HD 560S


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published: Sep-24-2020, updated: Jan-2021

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NO SMOOTHING is applied to the shown plots. Most measurement sites have some smoothing applied which ‘irons flat’ sharp peaks and ‘wiggles’. I do not use smoothing because some info about sound quality is lost when plots are smoothed.

Aside from a small correction of the microphone itself also some correction in the lowest frequencies is applied to the plots to compensate for the perceived loss of bass when using headphones. This is described HERE in more detail.
A ‘horizontal‘ frequency response curve on the shown frequency response plots on this website thus indicates a perceived ‘flat’ tonal signature.

ALL measurements are made with a good SEAL on a flatbed measurement rig.
The shape of your head, bone structure, pad size, pad ‘softness,  (compliance), hair or no hair and or wearing glasses may (drastically) change the frequency response of some headphones, so… your personal experience may differ substantially from these plots.

Frequency response (tonal balance) is the most sound-determining aspect of headphones. A horizontal line shows audible neutral response in the plots on this website. Deviations in different severities at different frequency bands have an effect on the sound character.
The bigger the deviation the stronger the effect.

Below an aid to help determining the sound character of headphones with relation to the frequency response.

descriptors2

 post separation
Sennheiser HD 560S

The Sennheiser HD 560S is an open over-ear headphone. It is named HD 560S to indicate it is the cheaper nephew of the HD 660S. The S does not stand for ‘Schwarz’ (Black) nor ‘Symmetrisch’ (balanced) b.t.w. but is indicating a next generation driver. It costs (MRSP) € 199.- at the Sennheiser store. Designed in Germany, drivers made in Ireland, the headphone is assembled in China.
The HD560S also has no relation nor is it referencing to the HD560 Ovation.

It has the looks and mechanics of the current HD5xx range but the driver is renewed. It has a different voice coil and different material membrane and is better damped and is built on the same ‘frame’ so looks the same as other HD 5xx drivers but… isn’t.
It is closer to the HD6xx range in some respects than to the HD5xx range. Where the HD6xx series does not have angled drivers or pads the HD560S has its driver angled by about 9°. Below the driver from the front and from the back.

The clamping force is on the high side but not clamping very hard. The headband padding is soft and looks a bit like that of the HD660S but is not the same construction (not interchangeable).

The velour pads are exchangeable and all black. The same pads are used on the HD559.
Those that have their ear touch the driver and are annoyed by it in the HD6xx series may be pleased to hear there is more depth in the HD560S. The HD6xx series has about 21mm depth in the front and rear side where the HD560S has 21mm in the front and 28mm in the back (where it counts). When one has very big ears the triangle (for the cup swivel parts) might be an issue. Still, the depth is 25mm and thus more than 21. Add to that the HD6xx series pads is quite soft and more compliant (softer, more squishy) than the HD560S pads makes the difference in depth slightly better as well. I assume the pads will soften up over time.
One does NOT have to worry about seal being essential for excellent bass extension.

The cups can swivel far enough sideways but the vertical tilt is a bit limited. The headband can be extended over a good range so it is possible to get a good fit with larger heads as well.

This is a lightweight headphone that feels a bit cheaper in the hand than the HD6xx range.
The 3m long cable is connected via a locking 2.5mm TRRS connector and has a 6.3mm TRS plug on the other end. This indicates that this headphone is not primarily intended for portable usage. A short 6.3mm to 3.5mm cable is supplied so it can be connected to portable equipment. There may well be a balanced cable available (in the future ?) for this headphone. The long cable is a bit ‘springy’ and alas also microphonic. Not annoying when music is playing though.
Internally the cable is 4-wire construction litz wire and the return signals are combined in the 6.3mm TRS plug. Those that know how to solder litz wire can shorten the cable or turn it into a balanced cable. I shortened the cable to 1.2m.

With a sensitivity of around 108dB/V (specified as 110dB/V by the manufacturer) the HD560S can be used directly from a phone and reach high enough levels for normal music listening. To reach impressive levels it needs a bit more voltage than a phone, tablet or USB dongle. It plays about 3dB louder than the HD650 at the same volume setting. It can play decently loud from a phone and is a very easy load (little current drawn)

Note: I have no affiliation with Sennheiser or other headphone manufacturers. I have not been paid to review this headphone nor have I spent much money on it. It was sent to me for evaluation and doesn’t have to be returned.

specifications:

Type: Over ear, open
Usage: Home, studio, transportable.
Driver type: dynamic
Pads: replaceable, velours
Collapsible: No
Headphone cup connector: Sennheiser locking 2.5mm TRRS jack
Cable entry: single sided, left cup.
Cable: 3m terminated in 6.3mm TRS jack.
Driver size: 38mm (36mm membrane), angled 9°
Inner Pad dimensions: depth font = 21mm, rear = 28mm, Width = 40mm, height = 70mm, oval shaped
Max. power rating: 0.2W
Max. voltage: 5Vrms (14Vpp)
Max. current: 42mA
Max. S.P.L.: 121dB
Impedance: 120 Ω
Efficiency: 99 dB/1mW (108dB/1V), the data sheet mentions 110dB/V
Weight: 240 g. (excl. cable)
Clamping force: high
Accessories: 6.3mm to 3.5mm TRS 15cm adapter cable, quick guide.

Subjective sound description:

The HD560S has a neutral sound signature with good bass extension. No deep rumbles at ‘Harman target’ level which may well be a good thing. Bass extension is equal to HD58X and is on the proper level and sounds extended, very natural, not overblown and above all not lacking bass either. The sound signature is not ‘warm’ but closer to HD600 but with deeper bass.
No bloated nor ‘fat’ or muddy bass. Bass is better in level than the usual hD5xx series which often is a bit too ‘warm’.
Excellent integration from bass to the mids.

Mids are as expected from Sennheiser. Neutral overall, but (a little too) ‘forward’ because of the elevated ‘clarity/presence’. The mids are dynamic and very open and clean. The HD560S is more ‘forward/clear’ as the HD58X which sounds a bit more ‘warm’ and somewhat subdued in the treble.

The treble is different than the HD6xx series and more elevated. The angle of the driver has something to do with this. Upper mids/lower treble is elevated at around 4.5kHz. This is not high enough to cause sibilance but does make the treble a bit coarser and sharpish. This can be ‘fixed’ though which makes the treble smoother.

The stereo imaging, which is known to be a bit narrow in the HD6xx series, is substantially wider and almost reaching HD800 territory. The HD560S is more dynamic/lively than the HD6xx and HD5xx series. Because of the wide stereo image this headphone is quite suited for gaming as well (but is an open headphone without a microphone).

Measurements:

Below the frequency response of the HD 560S (Left, Right) (perceived)

The channel matching is excellent. I was assured this headphone was not cherry picked by Sennheiser. Sennheiser is pretty good with consistency in their products and quality control so nothing to worry about.
Bass is well extended and rolls off very gently below 25Hz. From 25Hz to 3kHz the response is excellent and within +/- 3dB. Aside from the small ‘dip’ around 2.5kHz the frequency response which will not be perceived as such but in reality is higher than shown because of the angled driver and response of the pinna (outer ear). The 3-6kHz area is perceived above neutral but is beneficial for gamers. So while the plot shows a flat response that area is higher than the plot shows. I found that area to be about 6dB above neutral.
The treble is slightly above the mids and this makes the cymbals with the HD560S a bit clearer than with the HD58X and HD6xx series.

comparisons

Below a comparative measurement of the HD560S and a similarly priced HD58X. (take the emphasis into consideration)Bass extension is the same. Between 100Hz and 1kHz the HD58x has about 1dB more ‘warmth’. Treble response from 4kHz is a bit higher and less refined.

Below the HD560S versus the HD599
The different tonality from the slightly lower priced HD599 compared to the HD650S is obvious. The overly warm midrange from the HD599 is obvious.

Below the HD560S versus the well known HD650
The HD650 has a bit more warmth (100-300Hz) and is a bit ‘cleaner’ in the treble. Extension of both headphones is very similar.
Only the treble is sticking out but as mentioned this can be fixed.

Below the HD560S versus the well known HD600

Here we can see that the tonality of the HD560S is very close to that of the venerable HD600 but with better bass extension and even more clarity.

Sennheiser named the HD560S as a ‘cheaper alternative’ to the HD660S so a comparison makes some sense.We see some resemblance between 100Hz and 3kHz. Bass extension of the HD560S is better. The biggest difference is in the (fixable) lower treble/upper mids. The HD660S is clearly a more neutral headphone in that area.

Another comparably priced competition lies in the (older) Beyerdynamic DT880.The DT880 has less bass extension, a bit more emphasized lower mids and even more pronounced treble.

Another, more expensive, Beyerdynamic option is the DT1990 with Analytic pads.Here too we see a bit more bass in the HD560. The 8kHz treble peak of the DT1990 stands out like a sore thumb above the treble of the HD560S.

For the DT1990 there is a similar (not the same of course) treble fix. Below the ‘fixed’ DT1990 compared to the HD560S.

The DT1990 with fixed treble is now quite similar to the HD560S treble. Bass of the HD560S is a bit more present. Of course the B pads on the DT1990 raise the bass/warmth above that of the HD560S.

Below the HD560S versus the HD560 Ovation II
HD560ov vs HD560S

output resistance / damping-factor

As this is a dynamic headphone the frequency response can be amplifier output resistance dependent when certain higher output resistance amplifiers are used.
Instead of showing impedance plots, which are hard to ‘read’ when it comes to assessing the tonal balance change in the real world, the HD560S is measured via a low resistance output (
0.2Ω) and via a high resistance output (120Ω). On a higher output resistance amplifier the output level will be lower of course due to voltage division. To compensate for this the amplifier is cranked up to the same level (5.8dB at 1kHz in this case). This way the plots are overlaid and it is easier to see how the tonal balance changes. Output resistances between these 2 resistance values will result in tonal changes between the green and red trace.

The tonal balance changes when the HD560S is connected to a higher output resistance amplifier. The resonance frequency is around 60Hz resulting in a warmer and bassier sound.
There is about 2.5dB more bass. This will be more on higher output resistance amps and less on lower output resistance amps.
The HD560S should be driven from 0.1 to 30Ω output resistance amplifiers unless you want more ‘warmth’.

Seal can be an issue with closed-back headphones but is usually less of a problem for open headphones. Breaking the seal (improper fit on the head) usually means a loss of (sub)bass.
Perfect seal, seal broken with a thick arm (temple) pair of glasses

The HD560S is practically insensitive to a seal breach. Even lifting the headphone a bit does not change the tonal balance. So no need to worry about needing a perfect seal to get good bass.

linearity

Sometimes I measure the linearity of the headphones when measurements suggest something is wrong. Basically the frequency response is measured at 80, 90 and 97dB SPL and then the traces are overlaid to see if the tonal balance changes.
When the low-bass response is worsened at higher SPL this points to damping/excursion problems.
Here there is as good as no compression visible. Below 40Hz there is just less than 1dB less output compared to 90dB which is quite good for a 38mm driver and nothing to worry about.

Below the distortion measurements of the HD560S (Right channel).

The plot above shows the level differences between the signal (upper trace around 90dB SPL) and the harmonics. Most people prefer to see percentages instead of level differences so below the exact same plot except ‘normalised’ to the actual signal and level differences given in percentages.

Distortion levels in the lowest frequencies are as expected from smaller diameter drivers. From 40Hz up the distortion levels are already below 1%. Above 100Hz where distortion starts to matter the distortion numbers are impressively low.

The actual 2nd harmonic distortion above 100Hz may well be lower than 0.2% . A shortcoming of my measurement rig.

Distortion level of the 3rd order harmonics remain below 0.1% > 100Hz. All in all good performance in the bass to very good performance from the lower mids to the upper treble range.

Below the distortion of the HD560 with 5dB of lowest bass boost at 95dB SPL. It shows even at high SPL bass doesn’t reach problematic distortion levels.


The left channel showed similar performance so is not shown.

Below the CSD (waterfall) plot of the HD560S . (Left and Right are overlaid)

This looks really nice. No big red flags here. What can be seen though is a small and short lived resonance at around  4kHz which I don’t think is audible because it is short and in the frequency range where the ear itself also has ringing by itself.

A different plot is the spectrum plot. This basically is a CSD (Waterfall) plot but viewed from above where the level differences are colour coded instead of being in the vertical axis. Also the frequency range of the spectrum plot is wider (from 100Hz instead of 500Hz). The time span is also bigger in the spectrum plots and expired time is shown from below to top where in the CSD the time is shown from rear to front.

Below the spectrum plot of the HD560S (Right channel)

The plot shows a fast decay in the lows and no obvious errors in the time domain. The blue ‘thingies’ between 1 and 5kHz is actually some background noises (open headphone).

 Square-wave and impulse response

Below the square-wave response at 40Hz and 440Hz as well as 100μs pulse response.
On the left the HD560S and on the right the same conditions but using the ‘treble fix’ (see further below)

The 40Hz square-wave shows a gentle sub-bass roll-off and is a typical response for a bandwidth limited system with a gradual sub-bass roll-off.

The 440Hz square-wave shows a well damped signal that follows the stimulus reasonably well and shows little to no ringing.
The HD560S 440Hz square-wave response is quite good and shows no overshoot and short ringing.

The 100μs impulse shows a slight overshoot which improves using the treble fix. The ringing at 4kHz is visible but as shown in the CSD short lived.

Passive filter (treble fix)

The small, but audible treble peak at around 7kHz can be lowered with some PEQ but this is not always possible or desired.
A rather simple passive inline-filter can be constructed that only addresses the problem area.
Below the perceived effect the filter has on the frequency response of the HD560S (in reality that area is higher).This filter lowers the elevated area between 2kHz and 15kHz (centered around 4kHz) by 3.7dB. Because of a lack of pinna this is not possible for me to show the exact effect.

For those who don’t want a ready-made filter below the schematic diagram for those that want to D.I.Y. one.

Below the filter sections for left and right driver built into the left HD560S cup.

Conclusion

The HD560S is an affordable headphone in the HD5xx range. In sound signature/quality it is close to a better extended and even more forward HD600 but with the looks and price of the HD5xx range. The clamping force is a bit on the high side but certainly not too high. The light weight is pleasant and aside from the clamping force you hardly notice you are wearing them.

This headphone can be used directly out of a phone when you don’t feel the need to play very loud. Decently loud is no problem.
An external amp allows you to play impressively loud.

The sound signature is neutral with well extended and nice clean sounding bass. Neutral, lively and ‘open’ mids with an emphasized clarity with some recordings bordering on shouty presence. The treble is a bit less refined due to the emphasis of the upper mids/lower treble but can be fixed by EQ or filtering. This lowers the clarity and treble quality ‘calms’ and is smoother but more sparkly then HD600 and much more ‘spacious’ sound.
Those wanting/needing to do some mastering or mixing get a good and affordable tool for this. It is not intended for professional usage though.
For low cost Hi-Fi enjoyment this headphone is an excellent choice in this price segment and I would even say above this price point when the emphasized area is addressed. In that case you end up with spacious and realistic sound that is very detailed.
Despite the still increasing prices of high end headphones there clearly are also quite a few improvements in the lower price segment making the gap between affordable (€150-€200) and high priced headphones smaller. This is one of those headphones.
A good affordable alternative to HD600 with an even higher clarity and much wider stereo image. The filter lowers the clarity to much better levels and makes this an excellent quality headphone that does not need EQ with it and is playing slightly louder than the HD58X and HD6XX

The cable is a bit microphonic but replaceable. The locking mechanism seems exclusive for the HD5xx range. The 4-contact plug into the headphone suggests a balanced cable (hopefully a shorter one as well) might become available.

in short:

The HD560S is a good headphone in this price segment. It is not flawless and needs some ‘fixing’ but when looking for an excellent and realistic sound reproduction with a wide stereo image and clarity the HD560S is a headphone that should definitely be on your list to audition.

Not recommended for:
Bass-heads looking for huge bulky lows
Those looking for ‘warm/bassy’ headphones
Those looking for bright splashy headphones (Grado/Beyerdynamic/AudioTechnica treble).
Those looking for V- or U-shaped headphones.
Portable usage (where isolation is needed).

Recommended for:
Home usage and indoor ‘portable’ usage (when isolation is not of importance) and ‘accuracy’ is desired.
Serious listeners that like to listen to high quality recordings but don’t want to spend more than €/$ 200.- (and not afraid to use EQ or filter)
Gamers will like the sound quality and stereo image with sharply defined ‘positioning’. No microphone though and maybe a bit light on the bass for gamers.
Those that like a wider stereo image and dynamic lively sound

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Comments
  1. John says:

    Thank you so much man for what you did and shared on your website here I can’t believe this section doesn’t already have like 200 comments or so.

    Been re-visiting your website now and then and always pleased to read what you write! The inline filter I got from you is also still working flawlessly.

  2. Castor G. says:

    First of all, thank you for this nice review!

    Regarding the higher than desired energy from some 4.000 hz and above, have you tryied /do you have any measurements of using a thin layer of foam or something like that in front of the drivers?

    I love what this headphone is capable of at this price point, but I love a little less that surplus of energy.. as of now I’m equalizing it but I would like to implement a passive one.

    • Solderdude says:

      Materials in front of the driver usually only affect frequencies above 6kHz or so.
      Have not found any materials that for instance lower 4-8kHz but leave upper extension as it is.
      Passive implementation is best done using filter that only lowers that what needs lowering.

  3. Adam says:

    You noted increased “warmth” when using the HD 560s with higher output resistance amplifiers. Was there also an increase in bass distortion as observed with the 58x?

    • Solderdude says:

      The amplitude (swing of the membrane) increases on a higher output resistance, assuming the loudness difference due to voltage division is compensated for, then distortion in the lows also increases slightly. The same would happen if you EQ the bass upwards though.

  4. Steve Moore says:

    How do I order a treble filter for my Sennheiser hd560s

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