Sennheiser just released the new HD558 and HD598 headphones, which are successors to the mid-level HD555 and HD595 headphones.
The HD558 now wears a slick, all black look, while the HD598 took an extreme direction with tan color, wood-look trims, and leather headband pad. Both headphones remain largely faithful to the Sennheiser signature which I find to be one of the most music-friendly sound signatures around.
The HD598 is clearly the more refined sounding of the two, and with a slightly brighter presentation and fuller mids, with clearer background details. People who have had difficulties in getting the Sennheiser sound should find the HD598 easier to appreciate, as the slightly brighter presentation and the fuller mids really make the HD598 a more fun headphone to listen to. Compared to the HD650, it’s evident from the superior refinement and technicalities that the HD650 is the upper model in the line up, yet the HD598 is generally the more fun model, with less emphasis on the low frequency and more midrange. If the HD650 feels out of place with alternative rock, the lighter tune HD598 actually works very well with the music of the British band Oasis. Though having a generally lighter tone, the HD598 doesn’t go over the edge with the treble, and still remains very composed and easy on the ears. It may not be as refined as the HD650 or HD800 that I’m used to listening to, but the HD598 would have a wider genre bandwith than either of the two. Apparently the engineers at Sennheisers have started to listen to alternative and indie rock music lately.
The HD558 remains a more conventional Sennheiser, when compared to the HD598. It is not nearly as dark as the HD650, but the same laid back feel is there. It’s less fun than the HD598, however, mostly because its midrange are not as full as the one on the HD598. Although overall the HD558 is a good headphone, and I like the all-black look very much, yet the HD598 is clearly the star here.