Hacking Quality Into Electronics

Economics and philosophy arguments aside, the fact is that if you take apart a pair of $199 Sennheiser headphones you can instantly upgrade them to a model that is sold for $350.

Aside from the aesthetic differences, the only physical difference was an additional piece of foam inside the cheaper HD555 headphones, blocking about 50% of the outside-facing vents. Since both the HD 555 and HD 595 are designed to be “open” headphones, reducing the vent with foam would not be in the designer’s original interest and this is where the HD 555′s have been “crippled”. So to save yourself $150, open your HD 555′s up and remove the foam. Done.

Now if you could only make them look the same on the outside…

Sennheiser might be more clever next time they want to hide their “crippling” device.

Even more to the point, a less-expensive model might already sound the same as a more expensive one. Does removing foam really improve the sound $150 worth? The site does not do any tests to show a measured change. Where did they find the “designer’s original interest”?

Performance is not easily measured when it comes to aesthetics like audio, and so manufacturers will push perceived value and marketing to the limits rather than invest in independent test results. Monster Cable has certainly proven that time and again. They even tell consumers that the way to know you are buying a fake product is by looking at the price.

If a price for a product being sold as Monster from a non-authorized dealer seems “too good to be true,” most likely it is

At least they said “most likely”. Who would dare sell quality for less than the sales department at Monster Cable, right?

Here are the differences I found in the technical data as published by Sennheiser for their 555 and 595. All that from a piece of foam?

Model 555 595
Weight w/o cable 260 g 270 g
Frequency response (headphones) 15-28000 Hz 12-38500 Hz
THD, total harmonic distortion < 0,2 % < 0,1 %

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