Sennheiser HD 569 Head­phones

Easy On The Ears

Sound & Vision - - QUICK TAKE - BY STEVE GUT­TEN­BERG

My long-run­ning fas­ci­na­tion with Sennheiser head­phones dates back to the first ones that I bought in 1972: the HD 414 with ca­nary yel­low ear pads. I can’t re­mem­ber how or why they van­ished from my col­lec­tion decades back, so I re­cently bought an an­cient pair of HD 414s on ebay, and the sound was even bet­ter than I re­mem­bered. I still have the com­pany’s HD 580, which I bought in 1994— an­other model I keep com­ing back to. Lis­ten­ing to the com­pany’s rel­a­tively new HD 569, I have the feel­ing they’ll still be cher­ished by their own­ers decades from now. They’re that good.

Granted, the HD 569 is mostly made of plas­tic, but it’s rugged plas­tic, and the black suede ac­cents on the earcups and the mem­ory foam earpads add touches of class. Noise iso­la­tion is just av­er­age for this type of head­phone, which is to say it’s pretty good. Thank­fully, the ear-clamp­ing pres­sure is mod­er­ate, and the head­band pad­ding did an ex­cel­lent job of re­duc­ing the pres­sure on the top of my nog­gin. Add it up, and the HD 569s are easy to wear for hours at a time. Speak­ing of time, the HD 569s come with a two-year war­ranty, dou­ble the cov­er­age length you get with most head­phones.

I like that the earpads are user­re­place­able, which will al­low own­ers to con­tinue en­joy­ing the HD 569 for many years to come.

The head­phones are pack­aged with two ca­bles, a 10-foot one with a 6.3mm plug for home use, and a mo­bile 4-footer with a 3.5mm plug and a one-but­ton re­mote plus mi­cro­phone for calls.

Don’t let the very af­ford­able price lead you to un­der­es­ti­mate the HD 569; this is an au­dio­phile-ori­ented de­sign. That much was clear when I spent a few hours spell­bound lis­ten­ing to a handful of Vladimir Horowitz CDS. His touch on the keys was ex­quis­ite. Even on his last record­ings of Chopin when he was 86 years old, the le­gendary pian­ist’s tone and phras­ing were awein­spir­ing. The HD 569 was a faith­ful mes­sen­ger of this mu­sic.

Mid-pe­riod Neil Young and Crazy Horse’s Ragged Glory al­bum, with its splen­did feed­back and dis­tor­tion, am­ply demon­strated the HD 569s’ rock cred. Young’s vo­cals were es­pe­cially glee­ful— he was hav­ing a blast, and so was I!

When I watched the Mother! Blu-ray, I loved the way the HD 569 dis­ap­peared. The en­tire film takes place in a house in the mid­dle of nowhere, but I felt like I was there. The creak­ing wood floors, drip­ping wa­ter, the ram­pag­ing hordes of vis­i­tors that turn up later in the film— all came across con­vinc­ingly. The film’s sound­track was truly im­mer­sive with the HD 569.

I was ea­ger to hear how the Sennheiser would com­pare with my Au­dio Technica ATH M50x head­phones ($149) when play­ing Robert Plant’s re­cent Carry Fire al­bum. Plant’s vo­cals shined with both ‘phones, but the sound was more “canned” and closed-in over the M50x. Still, some lis­ten­ers might find the HD 569’s softer sound less ex­cit­ing than the Au­dio Technica’s pre­sen­ta­tion. I like both head­phones a lot, but if forced to choose, I’d go with the HD 569 for its sweeter tone.

There’s been con­sid­er­able buzz on the au­dio­phile street about Sennheiser’s HD 660 S head­phones ($500), and since I also had those on hand, I de­cided to see how they com­pared with the HD 569. The two mod­els are more alike than dif­fer­ent, but the HD 660 S sounds smoother, clearer, and more open. Still, re­turn­ing to the HD 569 af­ter spend­ing time with the HD 660 S wasn’t a let­down.

The Sennheiser HD 569 may not sat­isfy buy­ers who crave ear-throb­bing bass and sparkling highs— these are neu­tral-sound­ing bona-fide au­dio­phile head­phones. But the the HD 569 sounds great and, best of all, it sells for a very rea­son­able price.

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