Sennheiser HD490 PRO Plus Headphones Review - Indranil Mitra's Take

Disclaimer:

The following review has been thoughtfully crafted by Mr. Indranil Mitra from Kolkata, a cherished supporter, customer, and friend of The Audio Store. We express our gratitude to Mr. Indranil for generously sharing his personal insights into the Sennheiser HD490 PRO Plus Headphones. It is important to note that this review is entirely unbiased, reflecting Mr.Indranil's genuine experiences and preferences. No benefits or exchanges have influenced the content of this review. His valuable contributions significantly enhance our blog, and we sincerely appreciate his unwavering dedication to the audio enthusiast community.

Build Quality & Construction:

490 Pro's Plus construction is a stark departure from the usual Sennheiser design of headphones, both in terms of structure as well as materials. The main chassis of the 490 Pro is made out of glass fiber reinforced plastic that is extremely robust and feels as hard as steel. The plastic used feels more robust than the 6xx/5xx line of headphones. The entirety of it is rough textured, like you get with powder coated surfaces. It does pick up scratches but they wipe off, given the time frame I kept it. Whether it picks up deep scratches in the long run can only be said after long term usage. The headband slider mechanism feels very similar to the HD800s in terms of looks and functionality. Overall the construction is a substantial improvement over the 6xx lineup. Given that the 6xx lineup is time-tested and the new construction is even more durable- only time can say just how long it will last, but I am sure this will last essentially forever. Coming to the material choice for the padding and the (producer) earpads, the foam is uncannily soft and plush. The 6xx lineup has much stiffer foam even after they're worn in. I have owned the 560s, 6xx, 600, 650, 660s2 before and the comfort here is significantly better and that is saying something as the aforementioned headphones themselves are very comfortable. Comfort level is similar to that of the HD800s minus the very light clamp force. As of April, 2024 I would rate 490 Pro Plus as the most comfortable headphone I have tried yet, bar none.

But this brings me to a point of concern- the longevity of the foam inside the earpads. After a day of use the pads did wear in and during my usage period they were flattened only a bit. How long the pads last can only be said with confidence given enough time.

If you buy the Plus version you get a nice carry case, an extra set of (mixing) earpads and a matching headband padding. According to Sennheiser, the earpads are machine washable but I wasn't keen on trying it out.

Sennheiser HD-490 PRO Plus Review - Indranil Mitra's Take

Amp Needs:

You do need a dedicated amp with these. At 96dB/mW @ 130 ohm, these aren't an easy load that you can get by without an amplifier. Any modest solid state amplifier will do. But you do need one.

Sound Quality:

Disclaimer: The 490 Pro Plus was created and aimed squarely at professional work, not for musical listening. But that hasn't stopped audio enthusiasts for using similar "professional" headphones for listening pleasure. I am NOT an audio professional, so I will only be judging these headphones from a listening pleasure point of view.

Sennheiser HD-490 PRO Plus Review - Indranil Mitra's Take

On Producing Earpads:

This is my preferred choice of earpads and I feel that this is the intended sound of the headphone. Three things hit you instantly. The first thing: soundstage is very wide- wider than any Sennheiser headphone save the HD 800s. Wider than 560s, all HD 6x0 headphones. The second: Separation of instruments. Very well separated, and again better than 560s and all HD 6x0 headphones. I guess the angled driver placement helps with this. The third thing- the bass. Just recently I praised 660s2 for having deeper and better bass than the HD600 and HD650. HD490 Pro Plus has deeper bass than even HD 660s2. Having this kind of bass extension is rarely seen from an open backed headphone, let alone Sennheiser. It's deep and thumpy and quite satisfying. Coming to tone- it is very different from the 6x0 line of headphones, as one might have already expected. With great extension up top and down low, the mids take a step back. But only in comparison with something like the HD 660s2. In isolation, the mids are very present and their tone is really natural still. I guess Sennheiser can never make midrange sound unnatural, even if they tried :)

Many people find the HD 6x0 lineup to sound claustrophobic and a bit too forward in the midrange, and I get it. For those people, the HD 490 Pro Plus will be a breath of fresh air. If the rumors are to be believed, the word in the town is that the HD 490 Pro Plus is just a slight improvement over the 560s in terms of sound, if at all. As a previous owner of HD 560s I am here to tell you that the rumors are...false. HD 490 Pro has far more bass extension, significantly more refined sounding overall with more detail, significantly wider soundstage. Not to mention the build quality is much more superior than the all plastic HD 560s. So yes, HD 490 Pro Plus is a significant upgrade over the HD 560s. But that doesn't take anything away from the value proposition of the HD 560s.

Coming to the upper midrange and treble, its present and active, as one would expect from a headphone aimed at professional use. This ain't like the HD 660s2 where this region has been purposely tamed to make trash recordings sound pleasant. From upper midrange and up, it carries a lot of information, but even still, the tone is natural.

This brings me to the first of only two caveats I could find: If your recording is trashy and harsh, it will sound harsh. There's no putting it another way. This is to be expected off headphones meant for pro use as they tend to be analytical in nature.
Secondly, the headphone doesn't like to be played loud for some reason. When turned up loud (I mean loud, but not deafeningly loud) the driver just breaks up- there's a lot of distortion in sound. The same is true for bass-heavy tracks. If you turn it up substantially loud, the driver can't take it. And no, this isn't due to the amp. I have tried the headphone across various powerful amps be it tubes or solid state. I was a bit let down by this aspect in particular. Comparatively, the 660s2 can handle more dynamics and thump and at a louder volume before it gives out.

On Mixing Earpads:

These earpads are almost as comfortable but not as plush as the Producing earpads. They do indeed change the sound totally. Firstly, you do lose a lot of the bass extension and the whole sound becomes a lot more analytical and clinical- separating elements in the mix for a clearer sight. Due to the cut in bass, this results in a thinner sound. And obviously that is the requirement for mixing. But for musical listening pleasure, I would choose the Producer Earpads.

HD490 Pro Plus vs HD660s2:

The HD 660s2 has been my primary headphone since quite a few months. Its really good. Compared to the HD490 Pro, the HD 660s2 does indeed lose on some aspects, namely the bass extension, soundstage size and instrument separation. There is just no competition, the 490 Pro is just superior in these departments. The comfort and material choice is also better on the HD 490 Pro Plus. All of this is a bit baffling as the HD 660S2 is significantly more expensive. This is a bit weird, right? No. And let me explain why.

On paper the HD 490 Pro Plus's tuning is undoubtedly better but the HD 660s2 has the unique ability to make anything sound pleasurable due to its "special" tuning. Yes indeed it does a thick sound with relaxed upper midrange and lower treble - and that is what makes even the worst of the worst recordings sound pleasurable and natural still. The HD 490 Pro Plus is not able to do that, as it doesnt adulterate the sound. And as a music listener, it's safe to assume that one listens to a variety of music. And in this case the HD 660s2 fares better. You have the confidence to throw anything at it and have a pleasurable experience, unlike the HD 490 Pro Plus. This problem isn't limited just to the HD 490 Pro Plus. This is true for most "professional/studio" headphones. Well it is only a problem if you use them for listening pleasure.

If you exclusively listen to well recorded music and simply like to listen critically then the HD 490 Pro Plus will indeed be a better choice for you.

Sennheiser HD-490 PRO Plus Review - Indranil Mitra's Take
Conclusion:

It is THE Sennheiser headphone to use for critical listening (apart from the HD800S), with only a couple caveats. If as a user you do not care about them, then the HD 490 Pro Plus may very well be an instant buy.

1 comment

Shridhar Mediga

Shridhar Mediga

Nice

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