- Impeccable sound detail and depth
- Extremely comfortable for long listening sessions
- Large soundstage area
- No built-in microphone for gaming
- Not very portable
- Not a lot of accessories
Meet The Sennheiser HD 598 Special Edition
Sometimes you have to have that rich, booming sound when you’re watching a movie or listening to music at home, but of course, not everyone living with you may want to feel the floor shaking. The HD 598 SE is a solution definitely worth considering—this premium pair of headphones deliver a crisp, deep, and detailed soundscape that rivals some of the more expensive home theater systems out there.
Utilizing Sennheiser’s “Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement” (E.A.R.) technology, the 598 Special Edition channels audio signals directly onto different portions of the listener’s ear, creating near life-like effects both in terms of detail and the illusion of surround-sound.
Practical Design, Old-School Look
The 598 SE comes in two colors, the first being the standard all-black variety. The second, paint job, may catch a few eyes, however, as the retro beige tint seems to be making a comeback in the tech market. The cream color looks really nice on the headphones when combined with the burl accents on the edges of the headband and the earcup padding.
The headphone padding is covered by soft leather, which has the nice aesthetic detail of being visibly stitched along the sides.
The open-back earcups on both colored versions are covered by black-coated metal grills, surrounded by a loop of painted silver. The Sennheiser logo can be seen nestled behind the grills on both earcups.
Designed For Comfort and Extended Use
Let’s face it—when you’re investing in a serious pair of headphones, chances are you’re going to want to use them for extended periods. As such, the 598 SE is more than comfortable enough for those long listening sessions. The headset is relatively lightweight for its size, and the plush padding on the underside of the headband minimizes fatigue on the top of the listener’s head.
The earcups themselves have an open-back design, meaning that air can flow through from the outside and keep the listener’s ears cool. The plush velour padding on the inside of the feels very smooth and soft when sitting around the user’s ears.
E.A.R. Technology Creates Realistic Surround Sound
Sennheiser describes their “Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement” technology (no, “Eargonomic” is not a typo) as a way of directly guiding sound waves to the listener’s ear. While the product description avoids going into much detail as to how E.A.R. precisely works, it is most likely an acoustic design feature that is found in many audiophile-quality headphones.
Simply put, the audio drivers contained within the earcups are shaped and angled in such a way that sound approaches the ear in the most natural direction possible. When watching a movie with surround sound, for example, sounds that are intended to come from behind you will feel nearly as realistic as having a full home-theater audio setup. At times, it might be easy to forget that the sound is being channeled directly into your ears, rather than from throughout the room.
Open-Back Earcups: Pros and Cons
For those that are unfamiliar, open-back headphones are much less common than the closed-back variety. Closed-back basically means that the outer shells of the earcups are completely enclosed, limiting air flow and creating greater sound isolation. Open-back headphones, by contrast, are not completely enclosed. They normally have some kind of grill made of metal or plastic that lets air flow through while still protecting the inner workings of the headphones.
The HD 598 Special Edition is of this latter variety. One of the most common grievances consumers have with open-back headphones, is that the unisolated sound lets everyone around you hear what you’re listening to. The upside, on the other hand, is that the sound waves are effectively “pushed out” of the earcups, creating a large virtual soundstage that sounds like you’re at the concert hall itself.
These Aren’t Traveling Headphones
Since the open-back design of the 598 SE lets enough sound escape for people around you to hear, chances are you won’t be thinking of taking them on your next subway tour. It’s for the best, anyway, since any surrounding background noise can be easily heard by the listener as well. There needs to be as little distracting noise as possible for these headphones to be best enjoyed, and therefore, shouldn’t be wandering too far from your living room.
If you really, really wanted to take these on a road trip, however, chances are they will survive the journey. The 598 SE is flexible and robust enough to withstand a reasonable amount of stress, but just be careful how you pack them as they do not fold inward like some portable pairs do.
Rich, Detailed, Premium-Grade Sound Quality
Getting to the heart of the matter, how do they sound?
The 598 SE is able to deliver deep, powerful bass frequencies with minimal distortion even at high volumes. When playing bass-heavy music, the sound is crisp and balanced enough so that the mid- and high-range frequencies aren’t drowned out in any way.
The open-back design of the headphones, as described previously, give the listener a sense of being on a large soundstage. Tracks that feature orchestras and dynamic soundscapes really shine through on these headphones.
This is especially true when using the headphones to watch movies. The dialogue between characters sounds realistic and natural, while surrounding background noise actually surrounds the listener, completely immersing them in the scene.
No Microphone, But Don’t Rule Out Gaming Just Yet
The lack of a built-in microphone may immediately turn away some of the gaming enthusiasts out there, but the 598 Special Edition still manages to deliver on this aspect as well. While you may not be able to use it to trash-talk your friends while playing your favorite first-person shooter, being able to hear the precise direction of approaching footsteps and potential hazards will give you a powerful strategic edge. Of course, you can always use an external microphone in tandem with the headphones if you still feel the need to brag about your newfound skill.
Should You Buy The 598 SE?
Whether or not you decide to purchase this pair of headphones ultimately depends on what you want to use them for. If you’re looking for a pair of premium quality headphones to take on the road, there are better options available. They are seriously worth considering, however, if you’re looking for a powerful addition to your personal home entertainment.
The Sennheiser HD 598SE is currently selling on Amazon for about $150 (down from $250 when it was first released), and going as low as $115 in some cases. Considering the average price of a good home-theater audio unit these days, calling it a deal may not be giving it enough credit.