Sennheiser HD 598 Review: What Sets It Apart

sennheiser hd 598

The Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones promise music lovers deep, rich, beautiful sound. But do they deliver the goods?

Most of us can remember the first time we were immersed in a world of sound through a pair of headphones. There's no feeling like losing yourself within the rhythms and lyrics of a great song or being engrossed in a movie, book, or video game. These out-of-body experiences are as priceless as they are euphoric. And Sennheiser believes its headphones can bring you back to that special place.

Sennheiser was founded in 1945 by Electrical Engineering Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser. And over the decades it has become one of the biggest and most respected names in the audio industry. Professionals and music enthusiasts around the world swear by their brand.

Should You Invest in Premium Quality Headphones?

Most people can't imagine spending hundreds of dollars on a pair of headphones. For them, a pair of cheap headphones that suits their tastes just fine. However, those who have experienced the sensation of being fully immersed in sound from a pair of premium quality headphones can rarely go back to anything less.

Geoffrey Morrison, a writer for Forbes magazine, addressed this question in his 2013 article titled "Are Expensive Headphones Worth It?" In his report, Morrison said that everyone could tell the difference in quality between headphones with good and bad speakers. However, he noted that just because a pair of headphones cost more, doesn't mean they will necessarily have better sound quality than a cheaper pair.

That being said, Morrison does recommend that you purchase a quality pair of headphones after doing a bit of research about its features and finding a real consensus concerning the headphones' sound quality.

Noise cancellation vs. noise isolation

Other factors like active noise canceling and noise isolation features can also make a big difference. Noise canceling headphones have microphones that process incoming sound. The headphones create inverse waves to cancel out the ambient noises. In other words, if ambient noise equals +1, the noise cancellation creates -1 to make sure your ears hear 0 (nothing).

However, noise cancellation mainly drowns out low droning noises like cars and airplane engines. Sounds within a mid to high range like voices still get through.

Many in-ear and on-ear headphones offer noise isolation. This feature works by using a physical barrier to isolate your ears from unwanted sounds. The effectiveness of the headphones depends on the seal around and inside your ears.

It's important to note that noise isolating headphones can become uncomfortable after long periods, so some prefer noise canceling headphones for long trips.

What's the difference between open-back and closed-back headphones?

The Sennheiser HD 598 models come in both open and closed-back styles.

Closed-back models have good to great isolation. The design reduces or eliminates outside noises' ability to reach the listener's ears. As a result, the listener can even hear low-level sounds in the source material. Closed-back headphones are used in many music studios for their high degree of sound accuracy. These also have low leakage, meaning minimal sound escapes from the headphones. This feature is vital in recording studios because the sound could otherwise be picked up by high-powered microphones.

Open-back models are becoming increasingly popular, as they provide the listener with a more natural sound. This benefit truly shines when one is listening to recordings of large ensembles, such as an orchestra. Open-back is the preferred style of many gamers for some of the same reasons.

A driver unit consists of the element inside of headphones that converts an electrical signal to sound. The unit is made of voice coils, a magnet, and a diaphragm. Open-back models offer a better transient response, which refers to how quickly a driver adjusts to changes in the source material. The quicker reaction time is due to less air pressure against the back-portion of the driver, which allows it to react faster to changes in the signal. That results in improved accuracy and guarantees that even the softest low-level sounds are heard through the headset.

Another benefit of open-back models is their lighter weight. Since the earcup uses fewer materials, the overall weight of the headphones is reduced.

Our Evaluation Process

We felt it was essential to mainly focus on customer reviews of the Sennheiser HD 598 models and those of their competitors. Customers will generally give the most honest and heartfelt evaluation of a product, especially when they are priced higher than other products of their kind. We also provided three comparison product reviews to give you an idea of some other options available on the market.

An important note about the Sennheiser HD 598

Unfortunately, the original Sennheiser HD 598 model (light tan and brown) appears to have been discontinued by the company. From what we've learned through our research, the original model may have had a design flaw in its headband that the company fixed with its Sennheiser HD 598SR model.

Both the original and the 598SR model have an open-back design. Then there's the Sennheiser HD 598C model, which offers a closed-back design. Finally, the Sennheiser HD 598SE model has the same features but weighs less and has an open-back design. These four models are roughly identical in sound quality and features.

The Features of the Sennheiser HD4 598 Models

Sennheiser HD 598 Over-Ear Headphones - Ivory
  • Premium, audiophile-grade over-ear, open back headphones
  • Lightweight with luxurious velour ear pads for extreme comfort
  • Compatible with virtually every audio device including phones, tablets, computers and stereo components

All Sennheiser HD 598 models feature Sennheiser's E.A.R. (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement) technology, which promises outstanding sound reproduction and clarity. These headphones have state-of-the-art advanced Duofol diaphragms, which promotes transparency and minimizes distortion. They feature highly optimized, field-strengthened neodymium ferrous magnet systems, which offer a dynamic response. The HD 598 models also have a surround reflector which produces an extended spatial sound field. They are made of lightweight aluminum voice coils, which promise great efficiency and fantastic dynamics. Customers liked the headphones' comfort, durability, and quality design.

These headphones have unique diaphragm geometry that reduces intermodulation distortion. They feature highly constant, compressed cellulose fleece that's said to reduce total harmonic distortion.

The original and the special edition models feature Velour ear pads and headband for extra comfort. And the SR and CS models have a high-quality padded leatherette headband with velvet-like fabric ear pads.

All three models include a 6.3 millimeter to 3.5-millimeter adapter. You also get two detachable cables, a 3-meter cable with a 6.3-millimeter jack, which you can connect to your home entertainment system. And a 1.2-meter cable with a 3.5-millimeter plug you can use with your portable devices.

Sennheiser HD 598 SR Open-Back Headphone "Discontinued by...
  • Audiophile grade over ear, open back headphone delivering exceptionally natural and balanced sound. Connectivity...
  • Padded leatherette headband and luxurious velour covered ear pads provide extreme comfort for long listening sessions
  • Compatible with virtually every audio device including phones, tablets, computers and stereo components

One customer recommended these headphones for listening to music around the house or gaming. He also noted that unlike with his closed headphones, his ears don't get too hot from extended use. Another reviewer raved over the headphones' directional sound qualities, stating that he could clearly distinguish sounds coming from left and right as well as the front and back.

There were a few critiques. Many reviewers claimed that the bass did not sound very strong. Another customer noted that the headphones are not travel-friendly. They don't fold or come with a traveling case. Also, with open-back headphones, there's a fair amount of sound leakage that could disturb others in public spaces. Conversely, an open-back style also allows for more sound to come in, which could be a good or bad thing. One customer also complained that the earpads felt "rigid" and felt too tight on his head.

Sennheiser HD 598 Cs Closed Back Headphone
  • Premium, audiophile grade over ear, closed back headphones.Connectivity Technology: Wired
  • Padded leatherette headband and luxurious fabric ear pads perfect for long listening sessions
  • Compatible with virtually every Audio device including phones, tablets, computers and stereo components

One customer said that he had no trouble wearing the headphones for hours without any fatigue and said it worked well with any portable device. He also noted that the bass and mid-range had more emphasis and the noise isolation worked very well. Customers loved how well these headphones faithfully reproduced crisp, clear sound.

There were a few marks against the headphones as well. One reviewer gave them an overall positive review but warned that these were not headphones for serious "audiophiles" who expect the same sound quality they get from eadphones. He notes that they lack the frequency separation of the higher-end headphones, which can make certain music sound "muddy" to a trained ear. Another reviewer thought that the noise isolation could be better.

Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition Over-Ear Headphones - Black...
  • Premium, audiophile-grade over-ear, open back headphones
  • Padded leatherette headband and luxurious velour covered ear pads perfect for long listening sessions
  • Compatible with virtually every audio device including phones, tablets, computers and stereo components

A customer marveled at how these headphones brought new life to the music he's listened to thousands of times. He said that the headphones made him feel like he was at a concert. Another reviewer remarked how the use of an external DAC and headphone amp maximized the headphones' full potential but mentioned how the difference was only barely noticeable from the sound delivered directly from his computer's sound card. Another customer remarked how the velour ear pads were far superior to the earpads on the SR and CS models. And a gamer declared that these are the end-all-be-all of gaming headphones.

Customers also pointed out some of the headphones' downsides. Like the SR model, the special edition does have a lot of sound leakages, so playing loud music in public might not be ideal (unless you're purposely trying to annoy people). And like the SR model, some customers claimed the bass didn't have as much punch as the CS model. Another claimed the sound refractor pushed uncomfortably against his ear.

Where to find the original Sennheiser HD598 model

For those who are looking for the original model, you can still find new and used Sennheiser HD 598 originals for sale. However, the price difference between the upgraded models and the scarce original model can be a bit steep. So far, we've only found two retailers that still sell the original models. One of the retailers is on Amazon. However, they don't include a picture of the actual product on their page, which is a bit troubling. Because these are no longer produced, the price can vary wildly.

The Sennheiser HD 598 Models vs. the Competition

All of the Sennheiser HD 598 headphones seem fairly impressive. However, they are not the only premium headphones out there. There are dozens of brands on the market today. We've found three of some of the best-reviewed headphones to compare to the Sennheiser HD 598 models.

We looked at the Monolith M1060 Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones, the Master & Dynamic MH40 Premium Over-Ear Headphones, and the Philips X2/27 Fidelio Over-Ear Headphones.

Monolith M1060 Over Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones - Black/Wood With...
  • Planar Drivers: Not your typical headphone driver! A planar magnetic driver is a flat membrane that is surrounded by...
  • Open Back Design: Instead of an "inside your head" isolated experience that traditional closed-back headphones provide,...
  • Comfort: The Monolith M1060 has been engineered to be comfortable for extended listening sessions. Large, comfy earpads...

The Monolith M1060 Over-Ear Planar Magnetic Headphones certainly have an imposing name. And according to Monolith, these headphones deliver equally imposing sound by using a Planar driver, a magnetic driver which consists of a flat membrane surrounded by magnets. This model features an open-back design which promotes the same "inside your head" isolated sound experience of many high-end closed-back models for a holographic listening experience. The M1060 has large, soft, comfortable earpads designed for your comfort as you listen. The overall design of these headphones gives off a very artistic feel.

One customer said that the M1060 headphones deliver good sound at a great value. Great for relaxed listening. Another customer said that he did not feel any fatigue after listening to music for three hours. Customers praised the headphones for their clarity and deep, rich tones.

However, a few reviewers found some faults with these headphones. A customer said that the sound felt a bit "flat" and unnatural. A reviewer had an issue with cables that came with his headphones and claimed customer support proved unresponsive. Another reviewer called the soundstage and imaging pretty weak for the price he paid.

Monolith also goes big with a massive 5-year replacement warranty and 30-day money back guarantee.

Master & Dynamic MH40 Over-Ear Headphones with Wire - Noise Isolating...
  • Wired, over-ear headphones: oxygen-free copper cables for pure sound and reduced noise plus dual audio jacks for shared...
  • Noise isolating: snug, noise-isolating fit that makes it more difficult to hear outside ambient noises and conversation.
  • Best headphones for music: whether you want to listen to jazz or hip-hop, MH40 delivers exceptional sound and crisp...

Master & Dynamic MH40 premium Over-Ear Headphones says they don't take a backseat to anybody. Makers of award-winning headphones, they brag about having a passion for creating sophisticated sound through superior audio technology. They claim to only use the finest materials such as aluminum, stainless steel, lambskin, and cowhide. The MH40 is tuned to deliver a rich, warm sound with a natural signature. Their over-ear headset promises to deliver every detail of your music.

One customer said that his headphones delivered "phenomenal performance." He also claimed that the headphones were sturdy and durable, noting that he usually broke his headphones every three to four months. Another customer said the headphones had excellent bass, mid-range, and great high-frequency reproduction. And a reviewer liked the non-tangle braided cord.

However, other customers found some things they didn't like about the headphones. One customer said that they were not for serious audiophiles and sound engineers. Another customer said the headphones made the top of his head sore after several hours. A reviewer complained that they felt very heavy.

Philips X2/27 Fidelio Over Ear Headphone, Black (Discontinued by...
  • Powerful 50mm neodymium drivers for wide yet precise range. Connectivity Technology: Wired
  • Acoustic open-back architecture for pristine audio fidelity
  • Double-layered ear shells engineered for sound precision

Philips is one of the most trusted names in audio, and their X2/27 Fidelio Over-Ear Headphones promise nothing short of their very best audio engineering. The x2/27 features powerful 50mm neodymium drivers that promise to deliver wide yet accurate range. It has an acoustic open-back design for crystal clear audio fidelity. Its double-layered ear shells are engineered for outstanding sound precision. It has a dedicated cable management clip to keep you tangle-free while you listen to beautiful sound through its deluxe memory foam velour earpads that promise maximum comfort for hours.

Customers raved about the headphones' beautiful sound quality and loved its adjustable headband. Reviewers loved using these headphones for gaming as well. Many customer reviews resembled long love letters, showcasing the impression these headphones made on them.

A few customers did not like the sound of the bass on these headphones. One reviewer said the earpads bleed ink. Another said the earpads fell apart after a few months of use.

Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones: The Good and Bad

Since all of the Sennheiser HD 598 headphones use the same technology, with the main differences between the different models being slight design variances, we combined their pros and cons. However, we did make sure to point out a few pros and cons as they relate to specific models.

Pros

  • E.A.R. (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement)
  • Velour earpads and headband (for the original and Special Edition models only)
  • High-quality of padded leatherette headband and velvet-like fabric ear pads (for the SR and CS models only)
  • Excellent sound-isolation (for the CS model only)
  • Fantastic acoustic sound (for the Original, SR, and Special Edition models only)
  • Great sound reproduction without the need for an amplifier
  • Greater emphasis on bass and mid-range (for the CS model only)

Cons

  • Lack of frequency separation often found on higher end headphones
  • Open-back models have sound leakage and have less sound isolation
  • Bass may not sound strong on open-back models
  • Earpads on SR and CS model may not be as comfortable as the Original and Special Edition models
  • Earpads on SR and CS model may not be as comfortable as the Original and Special Edition models

Comparison Table

Sennheiser HD 598 Headphones: Turn It up or Stop the Music?

So after this long journey through audio land, which headphones do we recommend? The overall winner would be the Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition. These cans have it all: comfort, style, and outstanding sound reproduction. Our second runner-up is the Monolith M1060. It's a beautiful design, sound quality, 5-year warranty, and 30-day money back guarantee makes it worth a test drive. If the open-back style isn't your cup of tea, then we would recommend trying the Sennheiser HD 598CS model.

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