Old and New: HD555, HD558, HD598

After spending more time with the new HD558 and HD598 headphones, I begin to form a fairly solid opinion on the two of them. There are a lot of popular open headphones on the $100 range, such as the Alessandro MS1 (or the Grado SR80/SR125), the Audio Technica AD700, or the AKG K240. Although they all have their own strengths, I feel that they are not balanced enough for people looking for an all rounder $100 open headphone. The previous HD555 model had an overall good performance, but perhaps one of the main reason that makes it hard for people to enjoy is the lack of soundstage performance and open feel. For an open headphone, the HD555 doesn’t feel very open, especially when compared to the likes of the MS1 or the AD700. Hence, I’ve never been a big fan of the HD555, and I’ve preferred the AD700 or the MS1 over the Senn despite the latter two having a lack of proper bass body (even for non bassheads like me).

I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence, or if the engineers at Sennheiser have been doing some in-depth comparisons between the HD555 and the competitor models, because the HD558 mainly improves on the one factor that previously holds back the HD555 from being a crowd favorite: soundstage and a more open sound. Even if that may sound like a small improvement, the HD558 is far a more enjoyable headphone than the HD555 ever was to my ears. Also included with the upgrade is a more comfortable fit that results from a softer clamping force. The HD558 is much more enjoyable to listen to over longer periods of time, and yet it still sits fairly stable on the head. I’m guessing that the HD558 will retail on a similar pricepoint as the HD555, though being a new product, it probably will enter the market at a slightly higher price before finally settling to a lower street price.

On the first HD558 & HD598 article, I had posted a mod that was supposed to make the HD558 closer to the sound of the HD598. As with many modifications, however, when you gain some you also lose some. And the HD558 mod does sacrifice some amount of bass control, resulting in a slightly boomy bass area. Without going into too much detail on other changes with the mod, I felt that in the long run, the stock HD558 configuration is the better version, and I’ve reverted my HD558 back to the stock configuration. Ultimately, the HD598 is still the better version between the two (a point-by-point comparison between the HD558 and the HD598 can be found a few paragraphs down). The HD598, while sharing a similar construction and driver as the HD558, upscales very well as I find it to create very beautiful music with the Zana Deux. While not entirely up to the refinement of the HD650 or the HD800, the HD598 has a more lighter presentation that’s easier to enjoy with a lot of recordings.

It is interesting to note that Sennheiser created the HD555, the HD558, and the HD598 out of the same driver and the same frame design. The only thing that differentiates them, seemingly are the grill portion, and in the case of the HD555 to HD558, the construction around the driver. I think that speaks a lot of the level of expertise that the engineers at Sennheiser are capable of. Certainly, designing a grill portion that will tune the sound to a specific presentation is far more difficult than experimenting with different driver coil materials, pads, or damping methods. Imagining how Sennheiser is able to tune specifically the final sound of a headphone just by changing the holes on the grill is beyond me. The issue about the cracking headbands, however, is still a big question mark on the new headphones.

On the next page I will list a point-by-point comparison between the three headphones.

Old and New: HD555, HD558, HD598
3 (60%) 4 votes

  • what do you think hd 558 vs hifiman HE 300? Do you think the 558 is good for rock?

    • The 558 is slightly smoother overall but the tonal balance and sound signature of the HE300 is more right for a wider range of music, I feel.

  • Raiden

    Hi Mike !

    Sorry for my off topic question but what do you think about this headphone??

    Sony MDR-XB700


    Worth the money, is a full basshead headphone ?

    • It’s very nice, good bass, but I wouldn’t say it’s a full bass head headphone.
      What are you looking for?

      • Raiden

        Thanks for the fast reply,

        Well I was looking to get a new headphone dedicated for music.

        I was looking for Senn HD558 which I think is far away better than the Sony MDR-XB700 in terms of sound quality, but I’m not sure if I have the good enough “DAP” for that Sennheiser.

        I want to use it with a Desktop PC using a Creative SB X-Fi Titanium F-Pro and I listen techno/minimal, pop and sometimes rock/punk music.

        NOTE: I will like to add I never had a open drivers headphones and I’d like the bass presence


        • Raiden

          Thanks for the fast reply,

          Well I was looking to get a new headphone dedicated for music.

          I was looking for Senn HD558 which I think is far away better than the Sony MDR-XB700 in terms of sound quality, but I’m not sure if I have the good enough “DAP” for that Sennheiser.

          I want to use it with a Desktop PC using a Creative SB X-Fi Titanium F-Pro (so I don’t have a dedicated AMP yet) and I listen techno/minimal, pop and sometimes rock/punk music.

          NOTE: I will like to add I never had a open drivers headphones and I’d like the bass presence


          • Raiden,
            Have you auditioned the two headphones? Or are you just making an assumption that the 558 is going to be better than the XB700?

            • Raiden


              No, I didn’t had the chance, I’m just assuming.

              Looking for your advise…

              • The XB700 is actually pretty good and IMO fits modern pop music better than the HD558. It is not a bass head headphone IMO.

  • jack

    hi can you please tell me which are better in sound senn 558 or AKG K 240MKII?

    • Apples and oranges. The AKG is very accurate and detailed, somewhat lacking in bass response, excellent for monitoring live sound or recording. The Sennheiser is more for listening enjoyment, it is less accurate, but has better imaging and soundstage, more bass, somewhat rolled off high end to make long-term listening less fatiguing.

      • jack

        thanks for the reply, thats the thing i wanted to know, thank you , i need a headphone for home listening, for relax, not something that has overpowered bass like the DJ headphones do, i owned the 240MKII i realy loved them, but i decided to return them becase they were not much comfortable on my head , i had senn 518 before and they fitted me much better so i decided to look on these. I am just searching for a litle more fun sound than the 240 have and for diffrent comfort. Sry for my eng.

  • Ryan Yang

    Hey Mike I wonder if it worth the extra dollars to get 598 when I only use them for watching movies on my laptop/iPad. And which one’s more comfortable and suitable for extended hours. Thanks a Lot.

    • Just go for the 558. Sound signature is better too for movies.

  • What would be a better HP all around for Rock/Pop/Indie the 558 or 598? Thx

  • moos

    Thanks for the review Mike!

    I’m still not decided yet, so if you would help me I would really appreciate it. Which one would be better for gaming / movies? 558 or 598?


    • 558 should be better

      Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

  • Pingback: Sennheiser HD558 – Review | Bala's Blog()

  • Arthuryae

    I’m going to get either the 558 or the 598, so far I’m leaning towards the 598, but I’ve heard it can be heard from across the room easily. I like to be the only one who hears it when playing piano, but I don’t want to give up the sound quality (I really love bright sounding headphones.) What do you think? Will it be easily heard from a distance?

    • Trent_D

      As someone who has an open-backed Sennheiser, there are times when the music is almost as loud on the outside as it is in my head. They don’t leak sound, they pour it. Plus, if I were you, I would want more bass with piano music. The hd598 is suppose to be a bit light on the impact. The recently reviewed Soundmagic 100 is closed, and might be a good option.

      • Arthuryae

        I definitely don’t want closed beck headphones, I have open ones (that are just about broken) now and I like open ones way more. Say, for example, I were listening to a podcast or something, could the words be clearly heard from 10 feet away?

        • Trent_D

          I don’t think so. Not a podcast anyway. But, if the 5×8 series is anything like the 6×0 series, it isn’t a good headphone to listen to if other people have things they want to hear in the room.

          • Arthuryae

            Yeah, that’s not the case. Thanks for the help!

  • Bobby

    Hi mike,
    great review by you.i am really confused between two models hd558 and 598. Both are great headphones but Iam unable to decide which one should i go for.I need a little help in choosing,which one would be better for music/gaming/movie.Should i spent extra amount of dollars( if u sugggest me 598 ) for a small difference between them.give me suggestion based upon my usage.

    thanks in advance..:)

    • Bobby,
      The 558 should be better for gaming music and movies.

      • Guest

        So Mike, what are 598’s kind of best for?

        • The 598 has a more airy hi-fi sound with less bass, compared to 558. So the tip from Mike was good.

  • Kevin Lee

    hey, i have the ath m50 and hd 558. Which type of music are these cans best suited for?

    • dalethorn

      I think jazz and classical are safe bets. Some pop music, and rock and metal, can have hot sections especially with bright percussions, and the M50 can be a bit treble-peaky with some of that music. Sennheiser 558 should be similar to the 600, at least in the treble curve, yes?

      • donunus

        the 558 is brighter than the hd600. They are much more immediate sounding although less refined and slightly more peaky sounding although they are still very smooth. I love the 5xx series.

  • Lezhonka

    I have Sennheiser HD558. I want to use it to listen to my music on my iPhone 6 and iMac. Should I get an applifier/DAC to bring it to full potential? If yes, what portable setup would you recommend to a newbie?

    • You could get the low-cost ($300 USD) Beyerdynamic A200p DAC with headphone amp, or one of the several portable DAC/amps that are iPhone compatible that cost $700 or more. But while some of those may work with the iMac, they won’t give the best results with high-resolution music.

      • Like Dale Says, I wouldn’t invest in a high end Cypherlabs righ for that headphone. Just get an iphone/apple compatible dac like the A200P

    • For that kind of combination, I think the very good choice is some Fiio amp. E12, for example! It’s about 150$.

  • jott

    Hey Mike,
    do the think the HD598 would be a good choice for me?
    Currently im testing the Philips Fidelio L1 and like its smooth, warm sound but the bass-presence is too much for me, even if metal/rock/alternative are my favourite music genres.