SENNHEISER HD 569
Straightforward cabled headphones with solid sound at a good price. Sing hallelujah, etc.
T hings we like best in headphones? — a reasonable price, and good fundamental sound. So we thank Sennheiser for the HD 569, entry model to the HD 5 series which includes the HD 579, HD 598 (in open- or closed-back variants), and the open-back HD 599. Sennheiser’s attempts to differentiate the performance through this range are entertaining — the HD 579s are described as “near audiophile”, the HD 598 as “exceptional sound quality”, the open-backed HD 599 back to “near audiophile” plus “impressively natural spatial performance”.
These HD 569 headphones below these are, then, described merely as “a flexible option to the Home entertainment space”. We reckon this is quite the understatement — we loved them. Sure, they are plain Janes to look at... pretty much entirely without adornment, predominantly plastic with their closed outer cups covered slightly strangely in velour to match the more practically employed soft velour on the earpads and over the padding of the solid adjustable headband. But the earcups are large, and the fit is comfortable, even if they can throttle you somewhat when dropped around your neck. As with the rest of the range their 40mm drivers are “specially positioned” to “channel the audio signal directly into your ears”, which it’s hard to deny is indeed a sensible idea for headphones. Sennheiser gives this rad notion the tag of “Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement” ( E.A.R. — see what they did there?).
These are cabled headphones, supplied with a 1.2-metre cable for portable use and a longer three- metre cable for the home. The portable cable has a single inline control for play/pause and next/last track (no volume control) and to control calls, for which a microphone is also included.
And by keeping things on the comfy side of basic, Sennheiser has kept the available funds focused on sound. There are no sonic adjustments, no EQ options, and they don’t need them, because it’s a natural balance, full in the bass and lively in the midrange. The top end isn’t wide open sparkling stuff, despite a frequency response quoted to 28kHz, but we certainly never felt anything was missing — indeed we enjoyed their gloriously musical sound, keeping them to hand on the commute (a bit large, and non-folding) and at home over an extended period even when far costlier designs were available for use.
They come to life particularly at higher volumes — a stop or two down from our iPhone’s maximum output — where their dynamic abilities are best expressed. It was through the HD 569s that we discovered the
joys of Mali-born guitar band Songhoy Blues — the wonderfully clicky edges of the guitar parts and irresistible grooves of the track Bamako delivered with rhythm and precision through the HD 569s. Closer to home, the soundscapes underlying Seth Sentry’s
Play It Safe were deliciously and spaciously spread across the soundstage as a backdrop to his uniquely ironic valedictorium rap — all clear and tight through this lusciously layered and wide mix.
There’s the lightest of emphasis in upper bass lower mids here, which could slightly overweight plummy male spoken word, but it never interfered with musical performance, which regularly transported us to realms of delight, including a blissed-out experience of the thoroughly three-dimensional It’s A Beautiful World from the latest Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album.
Of course there are no variations of voicing across Bluetooth or noisecancelling use, because there’s none of that here, although their tight fit and closed-back design gives you a good dose of passive isolation from the world outside. There’s plenty of level available — the
impedance is a phone-friendly 23 ohms, with Sennheiser quoting SPLs to 115dBSPL (@1kHz, 1V RMS). We’d note again that when used at lower levels they were somewhat dynamically flatter sounding, inevitably. But if you like living at the top end of your source’s level, sinking into the sounds and shapes and songs, then these Sennies can put you there.
Enjoying an extended listening session one sunny Sydney afternoon, the quality of the HD 569s had us pondering the ever-rising levels of headphone pricing yet again. How much more do we need? This level of performance from a headphone we’ve seen available under $200 gives hope to all those who eye off $1000+ and $2000+ headphone designs with hesitation, if not downright suspicion.
We did find that their size and firmness reliably messed up our hair during the daily commute in, which may be worth considering if hair is important to you. If music is more your thing, the sound of the HD 569s will not disappoint at the price.