Sennheiser HD555 review: Sennheiser HD555

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MSRP: $179.95
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3.5 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Sleek styling; very comfortable; rich tonal balance; well suited for home theater.

The Bad Open-backed design may not be ideal for private listening; so-so music performance.

The Bottom Line The HD555s' speakerlike sound is the hot ticket for DVD thrill seekers.

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7.3 Overall
Editor's note: We have changed the rating in this review to reflect recent changes in our rating scale. Click here to find out more.

Sleek, comfortable, and durable, Sennheiser's Euro-styled HD555 headphones weigh a mere 9.2 ounces and feel luxurious. They exerted minimal pressure on our ears, which allowed us to forget at times that we were even wearing them--a big compliment for headphones.

The Sennheiser HD555s, which cost less than $150 online, have an open-backed design that makes for spacious audio, but the 'phones leak sound and may disturb others in your vicinity. The HD555s are fitted with a 10-foot cable and a 1/4-inch plug; a 1/8-inch miniplug adapter is also included.

These headphones' wide-open sound is ideal for DVDs, eliminating the inside-your-head effect common to most 'phones and providing the sort of layered depth and imaging we normally hear from speakers. Seabiscuit sounded glorious: the pounding hooves, the roaring crowds, and the sweeping musical score were all well served by the HD555s. Dialogue was perfectly clear and bass response was deep and powerful. On our reference Grado SR125 headphones, the sound was more immediate and clear but significantly less open and comfortable.

While we were impressed by the HD555s' home-theater performance, its music reproduction fell a bit short. On Jazz Descargas, a CD of passionate Afro-Cuban percussion, the HD555s sounded a little too sweet and laid back, as the 'phones softened the interplay between the drummers. Aerosmith's blues CD, Honkin' on Bobo, also sounded a tad restrained for our tastes. We preferred Sennheiser's more vivid HD 280 Pro headphones.

Things changed again when we hooked up our iPod to the HD555s. The rich sound was irresistible, and the generous bass balance brought out the best in all sorts of music. We did not, however, have the same kind of luck with our Jens of Sweden MP-110 . The comparatively underpowered player didn't fare as well as the iPod--it just couldn't pump out enough volume for the HD555s.

In short, if you're a music lover who demands vivid, detailed sound from your headphones, the HD555s probably aren't for you; consider the Sennheiser HD 280 Pros instead. But if you want great home-theater sound without waking the neighbors, the HD555s are calling your name.

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