Alex Audio Awards 2018: Best New Headphone
It’s a weird new era where my best old and new headphones this year are both open-backed models.
I haven’t abandoned my beloved closed-backs or my gaming headsets, but rather, by the rules of this totally fake awards series I’ve created for myself, this is what won.
The Sennheiser HD58X is the year’s best new headphone…which I realize is a bit strange, because it’s sort of a Frankenstein’s Monster of old headphone components in a new color way.
If you’re looking for the most open-backed sound quality for the least amount of money, then the 58X is a phenomenal choice. A lot of commenters try to get me to discard price when I’m talking about the value of something…but that’s completely ridiculous, so no. Unless we all start living in a world that magically gives out headphones for free, I’m going to keep considering price in my reviews.
The HD58X gives you sound that approaches the performance level of the 600 series, in the same frame, and with some of the design trappings of the old Jubilee model that started it all. Endless debates have raged on about where, exactly, this new driver came from, and whether or not it sounds better or worse than the other 600 series models.
It’s a mess I don’t want anything to do with. The bottom-line is that the HD58X allows you to get HD600-levels of sound quality for $150. Something that was previously impossible unless you were buying a used HD600.
Between the 58X and the 6XX, Massdrop has really shook up the high end open back headphone market for new users. Longtime audiophiles probably already own one of Sennheiser’s famous 600-series headphones, and for them, the 660S exists. But if you’re a normal person and you want to see why everyone loves the 600-series so much, this is the place to go.
There are only two caveats. The Massdrop exclusivity means that, at times, availability is a sketchy proposition. They’ve done a good job at restocking them through this holiday buying period, but they could just as easily shelve the again after the Christmas season.
The only other issue is that the frame isn’t the most robust-feeling thing in the world. But that’s probably okay because these aren’t designed to be on-the-go headphones. The adjustment sliders are over-stiff to the point where I always felt like they would break, and the plastic components stick out more than they do on more modern Sennheiser designs. They aren’t helped by the basic paint job of this Massdrop model.
But again, are you a most audio least money sort of person? Then you need to consider them. In an era when more and more products are trying to push the cost of high grade audio upwards, it’s so nice to see a disruptive product like the 58X.