Sennheiser HD 600 Review

by wanderingted

and The Greatest Song Team

Sennheiser HD 600 Review: Overview

Sennheiser HD 600

OUR RATING:

4.6

Specs

  • Impedance: 300 Ohm
  • Frequency range: 12 – 40,500 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 97 dB
  • Weight: 260 grams (.58 lbs)
  • Cable length: 3 meters

Pros

  • Natural, transparent sound
  • Excellent detail and transient response
  • Exciting dynamic punch, especially in the mids
  • Feather light and comfortable

Cons

  • Some desire more bass presence

Bottom Line:

The HD 600 are still the top of their class in delivering natural, unaffected sound. A reference headphone that won’t disappoint.

Introducing a Classic: The Sennheiser HD 600

The Sennheiser HD 600 headphones are designed for hi-fi enjoyment and critical listening. Released in 1997, these cans have set the bar high for reference headphones ever since.

Now a classic, they are still beloved by many audiophiles for their neutral, natural-sounding response.

A lot has happened in the development of headphones since 1997. We were curious: do these classic headphones still hold up to the current competition in 2022?

See here for all our headphone, microphone, and audio gear reviews.

Table of Contents

    Who are the Sennheiser HD 600 Headphones for?

    The Sennheiser HD 600 headphones are for audio enthusiasts and critical listeners. 

    Their open-back design allows the sound to travel past the earcup, resulting in a more natural resonance. This natural resonance is why they are the preferred design for studio use.

    Who are the Sennheiser HD 600 Headphones NOT for?

    Due to an open-back design, the HD 600s are NOT suited for anyone in the market for a pair of headphones with good sound isolation or active noise-canceling.  

    The open-back design allows the sound to travel past the ear cup, resulting in a more natural resonance. But in noisy environments or in applications where you cannot tolerate sound leakage (such as tracking), these are not your cans.  

    What’s in the Box?

    • The HD 600 headphones
    • 3-meter, straight cable terminating in 1/8 inch connector with a 1/4 inch adapter

    Power Requirements

    At 300 Ω impedance with a sensitivity of 97 dB, these headphones will require a dedicated amplifier or audio interface with an integrated amp to achieve adequate volume. Battery-powered sound sources just won’t cut the mustard with these. 

    Comfort

    The HD 600s can be worn easily for hours without fatigue. So much so that you can forget they are on! They remain some of the most comfortable reference headphones that I have tried.

    They are seriously light, at just 260 grams. But also, the velour ear cups and the adjustable, center-folding frame sort of massage onto your head. The headband adjusts with a ratchet motion extending from aluminum strips.  

    The tight grip of the phones on the head can be adjusted by lowering the ear cup position. It’s worth noting as well that the out-of-the-box clamp force does relax with use. In this way, they adjust to the size of your head over time. 

    The earcups are large and do not touch any part of my (medium-to-large-sized) ears.  

    Build 

    The overall build quality of the Sennheiser HD 600 headphones is surprisingly good. (I was at first skeptical of the plastic folding parts)

    Despite the plastic frame, however, these headphones do last the test of time. Fellow engineers have confirmed that the only vulnerable parts are the foam padding under the headband and the ear pads. These are easily replaceable and not expensive.

    The 3-meter cable is made of kevlar-reinforced oxygen-free copper terminating in a mini-jack with a standard 1/4-inch adapter included.

    No carry case is provided, which you would probably want at this price.

    Sennheiser hd 600 reference headphones

    Sound

    Sennheiser HD 600 Frequency Response Chart

    Sennheiser HD 600 Frequency Response Chart

    Bass

    The bass frequency response is an area where headphones have rapidly developed in the past 20 years since these headphones were released. Planar magnetic drivers, especially the high-end, have changed the game in terms of what is possible with bass presence with headphones. 

    The overall sense of the bass on the HD 600s is not strong, but it’s clear and present. As you can see in the chart above, they roll off in the sub-bass starting around 100 Hz.

    Like all aspects of these headphones, the bass sounds natural. The way the transients bleed ever-so-slightly into each other in the upper bass with the HD 600, still sounds more realistic to my ears than planar magnetic headphones.

    That said, dynamic drivers have also improved bass response since 1997. For example, the Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pros or the AKG K712 have more to offer than the HD 600 in this area.

    Mids

    The midrange absolutely shines on the HD 600. Detail resolution is intense yet everything feels transparent and natural: guitars, strings, brass, and vocals all come to life. And the dynamic punch in this area especially is satisfying.

    For example, listening to Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony, in the Adagio funeral march, the opening cry of the strings is appropriately intimate with the HD 600. The sense of the concert hall, the moment the bows touch in the string section – the details are all present. 

    Then comes the climax with the brass entrance! Because the mids are so forward and exciting, with these cans, I am sated. 

    The tonal qualities of the mids and the dynamic explosion still hold par with newer, more expensive alternatives. 

    Highs

    Everything in the treble is also well-balanced and natural sounding. Sibilance is never a problem and the air at the very top gives a sense of sparkle and headroom to the top.

    Cymbal crashes and the pluck and strum sounds of strings, around 7 kHz are more present than your standard HiFi headphone, but that makes sense as these headphones are built for reference and critical listening. 

    Headphones stacked on top of each other

    Best Headphones for Mixing

    We shortlisted 10 popular cans, tested them, and carefully considered how they might affect your mix.

    Soundstage and Stereo Image

    The soundstage is a deep, narrow space. The center channel feels far forward. Although the soundstage is not as wide as Beyerdynamic DT 1990 or 990 headphones, it never feels limited to a small space between the ears.  

    The pan across the center with the HD 600 reveals some gaps between the immediate left and right of center positions.  Imaging in competitive models like the Hifiman Sundara or the Shure SRH1840 is more accurate than the HD 600.

    HD 600 VS HD 650

    The HD 600 headphones are the precursor to the HD 650. The design is now identical with different colored model numbers (The newer HD 600s are the same charcoal gray as the HD 650. Thankfully, they ditched the hideous shiny, marbled, blue-and-black, 1990s look). 

    The sound of the HD 600s is geared toward accurate, critical listening. The HD 650(and 6XX) have a similar sound signature to the HD 600s with more bass emphasis and a smoothing of the top.  

    To my ears, the HD 600 always wins in this match-up. The HD 650’s boosted bass presence and treble roll-off get in the way of what these headphones do so remarkably well: deliver truly natural-sounding reproduction.

    Alternatives to the Sennheiser HD 650

    Open-back

    AKG K702

    Best value reference headphones out there.

    AKG K-702 Headphones

    Hifiman Sundara


    A bargain pair of planar magnetic headphones, with outstanding transient response.

    Hifiman Sundara Headphones

    Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro

    Another tough competitor in this class. Excellent, wide soundstage.

    beyerdynamic DT 990 Pro headphones

    Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

    A class up from the HD 600. More bass presence and a more extensive soundstage.

    Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro thumb

    Closed-back

    Neumann NDH 20

    If you need sound isolation and can afford to splurge, these are a very fine closed-back option.

    Neumann NDH 20 headphones

    Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro

    A great set of closed-back cans with a satisfying soundstage. Ideal for tracking.

    Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro Headphones

    Conclusion: Are the Sennheiser HD 600 worth it in 2022?

    The Sennheiser HD 600 proves that newer is not necessarily better. If you’re in the market for reference headphones, you won’t be disappointed by these.

    You can forget you are wearing these because they are so lightweight and comfortable. Similarly, the sound of these classics is so well-balanced that they feel easier to listen to these for long sessions than other headphones.

    Other newer headphones in the same price range might outperform the HD 600 in some categories, but what the HD 600 still has going for them is how natural sounding they are.

    HOW WE TESTED THE Sennheiser HD 600 HEADPHONES

    As a reminder, we test everything on this site ourselves.

    These headphones were tested under controlled conditions in a sound-treated room and also in a noisy household environment.

    Don’t believe any ‘objective’ measurements you see about headphones! The shape of your head and ears alone will have a significant effect on frequency response and other factors. Therefore, all headphone reviews are subjective, this one being no exception.

    Our comparisons for the Sennheiser HD 600 headphones were limited primarily to other open-back planar magnetic and dynamic driver headphones in the same class. Although we did directly compare a few closed-back and consumer headphones just to keep our ears honest.

    In addition to testing these headphones on music of all styles, we conduct extensive clinical tests on frequency response, dynamic range, driver matching, harmonic distortion, binaural tests, wiring, and stereo imaging.  

    Our rating assumes that you value sound quality above all other factors, followed by comfort/build, then price.

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