Contest Submission – Sennheiser HD600

Sennheiser HD600

by David C


Sennheiser’s HD600s are one of the most well-regarded sets of headphones in the world. Since their debut in 1998 the HD600s have become a fixture in the audiophile community, but for a piece of technology 18 years is an eternity. With that in mind potential buyers might be forgiven if they’re skeptical about whether the HD600s are still worth their over $300 price tag in today’s market. It’s a pretty penny to pay for someone looking to break into high-definition audio equipment, especially for a company that doesn’t have the mainstream pull of a company like Apple, with their Beats line. Is it possible the HD600s are all hype? Of course everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no, they are still more than worth the price of entry. In fact, they’re some of the best headphones money can buy, even today.

So what’s the big deal? Most of it is, unsurprisingly, in the sound of the music. This is mostly due to the HD600s’ open-back design and Sennheiser’s state of the art engineering. Because the cans are open, they leak sound out and sound from the outside leaks in; therefore it’s best to listen to them in a quiet room, if possible. When you’re listening to these headphones in the right environment it can be striking how clear everything sounds, especially if you’re used to dollar store earbuds.  It’s like every tinkle, plink, strum, and beat is its own high-quality audio file being played in tandem with the others. It’s a snap to focus your attention on an instrument or melody somewhere in the background and make it out perfectly. You will notice things you’ve never heard before on these headphones, even in songs you’ve heard a thousand times before. The smiles those discoveries have brought to my face have been well worth the price of admission, especially since you never really forget those little touches are there. Sometimes they’re even what ends up bringing you back to your favorite songs! It might be hard to believe without hearing it for yourself, but the HD600s actually help you appreciate music more than you ever did before.

The wide soundstage is one of the biggest “wow” factors of the HD600s. There’s something thrilling about getting hit with a medley of sounds from every direction, especially in those moments when you hear a bell or drum hit from all the way off to the side. It feels like you’re standing right in the middle of the stage while the band is performing. This feeling of presence makes these headphones especially good for binaural recordings or 3D positional audio, like in competitive gaming for instance. After owning the HD600s a while you’ll almost certainly find yourself going out of your way to get high-quality music files. You don’t have to do it for them to sound good, but you’ll want to.

Anyone who has dipped into the audiophile market knows that one of the biggest hassles with owning high-end headphones comes with having to amplify them for optimal performance. The HD600s are no different. Without an amp they sound alright– still better than most other headphones even, but you’ll be missing out on the fullness of each note, the sound will be maddeningly quiet, and the bass will leave you feeling cold. The HD600s demand a fair amount of power to hit their peak sound, but you won’t have to break the bank on a $2,000 amp to get them there. Products like the Objective2 Amplifier, which runs for about $130, offer all the power your headphones will need at a cost-effective price.  Regardless of which amp you ultimately decide on, buying the HD600s without planning on getting one somewhere down the line is like buying a Ferrari and never driving it outside the city: a massive shame.

The HD600s sport some very solid construction. They cans themselves feel sturdy, like you could throw them around all day if you wanted without breaking them. Other parts, like the headband cushion and the tabs that hold it in place, don’t fare quite as well. In fact, they might even come loose over time. This doesn’t affect whether or not the headphones work, but it is still annoying to see these flaws in such a high-quality product. That having been said, the vital aspects of the HD600s are so durable that you might never need to buy another set of headphones again if you treat them right.

The HD600s are well designed, but they’re far from the most stylish product on the market. The surface of the headphones is covered with a speckled gray-blue and black design with a glossy finish. It’s not an ugly look, but I would have preferred a more neutral option, especially since the finish is prone to wearing off over time. Thankfully the plastic underneath is black, so it’s not too noticeable at first glance. The HD600s are big, but they aren’t too heavy. In fact, they’re very comfortable to wear, especially if you’re using them for hours on end. Because these headphones aren’t meant to be used on the go they don’t fold up and are cumbersome to carry around– clearly these aren’t the best solution for someone looking to liven up their commute.

The cable is by far the worst part of the HD600s. Thankfully it can be replaced with the far superior cable of the HD650s for cheap. The standard cable feels far too flimsy for such an expensive product and having red color-coding on the right side’s jack is visually distracting (though it can be helpful for putting the headphones on quickly.) Shortly after I bought the headphones my cable began to fray where it attached to one of the cans, causing me to jump on the upgrade. In comparison, the HD650’s cable is beefier and looks much better. Replaceable cables are a necessity for high-end headphones in my view. If you’re anything like me, the thought of having to send $300 headphones in for repair just because of a short in the wire should make your stomach do a few somersaults. Thankfully the HD600s allow you to buy without fear.

I bought the Sennheiser HD600s on a whim when I saw them on sale for $250, and it was one of the best purchases I ever made. Isn’t that how it always goes? The Internet’s full of stories like mine, from people who fell in love with these headphones the minute they first heard them and had to rave about them. There’s something about being an audiophile that makes you want to run around forcing people to give your favorite set of cans a try. It’s not arrogance, it’s the sense of discovery that you’re eager to share with others. Of course no one has to care about world-class sound quality, but once you own a set of Sennheiser’s HD600s it’s hard to help thinking that everyone else is missing out.

And they are.