Sennheiser’s New HD558 and HD598

Just when you thought that the review is done, there is yet another page where I’ll tell you how to do a HD558 to a HD598 conversion.

The problem with the HD558 mainly lies in the fact that it doesn’t have as full of a midrange as the HD598. If you like things simple, you can just get the HD598 and instantly get the better sound. Of course, when these things hit the stores, the two of them may differ from anywhere to $50-$90 (just a rough guess). So, for those of you who dig black color, or want to save some money, here is how you can turn the HD558 to a HD598 twin brother (very close, but not quite a 100% identical).

First, gain access to the inside of the housing assembly by removing the pads, then the three screws that holds the driver assembly to the housing.





Opening up the HD558 and the HD598, I noticed that the two drivers looked very similar. And looking at the part number, they are indeed identical! Then I moved my attention to the housing. The housing construction is mostly similar, with the biggest difference being the black rubber tape material in the middle of the HD558 driver screen. So I tried to remove that. After removal, you’re left with a very similar housing screen that differs slightly in their honeycomb structure. I left the rest of the housing intact, and installed back the housing and the pads.


So how does it sound? Removing the black tape material gives the HD558 the boost in midrange that it didn’t have before. It’s almost similar to the HD598, except that the HD558 now has just a tad more midrange than the HD598. Just a tad more, and it’s probably better in my opinion. The two headphones now sound like they are the same model but offered in different color schemes!

Update:
After more listening, I can outline the main difference between the stock HD598 and the modded HD558. The HD598 is slightly brighter sounding, and the treble feels more open with more linear extension to the top frequency. I don’t know why this is so, considering they have the same driver, the better housing construction of the HD598 doesn’t get in the way of the driver potential of showing a more open treble. On the other hand, the modded HD558 has slightly more bottom end body for a weightier vocal and more punchy bass. I think the advantage of the modded HD558 will be more beneficial for the majority of music listeners, while the more open HD598 treble only for instrumentals and classical listeners.

The soundstage performance of both headphones are very similar, and also very good. While the HD650 still has a wider soundstage and slightly better separation, the HD558/598 has a better integration between the left and right soundstage and an added depth in comparison to the HD650 soundstage. Though the HD650 still ultimately gives the better feel of the ambiance, I just want to show that these two new headphones from Sennheiser are very good performers.

I also think that the old mid-fi soundstage king that is the AKG K501 has also been dethroned. Compared to the HD558/598, the K501 still has a bigger soundstage, but that’s about it. The HD558/598 has a much better overall soundstage performance, giving some real depth in the soundstage where the K501 sounds two dimensional and flat. The ambiance in the recording is also much better felt on the HD558/598 when compared to the K501. And when talking about frequency balance, again the HD558/598 just stomps the K501 with a more musical presentation and a better bass and midrange (I’m using the Grace m902 which is one of the few amp that can give the K501 a “proper” bass, but it still comes out fairly lacking). Technology does progress to the better.

  • Sigmundsartre52

    Dear Mike,
    I’m new to  the audiophile scene and have recently been introduced to the music of jazz labels such as ECM and am looking for a pair of headphones which can cater to this sort of music. My budget is low but the 558s are within my grasp. Would you reccomend these headphones for jazz and classical music as well as rock and acoustic music?
    many thanks

  • Yjbb86

    It seems that it’s hard to find a downgraded model from HD650, which has the similar sound signature as HD650. I love HD650 a lot, laid-back and dark sound for extended listening. Always show the full picture of music, soul of music, ideal for performing Sherlock Holmes’ soundtracks. Also I have a PXC450, with less bass performance, good in detail and space. But it has no soul compared with HD650.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes indeed it is.

      The Goldring DR150s may be close to what you’re looking for, but the fidelity factor isn’t quite the same as teh HD650.

  • Chris

    Hi Mike, Thanks so much for this site and all your writing and answering of posts. I just found the site fairly recently, and I’m really impressed.

    I’m seriously thinking of getting the AT AD900 (replacing my AD700) but after reading about the Senn HD598 am wondering if that would be a better choice. Imaging, instrument separation and soundstage are very important to me. I listen to all kinds of music–classical, jazz, rock, folk. Bass is least important to me, good mids (involvement) and air are much more important. Detail is nice up to a point, but too much will make much of my music harder to listen to. Any thoughts about these two and/or any other phones for less than $300?

    Thanks

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Chris,
      May I ask you to read the AD-series review? It has some points, especially on the section about soundstage. Let me know what your impressions are afterwards. http://www.headfonia.com/audio-technica-ad-series-ad300-ad700-ad900-ad1000prm-ad2000/

      • Chris

        Mike, I had actually read that comparison and found it to be very interesting. I agree with you as to the soundstage of the series (or the AD700 anyway) that it is spacious, instrument placement is ambiguous and at least on the AD700 the soundstage is mostly to the sides or at least not out in front, where I would prefer it to be. What threw me a little about your comparison to the HD598 were the words  “where the HD598 is significantly more closed and narrow.” Closed and narrow sound very negative to me, I picture “hallway and constricted,” although when I think about it you’re just making a comparison and could just as well have said “not as open and spacious,” as the Audio Technicas. I probably wouldn’t have balked at that description.

        I guess my real problem is, I truly like the AD700 and would love it if the AD900 which addresses one of the AD700′s slight shortcomings with a little more body, also addressed the imaging/depth issue. It seems it doesn’t. Unfortunately I don’t live anywhere near civilization so I can’t compare headphones in person, which means I can’t find out what I’ll have to give up (if anything) by going with the HD598. And I’ve yet to see a Sennheiser/AT comparison; if you or anyone has seen one please point me to it.

        Thanks so much for your response.

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Chris,
          I think the issue here is that we are so used to associate good soundstage with a wide open sound.
          The comparison between the HD598/558 and the AD700/900 is the perfect comparison to discuss this. With the Audio Technica, you get a wide open sound, but there is no proper soundstage image, no three dimensionality, no layering. With the Senns, the sound is more closed in, not as wide open, but the soundstage image is very accurate and very three dimensional. So the bottom line is if you’ll ask me which has the best soundstage, it’s the Senns. But if you ask me which has the more open sound, it’s the Audio Technicas.
          Then there is the usual discussion about tonality, which has the better body and so on. Generally speaking the entire AD-line up is about giving an airy sound, not about mid or low end body. On the other hand Senn has always been putting their money on mid and low end body. At the end it’s up to the individual to choose, which sound presentation fits their music better.

          • Chris

            Well, I decided to get the HD598. I went back over your reviews of the HD558/598 and noticed a phrase I hadn’t notice before. You said something like; these phones were born of a marriage between AT and Senn. That and the fact that a refurb pair was available for $150 sold me.
            Thanks again.

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              You’re welcome, Chris.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703051780 James Park

    Would it be sensible to buy this headphone or the fiio e17 first? I have the UE triple-fi, and an old sennheiser HD 438, though the sennheiser is kinda quiet when im listening to it on my iphone. I usually listen to rock, k-pop, r&b, hiphop, and ballads (though im not sure what the specific genre is supposed to be named, but thats what they call it in korea…). Basically I’m wondering if it would be sensible to buy the Fiio E17 first or the Sennheiser 598 first.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi James,
      I’m not sure if the HD598 is suitable for your music. Kpop, R&B, and such. Actually, I don’t think it is. The rule as always is to find the correct headphone first, then add the amplifier after that.
      Try looking at our Headphone Recommendations page for now: http://www.headfonia.com/full-size-headphone-recommendations/

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703051780 James Park

        I’m actually not sure which genre I usually listen to since i tend to listen to completely different types every few months. What i DO want to find right now, is a headphone/earphone that sounds a bit sweeter on the vocal part of The Noise EP album by the Weeknd.(its not a typo). I use the UE Triple-fi almost all the time, and they’re really good, but i feel unsatisfied on the vocals. so.. Any suggestions?

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          James, 
          I’m not too familiar with the Weeknd, but the HD598 has one of the sweetest vocals around.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703051780 James Park

            Awesome. HD598 it is. Nice to finally offset the UE triple-fi with a nice headphone. btw, I’m curious about the amplifiers. Is it a necessity or an option? and if it is a necessity, which one would you suggest? I was thinking about a portable one since i usually listen on the go. 

            Thank you Mike! This site is pretty awesome.

            • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

              Hi James,
              The HD598 is pretty easy to drive, but the rule with big headphones is to always add an amp. Even a simple portable amp would work.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=703051780 James Park

            great. I’ll look into some portable amps. Though, I’m not sure if i can find them easily since I’m not used to living in korea :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/valerio.longo2 Valerio Longo

    Hi. from my experience of headphone modder i can say that the brigther signature of 598 is given by the metal grills (this happen in my  pioneer se a  10o0 when i remove metal grills, more middles and less treble, and a more open bass)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks Valerio.

      I didn’t think the grill material on the HD598 and HD558 is any different, just a different hole structure.

      • http://www.facebook.com/valerio.longo2 Valerio Longo

        Yes they’re different! :) I have now under my eyes  a HD 558 and i can assure you that there is only a plastic grill covered with  a thin cloth… while in hd 598 (that I have not but i saw open,  I have an HD 595)  there is a metal grill.
        Sorry for my english but I’m italian 
        Have a nice day :D

        edit: to be precise there are 2 grills in hd 598, one inside, plasticous, vere large, and one outside , metallic

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Alright, Valerio. I haven’t used them in a while, have to double check, but I believe you. ;)

  • Linzoz

    Mike,  Thank you for your excellence review and comparison of the 558/5968 Sennheisers.  Thanks also to all those who have posted their comments on their experience with the 558/598 and the modded version.

    I have just bought the 558s without having the opportunity of hearing them (no nearby shops with Sennheisers on trial), and my immediate reaction was that while the sound was excellent, the sound was no where near as spacious as my old HD500s.  The HD500s do not have any rubber to block the rear grill. Now since the whole idea of open headphones is to increase the spaceousness of the sound, covering the holes and reducing the “openness” did not seem to make sense to me.  So,  I had no hesitation in  modding the 598s. 

    The results of the modded version of the 558s to my ears was,
    * a much more spacious sound.  (It sounds like my head is swimming in a sea of sound – much like one actually experiences at an orchestral concert).
    * the base was much reduced
    * the mid range significantly increased
    * the left- right definition reduced.  (I found the left right definion on the unmodded 598s too strong for my liking.)

    I am very happy with the modded 558s.  I should mention that I am 64 years old and  I have some  reduction in my hearing that is typical for my age group.

    Cheers,
    Lindsay.

  • Kirk Keepseagle

     I have HD518 that has exact same part number on driver and looks identical to your pictures. In fact looks exactly like HD598 on the inside of cup with milleninum falcon window design except black plastic and no tape and plastic outside grill not metal outside, perhaps the big picture is that Sennheiser use’s same driver solder board but different voice coils that make the difference.
     That being said my HD518 sounds somwhat muffled compared to my other phones, soundstage is ok but alot of120-250hz midbass, lowmids, detuned 2khz-6khz and somewhat sparkly 8-10khz. My Grado SR60i sounds more in your face brighter with 100hz tight bass, while these sound laid back and a little smothered in upper midrange. But overall a high quality sounding phone with a warm sound signature. Also my AT ath-m50 soundstage is about the same width as HD518 (med?) with alot brighter sound along with 110hz thumping bass. Also Klipsch S4 is brighter sound along with 120hz bass small soundstage. HD280pro no soundstage but brighter, flat, and deeper 30-80hz bass. Skullcandy Aviators are also brighter with small soundstage and nice 120-175hz bass. UE350′s are really bright 6-12khz and thumping 11ohz bass smothered mids with small soundstage.
    Thank You for your time.
    A person with 12 headphones and counting <$160. The ATH-M50's are my fav then SR60i.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks Kirk.
      I think it would be pretty confusing for the assembly line if they produced two different variants of the driver with different voice coils but retained the same part number. That would lead to a lot of mistakes on the assembly line I think, as the workers can’t tell which version should go to the HD518 and which for the higher up models.

      • Kirk Keepseagle

        Thanks Mike,
        Makes me wonder now if HD518-HD558-HD598 have same driver? With diff. backs to do specific tuning? making them sound different. interesting huh if they were the same because Amazon USA prices them at $95-$179-$249  respectivly! So a cheap generic metal mesh could be put in behind driver in HD518 to make it sound like HD598.
        Also I remember there being letters/numbers on clear plastic diaphragm/cone earside speaker, could be how they differentiate drivers on the assembly line? 

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Yes apparently that’s what they do. It’s like taking the same pair of speakers and moving them to different room with different acoustic properties. You would expect the sound to change, wouldn’t you?
          I’ve tried swapping the drivers between the HD558 and HD598 and found the sound to be the same. I don’t recall ever seeing anything different about the drivers.

          • Kirk Keepseagle

            Hello ,
            I just opened up my Sennheiser HD280 pro I bought 10/11 and the speaker does look like HD5XX series and guess what, the solder board on the speaker says 93481 B Exactly as my HD518 does but the speaker is similer design consisting of clear plastic with no little black piece near voice coil vent and no 4 holes back of speaker. So it has metal centerpiece with no 4 vents cut in paperlike cloth behind diaphragm. I still think that sennheiser use’s same speaker magnet basket but use a different voicecoil diaphragm as there are numbers/letters on clear diadphragm to differentiate and make production cost low well still being able to tune speakers for different models. And yes it is true my paradigm monitor 3  v.2 ‘s do sound a little different from room to room, house to house but it still keeps it characteristic sound signature.
            Or they have me fooled and a HD280 pro is the same speaker as HD598 with a voicecoil vent resticter (Black plastic donut) and 4 holes cut into back of papercloth on the backside to allow more diaphragm movement well restricting voicecoil cooling/movment to slow voicecoil.
            Ive heard HD 598 sounds like Grado mids well my HD 518 is not at all like my Grado SR60i’s mids. in fact 2khz is smothered on HD518 and is clear and emphasized on Grado SR60i.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks Kirk.
      I think it would be pretty confusing for the assembly line if they produced two different variants of the driver with different voice coils but retained the same part number. That would lead to a lot of mistakes on the assembly line I think, as the workers can’t tell which version should go to the HD518 and which for the higher up models.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jeff-Wu/1730243977 Jeff Wu

    Mike, which senns would you think would fit my type of music most? Because, Ilisten to music in each one of the spectrum. I enjoy my soft and beautiful classical music and the hard hitting dubstep/skrillex mix. So, out of these 2 (generally similar headphones) which should I get….or should I opt out and look for new headphones?.Also there is a high possibility I would be using these for desktop gaming. Thank you for your time Mike.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Jeff,
      Need different headphones to cover different genres well. But if you want something in between, try the HD558 or the HD600, HD650.

  • Damián Bonadonna

    Hi Mike,

    First of all great blog! I came to it reading the Fiio E17 review. As I have the HD598 I want to know the best DAC+Amp to use with it. I use my laptop and my Galaxy S to listen to music so nothing too advanced but I want to get the best from the HD598. I have a Yamaha EPH-100 that is a nice IEM too but I don’t think it needs any DAC/Amp.I understand that I need a USB DAC to provide better audio quality from the Laptop, rather than the cheap integrated realtek.

    I have a Fiio E5 but I don’t get too much benefit from it.

    I don’t want to spend more than I need but I want to buy something that last and that is not big, as I may bring it to work or use it with the galaxy. I don’t think I am going to purchase anything better than HD598, maybe some closed can in the future or better IEMs but lets say that HD598 is my higher-tier.

    At first I looked for the Fiio E10 but then I read a lot of people having problems/noise with the plug. As I will order it online and returns will cost me money I guess I discarded it.Then I went to the Fiio E17, that according to you is better than E10. But I read some comments that you recommended  the C421. It is only an amp and not DAC for what I can tell.I don’t want to spend a fortune and the price for the E17 is fine for me (although E10 is more appealing). Also a single device seems more convenient for me.

    What do you recommend that can be purchased an shipped overseas?

    Thanks a lot for taking time to read this :)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Damián,
      So the question is mostly C421 vs E17? If you’re going to be listening to a laptop, I would go with the Fiio as it gives me a good USB DAC, which the C421 lack.

      • Damián Bonadonna

        Hi Mike,

        Well those are the ones I’ve been reading. I notice the d-zero also but it seems that for you the E17 is better. The E10 maybe for a new batch is also worth considering but, it seems that again the E17 is better.

        Thanks!

        • Damián Bonadonna

          Mike one more question,

          Is the E10 + C421 noticeably better than E17 alone? We are talking about driving an HD598.

          Thanks!

          • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

            On the amplifier section, yes. On the DAC section the E10 is a little behind the E17.

            • Damián Bonadonna

              @headfonia:disqus The more I read you site the worst for my decision! :P

              If I start with the C421 for the laptop and then I add a USB DAC will I notice the difference from the start (without DAC)?

              I’m asking because of how awesome you and other guys think this C421 is. Then I guess I can add a DAC like Headstage USB cable?

              I’m really getting confused haha. Better go with E17 or C421 + some tiny USB powered DAC?

              Sorry for so many questions but you know way more than me!

              • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                I think the confusion is because there are quite a few products at that price range that offer great sound for a fairly low price.
                Here is how I would break it down:
                C421 + USB DAC (ie the Headstage cable) is a more flexible set up since new USB DACs come out so often. So if 3 months from now someone come up with a new USB DAC for a great price, then you can just upgrade that part.
                The Fiio E17 is a simpler package. For instance if I’m using the rig at a coffee shop, I’d rather have the E17 since it’s less cable, less boxes. Just one box set up and I’m done.

  • http://www.facebook.com/destroysall Chris Allen

    Hey Mike!
    Seeing as you mentioned Audio Technica, I was wondering how both of these headphones (more so the HD598) would compare to the ESW-9?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/niklas.hornedal Niklas Hörnedal

    Hi Mike! I wonder witch one would you pick for Lord of the rings soundtracks and why? Just curious :)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      558, it has the bass to cover the soundtrack. The 598 is more for acoustics, jazz, vocals, singer songwriter type.

  • http://www.frogforum.net/ John Clare

    Hey Mike, how much darker is the HD 650 compared to the 558 (or modded 558)? Thanks.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I think mostly the same, but the 650 feels darker due to the thicker bass.

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  • Mohammad

    Hi, thank you for your useful review. I hope you still answer comments here, soon. Are modded HD558 or HD598 suitable for heavier and more aggressive metal music? Unfortunately Grado, Alessandro …headphones are not available in may country, and I want an open headphone.
    Which is better for heavier metal music: modded HD558 or HD598? why?
    How is DT990 premium/pro for metal music?(I guess its boosted bass makes it not suitable for metal music)

    Thank you.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Sorry for the late reply. These two are not so good for metal. You’ll have a better pairing with the HD380PRO or Fostex T50RP.

  • http://www.facebook.com/amirhossein.mohammadi.5454 Amirhossein Mohammadi

    Hi
    How does HD598 works with portable players like Samsung Galaxy Note ? ( without any amps , straight from smartphone to headphone )

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Should run decent maybe a little lacking in loudness