Sennheiser headphones have long been characterized by an overall darker sound – with plenty of emphasis on the low end, while the mids and highs often vary from one model to the next. The brand new $249 HD 599 is no exception to this trend, though as always, the devil is in the details. So, poised between such sonic staples as the HD 598 and HD 600, does this headphone deserve your hard-earned cash?
Sennheiser HD 599 Review
The HD 599 comes in your standard Sennheiser box. Inside, you’ll find the headphones, two removable cables, a 1/4’’ to 3.5 mm stereo adapter plug, and some nifty literature.
Construction-wise, the headphones are mostly plastic, but they still feel as solid as a pair of 598s – these could probably take quite the beating. That being said, the plastic construction does cut down on the weight, while also reducing the kind of clamp we often see on heavier headsets. A thick pleather headband and velour earpads carry the comfort one step further.
The 599, like the 598 and 600, features an open-back design. And be warned, the bleed is real, folks.
Frequency Range: 12-38,500 Hz
Impedance: 50 ohms
Sound Pressure Level (SPL): 106 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD): < 0.1%
As we can see from these specifications, the HD 599 packs an impressive frequency range with ample highs and lows. The impedance, remaining relatively low, easily recommends this headphone to mobile listeners, though it may benefit from slight amplification. Sound pressure and harmonic distortion are about as to be expected for the price, and the sound should be both clean and of ample volume.
No surprise when it comes to Sennheiser, the low end on the HD 599 is solid. Detail is decent, but the strength of the low end seems to overwhelm the mids in some tracks. Bass impact is clean and precise, with no noticeable bleed.
The midrange is definitely decent, but borders on almost awesome at times. While most of the frequency range is accurate, there does seem to be a little bit of compression in the upper mids. Female vocals don’t suffer too much, but male vocals seem pinched and weighed down.
I used to think heaven was the sound of Vanessa Carlton’s voice. But now I know it’s Vanessa Carlton’s voice filtering through the high end of the Sennheiser HD 599. So rich in detail, the high end sometimes seems to verge on piercing – usually when dealing with strings, but never actually becoming piercing. Overall, the high end isn’t too bright, with everything kept nicely in check.
The soundstage on the HD 599 sports some decent placement, but lacks the kind of depth we’ve seen with the HD 600. While instruments seem to occupy definite space around me, the sound seems a bit too close – almost oppressive, but not quite.
With a rich, dynamic sound that delivers the goods, the Sennheiser HD 599 is an impressive bit of engineering. Despite the slight compression in the upper mids and the just-okay soundstage, these headphones are still a no-brainer for any rock or hip hop fan.
Should you fork out the bills for this one? If you’ve been searching for an impressive dynamic sound with plenty of highs and plenty of lows – and the HD 598 just didn’t cut it for you – I’m willing to bet you’ll love these cans. To my own ears, they sound just a tad cleaner than the 598, but don’t tell the fanboys I said that.
If an even-to-flat sound is your cup of tea, though, you’re better off opting for the slightly more-expensive HD 600 – for a clinical sound, the 600 reigns supreme.
A total swish and a fine addition to the Sennheiser lineup, the HD 599 has easily replaced the older 598 in my headphone lineup. If you can afford the entry fee, and you can find a store that’s stocking these bad boys, I think you’ll love it too – provided you are willing to forgive the imperfect mids and soundstage in exchange for a transcendental low and high end.
How do we rate it? Gold, baby, GOLD!
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