Sennheiser HD 598Cs Headphone Review: Yes! Detailed, Comfy, and Nice-looking. What more could you want?
Sennheiser refreshed their lauded HD 500 series earlier this year, introducing the 559, 569, 579, and 599 models. Of these, the 569 was the most interesting to me. Why?
I know that Sennheiser is perhaps most famous for their advances in open headphone technology. I’ve heard open Sennheisers in the past, and they’re quite good. However, I prefer closed headphones for most of my listening. I like the privacy they provide, I like them for production, and I like to be able to take them on the go without disturbing others.
So, the 569 seemed built for me. I held one in my hands at Fry’s electronics a few months ago, right after launch. But I couldn’t do it. Why?
It uses the same glued-on headband pad that other lower-end Sennheiser models used, and on my 558’s this pad eventually detached through normal use.
Then, I discovered the Sennheiser HD 598Cs, a stealth headphone release that came out at the same time as the other models above, but as an Amazon exclusive. You’d think from the name that it’s just a closed-back 598…but it’s not that at all. Yay weird naming conventions?
It has ear pads and drivers borrowed from the 569. It has a headband pad inspired by the 579 that’s lower profile than the standard 598 pad, and made from soft padding and stitched leatherette. (I confirmed for myself that this is all indeed true!)
Its retail price is $249, and it has been going on sale every few days. The lowest price so far is $99.
This is a killer headphone for $99, and I’d still have been happy at $249.
I love it and it is good.
First of all, I have to give credit where credit is due: Metal571 on Youtube has a lengthy review where he does a brilliant job of describing the sound of these, so if you want a perfect, technically-minded look at how these sound, please watch his video.
I will add my own impressions here.
The signature of these immediately reminded me of the Audio-Technica MSR7, and that’s impressive for the price. The upper mids are the star, and are right at the edge of fatiguing. Like I said in the MSR7 review, it can feel at first like the mids are stabbing you in the face. But I like a good strong midrange. Treble is a little more laid back, but still nicely present and listenable.
Coming from a company often derided for having a “veiled” sound signature, these are a nicely-detailed listen.
The bass is present and well-rendered, but you won’t feel it in your chest. It’s enjoyable, but not strong enough for the most extreme bass lover. It’s a cooler, brighter headphone overall, with enough bass to not sound tinny or unnatural.
Soundstage is pretty great for a closed headphone. I’ve spent a lot of time with the M50X recently so I could write a stupid article, and the soundstage here blows those out of the water. It’s not as good as an open headphone of course, but there’s still a good sense of depth and expansion around your head. Imaging is good too, and these would be decent for gaming.
Overall, the sound here is great and stacks up well against many of my favorite headphones. I’d be totally content with this being my only pair.
The design is very similar to the classic 598, but with a new, lower profile headband. The original 598 headband used little bumpy air cushions to sit on your head. The 598Cs features one flat cushion under a stitched leatherette cover. It’s great! It’s far more robust and pleasant both in look and feel than my earlier 555’s and 558’s. I love the headband. It’s also used on the new HD 579 open headphones.
If you’re a fan of metal parts in your headphones…you will hate these. They are an all-plastic build. Even the headband extensions are plastic. This helps keep the headphones light, and the plastic feels sturdy. Thank goodness. The exclusive use of plastic is the one thing that would make me slightly leery of playing full retail for these…if everything else wasn’t so great. I don’t forsee any durability problems with these as long as you use some care. But I’m also not one of those guys that bends headphones just to check their strength. (I love Jim’s videos, but that part always makes me cringe).
Padding on the ear cups deviates from the normal Sennheiser velour. Instead, it’s a weird suede-like material that covers what seems like a very nice memory foam. The pads stay pretty darn cool over time, and the comfort is excellent on my big stupid glasses-wearing head. It’s one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve worn.
The cloth on the ear pads attracts dust easily, but they’re simple to wipe off. The headphones come in black. They have an overall understated look and won’t make you look stupid in pubilc. I wouldn’t exercise in them, but they’re perfect for a walk/commute/coffee shop.
The new padding and closed-back design combine for a headphone with really good isolation. They isolate as well as studio monitors I’ve used in the past. I’m so happy that Sennheiser nailed this. It would have been easy to just hastily rework open headphones into closed ones without thinking about isolation, but that’s not the case here. Good stuff.
The 598Cs comes with two locking cables: one four foot cable with a 3.5mm plug and one button remote and mic, and one ten foot cable with a 6.3mm plug that I didn’t unwrap and put into storage. I don’t like ten foot cables, and I don’t usually like 6.3mm plugs as most of my gear is 3.5mm, but it’s nice to have in case I ever need it. The locking mechanism is identical to the one on Audio-Technica’s M series, so third party M50X cables will also fit these as long as the stem is thin enough.
The new drivers featured in the 598Cs and 569 are custom-designed for these closed-back models, and not shared with other 500 series headphones. Their impedance rating is a mere 23 ohms. You could power these to loud levels with just about anything. Frequency response is rated at 10Hz to 28Khz, for those of you who like to read those specs in a review.
You don’t need a special amp for these.
Aside from the two cables, there are no other extras in the box. The packaging is nice, and has plush foam padding inside to protect the headphones. No manual is included, nor is there any kind of carrying bag. The headphones don’t fold down at all, which is kind of a bummer, but typical of Sennheiser 500 series models.
My box was marked Special Edition…not sure why. Maybe because it comes with two cables? I suppose it implies they could develop different colors or versions of this down the road.
At $200, this would still be a great competitor for other models I enjoy like the Audio-Technica M50X and MSR7. It doesn’t have the portability of those models…but it matches or beats them on basically everything else. At $99, this headphone is an exceptional value, and it’s no wonder that it’s selling so well on Amazon. Don’t expect absolute bass canons, and if you’re put off by the sound initially…give your brain a little time to adjust. Or pull the mids down a bit with an EQ. :)
I love this headphone, and I’m glad I took a chance on it. I’d recommend it over the 7506 and the M50X for pleasure listening, especially if it’s on sale. You could get away with doing monitoring work on these, though the 7506 will better highlight hiss and hum.
I’d recommend it over the MSR7 and WS1100iS if you’re looking for excellent comfort. It matches the comfort of Bose headphones. It’s a great gaming headphone. The included mic on the mobile cable will work with consoles through their controllers.
The only thing that could make this headphone better in my opinion is a folding feature.