Review: Sennheiser HD598

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Famous for it's quality headphones, Sennheiser offers a range of products that suit a variety of pockets. Prices range from affordable to insane - like the HD 800 (read review here). But this review is about the HD 598 which claims to offer high caliber sound at a lower price. Just how high caliber is what we intend to find out here.
 
 
Build and Design

The HD 598 is of Sennheiser's usual high quality. Unlike most headphones in the market, the HD 598 is offered in beige, which makes it stand out in comparison to its peers. Cool quotient apart, critics will carp about the colour's tendency to show dirt.
 
On the whole, the construction of the HD 598 reminds us of a D-segment vehicle - those beige plastics, leather upholstery and faux wood bits! It's like Sennheiser got Toyota on board to help choose the colour palette.
 
The headband of the headphone offers cushioning, which is covered with a faux leather layer.
 
All these elements give the HD 598 a love it or hate it quality. While we loved it many people in our office were not that impressed.
 
Generally, looks are pretty subjective and the same holds true for the Sennheiser HD 598. Looks apart, the general build of the headphones feels pretty solid.
 
As impressive as the build quality is the fact that the headphones are extremely light and weigh only 9.5 ounces. We could hardly feel them on.
 
The ear cups were large and cozy. They were made up of micro-fiber like material with a decidedly velvet-like feel.
 
Besides this, Sennheiser also provides a 10-foot long cable which is user replaceable. The 6.3mm jack is gold plated but Sennheiser provides a neat 6.3mm to 3.5mm adaptor, which fits perfectly unlike the cheap Chinese adaptors that are available in the grey market.
 
Sound Quality
The Sennheiser HD 800, which we tested for a week or so, is certainly the gold standard of headphones but unaffordable to most at a hefty price tag of Rs 78,000. In comparison, the HD 598 aims to provide quality sound to the masses at Rs 12,500. It may not sound as epic as the HD 800 but, for the most part, it is good value for money producing lush, warm and balanced sound.
 
How to does it achieve this? Quite simply, by borrowing a lot of technology from the exalted HD 800.
 
Like it's big brother, the HD 598 gives a sense of immense space and the feeling that the sound is coming from the front, rather than the back. This happens thanks to Sennheiser's Ergonomic Acoustic refinement technology, which made its debut on the HD 800.
 
To add to rich mid-range we also get neodymium magnets, Duofol drivers and ultra lightweight aluminum coils.
 
Sound quality-wise, the HD 598 holds its own against the competition. In comparison to the Dr. Dre Monster Beats, the HD 598 provides a more soothing aural experience. While the Beats offers a gargantuan low-end thump, the Sennheiser HD 598 provides a more balanced sonic quality as it focuses on the whole sonic spectrum equally. It is also very impressive in comparison to the Skull Candy Aviators as it provides a richer sound.
 
Another impressive feature is the 50 ohms impedance, which is more than adequate to power the speakers via an iPod, though for a true sound test its always advisable to check the headphones through high quality amplification.
 
For our tests we plugged the headphones into our M-Audio Pro-fire 610, which provided an incredible boost to the sound output.
 
Our usual starting block is Sweet Child O' Mine which is well known for its sweet harmonic mid range response. Slash's searing lead riff is the signature sound of the song but often most headphones struggle to replicate the intended harmonic overtones. The HD 598 reproduces this particular facet of the sound with a great deal of panache. The vocals were crisp and the bass was pretty substantial. On the whole, it was a pretty satisfying experience.
 
Next up on our test list was power ballad Breathe Again by Alter Bridge. This song sounded absolutely beautiful on the HD 598. From the baritone vocals of Myles Kennedy to the shimmering chords of Mark Tremotti, everything sounded balanced. We must admit the sound was a tad shriller than on the Bowers and Wilkins P5, but on the whole it was very impressive. We must also note that the Bowers and Wilkins P5 headphones are a good 6K more expensive.
 
Now we decided to test some progressive metal in the form of Tool's Sober. Normally, the harsh sound of metal induces clipping and the HD 598 was no different as on maximum volume levels clipping was very evident. Having said this, we must also point out that the moment we rolled the volume down the song sounded fantastic. The chugging riffage of Adam Jones was heavy yet detailed, the oddly timed drum rolls of Danny Carey were crisp and Maynard Kennan's vocals were haunting. Overall, the song maintained immense clarity once the volume was rolled off.
 
From the word go, the Sennheiser HD 598 sounded very sweet and on the whole the headphones performed very well. While we missed the audiophile grade flat response, the colored sound for the most part delivered a thoroughly enjoyable listening experience.
 
Verdict
With its balanced sound and comfortable fit the HD 598 is one of the better headphone offerings currently available in the market.
 
While the sound is definitely colored, it is also more balanced than its competitors. These headphones are not aimed at audiophiles demanding sonic perfection but at those who just want high quality audio. They are worth every penny of the Rs 12,990 price tag.
 
Pros
Balanced Sound Quality
Comfortable design
Long cable
 
Cons

Clips at high volumes
Beige color may not suite everyone
Slightly expensive
 
Ratings:

Price: 3
Ergonomics: 4
Performance: 4
Wow Factor: 4

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