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Lifewire / Jason Schneider
Impressively detailed sound
Flat, natural frequency response
Comfort with long listening sessions
Lack of bells and whistles
Bare-bones build quality
If you’re a professional or an audiophile okay with a high price tag, the Sennheiser HD 600 is a pair of headphones with impeccably detailed sound and a high price tag.
Despite what’s seen in the consumer headphone space, the Sennheiser HD 600 is one of the few studio-quality headphones aimed at pros, musicians and audiophiles. The field gets even smaller when you only list open-back headphones, rather than the fully enclosed cans you’re used to. The short story on the HD 600 is that they are nothing short of remarkable, and you’ll be surprised at just how much detail they capture. Read on to see how they measured up in our testing.
The look of studio headphones is almost always secondary. For decades, these types of products have been built to look the part: professional and utilitarian. In fact, many of the most famous ones, like the Sony MDR line and the Sennheiser HD line, haven’t even been significantly updated since the early 2000s.
The first thing you’ll likely notice on the HD 600 is the see-through mesh exterior on the outside of the giant earcups. This affords you a view of the inner workings on the drivers inside. This isn’t just a cool look (though that is a happy side effect), this is because the Sennheisers are designed as open-back headphones. We’ll get more into this in the sound quality section, but this serves a purpose for letting the audio and its sound stage “breathe” a bit.
The HD 600 is similar to the pricier HD 650 in design, except for one key thing—the speckled blue/gray shell on the plastic parts. Sennheiser calls it “steel blue”. In our eyes, this isn’t the best look for a pair of pro headphones, as it comes off a little dated, but if you aren’t a fan of solid, flat grays and blacks, then this might be a welcome feature for you.
The HD 600 is similar to the pricier HD 650 in design, except for one key thing—the speckled blue/gray shell on the plastic parts.
The gigantic ear cups measure about 4.5 inches in diameter at their thickest point and are not particularly modern-looking. They sit at a backward tilting angle to give more of a sense of motion. The Sennheiser logo is emblazoned in silver along the top of the headband and the “HD 600” branding is in bright blue just above each ear cup. The ear pads are just over a half inch thick and are covered in black velvet, and there are four small foam pillows along the inside of the headband.
Finally, because the wires plug independently into each side of the headphone, you do have wires coming out from both sides of your head. Most of the design touches are standard for this class, but if you don’t like something more standard and utilitarian, this might not do it for you.
Setup is simple. Plug both the cables into the earcups, plug the HD 600 into your audio input source, and you’re good to go. Of course, for getting a good experience you’ll need a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier.
One of the most important factors in a pair of studio headphones is their comfort level. Sound quality and frequency response are both paramount, but if the headphones hurt your head, your ears, or with heavier models, your neck, then you won’t be able to wear them long enough to enjoy them. The Sennheiser HD 600 is right in the middle of the pack for comfort. On the one hand, they fit snugly right out of the box, which is nice for sealing your ears, but not so great if you have a big head. They will most likely loosen a bit over time, but it’s an important note to keep in mind.
At just over half a pound (Sennheiser clocks this at 0.57 pounds), these aren't the heaviest nor the lightest studio monitor headphones we’ve tried. But what’s impressive is because the ear cups are so big, the fit is snug and even, allowing you to carry the weight in a much more dispersed way. That means that, from a fatigue perspective, the weight won’t be a huge factor.
What will be a factor is the firmness of the foam Sennheiser used to stuff the earpads. While we do like the velvety cloth used to cover the earpads (it’s reminiscent of Beyerdynamic’s iconic take on ear cups), the foam inside seems to have a firm, dense makeup. This contributes to the tight fit, but also doesn’t offer much forgiveness for the area outside your ears. Overall, we’ll give the HD 600s passing marks on the comfort front with the caution that you may start to experience discomfort after a long period of use.
Build quality is hugely important, especially when you’re paying a couple of hundred dollars for studio headphones. You have to imagine that you’ll be putting these on and taking them off repeatedly during sessions, and if those sessions go long into the night, you’ll be putting a lot of strain on them.
Sennheiser has done a nice job here, focusing the build material where it counts, and leaving the cosmetic touches light to cut down on weight. Where we see this the most is in the metal cage that covers the bulk of the earcup construction—a feature that’s designed to take good care of the sensitive drivers inside. Even though Sennheiser has used plastic for most of the headband and casing to cut down on weight, the plastic is thick and substantial, so we have confidence that it will take some abuse.
Sennheiser has done a nice job here, focusing the build material where it counts, and leaving the cosmetic touches light to cut down on weight.
The drawback on the headband is the thin metal adjustment arm and the rickety-feeling “wobble” of the earcups on this metal part. Most earcups on headphones rotate horizontally on a swiveling hinge to better fit different varieties of ear angles. The HD 600 don’t fully rotate, just shift on their track to accommodate. This is a fine solution for wearable comfort, but it makes the connection seem slightly weak.
Finally, we come to the wiring and driver components. Because the drivers inside are so large, and seem to have quite a few layers of protective coverings, we’re confident that these headphones will last plenty of listening sessions before starting to show sonic artifacts. We also love that Sennheiser has chosen detachable cabling on each earphone, meaning that a frayed wire won’t force you to replace the entire headphone unit. The cable also feels fairly sturdy. There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to get several years of use out of the HD 600.
The sound quality of a high-end pair of headphones like the HD 600 is a complicated topic involving many factors. The first, and arguably most important, is impedance which is a measure of how much power it takes to drive headphones. These headphones use a whopping 300 ohms, which is much higher than what you’d see from consumer headphones that are mostly less than 50 ohms. This means that the headphones can handle higher degrees of amplification, but it’s a double-edged sword. You need an amplifier or at least a playback device that puts out a good amount of power to get the most out of high-impedance headphones. Basically, you won’t get a ton of volume and a much more limited dynamic range if you just plug them into your smartphone.
This isn’t surprising considering the HD 600 are meant to be used as professional, studio reference monitors. In addition to the assumption that you’ll plug them into an amp or audio interface, this also means that the frequency spectrum is much flatter than something like a pair of Beats headphones with their ultra accentuated bass, or headsets meant for phone calls with accentuated treble to bolster the speaking voice.
For the average user, the HD 600 is probably too demanding, and won’t sound great in non-amplified applications.
Specifically, the HD 600 cover 12 to about 39,000 Hz of frequency, and they do so in a very true and honest way. This is great for producers because it means that what you hear on the headphones is what your actual mix is. It’s important to keep in mind that the range is overkill when you factor in that the human hearing range is only theoretically 20–20,000. Clearly, Sennheiser wanted comprehensive coverage.
Anecdotally, these headphones did sound very clean and clear when used in the right environment (at home, in a quiet room, plugged into a headphone amp). For the average user, the HD 600 is probably too demanding, and won’t sound great in non-amplified applications.
The HD 600 isn’t Sennheiser’s top-priced reference monitors (see the HD800 for that), but they can serve as a more affordable alternative. Sennheiser list price is $399.95, but most of the time you’ll see them on Amazon for just under $300. This is in line with the competition, and even a bit more affordable than comparable options. You might get a more versatile build if you go up in price, this is a nice middle ground between the exorbitantly expensive and the mid-tier of professional, open-back monitors.
Sennheiser HD 650: The 650 widens the frequency spectrum just a bit and gives you slightly better build quality, but you’ll have to pay a bit more.
Beyerdynamic DT990: With similar velvet cups and options for a comparable ohm rating, you can get close to the HD 600’s performance with the DT990. It’s also quite a bit more affordable.
Sony MDR-7506: These are the industry standard for closed-back headphones and are a good deal cheaper with a lower ohm rating. But they won’t give you as much detail compared to the HD 600 (provided you’re using a headphone amp).