As one of the largest and most respected brands in the audio world, Sennheiser is known for producing headphones that feature incredible comfort and sound quality. It’s the reason why I was intrigued when asked to test out Massdrop’s HD 6XX headphones, an exclusive model made in collaboration with Sennheiser that’s only available from Massdrop.com. These are basically a private-label version of the classic Sennheiser HD 650.
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This reboot is a pretty big deal for audiophiles, but does the significant price drop on this model mean a significant drop in quality? I took a closer look to find out more.
Special thanks to Massdrop for sending a pair of HD 6XX for us to review!
Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX Headphones Full Specifications
- Midnight blue color
- Dynamic transducer
- Open back
- Frequency response: 10 Hz – 41 kHz
- Nominal impedance: 300 ohm
- Cable length: 6 ft (1.8 m)
- Connector: ⅛ in (0.3 cm)
- Weight: 9.2 oz (260 g)
Out of the Box
The original Sennheiser HD 650 headphones have been in production since 2003 … 2003! Almost nothing in the headphone market stays available for that long. But after listening to the HD 6XX model for the past three weeks, I now understand why the HD 650’s popularity has endured all these years.
Let’s start with the differences between the HD 6XX and the HD 650. The HD 6XX comes in a cheaper outer package (something that gets thrown away, so who cares), however the nice interior display box that houses the headphones is identical. The HD 6XX is a midnight blue color rather than the black of the HD 650, but the blue is so dark that it looks black except in certain lights. The cord on the HD 6XX is also a bit shorter (6 feet) than the cord on the HD 650.
The speaker drivers are identical though — and that’s the important part. Identical speakers equals identical sound.
Fit and Comfort
One of the most underrated features of any headphone is comfort. There are many high-end, great sounding headphones that are not very comfortable, especially after a few hours of use. The HD 6XX headphones, however, are one of the more comfortable pairs I’ve ever used, even after extended listening sessions.
These HD 6XX are circumaural (over the ear) headphones — they’re big, but not dorky-looking. The ear cups are angled — much like ears — and can be slightly swiveled, which helps with fit and comfort. A metal slide bar can also be adjusted to better accommodate a variety of head sizes. The headband is softly cushioned with thick pads — something that follicly-challenged people can appreciate. Clamping pressure from the headband is a bit tight, but becomes more relaxed with age. The ear pads have a velour-like surface that doesn’t get too warm when wearing. (Face it: There’s nothing grosser than sweating while wearing headphones.)
Even though the HD 6XX “Y” design headphone cord is shorter than the HD 650 cord, it is removable, which can be a lifesaver if you have a pet that enjoys chewing anything it can find, or you just like to keep a neat workspace.
As comfortable as the HD 6XX headphones are, the audio quality is even more impressive. Two words come to mind when listening: musical and effortless.
So what does it mean for headphones to be musical? When listening to music, whether through headphones or speakers, I like to enjoy it without the distraction of searching for clinical details. Some headphones are so exacting when reproducing a recording that they sap the life and energy right out of the music. You might think that the more accurate sounding a headphone is, the better. That’s seldom the case, which is why the HD 6XX headphones seem so magical. They allow you to become immersed in the music — and that’s always a good thing.
As for seeming effortless, the HD 6XXs never sound like they are working hard to reproduce music, whether connected to a laptop, a smartphone, or whatever. Some headphones allow you to more easily experience and enjoy your music without distractions from the things on your ears. The HD 6XXs are these kind of headphones.
The HD 6XX are open-back, which simply means that the ear cups aren’t covered by a solid material, and are instead protected by a metal wire mesh. There are upsides and downsides with this type of headphone. Audio sounds more expansive and less “in your head,” which helps music have an open and live-sounding quality — much like speakers in a room. However, this effect is not as prominent on the HD 6XX as it is on some other headphones (like Grado headphones, for example). So if you’re a fan of other open-backed headphones, you may experience slight disappointment with the HD 6XX.
The downside of an open-backed design is well, they’re open. Any person sitting next to you on a train or subway can hear what you hear, meaning that secret Justin Bieber (ABBA in my case) obsession isn’t so secret anymore. Unfortunately, that’s the trade-off with any open-backed headphone. Bottom line is if you’re looking for a commuting headphone, look elsewhere. But for home use and private enjoyment, go for it.
As I was listening to some of my go-to songs for testing headphones, a couple of things became apparent. First was the bass — or lack of it. Don’t misunderstand me, bass on the HD 6XX headphones is accurate and impactful; it’s just not overpowering as on many other popular headphones. To me, that’s a big plus. However, if you are a bass head, you may not be a fan of these. I also appreciate that the higher frequencies are not overly bright. Even songs that were recorded a bit on the bright side sound more balanced.
Vocals also have an intimacy that I found pleasing. On well-recorded songs, singers can sound like they are in the same room. Since most vocals fall into the middle frequency range, this means that the mids may be slightly forward sounding. This is a popular tweak many headphones (including the HD 6XX) employ and for good reason. It usually results in better sounding headphones.
The HD 6XX model brings out hidden musical qualities and subtle detail sometimes missing or buried in other headphones. Even songs that tend to distort on some headphones were reproduced effortlessly. Once again, it’s that musical element to the HD 6XX headphones that make them so appealing.
Considering that the HD 6XX headphones are practically identical to the Sennheiser model, it’s not just a good deal, it’s a steal.
Should You Buy the Massdrop HD 6XX Headphones?
While the original Sennheiser HD 650 headphones retail for around $500, the HD 6XX model costs just $200 at Massdrop. This is what truly floored me about them. Sure they’re comfortable and the sound was incredible, but you really can’t beat that price for this level of quality. Considering that the HD 6XX headphones are practically identical to the Sennheiser model, it’s not just a good deal, it’s a steal. You could buy two pairs, put one away for safe-keeping, and still have money left over.
Do you have the older Sennheiser HD 650 headphones? Are you considering the HD 6XX? Think you’ve found even better headphones at a lower price? Let us know your experience in the comments!