£90/$100 for incredible-sounding open-back headphones.
Sennheiser’s HD 598 and 599 series of open-back headphones are legendary for their neutral sound signature, comfy velour earcups and wide sound stage. I’ve owned a pair of HD 598 SE headphones for six years, and I still use them regularly – whenever I’m not obligated by my job to test out a new set of gaming cans!
So I was excited to see a set of HD 599 SEs pop up as an Amazon US lightning deal for $100 in the US, down from a list price of $200 – and even more excited to see these headphones also available at 50 percent off at Amazon UK. They’re already 46 percent claimed on Amazon US by the time I started this article, so let me quickly tell you why I really rate these headphones.
So: open back headphones are brilliant for quiet spaces, when you want to really feel like you’re hearing the music from all around you rather than from the inside of your skull. They don’t block noise in or out by design, so you’ll get some leakage out – potentially annoying others – and in – potentially annoying you. That said, the immersive feeling you get from these headphones makes carving out a quiet space and time to enjoy them well worth it.
The wide sound stage and good imaging also make it easier to locate the footsteps of an opponent in Counter-Strike. These sound quite neutral generally, so they’re not quite as exciting as other headphones in some genres, but you can still pick out a good amount of detail without the sound becoming too fatiguing.
As a person that wears glasses, I’m particularly happy with the HD 598 and 599 because they use velour ear pads, which don’t make as good a seal as leather but deform more easily to accommodate the arms of your spectacles. This makes them more comfortable in the long run than the vast majority of headsets I’ve tried, and the HD 598/599 in particular I can wear for hours and hours without discomfort which is awesome.
Finally, these are headphones and not a headset. That means there’s no built-in mic, so if you want something to talk to your friends you’ll need to use an external USB or XLR mic, or strap a ModMic to the HD 599s. Both of these options are easy and work well, but they do require a bit of investment if you don’t already have an external microphone. Personally, I think these headphones are good enough that I don’t mind switching to an actual gaming headset when I want to chat with people, but I can understand if people would prefer an all-in solution, and these aren’t that. Happily, compatibility is at least broad, with simple 3.5mm working for both console teams, PC, most smartphones and many other devices.
These headphones aren’t the obvious pick for gamers, given that they lack a mic, but that’s also what makes these headphones so good – every dollar has gone towards the audio tuning, the comfort, the durability, the stuff that really matters and separates a good pair of headphones from a legendary pair. And at £91/$100, this is the perfect time to see what the fuss is all about.