The Sennheiser HD 490 Pro and the HD 490 Pro Plus with extended features turn out to be sonically appealing, pleasantly transparent and linearly tuned open headphones that meet the critical requirements of professional sound processing and judgement as well as audiophile demands. They are extremely comfortable to wear, and the addition of the dearVR MIX-SE software is definitely worthwhile.
- Airy, clear and detailed sound reproduction
- High wearing comfort
- Incl. licence from Dear Reality dearVR MIX-SE
The HD 490 Pro Plus is part of Sennheiser’s Pro Audio collection. Wired studio headphones with a modern design that are recommended for editing work or for use in the control room when recording, mixing and working on production, they are characterised by neutrality and high detail resolution. There is, of course, also nothing to stop you from using these open headphones purely for music consumption.
The Plus part of the name of this model requires an explanation. These headphones are already the HD 490 Pro, which has a recommended retail price of 399 euros. However, the Plus Edition (RRP: 479 euros) includes a second connection cable with a length of 3.0 metres, a moulded carrying bag and an additional headband cushion, things which you would otherwise have to separately budget for if you required them.
The elegant plastic and metal construction is matt black and appears to be robust enough for everyday use. The length-adjustable headband built on a wide metal bracket is padded, as are the earcups. Like the headband padding, the ear pads included are in both velour and textile versions, which, according to the manufacturer, sound quite different from each other.
The open back of the dynamic 38mm drivers, which are driven by neodymium magnets, is protected by grilles. The drivers, therefore, do not work against a closed volume of air when moving backwards but vibrate freely in both directions. Sound also reaches the outside, which is why they cannot be used in the recording room.
The 1.8 metre-long connection cable is routed on one side, either the left or right. It ends with a 3.5mm jack, onto which you can screw the supplied adapter to the 6.3mm jack format – both are gold-plated. A symmetrical connection cable for audiophile music listeners is available for an additional charge.
The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Plus in practice
The wearing comfort of these headphones is high. The design is lightweight (260 grams), ergonomic and sufficiently “airy” to prevent unwanted perspiration. The washable ear pads sit softly on the ears with sufficient pressure but without becoming annoying. The ear cups can be easily rotated and swivelled to adapt to the shape of your head. They also have distinctive right/left labelling on the inside. Thanks to the excellent padding, longer listening sessions are no problem, although subjectively, I found that I certainly liked the velour version better. Like the connection cable, the padding is replaceable, so hopefully, replacements will still be available even after years of use.
The connection cables are designed to be a spiral with a few turns up to the upper connection, which, according to the manufacturer, reduces the transmission of structure-borne noise and cable noise.
The drivers are installed at a slight angle and are intended to simulate the corresponding position of monitor speakers. According to Sennheiser, the decision to provide different ear pads was the result of a comprehensive survey. Here, you can choose between the more pleasing and warmly tuned velour version for working on production and the somewhat more neutral textile padding for listening to the mix.
dearVR MIX-SE – added value through software
The package includes a licence for the dearVR MIX-SE plug-in from Dear Reality. This is a supplement for the digital production environment (DAW) that places the sound engineer in a virtual studio room with switchable acoustics. Among other things, this is intended to enable you to obtain the specific sound image of studio monitors via headphones. In order to achieve credible results, the software combines the simulated rooms with information about the frequency response of the headphones.
In my opinion, the simulation achieved quite acceptable results. Although the illusion was not perfect, the typical localisation of signals was softened and shifted to the front.
What does the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Plus sound like?
Sennheiser confidently goes out on a limb with the description “professional studio reference headphones”. The HD 490 Pro is intended to be equally suitable for production, mixing and mastering while also enabling you to make critical assessments.
According to the manufacturer, audio productions today are more complex than ever. This is partly due to the possibilities of modern production systems, which enable parameter automation over time and thus bring movement into the sound which, ideally, the listener can follow. In addition, there are almost unlimited possibilities for layering and combining sounds. The resulting mixes are created partly in the computer and partly in the hybrid interaction of computer and analogue peripherals. This creates character and complexity that audio creators need to be able to hear and evaluate.
The measured frequency response already showed a largely balanced spectrum with a slight drop from 1 kHz downwards and a “presence hump” at 10 kHz. Our listening test was carried out on a Shanling M3X DAP (review). This delivered sufficient power to bring the HD 490 Pro up to speed.
High levels were not necessary for a full, powerful sound, although the headphones handled high levels cleanly and without any problems. Listening to Yello’s “Pan Blue” immediately provided a good impression of the finely resolved, precisely localisable, wide and comprehensively animated stereo panorama of this production, which also features a number of spatial effects. The track also demonstrated the headphones’ low bass capabilities.
The general sound impression was powerful, airy, precise and balanced. “Katsching” by Adel Tawil displayed further aspects of bass reproduction. Bass drums with different intonations, dynamics and decay times were reproduced reliably and with the necessary definition. I didn’t notice any overemphasis, and the tuning was not conspicuously lean.
“I Fall to Pieces” by Patsy Cline from 1961 demonstrated a beautiful panorama from the beginnings of stereophony. To stay in that genre: On “Still Woman Enough”, you can clearly hear the slight variations in timing and intonation of the three singers in the chorus performed by Loretta Lynn, Reba McEntire and Carrie Underwood. All the voices had a pleasant fullness in the mid-range. Equally impressive was the masterful George Massenburg production of “Cold Hard Business” by John Starling, which combined intimacy with breadth, depth of space and fine dynamic gradations. At this point, it became clear that the HD 490 Pro really does provide a reliable assessment of frequencies, dynamics and stereo panorama.
The device we tested also impressed me when reproducing harder rock and metal. AC/DC was just as powerful as Alice in Chains, while with more extreme tracks by Meshuggah, Exodus or Slayer, it was possible to clearly differentiate the musicians involved despite the high tempos. The specific character of the mixes remained recognisable at all times.
I didn’t notice any disruptive harshness, regardless of the corresponding mixes. At the same time, the device we tested certainly made it possible to recognise corresponding limit ranges in the audio engineering sense and to work around them when working with equalisers. We used DAW Cubase with a Clarett audio interface from Focusrite.
Competition from their own company?
A close competitor is Sennheiser’s own HD 660S, which can be found in their audiophile product line (Sennheiser Hearing). In a direct comparison, the HD 490 Pro sounded a little more open when I used the fabric pads and was tidier and more streamlined. Conversely, it was less full-bodied in the lower mid-range and not quite as commanding in the low bass. The more expensive HD 660S could, therefore, be described as “warmer”, at least in the first version that was available to me. Detail resolution and time response were comparable, but in my opinion, the HD 660S had a slight advantage, and this also applied to their even greater wearing comfort.
Sennheiser’s pro audio division presents the HD 490 Pro headphones, which are aimed at sound professionals in the studio and production sector. Unlike the closed HD models from this sector and in-ear monitors for stage use, these have an open over-ear design, which is more transparent in terms of sound reproduction and, therefore, enables better, more effortless sound control.
An exciting product for producers and professional studios, and for use in editing suites, but they can also be used for ambitious home music productions. If you’re interested in the latter, then you should be particularly pleased with the software for control room simulation that is included with this device. Finally, they should also appeal to music lovers who are looking for honest, detailed, dynamic headphones. This Plus Edition comes with additional features that, in practice, proved to be very useful.
- Ear couplingOver-ear
- Transducer principledynamic
- Frequency response (headphones)5 - 36.000 Hz
- Impedance122 ohms
- Sound pressure level (SPL)96,29 dB
- Pressure averaged from big and small head538 g
- Weight with cable310 g
- Weight without cable255 g
- Cable length290 cm
What's in the box
- 1.8 m connection cable
- approx. 3 m connection cable
- 1 set of fabric ear pads for mixing
- 1 set of velour ear pads for production
- 1 additional fabric headband pad
- Premium carrying case
- Available in two versions (Plus version with additional accessories)