The Very Important Sennheiser HD 580, HD 600, and HD 650

Editors Note: These headphones have an interesting history for headphone enthusiasts, but if you're here just to read a review of these headphones, you can safely skip to the next page.

History - They Always Take You for Granted in Your Home Town
There's a rare moment in the life of a headphone fanatic when you put on a pair of headphones and go, "WOW! I never knew it could be this good." Revolutionary, not evolutionary. It's happened to me maybe a half dozen times. The first time was with the Sennheiser HD 580. I wanted to tell every headphone enthusiast I knew about the HD 580...but there was barely any internet back then, and no such thing as the headphone hobby. I emailed the handful of people I knew who would be interested, and just started telling people about them when the phone rang at HeadRoom.

By the time the headphone hobby started with Chu Moy and the Headwize forum in 1998, the HD 580 was well established, and HD 600 was just becoming available. They were the de-facto standard to which all other headphones were measured...but because they pre-dated the hobby, they were never the flavor of the month, they never received a love of their own, they were never the new and shiny thing to lust over. They were always just there. And they did have one little problem...which, in my view, got blown out of proportion.

The Sennheiser Veil and Other Issues
In a time when overly detailed headphones built by Grado, Audio Technica, and Stax pre-Omega were considered the norm among headphone enthusiasts, the HD 600 was heard as polite...too polite for ears used to the up-front treble and poor bass response of high-end cans at the time. And so the relentless damning began, gently bludgeoning the HD 600 away from it's first place position at every opportunity with the fluffy club curse: "The Sennheiser Veil."

This berating went on so vehemently for so long that it even got it's own smiley at Head-Fi. I'll let Jude's words from a recent post tell the story:

Sennheiser_HD580600650_Photo_Deadhorse
Years ago on Head-Fi, one of the biggest debates you'd see on these forums was the debate over whether or not the HD 600/650 was veiled. Some thought it was, others (like me) felt differently. This argument would pop up in any number of discussions rather frequently (as, for years, the HD600 and HD650 were the most discussed headphones here), sometimes steering threads off-topic.

The discussion of it got so old and tired, that, as the old saying goes, it was like beating a dead horse.

You're looking at the beating of the Sennheiser veil horse.

(I don't recall who created this emoticon, but it was many years ago.)

Frankly I'm with Jude, I've never heard it that way either. Polite? Yes. Laid back? Sure. Slightly lacking in the airy sound of very good top end response? Okay. But not veiled...at least not the HD 600. I do think the HD 650 might be worthy of the moniker though.

And that brings up another issue: As the product evolved from 580 to 600 to 650, hobbyists were prone to nitpicking each step along the way...and not without merit. First, the HD 580 had a problem: The small springs that are used as contacts for the cables connection to the ear were too soft and malleable. Over time, the spring would stretch a the coil into which in the contact pins were inserted resulting in an intermittent connection. People often thought their cable was going bad, but I've never seen that to be the case. When the HD 600 appeared first as the HD 580 Jubilee 50th Anniversary Edition, and then subsequently as the HD 600, this problem had not been addressed. Enthusiasts were enthusiastically ired by the oversight. Fortunately, new springs were developed, and Sennheiser did offer replacements free of charge for some time thereafter. People also griped about the HD 600 being significantly more expensive than the HD 580.

When the HD 650 came out, the tumult began again. The 650 while a bit more refined sounding, seemed even warmer than the HD 600, solidifying---somewhat correctly this time, IMO---the myth of the Sennheiser veil. And the price hike over the HD 600 was again criticized.

Lastly, and this one is a bit too complicated for me too keep up with, the headphones seemed to be going through a number of internal changes in a somewhat random manner---at least from the viewpoint of enthusiasts. The acoustic damping material over the driver's baffle plate seemed to change willy nilly. I did notice, in the period after the fire in the Ireland plant where the HD 600/650 was built, a number of small changes. I won't speculate on what was going on, but the fire coupled with normal manufacturer in-line engineering changes has certainly kept enthusiasts guessing at what a standard 600 and 650 really looked like...even up to the present day.

What a Difference a Decade Makes
It took a decade or more, but eventually the hobbyists tired of their flaming fan-dance around the HD 580/600/650, and things settled down quite a bit. New headphones have come and gone, but this family of headphones have remained securely, but quietly, well positioned in the pantheon of audiophile headphones. An odd thing has been happening lately though, it seems to me enthusiasts have increasingly begun to turn their attention back to the HD 600/650, and have begun rediscovering it as a great headphone.

One possible reason for the gradual resurgence of interest is more and more headphone geeks getting into tube amps. While most headphone makers are striving to build better sounding cans at lower impedance and higher efficiency to be easily driven from portable players and smartphones, the HD 600/650 has remained a 300 Ohm headphone. This high impedance delivers a better damping factor with the higher output impedance of most tube amplifiers, and especially with OTL (Output Transformer-Less) tube amps (Bottlehead Crack and Woo Audio WA3, for example). However, I don't think this fully accounts for the continued rise of interest.

Fondness and Contempt
Maybe I'm making too big a deal of this, but human nature is human nature. We've all heard the sayings: "familiarity breeds contempt" and "absence makes the heart grow fonder." The HD 600 has been with us for a long time...we're very familiar with it. I know I often take them for granted; I know when I reach for them I'm not expecting the excitement of something new. At some level I'm bored with them. Stupid human.

When I put them on to listen though, I'm suddenly struck with the need to face my prejudice. I'm swept away with the music. Simply put, this is one of the world's best headphones. I think we've always known that; it's just taken us a long time to allow ourselves to feel it.

Enough with the social studies, on the the review proper...

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ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Maxvla's picture

I started out life in Head-fi land with the HD580 (later added an OTL tube amp) and moved to the HD600 when balanced tube amps were beginning to be more affordable. The scalability of this series of headphones is really astonishing. In many ways this is mirrored with the HD800 with a practically unlimited ability to increase with gear capability.

I liked the section where you talked about build quality and listed the part numbers. I would submit that the broken headbands were a problem for the HD600 and HD650 as I still have my original HD600 and it's snapped headband from normal use. I bought a new one to replace it, thinking the headband was not available. I've recently been told the headband is available and it would be great to repair this to keep in my stable. Do you know the part number of the HD600 headband? 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

...But you can call the number in the manufacturers address, extention 2, and ask for the parts department. They're very helpful.

Maxvla's picture

Thanks. Spoke to the parts guy and he was very helpful. He said the part was out of stock, but that they would be in soon, and that it was a part they sold a lot of. Gave me a little discount too after talking about how I'd replaced my broken 600 with another 600, and also currently use 800s so I'm still in the Senn family. Nice gesture.

Impulse's picture

Despite the conclusion, right now you've actually got the HD 650 and not the 600 on the IF Wall of Fame... Time for an edit? I think that section of the wall could certainly use a couple lower priced alternatives above the Fidelio but below the rest of the current range anyway.

How would you say the 600 & 650 stack up against some of the T50RP mods like the Mad Dogs and Paradox? (the former being cheaper than either Senn and the latter being about the same as the 650)

I know closed vs open isn't a fair comparison but I'm looking to try something different from my Beyer DT 880 and those plus the HD 600 are currently my shortlist, a lot of people seem to pin a similar sound signature to them.

Tyll Hertsens's picture

...I'll be changing the Wall post tomorrow. 

I'm about to revisit the Mad Dog and Paradox soon, but I'm not quite sure the measure up to the smoothness and coherence of an open phone. They're good though.

Not_A_Fool's picture

I came to the same conclusions. . . except about tube amps and cables. In a sea of glaringly bright and overhyped headphones thse are an island of awesome. The modified T50RP's are of no comparison.

maxmba's picture

Tyll,

Could you tell why your THD graphs stops at 7Khz for all phones that you measure? I have suspition that THD rises sharply after 7 kHz.

I very value your reviews and most importantly i see that your assessments are in line with measument data yes Based on your revies i have purchased Logitech UH6000 and AKG 550 and agree with your opinion about these phones. smiley

Tyll Hertsens's picture

At 7kHz the third harmonic is at 21kHz.  There are filters in the Audio Precision that stop signals above 22kHz, so the reading would go down with the loss of third harmonics and no longer be reliable.

maxmba's picture

Tyll,

Any plans to review Ultrasone PRO 750 or 900 S-Logic surround sound?

I had 750 loaned to me for a week and the sound stage as good as AKG 550, but the frequency response is very uneven in mid frequences: spikes at 4-5kHz. These cans use platic drivers covered with titanium and also drivers mounted on a metal plate with holes in it to create bass boost. It feels like there are internal resonsounses are going on. There is a mod that allegedly makes 750 sound better.

Thank you,

Max smiley

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I'm of the opinion that S-Logic is a bunch of hooeee.  You can read my thoughts about it on this page.

Brentagon's picture

I got my HD580s more than a decade ago, and I'm still happy with them every time I put them on.  I haven't bought another full-size headphone since then, and I have no plans on looking into one anytime soon.  During the same time, I've been through dozens of earbuds and IEMs, and I'm never very happy with any of them.  Are there any IEMs out there that an HD580/600 lover can fully embrace?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I find very few IEMs that I like as well.  My favorite are the Shure SE 535.  Cry once at the price, and be smiling forever after.

KikassAssassin's picture

I love my SE 215's. They're a bit bass-heavy and they aren't the most detailed headphones I've heard, but they have a really smooth, inoffensive sound that, while I wouldn't really say they sound like my HD 650's, I like them both for similar reasons. I'm sure (Shure?) the SE 535 is better, but I couldn't bring myself to spend that much on an IEM. Maybe someday when I'm less poor. :)

episiarch's picture

Brentagon, I've always felt the Yuin PK1 had an HD580-like sound.  It's an earbud, not an IEM as we normally interpret the term, and IMO it requires amplification to sound its best, but it's very clean, a little the warm side of neutral (taking ER-4S as my definition of neutrality), and extremely satisfying.  When I first got mine, I remember literally saying things like "dark magicians have somehow enslaved the soul of a full-sized HD580 and trapped it in the body of a plain plastic earbud," so I was making the comparison even before you asked this question.  I don't want to oversell this, though, since that was some years ago, and I've seen comments to the effect that today's PK1s aren't built the way they used to be.

Audioaddict's picture

I have no idea if they sound similar but my HiFiMan RE-262 are my favorite iEM (forwarded mids, but done very nicely with a great soundstage and very appropriate bass and a slightly smoothed treble) and since those are unfortunetly out of production you might wanna look at the new RE-400 (99$)

sdecker's picture

With three generations of HD600s there, have you found any sonic differences between them due to their running changes to drivers, baffle plates, and damping material?  Have they finally supplied a better cord than what I replaced on my ~2001 versions?

Which HD600 was measured for your archives?  Too bad it has a bad right driver -- is it worth remeasuring a 'good' pair? 

Sennheiser always advertised the aluminum voice coils and neodymium magnets of the HD600, they're not unique to the 650, though they do carry different part numbers for re-ordering.  Like when you stick a needlenose into the diaphragm :-O  The 650 ad copy references an "acoustic silk" for damping not mentioned in HD600 lit.  Where?  Is that the white material on the baffle plates of both current models?

I've tried HD650s at length several times, but with an excellent SS headphone amp and source equipment, always preferred the 600s due to its more balanced bass and far more neutral midrange with more pop, presence and spatial cues; never found the 650's to have the greater 'refinement' you mention.  Though I wouldn't mind a couple dB more sub-100Hz bass from the 600s.  Seems the 650s were designed for lesser amps that couldn't generate the bass (so the headphone provided it) and a grainier top end (so the headphone suppressed it).   But I'll let the head-fi forums hash that out.

Finally, I guess I missed the era of weak bass and bright balance that you say preceded the 580s.  Starting in 1970 I had Koss K6 -> Koss Pro4AA -> AKG K240 then the 580 to my still-current 600s.  All had ample bass and tame treble.

donunus's picture

The hd600s have always been my favorite open cans and i have always bought and sold them after 6 months to a year. I think the reason I keep on selling them is that I think they may sound a tad too wide for me. I think i may have to buy them again and try them with a good OTL.

donunus's picture

In addition to my comment, may i ask if you(Tyll) still feel that these cans may be inferior to the momentums in many ways like you said on your review of those cans? I mean I didn't feel from reading the review of the momentums that you thought they were veiled in any way even though the frequency response graph looked more veiled than the hd650. I myself love the senns, even the 650s and am thinking of getting some momentums which is why I ask.

anaxilus's picture

Hi Tyll, nice article.  Just wanted to comment that I think there is more to the veil than just FR.  Acoustic impedance from the thicker paper seems to contribute to a lack of dynamics where music seems 'flatter' sounding.  This is why a solid amp can help the driver fight trough this and 'come to life'.  I think you referred to it as 'snap'.  So the 'Senn veil' to me is a combination of the enhanced bass cloud and increased acoustic impedance upon the driver.  

A good study to compliment this one, with respect to the Sennheiser veil, would be a comparison between the HD555/HD595 and the HD558/HD598.  The primary changes between the generations was damping material over the driver and it's readily audible even though the frequency responses and driver behaviors are largely measurably identical.  This is just as clearly visible if you perform the same dissection in your article.

Between intermittent changes, random listener impressions, amp/power discrepancies and even pad wear, there's a plethora of reasons to contribute to the various impressions of seemingly the same model.

However, despite all the noise, there is often a little truth buried in widespread mythology.  One just needs to separate the wheat from the chaff and it can be found if it is there.

donunus's picture

yup the 558 is quite a bit brighter than the 555. I'm not quite sure the material change worked there as well as they did for the newer hd600s and 650s which I prefer compared to the older versions which I got to compare side by side with.

ultrabike's picture

Thanks for sharing a little about the story behind these great and classic cans, and for your impressions. The HD600 is definitively in my list of possible upgrades.

HK-47's picture

I was lucky enough to grab an HD650 back when it was priced at around $360 on Amazon (it even went down to $300 on occasion) , and that was pretty much it for my headphone search, at least for home use.

While there's no doubt that there are better headphones out there, it has never really left me wanting more. Guess I'm one of those who actually like the so-called Sennheiser veil, as I find even headphones that most people consider relatively neutral, like the SRH440, to have fatiguing treble.

I've gone through several headphones and IEMs over the past couple of years, but the HD650 has remained, and barring any sort of malfunction/breakdown, will remain in the forseeable future.

Impulse's picture

The prices have definitely creeped up, tho I guess at least they're stable (ever tracked the price of Beyer's DT line on Amazon? they're all over the place).

Despite their recent history and their own pricing policies, Senn themselves ran a good deal for the HD 650 during the last Black Friday... Think they were like $350 + a big iTunes gift card (which you could resell if nothing else). It wasn't a short run deal either, ran all day.

I don't hold off until BF to buy much of anything, but headphones are one of the few things that are still worth waiting for and seeking out on BF.

KikassAssassin's picture

Yeah, I got my HD 650 in that black friday sale. $350 and a $50 iTunes gift card was a great deal and I couldn't pass it up (though I don't use iTunes so I gave the gift card to a friend). Even if Tyll thinks the 600 is better, I still feel good about getting the 650 for that price, because that's less than the 600 normally costs. I think I prefer a slightly warmer than neutral sound signature most of the time, anyway, so I really couldn't be happier with my 650's.

AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

Which amps do you guys like with these cans?  I've got the HD600 running off the Schiit Valhalla and really like the sound, but am thinking about upgrades.

Tyll, looks like the WA3 on the front photo, is that your preferred amp?

AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

Or is that the WA6?  Hard to tell from the photo...

Tyll Hertsens's picture

It's a WA3.  The good thing about these cans is that they'll bring out the best of most any amp, it seems to me. I don't find them to be picky, unlike the HD 800.

donunus's picture

Whats funny about this is that around 7 years ago or so, the 650 was known to need a really good amp to lift the so called veil. I think the 650 really changed in that aspect due to the changes from the older to the newer versions. The new version hd650 I heard was even really good already out of a basic fiio e9.

Tyll, I was wondering if you also tried these cans with a variety of solid state amps too and wonder if there were instances where you thought the hd650 trampled the 600s with those amps.

RJF's picture

Hi Tyll,

This is my first post! I actually own all 3 of these headphones and agree with your review 100% I have owned the HD600 for about a month now and it quickly became my favorite of the 3. I am curious as to how you feel these 3 cans compare to the Sennheiser Momentum particularly which of the 3 it sounds closest to (if any). I keep thinking of buying one for portable use but am afraid it will be a letdown compared to the HD600 and HD650 I own.

AsSiMiLaTeD's picture

My $.02 is imagine how the HD600 would sound if it were a closed design, and you've got the Momentum.  I don't have the 580, but do have the 600, 650 and Momentum.  The Momentum sounds closer to the 600 than the 650 IMO.

Compared to the 600 the Momentum has more bass and a less open, slightly congested sound, but otherwise has a similar sound signature to my ears...probably why I like the Momentum so much

Jazz Casual's picture

Nice tribute Tyll. I'm more a fan of those "overly detailed" Grados and Audio-Technicas. Guess I shouldn't hold my breath waiting for a similarly affectionate reminiscence about those. ;) 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

You shouldn't hold your breath.

Jazz Casual's picture

Thought as much. Then I'll have to settle for this: http://www.headphone.com/rightbetweenyourears/?p=1440 wink

Do you have any interest in hearing and measuring the ATH-W3000ANV? It's a limited edition closed headphone from Audio-Technica to mark the 50th anniversary of the company. It has received an overwhelmingly positive response from reviewers and headphiles alike. Being a deluxe closed headphone with beautifully lacquered wooden cups, it tends to be regarded as a rival to the Fostex TH-900 over at Head-Fi. It would be interesting to see how it measures up.

Fleschler's picture

I own Grado HP1 signature and HP 1000 signature headphones from the 80s.  I don't find them bright at all.  They were the best sounding dynamic headphones I had heard at the time.  My Stax SR3s were definitely more transient rich but are not as enjoyable long term.  I guess all of the Head-Fi headphones mentioned except for the Ultrasone are superior now.  I have not heard any of the newer headphones so I can't comment.  I wonder if you could tell me as to why my older Grados are soooo inferior.  Thanks

Tuco1965's picture

Excellent article Tyll.  I enjoyed the history lesson.

Argyris's picture

I remember reading some of the stuff in the history section in an article on the HeadRoom blog, and it was nice reading it again here. The pictures in this IF article are excellent, and as always the sonic descriptions give me a good idea what to expect if I ever come across one of these sets.

It's a bit blasphemous for an active Head-Fi'er and headphone enthusiast like me to say, but I've actually never heard any Sennheiser headphone before. Based on this writeup, it sounds like the HD600 would be the one to try first, since I can tolerate a little bit of warmth, but too much spoils the experience very quickly. I believe (based on reading many reviews here) that Tyll's preferences tend slightly toward the warm end, so if the HD650 is too warm even for him, then that certainly places things into perspective.

Not_A_Fool's picture

The HD 650's aren't overly warm at all. THe HD 600's are only marginally brighter and they are both basically neutral. 

Redbeemer's picture

Very nice article, Tyll, and, as a relatively new headphone enthusiast, I did enjoy learning of the history of this series of headphones.  However, it left me wondering where the HD 598 fits into this series?  I own them and really like them and think the styling is very attractive.  Are the 598's just a 580 with fancier trim or where exactly do they fall into this series(or are they a totally different phone)?

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I've always found them to be too warm...but it's been a while since I last heard them.  I should probably get my hands on some for another listen.

lithium's picture

Hi Tyll,

great article! What do you think are the differences between the HD598 and HD600 since numerically it seems like a very small difference. Do you think both of them are different enough that owning both can be worthwhile? also, since I have a HD598, which amp have you felt to be the best fit.

gefski's picture

Great work, and as always, really fun reading. My first "wow" headphone experience was long ago with I believe 414s (?), yellow earpads, cheesy looking, and never had I (or friends) who tried them heard such a transparent window on the music (guess we were just learning what "transparent" meant). Since then many cans sat on my head and though I recently settled on Valhalla driven RS1is for my current desktop system, I can't possibly bash other great cans. Senns, Grado, AKG, BeyerDynamic, AT, Stax all play in the world of real hi-fidelity and provide wonderful listening.

the_schu's picture

Thanks Tyll again for another entertaining read.  Do the closed Momentums have any of that HD580/600/650 flavor?

NA BLur's picture

The HD-580, HD-600, and HD-650 are revolutionary headphones.  From the design choices in materials, great comfort, lightweight, and of course the sound signature these headphones deliver.

Years ago when I first started my journey into Headphondium the HD-650 was a headphone just outside of my price range.  At the time I was sporting headphones like the EH-350 and ATH-M50.  When my budget allowed the HD-650 was quickly in hand.  Through the Bithead I felt that the HD-650 was a tad too laid back and bass light.  Even through my Grace Design m903 the HD-650 sounds a bit lifeless and yes veiled.

Fast forward many headphones later including the selling of my HD-650's.  A quick trip to Tyll's for a listen to the STAX SR-009 via the Blue Hawaii SE.  After listening to such an eloquent and awesome sounding headphone setup I decided to give the HD-650 another try.  This time I drove them with Tyll's WA6 he had on hand which is a tube amp.  I was astonished to find just how close the HD-650 sounded to the STAX setup.  Sure it was not dead on, but it was close enough to justify the cost of the HD-650 and HA3.  Having heard how awesome the HD-650 sounded once again I began to try to extrapolate why I heard the veil so many years ago.

The Sennheiser veil, after much deliberation, to me is how the HD-600 and HD-650 sound at lower volumes.  It is as if the drivers are not able to move enough to generate their full frequency spectrum and speed.  It not only sounds as if the audio is being played through a pillow, but there is some definite lack of punch and detail.  At louder volumes, just above where I feel comfortable for hours, the sound signature rings true.  At these volume levels the purity and greatness of the HD-650 shines.

After years of trying to determine what the veil is and how to prevent it I figured out that a slightly higher volume level is the cure.  The same can be said of the HD-800 to some degree in that at louder volumes they sound more punchy, full, and detailed.

I am back to finding room in my audio budget for the HD-650 and WA6 amp which remains a combo which I find tremendous when the veil is understood.  For those always listening at low levels perhaps the HD-650 is not for you, but it is an awesome headphone from fit to finish.

To my ears the HD-650 is more detailed than the HD-600.  It is subtle, but with the pair I A/B tested there was a clear difference making the HD-650 more to my liking.

That carbon-fiber, veiled sounding, tank of a headphone that is the HD-650 will reign forever as a bar to which all headphones must still be measured.

 

P.S.

Tyll, do you think you could measure the HD-650 at say 20dB, 40dB and 50dB and post the results?  Perhaps we will see something with the FR curves that will support my low volume hypothesis.

Joshua Leong's picture

This is spot on, i too feel the HD650 is slightly more detailed then the HD600. i personally do not find the HD650 veiled either when runned through a good amp (running O2 dac with O2 amp). According to certain posts from a forum its been stated that the recent HD650 does not sound the same as the earlier generations of HD650. 

elmura's picture

Whilst I can not discuss the audible comparison between HD600 and HD650 accurately, NA Blur has raised an interesting point that I have long found relevant to perceived sound quality - Volume!

Our ears are optimised to hear midrange sounds first, low frequency second (bass), and very high frequency last. As we age, the perception of the highest frequencies tend to drop off.

The "veiled sound" Tyll speaks of could be due to his self-professed low listening levels.

With my own system, raising the volume from very low to moderate levels first increases perceived bass. Rasing it further to comfortably high volume raises overall level plus brings treble more into focus which, depending on the track I'm listening to improves or worsens the sound quality.

NA BLur's picture

I think the momentums are more up-front sounding with a noticeably positive rise in the sub bass ( around 90 Hz ).  To my ears the bass was just too loud and without a little EQ magic the Momentum fatigued my ears badly.  In 10 minutes or less I had to take them off.

My ears tend to be sensitive to that region.

lenbell's picture

Now I'm confused, loved your momentum article, now you have peaked my 600 interest.

Would owning both the sennheiser momentums and sennheiser be overkill? Or could the momentums be used as your mobile headphones, and the 600s as your home use headphones.

thanks, 

Tyll Hertsens's picture

That is absolutely the way to use those two. yes

Impulse's picture

Totally logical and not overkill at all... Momentum are much more compact and closed, prefect for travel or on the go use (you also get a phone mic), or even for when there's others in the room you don't wanna bother or be bothered by.

Same way I use my M-80 & DT 880... Only other headphone you might ever need is a pair of IEM when extreme isolation or portability is a priority.

Once you add any more headphones to your collection beyond one of each in those three categories you know you've been bitten by the bug and you're into the hobby for more than basic personal audio needs. :p

LAmitchell's picture

I'm still new to headpones, and the way you described the 650 vs 600 makes me think of the way I feel about the (Sennheiser) AMPERIOR vs HD251-II.  Am I somewhat on track thinking that? (Amperior & 650 are lush/warm when compared directly with their older siblings). ??

 

paul's picture

It is often said that "good" audio equipment can be a bit expensive. What is not often mentioned is the fact that good equipment well last a lifetime.

I bought a pair of HD 580's from HeadRoom some 15 years ago. The velour earpads have been bleached a little by the sun. Otherwise, they sound and look great.

Funny, I forget the price I paid, but continue to enjoy the headphones.

ps: Listen to a pair of 701's and then over to the 580's. The Wennebostel Veil is clear as day.

Fun Article.

Not_A_Fool's picture

I bought my HD 580's used and they are 20 years old, sound amazing. I guess you could say Sennheisers are comfortably veiled compared to painfully bright headphones, otherwise it's just nonsense. :P

Ryan St Richard's picture

Hi Tyll greetings from Ireland great review / blog as always. i Have a pare of hd600, and i use them as my main reference headphone. ive just set up my own studio so looking to buy a headphone amp, so in your opinion what do you think the best headphone amp is for reference or as flat sounding as possible. My budget is about 550eur witch is about 700$.

 

spritzer's picture

Thanks for a great review Tyll.  I like so many others got a HD600 for my first high end headphone and it never disappointed.  Use them with a good amp and they punch far above their weight. 

One thing of interest, the HD580 was largely an offshoot from the HE60 development and many of the parts are identical.  Indeed the HD600/650 grills are all but indentical to the HE60 parts.  They even have the small plastic guides used to hold the o-ring that seals the backwave on the HE60.   

Kinglet's picture

Seeing that HiFiMAN is sticking with the current revision and have pulled the other revision, I think now a review of the HE-400 is in order so we can finally settle this best for $400 headphones.

pbarach's picture

Right now, I have a Burson HA-160 (which bettered the HeadRoom MicroAmp I was using before), but I might be looking for something better. I just don't want to deal with tubes, so what are some good solid-state options?

Stefraki's picture

Great write up on these important headphones, and right on the money with the review section. Like many people, my first "big step" into headphone enthusiasm was the HD650 and while they were traded long ago to continue on my adventure, whenever I hear them or one of their brothers (HD600, 580) at a meet I get a bit of nostalgia. All three great headphones. I often feel I'd have saved a lot of money and still been satisfied if I'd just stayed where I was with them, at the same time I don't regret all the great headphones I've heard and owned since. 

neo's picture

I'm curious if Tyll got the speedball upgrade..I'd love to hear his thoughts on them

zobel's picture

Tyll, you showed great restraint in your video of the spring replacement. I actually said a bad word for you while watching it, but you were very cool. I guess it is part of the zen of sennheiser repair (pun intended).

cactus_farmer's picture

Tyll, is there any way of telling whether the HD600 and HD650 drivers apart by looking at them? I think I've been sold an HD650 with HD600 drivers inside it, but want to make sure...

Also, how does the HD650's bass response compare quantity-wise to the DT880's (2005 Edition) bass response?

Thanks!!

Audioaddict's picture

So, Tyll would you say in their price range the HD 600 would be a great can for Rock / alt. Rock music? Or would the HD 650 be a little better if you prefer a slightly warmer signature?

lachlanlikesathing's picture

Every single time I hear the HD600 or the HD650 I love it (I don't mind the veil).

I have a pair of the new Sony MA900's and it's sometimes described as a poor man's HD600 (or sometimes described as an equivalent).

I was wondering if you could possibly get your hands on a pair and see if the comparison holds true? It's been bugging me because I've always been tempted to get a pair of HD650's and I've been curious as to how the MA900 measures. :)

IgorC's picture

 A know-how of wearing headphones on a head is a whole state of art skill.

A perception (at least one of the aspects as frequency response) of sound changes considerably depending on how a person wears headphones.

Here is some information 

http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/tipstricks.htm

Usually  people wear headphones the way that dynamics point straightly to an ear channel. Well, it's not the best alternative in my opinion.

Shortly, there is a main rule which says to wear headphones a bit forward and down. Probably the picture is worth here http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/bilder/jan.jpg

Personally when I wear the headphones I check two adjustment.

First one is headband adjusment. I've noticed an optimal results with headband slightly unleashed on my head but not too much. 

Second is the position which is forward than usual (as previos picture shows).

I have adopted a forward+down position a long time before I've seen the Meier page. So it can't be a coincidence that both of us prefer this way to wear a headphones.

Alondite's picture

And I'm leaning toward the HD600. I probably would have gone for the Q701 if I didn't already own a pair of AD900s, as the Q701 is more my type of sound signature. The HD600 are pretty much universally praised and are close to nuetral by most accounts. I'm also considering the HE-400, but I think they might be a bit colored or "v-shaped" for my tastes. 

My question is: will an O2 at least be sufficient for driving them? I'm not really concerned if it's not ideal, but will it at least make them worth the purchase? And are they quick and clear enough to keep up with intricate, aggressive music like this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX5uKOGGQIc

cactus_farmer's picture

Tyll (or anyone) - how does the HD650 compare to the Beyer DT880 in terms of bass quantity?

Thanks!!

Voltron's picture

Nice piece on some very special cans, Tyll.  I have always favored the 650s, but I do not agree that they are much warmer and certainly not "too warm" or veiled when cabled and amped right.  Your measurements were interesting on this point, but do you really think the slight FR difference is what you heard? 

I wrote a Head-Fi review of replacement cables a million years ago and still feel the same way (all my personal taste, ymmv, blah, blah, blah):  650s sound their best with SAA Equinox and other fast, resolving cables, and 600s sound best with copper cables like the Moon Audio Blue Moon or Cardas Fat Pipe.  Balanced drive does make a big difference, especially with fine OTL tube amps or really good SS amps.  Spritzer was limiting his comment to the 600 but I think both of these cans scale really well and compete way above their price class.

Cheers!

Tyll Hertsens's picture

I reckon my perception of the difference comes from having them side to side, and in listening my preference seemed pretty clear to me. Don't think the measurements are telling the whole story...don't think they ever do, TBH. They both have their merits, and I do like the more refined sound of the 650. I think with proper care and feeding (see your comments on cables and balanced/really good amps, which I agree with) the 650 might surpass the 600 for me, but I haven't really sussed that out.

I agree, both these cans play well above their price in today's market.

schugh's picture

After some lower end Grados and the HD580, I got the HD600 about 12 years ago. My first step into the high end audiophile land.

Many headphones have come and gone but these I still have. I myself never had any complaints with them or any issues about veil. All I knew was they sounded fantastic. They still do. They are in practically new condition so they are very durable. I find them very comfortable.

Recently I decided to setup my soon to be 16 year old Son with them and my Headroom Desktop Portable Amp. Lucky kid. All I had to listen to was a radio when I was that young.

rsaavedra's picture

I do agree with Tyll. Own both the HD650 and the HD600, drive them with a Dynahi amp. Was enjoying the HD650 very much, but I did remember comparing the HD600 even with HP2's in some Headfi meets, so wanted to compared the HD650's with them. Also, I built the Dynahi with two headphone outs, but was using only one. Instead of getting another HD650, best to have 600's (same impedance) and I could enjoy the comparisons, and great sound from two of the best headphones Sennheiser has ever built.

So I got the HD600's and they sounded very slightly more open and less lush than the HD650 right away to my ears, with all the testing recordings I've tried and critically listened to for years in pretty much all audio rigs I've had a chance to get my hands on. Have had them for a few years now. The HD600's are slightly more natural sounding to me. Both 600 and 650 sound great with pretty much anything. I'd probably give the 650 even marks or a minor notch with rock, but the HD600's I think are much closer to what anyone would call reference sound.

dmacg's picture

I agree with virtually everything in the article. I own both the 600 and 650. One thing though; I upgraded my 650 cable and went to put the 650 cable on to my 600's and found I was unable to. I believe you said that they are interchangeable. (?) Am I doing something wrong? It seems that the 650 cable end is just a but to large to fit into the 600's. What am I missing, should I force it more perhaps?

earjunkie's picture

 

I was just wondering... after using the Shure's SRH440 I bough a sony MDR1, sounds absolutely great to me. But recently I stumbled upon a brand new Sennheiser HD 540's and I couldn't resist buying those. Now the HD 540's blew me away man! Much better than the sony MDR1's, even the bass. Is there something to say about them? Are they any good compering to the HD580 and HD600s? I can't really find some descent information about them...and you've not mention them, so maybe they're not worth mentioning in this content and I better start saving some money to buy a pair of HD600...

Anyway, I'm just getting into the headphones a bit more seriously and I'm already addicted to this site for sure ej!

Tiger Woods's picture

Hey guys its Tiger and after winning last week and all the Sergio drama I like nothing more than to lay back with my HD600 and relax to some smooth jazz, Sade and Dave Matthews Band.

gioblack's picture

Hello I'va 2 questions on venerable HD580:
1 - I'm a student and for save money I'buyed it for 120€ in never mint conditions. Is a good price? There are anything else at this level for this price?

2 - Can I use it with a Creative X-FI HD usb? 

Tiger Woods's picture

I love my HD600 and I've listened to some other HP's like the LCD-2 and HD800 and while they're technically considered better I think the HD600 can hold it own against them.  Such a balanced smooth sound that works well with any type of music imo, even electronic and rap as lond as your not a bass head.  The $400 price tag along with the SQ, fit and build quality (I know its mostly plastic but mine fell off my head onto the concrete and were fine with just a small scratch and I'm 6'1) its easily one of the best values around imo.

reindeer's picture

I own the Sennheiser HD 600 and I'm not very satisfied with them. They're dry but also kind of sharp over time. I can't listen to them non-stop as I could to the Sennheiser HD 595, and there is also a lack of enjoyment. Their soundstage is very mid-focused, feeling slightly aggressive and restricted, though the dynamics themselves are as flat as can be. It evokes a bit of a gloomy landscape with its midarea-forwardness and darkly coloured highs. The detail is pretty good, I'd say somewhat better than the 595, most notably in the bass region, but it doesn't help the sound much due to the overall lackluster or lustreless presentation. It lacks the timbre of the otherwse similarly unpleasant Beyerdynamic 880, which gave it a realism and sometimes even a grandeur that the Sennheiser falls short of.

I also had the Philips Fidelio X1, and sold them immediately since the bass emphasis was a no-go in my opinion.

amartignano's picture

Hi Tyll!

Recently, after a long and sometimes erratic peregrination in search of the "perfect" headphone, I've re-bought the HD600, in time before it diseappears from the shops. 

Your words:

" We've all heard the sayings: "familiarity breeds contempt" and "absence makes the heart grow fonder." The HD 600 has been with us for a long time...we're very familiar with it. I know I often take them for granted; I know when I reach for them I'm not expecting the excitement of something new. At some level I'm bored with them. Stupid human.

When I put them on to listen though, I'm suddenly struck with the need to face my prejudice. I'm swept away with the music. Simply put, this is one of the world's best headphones. I think we've always known that; it's just taken us a long time to allow ourselves to feel it."

describes perfectly what these headphones really are. I've had, among the others, the HD650, the Rs1, the Stax Lambda, also the Sennheiser HE60/HEV70 (!!), and I think that the HD600 sounds just perfectly balanced (the same cannot be said for the HD650), airy, I don't hear any veil (indeed, the HD600 sounds somewhat sparkling to me, especially with certain tracks.) I hear detail, airyness, full and extended bass, full and meaty mids, an ideal definition of the space in the soundstage, not closed and not exaggerated, simply as it is. A pure listening joy without listening fatigue.

I really can't understand why Sennheiser decided to discontinue them. It's a real and unrepeatable HiFi classic.

mferring's picture

Just discovered your website and just purchased the excellent HD650. I have been feeling the need to rediscover my neo-audiophile roots from the 70s and 80s (yes I am old!). My daughter has the media-stereo room requisitioned until she goes to college, so pursuing really great headphones seems like a great way to experience truly hi fidelity music without needing a full stereo system. I am basically blown away by how great these headphones are. I am currently driving them thru a presonus 22VSL DAW and their HP4 headphone amp (and a Fiio E12 portable amp) and have been more than satisfied. But as a builder of an early Dynaco preamp and amp (which still work BTW!), I am delighted to discover the existence of the Bottlehead kit tube amp which I will surely attack some time soon to see how this tube thing works.

Anyhoo, I really appreciate your great video on the disassembly and maintenance of the HD 6xx series. It is really helpful. So my question is how do you change out the cloth headband? It seems really simple and you likely just pop out the plastic tab at one end of the headband and slide the new headband in. But just in case there was a trick to it, I wanted to ask the expert and make sure to not break anything! Any advice in this regard would be appreciated.

Thanks for taking the time to put all this great information online.

Mark

Tyll Hertsens's picture

The little plastic end-caps on the inside of the ends of the headband pop off using a small screw driver.

PrTv's picture

Nice review, Tyll.

I just watched your review on youtube and followed the link here. I also own (and love) the HD650, which I originally bought more than 3 years ago. Initially I got the older revision with black damping material. After only 1 year, the headband cracked, so I bought another one and this time I got a newer revision (silver damping). I must say that sonic difference is very obvious (I had both version for a year and did a lot of A/B tests) as the newer version is much more clear and less veiled. The newer revision also has less bass body (which is perfect). Now I still have it and use it with SAA Equinox cable. When amped properly with a good cable, I think this headphones delivers outstanding sonic quality.

I used to have AKG702 (paired with Burson HA160), HE-5 (with EF5), LCD2 and HD800 (which I tried so hard to love it, but couldn't stand its excessive sibilance) but now I sold them all as I found that, despite having those more expensive headphones, I always comeback to HD650. I only listen to Jazz, Country (e.g Alison Krauss) and Audiophile vocal albums, which HD650 excels. I now use it with Woo WA6Se, which is a Transformer Coupled Amp, but seems to do a great job driving HD650 out of its High impedance output.

I've just bought an Audeze LCD-X with Silver Dragon V3 Premium cable, and this too, sound great out of the low impedance output of the amp. BTW, I still love HD650 and will still keep it.

sgrossklass's picture

HD580s have been my PC cans for several years now. Found 650s (~2006) clashed too much with speaker presentation there, even if they better these when it comes to content >10 kHz. Actually prefer a 75 ohm output (bog standard Realtek onboard sound) to same with a ~0-ohm amp. (Heresy! :p It's the other way round for HD590s though, so the amp went where those are normally used.)

That spring replacement looks a bit daunting to someone visually (and somewhat mechanically) challenged like yours truly. I haven't had a lot of contact issues though, in spite of the previous owner having sold my 580s because of them. (Some wiggling every once in a while will do fine.) Might have to do with them usually lying around on a speaker with the cable dangling down sideways.

Speaking of which, I still think that these cables (e.g. the HD600 stock cable) are near-ideal. Very, very light and low in microphonics, yet sufficiently robust and just fine electrically.

The only major gripe I have with the whole series is that the headband padding is too narrow. The foam compresses and degrades fairly quickly. But I solved that the DIY way, too (not too pretty but it works - might get a Beyer pad at some point).

For those asking where the HD598 fits in here, well, it doesn't. While numerically close to the HD600, it's a totally different construction. The old HD5x5 series (mid-late '90s, HD525-565) was partly mechanically compatible with the HD580/600, but the "mainstream" series following it was built from scratch (including my trusty HD590, really the only model worth having), which happened again with the new HD5x5 series. HD5x8s then evolved from that.

Pion's picture

I am most interested in following details, because either I am not familiar with usual headphones measurements practices or these details are missing from your (very aplaudable and useful) report.

First, impedance, phase, THD etc. measurements should be done with or without original cables? What is correct and what is typical?

Second, THD measurements should be done via standard microphone (acustical coupling) or via the electrical connection of headphones (direct coupling)? What is correct and what is typical?

Third, do you know what may happen if I would try to match the headphone amplifier to full impedance/phase characteristic of specific cans? Would this lead me to the golden case of "linear" (neutral, or "innocent" as I like to say) response ? Or will simply and completely destroy it? Actually, how this linearity works in technical terms, when impedance and phase are so not flat? I do not understand. What is correct and what is typical?

Sincerely, big thanks in advance for the invaluable help by sharing your experience!

nunobartolomeu's picture

Hello from Portugal,

Is it worth to spend the money and buy a cardas cable for my Sennheiser HD600?

I have to replace my origin cable and I was wondering if there is a big improvement with the cardas cable, and if it is worth of the extra money.

Best Regards,

Nuno Bartolomeu 

nunobartolomeu's picture

Hello from Portugal,

Is it worth to spend the money and buy a cardas cable for my Sennheiser HD600?

I have to replace my origin cable and I was wondering if there is a big improvement with the cardas cable, and if it is worth of the extra money.

madwolfa's picture

No, it's not worth it (as a former owner of Cardas upgraded HD-600). Just get a stock HD-650 cable from Sennheiser.

Alberto Martinez's picture

I am in the process of completing my 3-headphone set for different proposes. I own an Senn PXC450 NC for train & air travelling and a pair of portable v-Jays when walking/running or work office.

Lately my only time and source of music is when working at my home desk, playing high quality downloaded spotify songs through AQ DragonFly v1.2 and usually with v-Jays.

Really I need the confort of Senn PX450NC size and following rules of quite home environment I decided to include an full size open can in the around $400 budget (10% variance).

Do you think Senn HD600 is a right combination with AQ DragonFly? If not, which other alternatives do you suggest? I will also connect them to my Marantz KI Series integrated amplifier.

Thanks in advance

Hugol's picture

Hello, do you recomend buy a new HD 598 or a used HD 580, both are almost the same price

Brek's picture

Love mine. Had since mid 90's. No failure of any parts (form a bit squashed). Great to know they can be serviced. Anyone fitted a metal grill from later models?

Neckername's picture

The new driver design gets rid of the old "veiled" sound that people report. They did this by supposedly incorporating silver into the driver design, and so far many people agree it sounds better.

R-Val22's picture

Hi Tyll,
I have seen most of your reviews and really value your opinion. Correct me if I'm wrong but I have not seen a review or not even a mention of the HD 700. I am thinking of buying the HD650 or the HD700 especially since the HD700 are priced around $520 now. Which of the two would you recommend and which tube amp would you recommend? As for the tube I'm looking at the Bottlehead Crack (for price), Woo WA6se, WA7tp(for quality), Woo WA22 or Senn HDVA 600 (for balanced).

avens's picture

Tyll rarely makes full reviews of headphones he doesn't like. Also, the consensus is that the HD700 is not worth the money.
Go for the HD600 instead, with the Bottlehead Crack. You will never regret that purchase (yep the combo is that good).

R-Val22's picture

You still wouldn't recommend the HD700 for that price? wow! I have been looking at other reviews and for the most part the HD600 are the ones that are being recommended. I think I will go with that combo and save myself a few hundred dollars. Thanks for the info.

czxve12's picture

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markpearl's picture

I saw the question asked here previously, but it never received a response. I've had my 600s for maybe 8-10 years and only replaced the headband & earpads. I'll spring for a new one if there have been any substantial changes anyone knows about.

seethelight's picture

Tyll, thanks for a very informative article - and the whole innerfidelity website in general!

I am a very happy owner of the HD580s since maybe 1994 (before the HD580 Jubilee came out). The pads and cable have been renewed over the years (last time I bought a HD650-cable, as the HD580/600-cable didn't seem to last that long). I haven't listened to the HD600s or HD650s.

Due to the history of this family of headphones, I always assumed the HD580s sounded just about the same as the HD600s. However, when I compare the FR curves (I've opened your PDF-files in Photoshop and layered them on top of each other), below 100Hz the HD580s seem to be closer to the HD650s than the HD600s. In the rest of the frequency range the HD580s do seem closer to the HD600s, though, so I guess my assumption that the HD580s sound more like the HD600s than the HD650s is true - I was just surprised to find that the HD600s has less low end bass (under 100Hz) than the HD580s!

ralphgonz's picture

I've also been listening to HD 580's since about 1995 and still use this pair for mixing duties. I've changed out the headband and ear pads. I have a second pair, probably only 10 years old, that I bought on ebay, and a pair of HD 600's which I just bought on ebay and replaced the ear pads on. Here are my impressions.

22-year old HD 580. This sounds the most neutral of the three, possibly because I'm acclimated to it. Perfectly balanced, tight deep bass, natural highs, open sounding. By the way, changing out the flat ear pads pulls them back from your ears the way they are meant to be worn -- otherwise you get excess bass, making things sound veiled.

10-year old HD 580. These are a tiny bit more aggressive, maybe an extra db or two in the 5-10 kHz region. They sound exciting and really let you see into the mix but after wearing them for several hours for music listening I sometimes want to turn the volume down. I never get ear fatigue with my older HD 580s.

Unknown age HD 600. These sound worlds different from the 580s, especially compared with the more aggressive sounding of the two 580s. They have 3-4 dB excess midbass in the 100-150 Hz region, sounding tubby and veiled where the 580s sound tight and extended. They don't appear to be damaged, and both channels sound the same so I guess this is a characteristic of this batch or this particular unit. I made an EQ curve to pull down the midbass by 3 dB and now the balance matches my 580s, getting rid of the tubbiness and veiling. With the EQ, the highs sound clear and natural without the slight aggressiveness of the 10-yr old 580s.

Incidentally, I swapped the grills between the HD580s and HD600s and did not notice a change in sound, thought the black metal HD600 grills look cooler.

In conclusion there seems to be significant variation in the frequency balance among HD580 and HD600 units (even if the L/R channels are well matched) depending on when they were manufactured. This probably accounts for different people's impressions, particularly complaints about veiling.

If you have HD580s or HD600s, hang on to them. They last forever, it's easy to order replacement cables and pads on ebay, and many people still consider them world class. See for example the 2017 Stereophile Recommended Components, where they are still mentioned in Class A:

Sennheiser HD 600: $399.95 ★
WP, KR, and ST were unanimous in calling these the best dynamic headphones they've ever heard. "The only ones with which I have ever been physically or sonically comfortable," says KR. "Sennheiser has kept all of the qualities that made the HD 580 among the best of its breed, and in several areas has even managed to better it impressively," according to WP. Says ST, "The magic of the HD 600s is their midrange—a purity of tone, especially when driven by tubes, that is quite special."

Anon2's picture

I purchased some new HD600s recently. This article was most valuable in guiding this decision. I don't think I have purchased an audio component based on such a detailed product assessment as in this article.

I appreciate the pictures showing the differences in color for the back side of the driver assembly, to show which models were the early, mid, and current models. I also appreciate the information about the repairable but inconvenient risks with the springs on the older models.

I listened to a used pair, either the early or mid-generation model, with the older black colored back side of the driver assembly. I then bought a new pair. I auditioned the old model on the same integrated amp that I have at home. Upon listening to my new pair at home, I found the sound to be largely comparable, and excellent on both.

I had some concerns over the impedance and sensitivity of these high-end headphones. Upon bringing the HD600s home, these concerns quickly dissipated. The HD600s deliver an outstanding sound through my receiver, integrated amp, CD player headphone jack, and even through the headphone jack on my desktop PC. I even got a lower level but listenable level of sound from a generation 4 iPod. While a dedicated headphone amp would no doubt improve the sound further, for my purposes and devices the HD600 delivers full and peerless sound at very low volume settings (except for the iPod, which was at 50% volume).

I am not a high-volume headphone listener. I have heard the concerns that others might hear what the sounds emanating from the HD600s, as an open headphone. Listening to my HD600s, at the volumes I set for listening, I could hear the most imperceptible sound from the outside of these headphones.

The new HD600s do clamp down with some force. My audition of the older model demonstrated that this pressure should subside over time. The only concern I'd have with the clamping force of the HD600s is that the ear pads might require replacement sooner than other models.

I have some Sennheiser HD500s that only required new ear pads recently, after 15 years of use. These are much lighter weight headphones than the HD600s. On the subject of the HD500s, get a used pair if you want something lightweight for work. These headphones came out for sources like early mp3 that were of poor quality. Since they were intended for such compromised early downloads and streaming, the HD500s took the rap for the content that coincided with their product launch. With better and new sources, even the older, lighter-duty HD500s are fine headphones, but no match for the HD600s.

It was interesting that though the older HD500s are more sensitive and have lower impedance than the HD600s, the sound level during my audition was about the same. And, recall, I auditioned an older model of the HD600. I was expecting a need to make large adjustments to volume when switching between the HD500 and HD600, but I had to make none.

I look forward to the HD600s to review my home collection of recordings. Since these are professional grade headphones, I expect that I will see which of my recordings, even older ones, are truly good, and which are not.

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