The Sennheiser HD490 Pro has up to now gone somewhat under the ‘audiophile’ radar, but having used it for a few weeks now, I am hoping with this review to raise the awareness of this amazing headphone.

With Sennheiser now split into two separate entities, the Pro Audio “Sennheiser” which produced the HD490 Pro, and the Consumer Audio “Sennheiser Hearing / Sonova”, which offers models like the Momentum, Accentum, and the new HD620S, each side is obviously targeting its specific audience. As a result, the HD490 Pro has received less attention from typical YouTube reviewers, leading to it being somewhat overlooked.

So, I thought I would share why I think everyone and not just the pro audio guys should check out and enjoy this headphone.


Note: There are 2 separate offering of the HD490 Pro, the standard package and a Pro Plus variation which comes with carry case and a few extras.

Note: I would like to thank Sennheiser for providing a HD490 Pro Plus for this review. If you would like to read more information about the HD490 Pro and Pro Plus, here is their product page

Currently, the HD490 Pro retails for €398 / $399 and the Pro Plus is €459 / $479

In this price range, it has some stiff competition from some other quality headphones and I will do some comparisons later in the review but first let me explain why subtitled this review for the HD490 Pro as a ‘Desert Island’ headphone.

What is a ‘Desert Island’ Headphone

The BBC have a long-running show called Desert Island Discs where people are asked to make choices for the one thing they would bring with them if they had to abandon ship and be stranded on a desert Island (like Robinson Crusoe). So if I was in such a situation and knew I could only carry one headphone with me, I will be making the case that HD490 Pro would be that headphone, especially I would not have access to ‘EQ’.

But let me get into the details, and maybe you will see what I mean.

Unboxing Experience and Box Contents

The unboxing experience of the HD490 Pro Plus is fairly straightforward, those wanting a super premium unboxing will be disappointed but this is probably the only time I felt I was using a ‘Pro Audio’ headphone rather than a consumer targeted headphone: box.jpeg back_box.jpeg

Opening the box - I got the Pro plus version so the headphone came inside the carry case that you get as part of that option: case_in_box.jpeg

Pro and Pro Plus differences

You can see the Pro Plus model is slightly more expensive and for that extra price you get a nice carry case, a second 3.5mm 3 meter long cable and a spare headband pad. I would say its worth the extra money, but I do see that their will be a new 4.4mm fully balanced cable available separately soon so possible if you know you are going to want a different cable the standard HD490 Pro might be a better option.

The case itself is a solid design, perfect to protect the headphones, but as flashy as say the leather cases you get with some of the FiiO Headphones: case_out_box.jpeg

Opening the case reveals the headphones: case_open.jpeg

The case has 2 sides - so opening the other side reveals some of the extras you get with the Pro plus version: contents_case.jpeg



The Pro Plus includes these extras:

  • 3m semi-coiled cable
  • Hard carrying case
  • Extra headband pad
  • 3.5mm to 6.3mm jack adapter
  • dearVR MIX-SE plugin license

Here are the complete contents of the box: pro_plus_contents.jpeg

I did briefly play around with the dearVR mixing software ‘plugin’ which a license for is included and while it is a nice option to have with the Pro Plus version, it probably is just for Pro Audio users.

Headphone Chassis

The HD490 Pro has a brand-new chassis and I must say I really like the design: new chassis.jpeg

Sennheiser have used a nice mixture of metal and plastic components to give it a nice balance of being both sturdy and lightweight.

There is a huge amount of flexibility is the swivel of each ear cup, and you have a nice mechanism on the slider to remember the right fit both visually and it has a nice click as you slide the headband to change it size: slider.jpeg

This whole chassis looks like it was meant to be easily disassembled and fixed. I imagine over the next few years we will see a nice third party market for replacement parts of this headphone / chassis. I would also guess 3D printing designs will appear, so you could further personalise the headphone.

While I didn’t take the headphone apart I did peek into the drivers, so taking off the pads: naked_drivers.jpeg

And then removing the grills (with the L and R logos), you see a paper cover for dampening - again I imagine this could be further customised: paper_cover.jpeg

The Pads

When I have tried various replacement pads over the years for my headphones, you get to appreciate the differences some pads can make and the HD490 Pro comes with 2 excellent pads which really do change the sound signature yet both are extremely comfortable.

It comes with the Producing pads: producer_pads_on_headphones.jpeg

But crucially both Pro and Pro Plus versions include both ear pads: all_pads.jpeg

Here is a close up of both pads to show the different material and feel from each: pad_comparison.jpeg pads_zoom.jpeg

For me personally I found the Producing pads more comfortable, and as you will see had a sound profile closer to my preference. But I will get into that in the sound quality and measurements section of the review.

Cables and Spring Coil

The standard Pro version comes with just 1.8M 3.5mm cable while the Pro Plus comes with a second 3.5mm cable a 3M one. Both have a nice feature in this spring coil near the head end of the cable: cable_stretch.jpg

This is one of those little features you only appreciate when using the headphone for a while, but this little spring coil allows the cable to be taught, yet allows easy head movements without pulling on the other end of the cable. I would love to see this is in other headphones as it already saved me a few times from ‘yanking’ the cable.

I even used the short cable on a long walk where I adjusted the length to be the perfect length to the smartphone in my pocket yet this coil again allowed complete freedom to move my head without pulling on the smartphone.

Long term Comfort

As I mentioned above there are some nice flexibility in the ability to get a comfortable fit with ear cups swivelling 180° and have ample tilt to fit most head sizes comfortably. The headband padding and ear pads are made of luxurious velour, providing a soft and comfortable fit. For my rather large ears it had plenty of room though the Mixing pads were a little smaller. There wasn’t much clamping force but enough to be secure without feeling uncomfortable.

There is always a balance with the size of pads and weight of headphone and I think Sennheiser have gotten the right balance with the HD490 Pro.

Unique features

There are a couple of extra unique features that I thought I would highlight in this review maybe to further show what a well-thought-out headphone the HD490 Pro is:

Slight indent on the ear pads for people to wear glasses

I spotted this little bit of detail in Solderdude excellent and very technical review over at diyaudioheaven I would encourage you to read his whole review.

So for those of us who wear glasses it can be a problem with rim of the glasses causing the seal to be broken but Sennheiser have cleverly added a slight indent in the pads at the appropriate height on the pads for glasses: indent_in_pad_for_glasses.jpeg

XLR connectors

The 4-pin mini-XLR connector is swappable between the left and right hand sides. xlr_connector.jpeg Unlike the typical AKG 3-pin, it will support a fully balanced signal and as I mentioned earlier there are already 4.4mm cable and custom XLR cables options appearing for this headphone: 4pin-xlr.jpeg

Sound Quality

Now lets get to the most important section, how does it sound. Because the marketing for the HD490 Pro is focused on Pro Audio users Sennheiser have described the sound of the 2 pads as “Producing” and “Mixing” but overall I would call these either ‘Deep Spacious Sound’ (with the Producing Pads) or “Tonally correct” (with the Mixing Pads) and during my initially listening sessions with both these pads that I started to feel that Sennheiser have produced a headphone that could be an’all things to all people’ headphone.

My current 2 favourite headphones in the $200 - $500 price range are the HD600 and the Hifiman Edition XS, I like both for different reasons the HD600 for its perfect tonality and the Edition XS for its “Spacious sound”, so swapping pads and switching back and forth between the HD490 Pro and those 2 other headphones had me incredible impressed with the overall offering from Sennheiser.

So, lets get into what you can expect from both headphones:


The bass response of the HD490 Pro is well-balanced and precise from both pads. The Producing pads provide a fuller, warmer bass, while the Mixing pads offer a tighter and more controlled bass. The bass extension is impressive, providing depth and clarity without overpowering the mix. Bass is always a problem with open back headphones but Sennheiser have produced a headphone that does not need bass EQ and has no problems with bass distortion so its precise even from the deepest tracks. I would say you would need to go up to some Dan Clark headphones to get more precise and deeper bass.


The midrange is clear and realistic, making it ideal for critical listening tasks. I really enjoyed listening to my midrange favourites with both pads, but for me the Producing pads opened up the midrange a little more really solving that “3-Blog” that the HD600 can have, both male and female vocals sounded natural with great articulation. The Mixing pads were more tonally accurate in the upper midrange.


The treble on the HD490 Pro was excellent especially from the Mixing pads, revealing intricate details and did not have any unnatural peaks or troughs and never sounding sibilant. The Producing pads have slightly more treble response which gets balanced out by the recessed upper midrange to give that spacious sound.

Soundstage and Imaging

The HD490 Pro especially from the Producing pads offers a wide and spatial soundstage with excellent imaging capabilities. This allows for precise localization of instruments and vocals, making it both wonderful for pro audio but crucially for audiophile critical listening. I was amazed that this matched (or at least got very, very close) to the spaciousness of my Hifiman Planar’s. Overall, you will be very pleased with how wide and open the HD490 Pro sounds and how precise you can pick out instruments in the soundstage.


So before showing you some measurement comparisons, let me compare some of other options in this price range ($200 - $500) (for this fictitious delimma of having to pick one headphone for my Desert Island).

Versus the Hifiman Edition XS

The Hifiman Edition XS is my current evening / relaxation headphone, after the family have gone to bed I like listening to an open back with a spatious open soundstage and the Edition XS does that for me, I believed ( before listening to the HD490 Pro ) that this was because of the very large egg shaped ear cups and the angle of the driver. But the HD490 Pro is almost as spatious sounding as the Edition XS, I think the angled pads and that similar dip between 1Khz and 2Khz give a clarity to instruments to provide that well space out sound that I love from both headphones. It would be close but I think for long term comfort and for easy repairability I would choose the HD490 Pro.

Versus the Sennheiser HD600

While the HD600 (and the HD6XX) are amazing headphones and I have loved my HD600 for many years for its perfect tonality, but it does need EQ in the bass, more so now than ever as more artists use the sub-bass within their tracks, it also suffers from the"3 blob" problem where sounds are in either ear and directly in front, rather than spaced out. What Sennheiser have done cleverly with the 2 pads on the HD490 Pro is to tune the Mixing pad to be close to the HD600 tonality for those occasions where you want that accuracy but then with the Producing pads you get much more spatious sound and both pads provide more bass than the HD600. So this would be an easier choose for me especially as I do feel the HD600 needs EQ in the sub-bass region for lots of songs while the HD490 Pro does not.

Versus the FiiO FT5 and FT3

I have an upcoming review of the FT3 and have had the FT5 for 6 months now, both are in the same price range, with the FT3 slightly cheaper and the FT5 slightly more expensive than the HD490 Pro. Both FiiO Headphones provide a more premium package ( with a luxurious leather case, a second set of ear pads and excellent accessories package ) but both have that popular mid-bass boost that is obviously the FiiO house sound, so for me, I would need to EQ that region and with the FT5 probably other regions also need some EQ. So while I think both FiiO headphones make great “presents” for someone getting into headphones, but I would not grab either over the HD490 Pro for any long listening sessions.

Specifications and Measurements

  • Type: Over-ear, open (circumaural)
  • Driver type: Dynamic, angled 6°
  • Driver membrane diameter: 38mm
  • Frequency response: 5 – 36,100 Hz (-10 dB)
  • Sensitivity: 109dB/V
  • Impedance: 120Ω
  • Weight: 270 g
  • Cable: 1.75-1.85m semi-coiled, 3m semi-coiled
  • Connector: Mini-XLR 4-pin
  • Max. SPL: 125dB
  • Clamping force: 2-2.5N
  • Accessories: Velour and fabric pads, extra headband pad, hard carrying case

The key specifications are really the Sensivity of 109db/V and the Impedance of 120 Ohms mostly means the HD490 Pro will be ok with most sources but if you give it a little more power the bass especially will sound fuller. While I have mainly been listening to the HD490 Pro with some powerful FiiO and Schiit Audio Headphone Amplifiers I did use it on some long walks with the Apple usb-c Dongle, and it was powerful enough though I had the volume at 90%, so I did switch to using a FiiO KA11 dongle which has significantly more power than the Apple Dongle and gave me much more ‘headroom’.

The lack of any real need for any EQ means you access to the full power whatever headphone Amplifier it is connected too which is also a bonus.


Lets get into some measurements, again I would encourage you to check out the review over at diyaudioheaven

But I did measure the HD490 with my KB501X soft Pinna with a 711 coupler using REW and these measurements are now available on my headphone database here

Frequency Response

First lets check the differences between the 2 pads: graph-pads.png So you can clearly see the differences between the 2 pads, with the Producing providing more bass, a recessed upper midrange and a slightly higher treble in the 4K-6K region.

The channel balance is excellent this means you will get an accurate response and is one of the vital component for a headphone to provide excellent imaging:


Some Frequency Response comparisons: graph-comparison.png So here is the HD600 and the Hifiman Edition XS compared to the Producing pads, notice how the producing pads have the better bass than both headphones and match both though most of the midrange but then the producing pads match the Edition XS both in that recessed 1K-2K region and in a treble boost. This combined with the angled pads I believe gives the HD490 Pro that spacious sound.

Comparing the HD600 with the Mixing pads: graph-comparisons2.jpeg While not exactly the same as the HD600 you can see a more similar profile to the sound signature up until the upper midrange.


The distortion is very controlled so a Sennheiser are using a very good dynamic driver: HD490 Pro Suede - distortion.jpg

And even as percentage shows nothing to be concerned about: HD490 Pro Suede - distortion percent.jpg

Group Delay

The group delay shows nothing of concern: HD490 Pro GD.jpg


I gave the HD490 Pro Plus the maximum pragmatic score of 5. It is built well and will be easy to upgrade / fix for years to come, it is extremely comfortable to wear for long hours listening / working and most importantly it sounds excellent and distinctly different from both the provided pad options.


The Sennheiser HD490 Pro Plus stands out against its competition in this price range. Its combination of superior build quality, clever features, exceptional comfort, and versatile sound performance makes it a valuable tool both pro audio studio professionals but also for serious audiophiles who appreciate accurate sound reproduction.

So I do feel that the HD490 Pro is my current ‘pragmatic headphone of the year’, I would happily stay stranded on a desert island with this headphone giving me both a spatious open sound (from the Producing pads) and a tonally accurate sound (from the Mixing pads) with both options providing excellent bass from an open back without needing any EQ, what more could you ask for while you wait to be rescued ( except for maybe a solar-powered DAP with 1TB of music ).