Sennheiser HD 560S
Sennheiser HD 560S
Sennheiser HD 560S

Sennheiser HD 560S: Affordable high-quality headphones

Sennheiser HD 560S
8.5

Sennheiser persistently manufactures a broad spectrum of headphones, expanding its production facilities across various nations. My initial encounter with Sennheiser when I experienced the acclaimed HD 800S headphones, and it was an instant connection. The soundstage, authenticity, and positioning captivated me from the first note, sparking a deeper interest in the brand’s diverse headphone range, which spans multiple series each offering five to seven models across different price points.

It wasn’t until 2024 that I delved into a more comprehensive exploration of Sennheiser’s offerings, starting with the mid-range HD 560S. Despite their unassuming design, comprised of 80% plastic, rest assured that this simplicity belies the serious commitment to acoustic excellence found within.

Unpacking and packaging

The headphones are presented in a sizable gray cardboard box, adorned with blue highlights. The packaging features an image of the headphones themselves, with the model name elegantly scripted in silver. Beneath this, a declaration labels them as “reference class headphones for analytical listening,” inviting scrutiny. This packaging design, while typical for the brand, maintains a sleek and stylish appearance.

The package is minimalistic:

  • Sennheiser HD 560S headphones themselves
  • 1.8 meter cable for connecting to the sound source (2.5 mm branded connector for connecting to the headphones themselves and 3.5 mm on the other end)
  • adapter from 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm with thread
  • warranty card

Design and features

The Sennheiser HD 560S headphones are designed with an open-back style, embodying minimalism with their predominantly plastic construction. Metal is used sparingly, reserved for the grilles on the cups and the logo, adding a touch of elegance. The ear pads are oval-shaped and covered in velour, spacious enough to comfortably accommodate ears of all sizes. A unique feature is the headband’s soft, divided roller, enhancing comfort atop the head. These headphones are designed to sit snugly over the ears while remaining almost imperceptible during wear. However, I found the comfort level to be moderate and recommend trying them on and listening to them before making a purchase. It’s crucial not to focus solely on sound quality; the overall comfort is equally significant.

Additionally, the headphones come with a detachable cable, a practical feature for easy replacement over time. The cable is 1.8 meters long, suitable for various listening environments, and is soft and flexible, with minimal microphonics. An included 6.3 mm adapter facilitates connectivity with stationary audio sources like DACs or sound cards, enhancing the overall user experience.

The open-back design of the headphones offers a blend of advantages and drawbacks. On the upside, it promotes a sense of openness, naturalness, and realism in the sound, eliminating the sensation of music being confined within one’s head. However, this design also means that sound leakage is inevitable; what you listen to can be heard by those around you, and ambient noises from your environment are not blocked out. While these characteristics make the headphones ideal for audio mastering, where critical listening and sound accuracy are paramount, they are less suitable for recording purposes. Sound leakage into the microphone can compromise the quality of recordings by introducing unwanted noise.

The ear pads are another noteworthy feature, made from a soft, velvety velour that is comfortable against the skin. However, they are prone to gathering dust, which may require regular cleaning. Additionally, the dense mesh covering the speakers slightly dampens the sound, a design choice that may affect the audio’s brightness and clarity to some extent.

The headband adjustment mechanism features a stepped fixation, offering distinct and clear positions for sizing. The headband, constructed from plastic, reveals through visual inspection that it houses an inner band where the adjustable bracket is directly slotted. This design implies that despite its plastic composition, the headband is robust and substantial. During use, I observed no signs of looseness or squeaking, indicating a well-constructed mechanism. It’s worth noting that adjusting the headband prior to wearing the headphones is advisable. This approach not only makes it easier to discern the clicking sounds that indicate the headband is locked into place but also allows for precise adjustments to the size of both ear cups, ensuring a more customized and comfortable fit.

Sound

The sound profile of the headphones, when initially evaluated, might evoke skepticism due to their plasticky, seemingly fragile construction. However, this perception quickly shifts once their audio capabilities are fully experienced. The sound signature is notably accurate, bordering on monitor-like, with a pronounced clarity in the high frequencies. These headphones distinguish themselves as the first truly neutral pair I have encountered, lacking the vibrant coloration often found in other models. Their balanced sound spectrum features moderate bass, clear and timbre-rich mid frequencies, and enhanced highs for detail revelation. While they do offer a soundstage, it lacks the airy openness found in the best open-back designs, yet surpasses the spatial representation of all closed-back models I’ve tested.

Pairing the Sennheiser HD 560S with the Shanling H5 amplifier, using an unbalanced 3.5 mm connection at roughly 50% volume on high gain to accommodate the headphones’ 120-ohm impedance, reveals the nuanced capabilities of this setup. The sound leans towards warm and comfortable, rather than cold or harsh, with high frequencies emphasized in a way that enhances clarity without overwhelming.

The Shanling H5 amplification brings out a stronger low-frequency presence, slightly overshadowing the lower mids but brightening the upper midrange. This adjustment accentuates instrumental sounds and vocal performances, creating a broader and more authentic soundstage. The treble is treated with musicality, achieving a soft yet precise delivery without appearing excessive or insufficient.

This configuration transitions the headphones from their analytical baseline, with balanced bass and midrange plus a slight emphasis on treble, towards a more musical profile that enriches the emotional engagement with the music. However, this shift does entail a trade-off, notably in the loss of micro-detail, suggesting a compromise between analytical precision and musical enjoyment. These usage scenarios highlight the headphones’ versatility, suitable for detailed listening sessions where sound accuracy is paramount, as well as for more casual experiences where musical enjoyment takes precedence.

In the second setup, pairing the Sennheiser HD 560S with the iFi Hip-Dac 3, the listening experience shifts focus, emphasizing comparative characteristics without engaging the XBass feature to maintain objectivity. Nonetheless, it’s noted that the XBass option can add a suitable punch to various tracks for those seeking a more emotionally resonant sound. Volume settings were adjusted to around half, with the balance altered when not using the PowerMatch function, typically requiring a 70-75% volume increase for optimal listening.

The sound profile with the iFi Hip-Dac 3 appears less emotionally charged than with the Shanling H5 but is characterized by a smoother, more natural progression across the frequency spectrum. This setup fosters a deeper engagement with the music, allowing for extended listening periods without fatigue.

Examining the sound by frequencies, the bass with the iFi setup is described as elastic and full-bodied, yet not overly emphasized, matching the headphones’ neutral stance. When bass is present in a track, it’s distinctly audible. The mid frequencies exude warmth and spaciousness, delivering natural timbres that evoke the ambiance of a live performance, despite a slight veil that slightly obscures full transparency and soundstage, irrespective of the audio source. The treble is balanced, offering superior micro-contrast compared to the Shanling H5 setup, sounding neither boosted nor diminished, with excellent definition.

Overall, this configuration maintains a higher degree of analytical integrity, with enhanced vocal clarity. The absence of XBass results in a subtler bass presence, but it remains sufficient. The equilibrium between speed and depth reinforces the headphones’ neutral and analytical character, ensuring that all music genres are rendered with consistency, free from excessive emotional fluctuations, yet delivering an engaging, warm, and authentically pleasant performance.

Comparing the two setups, the iFi offers a more analytical and natural sound profile, while the Shanling leans towards a more musical and emotionally engaging experience. This versatility underscores the headphones’ suitability for both critical work and leisurely music listening. Their even frequency response aids in identifying mix issues, with the emphasized highs assisting in detecting recording artifacts. However, their open design precludes them from being ideal for voice recording, pointing towards closed-back models for such purposes. For music enthusiasts, these headphones excel across all genres, especially when paired with DACs in the same price range, allowing listeners to tailor their sound experience to their preferences for slight nuances in presentation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the German manufacturer has impressively demonstrated that with a budget of around $250, it’s possible to produce exceptional headphones by focusing on sound quality, speaker performance, and the intricate acoustic design within the earcup (including the angle of the speaker placement, and the design and finishing of the earcups), rather than on lavish materials and external design.

Furthermore, these headphones are lightweight, comfortable to wear for extended periods, feature a replaceable cable, and come with soft ear pads that prevent overheating without causing discomfort, although their tendency to attract dust could be seen as their sole drawback. With their balanced frequency response, the Sennheiser HD 560S headphones excel both in professional settings and for high-quality music listening, offering a natural sound presentation. They manage to deliver an engaging listening experience without overly analytical sound or pronounced accentuation, ensuring enjoyment and satisfaction for a wide range of users and applications.

Sennheiser HD 560S
Sennheiser HD 560S
8.5