Even so, the extra bass will come in handy when playing blockbuster movies. Within a few minutes of listening to the Saw DVD, we forgot we were wearing headphones. The creepy soundtrack is loaded with all sorts of unsettling, low rumbling sounds. We were more aware of the actors' panicked breathing as their captor torments them than we were when playing this DVD over external speakers.
We found the sound to be clean and nicely detailed on John Mayer's new Where the Light Is: Live in Los Angeles CD. The "live-ness" of the recording and the audience's cheers immersed us in the concert. It seemed the show was only a few feet out from the ear cups.
We compared the HFI-580s with another pair of Ultrasone headphones we had on hand-- the aforementioned HFI-2200s. Those headphones have an open-backed design and, overall, they sounded better than the HFI-580s. The HFI-2200's warmer sound created a less bright tonal balance and firmed up the bass so that the listening experience had more nuance and "air." However, the usual closed- versus open-back trade-offs weren't pronounced. Neither headphone crammed the most possible sound inside our heads.
Continuing our testing, bass-heavy CDs like Cat Power's Jukebox had a hefty punch and impact that's rare for a set of headphones. There was a certain immediacy to the HFI-580's sound on jazz CDs as well. On Bob Belden's lush opus, Black Dahlia, the sound was expansive. Even though the music is scored for a large band, the HFI-580 made it easy to zero in on the sound of each individual instrument. The drums and various percussion instruments were crisp-sounding, yet still had a natural sense of body and form.
The HFI-580s are a big pair of headphones, so we're not sure that many people would be tempted to plug them into their iPods. When we gave it a try, the sound was too lean and aggressive. By contrast, the HFI-2200s are just as big, but are a terrific match with iPods.
Overall, the HFI-580s are a solid-sounding pair of studio-grade headphones. Their closed-back design should attract an audience that doesn't want to disturb anyone around them. But if you're looking for something that will also sound great with an iPod, we'd really recommend stepping up to the HFI-2200s.