Headphone Review (From an Audio Professional) - Sennheiser HD58X Jubilee
Updated: Jun 29, 2020
As a professional in the audio industry, sometimes I get the feeling that people expect me to have a certain elitist opinion on what constitutes a "pro" level piece of gear. They automatically assume that I would own audio equipment that cost more arms and legs than the average person would dare to lose. It almost seems as if I'm supposed to own incredibly high-end gear just because I'm "in the biz".
For me personally anyway, nothing could be further from the truth. It isn't because I totally shun using high-end equipment. It's just that when it comes to audio, the rabbit hole can go unfathomably deep, with almost no end to the hype and price to go with it. Marketeers have taken this to an almost unconscionable level, with celebrity-product tie-ins that inflate the price a point where you're just paying for the marketing cost of the product and not for the actual capability and utility of the product itself.
Admittedly, I used to be easily seduced by the marketing hype and have been guilty of paying a pretty penny for it. Nowadays, I am more interested in things that punch way above it's price in utility and performance. While marketing hype will always be there, trying to seduce me into parting with more money than less, I'm now able to cut through the bull-sh** and focus on the most important part of any tool that I use in my studio, and that is....real-world utility and performance to price ratio. I am pleasantly surprised to say, the Sennheiser HD58X is a great example of this.
Sennheiser is a very well-known name in the world of audiophile-grade headphones as well as professional studio monitor headphones. In particular, the HD650 and HD600 models have been widely lauded as some of the best sounding headphones in their price range (USD400 or AUD550) . Of course, there are so many other headphones in the Sennheiser range and other manufacturers that supposedly have higher performance with even higher price premiums. But even so, these models have become classics. The HD58X model I have is a re-issue of the HD580 Jubilee, which originally came out in 1995, and eventually led to the development of the HD600 and HD650. What intrigued me about the HD58X Jubilee is that it was released by Drop (formerly Massdrop), which means the price is about 20-30% lower than if you were to buy a purely Sennheiser release. To find out more about how Drop does this, click here. I got my unit from Addicted To Audio.
On a technical note, the driver of the HD58X Jubilee was tweaked and tuned to have a more updated sound signature with, slightly more bass than the old HD580 Jubilee, which had a reputation of being a little bass shy.
The packaging is pretty basic, compared to the usual packaging for Sennheiser headphones in this series, but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.
In the box, you get the headphone unit itself, a 1.8 metre audio cable with Sennheiser's proprietary 2-pin connector on one end and a 1/8th-inch TRS connector on the other. It also comes with a 1/4th-inch adapter.
That's it. No extra fuss here. Even the manual is just a large folded piece of paper with simple instructions in multiple languages.
Unfortunately, the velour material on the ear cups are lint magnets! Or is that dandruff??
The HD58X Jubilee is an open-backed headphone, which means the outer part of the earcups are not enclosed. Instead, they have vents to allow the passage of air around the drivers of the headphones. Open-backed headphones generally have a more balanced sound signature, and also feels more "open" when you have them on. The problem with open-backed headphones is whatever you're listening to, bleeds out the other end of the cups, so someone sitting close by to you would be able to hear a faint version of whatever you're listening to. Also, the isolation of outside noise in open-backed headphones is very poor, so they are not a good choice for outdoor use. So they are best used in a studio or in a quiet room.
I use my HD58X Jubilee headphones mainly as a tool to get a opinion on my music mixes done with my studio speakers, but I also use them to mix when I don't want to wake up the neighborhood. Here are my thoughts on its performance:
Open sound (Feels more like you're listening to music through speakers, compared to closed-back headphones, where the music feels enclosed in your head, and usually bass is hyped a little more than usual).
Sound signature pleasing without being too hyped in the low and high frequencies
Audio response throughout the frequency spectrum is not as linear as Sennheiser's higher model headphones - there is more bass here but it's tight and not "rumbly". The highs are also good but not to the point of hurting the ears, which is always a plus, for headphones that are used for long hours.
For me, mixes done with these headphones sound very similar when compared using my monitor speakers and other speakers.
Impedance at 150 Ohms is more convenient in that it doesn't require a dedicated amp to drive it. So it should work with most of your portable devices. The higher end Sennheiser headphones have double the impedance.
The price of AUD 199 (when I bought it) is a pretty sweet deal considering the fact that you get a headphone that performs very closely to the levels of the Sennheiser flagship models.
It's an over-ear headphone unit, meaning the edges of each of the earcups surround your ear, which means I am able to have them on for longer without my earlobes hurting.
The clamping force on my head is a little strong (maybe it's because my head is a little too big).
The open backed nature also means that sound isolation is very poor, so this is not ideal for someone who wants to listen to music in public spaces, unless you go out jogging with this on and you need to hear sounds around you for safety purposes.
Sound bleed through the grilles on the outer end of the earcups means it is not suitable for vocal tracking use. For vocal tracking and for monitoring during instrument recordings, I use a closed-back KRK KSM8400 headphone, pictured below.
I've had these for so long, the original earcup and head cushion material had withered away, so these are homemade covers courtesy of my lovely wife.
In conclusion, this purchase is one that I am quite happy with, and I pulled the trigger on these because I had heard about how Massdrop is able to get its large group of members to show strong interest in a particular item, and then work with the actual manufacturer of the item to produce them at a lower price point, similar to a bulk discount. The sound signature of these headphones, while not entirely flat, is exciting enough to be pleasurable, but not too hyped to where I get the wrong impression of what my work sounds like, thereby mixing inappropriately.
While it is always tempting to buy into the hype of much more expensive gear, the reality of it, for me anyway, is that there is a minimum standard of quality that I need to have my equipment to perform at, above which, the difference in the result cannot be practically discerned. As we go higher in price range, the increase in performance levels gets too infinitesimal for anyone to actually notice with the naked ear. In my opinion, these the HD58X Jubilees are at the sweetspot of great performance, at any price, and when you figure in their actual cost, the cons I listed above magically disappear and the value proposition sounds much sweeter.
Note: It is important to make sure that the headphones are "burned in" before any serious mixing work is done on these. This is done by playing music through the headphones for a number of hours to supposedly "loosen" the diaphragms within the drivers to make sure they are at their optimum levels of response.
For you audio nerds out there, here is a link to a very detailed technical review of the HD58X Jubilees, by DIY Audio Heaven.