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Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 9 5.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 74 44.6%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 66 39.8%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 17 10.2%

  • Total voters
    166

amirm

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This is a review, detailed measurements, listening tests and equalization of Sennheiser HD 490 Pro open back headphone. It was kindly drop shipped to me and costs US $399.
Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Producer Ears Pad Review.jpg

The headphone is ultra light courtesy of plastic composite that manage to also feel extremely solid. The included cord feels like premium silicone material. It even has a little coil next to the connection to the headphone as to offer some slack in case of hard pull. Overall there the look and feel matches the "Pro" designation at its price point.

A set of velour pads came installed on the headphone. Another set of thinner, gray tweed pad is also included. The box nicely shows the frequency response of each but sadly, misses to label them anywhere. I had to measure them to figure out that the velour pad is the "producer" one with more bass and the tweed, "Mixing."

If you are not familiar with my headphone measurements, please watch this tutorial on how to interpret them and my method of testing:

Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Headphone Measurements
I started with the velour pad as stated above:
Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Producer Ears Pad Frequency Response Measurements.png

We have deficiencies in lower bass and lower treble but otherwise good compliance. Seeing the bass droop, I thought this was the mixing pad and the other would fill that hole better. I was wrong:

Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Mixing Ears Pad Frequency Response Measurements.png

Note that I had to compensate a bit (half a dB) for volume as the tweed pads are thinner and hence closer to the test fixture microphone. There is impact in other regions of response but some of this could be due to repositioning of the headphone. Notice though the ultra close response of both earphones. They may be doing a better job of matching the drivers than some other headphones.

Swapping pads can be a pain in the neck. While still not quite intuitive here, I found it easier to do that with this headphone than some of the others I have tested.

Staying with "mixing pads," distortion is kept quite low at 94 dBSPL but naturally rises in bass as levels increase:
Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Mixing Ears Pad Relative THD Distortion Response Measurements.png


Seeing that we have to boost the bass, you are probably looking at the red response than blue which still is not bad. Here is the distortion in absolute:
Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Mixing Ears Pad THD Distortion Response Measurements.png


Group delay indicates less than usual level of internal reflections and diffractions:
Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Mixing Ears Pad Group Delay Response Measurements.png


Impedance is middle of the road but rises in bass to over 200 ohm (where you need most power)
Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Mixing Ears Pad Impedance Response Measurements.png


While sensitivity is good, you still need a decent headphone amplifier to drive it properly:
Most sensitive headphone review 2024.png


Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Listening Tests and Equalization
I was listening to my everyday Dan Clark E3 headphone when I paused and switched to HD490 Pro. There was a rather dramatic difference with good few steps drop in fidelity. I won't try to explain the difference other than showing that with EQ, a lot of that gap can be reduced:
Sennehsier HD 490 Pro Producer Ears Pad Equalization.png


I started with bass and initially put in a PEQ as to not boost infrasonic spectrum. While the sound was much warmer and fuller now, the bass lacked the impact I get when I listen to Sennheiser HD 650 with EQ for example. So I changed that to a shelving filter but it made little difference in that regard. Expect bass to be "tight" but not deep and substantial.

The boost centered around 2500 Hz brought the needed energy that is responsible for spatial effect. It worked very well creating "B+" rating in my book in that regard in how instruments were separating around my ears.

I usually don't go above 5 kHz in my EQ as my level of trust in measurements starts to drop from that point on. Lately I have been experimenting and think I could safely go higher. In this case, I EQed at 7.3 kHz bringing that peak down. While the effect is quite subtle, it counteracted some of the brightness that the lower treble boost provides. I call this filter optional.

Overall, it was pretty easy to develop the EQ and result was a very nice transformation of the headphone. While I missed my deep bass per above, overall fidelity felt neutral and at the same time, fairly exciting. I cranked up the volume and I could detect no hard limit setting in which is good.

Conclusions
A lot of the headphone industry is till sticking to deviating from our target curve. This is especially so in bass. I could sort of understand having flat bass response but don't understand the droop even lower. Many also have the deficiency in lower treble which I guess goes with the lower bass level. But we need that region to give the spatial qualities to a headphone as otherwise, the experience can be quite sub-par compared to speakers.

Anyway, while we have familiar frequency response deviations, other aspects of the HD 490 Pro are pretty good from fit and finish to level of distortion.

Overall, I can't recommend the HD 490 Pro without equalization. Like many headphones, it does take well to EQ and delivers a much better experience.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

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thewas

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A lot of the headphone industry is till sticking to deviating from our target curve. This is especially so in bass. I could sort of understand having flat bass response but don't understand the droop even lower.
I don't think its on purpose but rather a side-effect of their open design and lack of crossover or DSP.

Anyway they are not bad for as tools for what they are marketed like Solderdude also wrote in his review.

I would be interested to know if the channel imbalance with the "producing pads" was mainly due to tolerances of the pads or an effect of placement as it doesn't appear on the "mixing pads".
 

VintageFlanker

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Thanks, @amirm ! :)

I'm still interested getting back to headphones with this one, after being very disappointed by the Sony MDR-MV1.

Measurements from RTINGS:
1000030784.png

1000030783.jpg


From @solderdude :
 

phoenixdogfan

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Biggest issue is going to be the bass which I think will be hard to EQ to Harman without running into issues with distortion, but, then again, it's kind of at the low end of the Sennheiser line, so you're getting what you paid for. I personally think full Harman compliance in terms of pinnae gain is just a little to far forward, so dropping the peak down around 3-4 db seems to work best for me, but YMMV. They do look pretty nice for being at the low end of the Sennheiser line. Given their limitations, IDK if they are truly suited for studio work. I would think not, others may have differing opinions.
 

staticV3

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Biggest issue is going to be the bass which I think will be hard to EQ to Harman without running into issues with distortion
Put Amir's distortion measurements into context using:

1. Distortion audibility thresholds:
unknown-8.png

2. Music spectra:
Spectrum_of_music_for_reviewing-1.png

3. Actual listening volumes:

..and all of a sudden the distortion alarmism becomes a bit silly.
 

audioholic63

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Other than the theoretical purpose of being designed for studio work is there any compelling reason not go with an HD650 (or really, the Drop HD6XX for less $$$) instead?
 

peniku8

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View attachment 365154
Note that I had to compensate a bit (half a dB) for volume as the tweed pads are thinner and hence closer to the test fixture microphone. There is impact in other regions of response but some of this could be due to repositioning of the headphone.
Would it help to measure and average a few reseats for headphone measurements in general? If you're concerned about the accuracy of the measurement due to positional variance, this seems like a sensible step to take, no?
 

johny_2000

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Put Amir's distortion measurements into context using:

1. Distortion audibility thresholds:
unknown-8.png
This is true. I did not hear any distortion in these headphones at any reasonable listening volume and on any audio tracks.

Basically, I've noticed that people are more sensitive to the distortion (or resonance) of planar headphones.
In this case, these are ordinary dynamic headphones, and in this regard they do not suffer from such problems.
 

johny_2000

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I left them with the standard velour ear pads ("Producing") because I'm a sub-bass lover and hate too pronounced mid-bass/low-mids. They make an unpleasant "mumbling" sound to me.
 

johny_2000

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Some headphones came pretty close but "Harman bass" on an open back is still a challenge, especially if you cannot pay a few grands for an Expanse.
There's no way I'd pay that much for headphones! Until they come down to the $1K range, I won't give them a chance, no matter their measurements or reviews.

The Fostex TH is already in this price range, and the new open-back model should become available in the next few weeks.
 

MacClintock

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The 490 Pro has higher sensitivity, less harmonic distortion, better bass extension, and a better cable.
Right, but still getting an icon for almost the same price seems preferable to me. To get the bass correctly, you need the EQ both, cables can be switched, and the design of the HD650/600 speaks more to me.
 

johny_2000

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Right, but still getting an icon for almost the same price seems preferable to me. To get the bass correctly, you need the EQ both, cables can be switched, and the design of the HD650/600 speaks more to me.
I now have them both, and I can say that the new HD 490 Pro is not a reinvention of the wheel, but rather a careful correction of some of the shortcomings of the decades-old HD650. Bass (and sub-bass) is more pronounced, lower mids are tuned down to suit consumer desires, and mids and highs remain virtually unchanged. From an ergonomic point of view, they seem to me more comfortable (and compact) on the head than the HD 650. Plus, a reliable metal headband, and the ability to connect a balanced cable on one side.
 
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