Sennheiser HD 558 Review


Pros

  • The HD 558's are insanely neutral sound signature, they focus almost evenly on the mids and highs with really strong and detailed bass to back it up
  • These headphones can handle all types of music due to its neutrality in its sound signature
  • Open design on these headphones make anything you listen to appear like it is coming from outside the headphone
  • Life-like acoustics
  • Airy bass (perfect for bass guitar reproduction)  due to open design

Cons

  • The HD 558 are not designed for portability in any way this is shown by how Sennheiser made these headphones:
    • Open design leaks more noise out and lets more noise in (not enough so that louder volume can't compensate for but still can be a tad annoying)
    • The jack is 6.3mm and the adapter is huge so if you have a case for your player, it may get in the way
    • The cable of the headphones are 3m long, so if you want a shorter cable, I suggest you use a cable tie or something to keep it bound (avoid rubber bands, they can damage the cable due to the pressure it outputs) 
    • Fails to produce impacting sub woofer-like bass without assistance(bass booster)

This was the first pair of audiophile headphones that I owned (not the first one that I used, but the first for me to own).

So my school laptop is just horrible when it comes to sound card and cant bring the colour and detail out of these headphones but the output is perfect for these headphones, what i noticed when these headphones are properly powered are these headphones are LOUD!!!

The first thing you would notice about these headphones would be how comfortable they are, followed by how little noise they block out, the annoying 6.3mm jack and the 3m cable. All the characteristics of a pair of headphones that is meant for studio use. 

Sound Frequency Chart

The Overall Sound:

the sound of these headphones will definitely sound familiar and it sounds very much like the time i tried on my friend's HD 555's mainly focusing on the mids, highs and the treble and detailed bass without the bloating (some of my friends get ticked off at that [but they use the Beats Studio so its understandable]). But for those who used the HD 555 will notice that the 558's are actually more dynamic in sound/has better soundstage, not sounding as flat as its predecessor.  This headphone has a fairly neutral sound signature that leans towards the brighter side of the sound spectrum. This headphone focuses mainly on the mid tones with strong highs and detailed bass to support it.

Highs

these headphones are rather neutral headphones leaning towards the brighter side, in this review, I use the word neutral because it is within the range where none of the tones seem to be overpowered, drowned out, or too soft to be audible, I mean it is a near balance between the three tones (highs, mids and lows). These headphones truly accel at the highs. The first thing you would notice is these headphones make vocals seem like they are coming from outside the headphone and acoustic sounds sound like they're coming from a guitar about a meter away from you.

Mids

OK big improvements here, there isn't that gap I've noticed with the 555's and they have made the mids on these headphones to really stand out on these headphones (but not so that it can sound overpowering) the mids are just as detailed as the highs but are more "background" then some other headphones. Persecution instruments are more background then instruments like vocals and occasionally cymbals, while higher mids like electric guitars and similar digital noise (such as the intro of Don't Talk to Strangers by Hedley) stick out brilliantly right behind the vocals.

Bass

These headphones almost hit the bass sweet-spot for many songs where you both feel and hear the bass. But saying this I find these headphones rather bass-lacking for some songs like Flo Rida's Low where sub woofer bass impact is needed to make the song really enjoyable, that is without bass booster which I generally dislike for distorting the rest of the song to increase the impact of the bass. Having said that you shouldn't expect teenage sub woofer bass performance bass from these headphones without any personal tweaking. Pardon the contradicting statements but I am nowhere close to lying when I say these headphones almost hit the sweet-spot of bass. These headphones are absolutely amazing at recreating a bass guitar's sound, unlike most closed and semi-opened (with a small hole) you get an airy bass guitar sound which is almost essential for a bass guitar to sound like a low guitar and not a low sub woofer-like sound. As I have previously mentioned in my headphone 101, bass is usually traded off depending on the type of headphone you go with.

Treble

These headphones have the strong treble of the Sennhieser soundstage clear, detailed and very apparent. This was probably the first thing I noticed about these headphones was how clear, detailed and realistic the treble sounded on these headphones even on an unamped iphone. i find that on a few rare moments in about 5 songs in my 2000 song library that the treble can even sound a tad overpowering covering tiny hints of the mids or highs. For those who don't like listening to the cymbals as much, and on a few rare occasions, even more then the drum, these headphones may not be for you

foam mod

Ok my friend did the foam mod on his pair of 558's so I decided to give them a try. This mod helps a lot with the bass and it is something bass-heads might want to try. But the downside of this mod is a small loss of control in the highs, mids and bass. I have been noticing some notes are not as vivid, i will do this mod again to confirm this but i want to get some adequate equipment first.

The infamous cracks

Build Quality

The build quality of these headphones is almost totally reliant on when you get them. Sennheiser has had constant problem with their 5xx series headbands and the same applies to the early 558's. My HD 558 were purchased early December and the cracks started in late March, I swear I was flipping out. But Sennheiser has claims to have fixed the problem in the stocks that arrive in June (depends ultimately on your store). The new material is supposedly more rubbery as opposed to the old brittle plastic that cracks when stressed too much, but I can't confirm this until I get my HD 558's repaired. On the side you can see a picture of the cracks as they start. The best way to tell if you have this problem is you hear a cracking sound as you move the headphone joint it makes it really obvious that there is a problem.

Overall Impressions

Well when I re-wrote/revised this review I totally forgot about this section. So I'm writing this now after my HD 558's are gone so I have the funds to acquire the HD598's for a comparison between the two. Anyways, these headphones are a dream to listen to and can make even the crappiest of sources (like an iPhone/iPod or on-board sound card) sound amazing. The low impedance makes it drivable by just about anything and comfort is near god-like with it's velour ear pads. These headphones will have a fairly familiar sound signature to anyone who has enjoyed the HD 555's but with more dynamic and dimensional sound and a sweet looking colour scheme. For you new to high end headphones or for those of you who stuck with Beats, Skullcandy or Bose, I really recommend getting these headphones to get you started with high end audio.


 Images

 Bad quality but better then nothing



My simple cable tie solution
The odd 6.3mm jack and the 3.5mm adapter

Picture of the headphones before they came out of the box


 

 Things to take note of:

Tranducer type: dynamic
Operating principle: open air
Frequency Response: 15-28,000 Hz

Impedance: 50 ohms
Cable Length and Termination: 3m cable 6.3mm (3.5mm jack included)

Website: Sennheiser

Facebook: Sennheiser on Facebook

37 comments:

  1. Thanks for the great review! Would you reccomend these for jazz and classical music
    many thanks

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  2. Definitely! Bass-light genres like jazz and classical are the HD558's forte! The HD558's favor the mids and highs over bass and they make classical music very enjoyable to my ears.

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  3. Excellent write-up, thanks. I think I'll replace my Grado's with these and see how they are. So far I have 34,500 + m4a Apple Lossless songs, mostly jazz and blues. A good portion of my listening time is via headphones so I'll look forward to the 558's.

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  4. That would be a really good choice, you will definitely hear improvement in sound over your Grados especially in the treble department (I would give the HD5xx for best treble in its class). I think the biggest advantage the HD558's have over the Grado's is it's comfort, I can wear the HD558's for 3 hours straight and still feel like they aren't there vs Grados which tend to heat up and annoy me after the first hour (but they do make mighty fine earmuffs)

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  5. I'm looking forward to the 558's and thanks for the idea on what o do with the Grado headphones...it's been around 10 degrees F here lastly and I like to walk my dog often !

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  6. No prob,just make sure not to do that on a windy day(unless you have your hood on) so you don't kill the drivers, snow and drivers don't mix! And if I were you I would still keep the Grados, they excel at the genres that the HD558s are weaker with.

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  7. Thx for the great review i am really interested in this headphone, but i need to ask you about how do they perform with movies??

    could you test them with a bunch of movies like action scenes explosives or weird sound effects and loud bass and lots of the things going around (like Inception, The Dark Knight, Tron Legacy),, and what is the best sub 100$ amp should i buy with them? for both my laptop with a normal sound card and Ipod or Iphone.
    Also would an amp with bass boost function give them that subwoofer effect we like to have sometimes or not?

    many thx again for your review and I hope you can help me in my decision.

    PS. if you have any other recommendation for another headphone to be used for music, movies, games, sub 200$ please dnt hesitate.

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  8. I haven't had the HD558's for ages actually as my brother took them a while ago, but I did use it for movies back when they were still in my possession, and don't worry, I still remember the sound really well because of the time I had with them.

    Now to answer your question about movie use, if you like the nice closed off thumping bass, you will get that with the HD558s, they just aren't as impactful as they would be as they would if it was coming darker headphone or a subwoofer. This is because the bass is "aired out" as the HD558's are open back so you don't as much of a closed off vibrating thump, but you still get the impact, so I wouldn't worry too much about that there.

    The only reason I said that these headphones are not the best for bass heavy genres is because the sound signature of the HD558 "favors" higher frequencies (I'm sure I've said that before) so having said that, it doesn't mean that the HD558's aren't capable of producing nice loud and impactful bass, but he bass is usually overtaken by the higher frequencies if they exist.

    So having said this, in movies, the main sounds you usually hear besides the sound effects are the voices of the actors as well and the movie soundtrack that occasionally plays in the background. Basically, because a movie doesn't have the mids and highs that usually "overshadow" the bass in a song, the bass gets a lot more impactful.

    So this means in movies you will hear every explosion, gunshot or sfx plane flying by. Of course there are some headphones that provide better thump, but in my opinion, the HD558's provide more then enough. This applies for both games and movies as they usually have fairly similar soundtracks/effects.

    In my opinion, it is acceptable to run the HD558's off of an iPhone/iPod or an integrated soundcard. My personal rule is anything under 70 ohms will be acceptable on with a "portable" or low power source.


    Alternate headphones I would look at (if comfort isn't a problem) would be Grados which offer above par sound (for the price) at the cost of comfort, but they provide more thump in the bass department.

    PS if your price range is >$200 then it is possible to get a pair of HD598's within this range. J&R Audio sold them for $179 or so about 3 or 2 months ago.

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  9. thank you very much for the reply.. regarding the closed back headphones I'd rather the clarity of the open ones as I have owned both of open and closed backs and the closed ones do provide the nice subwoofer effect but the sound feels like its trapped inside..

    i guess i will go with the 558 or 598 but the only problem that's holding me from buying the 598 is the poor material quality on the sides (the famous crack) and i really dnt want that to happen.. I have read that Sennheiser did change the materials for all the products manufactured after June/2011 (not sure of the month exactly), but I dont know which authorized dealer do sell the new ones or if they will even ship a new one and not just throw an old one to get rid of the old stock?? :-S... do you know which seller has the new ones or you can trust?

    and one last thing about the amp if you have any recommendation for a budget one to be mainly used in home with the laptop? cheaper is better

    many thx in advance

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  10. Yeah in the headphone world closed and opened backs both have their advantages and disadvantages.

    Now I Sennheiser has confirmed that the new material was used at around 06/11 but they have yet to give me a reply on what serial numbers we consumers should look out for. Now if you didn't mind shipping your headphones to your nearest service center if the cracks appear this won't really affect you as Sennheiser promised to fix any headbands (that are still within warranty of course) with this problem free of charge with the new headband.

    From what I know, you can tell that you have the old headband due to the creaking you hear when you move the joint of the headphone. Alternatively you can call your local service center and ask them to confirm whether or not your headphones have the new material.

    If you're in the US or have a chance to go there, J&R is a dealer you can take a look at. In Canada, Bay Bloor Radio and Long and Mcquade is another place you can look. If you're lucky, you could probably find them at a Best Buy or Future Shop. As long as they're on the authorized dealer list, you can trust them.

    My recommendation for cheap amps and DAC's would be to look at Fiio, they offer nice amps at a low price (from $20-$200).

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  11. Sorry if you live in other countries but I haven't dealt with dealers outside of Canada and the US.

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  12. Hey, I've been looking into these headphones for a little while. Just wondered if you'd reccomend them for music along the lines of Dubstep, metal and hard rock. I mostly listen to these genres. If not, what would you reccomend? I wanna stay away from Beats by Dre, as I have heard that they lack build quality.

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  13. For those genres I would generally avoid the HD558s. Even though they have bass, they still "lack" in a sense when listening to those genres. When it comes to Beats, I only find them suitable for hip hop and techno based genres. Overall I would say Grados, Pioneer and a few Sony headphones would make better choices.

    Now I'm not saying that the HD558's aren't enjoyable for the genres you named, but you won't be getting the most out of them.

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  14. Okay, thanks. How is the "noise cancelling" on the HD 558's? I will be listening to them on a bus, and some other noisy environments, so will they "drown" the background noise out well?

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  15. I'm sure I've said this PLENTY of times: when you have open back headphones, you will get nearly NO noise isolation... best you can do is turn up the volume and hope for the best. Also these headphones are a tad like speakers, people around you will hear your music for sure.

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  16. i never had an open back headphone. are they disturbing for other people in the same room if not hearing very loud?

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  17. if they are disturbing for other people even if hearing at low volume levels, perhaps i should watch for some closed headphones. My preferences are: about the same price as senn hd 558, as unbreakable as possible with detachable cord (a must - I am not a very careful person), "allround" sound

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  18. They can be quite disturbing if you are in a quiet environment (so avoid places like libraries). The HD558s are more of an indoor personal headphone thus it was designed to be used in an environment where no one would mind the noise. Around the same price (assuming you are talking about the suggested retail value) I would suggest getting a pair of HD25II. Besides giving good "all around" sound, the headphone was designed to be "user serviceable" so even if a part breaks you could find order the part from Sennheiser and repair it yourself.

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  19. @jr. kong (ak47-whaaa)
    how do i check that my 558 is after july 2011 product? bought at amazon germany at dec 2011 (west)

    the font box is red unlike utube vids mostly r orange color font on the "Outstanding ...." is it mine is old or fake??

    bro.. what is the best way to store the cable? circle or?? cos i will be traveling often. i need hippo cases or??

    thanks.. sry 4 my bad eng. hope u can guide me..

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  20. I would say your best bet would be to email or call your local Sennheiser department and ask for them to check the serial number.

    As for the font, I'm not sure...

    As for storing the cable, curling the cable in a circle is always the best as it doesn't stress any parts of the cable. I'm fairly sure a large hippo case should fit the HD558s and it would be recommended because the HD558s don't come with their own case.

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  21. yeah thanks bro~ ur simple tied solution doesn't seems pleasant if i'm not mistake, that method will cause static.

    u got any recommend equalizer setting for 558?

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  22. Yeah I never liked the cable tie method but I used the HD558s as a portable headphone with a DAP (not a smart idea as the 3.5mm adapter can seriously damage the circuit board of your device). So I had to think of a solution that kept the cables in a nice bundle, and the cable tie was the least damaging that fit my needs at that time.

    As for equalizer settings, I generally avoid those as I find they screw up the audio depending on your source snd equalizers need to be changed depending on the genre, so I rarely play around with it. But when I did use equalizers with the HD558s I used it to boost the bass frequencies (0-150 Hz range) to balance it out a little more when listing to more bass oriented music. When using the equalizers, it did take a little tweaking before I found a nice balance without having the bass veiling the other tones.

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  23. bro.. 150Hz for bass frequency is it 2 high? i mostly use on my laptop or hp.. i'm just amatuer entry-level on headphones.. as we knw that the bass was just sweet only (feel like no bass) but the surround was awesome.. i din burn & just listen some music, movie & games.. thanks for ur info..

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  24. It really varies between songs, sometimes I'm fine with just a boost up to 80Hz but there are some songs that sound better with an increase up to 150Hz. I'm just giving you the general range I usually boost.

    The HD558s/HD598s is a great entry level headphone, one of my favorites just because of it's comfort, removable cable and adaptive sound. For those who don't crave too much bass, these are perfect.

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  25. i set 80hz & 6dB. i prefer more treble but i found the treble is too sharp until not get used to it. eg: playing soccer games, while they are kicking the ball i felt pressure on my ear. i set my master volume 15~20% only & reduce the game volume as well. maybe i'm not familiar with it this moment.

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  26. I've never really had that problem, but it's different for every person.

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  27. bro.. i found out my last 6 digit series number r older than those utube vids guys posted. i noticed 99% of the box is orange fonts but mine is red fonts. can u help me clarified?

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  28. I wish I could say I could help you out, but I'm not the best person to ask. But I think I can guide you to the right people, where do you live (just the country is fine).

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  29. http://www.sennheiser.com/sennheiser/home_en.nsf/root/0service-partner?Open&country=malaysia

    Mypantrade (Malaysia) Sdn Bhd a gal returned my call & stated is orange font but my font is red. my cousin said amazon never get sued b4. i might take legal action with them.

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  30. Huh, I would like to see what happens. Amazon is an authorized Sennheiser dealer so if you order directly from them they shouldn't be fake.

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  31. ya.. my bro & cousin said is orange font.. so i need to go back check again. look like i gt color blidness. ur icon is orange & red background right?

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  32. bro.. happy new year! wanna ask u something regarding burning.

    if i din burn my headphone wat will happened & by burning it, will that damage the 558?? kindly recommend some burning stuff. thanks~

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  33. Burn in refers to the theory that the more you use your headphones the better they sound. Ultimately the key word is "theory" in that sentence, it could be happening, it could be all in your brain. Leave it up to your ears! So in theory, using your headphones normally is pretty much burning them in and it's not possible to damage your headphones if you use them normally.

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  34. Thanks for the review! They do *seem* like what I should be leaning toward based on your breakdown, but I always appreciate situation specific advice.

    I have PX90s and while I enjoy the rich detailed sound, their bassiness eventually kills it for me. I know you say these aren't bass heavy and are detailed on the bass, but I'm not sure what you'd think of the 90s in that regard as most people I come across don't consider them bass "heavy".

    Should I give these a shot once they get cheaper? I like the way basslines in say, a Pixies or Cure song sound, but I like hearing the sinister textures of them and not a bass boost. Are these so bass neutral they'd "take away" from that sort of texture/feel to a good guitar bassline (or capture the subtleness {i.e. details as you say) of early 60s stuff like Velvet Underground/Donovan? Neither are my favorites, but they're the easiest reference points I can think of when asking about the sound I'm talking at. I also like a lot of jazz influenced indie poop too, so..any advice on these or alternatives would be appreciated.

    Bilo

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    Replies
    1. I haven't heard the PX90s at all but the HD558's bass is very neutral which is why I found it so aggressive. I think you'd enjoy the HD558 considering what you listen to

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