COST: $299 CAD – $250 USD – Note: often on sale for much less
TYPE: Open, Dynamic, Over-Ear
DRIVER SIZE: 40mm neodynium
FREQUENCY RESPONSE: 12 Hz – 38.5 kHz
EFFICIENCY: 112 dB
NOMINAL IMPEDANCE: 50 Ohms
WEIGHT: 270 Grams
COLOURS: Ivory with Burl Wood or Black (SE Edition)
Headphone Adapter – 6.35 mm to 3.5 mm
Headphone Cable – 3-meter OFC (Oxygen Free Copper), 6.35mm with single sided 3.5 mm bayonet type connector with twist lock to ear cup
Cardboard box with plastic window
Build Quality, Aesthetics and Comfort
Drawing on the reputation of fine German automobiles, the Sennheiser HD598 offers a distinctive design focused on luxury and refinement. The unique colour combination of cream with polished burl wood accents is an opulent departure from a world of black and silver headphones. Large, chocolate-coloured, velour ear pads and a thickly padded headband complete the retro design. The shape is very reminiscent of the iconic Sennheiser HD600, while the new styling updates the classic look.
The HD598 are universally praised for being extremely comfortable and well suited for extended listening sessions. They grip firmly without clamping, are large enough to encircle the ear and the velour pads provide the right amount of cushion and avoid feeling too hot (too often experienced with leather type pads). The mostly plastic construction (with metal side grills on the ear cups) makes for a very light headphone, however the fake leatherette cushion on the headband feels a bit plastic, and does not provide a convincing leather-like feel, which hurts the luxury image a bit. In addition, while the headband cushion is made of soft comfortable foam, the height makes the whole band about an inch thick, which definitely does not make a svelte visual footprint on your head.
Size adjustment is good, with two plastic extenders hidden in the frame of the headband, and each ear cup slightly pivots for a better fit. It is worth noting that earlier production models experienced cracking in the headband around the extenders, although Sennheiser has reportedly fixed this with a change in the plastic material for this part.
Overall these are a large, chunky headphone, and do not fold, nor collapse down. Neither case, nor bag is included with the HD598, so clearly Sennheiser does not intend these for portable use.
Sound Signature and Quality
The HD598 features Sennheiser’s E.A.R. – Eargonomic (pun very much intended I assume) Acoustic Refinement technology, which uses acoustic baffles inclined at a 60 degree angle to position the small triangular transducer to the optimal listening position and to enhance the width of the perceived soundstage. The technology appears to be derived from Sennheiser’s flagship headphones.
The real star of the HD598 is the sense of spaciousness, allowing the listener to picture the depth of the room where the music was recorded, and to appreciate the separation between instruments. Overall, the sound is very balanced and clean, without distortion and with plenty of detail. Vocals are warm, and the whole sound signature is easy to like. Those looking for a more hard hitting or aggressive presentation may end up feeling a bit flat, as the HD598 presents a composed, laid back, and refined sound (picture more Bruce Banner and less Hulk).
Midrange presents a warm tone, especially with vocals. Generally the mid range comes across as natural and realistic.
Treble sounds a little brighter and more detailed than previous generation Sennheisers. Again, there is a feeling of space and clarity.
Bass is adequately textured and individual notes are retained. Upper bass and lower mid range frequencies are marginally emphasized, which is a good thing in my book. There is decent impact and power when the music calls for it.
Overall, the Sennheiser HD598 remains very true to Sennheiser’s much loved house sound signature. It provides a smooth and balanced presentation without overemphasis of bass or treble, and is housed in a very unique, stylish and retro-cool design. There is a sense of clarity and spaciousness, with real sounding dynamics and detail. An excellent value when purchased at regular price, when considered that it is often discounted on Amazon (and can be as low as $100), the HD598 provides almost unbeatable sound quality for the dollar. The next step up the line (the HD600) is usually 2-3 times the price. The HD598 is my first recommendation for those considering improving their listening experience, or those who have never heard high quality headphones before. Although somewhat difficult to drive (and they do improve with a modest headphone amplifier) they can be enjoyed by anyone with an iPod or smartphone – keeping in mind that they aren’t very mobile friendly with a long non-button cord, non-foldable design and rather large size. Having been around a half-decade or so, the HD598 is indeed a classic, as much as the luxury cars from which it borrows styling cues, and remains a terrific budget audiophile choice.