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Stunning sound

Sennheiser’s entry-level pair of audiophile headphones are quite impressive, but only after using them for a while.

india Updated: Apr 24, 2011 01:26 IST
Sriram Gurunathan

Sennheiser launched three new HD headphone models in India a couple of months ago, of which the HD518 is the entry-level model.
The HD518 is of the circumaural variety, i.e. the cans are worn around the ears. The cups’ design allows them to fit whatever head they’re placed on nicely because of their ability to change angles slightly.

Good construction
It’s the small touches that really set the HD518 apart from others in terms of comfort. The material used for the cushions on the underside of the headband and the earcups are comfortable to wear, as compared to the foam that most headphone manufacturers use. Adding to this are the ‘breathable’ ear pads that try to prevent sweating. That might not be very useful in the Indian summer, but it’s better than nothing.

Need burning in
The HD518 by default has a 6.3mm jack. A 3.5mm converter is bundled with the headphones though, so you don’t have to worry about connectivity issues. Considering these are supposed to be audiophile headphones, regardless of whether they’re entry-level or not, we were a bit surprised to feel muddiness in the audio quality. We would definitely recommend burning these in, as the cans sounded better after 10 hours of use.

Otherwise, the headphones sound really good. The clarity and detail is excellent; we picked up notes that otherwise couldn’t be heard on stock headphones. The treble is a bit low, but you may get used to it. Vocals are crystal clear, but it’s the bass that’s the best part of the HD518. The speakers are extremely punchy without being overbearing, which is a hard balance to strike.

Loud and clear
We have no complaints regarding the volume either — amplified or otherwise. What surprised us was that the cans have a high volume threshold, even after amplification. We went up to volume levels where an hour of listening on them would cause some kind of permanent damage to your ears, but the HD518 still refused to crack under that pressure.

Not so impressive though is the noise isolation and sound leakage. We could hear the construction from outdoors and more disappointing is that the HD518 leaks like water through net. All things said and done, the HD518 is very easy to wear and listen to for long periods. Neither the design nor the sound will tire you out.