- Refined, detailed sound
- Detachable cable
- Extremely comfortable
- Grille looks a little cheap
- Review Price: £130.04
- 15 – 28,000 Hz frequency response
- 50Ohm impedance
- 3m detachable cable
- Open-backed design
- Velour-covered pads
The Sennheiser HD 558 look a lot like the rest of Sennheiser’s new-breed headphones, the HD 518 and HD 598. Sitting between the middle of the two, they’re not crafted completely out of luxury materials, but they offer the most important elements – comfort and sound quality.
Each ear pad is lined with soft, very comfortable velour, as is the headband. The leather and wood trimmings of the HD 598 are absent, but the two are comparable in terms of comfort. You can wear these headphones all day long without even the slightest hint of discomfort. They clamp onto your head fairly securely, to avoid slipping when moving, or dancing around, and at 260g they’re very light for a full-size pair.
The large cups surround your ears, so unless you have particularly large lobes, the HD 558 should only end up touching your head, not your ears. Like Sennheiser’s other over-the-ears models, the headband is manually-adjustable, clicking into place at defined increments. It doesn’t manually adjust to your head size.
Aesthetically, the stand-out feature of the Sennheiser HD 558 is the outer covering of each cup. This oval speaker grille is covered in translucent black mesh material, surrounded by a silver plastic trim. It’s less likely to offend than the slatted look of the HD 518 headphones’ backs, but also looks a lot cheaper than the full metal grille of the HD 598. This defines the HD 558’s gameplan – the substance of the higher model, without all of the styling tweaks.
The back grille here does flex a little under pressure, but otherwise build quality is top-notch. Aside from the padding, all the visible surfaces are plastic, but the headphones are tough and largely creak-free.
The cable pipes-out from the bottom of the left cup, and is removable. The 2.5mm jack is kept in place with a locking mechanism built into the rubber-coated jack, making it simple to replace the cable should you run over it with an office chair one too many times. Cables are currently available for under £15.
The 3m cable ends in a full-size 6.3mm jack, but a 3.5mm converter is bundled as part of the package. With this tacked-on, the jack housing is huge though, reinforcing that this is an at-home set, not one to be worn out and about.
If you do decide to take the Sennheiser HD 558 out with you, passers-by will be able to hear what you’re listening to as they’re open-backed headphones. The perforated back grille of each cup leaks sound, and also means that they provide very little isolation from the noise of the outside world. They’re next-to useless on public transport, unless your aim is to annoy your fellow passengers.
As an at-home pair though, they’re utterly brilliant. With a detailed, smooth and balanced sound, they can take on all genres of music and delight the ear. They trade away some of the bass thickness of the cheaper HD 518 set, but in return provide superior separation and dynamics, and a more robust mid-range. Complicated musical arrangements remain coherent, and this stepping-away from a more low-end focused approach makes even better use of the airiness offered by an open-back design. The treble is detailed and refined, only the bass could do with a bit of a tightening-up.
To get better sound within Sennheiser’s HD range, you’ll have to step up to the HD 600/650 – which cost at least twice the price. With them will come more musicality and greater dynamics, but that’s not to suggest the HD 558 won’t satisfy discerning ears.
These lower-end 5** models also use lower-impedance 50Ohm drivers, as opposed to the 300Ohm 6-series models, lessening the need for a dedicated headphone amplifier. A good amplifier can still improve the sound – our test valve amp added a little low-end power – but these cheaper headphones are a great choice if you want to keep your setup simple, and affordable.
Clarity fiends may want to consider the AKG K271 MKII, and bassheads something like the Ultrasone HFI-680, but as an all-rounder that can accommodate virtually all tastes, the Sennheiser HD 558 are very tough to beat at the price. Their fairly neutral sound can skip between rock and classical tracks without a slip, and also makes them an excellent choice for sticking into a television or receiver for late-night TV or movie-watching.
The Sennheiser HD 558 are an excellent entry point into high-end audio. Detailed, refined and smooth-sounding, they never offend the ear and don’t spend any time on surface level details like the HD 598. They skip between genres, and between music, movies and TV, with ease, and are supremely comfortable to wear.
Score in detail
Design & Features 8
Sound Quality 9
|Type||Open Air (Circumaural)|
|Number of Drivers (Times)||1x|