Product Review - Sennheiser HD-590 Stereo Headphones - May, 2000

Cynthia B. Johnson


Sennheiser HD-590 Stereo Headphones

Dynamic Transducers (Open)

MFR: 12 Hz - 38 kHz

Nominal Impedance:  120 Ohms

Load Rating:  120 mW

Weight:  10 Ounces

10 Foot Cable with 1/8" Mini-jack and 1/4" Phone Plug Adapter Included

MSRP:  $349.95 USA

Sennheiser Electronic Corporation, 1 Enterprise Drive, Old Lyme, Connecticut 06371; Phone 860-434-9190; Web 


The first thought I had when the Sennheiser HD-590 headphones were handed to me to review, was a vision of a past Christmas gift of fuzzy, leopard print earmuffs. Then I put them on.  Have you ever heard someone say how comfortable their headphones are?  Didn't think so.  Forget about the velvet lined padding around the speakers, but this pair of phones is the most comfortable headset I have ever used (and probably the most expensive).

The Design

The 590s are an open-air design, meaning that the drivers are open to the outside at the rear, but closed with respect to the space between the drivers and your ears.

My friends and I tested the listening quality of the HD 590 phones in three different surroundings:  (1) At home with my Sony CD player and Yamaha Receiver, (2) with a Panasonic SL-S360 portable CD player on an airplane, and (3) with the portable CD player outside on the beach.

To begin, these high quality head phones were designed for listening to music at home, or for the professional DJ in a club atmosphere.  With the radio station set on my Hip-Hop channel, 106.1, I was still able to hear my phone ring.  Depending on your mood at the time, this can be good or bad.  For me, the sound of the phone is like the constant honking of a car alarm.  So, if you like to lose yourself in musical beats and rhythm, you can turn the volume up (depending on how loud you like to have your music). Since I live downtown San Francisco, near a fire station, I  prefer my music more on the louder side.  These headphones give you about 1” of padding, but are open in the rear, so outside sounds get in to a certain degree. However, the "open air" design means no enclosure resonance from behind the driver.

The Sound

I decided to put in a trip hop CD that I found on the Haight, entitled Waterbone, "Tibet", which allowed me to hear multiple tones and pitches made with a synthesizer, and a mix of "organic voicings."  These phones allow the individual to listen to a good bass at a higher level without that horrible ear ache you get with the usual ear phones.  The song, "Song for the Mountains" had a young female chanting with some type of wind instrument and bells playing the chorus.  Not one hissing or booming sound entered my ear.  They are so clear, you could probably hear your favorite musician sneeze (or worse) in the background!  

Switching to my portable CD player, and the Lenny Kravitz CD titled "5", I turned the volume up to 7 and jammed to a few of my favorite songs including “If you can't say no”, “Thinking of you”, and “Fly Away”.  If you usually turn the volume up to level 10 on your walkman to enjoy your music, this might be a wise investment for your eardrums down the road.  To compare the volume level with these phones vs. the stock phones that come with portable CD players, I plugged the 590s into my Sony 5 CD carousel. I was able to enjoy my music at a safer volume level with the 590s. The 590s have a much deeper bass, and I realized I was listening to my old cheesy headphones at a louder level to get that bass. This is a good selling point for purchasing quality headphones.  Try listening to Black Rob, "Life Story", track 7 titled "Espacio".  With the regular ear phones that came with the portable CD player, the booming of the bass over-powered his lyrics and left me with an incredible headache.  No thank you.  Returning to the 590s, I must have replayed that song more than 15 times (as in 16).  The clarity is so perfect, you can learn the words to your favorite songs with a few taps on your replay button, unlike the mush mouth sound you get on cheap phones.

As far as the airplane test site, we tried the 590s in the headphone jack to watch the movie (we were on our way to Kaui - tough job, but someone has to do it).  We could only get one side to work, so I guess the jack is mono and not set up to connect with stereo phones

Beach-goers, beware of certain features of the 590s before you order.  The designers did not construct this comfortable component for you to snooze away on your towel while catching the sun rays.  Nor can you go running with these attached to your head.  I tried running in place to see if I could give you my thumbs up to the runners out there, but they tend to slip around during exercise.  Don't blame Sennheiser for getting fat though, because these are for comfort and high quality listening, not sweating to the oldies.  But if you want a good pair of head phones to use with your system at home, I definitely would crack open that piggy bank and order these.  By far, this is the best pair of phones I have ever tried. Absolutely every one of my friends who put these on said they are wonderful.

- Cynthia B. Johnson -


© Copyright 2000 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity
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