This one has a bit of history, for context…
First you’ll have to know that when I was younger, I used to be a musician. I played bass guitar (and my brother Willi even had an acoustic double bass). I was in the studios (EMI Electrola, no less) at the age of 19, so I’m used to good amps, speakers, and headphones and know how music sounds either directly or through very high end equipment.
Some years ago, we needed headphones for Mitchie, and so I bought what I knew was good: AKG K-240 – we’ve used that one in the studios a lot. But for Mitchie it was a bit big and heavy, so later I ordered a slightly smaller K-141 Mk2 for her, and I took the big one.
Alas, it broke. Without any apparent reason. And I thought wow, they used to be a lot more sturdy during my times. Mitchie had some smaller earplugs which she preferred, so I got her K-141.
But that one has a problem as well – it loses its colour on your ears, and it even gets sticky during summer when it’s hot – can’t be healthy, and I thought damn, they now cost more in Euro than they used to cost in German Mark, and still they’re much worse than they were in the good old days. Definitely some cost savings through cheapest material going on here, so AKG doesn’t seem a good choice for the next one…
The next ones were Sennheiser in-ears. I was used to and knew Sennheiser as well, but I’ve never tried in-ears before. And I must say I don’t really like them as much as my brother does. They’re like a plug in your ear, something which disturbs me – don’t know if I could get used to that.
At work I have a Sennheiser HD201, and I bought a second one which Zuleikha uses at her digital Yamaha piano, so she can practice without disturbing anyone. Looks like this:
These are cheap (around 20€) and sturdy, and they’re good for the purpose like at work or on the piano. But I still was thinking about some better ones.
Our friend Thorsten from Bonn knew that I was looking and found the perfect ‘Black Friday’ deal for me. These ones:
These are called Sennheiser HD598 Special Edition, and right now while I write this they are offered for 229€ at Amazon Germany, or for $164.72 at Amazon.com. I’ve paid 99€. So how are they?
In a word: fantastic.
I’ve read that they would lack some bass, so what I tried first was – of course – some bass. Started with Ham Hocks and Cabbage from the Christian McBride Trio album Out Here, and wow – that is some double bass! Nothing missing at all, and I thought hmmm whoever thinks these lack bass probably never heard, felt, or even played one. But maybe they meant something like dynamics? Ok – next I tried Panther from Marcus Miller‘s The Sun Don’t Lie. And again, wow, shake yer booty baby, this was almost unbelievable. Hm, something more melodic? Next was A Remark You Made from Weather Report, with the unforgettable Jaco Pastorius, and by now I was convinced. This was music like it should sound, nothing missing and nothing added, just perfect.
Ok, something else. Maybe guitar? I started Ulf Wakenius‘ Bretagne, followed by their very percussive Breakfast in Baghdad. The guitar was perfect, as was Vincent Peirani‘s accordion (and scat vocals), and – again – the double bass played by Lars Danielsson. For comparison, I chose the same song with vocals by Youn Sun Nah, and after that it was Momento Magico, which Ulf Wakenius composed just for her.
Wonderful. Smooth and high-endy, very detailed but never too much of anything, so you can just close your eyes and concentrate onto the music. Definitely the best headphones I’ve ever had, and that by a large margin. Oh, they’re comfortable as well, so maybe I’ll try them on the TV (which is attached to an Onkyo stereo receiver) next. The “SE” (for Special Edition) in the headphone’s name stands for the fact that these are black instead of brown, and they come with two cables – one with 1.2m and small plug, perfect for computer or mobile devices, and one with 3m and big plug (and adapter to small) for the tele or wherever you need some distance.
Perfect. Thanks again to Thorsten for finding that offer. They’re better than my AKG were, so even for the higher price they’re recommendable – but for under 100€ that was a steal definitely. Thanks mate!