We know that Sennheiser is an authority on audio, often putting an eclectic twist on their products. They’ve been doing thing differently since they equivocally broke the audiophile world back in the nineties with the Orpheus headphones. Even with more ordinary offerings like their HD 630VB Headphones they still manage to release breakout products — hell, by this point they’re practically their own category.
Why’s that? Because these are travel-friendly audiophile premium headphones with adjustable bass control. I guess Hell has officially frozen over.
It’s the outward looks of the HD 630VB that catch your attention first. For those familiar with Sennheiser’s revered HD 600 series or almost anything else in the company’s lineup, bearing no resemblance to current or previous headphones. It is a collision of styling elements with brushed and polished aluminum making up the entire frame, earcup yokes, and slider. Tastefulness is starkly contrasted blue accents and leather (either Prussian or yacht blue depending on who you ask) is liberally applied for cushioning on the headband and earpads, control panel on the right for an asymmetrical look, with red fabric covering up the drivers. It is nontraditional but somewhat luxurious at the same time, polarizing in a good way.
You’ll notice the right cup has all the buttons and a big dial that is inviting you to play around with, and play with it you will. It is a free-turning rotary type with markings that you initially think is for volume but actually isn’t. This is in reality the variable bass booster: twist it clockwise for more bass or counter-clockwise for less in what amounts to a difference of ±5dB at 50Hz.
Inside of that is are the real volume adjustments and a multifunction button for playback similar to Apple control where different press can pause, rewind, change song, etc. On the bottom of the earcup there is a small switch for smartphone compatibility, just flick it to run in Apple (iOS) or Android mode. The cable is hardwired at 3.93ft but at least there’s a chin-level microphone integrated near the base.
The specifications of 23 Ohm (Ω) impedance, 114 dB (1 KHz/1Vrm) nominal SPL, frequency response of 10-42,000 Hz, and T.H.D of <0.08% fit among the necessary requirements of Hi-Res certification so no surprise there. The microphone is equally compliant with 100-10,000Hz of frequency response too.
From DAPs (HiFiMAN MegaMini, Astell&Kern AK70) to amplifiers (Sony TA-A1ES), I stuck primarily to hi-res music in both FLAC and DSD formats during my review. Since the HD 630VB are closed-back circumaural headphones they will isolate you from the annoyances of the outside environment, meaning it’ll just be you and your favorite playlists just as the audiophile gods intended.
The HD 630VB are built for true portability with an emphasis on being high-end. There are few headphones that are actually suitable for the slog of morning commutes while still producing a pure studio-grade output, and these are among them. It’s not all roses, unfortunately, as that mobility comes with a heavy cost: at 0.88 pounds (400g) and a bulky (albeit foldable) frame they aren’t featherweight.
Variable Bass and You
The selling point of the HD 630VB is the option of variable bass, an uncommon feature that you don’t see much, let alone on premium-oriented headphones. My initial impression was one of subtly and didn’t make a huge difference at first, less instantaneous than imagined.
However, a level of bass does reveal itself the more you listen without compromising overall quality. The tonal balance and treble are crisp, and clarity holds up quite well even when you crank up the volume. In general, imaging is pretty spacious but midrange performance feels recessed, also typical of closed-back headphones. Clarity is accounted for but overall engagement isn’t a core ability of the HD 630VB.
This is where the addition of bass helps the HD 630VB stand out among its peers. You probably won’t get anything with the minimum setting until you dial it up to halfway, with the most effective sound coming out at maximum. Obviously I recommend leaving it on all the way because music is comparatively fuller as a result. This fits the characteristics for rock, hip-hop, and techno/EDM, genres that are usually a poor fit for audiophile-like headphones in dynamic form. At least that’s the supposed advantage.
About the Bass
Sennheiser’s HD 630VB Headphones are a rarity in their class as they manage to blend articulate performance with adjustable bass, and look great doing it. This isn’t the first attempt by a company to put more common features into pricier headphones, but I suppose it’s still admirable effort in trying something unique. Clearly, there other choices that are a tad more affordable, but Sennheiser has produced a premium product that certainly work their magic with the right music.