A short article on the Sennheiser HD598 & HD600 since a few people have been asking for it. With a difference of two integers in the model number, what can you expect from both headphones? Indeed they are a fairly close competitor, and while the HD600 ultimately still belong to the higher class of the “6”-series, the HD598 manages to land a few hits on the bigger brother’s sound signature.
Here is how the two differ:
- Build quality. Not many people like the faux-marble finish of the HD600, but it’s undoubtedly better in the overall build quality. The HD598 feels more plastic, though the tan and wood finish does seem more attractive than the HD600’s faux marble.
- HD600 has a bigger housing size than the HD598, which is evident not only from the photo but also when you wear it, there is more space for your ears in the HD600.
- Also visible in the photograph is how much more open the grills on the HD600 are. This results in a more “open” sound in the HD600 than in the HD598.
- Difference in the level of refinement. The HD598’s sound have some grain in the sound that is not present in the HD600. Better quality housing/frame also leads to a better timbre on the HD600 and less reverb and vibrations on the housing. All of these contributes to an overall higher sense of refinement on the HD600.
- Soundstage performance. Surprisingly, soundstage is much more alive on the HD598. Where the HD600 has very minimal soundstage, the HD598’s soundstage is more spacious with far more depth, and a far clearer soundstage image.
- Amplifier requirement. The HD598 upscales very well, but it’s also far lighter on the amplifier requirement than what’s needed to properly drive the HD600.
- Midrange. The HD600 has quite a forward midrange, but the HD598 is even more forward in the upper midrange section. This makes the HD598 easier to like and more engaging than the darker HD600 sound.
- Bass. The HD600’s bass is still more potent than the HD598, carrying more weight and impact than the HD598.
Mostly I’ve been listening to both the HD600 and HD598 on the Zana Deux amp. A $2000 amp for a $200 headphone may seem overkill, but I just happen to enjoy pairing anything with the Zana, from the ATH M-50 to the TMA-1 to the HD800. My point is that both headphones scale up very well, even up to the Zana Deux level. The HD598’s amplifier requirement is actually very modest, where a $300 amplifier like the M-Stage would do fine to drive the HD598, or even portable ones like the Ibasso PB1. The HD600, on the other hand, requires at the minimum something like the Burson HA-160, a $600 amplifier, to really sing.
I think the more forward upper mid of the HD598 makes more difference than it may seem on the list. This makes the HD598 more lighter in overall tune, and is able to play a wider range of genre than the HD600. Though lacking the refinement of the HD600, I still prefer the HD598 for a lot of music, mainly due to its midrange and better soundstage performance. I think an updated HD600-class headphone with something closer to the HD598’s frequency balance would be a welcome addition to Sennheiser’s line up.
Thanks to Jay for the HD600.