos and those won out handily with the 600s.

Reply
Stu December 2, 2016 - 3:52 am

Hey Brad!

That’s awesome. So would you say the 580’s were better? I would love to get my hands on a pair, but I think I’ll go with the 600’s for now. The Magni/Modi is also a great option, but your recommendation is tempting. Have you tried building the Bottlehead Crack? And do you still have the 580’s?

Reply
Master December 20, 2016 - 11:59 pm

Upgrade the 600 stock (=guano) cable with 650 cable and most of infamous “veil” will be gone instantly.

Reply
Stu December 23, 2016 - 3:21 am

Nice! I will have to try that out soon. Thanks Master! Lol
Blessings,
-Stu

Reply
canman1971 March 5, 2017 - 7:06 pm

HD600s matched with a high end DAC/AMP with an upgraded cable in my opinion still worth double the price and are pure listening bliss.

Reply
Stu March 8, 2017 - 4:03 am

True, what are you using?

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Rafique June 15, 2018 - 12:07 pm

I’ve tested many Sennheiser headphones and own a few. I can say that Sennheiser cans have this “veiled” presentation to it for a lack of a better word, it’s so taxing on my ears. It’s pleasant for some cans and unpleasant for some. I enjoy the slight veil present in the HD598 and Urbanite, it makes it sound more pleasurable but I don’t when it comes to the veil present in the HD600+, I can see how people dislike it.

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Stuart Charles Black June 15, 2018 - 7:18 pm

Yeah the 600’s definitely over emphasize a particular area in the mid-range (around 3k) which gets really annoying for me. This is especially apparent since the treble is a bit darker than average. That said, I really do enjoy not hearing that metallic type of hue that I get with other cans. As for the mids, I EQ that area down in iTunes and it results in a better experience. People act like the 600’s are a perfect headphone but it’s simply not true and in fact that mid-range issue is just as annoying as issues present in other headphones but most of the time it gets glossed over.

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Paul Coddington December 26, 2018 - 4:38 am

I wonder if part of the problem with inconsistency of reviews is that some professionals and enthusiasts suffer from hearing loss due to long term exposure to music played at high levels.

Especially vulnerable are those who use headphones to drown out background noise (which naturally results in exposure to
dangerously excessive levels) and those who attend rock concerts and discos without hearing protection, or work in noisy restaurants, etc.

Hearing damage affects high frequencies more than low, so someone with hearing damage is more likely to find the HD600 series to be “veiled”.

Likewise, music related hearing loss leads to deficits in hearing that manifest as notches, especially at 3k and 6k.

This seems to line up with peaks in the HD600 which some people notice and object to, while others hear them as “neutral”.

Another problem is that people run their headphones with inadequate amplifiers, for example, I saw a review that said the HD600 lacked bass, but they were running them with a FiiO Olympus E10K which does not even have the capability of driving the less demanding HD598 with an adequate and controlled bass response.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black December 27, 2018 - 8:29 pm

Hey Paul!

Yeah that is probably part of it. It also could explain why people also tend to get really touchy about Grado headphones. They are very harsh around 2k and it’s sometimes not tolerable at all.

However, I also think that the 600’s are indeed darker than your average headphone and that’s pretty much undisputed at this point. It’s just the reality of it, it shows up in graphs, and it’s indeed perceiveable by the majority of people.

That said, I think that 1-3k area is a bit forward and manifests in a shouty character that’s kind of grating after awhile, and fairly annoying to me after 2 years with the 600’s. I’ve always had great hearing but you may be onto something. I do think the consensus is that area is a bit too forward. That basically means that the majority of people out there have hearing damage in some form or another. I suppose that’s just the way it is. It would be interesting to give an HD600 to someone much younger just to see if they hear those issues in sort of a blind test if you will.

As for amps, the 600’s aren’t picky and sound fine with most amps. In fact, they sound fantastic with an Objective 2. The E10K Olympus 2 that I tested the 600/650 with sounds great and drives both to adequate levels even without the gain on. I will say that I prefer the gain switch on with the volume about 5-6 (out of 8). I tend to think you’re under estimating the power output of the unit quite a bit. The 600’s only need 20mW and the E10K gets plenty loud enough with the gain switch on. I can’t find how much it outputs into 300 Ohm but at 32 Ohm it supplies 200mW. Far from the most powerful DAC in the universe but it’s still great for most headphones.

Not understanding why you’re saying it doesn’t drive the 598? At around 100dB/mW, The 598 requires even less power (around 10mW) from an amp than an HD600.

Anyways, thanks for stopping by and hope we can get a dialogue going!

-Stu

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Billy Neilan September 20, 2018 - 8:16 pm

Hi Stu; thanks for all the great info and classroom studies?. Been trying to decide between HD 600/650 and HIFIMAN 400s/i. I still have time. Xmas present from me to me! Your report has been the best and I have read many. Sure gets confusing. Thanks.b

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Stuart Charles Black September 21, 2018 - 2:38 pm

Hey man!

So what are your preferences? Do you like a warmer sound with a bit more bass emphasis, or a cooler, more analytical one with a bit more “coldness” to the sound. This is quite a toughie. I do like the 400S but it’s def the most abrasive and grainy sounding out of these 4, so I think we can safely omit it. Actually the relationship between the 400S and 400i is similar to that of the 600 and 650. The 400i is def warmer and glossier sounding than the 400S, while the HD650 is warmer and more succulent sounding than that of the HD600. I find the HD600’s can get a bit shouty in the mid-range which may bother you, while the 650’s are def more laid back. To be honest, I kind of prefer the 650 over the 600, but I’m still going back and forth between them quite a bit. The differences are rather subtle, but I would say which you go with depends a lot on what you will be using them for. Let me know and we can delve in further! In the mean time, check out my in depth Sennheiser HD600 vs. 650 comparison and let me know your thoughts! Also check out the HIFIMAN HE400i vs. 400S too..

-Stu

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Phil Sills June 7, 2020 - 12:40 pm

Really interesting article including the comments. Many of the headphones I have are from your recommendations. I currently have K702, K7xx, HD6xx, X2HR, DT990 and my latest purchase HE 4XX. I have built these up over time and mostly second hand as they are often too expensive new. What I find is people who buy these tend to look after them as they are audio enthusiasts as well.

My point is I dont think there is one set of epiphany headphones. I listen using all of them and depending on what I want to listen to and how depends on which pair. For years I listened just using the K702 but then got a pair of X2HR’s and was like wow. I would suggest these are opposite to the 6XX in that you can literally feel the bass in the X2HRs but sometimes it can be too much (and Im a self confessed bass head). The 6xx’s can sound amazing with a good source, I recommend the track “Colour to the moon” by Allan Taylor on TIDAL to really show you how good your headphones can sound.

My favourite headphones at the minute are the HE4xx’s as the just sound sublime with a little EQ. However, as I type this Im using my 6xx’s which sound awesome with no veil to be heard (or not heard). They are being driven by a ZEN DAC using a balanced cable. I am tempted to get hold of some 58x and 600’s just to see what the differences are like but I will need to start a headphone wall if I get any more 🙂

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Stuart Charles Black June 10, 2020 - 2:58 pm

Thanks man!

Yeah I don’t really believe in the veil per se, especially considering the fact that most headphones tend to spike the treble way too much. I’m kind of sick of that to be honest. The 4XX did it but outside of that, it’s pretty much a flawless headphone.

Like you, I want to get a 58X to see what the differences are between it and the 600/6XX. 🙂

I will definitely check out that track! I think what you said about different headphones is also super important and something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot lately. Sometimes I want to listen with the K702, other times the HD600, others my 9500, and so on. It’s nice to have a few that you can alternate back and forth with depending on mood and genre. Finding headphones that compliment each other is a great way to not get sucked down the rabbit hole. I have no desire to buy anything and haven’t in quite awhile.

The thing about gear is that the novelty wears off fairly quickly. You see something you think you want and have to have. Then you salivate at the anticipation of it arriving, and once it finally does it’s great for like a day or so and then you’re eager for the next fix. It’s really no different than a drug addict. Extreme example but the analogy is more than appropriate if you demo a lot of stuff like I do.

I think I’m going to make a video about this. Thanks for the idea!!

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H June 30, 2021 - 9:43 am

It’s funny how much energy you guys devote to trying to “disprove” the existence of the veil. It doesn’t matter whatever intellectual device you use to describe to explain away the “this” of Sennheiser’s sound signature. The reality is that it has a “something” about the way it sounds that’s beat described as veil, ESPECIALLY in comparison to other high-end, neutral sound aiming, headphones.

Some people might not notice it – that doesn’t mean it’s a myth

Some people might like it – that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist

It might have a pejorative connotation- that still doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist

I find it strange how we’re able to talk about any headphone under the sun and say, oh they sound very bright; oh this one has a little recess in the midrange; oh this once has a boosted lower range…and we can all agree that those are VALID qualifiers of different sound signatures , but suddenly, when we use the VEIL word for Sennheiser, suddenly all paradigm is held in suspension and the persons equipment must be the culprit, or their hearing or some other non-factor reason. Yet alll these factors never mattered when discussing other headphones (or could be easily assumed as known)? Yet the veil-deniers don’t realize that this, in itself, proves the very existence of a veil? Funny stuff indeed?

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Stuart Charles Black June 30, 2021 - 12:51 pm

Calm down bro. There’s no veil. ?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black June 30, 2021 - 1:15 pm

I’m messing with you lol. I added my updated video into the article from March. Check it out when you get a chance.

Reply

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