Product Name: Sennheiser HD660S Headphones
Website: Get It Here
How did I receive the product? Personal Purchase
Cost: $499.99 USD
Up until recently I had been using an older gaming headset for listening to music and playing games. They were getting a little long in the tooth so lately I had been getting the urge to upgrade. I began searching for a replacement by looking at modern gaming headsets but the models I came across, had just as many pros as they had cons. I took a step back from looking at headsets and decided to go another direction. I began looking at traditional headphones instead of gaming-specific headsets. After looking at numerous models and styles I ultimately decided to take the plunge on the Sennheiser model HD660S headphones.
Sennheiser has been making headphones for decades and I liked the fact that the HD660S had an “open back” design which means they allow air to flow through the back of the headphones. When you wear headphones at your desk for long periods of time, air flow is a nice feature to avoid discomfort. It’s important to keep in mind that an open back design does “leak” sound out the back so it’s not the best choice if you want don’t want to disturb any people that happen to be nearby while you are using them. Open back style headphones also allow you to hear things in your immediate environment such as a phone ringing, a door bell, or (at least in my case) a tiny dog that needs a bathroom break.
The HD660S are very large headphones. In the world of high-end headphones they are not the largest headphones out there, but if you are coming from a standard gaming headset they can look quite imposing by comparison. One advantage of this design is the “over ear” sized ear cups that rest more on the sides of your head than directly on top of your ears.
Whats in the box?
Included in the box are two sets of cables to connect the headphones up to a source. One is a standard 1/4″ jack and the other is a balanced 4.4mm “Pentaconn” style connector that is fairly uncommon on most devices. Also included in the box is a 1/4″ to 3.5mm mini jack adapter for connecting the HD660S up to a smaller device such as a phone. The included cables are 10 feet long which in most desktop scenarios means you are going to have quite a bit of excess wire to bundle up. The ability to remove and exchange cords does open up the possibility of purchasing a shorter set of cables for a more custom length to suit your set-up.
The stock ear pads are made of a soft velour plush fabric. The same padding is found on the headband of the HD660S as well. When I picked the HD660S up for the first time I was surprised by how light they are for such big headphones. This was reassuring as I’ve experienced headphones in the past that became very uncomfortable for prolonged use due to their weight. I found the HD660S to be very comfortable out of the box. My only nit-pick would be that although the velour is comfortabl,e I do worry about how sweaty they might be once the weather starts to warm up in my area. Aftermarket ear pads can be purchased for the HD660S but keep in mind moving to a different size and material for these can directly influence the acoustic performance.
To make this all work with my PC I needed to pick up a few pieces of gear to accommodate the HD660S headphones. The HD660S require more power than your average headphones. To ensure that I got the best performance out of the Sennheisers I needed to pair them with a headphone amp. I went with a Schiit Audio (yes, Schiit is pronounced exactly like you think it is!) Magni Heresy headphone amp. The HD660S have an impedance of 150ohms and the Schiit Heresy was more than up to the task of driving them to volume levels I would need for gaming.
The second piece of kit I would need is an outboard DAC or digital to analog converter. My motherboard has an on-board DAC but computers are inherently noisy environments in terms of electrical interference. An outboard DAC let me isolate the audio I was extracting from my PC by connecting the DAC up externally through USB. I went with the Audioquest Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC. The Cobalt is portable, has a small headphone amp built-in for on the go use, and uses a terrific ESS Sabre brand DAC chip to process all incoming audio before it converts it to analog and sends it out to the headphone amp.
How do they sound?
Sennheiser uses large dynamic drivers in the HD660S to create a very natural, highly detailed, and spacious sound. They will not immediately wow you with thunderous bass like a lot of headphones on the market. The overall sonic signature of the headphones I would describe as balanced. Simply put, if it is in the recording you are listening to you will hear it. If you are someone that likes a lot of bass, then the more neutral presentation of the HD660S may not be your cup of tea. The trade-off is an insane amount of mid-bass and high frequency clarity. From the crash of a cymbal to the sounds of gunfire whizzing by my head, the HD660S consistently surprised me with their extremely revealing sound.
The first game I fired up was the DOOM 2016 remake. The thing that struck me almost immediately when I loaded into the game was the complete immersion I experienced listening through the HD660S. I wasn’t hearing the game world, I was placed directly in the game world. I could hear the hiss of steam escaping pipes in the background, dialogue was positioned perfectly and with amazing clarity. When the action turned up to 11, so did the headphones. The approach of an incoming rocket almost made me duck my head as I could accurately track it’s approach as it hurtled towards my character.
After the sublime experience with Doom I switched over to Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. The same experiences that made playing DOOM such a delight with the HD660S carried over to the Star Wars universe. The familiar powerful hum of a lightsaber sounded appropriately menacing as it arced through the air. Blaster fire was positioned in 3-D space around me as I blocked the laser blasts and sent them riccocheting back at my attackers. Needless to say I was very impressed with the results I was getting in gaming with the Sennheisers. I liken the change in immersion about the same as my experience in going from a 16:9 monitor to a 21:9 display. Both aspect ratios get the job done, but the 21:9 display really puts you in the game world in a way that you simply have to see and experience for yourself.
After a couple of games under my belt I switched over to music. I loaded up Tidal on the PC and selected “Come As You are” off of Nirvana’s Unplugged Live album. Kurt Cobain’s voice appeared from inside my ahead as if I was the microphone and he was singing directly to me. I was immediately blown away by how close the HD660S brought me to the music. I originally planned to listen to a few tracks but, before I knew it, hours had passed by. I went from track to track and noticed little details and flourishes I had never heard before in recordings I was very familiar with. As good as the HD660S are with gaming they were clearly made for music and I walked away extremely impressed by their performance.
When I began my search for a new a headset I certainly did not anticipate that the journey would take me to a set of high end headphones. Having experienced PC gaming and music with the Sennheiser HD660S for over a month now I cannot imagine ever going back to a traditional PC headset. If you find yourself also in the market for a headset upgrade and you are looking at models in the $300+ range I would urge you consider the HD660S as an alternative. Just keep in mind you will need a headphone and a USB DAC for optimal results. Another thing to take note of is that you will need a separate microphone as the HD660S do not come on board with a voice solution.
Amazing sound and detail
Uncompressed/high resolution music sounds amazing through these headphones
Very comfortable overall with a lightweight well padded design
Easily replaced ear pads and cables for a more custom fit
Velour ear pads may get hot in the Summer
No on-board microphone for voice chat
Requires a headphone amp and USB D.A.C. for optimal results