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Sennheiser HD600 Review

by Fahrettin Çetin
Sennheiser HD600

Welcome to Sennheiser HD600 review of mobileaudiophile.com. This is by no means my first review but I see it as beginning of greater things in the future so I will rant a little if you don’t mind. Still, if you are not interested you can skip this part.


Many of you have a pair Sennheiser HD6** series headphones or at least heard one at some point. So probably there is no need for another review of one of the most popular headphones of all time. After all you can read review of another, more accomplished reviewer that you feel more familiar with. However what I am trying to accomplish here is setting a stone; defining a benchmark. So in the future when I review a pair, I will probably compare them to HD600 regardless of the price along with other competitors, so that you will have a better idea of the reviewed headphones and understand where they stand in the grand scheme of things.

Another reason to review such a well known headphones is so that you get to know me better. If you like something I don’t like or vice versa, it is more likely you know it this way. I hope when you get confused about a remark you will come back here and say “Oh, so that’s what he means by that.” These are Fahrettin’s take after all.

Lastly I would love to help you in anyway I can and I hope you would help me to improve myself too. That’s what I have been doing in audiophile groups and forums, helping others and asking for help myself. I see reviewing products as a means to grow up as an audiophile more than anything and definitely saw the positive results of listening with the purpose of reviewing a product. Rant is over, now back to the review.


Pros

  • Tried and proved build quality and reliability
  • Light
  • Epitome of neutral sound
  • Exceptional midrange
  • Not Fatiguing, easy to listen to for longer listening sessions
  • Intimate Presentation (subjective)

Cons

  • Clampy out of the box
  • Somewhat narrow soundstage compared to other competitiors
  • Doesn’t extend very well on both ends
  • Not very exciting

Disclaimers

Without boring you too much, I don’t necessarily have a sound preference. I tend to enjoy different sound profiles as long as they do well what they intend to do. I’m not very sensitive to treble so I can enjoy the most notoriously bright headphones, however I’m somewhat sensitive to upper mids area. Please keep these in mind.

Build, Comfort and Trivia

Most of you know that Sennheiser HD6** series are very old and still going strong. Strange thing is, from the series, only HD580 is discontinued. HD600, HD650 and newest addition HD660s are still made. Apart from the newest brother HD660s, HD600 and HD650 are revised visually but the sound didn’t get changed, or if there was a change, it was not so meaningful to make note of. Also with the addition of Massdrop (Drop) collaboration HD6XX, which is an alternative skin to HD650 essentially, HD6** series headphones reached to a wider audiance.

I don’t need to go in detail about the build but have to mention anyway. The Sennheiser HD600 headphones are mostly made out of plastic and metal. One can wish to see more metal but believe me, as someone who has more premium headphones made out of mostly metal, light headphones are something you miss a lot. They may look flimsy but I assure you they are not. This build is around for more than 30 years and some people are still using their 20+ years old pairs.

They may come as clampy at first, especially if you have a big head but you can stretch the headband a little or bend the spring metal outwards to make it more comfortable. Power requirement is not too high. They don’t sound good from a headphone or laptop jack but don’t require a power plant either.

Sound

Bass

These are not bassy headphones, we all know that. But before we pass this section I would like to elaborate a little.

Before HD600, I had a pair of Massdrop x Sennheiser HD58X. I liked those headphones but at some point I wanted to try a more refined sound and applied some modes and to some degree I achieved to make them more clear and refined. Then when I found a deal on a pair HD600s, I jumped on it. In my initial comparison I didn’t hear much difference tonally, however difference in refinement was definitely there. Earlier I chose HD58X over HD6XX because I thought my less educated ears would appreciate more bass and extention, also HD58X required less power. But bass of HD600 was tighter, more impactful and had more texture if that makes sense. You could hear the same amount of bass from HD58X but could not “feel” it. Long story short I sold HD58X immediately.

Still HD600 don’t extend into sub-bass very well. I did my test on several songs and can’t say Sub-bass is non existent, it is there but barely. I don’t like too emphasized subbass, but here the sub-bass is simply not enough.

Midrange

This part needs no explanation. Intimacy is the name of the game and HD600 headphones are one of the best in this area. Vocals are exceptional. I didn’t find them shouty ever but I know some people do. To get irritated I need to increase the volume more than comfortable listening levels. Well, since these are kind of mid-forward headphones, if you increase the volume, mids irritate you before bass and treble so that’s fair. It’s just that the rest of the frequency range is lacking a little compared to mids.

Most of the detail is here in the midrange. You can hear tiny changes in vocalists’ voices. If the song you listen to consist of mostly midrange instruments, you will have a really good time. If not, well…

Treble

If last part might made you think treble is lacking. That’s not entirely true. Upper mids and lower treble is just right. It is a pleasure to listen to. I want to say I feel the slightest veil that some people make note of when I come from another headphone. But shortly it disappears as my ears adjust to the sound. What doesn’t dissappear is, just like the bass, treble also don’t extend very well. With metal songs I can’t feel the energy and excitement up top. The cymbals sound like they are too far or in another room. It makes to want to turn the knob but then mids become unbearable.

Technical Performance

I want to say these headphones are detailed but I won’t. Like I said earlier, detailed information only exists in the midrange. I know drivers are capable to produce details for a fact. But tonaly this performance don’t spread out evenly throughout the entire frequency range. Most headphones known as detailed are bright because forward treble makes information up top more audible. Even mediocre drivers may come as detailed with this gimmick. Sennheiser makes the opposite so even if driver produces the sound, that sound masked by other notes and you can’t shake the feeling of missing something. Strangely I don’t get this feeling in my Clear MG and that headphone is even darker. Difference in quality I guess.

Soundstage is also somewhat narrow as you may already know. I feel like I am parroting other reviewers here but I have wider closed-back headphones, like Fostex TH610s. Still being open-back, they don’t fell claustrophobic. However I need to mention, there is a fact named Sundara. They are similarly priced, have better clarity and detail, decent intimacy unlike other mid-dipped Hifimans, wide soundstage and better extention on both sides. I haven’t tried HD600s on tubes unfortunately because the tubes I tried until now were sloppy and I don’t want to dive into that rabbit hole yet.,

Timbre is as natural as it gets, I sense nothing wrong with it and nothing to elaborate, which is a good thing.

Conclusion

That didn’t end on a high note, did it? Let me address to that. What I made out of HD600s is, they are neutral for the most part but not an all rounder. For vocals, classical or acoustic music, they are a delight. I also enjoyed some low-fi lists people advertise these days a lot. It was a great match. However I couldn’t enjoy Opeth or bass heavy EDM songs, no suprises there.

Let’s take a step back and think. How many headphones do you know that is made in 90s (1998 if I’m not wrong) and still crowd favorite? Maybe other brands learned how to make headphones and competiton got fiercer but people still suggest HD6** series headphones and HD600 arguably best of the iterations. In my opinion HD6XXs are bargain for 200~$ (240$ MSRP on Drop if there is no discount). And if you can find others during sale seasons less than their MSRP, I say grab them. However in 2022 400$ for HD600 (550$ for HD650 and 500$ for HD660s) is a bit stretch. If full size headphone market improved as fast as IEM market, Sennheiser would be in great danger (and they were until they released IE600). But for now, they are still going strong.

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