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31.5 x 25.4 x 11 cm
One of my favorite parts of high-end audio is that good tools generally don’t go out of style, even decades later. Audio has come far enough that you don’t really need to worry about how well your headphones perform past a certain point, and going farther means chasing diminishing returns. The Sennheiser HD 600 is 25 years old now, and it’s still a good buy at the right price. But is it right for you?
Editor’s note: this article was updated on September 1, 2023, to answer user FAQ.
What’s it like to use the Sennheiser HD 600?
Busting the Sennheiser HD 600 out of the box, you’ll be greeted by the headphones and cable, and little else outside of some documentation. Most high-end headphones are like this, as they’re built to do one thing and one thing only: sound good. As the Sennheiser HD 600 is built for performance, there’s no “features” to look for.
The Sennheiser HD 600 is a very utilitarian set of open-backed cans, though it mercifully avoids many of the pitfalls of some other popular competitors. Specifically, the weight of the headphones and surface area of where they meet your head means that you should be able to handle very long listening sessions without discomfort—I sometimes forget I’m wearing them. The cloth padding is a boon for glasses-wearers and those who tend to get a little sweaty indoors, as that material is far more forgiving for both than leather.
Because the ear cups are so big, those with larger heads will find a capable ally in this product. Though it’s possible your outer ear will touch the foam on the inside of the ear cups, the relative lack of pressure should be a welcome departure from headphones with super-high clamping force should you fit the band correctly. Said band is the lone weak spot in the otherwise stellar design of the Sennheiser HD 600, as it uses the same easily-compressed foam as the ear pads. Over time, these will relax and resist your head less, leading to the band putting more pressure on your head. It’s a drag, but a very common occurrence with headphones.
Though it’s not necessary, we recommend getting a stand for these headphones, as the open backs mean a higher risk of foreign object damage, and desks tend to gather a lot of dust and other debris. It will also help you keep the cable out of the way, which is a plus given how long it is.
How does the Sennheiser HD 600 connect?
Like most other high-end headphones meant for at-home listening in a dedicated space, the Sennheiser HD 600 connects to your source via a 3.5mm TRS plug. There’s also an included 1/4-inch adapter to connect to setups that use that connection standard. Having a cable might be inconvenient for some, but if you want truly lossless audio it’s a necessary evil.
The headphones’ cable is 3 meters long (just under 10 feet), which can be very cumbersome. However, if you walk around your room while listening to music, or you want to sit down a few feet away from your source, it is nice to have the freedom to move. If you feel like you’ll never need that kind of cable length, I suggest either getting a zip tie or replacement cable, as the regular 1.8 meter version that’s used with older Sennheiser headphones will fit the HD 600 no sweat. Just be sure the terminations at the top of the Y-shaped cable are the correct Sennheiser ones if you get a replacement.
Because the Sennheiser HD 600 has been around so long, there are countless bespoke cables available online for it. While we’re of the opinion that there’s no need ever to spend a lot of money on this sort of thing, cables do break from time to time. If you find yourself in this position, there’s no need to overspend or get anything special: just get the compatible cables you can afford.
...just about every single part on them is replaceable through Sennheiser or one of its many resellers.
Probably the thing I most appreciate about this pair of headphones is the fact that just about every single part is replaceable through Sennheiser or one of its many resellers. The pads, the drivers, the cable, the band… you name it. While making these repairs is not cheap, it will be much less expensive than buying new headphones. Just be sure to stock up on ear pads if you do decide to make these your “endgame” headphones, as the foam material tends to relax and fatigue over the years.
If you find that you’re hearing added noise in your music when you listen to the Sennheiser HD 600, it’s not likely anything introduced by the headphones. Usually the fix for this is to remove the job of creating the analog signal from your source and give it to a DAC. Just be aware that it isn’t really necessary unless you’re having trouble with noise or some of your music files won’t play.
Probably not, but it’s possible that your source device won’t have enough power to make the most of the Sennheiser HD 600. If you find that you can’t get your headphones loud enough, you’ll want to explore getting an amplifier. Please make a note of the below specs in your search for one.
How does the Sennheiser HD 600 sound?
Editor’s note: this review makes use of a hover-enabled glossary to describe sound quality, based on a consensus vocabulary. You can read about it here.
When talking about headphones at this end of the market, we generally talk more about what’s wrong with the sound rather than what’s right. That’s mainly because the choices made by the manufacturer are going to be the main differentiators between models, rather than any egregious errors or defects. In that light, try to understand the following as a rundown of things to pay attention to, rather than anything that will make or break your experience.
Should you buy the Sennheiser HD 600?
Headphones don’t last long on the market if they’re not good. The fact that this model has been around so long should tell you that it’s made a lot of people very happy. As far as what’s right for you, however, the waters get muddier. The price of these headphones varies wildly depending on supply and time of year—sometimes the HD 600 is a steal and other times it’s a bit tough to justify. However, this is as close to a sure bet as you get.
Of course, headphones as a high-end good have had a long time to develop since 1997, and there’s plenty of options out there—some for less money—that go toe-to-toe with this model. In that light, we always encourage people to look around before spending about $400 USD. Definitely use our best open-back headphones picks and best Sennheiser headphones articles to help you make your decision. This is a very good set of headphones, even in the face of newer models on the market. The question really then becomes a matter of economics.
What should you get instead of the Sennheiser HD 600?
Because the Sennheiser HD 600 has been on the market so long, there are plenty of challengers to it available online. Even Sennheiser itself has added many other headphones that perform similarly at different price points, so you might want to take a look at the Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX, Sennheiser HD 660S, or Sennheiser HD 560S. I’m of the opinion that the Sennheiser HD 600 outperforms all of these options, but there’s a lot to be said about how closely they perform at wildly different prices. If you don’t want to chase marginal gains, the less expensive HD 560S or Drop x Sennheiser HD 6XX should be right up your alley. Just be aware that a different company technically backs the latter set of headphones, so the warranty and serviceability will be different.
If the form factor leaves a bit to be desired, or you are someone with a larger head, Beyerdynamic’s options will probably fit you better. The DT 990 PRO or the DT 900 PRO X will be right up your alley, especially considering they preserve more sub-bass than the Sennheiser HD 600. Just be aware that while the sub-bass takes a lot of area up on a chart, it doesn’t actually represent a ton of what you hear in movies or music, so it’s not actually a huge point in favor of the Beyerdynamics, just a minor one.
Planar magnetic headphones are an interesting alternative
At this price point you’ll also be able to grab some of the less expensive planar magnetic headphones out there. The HiFiMan Sundara offers a step up in performance over the Sennheiser HD 600 at a competitive price, with the tradeoff that it’s much heavier and less comfortable than the headphones being reviewed here. Like I mentioned at the beginning of the review, this is the realm of diminishing returns—if money is a concern, pick the more affordable option.
If you go with another model of planar magnetic headphones, just be aware that these generally draw more power than the Sennheiser HD 600, so it’s likely—but not certain—you’ll need to budget enough for an amplifier as well. However, you will not need a high end amp or something that will set you back an arm and a leg—just a simple one will do.
Frequently asked questions
No, absolutely not. Don’t upgrade the cables unless you need a different termination to use the Sennheiser HD 600 with a source device.
Knock yourself out—but this pair of headphones doesn’t really need it. There’s no real range of overemphasis that needs reducing, or any dropouts that need addressing. If you do decide to equalize these, it’s to your personal tastes, mainly.
In theory, yes. However, you’re going to run into a few issues. Namely, that most contemporary phones don’t have a headphone jack. Assuming this is solved, you may run into difficulty getting a usable level with the Apple dongle, so we recommend using something that amplifies the signal instead of just a smartphone.