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A hand holds the Sennheiser HD 599 in front of a window with greenery.

Sennheiser HD 599 review

Open-back headphones with a bit of oomph.
By
July 6, 2022
7.5
Sennheiser HD 599
The bottom line
For casual listening at home, it's difficult to beat the comfort of the Sennheiser HD 599 for long sessions. Its open-back design offers almost no isolation and limits where you can use it. For the price, the build quality is average with a lot of plastic, but the removable cables prolong the life of the headset.

Sennheiser HD 599

For casual listening at home, it's difficult to beat the comfort of the Sennheiser HD 599 for long sessions. Its open-back design offers almost no isolation and limits where you can use it. For the price, the build quality is average with a lot of plastic, but the removable cables prolong the life of the headset.
Release date

October 15, 2016

Price

Original: $249 USD

July 2022: $149 USD

Dimensions

3m (cable)

1.2 (cable)

70 x 45mm (ear pad internal)

Weight

250g

Model Number

‎506831

Waterproof

No

What we like
Very comfortable
Decent bass for open-back headphones
Removable cables
What we don't like
Some distortion with loud volume
Frequency response is not ideal for all music
Adapter is clunky
7.5
SoundGuys Rating
8.2
User Rating
Rating Metric
Our Rating
User Rating
Sound Quality
9.3
10.0
10.0
Bass
8.6
6.3
6.0
Midrange
9.7
-
0.0
Highs
9.6
-
0.0
Durability / Build Quality
6.7
-
0.0
Value
6.9
-
0.0
Design
7.4
-
0.0
Connectivity
6.5
-
0.0
Portability
2.9
-
0.0
Feature
6.5
-
0.0
Comfort
8.3
-
0.0

It can be hard to find headphones that add bass to music without entering skull-shaking territory, but not anymore. With a foot in the camps of both audiophiles and general consumers, the HD 599 seeks to please many listeners, ranging from headphone to music enthusiasts. Can it pull off this hefty task? We tested the Sennheiser HD 599 for two weeks to find out.

  • Music fans who like open-back headphones and prefer (high) bass and midrange emphasis to their music will like the HD 599.
  • Anyone looking to invest in headphones for at-home use will appreciate the comfort and removable cables with different lengths on the Sennheiser HD 599.

What’s it like to use Sennheiser HD 599?

On a wood surface the Sennheiser HD 599 lays on its side showing the cable with pots and window in the background.
How you feel about metal flake earth tones, and whether they suit your decor might play a role in whether the HD 599 is right for your home.

Available in a divisive pearlescent ivory and brown colorway, the Sennheiser HD 599 suggests a retro-futuristic vibe. The ivory is almost the exact same shade as early 1990s beige PC towers with a sheen, while the shape and lines are more modern.

Build quality seems average, with a foam headband covered in brown vinyl, and notched size adjustments. The HD 599 is made mainly of plastic and sports removable velour ear pads with 70mm x 45mm clearance for your ears. These ear pads feel like the midpoint between the stiffer, rougher AKG K702 and the deluxe Beyerdynamic DT 900 PRO X. Clamping force feels secure—not tight and not super loose. Aiding in a comfortable fit, each headphone swivels slightly on horizontal and vertical planes, but does not fold. All of this in combination with the heat-regulating open-back design mean I can wear the Sennheiser HD 599 for hours at a time.

A man on a couch rests his head on a pillow while wearing the Sennheiser HD 599 and looking at a phone.
The HD 599 is a rare example of over-ear headphones you can wear while horizontal without ruining the fit.

For a fuss free experience, you ought to use the Sennheiser HD 599 in a quiet space at home. The long cable allows you to hook it up to your computer or home listening setup, and sit across the room relaxing. You can use HD 599 for critical listening, but you may find the sound is not studio grade enough to rely on it for accuracy. This is totally fine—most of us listen to music for pleasure and not for work, after all.

Included with the 250g headset are two removable cables and an adapter from 1/4-inch to 3.5mm. The thicker 3m cable terminates in a 1/4-inch jack and the skinnier 1.2m cable has a 3.5mm jack, and you get a somewhat clunky 1/4-inch-to-3.5mm adapter too. You basically have to give the cable a quarter turn to unlock the cable’s TRS connection to the HD 599 to swap it out.


Does the Sennheiser HD 599 have good isolation?

The Sennheiser HD 599 isolation performance shown on a chart
The HD 599 dampens a small amount of high frequencies, but on the whole it blocks very little.

If you want isolation you will need to consider closed-back headphones. Open-back headphones are like the ultimate transparency mode: you hear your environment and everyone hears your music. You’ll want to listen in your private office or while relaxing on the couch without others around. Most of us do not have ideal environments. Even when I’m home alone, I can still hear the neighbor mowing the lawn through the HD 599 if my window is open.

How does the Sennheiser HD 599 sound?

Our house curve compared against the Sennheiser HD 599.
There’s approximately 5dB exaggeration at 200Hz, early roll off below 70Hz, and a slight over-emphasis between 4kHz and 7kHz. Finally, a significant drop in volume above 10kHz ensures those extreme high-frequency details will be comparatively quiet.

Paired with the right source material, the 38mm dynamic drivers make the HD 599 sound good. However, the frequency response we measure deviates from our consumer target curve, which we consider to work best for the majority of source material and listeners. There’s a sizeable volume bump where the low mids meet with the bass frequencies. While Sennheiser imbues the HD 599 with a favorable curve in the highs (i.e., it’s sort of close to our ideal before 10kHz), the exaggerated low-mids and bass can make that added treble clarity and detail get lost, especially above 10kHz.

You can still hear upper harmonics and overtones, but you might find the uppermost octave to be lacking, especially during very complex tracks. It also depends on your source material, because this curve works just fine with some genres like electropop or new wave.

The Sennheiser HD 599 rests on top of an audio interface with the 1/4-inch cable held in a hand inserting it into the headphone output. A wrapped 3.5mm cable rests nearby.
You get two cables with the HD 599. One terminates in a 1/4-inch jack and measures 3 meters, and the other terminates in a 3.5mm jack and measures 1.2m.

It’s unusual to find a set of open-back headphones with bass exaggeration, as those frequencies tend to get lost with open-back designs. The HD 599 does indeed roll off the sub-bass, but it exaggerates where a lot of bass instruments reside.

No, your ears have a much more limited range of hearing than the headphones’ stated output range. Also note that there’s no tolerance specified here, which means that the transducers will output some energy to the extremes of this range, you just won’t hear a lot of it.

Our frequency response chart shown above gives an accurate representation of the real-life response of these headphones when placed on our acoustically representative test head with realistic ear simulators.


Lows, mids, and highs

A close up of a man wearing the Sennheiser HD 599 holding the ear cup.
The HD 599 skimps on the highest highs and the lowest lows at the extremes of your hearing range.

Listening to The Rock by The Aluminum Group, vocals come through clearly with the keys. The kick drum thumps with a good amount of volume. The bass guitar could be a little louder, especially on the lowest notes. Finally, cymbals and snare suffer from some inaccuracy that makes them slightly “hollow” sounding. For reference, this comparison is against the KZ ZSN Pro X, which has more volume above 10kHz and follows our ideal closely through the mids and bass. In contrast, the male vocals, piano, horns, and strings, which make up the majority of the song, sound pretty good.

Trying a shoegaze track with high vocals like Sweetness and Light by Lush, the guitar volume seems too loud relative to everything else, while the soprano vocals are overwhelmed by the guitars (even for shoegaze). Cymbals crash too quietly relative to the snares, though percussion overall is at a good volume. Meanwhile, the kick drum is audible, but the bass guitar is far too quiet. It’s really tempting to turn up the volume to better hear parts, though I’m aware I will only hear more guitar. This sound is not horrible but leaves room for improvement.

Chart shows the equalizer suggestion for the Sennheiser HD 599.
One thing to keep in mind is that pushing the volume on the sub-bass frequencies can lead to distortion (THD) with this headset.

Above is a good starting place to tweak the EQ on the Sennheiser HD 599. Take your favorite equalizer and basically turn up the lowest and highest frequencies, and turn down between 70Hz to 1kHz, and 3-8kHz. Conversely, just download our Wavelet EQ settings and give that a whirl.


Should you buy the Sennheiser HD 599?

A close up photo of the Sennheiser HD 599 resting on its side on a turquoise surface with a TV in the background.
With its comfy headband and ear cups, the HD 599 is a good companion for relaxing at home.

Not quite audiophile-grade and not quite consumer-oriented in sound, the Sennheiser HD 599 occupies an unusual space where it ticks a lot of boxes, though not all. For the price (around $150 USD) it does a good job of feeling super comfortable, and has some frills like removable cables and ear pads. Those of us who don’t like “V-shaped” frequency responses, but do like a little more bass and midrange emphasis than what studio headphones offer will mostly enjoy the sound of the HD 599. You would not want to mix music on it, but it’s great for binging Netflix.

However, if you don’t live alone or have a room sequestered away from family or roommates to listen in private, the HD 599 has some limitations in its use. This is true of all open-back headphones, but even so, it bears mentioning because the HD 599 is already a sort of niche product. I would not hesitate to recommend the HD 599 for fans of popular music, with the exception of fans of Beats-style headphones or folks who want very neutral headphones. Liberal use of equalization will really make this comfortable set of headphones shine a bit brighter.

The Sennheiser HD 599 product shot shown in the ivory colorway.
Sennheiser HD 599
All prices listed in USD unless otherwise specified. Prices may change over time, and vary by region. Unfortunately, we cannot list Amazon prices on the site, as they vary greatly by currency.

How is the Sennheiser HD 599 SE different from the HD 599?

The Sennheiser HD 599 SE in black/silver against a white background.
Sennheiser The only difference between the Sennheiser HD 599 SE and HD 599 is the paint.

The Sennheiser HD 599 SE is just a black/silver version of the HD 599. Other than the new paint job, you get the same two cables and the same set of ear pads as you’ll find with the standard HD 599. The HD 599 SE from Sennheiser retails for $199 USD, but the company will slash this by 50% from July 12 through July 13 for Amazon Prime Day (limited to Canadian and US markets). For those two days, you’ll be able to nab the Sennheiser HD 599 SE for just around $100 USD.

If you’re interested in more Sennheiser deals, the company is doing something similar for its beloved CX Plus True Wireless earbuds.

What’s the difference between the Sennheiser HD 599 and Sennheiser x Drop HD 6XX ?

The Sennheiser HD 6XX headphones in black against a blurred out blue, shimmering background.

While you might look at the names and think the Sennheiser HD 6XX is one number higher, so it must be better, you’d be mistaken as these two headphones do not have quite the same purpose. Though nobody can blame you for inferring a similarity through Sennheiser’s naming scheme, the HD 6XX, unlike the HD 599, is meant for critical listening.

In everyday terms, the HD 599 excels at casual music and media consumption, while supplying a comfortable fit. In contrast, the HD 6XX offers a more “flat” frequency response designed for critical listening and mixing audio. You can listen on the HD 6XX for fun as well, but its studio-style sound will be notably more subdued in the low frequencies, even though both headsets have a sub-bass roll-off. The highs, particularly above 10kHz will be more audible on the HD 6XX as well.

Charts shows a comparison of the Sennheiser x Drop HD 6XX and the Sennheiser HD 599 compared to our ideal consumer frequency response.
Though not exaggerated for consumer headphones, the HD 599 is a less accurate headset than the HD 6XX.

Besides these case use differences, both headphones are open-backed with primarily plastic builds using velour ear pads. The HD 599 edges ahead in comfort, as the HD 6XX can feel tight after an extended session. Both headphones have removable cables but use different connections. While the HD 599 requires a single cable with a TRS 3.5mm locking end into the headset, Sennheiser ships the HD 6XX with a Y-split cable with a two-pin connection to the headphones. The former is actually a less obstructive solution, but harder to replace. Finally, the Sennheiser HD 6XX may need a headphone amp to really access its potential, while the HD 599 does not.

What are some alternatives to the Sennheiser HD 599?

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x features more bass, and closed back ear cups. It’s suitable for listening to most kinds of music, and it isolates significantly better than the Sennheiser HD 599. The fit of the ATH-M50x is reasonably comfortable, though, not as forgiving as the HD 599. On the other hand, the closed back design means it’s more versatile in less than ideal environments. You can also try its optional hardwired or Bluetooth friendly counterpart, the ATH-M50xBT2.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M50x from the side with the headband expanded to show the metal notches.
Built of mostly plastic, but the ATH-M50x has metal where it counts.

For an open-back alternative, the Philips Fidelio X2HR boasts a fairly neutral frequency response, and it’s comfortable for folks with glasses. This relatively accurate-sounding headset means what you hear is basically representative of how the audio is mixed. Like the Sennheiser, the Philips Fidelio X2HR possesses the same limitations of open-back designs including virtually zero isolation. The classic aesthetic of the Fidelio X2HR comes with a heftier mass at 380g, but it also has memory foam pads to distribute that weight.

Frequently asked questions about the Sennheiser HD 599

Sennheiser appears to market the HD 599 as a kind of budget audiophile headset. Given that audiophiles tend to develop their own tastes and usually have multiple pairs of headphones, the HD 599 can fill a niche. It is not objectively the most accurate, or the most consumer-focusedset of cans, but it has a specific high bass and midrange emphasis that can appeal to some people looking for that sound quality.