AKG K 550, Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250-Ohm, Sennheiser HD 598SE Headphone Review - Home Theater Forum and Systems - HomeTheaterShack.com

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Wayne Myers
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AKG K 550, Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250-Ohm, Sennheiser HD 598SE Headphone Review

AKG K 550, Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250-Ohm, Sennheiser HD 598SE Headphone Review-3together.jpg
AKG K 550, Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250-Ohm, Sennheiser HD 598SE Headphone Review

by Wayne Myers


This turned into a three-headphone review when I found myself sitting with three sets of headphones on my lap, the AKG K 550, the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250-Ohm, and the Sennheiser HD 598SE. After a few minutes with each, it was clear that all three needed to be thoroughly explored and reviewed. These headphones are not all of the same type and are not all in the same class, so it is not really fair to rank them directly against one another. Some comparisons will be made in individual performance areas.


All three models are circum-aural, completely surrounding the ear with their ear pads, and are very comfortable. The Sennheiser is the only open model of the three, the AKG and Beyerdynamic are both closed designs.

The AKG K 550 - $245.00 - price drops are common, I got mine for $160 - has been around since 2011. Its big 50mm driver has a 32-Ohm impedance and is quite sensitive, easy to drive with any common media player or smartphone. Its straight, 3 m cable is made with 99.99% oxygen free conductors, is terminated with a 1/8-inch TRS plug, and comes with a screw-on 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch adapter, swappable with the DT 770 adapter, a common design. The ear pads are simulated leather and are an extremely comfortable fit, one that is effective at locking in the music and locking out the room sound, and can easily be enjoyed all day long. I know of two sets that regularly get 8-hour workday use in a professional setting where not bothering the cube mate is a priority. They fold flat for portability. AKG addressed a personal hot-button in identifying the left and right earpieces prominently with big white “L” and “R” designations on the inner surfaces of the ear pieces where they are easy to see as you put them on and invisible thereafter. Mostly brushed aluminum with some plastic, the design is really professional looking to me, the most of the three.

The Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 250-Ohm - $199.99 - has been around since 2004. It is a diffused-field, bass-reflex design. As the driver impedance suggests, it is not an easy headphone to drive to reasonable listening levels, and will need a headphone amplifier. I reviewed it using an M-Audio FastTrack Pro audio interface, which was able to deliver plenty of power into the DT 770 for a good review, but not as much as I would want for a lot of serious listening. I also used a borrowed JDS Labs O2+ODAC. I heard no performance differences, but the O2+ODAC had more drive power. The DT-770 Pro comes with a coiled cord, a bit of a disappointment for me, terminated with a 1/8-inch TRS plug and coming with a screw-on 1/8-inch to 1/4-inch adapter like the K 550. The ear pads are velour and the fit is snug enough that it might feel a bit tight to some listeners. The headband is nicely padded for comfort. The DT 770 does not fold flat, so I would get one of the popular medium-sized hard carrying cases to protect it. The look is nothing fancy, somewhat utilitarian, but also very business-like, although most visible parts are plastic, including the two earpieces. But the name on each earpiece says all that needs to be said. Beyerdynamic, we are serious headphones, do not mess with us.

The Sennheiser HD 598SE - $98 in Black, $118 in Ivory - is the newest design of the three, having just been introduced last year. With a 50-Ohm impedance and high sensitivity, it is very easy to drive with any common media player or smartphone. Its straight cable is 3 m long, is terminated with a 1/4-inch TRS plug and comes with a 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch adapter. The earpads are velour and the fit is snug but not tight at all, a fit that can be comfortable for hours on end, The design does not fold flat, but is somewhat compact and can fit in a backpack quite easily. Most parts are plastic, except the backing over each earpiece is a metal grille with the Sennheiser logo showing through. The overall look is sleek and stylish.

Sonic Qualities

The K 550 frequency response is quite bright, with an upper-midrange peak that is at the lowest frequency of the three headphones reviewed. This is not a negative, merely a design choice that affects the presentation and sense of detail for a headphone. All three of the models reviewed here have such a peak, as do virtually all ‘phones accessible by mortals. A few models seem to escape that rule, but tend to be models that are rarely heard except by the rich and famous. Distortion is very low. The K 550 go really deep.

The K 550 have the best SS&I performance I have experienced so far from closed headphone currently in production, with a soundstage that gets out of the listener’s head faster and more convincingly than any other model. It is a rare headphone that can accomplish this illusion so well (the effect varies, is more easily accomplished for some than for others). The great Denon AD-H2000 and bigger brothers of the same series were kings of the land in this regard until the company discontinued them. A member of my family owns a carefully-guarded pair which I got to re-experience over the holidays. The DT 770 came close with their SS&I showing, but could not quite match the K 550. Imaging is exceptionally sharp and precise, and the wonderful soundstage is extremely wide and spacious. That image sharpness only enhances the soundstage-casting ability of the K 550.

The DT 770 were a pleasant surprise. Their frequency response profile approaches being flat, with even midrange and high frequencies and just a bit of a peak toward the high end of their delivery range, at a higher frequency than with the other two models reviewed. Bass response is also fairly even, but with a modest LF boost, and goes fairly deep, although the lowest registers seem rolled off slightly. Clarity in the mid and HF ranges is quite good, although not stellar - I found myself wondering a couple of times if I heard a little distortion, and discovered both of the other models to be clearer and cleaner. There is a nice sense of detail in the highest registers.

Where the DT 770 shines is its wonderful soundstage and imaging (SS&I) ability. I had the K 550 pair with me to review because they are one of the best closed ‘phones I have heard in this regard. The DT 770 came close to the same level (side note: the DT 880 Premium 250-Ohm also excel in this regard), although not quite matching the AKG model. Soundstqge is very wide and open, with very precise imaging, and the soundstage with the DT 770 moves out of the head far easier than with most headphones I have experienced regardless of design.

The HD 598SE first struck me as the cleanest of these three headphones, with very low distortion levels in the mid- and high-frequency ranges. Mid- and high-frequency ranges are well represented, and there is a slight upper-mid-frequency peak, at a lower frequency than with the DT 770 but higher than in the K 550, that brings out the inner details in most recordings. Bass response is solid, even and fairly deep, but will disappoint bass-hungry listeners.

SS&I are only fair with the HD 598SE. the soundstage is medium-wide and for me tended to stay inside my head in spite of their open design. Imaging is quite soft. One of my test tracks is mixed to mono through the opening passages, and the imaging there was very broad where it should have been paper-thin and sharp.

Listening Tests

Kurt Vile
Wakin On A Pretty Day, KV Crimes

K 550
The upper mid peak is at 7 kHz and is slightly more prominent with the K 550. Like the 770, the K 550 shove the soundstage out in front of you just enough that you quickly feel like you are hearing the sounds from a room rather than in your head. The depth of bass response is also a standout, without any over-emphasis. Practically perfect. Clean presentation is also evident, although the 598SE are the strongest of the three in this category. Soundstage width and out-of-head realism are simply unbeatable with the K 550. Imaging is razor sharp.

DT 770 Pro
The overall representation of frequency ranges is exceptional with the DT 770. This is a smooth headphone. As a temporary experiment, a +3 dB HF shelf at 2200 Hz with a 3 dB bandwidth, using EasyQ, sounds very nice. The HF peak for the DT 770 is at 8 kHz. That high-frequency bump is very modest, a little enhancer on most tracks, and does not draw attention to itself. This track is mastered softer, with some dynamic range, so percussion and guitars are quite lively. The presentation is natural and lets you focus on the music, not so much pointing out individual instruments or sounds.

HD 598SE
The HD 598SE have a very smooth presentation as well, with an upper-mid emphasis at 7400 Hz that illuminates details in recordings very nicely. Highs beyond that are a bit subdued. Kurt’s guitar string noise and little vocal and percussive details in these songs stand out but are not overdone. And all so cleeeean.

Modest Mouse
Lampshades On Fire, ____ In Your Cut, Of Course We Know

K 550
The deep, clear bass is evident here. That upper-mid peak gives a great view of the inner details on these tracks. Again the clarity is a strong factor in enjoying these ‘phones. I really cranked these tracks, and would have pulled down the volume quickly had the distortion stood out at all. It is only in a direct comparison with the Sennheiser that the a slight difference is noticeable. These are deadly-fun headphones. I had a hard time taking them off.

DT 770 Pro
There is such a nice overall presentation, so even and smooth. The DT 770 will quickly make you feel like you are being cheated by other headphones, with their under- or over-emphasis of one range or another. Vocals are very natural, there is a nice sense of detail in the high ranges with bells and tambourine and cymbals. I do wish they were just a little cleaner. The highs get almost a little congested once in awhile.

HD 598SE
The bass sounds are solid and well represented. I like a little more high end, enjoyed an added 6 dB HF shelf dB HF shelf at 2200 Hz with a 3 dB bandwidth, using EasyQ. Drums, percussion, and tambourine detail are a lot of fun. The HD 598 are easy to drive and can really sizzle.

Broken Bells
Perfect World

K 550
This is a favorite track for the last couple of years, and the K 550 present it nearly flawlessly. It is mixed wide and spacious, and the SS&I from these phones is a thing to behold.

DT 770 Pro
Wow, the SS&I are so big and natural and nice. The synth bouncing back and forth in the intro goes really wide. The hi-hat is just right, the bells and cymbals and string sounds all proper and balanced. They could maybe be boosted a little, but would need to be kept even.

HD 598SE
HF is super clean & detailed on this track. Kick drum emphasis is just right. That 6 dB HF shelf sounded nice on this track, too.

Mindy Smith
I Know The Reason

K 550
Wonderful with Mindy’s vocals. On this track I realized that I was having the most fun with the K 550 of the three models.

DT 770 Pro
The gloss on Mindy’s voice plays beautifully through the DT 770. The deep bass is very nice, somewhat emphasized but not over much, not as deep as the other two models.

HD 598SE
The laid-back, comfortable, clean presentation will make for long listening sessions.

Todd Rundgren

K 550
The sampled bells and cymbals are splatter-free and get just the right emphasis to be especially fun for me.

DT 770 Pro
The tinkly bells are nicely accented. I like the sampled cymbals on this track, they also play well. I can hear just a tiny bit of HF splatter. It is not bad, I could enjoy listening with these headphones.

HD 598SE
The bells and cymbals are so pure and uncluttered on this track. Sibilants are also kept very true and pure. Even the temporary 6 dB HF boost stays clean. Headphones with compassion.

Supermassive Black Hole

K 550
Deep. Powerful. The K 550 reach down into the depths on this track.

DT 770 Pro
Whoa, I might have been wrong about the depth of the bass. It really reaches down on this track. The DT 770 can definitely rock. But even my M-Audio FastTrack Pro does not quite have the drive I would want. A real headphone amp with hefty power rails is called for.

HD 598SE
Solid. The 598SE will rock for hours on end with their clean laid back approach. It is easy to crank them up forgetting that neighbors can hear with the open design, so take care in public spaces.

Qui Dorm, Només Somia; Super Duper Rescue Heads

K 550
So much detail to hear in these tracks, and the K 550 dish it out almost faster than you can take it in. Just the way you want it. Delightful.

DT 770 Pro
This is a great imaging demo track for the DT 770. Lots of nice little percussives in the upper-mid range, handled very well by these ‘phones. A nice sense of upper detail is evident. Wow, I got a little rush when all the instruments came in together. Fun. Nice handling of cymbals. I want it just a LITTLE louder. I could really enjoy the DT 770, the SS&I properties on tracks like this.

HD 598SE
I love these tracks on a really clean delivery device, and the HD 598SE definitely qualifies. I find myself wondering how they would stack up next to my reference planar-magnetic ‘phones back home. They seem remarkably close in profile and cleanliness. The percussive details on Qui Dorm, Només Som are particularly nice.

National Anthem

K 550
Here we go. Great presentation. All instruments on this busy track stay clean and well separated. Big, wide, spacious. Crisp. Lively. Alive. Magical? When you are auditioning a pair of speakers or headphones and do not want to stop, you know the right qualities are there, they are special.

DT 770 Pro
Here is a good clarity/congestion test track, and it plays very well. I will say again, distortion is not a problem with these phones, it is just not quite as low as it might be in the upper reaches. Always a fun track, it is a great one to finish with. Great phones to rock with, I like an even response, not a hyped response, and the DT 770 is one of the more even phones I have worked with, very nice in that regard.

HD 598SE
From the first vibrations of this track that the clean presentation and depth of detail go hand in hand with the 598SE. I find myself wishing I could compare them to planar magnetics directly. They are so super clean. Delightful.


All three of these designs are worth consideration at their price points. The DT 770 Pro would have killed it if they had been a smidge cleaner, and many will find the small amount of distortion acceptable and love their presentation and other performance parameters. The HD 598SE are great headphones at the price point, and super clean. I spent the most fun time with the K 550, with their great presentation and clean sound and a soundstage that says a real room is involved somehow. I recommend all three models for consideration.

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250ohm , 550 , 598se , 770 , akg , beyerdynamic , dt , hd , headphone , pro , review , sennheiser

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