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Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Review: Studio Reference Headphones


Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Review  · 

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The new Sennheiser HD 490 PRO studio reference headphones are mainly designed for mixing and mastering. They feature an open-back, circumaural design and many good ideas like a single-sided cable that connects to either side, removable and washable ear pads, and integration into virtual mixing software. The HD 490 PRO are available in two versions: a standard edition and a Plus version that includes additional accessories. Sennheiser kindly sent us a sample, which we subjected to a short test.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO – The Highlights

  • wired studio reference headphones
  • circumaural
  • open design
  • single-sided cable (1.8 m)
  • license for DearVR MIX-SE plugin included
  • Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Plus includes an additional 3 m cable, an additional headband, and a premium carrying case

HD 490 PRO Studio Headphones

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Headphones are without a doubt one of the most important tools for recording, mixing, and mastering. And even if the basic concept remains unchanged, there are always opportunities for innovation. As a manufacturer known for pushing the boundaries, Sennheiser has introduced new reference headphones for studio tasks.

The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO come in two versions. The only difference between them is the included accessories – more on that in a second. The dynamic headphones are based on an open-back, circumaural design.

The neodymium drivers housed inside the earcups measure 38 millimeters. A special low-frequency cylinder system is intended to ensure a well-rounded and defined bass response. Moreover, Sennheiser says that the HD 490 PRO’s open-frame architecture helps to minimize distortion and resonances.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO
Sennheiser HD 490 PRO

The specs indicate a total harmonic distortion (THD) factor of less than 0.2 percent. The frequency response is stated as 5 Hz to 36.1 kHz. And while we’re on the subject: The headphones have an impedance of 140 Ohms and the maximum sound pressure level is 128 dB SPL.

But how do the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO sound? And are they comfortable to wear? Technical specs aside, that’s what I’m really interested in – and I’m sure you are, too. So let’s unpack the new headphones, put them on, and listen carefully.

Unboxing: The Differences Between the HD 490 PRO and HD 490 PRO Plus

The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO comes in a nice-looking cardboard box. The manufacturer has done away with unnecessary plastic. After opening the box, I can simply pull the slightly higher-quality transport case of the Plus version from the packaging. Besides the headphones, it also contains all of the accessories.

And that brings us to the difference between the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO and HD 490 PRO Plus. While the headphones themselves are identical, the HD 490 PRO PLUS comes with a premium transport case and additional accessories. These include an extra headband pad and an additional 3-meter cable.

Headphone accessories
The Plus variant comes with a premium case and additional accessories

Both models also include an 1/8”-1/4” jack adapter, two sets of ear pads (one for producing, one for mixing), and a download code for the dearVR MIX-SE software. This is a plugin that simulates virtual studio environments via selected headphones to provide a different perspective on the mix. I only tested the plugin briefly, so I can’t really comment on its quality. To me, dearVR MIX-SE is a nice add-on – but nothing more.

Design and Build Quality

At 260 grams, the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO feel very light. The manufacturer achieves the low weight through a straightforward design. The metal headband is only padded on the side that rests on your head. The ear cups are made from matte black plastic

The nicely padded ear cups are clearly marked on the inside, so you can’t confuse left and right. The pads are replaceable and, according to the manufacturer, even washable at 30 °C. The grille on the outside of the cups not only improves the sound but also helps with air circulation.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO
Sennheiser HD 490 PRO

As mentioned earlier, the cable is routed on one side. It can be connected to either side of the headphones. The included cable has a short spiral section near the plug that connects to the headphones, which supposedly helps reduce cable noise. According to Sennheiser, this is a patented design. I didn’t notice any such noises during the test, so it seems to work.

While the cable has a mini-jack connector at the other end, the headphone side uses mini XLR. The connector locks automatically when plugged in; to release it, you must press a small button. The advantage: Accidentally disconnecting the cable is nearly impossible. The disadvantage: In case of a careless head movement, the cable does not simply “slip out” and the cable could be pulled a little hard. From my point of view, this is a potential weak point.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO
The patented cable connects to either side of the headphones

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO: Wearing Comfort

Wearing comfort is always a big issue with headphones – and its true significance only becomes noticeable after a few hours. After keeping the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO on my head for some time (and not only for this reason), I can confirm that they’re comfortable to wear even for hours at a time. This is mainly due to the soft ear pads, which don’t put too much pressure on the ears. However, the open design and the low weight also play a role. And the fact that the earcups rotate easily is another positive.

Studio headphones
The single-sided cable connects via mini XLR

Although it’s not that warm yet where I am, I’d say that these features also help to ensure that you don’t break into a sweat so quickly while wearing the headphones. But if you do, you can easily replace and wash the ear pads. Very nice!

Those who wear glasses will also find no reason to complain. Compared to my Sony WH-1000XM3 or the AIAIAI TMA-2 Studio Wireless+, the headphones feel much more relaxed on the head and don’t pinch as much. A big plus in my book!

The Sound of the HD 490 PRO

And now to perhaps the most important question of all: How do the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO sound? Of course, this is always a very subjective matter. In any case, I’d call the sound neutral, open, and airy.

Compared to my TMA-2 Studio Wireless+ (in wired mode, mind you), I didn’t really notice that the bass range supposedly reaches down to 5 Hz. But I can say that I like the HD 490 PRO a little better overall. This is especially true for the treble reproduction, which I find a bit more precise and open with the Sennheiser.

There is also no reason to complain about the stereo image. On the contrary: individual elements are easy to locate and the perception of depth is also convincing. The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO reproduces transients in such a way that I can judge them well when mixing.

HD 490 PRO
The HD 490 PRO sound great and are comfortable to wear

Leisurely Listening is also fun with the HD 490 PRO

Changing the ear pads slightly changes the sound. The fabric pads for mixing sound a little more neutral, while the factory-fitted velour pads for producing have a somewhat “rounder” sound. Unfortunately, however, changing the ear pads is a bit fiddly and I was slightly worried about damaging the headphones.

After testing the headphones with my Arturia AudioFuse 16Rig, I decided to leisurely listen to some music with the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO. First, I played a few records through the preamp on my Allen & Heath Xone:23. Again, I immediately liked the open sound with powerful bass, which didn’t feel artificially bloated in any way.

Finally, I tried them with an old iPod that still has a headphone jack. Here too, the headphones sound fantastic, but might be a little too quiet for some. I couldn’t get more than a “healthy” volume level out of them.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO
Sennheiser HD 490 PRO

Conclusion

I really like the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO. The build quality is good and the wearing comfort is just as impressive. Most importantly, however, there’s really nothing wrong with the sound. The dynamic headphones sound balanced and open, especially in the treble range. While the bass reproduction is powerful, the HD 490 PRO don’t sound as pumped up as many hi-fi headphones, which is a big advantage in my opinion. I’d say that the HD 490 PRO are definitely suitable for mixing and mastering. But it’s also fun to simply play some records through them. That’s why I can recommend these headphones to anyone, even if you’ve got nothing to do with mixing and mastering. The Plus model comes with additional accessories, but I’d probably go for the slightly lower price of the standard model.

Price and Availability

The Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones are available in two versions with different accessories. The standard version is currently available for $355 at Thomann*, while the Plus version currently costs $419*.

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Sennheiser HD 490 PRO: Pros and Cons

Pros

  • transparent and open sound
  • wide frequency range
  • very comfortable to wear
  • replaceable, washable ear pads
  • second pair of ear pads and an extra headband pad included

Cons

  • The locking mini XLR cable connection may be subject to excessive strain if the head is moved carelessly

Note: This review by Dirk Behrens was originally published in German on gearnews.de. Translation: Lasse Eilers.

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Image Sources:

  • Sennheiser HD 490 PRO: Sennheiser
  • The Plus variant comes with additional accessories: Sennheiser
  • Sennheiser HD 490 PRO: Sennheiser
  • The patented cable can be connected to either side of the headphones: Sennheiser
  • The single-sided cable connects via mini XLR: Gearnews
  • The HD 490 PRO sound great and are comfortable to wear: Gearnews
  • Sennheiser HD 490 PRO: Sennheiser
Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Review

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John Smith

My John Smith is a seasoned technology writer with a passion for unraveling the complexities of the digital world. With a background in computer science and a keen interest in emerging trends, John has become a sought-after voice in translating intricate technological concepts into accessible and engaging articles.

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