Why are these open back cans worth considering? Do they sound better than the competition? If you’re looking for a more affordable open headphone – you came to the right place! Some people even claim that they’re one of the best headphones from Sennheiser’s HD series! Are they really?
Throughout our Sennheiser HD 598 SR Review, we’ll do our best to answer most (if not all) of your questions! Rather than just tell you that they’re the obvious pick, we feel that it’s important you have all the facts before making your decision.
Since there isn’t a single pair of headphones that are absolutely flawless (at least none that we’ve reviewed so far) – we’ll show you exactly where these cans excel and a few areas that could use some improvement. Do they deserve a fair shake, or should you skip right over them and head for the HD 600? Keep reading to find out!
Sennheiser HD 598 SR Review – Hot Or Not?
Features & Technical Specs:
- Circumaural (open back) ear cup design
- Features E.A.R. (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement) for an ‘in-room’ listening experience
- Specially-positioned SYS 38 transducers utilize aluminum voice coils (for more dynamic audio/low distortion)
- Ear pads feature ultra-comfortable velour covering
- Headband is covered with soft leatherette material
- Includes 2 detachable proprietary headphone cables: 3 m (w/ 6.3 mm jack) and 1.2 m (w/ 3.5 mm jack)
- Cables utilize a twist-to-lock connecting mechanism
- Impedance: 50 Ohms
- Frequency Response: 12 – 38,500 Hz
- Dimensions: 8.1 x 4.1 x 9.4 inches
- Weight: 11.8 ounces (with cable attached)
Before you move on, take a quick look at the links below that you can use to navigate our review. Each section will provide an in-depth analysis for each individual performance aspect.
Here are the 5 most important performance features you’ll want to consider before making your decision:
- Open Back Design & Build Quality
- Comfort & Ventilation
- Sonic Performance – ‘In Room’ E.A.R Acoustics
- For Gaming – Better Than The HD 600?
- Final Recap & Rating (Out of 10)
Now that you’ve taken a quick look at the technical specs, let’s start by examining two of the most important features – open back design and build quality.
1. Circumaural Open Back Design & Build Quality
The circumaural (over-ear) open back ear cup design is known for being more breathable than most closed back cans and this pair is no exception.
Since less material is needed to build open back ‘phones, the 598 SR are extremely lightweight. There is less weight pulling down on the top of your head which is also great for adding extra comfort (which we’ll cover in more detail below).
As you would expect, the open back ear cups serve two basic purposes.
- Allow for a more spacious and true-to-life sound scape
- The extra ventilation will keep your ears comfortable (and minimize sweat build up) during marathon listening/gaming sessions
Lightweight, Durable Materials & Deeper Ear Cups
They are constructed with plastic on the outside that doesn’t feel cheap or overly fragile. There is very minimal squeaking when you hold them and slightly flex the headband.
One minor downside is that the ear cups do not swivel. They have just enough movement to make any needed adjustments until they sit comfortably around your ears.
The ear cups themselves are slightly deeper than other HD series models which makes more room for bigger ears and ventilation. Most of us have probably worn a pair of over-ear cans that didn’t quite sit all the way around our ears, which can get pretty uncomfortable after an hour or two.
Having a deeper ear cup that comfortably sits around both ears on top of a lightweight, but durable build are two of the main highlights in this area.
2.5 mm Twist-Lock Proprietary Cables
The 1.2 m cable has an in-line microphone and one-button control for answering calls. The second included cable is 3 m long and a 1/4″ jack for connecting to a DAC, amp, or home entertainment system.
Also included, is a 3 m cable (with a 6.3 mm jack) that can be used to plug directly into a DAC (like the Audioengine D1) or other compatible headphone amp.
The proprietary cables are rounded and the build quality is pretty standard. If you’re someone who likes to customize your cans (or aren’t satisfied with the cables included) you can switch them out with a replacement.
Including model-specific proprietary cables does make room for a slight possible connectivity downside.
Since both cables have the twist-lock mechanism and 2.5 mm jack – finding a replacement can take extra time and research.
For this reason, some people choose to switch out the cable for one that’s more heavy-duty. The NewFantasia replacement cable as seen below is one of the best-selling replacement cables on Amazon for the HD series headphone models.
Choosing to replace the included cables isn’t absolutely necessary, but some listeners prefer a cable that feels sturdier and heavier. (Either way, the good news is that you do have the option.)
Noise Isolation – Not Ideal For Noisy Environments
These cans provide very little noise isolation (if any at all). This makes them less ideal for noisy environments and better-suited for at-home listening.
These are not ideal to use as your go-to cans for listening in busy areas. It will take away from the overall sound quality since they weren’t intended to be used that way. Any excessive noise around you will leak into your headphones and dilute the experience.
Sound Leakage – A Few Factors To Consider
Sound will leak in, but how much sound leaks out into the world around you? It’s virtually impossible to avoid sound leakage when you’re listening with a pair of open back headphones and there are a few factors to consider.
Although completely eliminating sound leakage is impossible, the 598 SR don’t bleed out so much that you can never use them outside (or around other people).
The sound leakage is minimal enough that you can use them as a pair of walk-around cans while you’re out and about. It’s also important to keep in mind that since they are open, the noise from the outside will interrupt your listening.
As far as being considerate to other people around you, the louder you turn the volume up, the more your music will leak out.
If you have the volume at about 50 – 75%, you should be able to get away with listening in public (without disturbing anyone around you too much).
2. Comfort & Ventilation
We briefly went over the added ventilation above, but let’s take a closer look at how it affects your overall listening comfort.
Velour-Covered Ear Cushions
Each padded ear cup is covered with soft and lightweight velour. The lightweight, breathable velour covering helps minimize sweat build up.
Add the open back design to the mix and what you get is an extremely lightweight, breathable pair of ‘phones.
You can keep these on for hours at a time without needing to let your ears breathe. Even after hours of intense use, the lightweight material balances comfort and ventilation very well.
Headband Padding & Flex
The headband padding on this model is covered with a leatherette material and is arguably more comfortable than some of the other HD series headphones.
It has a decent amount of flex and does a pretty good job at flexing to adjust to the contour of your specific head shape.
The headband is also easily adjustable and fits most head sizes very comfortably. Each time you use the adjustment slide, it will make a satisfying click that further demonstrates a quality build. (Sometimes the small things can make the biggest difference.)
Headband Clamp – Too Much, Not Enough?
Comfortable headband padding is one of the more obvious headphone necessities but the headband ‘clamp’ is often overlooked.
The right amount of ‘clamp’ does two things. For one, it helps keep the ‘phones on your head if you like to move around or dance while wearing them.
Clamp also affects the level of comfort you can expect – especially if you like listening to music for extended periods of time.
The headband on this model easily has better clamp than earlier HD series models. It provides just enough squeeze to keep them firmly in place, but not so much that it becomes uncomfortable.
3. Sonic Performance – ‘In Room’ E.A.R Acoustics
So far, you’ve learned that the comfort and build quality is above average and outperforms the earlier HD series ‘phones. Unless the only thing you care about when you’re researching a pair of headphones is comfort and build quality, you’ll want to know if they have the full package.
An ultra-comfy pair of ‘phones is great, but without the sonic performance to back them up, they’ll fall short in most people’s eyes. Is there sonic performance average, above average, or excellent? Let’s dive a little deeper and hold them under the microscope.
Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement
The E.A.R (Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement) that’s built into these cans utilizes the build design to recreate an “in-room” listening experience.
What this does, is bring you closer to a live representation of the audio you’re listening to. Your music will sound like it’s playing around you, rather than completely isolating you from your surroundings.
Sound Profile – Are They Well-Balanced?
As you might expect, the open back ear cup design allows for a spacious sound profile that really opens up and expands.
If this will be your first time listening with a pair of open back cans, the audio will sound different than you’re probably used to.
Here’s one of the most common reactions from first time listeners – “It almost sounds like it’s playing from speakers”. Rather than travelling directly into your ears and making it feel like the music’s playing inside your head, it can seem like the audio is playing around you.
In most cases, that’s the ultimate goal when designing a pair of open back cans. Sennheiser hit the nail right on the head.
Watch the sound demo below to hear how they perform across a wide range of genres:
Lows, Mids, Highs & Detail Separation
These cans provide excellent detail separation and depth of sound. For casual (or critical) listening, strong detail separation is extremely important for hearing the tiniest of details on a track.
At times they tend to lean towards a darker sound profile that tends to be slightly mid-centric with slightly recessed highs and a clear, well-balanced bass response.
For Use As A Studio Reference Headphone
Although they’re not specifically marketed as studio reference headphones, there have been more than a few positive reviews stating that they outperform the Beyerdynamic DT 770.
Improved detail separation not only improves their use as a headphone for mixing, but is also especially important if you plan on using these for gaming.
4. For Gaming – Better Than The HD 600?
Although these aren’t specifically designed to excel as a gaming headset – the HD 598 SR outperform many of the most highly-rated gaming headsets.
One of the main reasons they aren’t necessarily built for gaming is due to their in-line microphone (as opposed to a mic boom). As a solution, serious gamers have added a mod mic to their setup in order to bypass the in-line mic.
Distinct Sound Effect Clarity & Separation
Their sonic performance for gaming is what really sets them apart from the group. There has been an overwhelming amount of positive feedback in this area especially.
Being able to hear crystal clear distinction between the various sound effects present during game play is essential for staying alert. It’s helpful for hearing a clear difference between the sound of another player stepping on a branch versus a gunshot in the distance.
The three dimensional accuracy that these have to offer is exactly what gamers look to hear out of a dedicated headphone for gaming.
Common Feedback For Gaming Use
Over and over again, the positive reviews from surprised gamers continue to roll in. Some players have used them for gaming sessions of more than 13 hours without experiencing any discomfort or ear fatigue.
Users of the 598 SR have stated that they even work better for gaming than the Bose QC35 and HD 600, which is an impressive performance feat – especially considering the huge difference in cost.
5. Final Recap & Rating (Out of 10)
As far as affordable open back headphones go, the HD series offer a variety of high quality options. This specific model has very few downsides which makes it pretty hard to be overly critical. They can be used for a variety of listening purposes – anything from studio referencing to casual use at home.
Their surprisingly high level of performance for gaming is an unexpected bonus, surpassing even the almost twice as expensive HD 600.
The velour-covered ear cushions, a padded headband that has just enough clamp, and a spacious sound stage with awesome detail separation all come at an incredible value.
If you can look past the inconvenience of using model-specific proprietary cables and don’t mind using a mod mic for taking your gaming to the next level, these cans are definitely worth looking into.
If you enjoy the ability to customize your headphones, whether that means replacing the cables or switching out the ear pads – you have the ability to do so.
Overall, there aren’t very many negative things to really nitpick here. For a great pair of entry-level open back headphones, it’s hard to find a better alternative that performs just as well, and in a similar price range.
What do you think? Did our Sennheiser HD 598 SR Review give you enough information to persuade you one way or the other?
Have you tried any of the other HD Series ‘phones? Did they meet your expectations, or fall short? Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below!
If you have any questions about any of the features or specific sections of this review, feel free to ask below. We always do our best to respond as quickly as we can!
Can you see yourself wearing them while you’re watching a movie, playing a new game, or checking out the latest album from your favorite band? If you answered yes, you can see the best price on Amazon here or click the button at the bottom of the review table below.
Thanks for stopping by to check out our review, we hope you found it helpful and look forward to seeing you again!
Sonic Elevation: Ride The Waves.
Sennheiser HD 598 SR Open Back Headphones
Comfort & Build9.5/10
Price vs. Performance9.0/10
- Well-Defined Detail Separation
- Lightweight + Long-Lasting Comfort
- Minimal Sound Leakage (Compared To Similar Models)
- Great Pair Of Entry-Level Open Back Cans
- Comparable To Headphones That Cost Twice As Much
- Features HD Series-Specific Proprietary Cables
- Ear Cups Do Not Swivel
- Only Available In One Color