Sennheiser HD 599 SE Review

Sennheiser HD 599
Sennheiser HD 599
Specification
Design
Open backed circumaural
Driver Size
38mm
Driver Type
Dynamic
Impedance
50 Ohms
Sensitivity
106dB SPL
Weight
250g
Cable
3m 6.35mm / 1.2m 3.5mm
Accessories
6.35mm – 3.5mm adapter
RRP
£180 / $200
Our Score
4.6

The Sennheiser HD5*9 headphone line is Sennheiser’s consumer-focused entry-level-audiophile range of headphones and the Sennheiser HD 599 is the top headphone in the range. The version I have here is the HD 599SE which is an Amazon exclusive version of the HD 599 with an all-black (with silver accents) colour scheme versus the standard Sennheiser version which has an ivory and brown colour scheme. Apart from the colour scheme, there is no difference between the HD 599 and the HD 599SE. The Ivory colour scheme of the original is certainly a love it or hate it affair and the HD599SE’s all-black design is sure to be a winner for most people. I paid £89.99 during the Black Friday sales. However, the usual retail is between £150 – £180.

The build of the Sennheiser HD 599 is almost entirely plastic. This is somewhat of a contentious issue for some people. Many are worried that the plastic build would make them fragile. Some feel that the plastic build is toy-like. Frankly, these concerns are unwarranted, the HD5*9 and the HD5*8 range before it are some of the most well built and durable headphones around. They are very tough, very durable and extremely flexible, you would have to try very hard to break an HD5** series headphone. I also think that the instant dismissal of this headphone for its plastic construction is rather short-sighted and somewhat elitist. This is far from a toy-like headphone, this tough plastic construction and leatherette headband has a rather quality feel to it.

The headband has very comfortable and reasonably deep padding on the inside. Combined with the low weight of 250g, I never find I get any discomfort from this headband at all.

The headband adjuster has plenty of range and the earcups have a small amount of vertical and lateral movement for comfort’s sake. The chassis itself is extremely flexible and should be able to fit any head size or shape with ease.

The velour earpads are not memory foam or anything however they are rather soft if not especially deep. I do prefer the memory foam earpads from the HD598Cs or HD569. However, these are a close second. The earcups do have plenty of room for your ears, although some with larger ears may find they touch the inside. Inside the earcups, the driver is angled towards the ear.

Clamping force, however, is also really quite light, even as a glasses wearer myself I never felt any discomfort whatsoever from these headphones. In fact, I would go as far as to say these may be the single most comfortable pair of headphones I have ever worn. More comfortable than my old HD558.

The Sennheiser HD 599 is supplied with two cables. One 3m straight cable that for some unexplainable reason terminates in a 6.35mm jack plug. This is also supplied with a 6.35mm female – 3.5mm male adapter. Sennheiser has been supplying this cable with the HD5** series headphones for many years and I really wish they would just stop, now! For one I hate with a passion a 6.35mm female to 3.5mm male adapter as they are far too bulky and have too much leverage over the 3.5mm connector. In my opinion, Sennheiser needs to drop this design in favour of a 3.5mm with a screw-on 6.35mm adapter. Thankfully the cable itself is very soft and flexible, no silly stiff and microphonic braiding here. Also, Sennheiser has included a 1.2m straight cable that terminates in a 3.5mm mini-jack which goes some way to redeeming the 3m cable. However, what I would really like to see is Sennheiser finally embrace the coiled cable. I think for the price of this headphone a third coiled cable wouldn’t be too much to ask for.

Let’s talk about how easy they are to drive. At 50 Ohms and 106dB SPL they are reasonably efficient so source power isn’t too much of a big deal. These should be fairly easy to drive off of a computer built-in audio or mobile phone with ease.

Sound:

The Sennheiser HD 599 is really a rather refined headphone for what would be considered a lower-tier mid-fi headphone by modern standards. The overall sound signature and timbre is very natural and very much the typical Sennheiser house sound, not too dissimilar to the HD600 or HD650.

Unlike the HD600/HD650 both soundstage and imaging are excellent on the HD599. They sound impressively open and reasonably wide, certainly one of the better performers when it comes to soundstage. Imaging is also really rather decent, unlike the 3 blob effect that you get with the HD650, there is a noticeable amount more detail happening in the corners. For this reason, I think the HD599 make absolutely excellent headphones for competitive gamers.

Let’s go into a bit more detail because I’ve been back to back testing these with the HD6xx and frankly I’m blown away by how good the 599 sounds.

Bass

Bass is what I would call a lean-neutral bass. Very similar to the HD650 but perhaps a little bit stronger, a bit warmer but only a touch. I do find that kick drums have a little more energy on the 599 than the 650 for example.  As a Harman target fan would prefer to see a stronger low/sub-bass performance than this. But really only because the sub-bass is quite rolled off very similarly to the HD650. That’s not to say the bass it isn’t quite present, powerful and articulate where needed. There is certainly an excellent level of clarity, detail in the bass, but this isn’t a bass headphone. This I find this not to be much of an issue for rock, pop, blues, jazz etc. However, for electronic dance music and hip-hop etc, whilst I do find them really quite enjoyable, they are a little bass light for these genres, they lack that slam and thump of a headphone with full extension. That is about par for the course for an open-backed dynamic driver headphone, however, if you are looking for a more bassy open-backed dynamic headphone the X2HR, as much as I criticised it as an all-round headphone, would probably be a better choice or look to a closed-back headphone instead.

Mids

Mids are fairly neutral up to 1kHz, very similar in shape to the HD600/650 however with a little more energy in the low mids and a little less in the upper mids. This does give snares a touch more energy than on the 650. Vocals not quite as forwards but they don’t sound recessed, they have a sweet and smooth quality to them. Smooth is perhaps the best way to describe this headphone as a whole.

Treble

Treble is respectfully restrained but decently detailed, with a slight bright tilt vs the HD650. Perhaps closer to the HD600. Sure, detail retrieval isn’t quite as good as on the HD650 but I only really noticed that when A/B-ing them back to back. In fact, if I didn’t have the HD6xx here to do this direct comparison I would be really incredibly impressed, even more so than I am already. Whilst they are a touch brighter than the HD650, this is bright done right, this is not at all piercing and there is no unwanted harshness.

HD 599 MiniDSP Measurement
MiniDSP measurements for the HD 599. Disclaimer: The MiniDSP measurement rig is not an industry-standard measurement rig. Graphs are shown for illustrative purposes only and are not to be taken as 100% accurate.

Price and value

Let’s talk about value and alternatives then. I paid £90 for these on sale and for this price, I think these are probably untouchable. Alternatives in this price range are a used HD558 or HD598 which both can be had for fairly cheap. On the new market you are looking at the DT990 or AD500x I haven’t reviewed those so I can’t comment on that. There is the X2HR when that goes on sale, which whilst it is a much less refined headphone with a grainy and peaky treble it does have a decent bass performance. But really there isn’t much if anything, in my opinion, that comes close to the value of the HD599 for £90.

So what about the normal retail price of the HD599? Bear in mind they RRP at £180 but can usually be found for around £150. This puts them in the same territory as the 58x, K712 Pro, the fantastic DT 880, AD700x and not too far off the price of the HD6xx which as I write this is going for $195. Now I can’t speak for the suitability of all of these options, but it’s fair to say that it’s a very competitive price point. Your decision then may hinge on whether or not you already own a headphone amp as not having a decent source is potentially going to rule out several of these other options.

So is the HD599 worth it? For the sale price of £90/$100 these are an absolute no brainer, especially if you are a gamer and value superior soundstage and imaging. For the price of £90 these are simply in a league of their own. However, for the very competitive price point of the usual retail of £150 – £180, there are a fair few other options to consider and I would urge a lot more research before taking the plunge on any headphone in this price point.

Conclusion

This is a headphone that with some patience can be had for an incredible price that puts it into a league of its own. The overall presentation of this headphone is a somewhat a mix between the HD650 and HD600 albeit with a little (almost unnoticeably) less detail retrieval and a slightly brighter but also slightly more bassy and slightly warmer signature. There is also a significantly increased soundstage and imaging. There is a lot to like about the HD599, they are an incredibly balanced and well-rounded headphone. Make no mistake, any upgrade beyond the HD599 and you are already into the realms of diminishing returns.

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Sennheiser HD 599
Sennheiser HD 599 SE Review
Comfort
Build
Sound
Value
Reader Rating3 Votes
Pros
Excellent comfort
Light weight
Good looks
Excellent soundstage
Excellent imaging
Balanced sound signatuire
Cons
Poor cable options
Not quite as detailed as Sennheisers higher end headphones which is to be expected
4.6
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