SonicLAB: Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Review

US A new Studio Reference Headphone?      22/01/24

Sennheiser is a name associated with well-respected headphones for decades.
I've personally been using Sennheiser headphones since I bought my first ever hifi - I was just out of school, and I'd spent all my money on a turntable and amp, and couldn't afford speakers for a long time, so headphones were all I had... not so good for student parties, mind ;-)
 
That was a pair of Sennheiser HD-424 - they were considered pretty groundbreaking in their day, with a lightweight plastic construction, open back, and funky yellow earpads. Sounded pretty decent too.
 
When I first started filming video, I bought myself a pair of HD-280 as they were closed back and someone recommended them. Not so great though, I have to admit.
 
But in the audiophile world, and even crossing into the pro & studio environments, their open-back HD 600 and HD 650 are very well-regarded.
We filmed a video with Little Labs founder Jonathan Little a few years back, and he'd designed his Monotor headphone amplifier using the HD 600 as his benchmark.
I ended up checking out the HD 600's after that, and was so impressed I bought a pair and have used them for home listening ever since.
I bought a Monotor recently too - again, that's what I use at home, and for testing out headphones for Sonic reviews too.
 
So, to cut a long story a little bit shorter, Sennheiser releasing a new reference set of headphones is pretty big news, and we were chuffed to be sent a pair prior to launch so we could test them out.
Nick gave us his reactions to listening to the new HD 490 Pros against the HD 600 and his very old set of Sony MDR-V6 from back when he did live sound engineering.
We also did some comparative frequency tests using an in-house dummy head, and we had an in-depth chat with Gunnar Dirks, Product Manager for Sennheiser's Professional Audio Division.
 
And we were pretty impressed - they sound great, they're really lightweight and comfy, and they seem to be designed to withstand the rigours of studio life.
Prices:  
HD 490 PRO = £349
HD 490 PRO Plus = £419  (includes carry case, extra 3m cable, extra headband pad)
 
Sennheiser could be on to a winner with these.
 
Here's the list of features from Sennheiser's marketing materials, and a link to their official product release page:-
 
  • Open-back design with an extremely wide, dimensional sound stage and ultra-precise localization
  • Uncolored frequency response for honest, dynamic sound reproduction across the full spectrum
  • Innovative low frequency cylinder system for full, accurate, and clearly defined low end
  • Precision-engineered ergonomics eliminate pressure points and deliver supreme, flexible, lightweight comfort
  • Sennheiser Open-frame Architecture reduces THD and minimizes resonance, improving audio accuracy
  • Two unique sets of ear pads for producing or mixing help eliminate ear fatigue and pinpoint frequencies
  • (velvet: producing; fabric: mixing)
  • Geometrically angled earcup design optimizes transducer placement for a consistent listening experience
  • State-of-the-art neodymium magnets for superior driver performance and efficiency
  • Patented cable coil structure blocks cable-borne noise ensuring the clearest signal
  • Ultralight voice coil for remarkably authentic and dynamic audio reproduction
  • Right and left ear jacks with detachable cable easily adapts to any studio configuration
  • Patented Accessibility features: braille-guided L/R earcups and grooved ear pads for eyeglasses
  • Sustainability-inspired with washable, replaceable pads and FSC-certified, forest-friendly packaging Open-mesh metal earpiece covers provide natural ventilation
  • Durable design meticulously engineered in Germany and hand-assembled in Sennheiser's own factory in Romania

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