The Very Important Sennheiser HD 580, HD 600, and HD 650 Page 2
The Sennheiser HD 580 (no longer available), HD 600 ($399), and HD 650 ($499)
Despite the love/hate relationship the headphone community has had in the past with these headphones, they are widely recognized among enthusiasts as the most important headphone in the world of headphone hobbyists. There are more expensive headphones; there are better sounding headphones; there are far more popular headphones; but the fact remains, the Sennheiser HD 600 is a great sounding headphone, and at it's price, remains one of the best buys today for headphone audiophiles.
To the best of my ability to figure out the dates (I usually use the copyright date on the manuals and brochures found on the Sennheiser web site) the HD 580 was introduced in 1993. The pre-cursor to the HD 600, the Sennheiser HD 580 Jubilee was released as part of Sennheiser's 50th anniversary celebration in 1995 with a carbon fibre look. The HD 600 appeared in 1997, and finally, the HD 650 was introduced in 2003.
These headphones are an open design and will not will not isolate you from outside noise, or prevent sound from being heard by those nearby, making them best for use in quiet home and office applications.
The overall design of these headphones is very similar and many parts are interchangeable. Ear pads, foam baffle plate cover pad, and headband pad are essentially identical (the headband pad of the 650 is a bit different, but remains interchangeable) and spare parts remain available. The HD 580 is fully a plastic construction; the HD 600 and 650 have metal grills and some carbon fibre parts.
These headphones have a very conservative and archetypal headphone look to them. While the 580 is a bit frumpy looking with it's all-plastic construction and simply gray coloring, the painted blue speckled finish of the HD 600 and gloss gray metal-flake finish of the HD 650 are quite handsome.
Most people find these headphones very comfortable, but they do tend to be a bit tight on the head, and those with larger heads may experience them as a bit too constricting. Some relief can be had by gently and repeatedly stretching out the headband, but overdoing it may cause some cracking to develop in the headband, so stretch with care.
Earpads are are velour covered and provide ample space for ears of all sizes. The earcup is oval shaped and deep enough to be quite comfortable. These are relatively cool wearing headphones for hot, humid climates. The earpads will compress and deform after a number of years of use. (The replacement part is #50635, and includes a pair of earpads and a pair of the foam baffle plate covers.)
Like most Sennheiser products, the build quality is superb. Long ago there was a problem with the contact springs in the ear pieces, but it was resolved with stiffer springs. (If you have an intermittent ear-piece conection in an older pair, order four pieces of part #036205, $0.16 ea, see video at the bottom of this page for replacement procedure.) The metal grilles on the HD 600 are a tad thin and can dent rather easily, this doesn't seem to effect the sound quality however. The HD 650 has slightly sturdier metal grilles.
When first introduced Sennheiser touted an aluminium voice coil and improved diaphragm material for the HD 650. Upon inspecting the current HD 650 and HD 600 driver and baffle plate assembly I found them to be very similar. The damping material appears to be a very similar metal mesh, but the HD 650 mesh looks slightly finer than the HD 600. The diaphragms look identical, but there are manufacturer markings on the material that are slightly different.
Over the course of maybe 3-5 years, the earpads do tend to loose their loft and flatten out, as do the headband pads. Both are easily replaceable and spare parts are readily available. (Pair of ear-pads and foam baffle plate covers for all models ~$42 #050635; headband pads HD 580/600 $8.62 #549375, HD 650 #088597 $7.55) I'll note here that I have 15 years experience with these cans and their users, so unlike most headphone reviews where I really can't speak to the issue of durability, with the HD 580/600/650 I do have long experience with problems that might occur. My perspective is that the now corrected contact spring issue was the only serious build quality problem these headphones have had. The ready availability of spare parts---world-wide, mind you---and the fact that they're very easy to disassemble, repair, and reassemble (see video below) makes for a headphone that's capable of decades of regular use. This is a masterfully built headphone.
Cables and Accessories
The cable on the 580 and 600 are identical; the 650 cable is heavier gage and earphone connector bodies are modified to reduce strain on internal spring contacts, but the cable can fit into the 580 and 600. The HD 580/600 cable is terminated with a 1/8" mini-plug that inserts into a clever 1/8" to 1/4" adapter that gives it the look of a standard 1/4" plug. The HD 650 cable terminates with a standard 1/4" headphone plug, and a 1/4" to 1/8" short adaptor cable comes with the headphones. Both the HD 600 and 650 come with fabric covered fiberboard storage boxes with foam liners and hinged tops.
I did two videos for this review. The video review proper is on the bottom of the next page, but I also did a video of how to take your 580/600/650 apart for those of you who might need to change the contact springs.
Time for the good stuff, lets talk about how these headphones sound...