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Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Headphone Review

Rate this headphone:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 9 5.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 76 44.4%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 67 39.2%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 19 11.1%

  • Total voters
    171
I found the producer pads to be excellent with HD 490 Pro, one of the only headphones (at this price point) where I did not feel like I need to do EQ. Here are some comparison measurements I made with my against my HD600 and my Hifiman Edition XS:

1718620873217.png


So it has the Bass that the HD600 misses and Sennheiser choose with these pads to follow that typical Hifiman 1K - 2.5K 'dip' which I believe give a more spacious sound and removes the '3 blob' effect you can get with the HD600. The Mixer pads seem to mostly fill in this area (but have less bass ) so both are valid sound signatures. Overall I think it is a fantastic headphone a proper 2 in 1 headphones with the 2 different pads.
 
I am listening to the Remaster of the Album The Mantle from Agalloch (https://www.qobuz.com/us-en/album/the-mantle-agalloch/0654436051909) and i can totally understand, why these Headphones will be a love/hate thing.

They sound insanely accurate and everything is where it is, and that makes me say "Wow". But this exact same features will others say "Boring" as they are neither warm, nor cold. Their Soundstage is neither small nor large. They just sound the way the Song sounds.

And especially with this Album, with most Heapdhones, you have an very cool experience that makes you thoughts drift off. These Songs are an invitation for Headphones that render insanely large soundstages or Headphones that have an big and warm sound and so on.

But with the HD 490 Pro, the Song just sounds the way the song sounds. And these Songs on that Album sound amazing, but when you're used to an specific rendition from an Headphone like the MDR-Z1R, you will miss whatever this Headphone added to the Song.
 
After giving up on Headphones completely and then testing again the MDR-MV1 i ended up with these and i am very happy with them.

They deliver exactly the sound i expect from an reference Monitor.

I have several test recordings/mixing/master i played with these to check if everything sounds as it should and this is the first headphone ever, where this happened. Where i could listen to all test samples and music and everything just sounded as it should.

I am a bit surprised that it took Headphone makers that long to make an Headphone that can be used as a reference without tons of EQ but it seems we finally got there. And for an price below 1000$ is even more surprising. And with an comfort, that you can wear them all day long.

By the way for the people looking for an balanced cable, i was told by Sennheiser that dealers can order the cable at the end of this month and should be generally available starting next month.

MSRP is 39€. Its the same 1.8m Cable that was shipped with the Headphone, just with an 4.4mm plug
You probably could have had a similar "reference monitor" experience using the New Version HD560s, I think they're really well balanced at stock.....could be something to bare in mind for folks that don't want to spend $399 on the HD 490.
 
Hello guys. I am looking to purchase these headphones. Will the Tanchjim Space be good enough for these headphones?
 
Hello guys. I am looking to purchase these headphones. Will the Tanchjim Space be good enough for these headphones?
Absolautely. Sennheiser did not yet release the 4.4mm Balanced cable (will be available next month with an MSRP of 39€) but even with the 3.5mm, it is powerful enough even on low gain.
 
So I finally got to listen to these - I actually quite like them. I didn't find them bass deficient at all, rather it's more that it isn't overblown like on Harman tuned cans. Soundstage was excellent - much, much better than 600/650/6XX - and they're extremely light and comfortable. Some of the best sounding single driver dynamics I've tried.
 
I found the producer pads to be excellent with HD 490 Pro, one of the only headphones (at this price point) where I did not feel like I need to do EQ. Here are some comparison measurements I made with my against my HD600 and my Hifiman Edition XS:

View attachment 375758

So it has the Bass that the HD600 misses and Sennheiser choose with these pads to follow that typical Hifiman 1K - 2.5K 'dip' which I believe give a more spacious sound and removes the '3 blob' effect you can get with the HD600. The Mixer pads seem to mostly fill in this area (but have less bass ) so both are valid sound signatures. Overall I think it is a fantastic headphone a proper 2 in 1 headphones with the 2 different pads.

I also think headphones with 1K - 2.5K dip sound more spacious - Hifiman Arya, HD800s, and now HD490, while HD600 have that region filled and sound very narrow. Boosting that dip on my HD800s makes them sound less spacious, not more. So I don't understand when @amirm says that boosting that area is responsible for spatial effect.

Is this something that works differently for different people/ears?
 
Absolautely. Sennheiser did not yet release the 4.4mm Balanced cable (will be available next month with an MSRP of 39€) but even with the 3.5mm, it is powerful enough even on low gain.
where did u see that? i am interested when this will be out. also do we know if they will share the blueprints of the earcups to other companies (eg dekoni, wickedcushions etc) to make third party earpad replacements? I am waiting on a SMSL DL200 which I think will make them shine more than my current card...
 
I also think headphones with 1K - 2.5K dip sound more spacious - Hifiman Arya, HD800s, and now HD490, while HD600 have that region filled and sound very narrow. Boosting that dip on my HD800s makes them sound less spacious, not more. So I don't understand when @amirm says that boosting that area is responsible for spatial effect.

Is this something that works differently for different people/ears?
As an musician, this region is responsible for the impression of being more detailed. You have to boost higher frequencies if you want it to sound more spacious, but its not as simple.

Soundstage is a combination of bass (and his mononess) and treble that needs to be as stereo as possible.

But you don't want an dip in the 1-2.5kHz region. If you want an accurate sound, you want exactly the opposite.

Do an hearing test with an Headphone that is boosted there and you'll be amazed that you have the hearing of an new born in that area
 
where did u see that?
I just asked Sennheiser
i am interested when this will be out. also do we know if they will share the blueprints of the earcups to other companies (eg dekoni, wickedcushions etc) to make third party earpad replacements? I am waiting on a SMSL DL200 which I think will make them shine more than my current card...
Very unlikely. That would change the tuning and you buy them for that tuning ^^
 
I just asked Sennheiser

Very unlikely. That would change the tuning and you buy them for that tuning ^^
At least i guess they will give the option to buy again the original pad when it wears off. I havent found any such item for now. Do you know how much they charge for those kind of stuff?
 
At least i guess they will give the option to buy again the original pad when it wears off. I havent found any such item for now. Do you know how much they charge for those kind of stuff?
You're welcome ^^
 

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Where did u find these? All i can find is this...
 

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But you don't want an dip in the 1-2.5kHz region. If you want an accurate sound, you want exactly the opposite.
A: it depends on the fixture it is measured on and the target that is created for it.
B: it depends on the gain of the ear-canal and how much it differs from that of the measurement fixture

Also the 1-3kHz is the 'presence' area. The higher the level the more 'open/forward' the sound will be... up to a point and can give the impression one is 'up close' to the actual performance.
When you create a small dip in that area it will sound a bit more 'relaxed' sounding and is as if you are a bit further away from the 'stage'. This is what Chagall refers to.
Take it too far and you lose clarity in voices and instruments.
Think: HD660S(2), HD560S, HD490 pro/producer, NDH30, K812, AEON closed, D8000 and most hifiman, when you add a little upper treble it does not sound weird (until one takes it too far like D8000 for instance or T1).

There thus is a fine line around the 'accurate' line, specifically in that part of the FR which is partly recording and individual dependent. Person A may want a little more presence. person B may want a little less presence, and others may prefer something in between.
That's the beauty of acoustic measurements and perception. There is no 'exact' target/preference... there is a range.

All of this taking into account that overall bass/ lower mids and upper mids/treble is at 'the desired' level.

In a studio where one really wants to hear nuances a little boost there is welcome (think K701, HD490Pro with mixer pads) and a little roll-off in the lows so they don't pollute the clarity with 'muddyness'.
 
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A: it depends on the fixture it is measured on and the target that is created for it.
Basically you're right, but the HD 490 Pro is made to perform objectively, not subjectively. With reference monitors, the story is actually much simpler.

You use studio monitor speakers and setup them up in a perfectly adjusted room in the perfect distance that they measure flat (verified by laser), and so in theory, the fixture no longer matters.

If the fixture has a dip in the 2kHz region, it will have that dip with the Reference Speakers as well with the Headphone. But as the flatness of the speakers was verified before the fixture is placed, you have an target curve, created with the fixture, that you know is flat (now matter how it really looks like). And this is the target.

So what we hear with the HD 490 Pro is how the flat measuring studio reference monitors placed/adjusted by Sennheiser sounded (or as close as Sennheiser was able to match them with Headhpones. Headphones are an absolute pain to tune, so to get an even more accurate Version of that, we would have to use In-Ear).

So the fixture actually doesn't matter and the target is just "Flat in real life"

It looks something like this

Screenshot_20240629_193147.png

Those are Neumann KH 120 II by the way. Sennheiser owns Neumann. So if you want to buy an speaker Version of the HD 490 Pro, there you go^^
B: it depends on the gain of the ear-canal and how much it differs from that of the measurement fixture
I would say this is the same answer as in A. If your ear has a different gain in the canal than the fixture, it will also have a different gain listening to the reference.

If 10 people would sit in place of the fixture and first listen to the Speakers and then to the HD 490 Pro, the Speakers would sound different to all of them, but they would hear the same difference in the Headphone and so, in the end, it would match. So all 10 people would say "The HD 490 Pro sounds like the speakers" even if the HD 490 Pro sounds different to everyone.
 
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If 10 people would sit in place of the fixture and first listen to the Speakers and then to the HD 490 Pro, the Speakers would sound different to all of them, but they would hear the same difference in the Headphone
I don't agree as the speakers are at a different angle, distance and there is a room involved (its acoustics)
None of this is happening in the headphones, angle, distance and seal will all be similar but the ears are 'calibrated' in the brain based on what one hears and sees (so basically only at a forward angle) where the headphones come from the side.

I do agree that the differences will be small though but is not comparable.
I too compare headphones to calibrated near-fields just to reset 'perception'... then again near-fields can sound different to 'stereo setup speakers in a room' without room correction on the listening spot. And there are other differences there too.

I don't see headphones and speakers the same way. Both transducers but quite different. Tonality should be similar in the end though.

HD490Pro/mixer is closer to smaller near-fields where as the producer pads are more similar to a home stereo setup (without heroic EQ)
 
I don't agree as the speakers are at a different angle, distance and there is a room involved (its acoustics)
They are exactly at that angle and distance, where they are flat and the angle should no longer matter. It is not perfect, that is true.

Speakers can not compete with headphones in terms of sound quality as they have more air to move and there are more uncontrollable variables. For the same reason IEM are superior to Headphones.

The room should have almost no influence. It is not an anechoic chamber, but very close to one (close enough, that it doesn't matter).

Sony tunes their Headphones in an anechoic chambers but as those are near field monitors, it doesn't really matter (which is one of the reasons to use near field monitors at all). It is anechoic enough that it doesn't matter.

The sound will not be identical, but it is as close as it is possible in the given circumstances.
 
If 10 people would sit in place of the fixture and first listen to the Speakers and then to the HD 490 Pro, the Speakers would sound different to all of them, but they would hear the same difference in the Headphone and so, in the end, it would match. So all 10 people would say "The HD 490 Pro sounds like the speakers" even if the HD 490 Pro sounds different to everyone.
Given your hypothetical situation, my understanding is that people would hear the speakers all the same in terms of liking them fairly similarly, but then when they wore the headphone there would be more variability in preference. I don't think you can assume the delta of the speakers vs headphones on the measurement fixture will be the same delta as the speakers vs headphones on each participant. The reason for that is that the individuals HRTF is not being taken into account, which would have different "multiplication/division factors" through the frequency range based on angle of incidence of the sound, and of course headphones are at a total different angle of incidence than speakers. In your hypothetical situation it would be beneficial to have the measurement fixture be the exact replica of the most applicable median or perhaps average of a human head (including ear structure), in which case that would achieve the most accurate transfer from speaker measurement to headphone target curve for the average human, but again that wouldn't be perfect, and therefore there would still be more variance in preference amoung said created headphone vs that real speaker listening. (This is the main fundamental limitation of headphone listening when talking about a fixed target curve, and is also why I think more assessable versions of the Smyth Realiser are the future next best step.) This is the way I understand it, but in honesty the longer this site is in operation the more the truth gets diluted because the most rigorous discussions were when we first got into headphone measurement when we had people like @Mad_Economist debating the best methodologies of headphone measurement for the site & was also the point in time where everyone was first being introduced to the source science behind "headphone science" and the Harman Curve, so I'm going off what I remember. I'll tag @Mad_Economist here because I think he's the best person that originally understands the mechanisms behind all this, however I've not seen him much on ASR recently.
 
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Also the 1-3kHz is the 'presence' area. The higher the level the more 'open/forward' the sound will be... up to a point and can give the impression one is 'up close' to the actual performance.
When you create a small dip in that area it will sound a bit more 'relaxed' sounding and is as if you are a bit further away from the 'stage'. This is what Chagall refers to.
Take it too far and you lose clarity in voices and instruments.


There thus is a fine line around the 'accurate' line, specifically in that part of the FR which is partly recording and individual dependent. Person A may want a little more presence. person B may want a little less presence, and others may prefer something in between.
That's the beauty of acoustic measurements and perception. There is no 'exact' target/preference... there is a range.

Thanks, @solderdude. That's how I hear it. The same headphones (equal driver-ear distance, driver-ear angle, and cup reflections) with a dip in the presence will always sound wider to me, compared to EQing it. Quieter voices relative to the rest of the frequency range will sound further away. I thought this was universal.
 
They are exactly at that angle and distance, where they are flat and the angle should no longer matter. It is not perfect, that is true.

Speakers can not compete with headphones in terms of sound quality as they have more air to move and there are more uncontrollable variables. For the same reason IEM are superior to Headphones.

The room should have almost no influence. It is not an anechoic chamber, but very close to one (close enough, that it doesn't matter).

Sony tunes their Headphones in an anechoic chambers but as those are near field monitors, it doesn't really matter (which is one of the reasons to use near field monitors at all). It is anechoic enough that it doesn't matter.

The sound will not be identical, but it is as close as it is possible in the given circumstances.
These are some inaccurate statements & assumptions too. Your idea that speakers cannot compete with headphones in terms of sound quality is false or very open to debate, and is certainly not a statement that you can make. For a start we've already established that headphones are a fairly inaccurate simulation of speakers, whereby speakers are the main benchmark around which music is made in terms of "as artist intended", so speakers win on that front. The only way that headphones improve some elements of sound quality over speakers is the ease in which they have no room acoustic influences to muddy the content and also the bass in headphones can be extended deeper & with less distortion for any given price range than the equivalent that speakers can achieve. Basically headphones can reproduce bass cleaner than speakers, but of course the best speaker/sub system that has been properly setup (including room) will be ahead of a "best headphone & personalised EQ" in that department too, because of the tactile nature of bass from speakers and fact that headphones are fairly inaccurate simulation of speakers (unless talking Smyth Realiser & all the "arduous" setup involved with that).

EDIT: anyway, what's all this discussion got to do with the HD490 Pro anyway? I mean I personally don't mind a few posts around "headphone science theory" as it can be useful for everyone, but @Vamp898 what's the relevance to HD490 Pro with this discussion?
 
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