Sennheiser HD 600 headphones Sam Tellig on the HD600s

Sidebar 3: Sam Tellig on the HD600s (also from February 1998)

The Sennheiser HD580s have long been one of my headphone references, too. I had the '580s for a while, then gave them to my father-in-law, who plugs them directly into the headphone jacks of his now-discontinued Arcam Alpha 5 integrated.

The HD600s are better yet, offering greater speed and resolution. They're among the most resolving headphones I have heard, of any type.

Okay, the HD600s lack the warmth, body, and generosity of bass found with the mahogany Grados. Quite possibly, they have slightly greater resolution and speed, and maybe they're a tad more neutral. Tough to tell. When I switch from the Grado RS-1s to the Sennheiser HD600s, I hear just a little more of the environment around instruments.

The magic of the HD600s is their midrange—a purity of tone, especially when driven by tubes, that is quite special.

Because they're not overly warm or full-bodied in their presentation, the HD600s lend themselves particularly well to tube amplification. If you can't afford the $3695 for the Cary CAD-300SEI, you might consider the Musical Fidelity X-Cans, especially with its X-PSU power-supply upgrade.

According to the Audio Advisor catalog, the "HD600s' new carbon-fiber housing is an excellent absorber of energy, making sure that nonmusical resonances never reach your ears."

Interesting. Could it be that I love the Grados because of their resonances, which I certainly don't find "nonmusical"? And that I love the Sennheisers for their lack of such resonances?

The HD600s' construction quality is excellent, as is the comfort they provide. The headband bows are made from carbon fiber. The back section of the earphone chambers—or "acoustic cups," as Sennheiser calls them—is stainless-steel mesh. The drive magnets are designed for long throw, while the aluminum voice-coils are triple-wound. Wow! Much of the technology was derived from the electrostatic Orpheus project. Call the HD600s Sennheiser's trickle-down 'phones, then.

The diaphragm combines polycarbonate with polyurethane, said to stabilize the diaphragm for low mass and a linear piston motion. As John Bevier of Sennheiser USA points out, the low mass makes the HD600s relatively easy to drive.

Even when driven directly from, say, the op-amps of the RadioShack Optimus CD-3400 portable CD player, the Sennheisers never sounded sluggish or slow.

Still, with good amplification the 'phones sounded better yet: more detailed, more dynamic, cleaner and faster. With these 'phones, I especially like the Cary CAD-300SEI integrated and the Musical Fidelity X-Cans. In other words, toobs.

The Sennheiser HD600s have a suggested retail of $449, but the street price, at Audio Advisor and elsewhere, is usually about $100 less. That makes the Sennheisers a very compelling buy.—Sam Tellig

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