Sennheiser HD 555 Audiophile Headphones
Last Christmas (2009), I added the Sennheiser HD 555, Sony MDR-V6, and Sennheiser HD280 Pro to my headphone collection. I have unintentionally amassed quite a collection of earphones and headphones. My sole purpose for the HD555 was to gain the best possible sound for watching television shows and DVD movies, while connected to my PC. Was the HD555 worth adding to my collection?
- Extremely comfortable
- Fantastic sound, especially for video
- Single-sided cord
- Sweet value (buy 2!)
- Good looking
- User replaceable cord & pads
- 50 ohms now, instead of 120, for better driving of portables and PC’s
- No case included
- Lacks some bass
- Replaceable parts crazy expensive
Despite my past audio equipment ownership (Linn, NAD, Nakamichi, B&O, etc.), I do not consider myself an audiophile or expert. I usually just go by what actual experts recommend and on occasion I will spend time sitting in a listening room comparing components. Despite my experience, I have paid very little attention to headphones, because until recently, I did not use them as frequently as speakers. I believe that I am guilty of frequently buying the wrong headphones. And I truly feel that many people are guilty of the same thing. I have come to the conclusion that my #1 priority in headphones is comfort, then sound quality at a close #2, with convenience being #3. I used to think sound quality trumped all, which I now realize was a big mistake.
Of the 10 or so headphones I have owned (all under $100), the Sennheiser HD555 is the most comfortable pair I have ever worn. Compared to many full-sized headphones, they are light weight and the headband does not squish the top of my head. The velour earpads are the epitome of headphone comfort and will be hard for me to use any other earpads now. Eyeglass wearers will also find them comfortable. The pressure on my head and ears are fairly minimal, especially when compared to the closed HD280 Pro I had recently. The open HD555 also allows a bit of breathing as well so your ears won’t sweat as much as closed cans. I can easily watch a couple of movies without fatigue. Remember, because these are open cans, they will leak sound out and you’ll also hear outside noise. I wanted open headphones because I will use them in a quiet environment and can listen out for my wife and kids should they need my attention.
The big mistake I have made in the past is thinking that sound quality trumped comfort. That is the reason I bought the HD280 Pro initially, despite all the comments about “vise grip” tightness. The HD555 is comfortable AND sound great. Anyone that tells you different is lying or have their nose’s high in the clouds. Overall sound was very natural and detailed. I don’t listen to music nearly as much as I used to but I do watch a lot of DVD’s and videos on Hulu and Netflix streaming. The HD555 uses what Sennheiser refers to as a, “surround reflector”, which they claim, “improves spatial sound characteristics.” Believe it or not, it works. I also found music listening to be very enjoyable, but mostly for rock and other music that don’t have heavy bass. Rap, techno, and trance sounded fine, but it wasn’t nearly as fun to listen to as on my Sony MDR-V6, which has great bass, but is harsh in the highs. The HD555’s are rated at 50 ohms of impedance. I believe they stopped production of the 120 ohm version around 2006. The 50 ohms are better for driving portables and PC’s. There is also a lot of information on the Internet about modding these cans for arguably better sound. I personally like to keep my cans stock. Also remember to give them about 50-75 hours to break in. I’ve listed some of the materials I used to test the sound quality below. All source audio were Lame VBR encoded or FLAC encoded:
Various Trance- DJ Tiesto
Tristessa- Smashing Pumpkins
Suddenly I See- KT Tunstall
Enter Sandman- Metallica
Without Me- Eminem
Everything- Michael Bublé
The Way You Make Me Feel- Michael Jackson
Chains Of Love- Erasure
Hold On- Sarah McLachlan
Omaha Beach scene in Saving Private Ryan
Opening scene in Star Trek (2009)
Convenience to me really refers to how easy headphones are to use, store, and maintain. The single-sided cord is great to avoid messy tangles and general comfort, but they are also straight and not coiled. I personally prefer coiled because I use them in front of a computer. Coiled cords don’t tangle and are easier to manage than non-coiled cables, but then again, these are audiophile headphones, not monitoring or DJ headphones. For those who use the HD555 with their actual home theater system, the straight cord is probably better to have. They do not fold up at all so an included pouch or case would have been nice for storage and travel. It is important to note that if you are looking at the HD555 for use with a portable, or in my case, a PC, that the cord terminates to a 1/4″ headphone plug (the larger plug). It does come with a straight adapter to 3/8″ plug (35mm small plug) but I highly recommend purchasing a flexible adapter to alleviate stress on the jack connector. Moreover, the headphone jack on my Logitech Z-2300 speakers would not take the included adapter because the overall size was too big. I could only plug it in directly to my sound card. I eventually purchased a flexible Grado adapter (which did not come with my Grado SR60). Lastly, the cord and earpads are user replaceable but holy mackerel are they expensive! The replacement parts are kind of hard to find as well. I would seriously rather buy a new pair of headphones than pay for the replacement parts, if for no other reason than to get another 2 years worth of warranty.
If I had to pick only one pair of headphones at the $100 or less price point, I would likely pick the Sennheiser HD555. The balance of comfort, sound quality and convenience, make them one of the better buys, in my opinion. I had the Grado SR60 for a few years but recently sold them because I tired of the way the ear cups attached to the headband. Unless you have specific reasons for looking at closed, monitoring or DJ headphones, I would steer clear of them no matter how good they sound. The Sennheiser HD555 is the best of all worlds in my opinion and I’m tempted to buy a 2nd pair just as backups. I enjoy them that much!
Available from Amazon.com.