The Legend of the HD580 Precision [Review]

The Sennheiser HD580 was released back in the early-1990s and was the predecessor to the legendary HD600 headphone that came out just a few years later, and still in production today. This article is a quick review of this fabled and long ago discontinued headphone. Why, you may ask, am I reviewing such an old headphone that is incredibly hard to find? Because, it's seen a recent wave of popularity again.

First off, this is NOT the same headphone as the Massdrop/Drop HD58X release from a couple years back. It may have similar looks, and made by Sennheiser, but it is tuned quite a bit different, and that one doesn't really resemble the tuning of any of the Sennheiser HD6X0-line of headphones. But, it may have helped with this rejuvenation of sorts.

The HD580's recent rise has also driven up pricing quite a bit on the used market. This headphone was under $100 to find just a couple years ago used, but now, you'll find listings on eBay for $500 to $1000 at times! I was able to secure an auction recently and grab this for a little over $200, so I am fine with paying that price, since this is essentially a slightly different tuned Sennheiser HD600, which goes for $399 MSRP still today.

Because this is such an old headphone, roughly 30 years old at this time, the ear pads and headphone pads do more than likely need to be swapped out. This will set you back about $60 USD (before tax) to get new stock replacement sets. They are easy to exchange out, and gives this headphone a fresh feel and look, plus restores the sound back to how it was intended to sound (since pads dear and alter sound signature).

Build Quality

From afar, the HD580 has the same/similar design to the HD600 and HD650 with the oval cups, minimalistic headband, and same extending mechanism, same pads (cup pads and headband pads), and same detachable cables.

But looking closer, the housing is just not the same quality and feel as the newer models. The plastic doesn't have the extra decorative and gloss layers that make the HD600 and HD650 look more premium. Instead, the plastic feels a bit raw and cheap in comparison, despite more than likely being made the same. 

The grill pattern is also quite a bit different as well. The HD580 grill is plastic with a wavy design, while the HD600 is perforated aluminum metal, and is more open in letting air in and out than the 580. 

In terms of driver-design, the HD580 I have is a "black silk" variety, while the HD600 I have is a silver screen (newer design).

Since the HD580 I bought recently was quite old, the pads disintegrated basically when I touched them and tried to remove them. As I stated above, I had already bought new pads for the cups and headband in advanced and swap them out quickly before I started to listen and measure this headphone, so the data and impressions presented here are based on fresh pads. 

Please also note that the Sennheiser pads I purchased were recent, and are likely from a new manufacturer. The pads generally look the same from afar, but there is a slightly different texture to them from the ones on my HD600. I did measure the pads on the HD600, and they measured exactly the same as the ones on my HD600 when I originally measured them. 

Sound Impressions 

The HD580 has a nice neutral sound signature, with nice even mids, a slightly bright upper-mid range, and a good amount of treble air and quantity that makes it differ from the HD600 I have. I haven't listened to the HD650/6XX in quite a while, so I won't give any impressions of that here. Maybe I'll buy one later and compare all three again.

As with all the Sennheisers, there is a sub-bass roll-off that is very evident. It's not super uncommon for a dynamic-driver open-back to have bass roll-off, but it is still an obviously noticeable thing when you listen to these headphones. With that, some electronic music with deep sub-bass may not be the most appropriate without equalizing up below 80Hz. 

The mid-range has the same and similar natural sounding timbre that is present on the other Sennheisers. It's a nice, and enjoyable listen with most music using real instruments and vocals. The main difference between these and the HD600 is in the upper-mids. While the HD600 already has a nicely tuned upper-mids, nearly perfect to be honest, the HD580 I have here is just a bit brighter.

On some sources I tried this set on, mainly the Topping stack I have at work, or off my phone, I find that the HD580 can be a bit too nasally, bright, and distracting. This was most obvious in electropop music, with female vocals like Chvrches, or bluegrass songs with a lot of strings.

On a warmer source, like listening to them on my home setup of the Holo Spring 3 and Bakoon AMP-13R or with the Chord Mojo+Poly, I felt these were much more in-line with what I expect with a Sennheiser headphone. That is, a nice relaxing, mid-range focused sound that has good solid timbre, and doesn't have a great deal of shout or excessive anything.

One of the main characteristic differences between the 580 and the 600 was how it presented treble. Yes, there's a small increase in upper-mids, which looks more exacerbated in the graph above than what I actually hear, but I think the biggest change is the lower treble range. The extra treble around 5KHz and above brings out a much more open soundstage and a better sense of space and air. I know the term air typically derives from the upper treble range, but in this case, the 580 just sounds more alive.

In comparison, the 600 sounds more dull and dampened, if not a small amount of veil (which I don't think it is veiled, but saying that just for comparison's sake). If you have read my previous writings, you'll know I like this area to be on the brighter-side, with some of my favorite headphones being the various Hifiman gear, the HD800, and the Utopia. Heck, even the ZMF Verite has a brighter peak in this 5-7KHz range. 

Final Thoughts

So where does that leave me? 

I do find the HD580 a more suitable headphone for me than the HD600 in many cases. But I do think its more picky with sources on the limited ones I've tried. I have no problem listening to the HD600 on many different sources, but the HD580's brighter overall sound caused me more trouble on brighter or more sterile source gear.

So is the HD580 the end game hype?

I think its a nice headphone overall, and is a great alternative to the HD600, 650 and 6XX. If you are looking for something like that, but find the others a tad dark, this would be a suitable alternative.

I did find that this does not compete with my Susvara for pretty much everything across the board, except the amp power required to make it playback music at a listenable volume. I found that the Hifiman HE400SE has a lot things I liked about it more, but it's tonal balance in the mids, specifically upper-mids, did rear itself to sound "off" when going back and forth with the HD580.

And finally, I preferred the Audeze Sine over this for a very similar FR, though the Sine is a tad darker in the treble range, but it makes up for it with deep subbass extension, and nice planar precision. I do have a thing for planar headphones, so take that as it may be. 

This is a nice headphone overall. Lightweight, good tonal balance, and easy to use and wear. It's hard to find, and may cost you more to restore it. The price keeps going up on these, and at some point, it may not be worth the going rate for these on the used market. But if you can find a good deal on these, you should. Try it out, and see if you like it. If not, it's quite easily re-sellable now.


  1. A nice laid back review, a good read.

  2. I have these HD580 since almost 30 years... and still delivering an outstanding sound quality. The weakest point is the cable, for which I have not found yet a good spare. Any recommendation in this sense is more than welcome.


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