Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Plus — SonicScoop

Sennheiser HD 490 Pro

Buy it new on Sweetwater, B&H, Thomann, or Amazon. Look for deals on Reverb.

One of the biggest pro-audio announcements of 2024 has been Sennheiser’s HD 490 Pro headphones. These open-back mixing headphones stand on the shoulders of the legendary HD 600s and 650s.

What do these new headphones have to offer—and do they outshine their predecessors?

The TL;DR here is that these headphones are an excellent tool for the modern mixer/producer, and most users are likely to see them as a step up from Sennheiser’s prior headphones, which have been a dominant choice for mixing in the past.

Despite a few tradeoffs relative to even more expensive options, they provide an excellent experience and a great value for all of the features they offer.

Read on to learn more about the Sennheiser HD 490 Pros, performance details and ideal applications.


Let’s get the boring stuff out of the way first: These dynamic open-back headphones are astoundingly light at only 260 grams, or around 9 ounces. These are easily some of the most lightweight and comfortable pro headphones on the market.

They can handle a maximum of 128 SPL and have an extremely low THD of 0.2%. The decision to move the impedance from 300 to 100 ohms helps these headphones give good results on a much wider range of playback systems, including the lower powered headphone amps found on mobile devices.

If you opt for the Plus package, you’ll also receive a robust travel case, an extra headband pad to match the included producer ear pads, and a 3-meter cable in addition to the standard 1.8-meter cable. Both cables come with their own 3.5mm-to-6.3mm adapter — a small but welcome touch. 

Both the Standard and Plus versions employ a novel concept: the interchangeable ear pads, each of which offer their own sonic profile. Both also include Dear Reality’s dearVR Mix-SE plugin, which can make your headphones sound as though you’re listening to some amazing monitors in a world-class studio.


The DearVR monitoring environment comes included with the 490 HD Pro Plus package.

While I found the plugin impressive, I use my headphones to get a different perspective than what my monitors already offer me, so I don’t need them to sound like monitors. But for mixers who rely exclusively on headphones, this option allows you to make panning and balance choices that will translate effortlessly to real world speaker playback systems.

Of course, specs and features don’t actually tell you how these headphones perform. In order to judge that, I spent some time listening to these headphones and even did a full mix with them.

I mostly used the mixing ear pads, so I’ll largely focus on them, but I’ll touch on the producer pads at the end of this review. 


At first glance, the Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Plus headphones didn’t surprise me. Their design is excellent, but reminiscent of Sennheiser’s other open-back models. 

Due to their light weight, they  didn’t feel particularly robust in my hand, and because of their neutral response, they didn’t’t sound particularly exciting. But what I initially perceived as shortcomings  quickly turned out to be positives. 

Despite their exceptionally flat and balanced midrange and high frequencies, the big complaint with previous Sennheiser open-backs is that they were light in the low end below 100Hz, keeping them from serving as a primary reference for mixing. They could only serve as a secondary check to a trusted main monitoring system. 

The 490s absolutely improve on this, offering substantially deeper and better defined low end than Sennheiser’s prior models, making them much more suitable for making decisions about the balance of bass instruments than past iterations.

The "producer" headphone pads add more low end to the sonics profile of the HD 490.

The “producer” headphone pads add more low end to the sonics profile of the HD 490 Pro.

Although they are not designed to be the biggest and fattest headphones on the market when it comes to bass, swapping in the included “producer” ear pads skews the headphones toward a more accentuated bottom end for those who prefer it.

Similar to Sennheiser’s prior headphones, the 490s excel in their trustworthy, unhyped mids and highs, providing a clear soundstage with pinpoint exactly on where each instruments falls in the panorama.

As mentioned, the headphones are super light, which makes them easy to wear for long periods of time. They have less inward “pinch” than prior Sennheiser models, resting comfortably on the crown of the head without inward pressure.

Despite their remarkably light weight, they  also feel sturdy and have a satisfying click when adjusting the headband.

In Use

During my first listen, I wore the 490s for over two hours, listening to a playlist of songs I know well. The time-based effects were easy to pick out, and I noticed new details in songs I’ve heard hundreds of times. Despite their open design, I was able to hear my music clearly over the ambient noise around me. 

Sonically, these headphones are precise. They’re not very hyped, which made my long listening easy. The high mids are detailed but not overbearing, and while they weren’t especially prominent, I could hear enough of the subs to make good decisions about them.

Although it’s not my preference to mix solely on cans, I did just that to see how the 490s would perform. I found that I spent far less time than normal setting and adjusting volume levels. Sometimes, adjusting the volume of one instrument can trigger a domino effect that requires me to adjust several other instruments, but these headphones allowed me to get it right the first time. 

My mix translated far better than any other “headphone mix” I’ve done. I still don’t think I would want to mix solely on headphones, but considering their comfort and minimal ear fatigue, the 490s could make it possible.

To Be Critical

There was one minor issue for my particular head and ear shape: With the mixer pads on, I could occasionally feel the embossed “L” and “R” markings within the earcups against my ears. I found it a small price to pay for the comfortable and precise experience of using the soft mixing ear pads. 

This may not be an issue for others with heads and ears shaped differently than mine, and if it is an issue for you, swapping over to the deeper producer ear pads may fix it immediately.

But for me, while I found the mixing pads impressive, the producer pads didn’t suit my tastes as much.  The producer pads do shut out the world a bit more, and give the impression of an even fuller and more bass-forward sound, with the impression of thicker low mids. But this came at the expense of making the top end and upper mids sound a bit veiled by comparison, with a soundstage that wasn’t nearly as precise. 

I felt the mixing pads allowed me to hear the sub frequencies more clearly, while the producer pads’ low end had a thicker overall feel, but with a bit less definition.

Even though the producer pads aren’t for me, the option gives them the opportunity to win fans with an even wider array of listeners, as personal tastes in headphone frequency response can vary so greatly.

Summing It Up 

More than anything, the 490 Pro headphones seem like they were designed with an eye on the most common feedback from users of the prior HD 600 line.

They address practically every shortcoming of their predecessors: They are even lighter and more comfortable, with even less cranial “pinch”, and substantially more extension into the lows.

And they don’t have just one sound either. The producer pads tilt them in a fuller, smoother direction, while the included Dear VR software allows them to go even flatter, and give the perspective of headphones or speakers.

Another view of the 490 HD Pro

Another view of the Sennheiser 490 HD Pros

Buy it new on Sweetwater, B&H, Thomann, or Amazon. Look for deals on Reverb.

Sennheiser has zeroed in on the fact that many producers and mixers today are looking for their headphones to offer a one stop shop when it comes to serving as a mixing reference. Many don’t want to have to switch to speakers for making critical listening decisions, and compromises in their listening environment may make headphones the superior choice.

In an increasingly portable world, the Sennheiser HD 490 Pro Plus headphones offer just about everything the modern producer could need. They’re lightweight; they give the perspective of headphones or speakers; they help create a slightly more focused listening environment by switching earpads; they have a great carrying case or can lay flat in any backpack; and the lower impedance makes them easier for laptop or smartphone headphone amps to power. 

Even when recording while wearing these, the bleed was manageable – I’ve heard more bleed from singers with one can off the ear. Considering all of these features, the price tag is more than reasonable.

Anyone who has been a fan of the Sennheiser HD 600 series of headphones for mixing and critical listening in the past is likely to be thrilled with how these stack up. Given the extra features and improved performance, it’s hard to imagine them not eventually unseating their predecessors as one of the most popular models of headphones for critical decision making in the studio. 

Israel Doria is an audio engineer and music educator who lives and works in Texas.

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