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
What is the Sennheiser Veil?
So without further ado, let’s get rolling!
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 HD 580, 600 and 650 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 $1600 ultimate flagship headphone as of Jan. 2016, 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 does hold the 800’s back from being absolute perfection.
Way back when, Sennheiser came out with the HD 580, a great headphone in it’s 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 it’s 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 (Think some AKG, Grado, and Audio Technica models). 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 it’s 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 to 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 more warm, more lush, and almost too much of a good thing. There were many reviews on amazon echoing this sentiment: The 650’s may actually put you to sleep because of how relaxing the sound is! There’s also more bass on the 650, but The 600’s still get the nod because of a more neutral, tighter sound, at a lesser price point.
The 580’s were a remarkable set, but had a slightly grainier sound to them, which of course was improved upon in the later installments. Years ago, there was also a problem with the contact springs inside the ear pieces. 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, 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.
1995 – HD 580 Jubilee Edition (Sennheiser’s 50th anniversary celebration)
1997 – HD 600
2003 – HD 650
2017 – HD660S. Have not gotten a chance to try this out, but stay tuned!
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’s was blown way out of proportion. The 650’s do suffer from this a little bit, but you simply won’t get anything better than the 600 as far as 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 which all other cans should be compared to.
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.