Sennheiser HD569 Around Ear Sealed Headphones

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Finding affordable headphones is rough. There are just so many to sort through; I wish I could be more comprehensive. I encourage readers who are aware of and own really good sub-$200 headphones to contact me so that I can measure and evaluate them more broadly. Please check the listing of headphone measurements; if your cans are not on there I'd be happy to measure them. (Email with subject line "Headphone Measurements.")

Anywho, Sennheiser has been "remastering" their line-up for the past little while and I've been itching to get a little ear time on some of the more affordable models. In a marvelous turn of events, they sent me a couple of boxes filled with headphones for me to measure, evaluate, and cherry pick for for good values. Here's the first one...

Sennheiser HD569 ($179)
The Sennheiser HD569 is an over ear, sealed headphone. It benefits, it seems to me, from the fairly long development heritage of the HD5xx line of products. Trickle down at its best, I suppose.

This all-black headphone has a masculine appeal with curvaceous but understated look. Body part are matte black accented by the blacker black of the synthetic suede of the ear pads, headband pad, and an insert of similar dead black soft material in the center of each ear capsule housing. Sennheiser branding is discrete with a logo at the center of each ear housing and the word "Sennheiser" on the top outside of the left gimbal arm.

Like most all headphones in this price range, construction materials are mostly synthetic. But Sennheiser's long experience with materials shines through to my eyes and fingers. The matte black finish of the main plastic parts resists fingerprints nicely, and feel quite sturdy. The suede-like material of the headband pad and ear pads feel sumptuous.

The suede ear pad material covers a very compliant memory foam and provides a good sized oval opening (72mm x 46mm) that has good depth with a little extra space behind the rear of the pad for the outer part of your pinna. Combined with an angled baffle plate these cans should be quite comfortable for those with larger ears. With a 284 gr. weight and a really nice, ergonomic fit, the comfort of the HD569 is simply superb.

Size adjustment is provided by detented sliders the come out from the headband arch. Adjustment is easy and secure. Forward and back ear capsule rotation is provided by a swivel at the top of each bail arm. Up and down movement is done at the single bail arm swivel at the rear of each capsule housing. While rotation of these swivels are limited, they are ample to the task. I found the movement of these swivels easy, slightly damped, and completely noise free. No creaking here at all.

Accessorization is sparse. Two cables come with the headphone: a 3 meter cable with 1/4" straight plug, and a 1.2 meter cable with one-button remote terminated in a 3.5mm straight TRRS plug. Both cables are terminated with a 2.5mm TRS plug that inserts deep into the right ear capsule housing and has a twist lock mechanism. DIY and after-market cables are likely not an option. No carry case is provided...I would have liked to see an inexpensive fabric bag in the package.

All-in-all I see this headphone as a highly mature product that has significant built-in value inherited from years of development of previous and related Sennheiser products. It's rare to find a product at this price-point so surely built. Very nice.

Sound Quality
Generally, the HD569 is a fairly neutral headphone. Bass response has a modest boost giving it good weight, but extension into the lowest octave is a bit lacking and bass is mildly distorted leading to a bit of confusion and slightly lacking textural resolve compared to best in class. However, the problems are modest, and the tastefull bass level and lack of intrusion on the mids delivers a satisfying listening experience.

Midrange response is nicely smooth and integrated, and delivers a better sense of a coherent whole than most sealed cans. I hear a slight imbalance emphasizing 500Hz-1kHz a bit more than 1kHz-3kHz making vocal fundamental tones a bit stronger than their overtones, which I hear as a slight warmth and veil to voices. I'll emphasize this is slight, and I don't hear these as veiled in a significant way...but it's there.

Treble is a bit low in level, but only a bit. Resolve is modestly hazy and papery sounding. While I didn't find this a tonal issue, it did appear to significantly reduce depth of image—which is quite wide but not very deep, and tends to reside high in the head.

Dynamic punch is quite good. I didn't hear any compression to the sound. The slightly soft bass response seems to be the limiting factor here.

Compared to the ATH-M50x
The natural headphone to compare the HD569 with is the Audio Technica ATH-M50x as it's currently on the Wall of Fame near this price-point. In terms of esthetics, comfort, and build quality it's a no-brainer, the Sennheiser HD569 is easily superior.

Sound quality is a closer call and a bit of a mixed bag. Bass response is tighter, more resolving, and better extended with the M50x. Treble resolution is likewise better with a clearer character and better image depth. But the presence region on the M50x seems a bit over-emphatic and can be more forward than the HD569.

On the whole I hear the M50x as a bit disjointed compared to the Sennheiser, which seems to deliver the whole of the music in a more intact manner. The HD569 sound more like an open headphone than the M50x.

Given the fact that the M50x is now $50 less than the HD569 I tend to feel the price/performance ratio of the two headphones about the same. Pinched for money, the M50x is a good buy; if you can make the leap, the HD569 is the better headphone.

The Sennheiser HD569, while relatively new, delivers a mature and high-value experience due to its roots going back a decade and more in the Sennheiser HD5xx line. Build quality, comfort, and styling are simply superb. Synthetic suede ear pads over plush memory foam and "just right" ergonomics makes this a great headphone for long listening sessions at work without being disturbed by, or disturbing neighbors.

Sound quality is quite neutral with a solid sense of the whole of the music. Overal response is smooth and more open sounding than many sealed cans. Bass lacks deep extension and mild distortion causes a modest lack of textural resolve. Though mid-bass centric the bass is tastefully emphasized delivering an appropriate sense of weight, and doesn't intrude on the mids as so often happens. 500Hz to 1kHz is slightly emphatic relative to 1kHz-3kHz giving vocals slightly hefty character...but this is slight. Treble is slightly low in level, and is slightly hazy, which to my ears creates more of a problem with a reduced depth of image rather than tonal balance or articulation.

The Sennheiser HD569 is a solid performer delivering value on all fronts. Budget minded audiophiles, social media producers, and audio pros looking for a solid performing affordable sealed headphone won't be disappointed. It won't knock the $50 less expensive Audio Technica ATH-M50x off the Wall of Fame, but it will edge its way onto the Wall given its similar price/performance ratio, and commensurately better performance in all areas.

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Sennheiser USA
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