Review: Sennheiser HD599 – One Up!

The HD599 has good left/right balance and sounds spacious and airy but it’s never “too much”. The sound stage for an open design is good but it’s not as good as the HD6XX series. Depth and layering also are good but not like its bigger brothers. 3-Dimensionality could be better but at this price there is no complaining either. Speed and attack are pretty good but compared to the HD600 they’re a tad slower of course. I’ll be comparing them to the 6XX series more in detail in the next chapter but I personally do feel this is a baby mix of the HD600 and HD650, and I mean that in the most positive way possible. If you already happily own a Sennheiser 6-model you probably won’t ever get the new  HD599, but for those  – for who the HD599 is their first “better” headphone – it will impress a whole lot.

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Bass body is good and the HD599 certainly isn’t bass light. It’s not bass heavy either though and if you want more bass that simply can be done by using a more bass-minded DAP or amplifier (like the Cayin HA-1A MKII. Bass goes reasonably deep, even to sub levels, and it is punchy at the same time. It’s not always the tightest bass especially when you’re using a more on bass focused source/amp. All in all I really like the bass level on the HD599 and I’m pretty sure 95% of all users will too. It’s perfect for listening to music to and to watch movies and when needed bass will step up and be there. The HD599’s mids also have to same good body and they never sound exaggerated or too thick. The mids are extremely musical, rich and engaging and they have good spaciousness, separation and depth. Voices are also really great and just like with the bass will sound a little more upfront or in the back depending on the amplifier/source used. Mid bass is excellent as well. Treble is smooth and energetic at the same time. It might not be the most detailed or furthest extended but it’s musical and dynamic and has enough counterweight for the bass and low mids.

The HD599 has a very coherent sound signature and beside those who don’t like a smooth and warmer sound, I don’t see who wouldn’t like this headphone. Not only as a first headphone or entry in to audiophile sound, but I can see this headphone please a whole lot of experienced listeners as well. It’s fun, easy to listen to, musical and very addictive. If I have to say one less good thing about it, it would be its speed but only because I’m used to higher end headphones.

Quick Comparisons

The AKG K7XX sounds thinner especially in the mids sector and the bass doesn’t have the same amplitude as the HD599, treble is slightly livelier and further extended. The HD600 sounds faster and goes deeper and wider. It’s a more neutrally tuned headphone that wins in technicalities, speed, attack, detail and basically everything. The HD599 is warmer and smoother, more relaxed. The HifiMan Edition S in open position seems to have more bass and it isn’t as tight as on the HD599. The mids in both headphones are rich but the voices are more forward in the Hifiman where the treble also is “sharper sounding”. The Fidelio L2 is brighter sounding in the mids and treble section while the bass isn’t as tight as on the HD599. Voices also are more forward and a bit more aggressive sounding. Its big brother the Fidelio X2 is a lot closer to the HD599 but it is more expensive. The X2 wins on clarity and cleanness but they share the same warmth/darkness. This is the one closes sounding to the HD599. The Hifiman HE-400S’s bass seems to be a little lighter and it also is brighter sounding than the Sennheiser HD599. The upper mids and treble are clearer and have less body, treble is a little livelier. Unfortunately I don’t have the iconic HD598 with me at the moment but going from memory the new HD599 is sounding a little more to the HD600, losing a bit of warmth and smoothness and maybe bass but winning in clarity, detail retrieval and cleanness. Imho I do consider the HD599 an upgrade of its older brother, but they’re both still great headphones.

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Driveability & Sources

The Sennheiser HD599 is easy to drive and it doesn’t really need an amplifier but when using one, it definitely impacts the sounds immediately. The ALO CV5 and HD599 combination is magical, the light tube smoothness of the Continental V5 perfectly matches the HD599’s characteristics resulting in a smooth and engaging sound signature with great bass, sublimely rich mids and sexy voices. On the desktop sized Erzetich Perfidus you get a very musical sound but bass body is too exaggerated for me. Straight out of the Cayin i5 (USB DAC is now activated) the HD599 sounds powerful with great left/right balance, and again very rich mids. Sound isn’t as refined as with the ALO CV5 but it’s still incredibly good. Basically the same goes for the AK70, it’s just a shame we can’t test the HD599 with the balanced output of the sublime AK70. Straight out of my non-exploding Samsung S4 smartphone, the HD599 also performs brilliantly: good bass (yet a little less tight), gorgeous mids and energetic treble. Sound stage width isn’t the best but it’s a 4 year old phone as well. I could perfectly listen to the HD599 using the S4 as a source though.

It’s safe to say that the HD599 performs great with all sources and amplifiers, it simply is an easy to drive headphone that always sounds good (unlike its big brothers that all need good amps to shine)

End Words

What a great headphone. The new HD599 has moved a little closer to the HD600 but it’s kept its warm and smooth relaxing vibe. The HD599 is easy to enjoy no matter how you’re using it and what you’re using it for. It isn’t the clearest or most neutral headphone so if that’s what you look for in a headphone, this one isn’t for you. I’m pretty sure though the vast majority of people will absolutely love its tuning, whether you’re a complete newbie or experienced listener.

The only downside I can see is that the faster, more neutral and more audiophile tuned sublime HD600 is only about 50€ more expensive. It is harder to love and to drive but it technically is a better headphone. The HD650, being even more expensive, isn’t really a competitor to me. So your choice will depend on what you want to hear and what gear you already have at home. At the same time I can see people who like a warm and smooth sound prefer the HD599 over the technically better HD600. If you’re sure you want a warmer and more relaxed sound, the HD650 is always an option as well, but that headphone – which still is one of my favorites – still is quite a bit more expensive. Unless you got the HD6XX one on Massdrop for $199 like I did.

Anyhow, great job Sennheiser!

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

21 Comments

  • Reply November 10, 2016

    Barun C

    Glad to see Sennheiser stepping up their Mid-Fi sound range. I never went beyond the HD595 in the Senn HD59X line as I did not like the sound signature that much. In terms of design they have maintained the same aesthetic, which is quite typical of Sennheiser.

    Collector’s should look in to the HD 540 I,II, Gold Reference, 560 Ovation I, II if they want a headphone which can compete and surpass even the best of what Sennheiser Electrodynamic had to offer before HD 800 came along.

    • Reply August 30, 2017

      Daniel Y.

      Hi,

      I’m currently deciding whether I should get the AD900X from Audio Technica or these.
      I game a lot of sandbox and FPS and want to have some amount of immersion without the sound being too bass-light or trebly. Also, are the highs on the AD fatiguing? I’m really torn between which headphone to get and want the better all-rounder.

      Thanks so much in advance!

  • Reply November 10, 2016

    dale thorn

    I got the HD580 after a rave review in Stereophile, but lost interest after awhile because it was too distant. Then the HD600 and 650 original edition (which was essentially the same as the 600), and while they were nice, they were just too ‘sweet’ or polite etc. – boring I thought. I settled for awhile on a Grado SR325 and a Senn HD565, which were similar in sound, but I’ve never heard the current HD650.

    • Reply November 11, 2016

      Barun C

      I always thought of getting one 580, but when I found out the similarities it has with the 600, I gave it a pass. I have heard the 600 & the new 650.

      The new 650 from the Devialet 120 sounded cold, unexciting and veiled in comparison to another Senn’s I had with me at the time HD 250 Linear II (My Favorite Senn’s till date). Don’t get me wrong, the folks who like that sound signature, love them a lot. But for me it didn’t work as well.

  • Reply November 27, 2016

    Nick

    For the money, I think it’s fair enough. I’m just wondering if there are other colors for these since I’m a big fan of black colors. And surely this has noise cancelling feature right?

  • Reply February 5, 2017

    Nathan

    I’ve bought 589 before. Can you please talk about different on the 599 vs the older 589? Thanks.

  • Reply February 18, 2017

    Arnold

    The Sennheiser the HD 599 is a really awesome headphones and I have been using it for some time now! Works great, fantastic sound! BTW Thanks for the Review.

  • Reply April 14, 2017

    Juan Luis Quiroz

    How compared with dt770 32ohm???

    • Reply April 14, 2017

      Lieven

      Beyer is V shaped, the Senn is more musical, thicker and warmer. Quite different

  • Reply April 28, 2017

    Anirudh Gupta

    The HD 598 are about 100€ cheaper on amazon than the HD 599. Could someone suggest me one out of these two headphones (justifying the price)? And please suggest among these two only because HD 600 need more power to run but I want 50 ohms headphones. Thanks.

  • Reply May 12, 2017

    alex

    Let me start out by saying that it’s been quite a while since I’ve used over-ear headphones. Usually I buy in-ear headphones to go with my mobile device, but my use for these is for use with my desktop computer to replace a set of Logitech gaming headphones.

    These are pretty light and fit well on my head. The pads don’t make my head feel hot and are more comfortable than I thought they would be with the cloth ear pads, as my previous experience has been either foam or a vinyl type of pad. I like the fact that the ear pads are replaceable, but haven’t had them long enough for that.

  • Reply November 5, 2017

    Eduardo

    the HD599 is a dynamic headphone?

  • Reply November 5, 2017

    Eduardo

    I have 599 since the beginning of the year and your description on this 599 is very well explained to anyone who is interested in buying. Congratulations Lieven!
    You make it clear that it’s a really good headphone for movies (true), and are your top brothers (600, 650 ..) good for movies too, or just music?

  • Reply November 8, 2017

    Eduardo

    Is Dragonfly Black enough (power and quality) for the 599 using on the computer?

    • Reply November 8, 2017

      dale thorn

      I don’t have an impedance curve for the 599, but the 598 impedance spikes from 50 to 300 ohms around 100 hz, which means you need much more power for the bass. The DF Black will probably be OK, but if your computer uses internal replaceable sound cards, you could consider a better more powerful card instead of the DragonFly. If you have a recent-model Mac, the quality from the headphone jack might be good enough for most music. There are many variables. If I were using the HD599, I would try the DragonFly and also save up more money for a good amp.

  • Reply November 8, 2017

    Eduardo

    I understood, the dragonfly dac would be okay and would invest better in an amplifier. thank you! I’m currently using my 599 with a humble amp/dac creative E1. I do not know if the dragonfly black would be a significant improvement as dac in relation to E1. In addition to the 599 I’m going to buy another headphone, or the HD650 or HD660S, I’m waiting for your review on the 660, to know if the signature is “romantic” like the 650. If I am 650, I would probably buy the Beyerdinamic A20 for use with 599 and 650. But if I go with the 660, so far they have indicated low output resistance amplifiers so I think the A20 would not fit, but the lake people G103.

    • Reply November 8, 2017

      Lieven

      The 660 is not smooth, bassy or romantic. It is a mix between the 50 and 00. The 700 never was popular, this is Senn’s second try.

  • Reply November 9, 2017

    Eduardo

    So far in the reviews I noticed that people are, some saying that it is the 600 improved and others the 650 improved, in relation to the new 660s. But as I prefer to hear the people who really know the 650 (you!), which is the handset I’m ready to buy, I have not changed my mind about wanting the 660 instead of 650. So this new headphone does not come the deep bass of the 650? If it 660s goes over to the 700 then would the sound be brighter?
    The 650 is smooth, bassy and romantic?

    Regarding the internal part of the 650, they say that over time the sennheiser has updated to improve, so from time to time, those 650 updated so easier to drive? since it was one of the things people complained about, it would not be any amp that had the 650 power it needs.

    • Reply November 9, 2017

      Lieven

      To me it’s not an improved 600 or 650, it’s a mix of both.
      At the show I didn’t get the impression it could match the 650’s bass. And yes, the 650 needs a good good amp

  • Reply November 9, 2017

    Eduardo

    Thank you for clarifying the doubt.

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