The Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX gives you a taste of the audiophile life at a reasonable price but there are a few caveats that prevent them from becoming the all-around best open-back headphones you can buy. That said, however, they’re a cheap ticket to better-sounding music with well-balanced sound and exceptional clarity that are well-worth auditioning for your audio arsenal.
Velur padding feels nice
Affordable for open-back style
Can be hard to drive
Plastic bridge and cabling
Clamping force is a bit much
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Like the standard Sennheiser HD 600 and the more recent Sennheiser HD 650, the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX headphones aim to offer a taste of the audiophile life at a price most folks can afford – and they absolutely deliver.
Should you use a dedicated amp rather than your smartphone or tablet, the sound of the HD 6XX feels nuanced and well-balanced. There’s no over-abundance of bass, but rather what’s there feels tight and restrained. Similarly, while the soundstage could have been a bit wider, what the open-back HD 6XX offers is significantly clearer and broader than 99% of the closed-back headphones out there.
The result is a pair of headphones that truly feel fit for the entry-level audiophile looking to take their first steps into the wider world of critical listening. They’re certainly not the be-all, end-all of audio reproduction – but at this price, they’re a great place to start.
Price and release date
The Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX headphones aren’t new by any means and have been available on Drop’s website for a while now. The reference design they’re based on – the Sennheiser HD 650 – has been out for over a decade now, but it has been redesigned since launch.
In terms of price, you’re looking at $240 (around £175, AU$330) if you buy it directly from Drop. Compared to the $399 / £259 / AU$448 Sennheiser HD 600 or the $499 / £295 / AU$559 Sennheiser HD 650, there’s a pretty substantial amount of savings to be had by buying the model from Drop, which then allows you to spend the extra cash you saved on something like a portable DAC / amp that you’ll need to power the headphones. Don't forget to see what Sennheiser promo codes are out there to further reduce the price.
Like the more expensive and more dynamic Drop + Sennheiser HD 8XX, the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX are wired, open-back headphones with large over-ear pads. Instead of being based on the Sennheiser HD800 and HD800S, however, the HD 6XX are based off the Sennheiser HD 650.
Being open-back, they come with a number of advantages – namely, a wider soundstage and better imaging. That said, because there’s only a plastic mesh covering the drivers, they let a lot of sound both in and out. That means using these anywhere except in your own home (and in a quiet room at that) is impractical and outright annoying for anyone sitting near you.
The other potential annoyance here is that they are wired, and the cord could fray over time. Other headphones work around this by using a braided nylon cord, but the HD 6XX only has the traditional PVC wrapping. That’s not a deal breaker, but it could be problematic down the road as regular wear and tear eats away at the coating. The silver lining, however, is that it’s a standard 6-foot detachable cable, which means it would be easy to replace should something happen.
The cable terminates in a ⅛-inch plug (3.5mm audio jack) but it also comes with a ¼-inch plug should you want to run it into a DAC/amp or other professional audio gear. We’ll cover why that’s the case in a minute, but the point we’re making here is that you have options when it comes to compatible devices.
At just 9.2 oz (260 g), these are fairly light thanks to their mostly plastic construction. That low weight, in addition to their velur padding, should make them comfortable to wear for extended periods, but that’s not always the case. Problematically, these headphones have a relatively strong clamping force somewhere in the woods of 6.0 N ± 1 N. In layman’s terms, that’s like having 1lb weights pushing against your skull.
Over time, that clamping force will lessen, but right out of the box it might be a bit much. On top of this, the mostly plastic construction presents yet another area in which the headphones could fail sometime further down the road.
If you’ve never tried an open-back pair of headphones before, the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX are going to blow your mind. The clarity, balance and sound quality here are truly breathtaking for first-timers, even for folks who don’t have the best audio gear.
For our testing, we tried two amps: a traditional desktop DAC/amp from Creative and a portable DAC/amp from THX called the THX Onyx. Both have the signal output to drive these headphones given their high sensitivity, but it should be feasible to drive them from some phones and portable audio players without an additional piece of hardware.
Choosing the right DAC/amp is important here, as it could mean the difference between well-balanced audio and sibilant treble and upper-mids. Either way you won’t get an overbearing amount of bass response (that’s a good thing in our opinion) and should expect a decently wide soundstage and imaging.
That soundstage isn’t quite as wide as some higher-end headphones where you really can get that in-concert experience, but what’s on offer here is much wider than traditional over-ear closed-back or in-ear headphones.
We appreciated how many details can be brought to light using these headphones, as you'll quickly discover a cymbal trill here or layered background vocals there. Old music feels new with the HD 6XX, and that in itself is worth the price of admission.
For beginner audiophile cans, the Massdrop x Sennheiser HD 6XX Headphones are great. They offer a viable path to true high-end audio by selling you a pair of open-back headphones at a fraction of the cost. Drop (formerly called Massdrop, hence the name) made the impossible possible here.
That being said, these truly are the start of the journey for audiophiles and not the place your journey will come to an end. The transparency and imaging of these cans is truly a cut above what you may have heard on your in-ear or over-ear closed-back headphones – but it’s not the complete picture and there’s even more to experience should you find yourself with the cash to splash on higher-end cans. If that’s not feasible – or not preferable – based on your current budget, the HD 6XX should enthrall you with their performance until you can make the jump.
- Don't miss our guide to the best over-ear headphones
Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.