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Sennheiser HD 600 Audiophile Headphone Review

by Wayne Myers

MSRP: $399.95 -- Street Price: $399 -- Available from Amazon and Newegg

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Sennheiser HD 600 Review discussion thread.


The Sennheiser HD 600 Audiophile Headphones have been around for quite a while, and, if you count all the reviews posted by individuals in various places on the web, have been reviewed a gazillion times. That is just an approximation, of course.

Why review them again? Because they are still, after close to 20 years, one of the best sets of headphones you can buy, and are a good reference point for comparison. As we launch the Home Theater Shack Headphone Roundup, the HD 600s present a good anchor point for this upcoming series of headphone reviews.


The HD 600s are an open-backed, around-the-ear design. At introduction, they were Sennheiser's finest headphone offering, and their accurate yet easy-going sound made them a favorite among serious listeners and recording and mastering engineers and musicians. All too often, standby products like the HD 600s get upgraded or replaced, but with the 600s Sennheiser has wisely stood by their design. That design is durable and highly modular - almost any part can be easily replaced, yet they rarely need to be.


  • Extremely lightweight aluminium voice coils ensure excellent transient response
  • Computer-optimized magnet systems minimize harmonic and inter-modulation distortion
  • Neodymium ferrous magnets for optimum sensitivity and wide dynamic range
  • Detachable OFC copper cable, Kevlar-reinforced, with very low handling noise
  • Diaphragm optimized using laser interferometry, no standing waves; undesirable diaphragm distortions are virtually non-existent
  • Excellent wearing comfort due to the elliptical shape of the ear pads
  • MSRP: $399.95
  • Street price: $399

Here is a link to the Sennheiser website.


Sennheiser states the frequency response of HD 600s as being flat. It turns out that there are different techniques for measuring headphone frequency response. The two curves below, the first from Sennheiser and the second from an online review source, illustrate the differences that can arise. Sennheiser's "diffuse field measurement" is admirably flat. The second curve shows the slight downward high-frequency tilt that most listeners report.

Measurement Graphs

Sennheiser's published frequency response curve for the HD 600s.

Frequency response for the HD 600s as measured by an online reviewer.

Also worth noting is the impedance for the 600s. Nominally 300 ohms, it peaks at well over 500 ohms at the resonant frequency of 100 Hz. The 600s, as is usually the case with high-end headphones, really need a good headphone amplifier to sound their best, one with a specified near-zero output impedance (under 1 ohm) to fully tame that resonance point.

I got a kick out of the pictorials that Sennheiser used to portray the HD 600's specs in one of their publications. You can see it in the drop-down area below, along with a more conventional spec list.


Sennheiser's published specifications for the HD 600s - the new fun way.

Sennheiser's published specifications for the HD 600s - the old boring way.
  • Frequency response: 16 - 30,000 Hz, -3 dB; 12 - 39,000 Hz, -10 dB
  • Frequency characteristics: diffuse field equalized
  • Ear coupling: around the ear
  • Transducer: dynamic, open
  • Impedance: 300 ohm nominal
  • Sensitivity: 97 dB at 1 mW
  • Power handling: 0.2 W
  • Distortion: less than 0.1%
  • Cable length: 3 m, straight, Y with L & R connections
  • Connector: 3.5 mm with 6.3 mm adapter
  • Weight without cable: 260 g

General Impressions

Sennheiser headphones definitely have their own look, and the HD 600s, with their black and gray mottled finish, stand out as unique. To me it is a very elegant, attractive look that says they are something special, and probably expensive. Which, of course, they are. Being fairly durable, you can read online about people using them as their "knock-around" headphones, but that would not be my choice. They remain stay-at-home cans for relaxed listening in the comfy chair or for duty as reference phones.

Their fit is a little tight, but the ear pads are comfortable enough that I am able to forget about the pressure after a few minutes. The effectiveness of the headband padding helps.

Their sound is as smooth as a baby's bottom. They are smoooooth-sounding headphones. The frequency response tilt is just enough to give a laid back-impression, to make them easy to listen to for long periods, and yet retains all the high-frequency detail you could wish for. They sound good soft and they sound good loud. They sound good with any kind of music you can throw at them.

Individual Test Scores

Measurement Methods

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

  • Test Scores
    • Very-High-Frequency: 9
    • High-Frequency: 8
    • General: 10
  • Weighted average (x1, x1, x2): 9.3
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
  • Test Scores
    • Bluegrass track: 8
    • Funk Band track: 10
  • Average: 9.0
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
  • Test Scores
    • Cymbal, loud track: 10
    • Bass, loud track: 10
    • Cymbal, quiet track: 10
    • Cymbal, loud track: 10
    • Strings, loud track: 9
  • Average: 9.8
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
  • Test Scores
    • Deep bass track: 8
    • Lows track: 8
    • Mids track: 10
    • Upper-mids track: 9
    • Highs track: 10
  • Average: 9.0
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x2
Frequency Response
  • Frequency Response Profile: Tilted
  • Test Scores
    • Deep bass track: 10
    • Lows track: 10
    • Mids track: 10
    • Upper-mids track: 10
    • Highs track: 10
  • Average: 10.0
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4
Overall Listening Experience
  • Score: 10
  • Weighting in Overall Performance Score: x4

Listening Tests

Imaging: 9.3 - The HD 600s have solid imaging, no smearing that I could ever hear, just a little roundness on certain sounds. And it was only noticeable during the most critical listening tests, so the 600s get high marks here.

Soundstage: 9.0 - The soundstage felt slightly compressed, perhaps even just a bit crowded on an up-close instrumental track, but very natural on a big Funk band track.

Clarity: 9.8 - The only time the 600s sounded slightly strained was on loud symphonic strings, where they came across just a bit shrill. The 600s did an excellent job handling heavy bass and the complex harmonics of cymbals together at soft and loud volumes.

Speed: 9.0 - Certain bass instruments felt a bit mushy, lacking impact. Other instruments recorded with sharp attack times, like snare drums and toms in the midrange, xylophones and triangles in the higher ranges, were delivered with a crisp sense of impact.

Frequency Response: 10.0 - Frequency Response Profile: Tilted. Frequency response seemed extremely well-balanced, never a noticeable deficiency or overemphasis on any range for any track.

Track Hopping

Back to the Beethoven Symphony, just because it sounds so nice. That edginess on the strings only appears at a fairly high volume level. The 600s handle the dynamics of most music very well.

Porcupine Tree's "Deadwing," so well-balanced, I am loving the way Gavin Harrison's up-front cymbals are handled, love those complex harmonics.

Joni Mitchell's voice on her Blue album, especially on "A Case Of You," is very warm, very intimate. The downward-tilted frequency response profile of the HD 600s goes well with male and female voices.

The Gorillaz, "Rhinestone Eyes," again I'm loving the way vocals, male and female, are handled by these headphones.

Dillinger Escape Plan, "Sunshine the Werewolf." A lot of metal music is recorded to sound just a bit harsh, with weak kick drum and bass, something I have never quite understood. But the voicing of the HD 600s is just right for it, seems to even out the tonal balance. It is doubtful that the Sennheiser engineers made listening to heavy metal a high priority for the HD 600s, but these headphones handle it just fine.

Pink Floyd's "Hey You," that big fat snare drum right in your face, as real as can be, and more nicely-recorded cymbals with their harmonics.​

Overall Listening Experience: 10 - Delightful handling of voices and percussion. Well-rounded delivery for a variety of genres.
Non-Listening Scores

Comfort: 9 - The initial impression of tightness against the sides of the head wears off quickly. Ear-surround and headband padding are very good. Nothing touches the ears.

Design: 10 - Nicely made, rugged feel, elegant look. Build quality is solid. Modular design is a big plus. The cable seems lightweight, but it is Kevlar-reinforced, and I have had no issues with wear in two years of moderate use. Left and right ground wires do not tie together until the 3.5 mm plug, a 4-wire design, minimizing channel interaction.​

Overall Performance Score: 9.6 out of 10

Other Factors - not part of the Overall Performance Score
  • $100 reference headphone: No
  • Drivable with portable media devices: Yes (88 to 90 dB)
  • Usable without equalization: Yes
  • Isolation (if closed design): n.a.


Okay, so they are not perfect. In some of these categories, where you really start picking at details, the HD 600s do not stand up to the scrutiny that some newer high-end headphones do. But for overall listening likability, they still stand very tall. And in NO category would you call them significantly weak or deficient.

The Sennheiser HD 600s are an excellent set of reference headphones, and are a top pick for critical or relaxed listening sessions.

The Pros:
  • Smooth, laid-back sound, non-fatiguing, plenty of detail
  • Solid performer in all tested categories
  • Well-accepted music industry standard
  • Elegant appearance
  • Durable
  • Modular design, replaceable cable
The Cons:
  • Some might find them to be a tight fit

Performance Summary and Overall Performance Score
  • Imaging: 9.3
  • Soundstage: 9.0
  • Clarity: 9.8
  • Speed: 9.0
  • Frequency Response: 10.0 (Tilted Profile)
  • Overall Listening Experience: 10
  • Comfort: 9
  • Design: 10
  • MSRP: $399.95
  • Street Price: $399
  • Would I buy or recommend them? Absolutely.
  • Overall Performance Score: 9.6 out of 10

Go to the Headphone Roundup Overview for scoring and comparison details.

Go to the Sennheiser HD 600 Review discussion thread.

by Wayne Myers

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