What Hi-Fi (UK)
Sennheiser HD 560S
A sub-£200 product for the audio enthusiast is a bold move; so has Sennheiser pulled it off?
There’s an old Chinese proverb, “Although gold dust is precious, when it gets in your eyes it obstructs your vision”, attributed to zen master Hsi-tang Chih Tsang in 800AD. Back then, he probably didn’t have access to Sennheiser’s HD 560S open-back headphones, but his summation reminds us that items deemed highly desirable can produce the greatest disdain, should we find them disappointing.
In hi-fi circles, any product claiming to have been “crafted for the analytical audio enthusiast” but with a price tag of less than £200 will turn out to be either exceptionally good value or a huge disappointment. So, has Sennheiser struck gold with the HD 560S, or is it about to rub the dust in our eye?
Really rather comfortable
Sonically, Sennheiser is pushing these cans as the closest option to the firm’s HD 660S, but for comfort, the company likens them to the HD 599. Thanks to the velour earpads and ample padding on the headband, they are really rather comfortable. At 240g without the cable, their relative lightness belies the size of those large earcups with metal grilles too, which fit well around the ear.
Although Sennheiser’s claimed ‘barely there’ feel is optimistic, thanks to the padding, light design and earcups that are angled just slightly forwards, they are an easy wear. Because of their open-back design, the HD 560S feel ventilated and cool to wear, too. The headband is plastic and the sliding mechanism clicks when adjusting them to fit, but it isn’t noisy during use. The earcups are designed to swivel slightly, which is enough to ensure they cover your ear properly. These wired headphones come with a rubberised and relatively slender 3m cable, and the 6.3mm plug will connect to hi-fi sources such as headphone amps and audio interfaces. The bundled 3.5mm adaptor hooks you up to digital audio players, tablets and smartphones.
The Sennheiser HD
560S’s cable is connected to the left earcup only and is detachable.
Under the hood, Sennheiser’s all-new 120ohm drive unit with polymer-blend diaphragm and high-strength magnet aims to reproduce deep bass notes and treble with clarity and control.
Although this is an open-back headphone and susceptible to ‘leaking’ sound by design, we find these Sennheisers actually bleed audio far less than the Award-winning Grado SR325E. That said, if you’re conscious of not upsetting your housemates with your musical choices, take heed.
We cue up Sean Paul’s reggae/dancehall classic, Dutty Rock. The Tidal Master album comes through with a healthy dollop of spaciousness at this level. The initial chord intro to I’m Still In Love With You snakes between our left and right ear with a greater analytical accuracy than through most competing headphones at this level.
Sasha’s vocal is well handled through the treble next to Paul’s deeper registers within a cohesive and layered mix. The horns, which can often feel muddied in this track, are celebrated with a good amount of three-dimensional brassiness through the midrange too.
As the album continues to Bubble, the presentation is even, clear and spacious. The bass is agile, although there is a little extra bass weight available in the pricier Grado SR325E. Roughly struck key chords through the treble are also marginally more impactful and edgier through the Grados, but even accounting for the price difference, the Sennheisers don’t convey the full verve and zeal that we know are part of the recording.
Switching to Melissa Etheridge’s Come To My Window, a shaker is beautifully placed above our right ear. Etheridge’s rhythm guitar joins a cohesive mix where every passage is noteworthy and musically pleasing, alongside an unusually detailed vocal for the category.
During testing, we find much to celebrate when listening to classical music – stream Ravel’s Jeux d’eaux played by Monique Haas, and the keys are emotive, clear and refined – but we find ourselves wanting just a little more energy, punch and excitement from the Sennheiser HD 560S when listening to our heavier, funkier reference tracks.
Sennheiser’s back-catalogue of five-star headphones spans more than 50 years. These wired over-ears are a valid addition, offering an acceptable and sonically detailed budget-conscious option. However, those looking for audiophile-grade sound quality – as the company claims – will find them a shade undercooked for punch and enthusiasm.