The Saga of Headphones- Ep. VII- The Final Sound Revealed?

Finally, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. All the online reviews, all the comparisons, even the mere knowledge that it was hanging there, lonely in some Akiba Hi-Fi store, just waiting to be bought. So, in a supreme act of mercifulness, I saved it from such a fate. There’s one less puppy in the pet-shop now! Like a small child again, I just could not wait to get it home. But not to try it just yet- I left it for about a week with a constant stream of music playing from my computer, ‘burning in’.

So how is it? Heaven itself! I have never heard such rich, beautiful tones in the comfort of my home before. Instruments sound just like what they are- each little twang of a string is audible, for the first time I am hearing the emotion of the music directly, feeling swept up in it. But what has to stand out most of all is the sheer beauty that it recreates. It’s delicious, it’s sensual, and you just want more and more of it. This must be what people mean by a ‘musical headphone’ and I have certainly been missing out thus far. Sure, my others are impressive and sound good in their own way, but not to this extent. The HD 595’s are known, from online and magazine reviews, as one of the most supremely balanced headphones in the world, certainly in its (not exactly cheap, but not obscenely expensive) price-range. Each genre sounds good, with a decent sound-stage, and a delicious smoothness that keeps you hooked. Some people who have tried many a headphone have decided just to settle on this one (though it is not alone in such claims). Audiophiles usually go for something a bit more high-end, but just look at this HD 595 appreciation thread at Headfi to see how much praise this one still gets.

Or, if you want to hear it from Joe Average rather than a confirmed audiophile, take a peek at the Amazon online reviews here (they are what pushed me over the edge.) If there was something someone might want ‘more of’, these phones might disappoint. Some have more detailed treble, more impacting bass, or a wider sound-stage. What the 595 aims at is a good balance. Traditionally, Grados are known for their speed, crystal-clarity and a very small sound-stage. In my experience they are quite a thrill, but I’m not sure how much I could take of their intensity. As you go up the series, the bass apparently improves and the sound gets ‘bigger’. By being quite so detailed though, some find them ‘fatiguing’. Meanwhile, Sennheisers are known for a broad, laid-back, mellow view of music, a stance often called, ‘musical’. Trying out the 580’s I could see this, but to be honest, without getting used to them, they simply bored me. I want more action- but I also want a broad sound. Meanwhile, the AKGs are known to be somewhere in between. The 595’s are Sennheiser’s attempt to bridge their ‘Grado-gap’ and I for one am enthralled by them.

So, for my headphone quest, I may well just call it quits here. If I want another sound, I can just EQ it in, raising the bass or artificially expanding the soundstage- or just flatten them out (not that I’d want to!). So, how does it compare to my AKG’s? They seem to colour the music more, but only making it more warm and ‘beautiful’, musical. In most cases, even if the music wasn’t meant to sound this way, what do I care… it sounds good enough to eat! There is a lot more detail, instruments I didn’t even hear before make their appearance and classical is whole worlds better. Having more ‘feeling’ makes these a must. Yet, like I said, in most cases, not in all!

With hard rock, or the ‘rap-rock’ of a band like Linkin Park, they just aren’t down and dirty enough, not ‘grovy’ enough, too ‘polite’. That’s when my AKGs come out and just don’t leave my head. They convey that juicy, heavy beat so much better and you can just get down! Watching TV or films is also better with them, I find, as they convey the ‘visceral’ effects so directly. Whilst the 595’s excel; with music, the 240’s are much better with sound and certainly have more than enough detail for the task. They are the ‘phones that transformed 24 from an entertaining, slightly dramatic series, to a gripping, very enjoyable one. They are also great for those pounding rhythms of trance, anything visceral but nothing too delicate. As for comfort, here the 595’s shine brightly. With their soft pads, they just feel so nice on my ears. My AKG’s feel good, too, and fit on my ears a bit better, but by making their bassy seal they get hot and as summer approaches they seem to be getting hotter every day!

Of course, with any kind of audio choice, you have a ‘horses for courses’ situation. Just because I love them, it doesn’t prove that anyone else will (although these are a very popular choice and with good reason). I may well reach for a new pair one day, especially to make the very, very most of classical. For this the Beyerdynamic DT 880 pro’s or one of the other top of the line units, like Sennheiser’s own HD 650’s or even (eek!) the AKG 701’s. Yet, from everything I’ve read, these don’t just cost (a lot, in the AKG’s case) more, they also need lots of good amplification to even sound good. So they can wait for another year methinks. Then, you are squarely in the audiophile territory of silver-lined cables and expensive CD players to feed an appropriate ‘source’ to an even more expensive amp. For now, I am happy as can be! (Not only that, this Audio Saga has just achieved more episodes than Star Wars!)

 

*Note As for amping, I can listen to them for a bit straight from my PC soundcard, but it’s not much fun- so much better with my (small) amp. From my phone audio out sounds good, but not as rich. You get such a fuller sound with the amp, that there isn’t much comparison. I should add that they are often considered one of the very best headphones to hear unamped around; I’d say, though- don’t bother, it’s not satisfying… but then again, that’s just me.  

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2 Comments

  1. Gideon

     /  June 11, 2007

    Hey just drop me a line and a day-trip to audio nirvana can be yours! Believe me, the saga is not yet over, as I am not so pleased any-more with my pc sound-card and that\’s where most of my listening comes through. Please remember, when doing any listening test not to listen to any audio sources for at least three days prior. In fact, a spell of solitary isolation in a darkened room is recommended, just to really tune your aural senses. If you want the maximum effect you could even start now, until whenever it is you make it over here!

    Reply
  2. The Whitemeister

     /  June 10, 2007

    This audio saga may have achieved more episodes than Star Wars but you still need to surpass the likes of Police Academy and erm, well thats about it actually! Like that series of films your headphones saga series has always remained as consistent in its quality!!
    No matter how many times you blog on this subject i will never believe it until i actually test them for myself. I shall await my invite! Or maybe you should do an \’open day\’ event at LBH towers for all your readers to experience what you do…….and yes i am still talking about your headphone!

    Reply

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