Music's pretty great, isn't it? You'd be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn't like listening to the stuff -- and yet so many people are content to hear it through tinny laptop speakers or janky little earbuds they 'liberated' from the seat-pouch of the last aeroplane they took a trip on. "Enough!" we say -- it's time to leave that world of low-quality sound behind, and step into the welcoming light of high-end 'phones. Here to hold your hand is Sennheiser, with its HD 595 headphones -- high-end cans that at £120 are definitely in the shallow end of the high-end pool.
The HD 595's practically scream 'high end', in that they look like air-traffic control equipment. Two massive earcups shelter your fragile lugs, and a soft velvety coating keep these massive cans comfy atop your discerning bonce. We like the metal grille pattern that covers the recognisable Sennheiser logo, but we're less keen on the dirty-green paint job.
Forget style though -- chances are that if you're reading this you're not too concerned with how the HD 595s look, you're more interested in how they sound. We're pleased to report sound quality is every bit as good as we've come to expect from Sennheiser. Rocking out with NOFX's Punk in Drublic album, we were impressed with the HD 595's ability to distinguish clearer tones such as hi-hats and vocal melodies from the grungy, overdriven guitar sounds. Thanks to those super-large earcups, the clear, directional sound from the HD 595s is very spacious.
Mellowing out slightly with Close to the Edge by Yes, we're impressed with the HD 595's ability to deliver bass notes with a decent punch, without overwhelming the mid and high frequencies. All in all, we have zero complaints with the sound quality. If you're willing to spend a few more hundred pounds you will find better sound, but for most people this will be more than satisfactory.
The HD 595's have one potentially ruinous flaw -- they're unbelievably leaky, thanks to their open-back design. This essentially means sound can escape, and is intended to help achieve a wider soundstage and avoid the problem of sound bouncing around inside the earcup. Music at any reasonable volume, however, will undoubtedly be overheard by your colleagues, family or fellow commuters, who may not be so appreciative of your musical taste (the heathens).
Likewise, you'll still be able to hear virtually everything going on around you since sound can also leak in through that open back -- not so great on noisy trains.
Whether or not that leakiness is a dealbreaker depends entirely on where you want to use the HD 595s. If you're looking to use them at work you might find the leakiness annoys colleagues, or more importantly, that their witless banter intrudes on your listening pleasure. If, on the other hand, you're looking for some top-notch cans for listening to your TV or music at home by yourself, leaky sound won't be a problem.
Up the bracket
The HD 595s come with a neat headphone bracket that screws on to your desk, shelves or anything else you can think of. It's pretty sturdy, and during the days we were using the 595s, it really did help us kick the bad habit of chucking our headphones carelessly on to our desk at the end of the day. Practicalities aside, it's a little luxury that will make owning a pair 595s feel a smidgeon more prestigious.
There's also a quarter-inch to 3.5mm adaptor in the box, so you can plug the HD 595s straight into your MP3 player or PC. At 3 metres, the cable is more than long enough for most situations -- but if you decide to venture out and about with the HD 595s, you might find it's a little too long to be practical.
We have zero complaints about the HD 595's sound quality -- they sound brilliant. Unless you're enjoying the cans by yourself at home, the leaky sound will potentially ruin your enjoyment of these high-end headphones however, so think carefully about where you want to use them before committing to a purchase.
If leaky sound is something you're keen to avoid, perhaps check out some high-end closed-back headphones such as the Bose on-ear headphones.
Edited by Nick Hide