In a world where personal audio is dominated by products for those on the go, from Bluetooth earbuds right through competent, self-amplified traditional over-the-ear headphones, it remains gratifying that companies like Sennheiser continue to produce products that by their very design are to make you sit and enjoy the music rather than simply have it as background noise to your regular activities.

The HD 560S joins a line of what they dub “audiophile” products, designed to extract the most out of the music while eschewing considerations such as battery life, waterproof cases, and so on. So, are the so-called “compromises” of function worth it for the pleasure of a more pure sound? Let’s find out!

Specifications of the Sennheiser HD 560S

  • 40mm Single Dynamic driver, 120ohm impedance
  • Frequency Response (Hz): 6 Hz – 38 kHz
  • 3m long detachable cable
  • ¼” to minijack adapter
  • Weight (g): 240g 

First look at the Sennheiser HD 560S

The HD 560S come in a relatively plain outer box containing little more than the headphones themselves, a long cable, and a ¼” to mini-jack adapter. Simply looking at the lengthy cord lets you know this isn’t designed to plug into your phone but your stereo equipment at home. Each ear cup is thickly padded, and within is a single driver (aka “head speaker”) that delivers on paper a mightily impressive 6hz-38kHz response.

While their 240g weight is substantial, it’s well balanced and was comfortable even after hours of listening. The cable connects using a proprietary twist-and-release method that took a bit of getting used to, but once inserted (the headphone-side is a three-striped 2.5mm balanced-like adapter) it feels secure. Sennheiser has a tradition of using a variety of cable connectors, which can be frustrating, but their pioneering efforts to provide replaceable options in case of damage or simply refinement remains laudable.

Sound quality of the Sennheiser HD 560S

On first listen I was extremely pleased with how easy the headphones were to drive from my equipment, and skipped ahead to see that, yes, even with the relatively paltry output of a mobile phone with USB-C to 3.5mm jack adapter you could use that as a source. Still, in order to get the most of of these you’re going to want to drive them with something more substantial, be either your regular source component such as a receiver or dedicated headphone amp, or one of any more power-thirsty but higher-spec’d portable devices designed for harder-to-drive headphones.

While listening to a wide variety of songs, from always spectacular Jazz tracks that shine even in lesser models, to more challenging, muddy tracks from a variety of artists, I was pleased to see that Sennheiser’s proclivity for providing accuracy above all remains with this model. Rough things sounded rough, sweet things sounded sweet, with little in the way of “juicing” the sound in terms of cranking the bass or overemphasizing certain frequencies. There was a small bit of treble boost I noticed, but it was far less egregious than with other models.

In a test that’s no doubt unfair, I compared them to Sennheiser models 10x the cost of these, just to listen for the relative timbre between sister models. While of course the clarity of the higher-end model was immediately evident, I was pleased that the general sound signature had been maintained. The “house sound” of Sennheiser is to avoid being flashy and simply extract the most of what the source has to offer, and I was pleased throughout with the musicality of the HD 560S.

Who are the Sennheiser HD 560S headphones for?

As they share a similar number to the higher-end, extremely well reviewed Sennheiser HD 660S, as well as DNA from even higher-end models, it’s obvious that Sennheiser has set this model up as an entry level yet extremely potent audiophile model. For many these may well be the best headphones they have ever heard, trouncing just about every other earbud or over-the-ear model as the design has been entirely focused on musical accuracy.

With the open-back design you have better sound, but it also means you’ve got pretty much zero in the way of noise cancellation, both for the listener and those around you now subjected to whatever you’re hearing. Given the fact that the drivers are placed millimetres from your head means that the engineers at Sennheiser can engineer an extremely accurate soundstage without worrying about room characteristics that challenge any regular speaker design.

The result is a sound that rivals regular speakers costing many, many times the purchase price of the HD 560S, making these absolute ideal for those looking to maximize the impact of their musical collection while going down the road of building up a powerful sound system.

Limitations of the Sennheiser HD 560S

The felt-like ear pads on the HD 560S are comfortable, but after only a few days of trying them out they did manage to collect a lot of dust. The twist-off cable feels a bit thin and lacks a true balanced option at time of writing from Sennheiser themselves, though some third-party sellers claim to have models that do the trick. Balanced sound (driving each ear driver with independent signals while both cutting out shared noise on the signal as well as providing the added 6db boost) would be welcome here, and hopefully a shorter, 2.5mm or 4.4mm pentaconn cable would be officially sold by the company in short order.

Final thoughts on the Sennheiser HD 560S

I was thoroughly pleased with the Sennheiser HD 560S, finding them a sympathetic, comfortable, and easy to recommend entry into the world of higher-end audio. While the sound was slightly more confined and constrained when compared to much more robust models from Sennheiser, on their own they stood shoulders above just about any other pair at their price.

Given that extraneous things like fancy outer boxes were dropped in favour of maximizing the performance of the headphones themselves, I’m extremely pleased that Sennheiser has, at this relatively modest price point, provided exceptional sound for a mass audience who has grown used to audio sacrifices for the sake of convenience, portability, and so on. The Sennheiser HD 560S encourages you to sit and listen, above all, and I could not be happier for listeners both young and old alike to take this model up on its offer.

A warning, however. Once you’ve heard your music sound this good (or, in some cases, hear the actual limitations of the track), you may find yourself stepping foot on a very long, and at times very expensive road chasing the ultimate in sound. For those comfortable with taking a first step along the journey they’ll get decades of use out of the Sennheiser HD 560S, while for others, they may well feel they’re just beginning a very tall and rewarding climb towards audio nirvana.

You can find the Sennheiser HD 560S at Best Buy online.

Jason Gorber
Jason Gorber, M.A., is a film, technology, and media journalist and member of the Toronto Film Critics Association. He is the managing editor and chief film critic at That Shelf and a regular contributor to POV Magazine, SlashFilm, and CBC Radio. Jason has been a Tomatometer-approved critic for over 20 years, is an avid collector of music, movies, LEGO and many other aesthetic and technical treats.