So You Want to Upgrade? – Sennheiser HD600

The Sennheiser HD600 is as old as I am and is still one of the best budget options in the headphone world. To my ears, these cans outperform a lot of $1000+ options due to their crystal clarity, neutrality, and excellent value. Nevertheless, even products that punch above their weight-class have their drawbacks. The HD600 isn’t the most comfortable pair of headphones. Their neutrality is also a double-edged sword. Although they’re an excellent reference headphone, they will never ‘thud’ in the way bass-heavy headphones can. For this reason I wanted to let people know about headphones with the same character as the HD600, that also improve upon Sennheiser’s iconic sound signature.

Best Reference Option – Audeze LCD-X

The Audeze LCD-X keeps the same neutrality of the HD600 with just a touch more bass in their sound signature. The reason I say this is the best option for professional use is because of their ‘medium-plus’ soundstage. These sound naturally wide, and their stereo image is accurate enough to be a useful studio tool. There’s a few additions to the neutrality which don’t hinder professionals from mixing or monitoring with elite accuracy. At 103dB/mW, these are going to be easier to drive than the HD600 (96dB/mW). Overall, these are a very clear headphone which improvement from the Sennheiser while keeping the same characteristics.


Best Hi-Fi Option – HifiMan HE1000se

If you’re an audiophile and you’re looking for ultimate audio-quality, be sure to look at the HifiMan HE1000se. Their extra wide soundstage and impressive verticality means that those listening to lossless streaming/Dolby Atmos compatible music are going to get the most out of their listening. Pairing these with a good amp are going to get some very close to endgame audio quality. What’s most exciting to me about these are the subtle bassy character, which truly fits in the neutral category. For those who like versatility and neutrality, these are a fantastic option. The extra sub-bass keeps these neutural with a slight touch of flavor to keep listeners coming back.

Closest to HD600 – Sennheiser HD800S

Telling you to upgrade from the HD600 and not mentioning the HD800s wouldn’t be an honest take at all. These are undoubtedly the closest in their neutrality, but there’s serious upgrades made the the audio quality and comfort. Obviously, the Sennheiser character remains similar between these two, and if you’re married to the sound signature, this is your best option. A bigger driver means increased clarity and heightened soundstage. A balanced 4.4mm 5 pole means that listeners are going to expect more volume and connector versatility right out of the gate.

Best IEMs – Campfire Moon Rover

The new planar-magnetic IEMs from Campfire Audio are to me, an LCD-X in an IEM package. Their bass boost take a step up in the neutral signature, but also remains clear enough to make sure all parts of a mix sing. It’s medium wide soundstage allows listeners to get everything they’re looking for from bigger headphones in a more portable package. The high-mids dip a little bit, but there’s a remaining flatness that make the Moon Rover very pleasant to listen to. Because Campfire is limiting the production to 888 pairs, I want to mention the Thei Audio Monarch MKIII. Although more of a ‘V-shape’, there’s enough neutrality in the sound to compare to the HD600 and is more available than the Moon Rover.

Campfire Audio Moon Rover side view - HD600 Upgrade

Best Premium Option – Austrian Audio The Composer

At $2700, this is going to be the biggest jump in price from the HD600 out of any on the list. If you do have the budget for headphones in this price-range, this is going to be a fantastic neutral-style headphone. Their mids are silky and smooth without the barking grittiness some mid-focused headphones have. The wide soundstage makes these a pleasure to listen to. There’s enough brightness to give sounds great definition but not enough to make sounds fatiguing. My biggest complaint about these headphones are the proprietary “banana connectors” which will make it difficult to replace cables. I’m always incredibly skeptical when companies make claims about the superiority of their proprietary connections, because the inconvenience of using these cables generally outweigh any benefits. Nevertheless, this is a fantastic sounding pair of headphones.

HD600 Upgrade

Best Closed Back – Dan Clark Aeon 2 Closed Back

Although these lean closer to a ‘V-shape’ frequency response than a neutral one, these are a great option for fans of the HD600 looking for a closed back. Typically, closed-back headphones bring more bass into the sonic picture because they let less low-end escape. Nevertheless, what’s most exciting about these is the soundstage. There’s some supplemental reverb to the sound, but overall it’s surprisingly wide for a closed-back pair of cans. Dan Clark Audio is in my opinion, making some of the best closed-backs in the field. The Aeon 2 is no exception, bringing added bass in a neutral package.

Honorable Mentions – HD600 Upgrades

I wanted to bring attention to the Final D7000 and the Sennheiser HD660S2. Although these are both vastly different headphones, they have similar characteristics to the HD600 in a lot of ways. I didn’t think that the 660S2 had a place on this list considering the HD800s comes much closer in it’s frequency response to the HD600. The 660S2 has a stronger ‘V’ than neutral character, meaning that although it’s a great headphone to listen to, it’s not mimicking the HD600. Nevertheless, it’s a great option if you’re looking for a headphone that’s close to the HD600 with some added highs and lows.

The Final D7000 is a great option for listeners who are Jazz/Classical connoisseurs, without an excessive amount of low end. On the other hand, when I listened to classic Florida Death Metal, the booming low-end did make them clip in certain ranges. Although this could be due to the way these songs were mixed, I still would choose the options above over the D7000. Just because these don’t work for me, doesn’t mean you should disregard them. All our ears are shaped differently and therefore hear different things. These may be the perfect pair for you.


The various options we have in multiple price ranges means that consumers who like the Sennheiser HD600 will have multiple options when looking to upgrade. Although the stupendous value is going to be hard to replicate, the sonic magic of the Sennheiser HD600 is present in a lot of these cans.

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