Superb quality, very few flaws

Oct 22, 2007
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Balanced audio spectrum, high build quality, superb instrumental sounds.

Cons:Not the best for gaming.

The Bottom Line: For A$199 these headphones were money well spent. Listening to instrumental tracks has never sounded better, and also exposes poor audio recording quality, however good recording quality sounds stunning.


After reading many reviews strongly advising to stay away from the Sennheiser HD 515 headphones, I decided to purchase a pair after listening to them at the music store. Many people end up purchasing the cheaper HD 485 model after comparing both, but I preferred the sound of the HD 515 set.

It's hard to quantify exactly why this was the case, but what stood out in my mind was how flat and balanced the headphones are - exactly the way I like them. I had a cheaper pair of HD 437s that were starting to wear out (physically, not in terms of audio quality), and those required significant adjustments of the graphic equaliser to achieve a suitable sound. Not so the HD 515s. Those who prefer bass or treble will either be disappointed or need to fiddle with software/hardware settings to achieve the desired sound.

I paid full retail price (A$199), primarily because I wished to try before I purchased them, plus if a store is kind enough to let me try their products I purchase off them to acknowledge their great service. There are other brands that have models around the same price point, but are not as widely available as Sennheiser so I could not test before I purchased. The sound was superior to the HD 485s in my opinion, despite the HD 485s having marginally greater bass performance.

These headphones are only used at my PC - living in high density housing means that speakers are a no-no at high volume. Similar results were also achieved with the Panasonic stereo system. Being an "open can" design the sound is very noticeable to other people adjacent, so these will likely not be suitable in an office environment where other co-workers don't share your taste in music or are trying to concentrate. Despite being open, they do seal the ear off quite well from outside interference which helps sound quality.

My taste in music is quite eclectic, so fortunately I've been able to test with a wide variety of genres. Instrumental tracks sound stunning - classical and jazz especially are fantastic, with crystal clear high frequencies and low frequencies are free of distortion. Pop music is slightly different, some tracks sound "tinny" with default equaliser settings, but in general are fine for this. Heavy music such as hard rock and metal doesn't cause the sound to distort, and is limited by the threshold of pain of one's ears (as opposed to the equipment!)

Computer gaming is probably the only area I could honestly say these headphones are lacking. Surround sound seems a little strange compared to my older cheaper HD 437 'phones, and fever-pitched battles in first-person shooters can sound distorted and unpleasant depending on the circumstance. Other games seem fine, then again they don't have quite so many concurrent sounds that FPSs often deal with.

Comfort is not an issue at all with these headphones - it's very easy to forget that you're actually wearing them, until someone reminds you that you didn't hear the phone ringing! They easily stay on my head for hours (and mine is quite large) with no pain or discomfort.

In summary, it was worth paying the price for the HD 515s. They do have their flaws, but the features and quality far outweigh these. If I was after a headset purely for computer gaming, I'd look elsewhere, but for music listening (especially instrumental) then these are superb. Highly recommended.

All testing was done connected to a Creative SoundBlaster Live! Platinum sound card, via a Live! Drive II headphone connection.


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