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Sennheiser HD 490 Pro

Open-backed Headphones By Sam Inglis
Published April 2024

The Plus edition comes with a smart and practical carry case.The Plus edition comes with a smart and practical carry case.

Sennheiser prove there’s still room for fresh thinking in headphone design!

Like many headphone manufacturers, Sennheiser don’t only operate in the studio and pro audio markets. They are also major players in consumer audio and hi‑fi, and the streams quite often get crossed. Sennheiser’s HD 650 open‑backed headphones, for example, are officially located on the hi‑fi side of the gulf, but they remain a popular choice for studio applications. On ‘our’ side of the divide, meanwhile, pro audio staples like the HD 25 MkII are now joined by the new HD 490 Pro. These cost slightly less than the HD 650 and, like that model, are conventional over‑ear, open‑backed, moving‑coil headphones. Unlike the 650, however, they are very much targeted at studio applications. So, although they are far from being the most costly model that Sennheiser make, the HD 490 Pros are in a sense the flagship model of their pro audio line.

It’s relatively easy to identify features that mark some headphones out as not being designed for pro audio: there’s no obvious studio role for wireless Bluetooth connectivity, active noise cancelling or integrated cable microphones, for example. But what, apart from a balanced, neutral sound, makes this new set of cans particularly well suited for audio engineering? Well, Sennheiser’s engineers have come up with several interesting design features that mark the HD 490 Pros out not only from other Sennheiser models, but also from rival products.

Case Study

Sennheiser HD 490 ProThe HD 490 Pros are available in two versions, the main difference being that the Plus edition comes with a very nice fitted case. Given the relatively modest price differential, I think it’s definitely worth spending the extra if they’re ever likely to come on the road with you. Plus purchasers also get a 3m cable as well as the default 1.8m one, and a spare for the removable foam pad that cushions the top of your head against the headband.

Talking of cables, one nice and arguably ‘professional’ feature is that both earcups have a mini‑XLR socket, allowing the cable to be plugged into whichever side is most convenient. A small plug closes whichever socket is not in use. Not exclusively professional but certainly very welcome is that these XLRs are four‑pin sockets, allowing the HD 490 Pro to be driven from balanced headphone amps if you have the correct cable.

Still talking of cables, the supplied mini‑XLR to jack cords are interesting in their own right (I can’t believe I just said that about a headphone cable). They are, at heart, straight cables, but with a short curly section located a couple of inches below the XLR. This, I assume, is related to one of the patented innovations that Sennheiser claim for the HD 490 Pro, which is a dramatic reduction in cable‑borne noise compared to conventional designs. It really works, too: flick the short section of straight cable above the curly segment and you’ll hear the usual annoying thumps and clicks. Do the same to...

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