Reviewer: Anthony Fordham
There’s a species of audiophile who insists the only way to truly appreciate fine music is through headphones. Unfortunately, the headphones the audiophile is referring to usually cost more than $1,000. Fortunately for the rest of us, there are a number of prosumer headphones available that don’t cost the earth but do you give you access to a kind of audio performance in a different league from what we’ve come to accept from little rubbery earphones.
The HD555s hit smack in the middle of Sennheiser’s “high end”. It has the HD515s at the bottom for $200 and goes all the way up to the HD650s which are yours for a mere $949.95. TheyÃ‚Â are designed for folks who want to enjoy impressive home theatre and music audio without that niggling feeling you get when you buy a set of surround sound headphones and worry they espouse technical gimmickry over pure sound quality.
The HD555s utilise Sennheiser’s geekishly-named Eargonomic Acoustic Refinement (EAR, geddit?) system which includes an internal sound reflector to improve the shape of the sound field.
Duofol diaphragms are designed so the sound proceeds directly out of the headphones and into your ears without bouncing around in the casing and creating standing waves which can affect audio quality.
The magnets in each driver are neodymium and the voice coils are aluminium, which Sennheiser claims improves dynamics.
Finally, the ergonomics have long-term use in mind, with velour earpads and an extremely light construction, so you can sit through a Lord of the Ring Extended Edition marathon and not disturb others who are being social and interacting with their fellow humans and other weird stuff like that.
Audio from the HD555s is excellent and its immediately apparent where the extra money is going. While earphones at their best are like having audio transmitted immediately if inelegantly into your brain, the HD555s actually create a sound field. You feel surrounded by and embraced by sound. It’s less surgical, and more personal.
Sennheiser’s list of feature may be marketing guff, but the audio from the HD555s is very clean, from the well-rounded bottom end right up to the crystal clear highs.
The unit isn’t the best suited to a portable device, however. It’s attached plug is the 6.5mm Stereo Phono jack for your amp, so the 3.5 mm jack adapter is enormous, so there’s a huge black stalk sticking off the top of your portable player. The three metre cord is also great for the lounge, but less manageable on the road.
This isn’t Sennheiser’s fault – these headphones are designed for indoors, to be used in a quiet room where the open design won’t irritate others. In the public library? Expect a few stern frowns, especially if you’re pumping out electronica.
Comfortable, lightweight, good long cable and various technical enhancements to improve sound quality all combine to make the HD555s an excellent choice. The only possible problem with this headphones is the $200 HD515s which aren’t massively inferior. Truly serious listeners will try to make their budgets stretch $150 further to the HD595s at $399.95 which boast more power. Alternatively, you could hock the kids for a set of HD650s which will probably be wasted on anyone not running extremely high-end AV gear. And plugged into your iPod? Please!
The two year warranty on all Sennheiser headphones is a welcome extra, as well.