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Sennheiser HD 558 review

They trade aggression for smoothness, but these headphones are a comfortable and pleasant listen Tested at £130

Our Verdict

They trade aggression for smoothness, but these headphones are a comfortable and pleasant listen

For

  • Smooth, rich sound
  • Punchy and dynamic
  • Forgiving and easy-going character
  • Expressive vocals
  • Soft and comfortable to wear
  • Sleek, compact design

Against

  • Need more attack and excitement
  • Not as agile, subtle or open as rivals

The Sennheiser HD 558s are as easy on the eyes as the ears, with a stylish plush velour design and a rich and smooth sound that make these open-back headphones ideal for comfortable listening.

Sound

The HD 558s are velvety-smooth with a gentle tone meaning you can comfortably listen to them for hours on end.

Drums have impact, bass notes are rich and deep, and voices expressive – there are no harsh edges to the HD 558s.

However, the HD 558s do sacrifice transparency and insight for their even tones: useful if you’re listening to low-resolution streaming on Spotify.

But they lose some aggression and attack on certain songs – if it’s Tom Waits or Public Enemy, the HD 558s will iron out the rough edges with a softer version.

The HD 558s aren’t as open as we’d like if compared with the spacious Audio Technica ATH-AD700Xs.

They feel like closed-back headphones and although it doesn’t congest the soundfield, we would have preferred extra openness.

Some more dynamic subtlety would have given extra depth to The Rolling Stones’s Laugh, I Nearly Died.

A lush sound is enjoyable in the right setting, but we were yearning for some attack and bite to the softened top end: when listening to Metallica you want grunt and power.

Design

The HD 558s have a sleek and sturdy design with incredibly soft earcups and headband cushion: every inch of them feels like a premium product.

The HD 558s grip well and adjust easily to fit most sizes – and the compact build caters well for people with smaller heads.

Make sure you try them on though, as the firm grip may not be for everyone.

Verdict

If you want attack and excitement from your headphone sound, go elsewhere: try the Grado SR80is or the Philips Fidelio X1s.

You will find lots to love about these Sennheiser HD 558s all the same: their smooth sound is very listenable, and they’re comfortable to wear – why not give them a try?

MORE: Best headphones to buy in 2014

See all our headphone Best Buys

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What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, New York and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.


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