Sennheiser HD595 - Grado SR325i Tube Amp Sound Off
What happens when you get an iPod full of hi-bit AAC and Apple Lossless files, a hi-fi Tube Headphone amp and two of the finest headphones together? Not much work if you like music.
Steve Pell came by my cubicle today and insisted I get nothing done by plunking down a pair of Sennheiser HD595s on my desk for a listen. The headphones are a step down from the HD600 and HD650s but they're highly underrated cans. By contrast I own Grado Lab's 325i and listen to them every day so it was a real treat to compare a completely different sound. Both are award winning headphone manufacturers. If you're looking for good sound out of your headphones, only Grado or Sennheiser will do. But there is a stark division among the headphone hi-fi faithful. Sennheiser and Grado offer sensational but very different acoustic qualities.
We compared acoustics through my Antique Sound Lab tube headphone amplifier. Using an iPod as a source is controversial at best to any true audiophile, but I've never claimed to be a strict audiophile. I love a good high bit MP3 or AAC file even if it is a noticeable step down from the quality of a lossless codec or PCM. Most would agree the convenience of a portable MP3 collection is worth the minor losses in frequency response for casual listening.
Grado Labs are noted for a brighter sound. They tend to present more forward middle high tones so bass freaks needn't apply to the Grado Labs roster. But, what these bright sounding headphones lack in flat response they make up for in personality. Most fans of Grado Labs headphones say they have a bouncy quality that makes you want to bob your head to the music. It's a character that's probably noticed when you listen to rock or guitar oriented music. Most music that is well suited very detailed highs will sound great with Grado Lab's headphones.
Sennheiser are famous for being the flat, purist of hi-fi cans. These headphones are very good at reproducing details and silence in between tones. Fans of Sennheiser will say they're more true to the recording's original intent without coloring the sound either way.
I've been listening to the two all day long and while I admit I'm a fan of Grado - the Sennheiser HD595 were a treat. They're particularly good for techno music that offered some thump. I've always loved female vocalists through my Grado Labs. Aimee Mann, Liz Phair and Bel Canto shine through my SR325i. The Sennheiser's didn't disappoint me one bit, I loved the fidelity of these ladies voices and they sounded as though they were coming from inside my head.
The only downside with Sennheiser was at times - too much bass. The HD 595 gave a bit too much low end making certain songs downright muddy. This helped most techno and hip-hop tracks. But some tracks with a lot of bass were just too much. The bassline in South Side by Moby was too muddled, it hurt.
Switching the same song over to Grado really neutered the bass. But once your ears adjusted to the change the results are enjoyable. The question of which is better, Grado or Sennheiser is indeed one of the classic confrontations in history – like Godzilla vs King Kong. Perhaps Sennheiser HD 600 or HD 650 would be a more practical comparison to Grado's SR325i. But Sennheiser's HD595 are fine headphones and had a sound quality I'd stack up against anything, but I still have to give the edge to my Grado's.