The Sennheiser HD 518 have been around for a while now but we chose to review them now because they fall at an important price point. Being Sennheiser’s entry-level pair of audiophile series headphones, the HD 518 are priced just right for those who may want to dip their toes in audiophile pool but don’t want to spend too much. But price should not be the only factor when deciding to purchase audio equipment, which is why we decided to take these for a spin and see if they are worth your money.
The HD 518 have the typical Sennheiser understated design with just enough flair to keep them interesting. The oval speakers are finished in a shade of gray that is mostly matte but with a hint of gloss around the speaker grille. The grilles on either side are easily the most interesting bit about the whole design of the headphones.
Speakers use a cushy foam padding that is lined with fabric. The speaker enclosures use Sennheiser’s E.A.R. or Ergonomic Acoustic Refinement design that uses angled drivers to channel sound into your ears.
The speakers are connected to the headband with a dual, two-way rotating joints, that lets the speaker move horizontally and vertically for a proper fit. The headband has a foam padding inside and adjustable length but the length adjusters don’t have properly defined steps which makes it a bit hard to have equal length on either side. If you’re someone with O.C.D., you know what we’re talking about.
The HD 518 uses a single sided cable that can be unplugged from the left speaker. Unfortunately, it uses a 2.5mm jack, which coupled with the locking twisting mechanism for keeping the cable in place ensures you will have to go to Sennheiser for a replacement.
As far as comfort is concerned, we had no issues with the HD 518. The earpads were large enough to accommodate our ears and the foam was soft and comfortable. One minor niggle was the cable coming out of the left speaker, which would poke our shoulders when we tilted our heads.
Now we come to the important part. Sennheiser’s website describes the HD 518 as having “excellent sound reproduction with deep rich bass” and they are certainly right about the bass part. The HD 518 have a lovely punchy bass response that is often lacking in audiophile headphones. Sennheiser has tuned the low end to offer just the right amount of thump to the sound without going overboard. This results in a sound that is genuinely enjoyable without being excessively bass heavy.
Thanks to the to this punchy bass response, the HD 518 doesn’t get tied down to certain genres that don’t require a powerful bass response. You can listen to classical music on these if you want to or to some trance or dubstep without the headphones feeling out of depth. It also makes these headphones a lot more approachable to those who are new to audiophile headphones, who may be coming from a bass heavy pair of headphones and will find the neutral sound of proper audiophile headphones not entirely to their tastes.
The mid-range and high-end also perform admirably but aren’t as impressive as the low end. The sound is a bit soft, often referred to as being dark, a trait which the HD 518 shares with other Sennheiser headphones. This means that although the bass, specifically the mid-bass is enjoyable, the high-end lacks the brilliance of some of the other headphones in this segment, such as the Audio Technica AD700. The AD700 also have a wider, almost three dimensional soundstage and incredible clarity that are not matched by the HD 518. Having said that, the AD700 lacks sorely when it comes to bass and is not as genre independent as the HD 518.
Overall, the audio quality of the HD 518 is very enjoyable with enough bass presence and clarity to keep most budding audiophiles happy but those who demand more precision in their sound should consider investing in more expensive models.
The Sennheiser website also mentions excellent connectivity, by which we think they mean you can use these with mobile phones. We tested the headphones with a headphone amplifier but even from a mobile phone they sounded pretty good to us. Unfortunately, though, the headphones use a 6.3mm jack, which is not compatible with most devices, so Sennheiser is kind enough to provide an adaptor. However, with the length of the plug and the adaptor, the entire headphones jack becomes almost as long as some phones,
which doesn’t make it very practical.
The HD 518 employ an open back design, which also makes them leak a lot of sound. The audio attenuation is also not as impressive as closed back headphones, which means you will be aware of all the sounds around you, except for those that are very quiet. This is not specific to these headphones and something that they share with every other headphone with an open back design.
We have seen the Sennheiser HD 518 being priced anywhere between Rs. 6,500 - 7,500 depending upon who is selling them. For that price you get a very good pair of headphones that offer a taste of the world of audiophile headphones without burning a crater in your wallet and at the same time offer a sound that will keep a lot of people happy, whether you want them for music, movies or even gaming. These are definitely one of the best headphones that you can buy in this price range.