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Sennheiser HD-600: A source of revelation!
Dec 30, 2006 (Updated Dec 30, 2006)
by Anis Jiwani
a Very Helpful Review
by the Epinions community
Pros:Highly revealing, excellent dynamics, authoritative, exceptional build quality
Cons:None, except price for some.
The Bottom Line: One of the best hi-end, dare I say, value for money component one could possibly buy.
High-end sound for well under $600? You bet! A good pair of headphones and a dedicated amplifier is what you need to connect to your laptop to enjoy true high end sound.
Recommend this product?
Several years back I had opted for the HD-580's and they not only reproduced music faithfully, but, at the same time were a source of great pleasure to listen to whenever I had the urge to indulge in the hobby known as audiophilia. My taste in music is such that I tend to prefer speakers having a presentation that is laid back rather than up front and in the face. The Maggies I owned as well as the Kef Reference Two recently were both having this characteristics. The Sennheiser HD600, which are subject of discussion and review, like the HD-580, are also in my opinion laid back in their presentation.
The room can pose great challenges, especially in the bass region, smaller rooms have different problems compared to larger rooms. Speakers need to be carefully selected to match the room size, needless to say all the other components play a significant role in what we can call reproduction of GOOD SOUND. The best thing about headphones is that they are not prone to acoustic anomalies that you have to deal with when setting up hifi in the room. Headphones are capable of giving you a very balanced sound in terms of the audio spectrum. Of course the bass region is where the lesser quality of headphones will fail to deliver. High quality headphones address this issue in a very convincing way and that is what the Sennheiser HD-600 is about and a bit more. There are certainly better headphones out there not only from Sennheiser but from others as well but to improve upon the sound quality you have to pay a very hefty premium. Unlike in budget category hifi components, the law of diminishing return kicks in pretty quickly when it comes to hi-end hifi components. Hi-end is not about budget, its about choice, preference and ultimately your pocket. It depends on how far YOU wish to go.
When I purchased the HD-580, it came in a cardboard box housed in a plastic container which essentially was to be discarded. The HD-600 came in its own Charcoal Grey hard case and Sennheiser embossed in blue which not just comes in very handy for transporting them but keeps them in top shape by protecting them from dust and moisture.
The 580's that I had were undoubtedly the most comfortable pair of headphones I had the pleasure of putting on top of my head. HD-600 follows in its footsteps admirably. In terms of build quality, HD-600 takes a step forward having metal mesh grill instead of plastic and the headband being made of carbon fiber instead of plastic outer cover and metal band on the 580's. Looks wise, the HD-600 certainly has the capability to turn a few heads with its marble finished headband, in comparison the 580 was more plain looking.
The headphone comes with a detachable, Kevlar reinforced, OFC copper cable which is a decent 10 feet in length. The ultra soft velour ear cushions are user replaceable and so are the pads underneath the headband. The modular construction and the ability on the users part to replace worn out items in the long run certainly adds value for it to be termed as a long term investment. I used the 580's for 5 years and never had any issues with either the detachable cable or the velour cushions and pads. The long life of the 580's could be attributed to the custom made pouch I arranged initially and after use made it a point to store the headphone's in them before putting them away.
Although these headphones can be plugged directly into a portable player but do not expect the full potential out of them. Having a 300 Ohm impedance, makes them difficult to drive through the tiny amps built into the portables which are essentially to drive likes of 32 Ohm versions. In certain cases you can even fry the tiny amp in the portable if you push it to its limits. These headphones need power, and lots of it to sound right.
(From Sennheiser's website)
Frequency response 12㪿,000 Hz
Transducer principle dynamic, open
Frequency characteristic diffuse field equalized
Nominal impedance 300 W
Characteristic SPL at 1 kHz 97 dB
Load rating 200 mW
THD 0.1 %
Ear coupling circumaural
Contact pressure approx. 2.5 N
Weight (without cable) 9.17 oz
Connector 1/8" stereo mini jack plug with adapter
to 1/4" stereo jack plug
Connection cable 3 m, detachable dual-sided OFC copper cable
Primarily being driven by the Headroom Total Bithead which has a D/A Converter built-in and is essentially responsible for the conversion of the digital files. The amp has a gain switch which can be flicked to accommodate either less than 120 Ohm or higher than 120 Ohm impedance headphones. The amp also has a chamber in which 4 AAA batteries can be housed, I mainly use it in the battery powered mode rather than the USB powered mode. The USB powered mode would be driven by a 5 volt input, however a set of 4 Alkaline AAA batteries at 1.5 volt each would equal to 6 volt of power, not only it would play louder but also very cleanly. DC powered headphone amps are much cleaner compared to AC powered ones and thus give a purer sound quality. I personally felt the battery driven state gives a slightly darker background to overall sound quality and also tend to improve upon the dynamics.
I mainly used the headphones with my laptops USB out feeding it to the Headroom Total Bithead. The laptops sound card had no role to play as the feed from the USB was purely in digital domain from the wave files stored on the disk. The wave files were extracted using an external DVD burner from Plextor model 755UF as well as an older Plextor PX-S88U External CDRW Burner. The MP3 files were essentially created using dBPowerAmp music converter (Lame 3.93) with variable bit rate (128-320). I also tried my sons iPod Nano (2nd Generation) MP3 Player through the Headroom Total Bithead Amplifier using the supplied cable from Headroom. Lastly, I hooked up the amp and headphones to the output of Audigy sound card in our main desktop.
I tried to listen to as much variety on the humble system as I could which included some of the standards from my collection and yet I also tried to listen to some of the newer stuff which I acquired recently. The list is as follows:
Cassandra Wilson New Moon Daughter
Eleanor McEvoy Yola (Hybrid SACD)
Joni Mitchell Blue
KT Tunstall Eye to the telescope
Jennifer Warnes The Hunter
Eagles Very best of
Roxy Music Avalon (Hybrid SACD)
Zakir Hussain Making Music
Strunz and Farah Primal Magic
Patricia Barber Cafe Blue and Companion (Both being MoFi Hybrid SACD's)
Carole King Tapestry (remastered and reissued version)
10,000 Maniacs with Natalie Merchant Unplugged
MP3's (mainly created from the albums listed above)
The first thing that I noticed about the HD-600 was its top end, it was definitely more open and airy compared to the 580's. Particularly the acoustic guitar came through with uncanny realism. I am very familiar with the sound of John McLaughlin's notes as played on the album Making Music. Similarly, the flamenco guitars on the album Primal Magic from Strunz and Farah had a wee bit more to offer in comparison to what I was used to on the 580's. This attribute had made the HD-600 more revealing so to say. Good recordings can work wonders in terms of listening pleasure but when it comes to less than stellar recordings, the HD-600 would prove to be ruthless, just like it did on the 10,000 Maniacs Unplugged album where I felt the sound of the guitars to be slightly gritty.
I have always enjoyed the recording quality of the Cassandra Wilson's album New Moon Daughter, it has everything on offer one could ask for, brilliant vocals, variety of unusual instruments, bass that is fathomless, and above all wonderful melodies. HD-600 not only presented a lush sound-stage but revealed a few more tiny details that somehow I missed earlier.
On listening to Patricia Barber's album Cafe Blue playing the Track Nardis, the dynamics were absolutely stunning and reproduced without any hint of distortion. Everything on this track came out as clean as a whistle. Somehow I felt the newer version of the headphones were doing something better in this department too. Could it be that the build quality was contributing to this? It might well be the metal mesh grills which tend to resonate less than the plastic grills and to top it off, the head band being a solid carbon fiber instead of a combination of metal and plastic. Its but debatable so lets leave it that way shall we? However, there is no denying that the sound quality from these headphones is solid as a rock.
My favourite album these days for checking out the female vocals is Eleanor McEvoys Yola. The most intimate track being I hear you breathing in, her voice comes out velvety smooth. HD-600 brought out the finer details remarkably well. The first track on the album I got you to see me through features piano which in one word is, authoritative. Her casual style of singing is nothing but haunting and one feels like repeating the track over and over. HD-600 puts you in the front seat where you can her melodic harmony being produced by her vocal chords.
Listening to the wave files was a revelation in itself. I heard the MP3's not just on the newly acquired iPod Nano 2nd Generation but also directly through the laptop. Not that there was any difference I was looking for, but, wanted to see just how revealing these headphones could be and boy, did that come as a surprise! There was surely a difference that one could easily hear between the wave files and the MP3's. The MP3's had so to say a sheen that was not evident on the wave files. Revealing? Yes these headphones are very much so!
AN OPTION TO CONSIDER
At home we can always enjoy the music in the comfort of our living rooms using our hifi, but if you are on the move you cannot enjoy the same luxury. However the answer to the problem can be found in these headphones along with any portable headphone amplifier likes of the one I opted for. Even the laptop need not be a fancy one as the Headroom Total Bithead Amp with its USB input along with built-in D/A converter and HD-600 combo will give you full potential of what high end sound can be on the go. The headphone case has enough space inside to house both the amp as well as the headphones.
AND FINALLY.........THE CONCLUSION
Sennheiser of Germany have the reputation of producing some of the best headphone's money can buy. From their legendary HE90's costing a cool $15,000 to the smallest closed type designs in PX200. However, neither could boast the popularity of the HD-580 Precision which probably was the best value considering what it could offer in terms of performance. With the introduction of the HD-600 Sennheiser raised the bar and in many ways bettered the HD-580 not only in build quality but also in the reproduction quality.
What the Sennheiser HD-600 cannot do for you is to produce thumping bass like your speaker can and at the same time rattle your furniture, but, it certainly has the uncanny ability to move you from inside and fully capable of revealing nuances in the music that you have been listening to for ages and never knew it was there to be discovered in the first place.
Let the Sennheiser HD-600 be a source of revelation for you!
Thank you for dropping by and reading what I write.
All text Copyright Quadophile 2006
Note: Epinions database has the same product in more than one category and this review was posted unknowingly in the incorrect one so I have resubmitted it here which is actually the correct category. I apologise for any confusion it may cause to those readers who had read it yesterday. I hope Epinions will correct the database entry so that others do not have similar problems - Quadophile
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