After 4 faithful years, my Grado SR80 headphones are starting to decline. One of the cords going into the cups is pulling out and losing connection. Rather than bother to fix it, I think it’s better to just move on.
I’d like to consider myself as an amateur audiophile. I appreciate the benefits of higher quality sound. The difference that can be obtained from a good pair of cans (or any audio equipment, for that matter) is blatantly noticeable. In this regard, I often wonder why most people are willing to tolerate subpar offerings.
Replacing the Grados wasn’t easy, they performed so well I heavily contemplated buying another pair. In the end, curiosity got the best of me and I strayed over to the Sennheiser brand and picked up the HD 558s. I wasn’t ready to spend big money on headphones, so I only needed something that was “good enough”. I see this as a stepping stone, until I’m willing to drop on a pair of Grado RS-1s or similar.
My choice with the HD 558s was a specific one.
These headphones can be obtained for under $150, so they’re reasonably priced for the quality they deliver. Furthermore, they share the exact same driver as the HD 598s, which are the next level up and cost almost 50% more. Sennheiser, with all their cunning and trickery, added density foam to the housings of the 558s. This is enough to differentiate the sound quality between the 558 and 598. Obviously, if the only difference between the 2 headphones were trivial aesthetic touches and a leather headband, the majority of buyers would not warrant buying the more expensive 598s. Manufacturing identical drivers and segmenting the product lines with a simple “detuning” makes sense from a cost and business perspective.
For me, being the careful buyer that I am (AKA a cheapass), the choice was clear. Immediately upon receiving the headphones, I opened them up and removed the foam attached to the housings. It took only minutes to do. After pulling off the ear cups and unscrewing the driver from the housing, the foam is exposed and can be peeled off.
Removing the foam yields you sound quality that is very similar to the 598s and boosts the midrange. My first time listening impression with the 558s is that they are brighter and also more neutral in comparison to the Grados. They are also WAY more comfortable to wear, although the notorious Sennheiser plastic construction feels cheap. I’m still in the process of getting used to the Sennheisers and I plan to burn-in for 100 hours before casting further judgment.