Sennheiser HD555 Professional Headphones with Sound Channeling (Old Model)
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- A comfortable, high-quality headphone system
- Extended spatial field surrounds you with sound; ergonomic Acoustic Refinement enables ideal sound channeling for a new kind of listening experience
- Features State of the Art Duolfol diaphragms
- Velour ear pads let you keep glasses on while listening
- Comes with manufacturer's 2-year warranty
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A comfortable, high-quality headphone system Extended spatial field surrounds you with sound; ergonomic Acoustic Refinement enables ideal sound channeling for a new kind of listening experience Features State of the Art Duolfol diaphragms Velour ear pads let you keep glasses on while listening Comes with manufacturer's 2-year warranty
Top customer reviews
Everywhere around the net praises these headphones for having excellent sound quality for their price, and when you do a simple mod, you can essentially turn the HD555's into HD595's. So with all the glowing reviews and possibility of having sound quality of the 595's for about half the price, I was sold on these headphones.
My expectations for these was this, to have the same crystal clear and crisp audiophile sound my HD280's have, except with the added bonus of better imaging and better soundstaging, since the HD555's are open while the HD280's are closed. However what I experienced when I first put these on was a bit disappointing.
I listened to several songs with both my HD555's and my HD280's, making side-by-side comparisons of them. Right off the bat I noticed my 280's were significantly cleaner sounding and less 'muddy', however the 555's beat the 280's in terms of imaging and soundstaging. With the 280's the sound is right on top of you, directly in your head, while the 555's are more open sounding with a broader range of sound from left to right. At this point I figured I might as well do the mod to get better sound quality.
After successfully doing the mod, I tried them again the same songs. This definitely helped them out, the lows sounded cleaner, the mids were not as overpowering and the highs were a tad bit better. However there was still a indirect 'boxy' midrange sound to them, which was coloring the sound. After testing on music I decided to try them out with a movie to see how peoples vocals sounded when they talked, which is typically the hardest thing for speakers to replicate accurately, the human voice.
Right away it is very obvious that human voices do not sound accurate, the 555's color the sound so voices sound boxed in with way too much midrange and not enough highs, even a woman's voice had 'bass' to it, which was not right at all. And when I switch back to my 280's the voices sound perfectly natural as if the people are standing right next to me with crisp highs which blend perfectly with the mids and lows. Whereas listening to somebody speak through he 555's is like listening to somebody speak through a speaker with a blanket in front of it. Not very good. Plus when people talk they sound almost 'distant'. I was able to get the midrange to be less overpowering with some EQing on my Onkyo receiver, but doing this also messes up the EQ for my main speakers when I am not using the headphones. Which is not convenient at all.
However, aside from the over-barring midrange and lack of highs, the lows are quite good. They are just about equal if not better than my 280's, they are clean, punchy, responsive can drop very low and you can feel the headphones moving during heavy bass scenes in a movie or music.
All negatives aside, the imaging and soundstage of the 555's is superb. Absolutely blows away my 280's, and this is where the 555's really shine. Sound effects can be heard with precise detail and really sound like they are coming from all directions. You can easily locate a precise sound when you hear something to the left or right, it's almost as if the sound is coming from the room you are in. Weirdly enough the sounds coming from specific directions sound cleaner than those which are imaged in the center of the soundstage, it's the strangest effect. Cause anything which is centered in the soundstage has the over-barring boxy midrange and lack of highs, but as soon as it reaches out from the center of the stage, you can hear it as it is supposed to be heard
Nevertheless, I plan on keeping these headphones cause they are still decent phones for the price, but I am disappointed in the overall performance of them. I am hoping that perhaps once I break them in they will start to sound better and better, as maybe this is why my 280's sound so good because I have broken them in over the past 4 years with thousands of hours of music, movies and gaming into them.
So here is a simple pro/con of the 555's.
- Amazing soundstage and imaging quality
- Solid, responsive and clean lows
- The comfort of these is mind bogglingly good
- Can be modded into 595's
- Cord is plenty long (although I would have preferred the 'coiled' style cord like the 280's have)
- Seems like they are built to last
- Midrange is too powerful and inaccurately colors the sound, which makes certain sounds seem 'boxed in' and unrealistic
- Highs need a boost
- Some sounds are too distant, and when mixed with boxy mids and weak highs it invariably creates a 'blanket' effect (muffled)
- Mixed with the above negatives, too much EQ adjustments are needed to make these phones sound realistic. If you have a stand alone audio system just for headphones this may be acceptable, but mixed with headphones and regular speakers can present various problems (IE constant adjustments when going from headphones to speakers)
- Cord is not coiled, which can often result in knots and tangles and tends to get in the way where a coiled cord would not
I will update this review if breaking in my phones helps reduce the boxy midrange and strengthen the highs.
EDIT: Just so I am clear, when I say the midrange is overpowering, I am referring the the lower midrange, basically the spectrum which intersects between the lowrange and midrange. In fact the upper midrange of these headphones is very weak, it is the lower midrange that is over-barring, which colors the sound. The lack of upper midrange is what keeps these from being as clear and precise as the 280's.
Also take note that these are pretty weak as far as Db sensitivity is concerned. With my 280's I can hold a typical 42 volume level on my Onkyo which is normally a perfect volume for me when I am wearing my headphones, however with the 555's I have to crank up my receiver to 50 just to get the same SPL as I do with my 280's at volume 42. It may not seem like much, but 42 to 50 is a pretty large jump, may be almost 2x's as much compared to 42.
UPDATE 4/23/11 - Ok, after spending some more time listening to the 555's with my games and movies plus doing some more comparison tests with my 280's, I think I have a better idea why these don't sound exactly the way I would like them to and why they do not sound quite as good as the 280's in certain areas.
Lower mids and upper lows - The 555's are very strong in the upper low frequency and lower mid range freqs, which is why they tend to add a lot of unnecessary 'bass' to peoples voices in movies and games, it's kind of like turning the crossover way up on a subwoofer in a home theater system (past 150Hz), it will pick up and amplify things like people speaking in a movie, which offsets the balance and blend between the main speakers and sub. I believe this is what the 555's are doing, they have such strong upper lows and lower mids that it tends to overpower the upper mids and lower highs. The remedy for this is to turn down the bass on the receiver/amp, however turning down the bass to compensate for the over-barring upper lows and lower mids also means less overall bass.
HD280 comparison - The 280's actually have a far superior lower bass range (I would say 60Hz and below). So when I have my 280s on when I see an explosion in a movie or reach a heavy bass part in a song, it will really dish out that low bass to make more of a impact. The 555's are lacking in the lower bass range, and the impact that I can feel with my 280's is much less prominent and dynamic with the 555's.
Upper highs - After doing some more comparisons, I believe the 555's actually have a brighter top end than the 280's, there is definitely more 'sparkle' in the upper highs than with the 280's. However the 280's have an almost flawless blend between the upper highs, lower highs, upper mids and lower mids, so while there is less sparkle in the top end on the 280's, the overall clarity makes up for that. And is something the 555's cannot do.
So basically this is what I have noticed with the 555's:
Upper Highs - Excellent
Lower Highs - Above Average
Upper Mids - Lacking
Lower Mids - Strong
Upper Lows - Very strong
Lower Lows - Lacking
And the 280's
Upper Highs - Above Average
Lower Highs - Excellent
Upper Mids - Excellent
Lower Mids - Above Average
Upper Lows - Above Average
Lower lows - Excellent
Now keep in mind this is just the overall clarity of the sound, far as a open soundstage is concerned, the 555's take the cake. Not quite as open as I originally hoped they would be, but they are much more 'wide' sounding than my 280's are. My 280's have a in-your-face condensed type of sound which makes them powerful with a lot of impact. Whereas the 555's are more mellow and warm, the different instruments and sounds seem further apart and more distant. I suppose you could say it is easier on the ears.
Just to further illustrate the amazing open nature of the sound from the 555's, I was playing Portal 2 last night and there was certain ambient sound effects going on in the background. Well there was this one sound that actually scared me a bit, cause it sounded like it came from outside my apartment (my window was open). I actually had to take off my headphones to see if something was going on outside, cause it was a very strange sound. After resuming the game the sound occurred again several minuets later and it still took me by surprise, as it REALLY sounded like it came from outside. To be honest I am still not sure if it came from outside or if it was actually from the game, although based on the properties of the sound it would have made sense if it came from the game. To say the least it was an amazing 3D sound effect, something I have NEVER experienced with my 280's.
Anyway, once I burn these in more I will update if necessary.
UPDATE 5/23/11 - Alright, it's been about a month since I purchased these headphones and I can conclude a few things.
I will keep this short, these headphones excel with music, and video games. But they are lacking with movies and TV shows. If I want to listen to a song, the HD555's are the first thing I grab. If I am playing a video game on my PlayStation 3, the HD555's are what I use. But when it comes to movies and TV shows, I choose the HD280's over the HD555's in a heartbeat.
Why? Mainly because the HD555's are wonderful when it comes to sound effects (video games) and music. They are probably the most comfortable and easy listening headphones I have ever heard when it comes to music, and they have amazing spacial surround-sound effects in video games. But they are HORRIBLE when it comes to movie and TV show dialog. Voices sound boxy, have far too much mid-bass and dialog sounds way too distant for my liking.
Overall if you plan to get the HD555's, they are great for music and video games, but are lackluster in movies and TV shows.
They're very comfortable for long-term use. Open construction seems to breathe a lot better than closed. Again - a nice quality for home use where you're more likely to be wearing them for a long time.
I've owned this pair for years and haven't had any issues with durability or construction - they've kept on working just as you'd hope and expect from a brand like Sennheiser.
This is an older model, but Sennheiser is a reliable brand in general, and great for producers + music-lovers alike. (I'd hesitate to call myself an audiophile. I just like listening to music and having it sound good, without relying on gimmicks or fancy equipment outside of my headphones and my receiver. Like, I have a record player, but I'm just as likely to be feeding audio through my laptop or listening to the TV or playing video games. These are good for that stuff, too.)
These were a great value at the time I bought them. The model that's replaced them looks to be at a decent price point, too. Still, I love my 555's.