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.)

Build Quality
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...

Sennheiser USA
1 Enterprise Drive
Old Lyme, CT 06371
(860) 434-9190

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.

SoniAdler's picture

Good afternoon, I came across this interesting article on the Internet. I want to buy myself headphones for study - Advise which model will do better than all, well, or a few options. Thank you in advance .

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


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


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.