The open-backed Sennheiser HD 598 headphones offer a jazzed-up take on the HD 595, which have been part of Sennheiser's over-the-ears range for more than five years. They're more visually striking than their predecessors, but anyone spending around £160 on headphones is probably going to care more about sound quality than a flash wood-texture veneer.
Few Sennheiser headphones look as eye-catching as the HD 598s. With a cream and brown colour scheme, they stand out clearly from the hundreds of black and grey cans that the market's stuffed full of - including the new, slightly cheaper HD 558. The materials used in these cans are much the same as its brothers though.
The main structure is made of plastic, the headband from foam and leather, the cups from fleece and metal grilles supply these 'phones' open backs. There are glossy "Burl wood" veneers that surround the speaker grilles and hem-in the leather part of the headband, but they're purely aesthetic and shouldn't affect the HD 598's sound whatsoever.
The high gloss of these showy headphones may be a little artificial, but they feel as high-end as the £200 RRP suggests. The headband is luxuriously padded, and the use of real leather rather than leather-effect "pleather" plastic helps these headphones to pull of their bold looks - it's missing from most of Sennheiser's cheaper models.
Unlike the Sennheiser HD 595 headphones, the HD 598's cable is removable. A 2.5mm jack plugs into the headphone itself, while a twist-to-lock mechanism keeps the cable safely in place when attached - a simple yank won't pull it out. At the other end of the cable sits a 6.3mm jack, but Sennheiser also includes a 3.5mm converter, so you can plug it directly into a portable MP3 player.
The cable's 3m long - too long to take on the streets and not quite long enough for those with bigger lounges or bedrooms, so the removable cable feature is very welcome. Coated in rubbery plastic, it's liable to tangle but this is much less of a problem with home headphones like the HD 598 than those likely to spend a good deal of time stashed in a bag or pocket.
The updated design of these headphones seemingly hasn't added any flab, as they weigh the same as the original HD 595s - significantly lighter than the popular, more expensive Sennheiser HD 650s. They're exceptionally comfortable, thanks to the team effort made by the padded leather headband, velour ear cups, lightweight construction and over-ear design. They do apply some slight pressure to the sides of your head, but they can be worn all day long, and all night too, without any discomfort.