Sennheiser’s HD 558 headphones are cans of whoop-ass

It’s rumored that if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll probably ask you for a glass of milk. They also say that if you give a geek at $250 gift card, he’s bound to ask for some FLAC audio to complement the mountain of Newegg boxes on the doorstep. Okay, maybe they don’t say that just yet—I mean, who gives a mouse a cookie anyway? That’s just asking for a rabies shot.

Recently, I was presented with a Newegg gift card and decided to take the unexpected opportunity to upgrade my digital universe. After maxing out the RAM in my ThinkPad and investing in a high-speed CF card and USB reader for the DSLR, a large chunk of my windfall remained for the pièce de résistance: some respectable headphones.

Until now, the most I’d ever spent on a head-mounted audio device was about $30 for some Sony in-ear buds. For the past couple years, I’ve been rocking a pair of inexpensive Sennheiser HD 201s, which deal-hunters can commonly score for less than an Andrew Jackson. While the 201s are a steal for their asking price, they also represented the weakest link in my computer’s audio chain. While Audio Engine A5 speakers happily project the clear sound produced by my Asus Xonar DX sound card, the 201s seemingly shrug and exclaim, "meh."

With a $200 budget, I set out to find the perfect headphones to replace ambivalence with goosebumps. I didn’t expect just how hard it would be to make a final decision.

My first stop was Best Buy—what was that groan for? While I never had any intention of making my final purchase from the retail giant, most stores have several high-end demo models available to sample. Online reviews and customer feedback are great resources, but actually hearing headphones first-hand is important when choosing your audio poison.

The first headphones I grabbed off the shelf were a pair of crimson Beats by Dre Solos. I see kids wearing the Solos all over the various airports I frequent, and I figured they must be alright. The verdict took less than five seconds: utter crap. The Solos look cool, but I’m convinced my 201s sound better. For grins, I placed the $300 Beats Studio cans over my ears for comparison. They sounded infinitely better than the red-banded Solos but were well beyond my budget. Frankly, they didn’t have the sound signature I was looking for, either.

As I moved down the rack, testing out cans from the likes of Sony, Bose, and Klipsch, I found qualities in each that I liked. Nothing really got me excited until I reached the end of the line and a pair of unassuming Sennheiser HD 380 Pros. As I flipped through the demo music, the 380s consistently produced the sound signature I was seeking: tight bass that wasn’t overwhelming and boomy, with excellent mid and high frequency response. The sound was just right, but after wearing the Sennheisers for only a few minutes, my head was already feeling the squeeze of the clamp-like headband.

I walked out of the store empty-handed that day, but the trip had not been a complete failure. I knew that I wanted to stick with the Sennheiser sound; it was just a matter of finding headphones that didn’t also pull double duty as a workbench vice. Many Google searches and countless customer reviews later, I settled on Sennheiser’s HD 558s and sealed the deal for $180.

The Sennheiser HD 558s are a direct successor to the 555s we use for listening tests here at TR. They have a circumaural design that completely surrounds the ear instead of resting on it. The open-back cans aren’t sealed to prevent leakage, producing sound that feels more like it’s surrounding you rather than being driven into your skull. People in the vicinity will be able to hear your music, though. You probably don’t want to bring open-back headphones into the office unless you’re at war with a neighboring cube.

Unlike on the Sennheiser HD 380 Pros, the sturdy plastic headband on the 558s doesn’t try to narrow your noggin. On my head, the 558s are just tight enough to feel secure but loose enough to be worn comfortably worn for hours. Adding to the comfort, the ear cups are covered in a plush velour material; they surround the ears instead of mashing them into the side of your head.

For most users, the 1/4" stereo plug is going to be inconvenient. I have to install the included 3.5-mm adapter to use the 558s with any of my audio gear. Apart from A/V receivers and high-end sound cards, the vast majority of today’s devices feature smaller 3.5-mm audio ports. In my opinion, it would make more sense to have a 3.5-mm plug with an adapter that steps up to a 1/4" jack.

Trailing the connector is a detachable 10-foot cord that’s free of coils. A quick twist to the left and a downward tug allows the cable to break free from the left can. Being able to remove the cable allows users the freedom to roll over the cord with their office chairs without ruining the headphones as a whole. It also gives Sennheiser the opportunity to sell different versions of the cord as it sees fit.

When it comes to audio quality, I couldn’t be happier with the 558s. They sound similar to the Sennheiser HD 380 Pros but have a little less bass and crisper highs. The audio is clear enough that I’ve been playing a new game called "guess the bitrate" when listening to my MP3 collection. I’ve even noticed artifacts in tracks encoded with bitrates as high as 320kbps.

As I ramp up the volume, I can hear the different instruments get more pronounced, as if I were walking toward the stage. With lesser headphones, like the 201s I replaced, cranking the volume makes the overall mix louder but not necessarily any clearer. This only works up to a point; as you approach the 112 dB ceiling of the 558s, you’re really just increasing the pain, not the clarity.

After I was done amusing myself with various MP3 bitrates and deafening volume tests, I decided to see how my new headphones fared with different sources. For an impromptu test, I queued Girl Talk’s All Day album in FLAC format on both my laptop and my Xonar-equipped desktop. I hit play on both devices simultaneously and switched between them a number of times to appreciate the difference. The Xonar DX in my desktop system produced a noticeably brighter and crisper rendition of the music, while the integrated audio of my notebook sounded a little murky in comparison. Despite this fact, I still maintain that money is better spent on upgrading one’s speakers or headphones before adding a discrete sound card. It’s difficult to hear much of a difference when your speakers sound muddy already.

I have to admit, I’m somewhat smitten with Sennheiser’s HD 558 headphones and fear I may have taken a step down the expensive path of the audiophile. You don’t realize what you’re missing until you’ve heard your music through great headphones or speakers. As much as I adore my Audio Engine A5 speakers, the 558s provide a much more complete soundscape to my ears. Whereas the speakers are tasked with filling the entire room, the cans focus on what matters most: my eardrums.

I’m still getting goosebumps and hearing new things during the piano-and-guitar finale of Atreyu’s Lip Gloss and Black, even though I’ve listened to the song at least a dozen times through the 558s. That kind of music rediscovery is a testament to the quality of the headphones.

During my shopping adventure, I discovered that people have more than a few opinions about their preferred audio gear. I’d love to hear yours.

Comments closed
    • halbhh2
    • 7 years ago

    The first headphone review I trust. As someone who has owned about a dozen, it’s pretty nice to get a trustworthy review.

    • shaq_mobile
    • 7 years ago

    though ive had to replace the cable a few times, once i stepped up to the hd600 cable, my hd580s are fantastic. i got them for $150 new when they were discontinuing them. ive replaced the cable with the stock hd580 cable twice and each cable lasted ~2 years. this most recent cable has lasted over 4 years. its far thicker and sturdier than the hd580 stock cable, however it does have a 1/4 stereo so almost every portable device needs an adapter.

    best buy ive ever made with electronics. hands down. delivering excellent sound after 8-9 years.

    • AGerbilWithAFootInTheGrav
    • 7 years ago

    Ahhh… goods that you buy and actually own them, no central point which can turn them off if you listened to something inappropriate.

    • yogibbear
    • 7 years ago

    Man I swear this article made my subconscious get angry as I just stepped on my HD555’s and finally snapped the slidy bit. Though they still work, just have a crack in the headrest.

    • rekagear20
    • 7 years ago
    • dnath
    • 7 years ago

    Shure SE530’s are my favorite, the 535 do not have as much bass. The clarity on both are very good though and the sound cancelling when traveling,Take that you Stupid wining little babies !!! Slightly pricey but I think worth every penny.

    • yenic
    • 7 years ago

    Favorite headphones: Koss KSC35 (or KSC75 slightly cheaper slightly worse)

    Great sound for the buck, don’t have to worry about them as they aren’t outrageous, match more expensive Sennheisers (60ohm Koss have better sound signature IMO), lifetime warranty, earclip style, can wear 1 or both (great for laying down, putting your head back on a seat, sharing one with your 2nd half).
    Been using KSC35s and UR40s (over the head style) for years. Only thing I wish is that they had longer cords, only really good for portable use. I have a lackluster Sennheiser headphone set hooked up to my PC only because of the long cord.

    I’ve purchased most of the popular headphone sets out there over the years (Sony MDR-VR6, Senn 555, 479, 580) and if you go unamped, KSC35/75 or UR40 is the best bet (all based on the original PortaPro, which is also good).

      • Kurotetsu
      • 7 years ago

      I used the Koss KSC75 until recently, when I replaced them with the [url=http://www.monoprice.com/products/product.asp?c_id=108&cp_id=10823&cs_id=1082303&p_id=8320&seq=1&format=2<]Monoprice 8320[/url<] For $7 you get sound quality comparable to something worth $40-$50. Compared to the KSC75 the 8320 has superior clarity, bass, and build quality (in my opinion). My only complaint is that the tips aren't so great, many people have recommended the [url=http://www.amazon.com/Sony-EPEX10A-BLK-Replacement-Earbuds/dp/B001RB24UA<]Sony Hybrid[/url<] tips to replace them. Seriously, for $7 its worth giving them a try at least. Google them to get reviews as well.

    • derFunkenstein
    • 7 years ago

    If you’re going to buy on Newegg from Unique Squared, you might as well go to their website and buy directly from them for the exact same price. They have a pretty nice rewards program that gives you back 2% on purchases and pays a flat $2.50 in store credit if you review stuff you bought from them. All my audio stuff has come from them and their service is first-rate. They don’t have much variety in the categories they carry stuff in, but the stuff they have is frequently the cheapest on the internet.

    I get no compensation for this endorsement and YMMV, but shipping from Atlanta to my place in central IL also means I get stuff in 2 days normally with their free shipping.

    • Grape Flavor
    • 7 years ago

    Well I’ve got a set of Logitech Z-2300’s and some Razer Carcharias at my desk and they’re good enough for my music and gaming needs. The Razers are incredibly comfortable, too.

    True audiophiles may scoff at those as “budget”, but the fact remains they’re some of the very best “budget” gear you can get. I do my research! 🙂

      • Draphius
      • 7 years ago

      ive used both of those and they sound horrible when put up against a real pair of audiophile headphones. when it comes to headphones for pc’s head down tot he home theatre dept and never take a step into the computer aisles

    • crose
    • 7 years ago

    What a coincidence, I just replaced my lost 555s with a 558. I do enjoy the great sound but talk of descending into some sort of savage thirst for better sound is very foreign to me.

    • Kaleid
    • 7 years ago

    I have never heard any headphones that can match good high-end speakers.

    And I have even listened to these:
    [url<]http://www.stereophile.com/headphones/sennheiser_orpheus_he_90_headphones/index.html[/url<]

      • mutarasector
      • 7 years ago

      Apples/Oranges. Two rather different reproduction systems to try to ‘match’ up.

      I suspect what you’re really saying is you prefer good high end speakers over cans (which, although subjective, perfectly valid). It should be pointed out that there are so called “high-end” speakers that sound like crap against my lesser expensive headphones as well. Bose and JBL are “basically overpriced sound equipment” or “Junk Blasting Loudly”. Inversely, both have really good sounding products. For headphones, one can hardly beat Sennheiser’s higher end headphones, AKG’s, Audio Technica’s, or Bang & Olufsen’s…

        • shaq_mobile
        • 7 years ago

        there are times for headphones and times for speakers. headphones are when i want privacy and to enjoy music on a personal level. speakers are for when i want my body to feel the music or sound.

      • chµck
      • 7 years ago

      The orpheus he90, goes for around $18k, if you can find it.

      High end speakers costs much, much more, not only the speakers themselves, but to make the most of them, you have to specially treat a room for them. So like Mutarasector says, it’s apples/oranges.

        • Kaleid
        • 7 years ago

        Of course they are different, but I wouldn’t be able to say that there are even any high-end headphones. That’s how lacking they are when compared, but you don’t need 18k for high-end speakers.

          • Firestarter
          • 7 years ago

          So you’re saying that headphones like the Sennheiser HD650’s are not high-end? If not, what are they then, cheap and unworthy substitutes to speakers?

          Obviously comparing speakers and headphones directly isn’t really possible, and for most applications speakers are better suited than headphones of equivalent quality. But to think that headphones are inferior to speakers in every aspect is a pretty closed-minded position, one that you could well do without.

            • Kaleid
            • 7 years ago

            I would call them inferior to tons of real loudspeakers yes and the 650’s come nowhere close to being as high-end as many of these speakers.

            Of course headphones have their use, like not disturbing others but often I find that that headphones only sound decent if they’re played quite high on volume and that is asking for worse hearing.
            And sometimes I pick up details with headphones that isn’t there with speakers because the soundscape can so sound so different, with the sound inside your head phenomena and OTT channel seperation (which can be fixed with a proper headphone amp).

      • mkygod
      • 7 years ago

      It’s a lot easier and cheaper to get high-end sound from headphones than with speakers.

      With speakers, you need a good source, good amplification, AND an acoustially treated room. Cost wise, it will likely cost 10 times more to get comparable sound to a $1k-2k headphone.

      And even then, it will probably fall short because it is nearly impossible have a perfect acoustic setting where reverberations, leakage, modal, and other acoustic issues don’t exist.

      And while some may call these ‘problems’, it can also help the music sound more ‘live’ and add spacial depth to the music. Maybe this is what you prefer; It all depends on how you define “high-end sound”.

        • Kaleid
        • 7 years ago

        No, I have an acoustically treated room and it didn’t cost a lot at all and there is no need for very costly electronics these days, a lot of the high-end gear do not really differ that much from good cheaper stuff, a lot with audio is pure placebo.

        Headphones give the sound inside your head and that too is far from natural and the low-end of headphones simply can’t match that of a good speakers, and neither does the sense of depth and dynamics.

        The reason most music doesn’t so good as it could is because of the recording quality as well as mixing and mastering which leave a lot to be desired. Herein lies a bigger problem than the electronics.

          • RobbyBob
          • 7 years ago

          It’s probably too late for you to come back to this thread, but I’m curious. What did you use to treat your room that was inexpensive? I’ve been trying to find some cost-effective foam for a while, so I’d like to know.

      • Waco
      • 7 years ago

      Then you haven’t heard any good headphones.

      Even the “low end” audiophile headphones sound immensely better than 99.999999% of the speaker setups in the world.

        • Kaleid
        • 7 years ago

        I disagree. That most speakers sound poor has often to do with room acoustics which people do nothing about, and they often even place the speakers in the wrong places too, causing too much resonances from the room/floor etc.

        I would say that the high-end electrostat Sennheisers are very good, but still, I’ve heard speaker which sound better with a measly ta2020 t-amp, like Ino Audio piP.

          • Firestarter
          • 7 years ago

          Not everyone can rearrange their rooms around their speakers you know.

    • ronch
    • 7 years ago

    It hurts me to think how quickly that 1/4″ plug coupled with that 3.5mm adapter will wear out your Ipod’s 3.5mm port.

      • TwistedKestrel
      • 7 years ago

      I have the exact same headphones, and that adapter didn’t sit right with me. One good knock will give it the leverage to break the jack of whatever it’s plugged into. I got a Grado 1/4″ adapter cable, so there’s no solid connection, pretty happy with it!

      • Goty
      • 7 years ago

      If someone is interested in audio quality, they won’t be using an ipod.

        • Ifalna
        • 7 years ago

        At least not the analog out. If I understand it correctly, paired with an external DAC/Amp the Ipod is quite usable.

        • Firestarter
        • 7 years ago

        Some iPods have quite respectable amplification.

      • Firestarter
      • 7 years ago

      Best alternative is the adapter that comes with the HD650’s, which has a small cable in between. I’ve been using that one for years now, 0 problems.

        • hansmuff
        • 7 years ago

        Yes, I’m a little dismayed that they are not including that. though. It’s a fantastic adapter and solves so many problems, and it can’t be that expensive for Sennheiser to procure/produce.

    • d0g_p00p
    • 7 years ago

    Sennheiser’s are amazing headphones and are part of my staple. However I have to give nods to the Koss PortaPro’s. These $40 headphone rival $200+ headphones. They look like something out of the 80’s and should be attached to a Sony Walkman. Again, the sound they produce is amazing so much that Sennheiser copied them and made the PX100’s which are pretty much the PortaPro’s but look way better.

    Just thought I would toss that out there if you are looking for some headphones you don’t have to worry about if you break them and have excellent sound quality.

    Also if you really want to have audio perfection. Pair those senn’s up with one of these:

    [url<]http://tinyurl.com/6sjujg8[/url<] You can thank me later on the audio and the fact you got a $2000 class amp for $250.

      • Vivaldi
      • 7 years ago

      Thanks for the link! I’m relatively new to headphone amps, but may just pick the Asgard up out of curiosity.

      • mutarasector
      • 7 years ago

      “However I have to give nods to the Koss PortaPro’s”

      Ditto! I use a pair of em for SOLOing on my Soundcraft console.

    • TDIdriver
    • 7 years ago

    Before you buy anything to go with those headphones go check out [url=http://nwavguy.blogspot.com/2011/02/introduction.html<]NwAvGuy's blog[/url<]. It'll keep you from spending way too much on gimmicky "audiophile" gear.

    • From40zto5thz
    • 7 years ago

    I had a pair of hd-555 that I bought during an amazon black Friday deal. I returned them as I realized that I wouldn’t use them often. I currently use Koss Porta Pro for my daily desktop use paired with a HTOmega Striker card. My HTPC sends audio via hdmi by way of HD5850 to my Denon receiver. If I’m sitting on the couch late night I plug in my Sennheiser 201 or 202. I can’t remember the model number I just know they were cheap and come with a 9ft cord.

    So far I have used the following buds or cans and have had pretty good experiences with them for my usage:

    Sennheiser CX-300 — good day to day earbuds for my portable players (ipod & galaxy nexus)
    Koss Porta Pro — good day to day headphones for office use or portable player
    Koss Sporta Pro — same drivers as the Porta Pro but you can make em go behind the ear. Use them for workouts
    Koss KTXPro 1 — use them as cheap office headsets at work. They look cheap but sound great for the price
    Sennheiser HD202 for plugging into the HTPC. Uncomfortable after long periods of use.

    I currently have two small children so my disposable income goes to their toys and diapers. So I pretty much go for cans under 50 bucks that way I know I won’t mind if they break them. Toddlers have a way of destroying things.

    • slaimus
    • 7 years ago

    I have a 10 year old pair of HD-535, and the main problem I have had is the headband eventually cracking and needing replacement. Aside from needing amplification, they are still the most neutral phones I have heard while still retaining enough bass response for open-back headphones.

    I have heard as recently as the HD-555 having the same issue. Has the headband design been fixed for the HD-558?

    • Ender2063
    • 7 years ago

    Senheiser HD650 + Asus Xonar STX. So far happy with the combo for over a year and half.
    Thinking about moving the HD700 this year. Still that is about the top where i am willing to go 🙂

    Got a friend with “better” tech, but his setup is pushing 3k in Euro price-wise 🙂
    Optics out from machine, to dedicated DAC that is in the 1k range, don’t remember the maker/model thou. That is followed by SPL Phonitor 2730 as dedicated amplifier and then by Sennheiser HD850.
    Sound fabulous ….if you can get quality input. If not – it leaves you cringing trying to listening to “normal” material 🙁

    • Ifalna
    • 7 years ago

    I’m sensitive to clamping force too, so the Sennheisers never made it in my List in the first place. I’m now rocking Beyerdynamic DT 880 (250Ohm) plugged into a Titanium HD. Boy what a difference compared to my old 50 Bucks Sonys. ^_^

    I love the neutral sound of the 880. But many criticize them as “analytic” or “dry”.

    One drawback however is that they are an open construction, meaning they are supposed to be used at home where no one is bothered by the sound leakage.

      • Washer
      • 7 years ago

      I haven’t owned a DT880 but I have a DT990. The weight of those phones bothered me far more than the clamping of the Sennheiser’s I have tried or owned. The clamping can be fixed as well, that weight could not.

        • Ifalna
        • 7 years ago

        Interesting. I never felt them as heavy.

        Weight DT880: 290g
        Weight DT990: 290g
        Weight Sennheiser 558/600: 260g

        Not that much difference there.

          • Washer
          • 7 years ago

          Hmm. You’re right, that is fairly close. Could be the impression I got from how the DT990 sat on my head. For me they always seemed like they were slipping down the side of my head, this made it uncomfortable on the crown of my head.

            • Ifalna
            • 7 years ago

            Did you have the “pro” version or the “edition” version?

            The “edition” have really low clamping force, which is very comfy but only if you remain stationary. And yup they clamp so weakly that they rest on top of your head and don’t “grab” your ears. Maybe thats what caused your feeling. Still the leather on top is fairly soft so it does not bother me.

            • Washer
            • 7 years ago

            Edition, 2008 model if I recall correctly. What you described is dead on, I prefer clamping around the ears rather than resting on top of my head.

      • Cannonaire
      • 7 years ago

      I also use Beyerdynamic DT-880 250 Ohm version along with an inexpensive headphone amp. I also love the analytical/neutral sound they provide. Right now I have the newer (2005?) version, but I had the older (flat sides) one before. I have enjoyed both of them, but the earlier version was more comfortable. I would really like to try some AKG and Grado headphones at some point to see how I like those different sound signatures.

        • MadManOriginal
        • 7 years ago

        For Grados, you can get a good feel for the ‘Grado sound signature’ – which not *all* their headphones have, but is close across the Prestige and Reference series for the most part – pretty cheap with the SR60. Moving up the line you mostly get (possibly a lot) more refinement of the same thing. Just be sure to get the ‘donut’ style earpads, or mod the ones that come with them by cutting out the center of the foam.

    • kvndoom
    • 7 years ago

    Welcome to the addiction, Dave. It never ends.

    The motherboard in my next build [i<]WILL[/i<] have at least 1 PCI slot because I [i<]WILL NOT[/i<] retire my HT Omega Claro Halo. Only on special occasions, I unbox my HD600's and plug them into the sound card. Ahhh, it's sex on my ears... BTW, buy this adapter: [url<]http://www.amazon.com/Grado-Mini-Adaptor-Cable-Inch/dp/B001DK1ZVO[/url<] Worth every cent, and it makes downsizing your plug a LOT less clunky. And it's very high quality.

      • dpaus
      • 7 years ago

      [quote<]Welcome to the addiction... It never ends.[/quote<] Sorry to be the bearer of devastating news, but, yes, it does. Cleaning up my living room last week as part of migrating [i<]all[/i<] of my audio-video to my HTPC, I was amazed at how much of my disposable income I had spent on high-end audio in my youth, and then high-end video in my adult years. And now I'm going to throw most of it away. Scrap it. Because at my age, I can't hear anything above about 12 KHz anymore, and I'm not sure if I'm [i<]hearing[/i<] that bass or just feeling it in my chest cavity. On top of simple loss of frequency, I've lost the ability to hear quiet sounds; my dbx Dynamic Range Expander is useless to me. And I have tinnitus; the ringing in my ears is constant, and not soft at all (my own fault; too many rock concerts and way too many hours in convertibles and on motorcycles). I sat on the floor, looking at my collection of Audiophile series vinyls, and wept (and at least part of my grief was for the dollars that could have gone into investments instead). My Technics AT-3000X turntable has an inch of dust on it. Or, it did until I rinsed it with my tears before putting it into storage. For years, I've needed to wear corrective lenses to watch video of any description. Now, even with my glasses on, any attempt to watch more than about 2 hours of motion video leaves me with a splitting headache. Yes, my eyeglasses prescription is current. So enjoy your addictions while you can, and get the most out it at every available opportunity, because as early as your late 30s, you'll start to lose the ability to appreciate it. Again, my apologies for telling you this. EDIT: before anyone gets all misty-eyed for the bitter old man with regrets, let me clarify: "[i<]Damn[/i<], but I've had a lot of fun in my life, and that's just so far!!"

        • Ifalna
        • 7 years ago

        I’m 26 and My ears cut off at 10dB. (Hooray for “little child inner ear infections and scarring tissue”)

        Wait, let me quickly flip a table for that one: (ノಠ益ಠ)ノ彡┻━ ┻

        Ok. I feel better now. Thus I can understand your point. I doubt that I’ll ever dabble into the REALLY expensive Stuff, because it’ll probably wasted money. Still, I can hear a difference between 300 and 50 bucks of Headphone.

        The main difference is: On the expensive one, you can listen at low volumes and it sounds awesome. With the cheap ones, you have to turn way up to get to even “decent sounding”.

        Save your ears, buy expensive stuffz. (*scnr*) ^_^

        • chµck
        • 7 years ago

        old people advice is always appreciated 🙂

        • kvndoom
        • 7 years ago

        Well I’m 41 and my hearing is still good to 15kHz, so it doesn’t have to end too soon. As you said, you didn’t take care of your ears and you are paying the price earlier than you should be.

        Eyes are another issue though… not much can be done about faltering eyesight. I’ve been in glasses since early elementary school, so I can relate.

        I know one day my ability to appreciate will dwindle, but not my desire.

          • Cuhulin
          • 7 years ago

          Actually, we have the opposite experience.

          I’m 60, so a little further along the “faltering”, but hearing range declines with age, just as eyesight does. (That’s why those high-pitched tones can be done to annoy teen-agers without being heard by adults.) In addition, genetic predispositions to things like high blood pressure can add to tinnitus problems even if one is taking care — just as people with particular genes need eyesight correction at a younger age.

          With that said, there still is a reason for buying better audio equipment than worse. Even without the highest of notes, the better equipment simply sounds more natural and enjoyable.

        • Washer
        • 7 years ago

        Clearly not every old guy loses the ability to hear or has such extensive hearing damage. Sites like Audiogon wouldn’t exist otherwise.

        All of that stuff you purchased still has value. I’d be more than happy to pay for shipping to me and I’m positive there’s many on Audiogon who would pay far more than that.

          • kvndoom
          • 7 years ago

          Yeah I hope by “trash” he means “sell”… high quality A/V gear will always find a buyer.

            • dpaus
            • 7 years ago

            Not when some of it had the original Apple ][ as a contemporary 🙂

            • DeadOfKnight
            • 7 years ago

            I’m 25 and can hear up to 18kHz, but then again I always hear a constant ringing of about 18kHz so at that point it just blends in.

            • Washer
            • 7 years ago

            If it was high end then it should certainly still catch some attention.

        • jackbomb
        • 7 years ago

        39 here, and my tinnitus started about a month ago. Really strange kind of tinnitus–it’s only in my left ear, and I haven’t noticed a decrease in the volume or frequency range of my hearing. I haven’t had my ears checked, but I can still hear up to at least 16KHz; whenever I walk into a room with a CRT TV, the first thing I notice is the whine.

        Don’t know how it started–it was just there one morning. I’ve completely stopped using headphones since then. It will be speakers or nothing from now on (and I’m aware of how silly that sounds).

          • pragma
          • 7 years ago

          Exercise. Improve your heart condition and lower the blood pressure. Contrary to what many might tell, the most important audio gear is not the amp nor the speakers, not even the ears. It’s the brain. The signal analysis instrument.

          That said, dpaus has hearing and eyesight covered. Now lets hear about the women and the booze 🙂

          • Zoomer
          • 7 years ago

          When I was young, I could tell if the Sony Trinitron was on when I was outside with a wall separating me from the TV. Not sure if my hearing still goes that high; can’t really find these anymore.

        • Cuhulin
        • 7 years ago

        I agree with you about the fun in the past versus life now tradeoff. You probably made many right choices over time.

        With that said, don’t trash what you’ve got. Enjoy it in the more limited manner that now is possible. If the turntable needs a major new pickup, maybe then you could consider whether it is worth the money, but otherwise why not enjoy what you have to the best of your ability?

        • SomeOtherGeek
        • 7 years ago

        I don’t know, man… All my life, I’ve missed out on a lot of the sounds and now, I’m out looking. So, I just keep trying to find something better. It will be a lifetime endeavor.

      • floodo1
      • 7 years ago

      perfect setup. real time dts and dolby digital encoding for when you’re using your receiver and nice analog outputs for the headphones 🙂

      plus 600’s are the sweet spot when it comes to headphones 🙂

      • Airmantharp
      • 7 years ago

      My God, I’ve been looking for an adapter like that for a year. The single-piece thing that shipped with my HD555’s just doesn’t do the trick, and I lose sound in one ear off and on depending on angle. Right now I have it run through my keyboard’s audio extension, which is the only fixed 3.5mm plug that the adapter doesn’t have an issue with.

      • cynan
      • 7 years ago

      PC sound setup high 5!

      I have the exact same sound card and almost the same headphones (HD650). And I agree completely. It was totality worth the investment. Have you tried changing the OP Amps? I swapped the originals out for another set after trying a couple (some companies will send you free samples if you cover the nominal shipping charge (< $10)). Slight improvement, but this is mostly personal preference. Still fun to play with.

      Last year, I got a bit of the “sickness” and plunked down an embarrassingly irresponsible amount (for my finances) on an external DAC/balanced headphone amp combo (the internals were assembled/soldered by hand and it has the size and heft approaching that of some smaller micro (no, not mini) ATX enclosures. And the sound got even better! But after I came to my senses, I’m not sure the latter purchase was what you could sanely call “worth the money”. Every time I listen to the setup though I have a relapse: I secretly smile and dare the fates to try and pry it from my cold dead hands.

      If, in the future you are forced to relinquish PCI, all is not lost: The HT Omega Claro now comes in [url=http://www.htomega.com/eclaro.html<]PCIe[/url<]. No idea how it compares to the PCI versions.

      • Zoomer
      • 7 years ago

      Actually, instead of an adapter, why not just get a 1/4 TS to 3.5 TRS cable?

      [url<]http://www.overstock.com/Electronics/Hosa-CMS-103-3.5mm-to-1-4-inch-3-foot-Cable/6240716/product.html[/url<] Desk to mobile listening = unplug cable from headphone, plug cable from mobile device to headphones. Leave cable plugged in on the desk. No futzing around behind the case, and no carrying bulky adapters around.

    • The Dark One
    • 7 years ago

    As long as I have a 1/4″-3.5mm adapter, my Sennheiser 430 headphones will do just fine. 😛

      • JustAnEngineer
      • 7 years ago

      I’ve had to replace the foam ear pads on mine once or twice in 25 years.

    • BloodSoul
    • 7 years ago

    Headphones are a gateway drug. They tell you it’s harmless fun, next thing you know you will be tempted to buy these [url<]http://www.klipsch.com/palladium-p-39f-home-theater-system[/url<] instead of your next car. Never mind, you need your new car... but do your kids really need to go to college? Audiophile is just a fancy were for sound addict.

      • continuum
      • 7 years ago

      That looks affordable. Compared to this.

      Only $190,000…
      [url<]http://app.audiogon.com/listings/german-physiks-the-loreley-mkiii[/url<] And the first paragraph shows these are... clearly not for us mere mortals. [url<]http://www.german-physiks.com/german-physiks-speaker-line/the-loreley-mk-iii.html[/url<]

        • BloodSoul
        • 7 years ago

        I just found a 1 of a kind 7 million dollar pure gold speaker set. If I sell all my organs on the black market I could maybe afford this…

        • Ifalna
        • 7 years ago

        Did they rip these out of a space ship or something? They look awesome.

        I laugh at everyone who buys them and does not have a dedicated room with perfectly calculated and tuned acoustics though. 😀

        • SomeOtherGeek
        • 7 years ago

        Good god! I thousand pounds a piece!! Need a reinforced floor for that.

      • Airmantharp
      • 7 years ago

      You know, that setup looks a little ridiculous, but I could definitely see rolling that into a mortgage when building a house (like we all plan to do someday). For now, I’ll stick with my tweensy Klipsch HD Theater 500 5.1 set I got on the cheap, as I believe it’s more than loud enough to get my apartment neighbors rioting outside my door :).

      (I haven’t tested this theory yet.)

        • BloodSoul
        • 7 years ago

        The sub from that setup alone is enough to set off car alarms if used right (or wrong?)!

    • Jambe
    • 7 years ago

    Adventures in Ridiculous Audio Jargon:

    boomy
    crisp
    tinny
    open
    strident
    woody
    metallic
    glassy
    lush
    coherent
    muddy
    bloomy
    tight
    boxy
    laid-back
    punchy
    loose

    … really, there aren’t all that many headphones in the $150+ range that are outright terrible. What’s “good” is mostly just a question of personal taste & comfort, or, if you’re an engineer, some pretty specific technical requirements.

    I think the newish Chinese AKG K-240s sound 95% as good as 558s, for like $80…

      • plonk420
      • 7 years ago

      i’d consider tinny, boomy, crisp, muddy, tight, punchy valid terms (tho more the last one for, say, comparing DD and DTS mixes). haven’t you heard shitty bass reproduction?

      • Washer
      • 7 years ago

      It’s entirely about preference in audio. Those terms have arrived precisely because of that. How else do you purpose people try to describe to someone differences between headphones which clearly sound different?

      At the top end of headphones (let’s say $600+) you’re not getting any more detail. You can hear everything that was in the recording, but none of the headphones in that range sound the exact same. Therefore those terms are required to describe those differences.

      Seriously, go to a Head-Fi meet or if you’re lucky enough a high end audio store that carries headphones in that range near you. Try out a Sennheiser HD800 and compare it to a Denon D7000 try to describe to me the differences without relying on those common audiophile community terms.

        • chµck
        • 7 years ago

        Yeah, at the top end, you’re paying for luxury materials and R&D.

      • mutarasector
      • 7 years ago

      Half of those terms are used in professional live/touring audio, and are not silly. Especially ‘coherent’ as it is used quite heavily in most line array technologies (re: spectral coherency or phase coherency) and point source systems.

        • derFunkenstein
        • 7 years ago

        Coherency is usually a description of multi-tracked instruments like drums, guitars, etc. It’s about making sure the shape of the waveforms are coherent, so that way you don’t hear comb filtering.

      • hansmuff
      • 7 years ago

      You can get K-240S for $80? Wow, that is a steal. They are very fun headphones.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 7 years ago

      Very few people know what it means for something to hit +3 dB on a frequency response curve at 180 or 200Hz, but if someone describes a sound as boomy, that’s usually what they mean. Low-mids that really stick out. Most of those terms have feelings that I associate with them and I think most people do, too. And often times, those words hold very similar meanings, making them at least somewhat useful.

      Also, AKG makes some great budget stuff. Microphones, headphones, etc.

      • indeego
      • 7 years ago

      This is my favorite post of July so far.

    • moriz
    • 7 years ago

    i remember when i tried out my first “audiophile” headphones, the senheiser HD555. mind. BLOWN. thus started my minor obsession with quality headphones.

    you have gone down a very slippery path my friend. it never ends…

    • Derfer
    • 7 years ago

    $180? That’s what I paid for my my HD 598s. Should have waited for amazon to lower the price again as newegg seems to have a system in place to automatically price match them.

    • colinstu12
    • 7 years ago

    Love my Beyerdynamic DT770’s (250 ohm). Pretty comfy, sound good, closed, has the least amount of plastic on the head-band part I’ve seen on any decent headphone so far. I’ve had tons of “nice” headphones before but the darn head-band contains loads of plastic and will ALWAYS break. First point of failure.

    Just bought an Asus Xonar Essence STX to drive them properly… GREAT combo.

      • egon
      • 7 years ago

      Have had two pairs of Sennheisers break due to reliance on plastic at critical points. The most recent was with a pair of three year old RS-130s. Snapped right near the middle of the headband while routinely stretching the earcups apart slightly while putting them on.

      A few years prior to that, my pair of RS-60s snapped at the plastic earcup-headband connection during the warranty period. Sennheiser claimed there was no manufacturing defect but repaired them ‘as a gesture of goodwill’ (implying I mistreated them, rather than acknowledging the design weakness).

        • Laykun
        • 7 years ago

        I have a pair of HD485s where the head band snapped. Did a plastic solder job on it and it lasted 5 years.

    • thesmileman
    • 7 years ago

    I wasn’t that impressed with the 558. If you can find some Beyerdynamic 80 Ohm DT770 that will be a great closed gaming headphone. I still love my AKG 701s and my DT 990s more but if you need a closed can the 770s are really nice and all Beyerdynamic’s fit better than any other headphones I have tried.

    Also great yourself a decent headphone amp and see how they sound.

      • CityEater
      • 7 years ago

      I agree. Part of the reason they have a full size plug is because they are intended to be driven quite hard. Sennheiser don’t have a bad reputation in this regard but it generally makes a world of difference when you drive them right. Even a cheap headphone amp can make a big improvement. It would be the next natural step in your ‘Journey’.

      I started out a few years ago much the same as you. You only really have to start worrying when your dropping 4 digits on a component. Its an expensive slope your drifting down. It wont be long before those 558s start feeling like the poor cousin. I had to stop once I got a set of Stax 3030s, everything above them starts getting into pretty silly sums. I would rather spend that on my stereo. Good to see some other can fans here on Techreport.

      Oh I love the look of the BeyerDynamics by the way. Never owned a pair but theyve always been on the list to try. 701s are probably the best deal in headphones. Compare well to phones many times their price.

    • desertfox
    • 7 years ago

    I really like my HD555 headphones for home use. Does anyone know what they changed for the HD558s?

    I’ll also add that I’ve been using a pair of Sennheiser HD280 Pro headphones for 10 years now and I still love them. They isolate sound well so they were perfect for a college dorm, and they’re pretty well-suited for use at work too.

      • chµck
      • 7 years ago

      I think it’s just minor changes in the frame. There was a thread on headfi somehwere showing that the drivers in the 555, 595, 558, 598 were all the same. The difference is in the frame and distance between the drive and the ear.
      I know that in both the 555 and 558, there is a piece of foam behind the driver that dampens the sound. It’s hypothesized that this was done so the 595/598 didn’t sound only marginally better than the 555/558.

    • chµck
    • 7 years ago

    I didn’t find the HD558 to be that impressive, and I got them for $120. It didn’t have the impact that my HFI-780s have, and I think closed cans are typically more detailed.
    They’re well engineered and comfy though.

    Btw, there’s a simple mod you can do to convert them to 95% of the 598s.

      • adisor19
      • 7 years ago

      HD 590 owner here. Bought mine in 2004 and absolutely love them.

      Word of advice, break them in. Let your favourite playlist break them in at high volume for a good few days. It will make the treble sound less harsh.

      Adi

        • plonk420
        • 7 years ago

        same. was looking for my records, but i paid SOMEWHERE between $200 and 250. i got them because they had awesome (read: exaggerated) bass compared to the flatter 580. but it was a great starting point!

          • Ifalna
          • 7 years ago

          Don’t know why people minused you. It’s correct that expensive cans need around 300hrs of burn in to sound their best. I noticed that too with mine.

      • adisor19
      • 7 years ago

      I’ve been looking to acquire a pair of 598s for a while now but i just can’t justify the price since me trusty 590s are still going strong after all these years..

      I’m interested in the simple mod you mention if only out of curiosity..

      Adi

        • chµck
        • 7 years ago

        [url<]http://www.head-fi.org/t/227697/hd555-h595-mod[/url<]

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