Review: Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones

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Review: Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones | Sennheiser Australia | RRP: HD 490 PRO: $749 & HD 490 PRO Plus $899

Sennheiser are a market leader in modern solutions to making music. A huge part of the making though, is the listening, both for yourself and for your audience. As a producer or engineer, it’s really important to hear clear and accurate sounds, so that the mix decisions you make will translate everywhere, elevating your productions to be the best they can be.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO

This usually requires a well-treated room, or a pair of headphones that can remove the acoustic space from what we’re hearing. Mixing and production can take a long time, often finding ourselves tweaking and adjusting for hours on end, and if you do decide to use headphones, the pressure from the headphone cups can wear on you physically.

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While these might seem like two problems from opposite ends of the spectrum, they’re both solved in the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones.

At their core, the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are designed for all-day comfort as well as durability. The headphone’s sound are provided by neodymium magnets and innovative low frequency cylinders for a full-range and balanced response with headroom, clarity and accurate results. The cups feature an open back design for natural ventilation, reducing physical fatigue over long sessions.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO Plus

Interestingly, the HD 490 PRO headphones include both velour and fabric pads each fine tuning the acoustics of HD 490 PRO with a slight different frequency response graph of each material. The pads are both removable and washable, making them more sustainable. The construction, design and sound overall provides incredible localisation, helping you to make panning decisions with utmost accuracy. The low end drivers provide accurate low-end response, allowing you to shape and accurately refine the low end of your mixes and masters, which can be a real struggle when mixing in a physical space from speakers in a room.

Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones

As with most software these days, the install was a breeze. I had a QR code that linked to my download link, dearVR MIX-SE downloaded quickly and I was in. The GUI (graphic user interface) was simple enough; split into “Control Room” and “Output” sections to easily navigate both options. 

dearVR MIX

The “Control Room” area of the GUI allows you to adjust the Ambience and Focus of your selected control room, with options ranging from Mix Room A and B, Analytic Dry to a Car, Club, Living Room, Stadium and more. Gone are the days of immediate regret in the car, once everything has been saved, exported and your computer shut down!

The other half of the interface allows you to dial in “HP (Headphone) Compensation” to account for whatever EQ curve the headphones you’re using might have. There’s also a “Head Rotation” dial, allowing you to mimic moving your head from side to side, this function being overridden by the DearVR SPACIAL CONNECT if you have this available. Finally, there’s a Master Gain.

I quickly adjusted the HP Compensation and was floored. With the plugin disabled, everything was immediate and wide, much like you’d expect from headphones, with the plugin engaged everything settled back into the ‘space’ better.

I switched to the “Car” and was immediately underwhelmed by the low end of my mix… okay that tracks!

“Analytic Dry” was super helpful as a blindingly honest representation of my mix, albeit a bit lifeless and clinical. You can also toggled between Speaker Setups, i.e. “Stereo” and “Stereo Wide”, the latter providing a clearer view of that phantom middle speaker and a really tough thing to get right in a real control room. I found myself being generally comfortable in “Control Room B”, both trusting the clarity and localisation of the low end and stereo image as a whole. The results were so good in fact, that I’m a bit scared to go back and review any previous mixes from before the DearVR software!

All in all, the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO are a huge step up for any music maker, whether you’re producing or engineering with ear cup options for both! The stereo image is crisp, though not too flattering to trick you into your mix is finished! As a solo set of headphones they’re comfy, ergonomic and easy to trust. This is augmented further by the addition of the included dearVR MIX-SE plugin, allowing you to quickly toggle between a bunch of different settings to ensure your mix is generally balanced and cohesive. There’s a couple of tell-tale places to check your mix and this plugin has them covered with pleasing accuracy. Pleasing to have had flaws in my mixes exposed – maybe not so pleasing is the amount of mixing I still had to do! But all in all, I wouldn’t have known if it weren’t for the Sennheiser HD 490 PRO headphones, and all from the comfort of the studio without a trip to my car or living room, also offering me the chance to check out my mix in a stadium or club!

For local enquiries visit Sennheiser.