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Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones

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Pros: Smooth Presentation, a linear, stout sound at louder volumes.

Cons: build quality is meh! Overall sound is too recessed and lacks weight

The praise that has been heaped upon the Sennheiser HD650 headphone is something that probably every headphone OEM envies. The HD-650 is nearly a decade old and yet is still viewed by many as a top tier dynamic, worthy flagship, and is the benchmark that many measure price to performance ratio against.


I personally was cruising along quite happy with my set up… Running almost exclusively between Denon D5000’s and Ultrasone Pro900’s. I felt I had the best of both worlds. Since I love the visceral impact of good bass in my music, these two pieces seemed to be perfectly tailored to my listening habits.


The Denon gave me a little more reasonable treble energy and a little less sibilance when I needed it for something more complex and diverse. While the Pro 900 gave me that sub woofer for your ear feel that just flat out slams your ear drums. With a decent DAC/ desktop amp set up I am usually able to apply a 6kHz to 8kHz cut to smoothly equalizes the sound to eliminate that “ESSS” sounding ear razor that the Pro900 is so infamous for.


However somewhere along the way the constant gushing over the Sennheiser HD650 got to me. Specifically Mike from Headfonia repeatedly claiming that it was the ultimate king of bass impact…. He never said king of bass quality, quantity…. He always spoke of the HD650 in terms of “Impact”.This should get just about any hard core and well funded bass head’s juices flowing and so I began looking at the viable options for acquiring this apparent low frequency giant. And so after parting ways with most of my portable equipment, I was flush enough with cash to purchase my own set of the venerable HD650.


I will start out by saying that because of all the talk of the ‘luscious mids’, smooth highs and world class low frequencies my expectations with this headphone were near off the chart…. I have since done the same thing with my first attempt at the  Audeze LCD2. The LCD2 albeit a very good headphone, was so overblown in my mind that by the time I actually listened to it, I was disappointed. That had far more to do with my overblown expectations than anything... because second time around... being aware of how much darker the LCD2 was than its Hifiman counterparts.... I have found a place for the LCD2 in my stable.


But by the time the Sennheiser headphone had finally arrived, it was competing with dare I say unrealistic and extreme expectations and was pretty much behind the 8 Ball from the start.


Build & Design


The Sennheiser HD650 is certainly a dated design. There are dozens of headphones on the market in the same price point that are better dressed. Most $500 headphones have premium materials such as aluminum, leather and wood worked into the build. The Sennheiser headphone is almost exclusively plastic. It is a shiny, cheap feeling plastic on virtually every exterior surface sans the grill, ear pads, retainer ring and bottom of the headband. Detail items like the "Left" and "Right" indicators are simply cast into the grey plastic.... This build quality seems unfit for a legacy flagship.... Obviously its been a long time since this headphone was brought to market and Sennheiser was working in the pre-Beats era, long before headphones were valued as a fashion accessory and long before OEM's thought they could bring flaghips to market with price tags north of $1000. Sennheiser's HD800 and HD700 show they clearly can design a top tier headphone both in sonic character and design quality, but the HD650 is still asking $500 USD and doesn't give you a warm and fuzzy out of the box once you've got it in your hands, at least it didn't for me.


The headphone is extremely light. Many in the community would give it points for this and they are certainly entitled to their opinion. However I personally see this as a demerit. Speaking strictly in terms of assessing an items value from a subjective/ aesthetic viewpoint, the Sennheiser headphone appears to be made of cheaper, less durable materials. I am not going to strain my neck if a headphone is north of 400 grams. The Hifiman HE400 weighs in at a hefty 440 grams and is perfectly comfortable to me, the Denon D5k weighs in around 360 and is probably the most comfortable headphone I've ever worn. If one is spending $75.00 on a beater set of portable cans, an expendable gamer headset or a cheapie like Superlux or Porta Pros (of which I am a fan)  then by all means they should be and can be as light as a feather and made almost exclusively out of plastic without raising eyebrows. But at $500 out the door for a would be flagship headphone that was intended for listening at home or in a studio through a serious system... I don’t know.... I expected something more substantial.


The crux of this featherweight value is that in order to keep it properly seated on the listeners head, Sennheiser had to crank up the clamping force. Otherwise the light weight construction leaves it prone to moving too easily as it has little resistive value on its own. The clamping force is something that many have commented through the years as a supposed 'death grip'... Once again just like the HE400 won't snap my neck, the clamping force on the HD650 is not going to crush my skull. It is certainly wound a bit tighter than most, but I personally believing the clamping force has been measured perfectly to counteract the lightweight construction's tendency towards moving easily. It is a goldilocks value.... not too much, not too little... Just right. This is a nod to the design engineers.


Right off the bat my delusions of grandeur were dispelled. It is certainly nicer looking than its faux marble clad brother the 600 however as a supposed flagship headphone of such universal praise, I was underwhelmed by the look and build quality. Those who think this is immaterial are kidding themselves.... Aesthetics have value to the consuming public and audiophiles are most certainly not immune... The hifi world is littered with glitzy machined aluminum tone arms, satin metal surrounds for tweeters, anodized aluminum face plates with machine metal knobs, high gloss enamel finishes, lustrous wood side panels, frosted glass.. etc....etc...


The die-hard says that this is simply an indicator that they chose to pour all their cash into sound quality. OK maybe this is true.... lets see. 


Hook It Up! And Wait.


I did not want to be hasty with a plug and play attitude as I had heard that the out of the box, plug and play sound of the HD650 was disappointing (I heard this about 10 hours after I purchased it sadly) but that a 100 hours of burn in would get you a somewhat matured sounding headphone, so onto the vintage Realistic 64B it went. This older vintage rig is hooked up in a file cabinet at work and so can burn in a headphone out of site and outta mind while I still enjoy music on my main headphone rig…. A Violectric V100 tethered to a Laptop running JRiver via my Rega DAC with a Wyred 4 Sound uLink handling conversion duties to SPDIF. 


100 Hours - Impressions


After it had burned half the day on Thursday and all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday by the time I got in to work on Monday the 650 had clocked roughly 96 hours of burn in time. I plugged it into the Violectric V100 and listened to some newer redbook CD rips. Muse 2nd Law, Foo Fighters Wasting Light, and Gaslight Anthem The 59 Sound. 


The HD650 is not a bass head can. That is my first impression. Where the hell is this supposed ultimate bass weight?


A couple of local Head-Fiers down here in the Southland told me the 650 was really amp picky and that I would do better with a tube amp like a Woo WA6 or Bottlehead Crack. However my headphone amp is a Violectric amp which is what Sennheiser uses in their “Hall of Fame” set up and is one of Sennheiser’s Senior Project Manager Axel Grell's favorite amps for his own listening. A couple others mentioned changing the cable to a Cardas one, and one guy said I might need a different DAC to get the most out of it.


So in order to get the Sennheiser HD650 to sound good what I needed to do was:


  • Get a different amp
  • Get a different cable
  • Get a different DAC

Maybe I should get a different source, different interconnects, a new power conditioner and stop using CD's while I am at it eh? Mind you I do see where some could see this headphone as all they need and build out their entire system around it.... searching for another .5% of improvement with each piece of the puzzle... but I have already built my system(s) and am not really inclined to do a whole lot of kit rolling in order to optimize the synergy with this lone headphone when I have a half dozen others that sound fantastic through the rigs as is. 


So my immediate disappointment with the bass could’ve derailed this whole review. I was expecting Pro900 bass or Denon D5k bass without the 7khz ear razors or recessed mids... What I got was an all too polite rendition of EVERYTHING.


The low frequencies are extended, there is textural information galore, you can really hear the stick or the tom on the drum skins, the full decay of bass strings, mid range is sweet and smooth, and there is plenty, and I mean plenty, of high frequency detail and sonic information. Anyone who says the HD650 does not have enough treble energy or detail is, to these ears, not hearing straight.


But that ultimate bass weight, that Mike implicates all the time, it is not here IMHO.


The low frequency, midrange and treble are all recessed quite a bit. They do not hit you in the side of the head with impact. They don't even touch you. If this is what people are speaking of when they say the 650 is veiled then yes, it is veiled, but not in the sense that a certain portion of the frequency range is somewhat blurry or hidden.... Its more about air pressure that makes a headphone felt as well as heard. Open architecture does limit this but I've heard better open backs at giving you punch. 


I will hop on my soap box right here and say that one part of a headphone experience that is vital to me, is the overall weight of a headphones tone. I am not specifically talking about bass extension or articulation or even the bass frequencies in particular. What I am saying is that headphones with a tonal density to them…. A robust acoustic mass that move some air pressure to bring the music more to life…. That is critical for enjoying music in my book. Otherwise it sounds like music but doesn't feel like it.


It may not be critical for monitoring, mixing or mastering in a studio, or DJing or even for being an audiophile who wants to sample 24/192 and DSD audio tracks like they are a damn 10 year old Pinot Noir… but for the average Joe like myself who wants to simply strap on a set of headphones, cue up an album, hit play, sit back and enjoy some music…. The overall presentation doesn’t need to be “forward” but it needs to be felt as well as heard.


Oldies like Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, and Bob Marley all have strong drums and bass rhythm that is presented most natural when the full weight of the instruments is presented... the kick drum and bass line at the opening of Dock of the Bay sets a strong foundation for Otis and the guitar to build off of. Alternative music like Smashing Pumpkins,  The Pixies, Jawbreaker, Dirtbombs, and Blur all have bass and drums that need punch. Punk rock and other guitar driven music like Social D, Operation Ivy, Van Halen, Bad Religion, The Ramones, Rancid, The Strokes, Vampire Weekend, Weezer, Gaslight Anthem.... they all have rhythm sections, and natural timbre that is presented best when it is presented with a fully developed full bodied sound.


Most people would rather listen to music through a great set of speakers because the music can be felt in your bones and people go to concerts because the live performance trumps every other experience. I saw Muse at Staples Center a month ago and the bass and drums absolutely rattled my bones.... Just vibrating you right down to your soul. And that is why 50,000 pack stadiums every night to see performances. Because the music overwhelms your senses. I saw the Ramones in Santa Barbara in the early 90's and it was the loudest show I've ever been to... Large Marshall double stack cabinets for both Dee Dee and Johnny and Marky's drums were mic... all in a small club (The Anaconda for anyone who cares) and the Ramones play tight so it was just a full on sonic assault.... transcendental to a young kid and still the best show I ever saw. 


To me, listening at home through a set of headphones should be a tamed extension of that experience. Obviously headphones can't give you what a live concert can... nor can they give you what well crafted speakers can, and speakers can't give you what amps and guitars and mic'd up drums can.... but each should have a measure of the other. The HD650, although tonally sweet and smooth and carrying some weight in its tone is similar but a bit more recessed than the Audeze LCD2, it just holds you too far back from the music FOR MY TASTE. It left me wanting for something more!


The HD650 often gets the compliment that "I could fall asleep with these on" and that to me sums up the HD650 perfectly.... It's kinda boring.


The HE400/ HD650 issue.


I’ve had a few people ask me which I prefer. The HE400 has a little more low end punch and the extra growl and mid range power makes it a better choice for my taste. Speaking strictly in audiophile terms the HD650 has the better acoustic chops. Its professionally damped driver fills out more evenly and more linearly but this linearity is still comes out anemic compared to the more live sounding Hifiman. . 


At lower listening levels the HE400 is a far better choice. It gives you a tad more flesh to sink your teeth into. A bit more punch in the low end and a live wire mid range that’s tipped up just enough to make rock music sound amazing. But as we travel up the volume ladder the Sennheiser becomes more stable and stout in its presentation, everything fills in evenly. The lows get stronger as the mids get sweeter etc... The HE400 although good to a point, can get crispy and its budget level planar membrane can start smearing tones and blurring separation on complex electronic fare where 100 or more different sounds are sometimes dubbed over the top of each other. The Senn is more resolving and surefooted through big sonic waves but like said, anemic... I could live with either, but if I could only have one, it’d be the 400. Even though it tends to get a little distorted when it is under powered and doesn't have that furthest reach of resolution. It's rock and roll presentation is more enjoyable.


Johnny Come Lately – The X1 P


Phillips open back X1 is priced a hundred short of the 650. But there are obvious similarities. Open back design, midrange price point. But one would assume that its beautiful aluminum cups, velvet ear pads, and leather headband come at a sonic price.


The X1 is a gorgeous looking headphone. Along with my D5000 and LCD2 it is one of my most sartorially minded. People like to contrast it against the Sennheiser Momentum…. No, the Momentum looks flimsy build and doesn’t hold a candle.


Next to the X1 the 650 looks very dated. The plastic finish is a glaring shortcoming up front for a headphone asking $200 more. The 650 is the technically superior headphone. For the same reasons the HE400 can't play this game the X1 can’t either… It doesn’t have that same surefootedness and linearity that the Sennheiser does, nor does it scale as well. But the X1 has a more rich and nourishing tone that will appeal to music lovers and bass heads alike. Its bass slams harder, it's musical vibe is just funner. It can also get a little crispy and sibilant in the upper register when volumes start creeping up whereas the 650 never breaks form. The Sennheiser is still the “better” headphone. But for a music lover like me I am not sure how important that is. Lately the X1 has been getting a ton of head time and that speaks to its engaging tone. It gives me that 'felt as well as heard' sound that I crave.


VS. My Favorites


Against both of my closed back favorites, the Sennheiser plays the same song. It is linear, well engineered, accurate and anemic. The Denon D5k and JVC DX700 are simply more dynamic more emotionally engaging, and immerse you in the music. They surround you in an envelope of tone.


The punch is there with both, but the JVC DX700 ups the ante by giving a sound stage worthy of an open back phone and providing not quite as linear but still fairly linear sound as things get louder and louder. I would choose the Denon and the JVC DX700 over the 650 every time. It simply doesn't give you as much of the song as they do. It is truncated in its presentation it sounds thin and lifeless compared to the two Japanese headphones. They are just too well rounded, dynamic and potent for the 650 (IMHO). They don't give anything away.  


Contrasting against the Japanese duo, the Sennheiser strikes me as the stuffy middle aged guy rocking a corporate polo, khakis and cheap patent leather shoes. He presents well enough in professional circles but doesn't really have the personality to charm. The 650 is the middle aged, mid level cog in the machine. The D5k and DX700 are sharp dressed 20 somethings from Tokyo with Italian cut suits and crepe sole oxfords. Their resume may not be as thick and they may not have the same number of professional accolades but they are dynamic, engaging and charismatic. They offer excitement and future glory that you will not find with the hum drum late 40's something sitting with his shoulders slouched in the lobby.




In closing the Sennheiser is by most normal youthful standards a little light in the ass. Some would call that a veil or laid back but it’s not laid back to me… That denotes a mellow, relaxing sound and a veil sounds like the treble is shelved down or certain parts are blurry. No this is about sound pressure levels. Air being moved by transducers. This is about 2 dimensional accuracy vs. 3 dimensional involvement. 


The caveat to that would be in a full size stereo rig.... In those scenarios the 650 sounds a lot better than most modern 32 ohm headphones.... The only 2 in my collection that best it on the integrated amp scene are my planar headphones... both of which have flat phase response and so don't do the poorly damped thing.... But in a typical dedicated headphone setting.... to me, the 650 is a bit boring. You are held back just a bit too far from the song to truly enjoy it. I dare say that the hype may be a bit overblown….. at the very least it does not line up very well with my taste. 


Mind you I didn't write this review to deride anyone who loves the HD650.... and I'm sure those of you that are fans of it will continue to enjoy it. But I do think there are a lot of people running around this site looking for answers, not wanting to spend their hard earned cash poorly.... and most people use this site to inform their future purchases. Because of some of the descriptive words I have heard people use, I think someone could get the wrong idea about the sound of the 650... when people call it dark, warm and full bodied.... I don't know that these words do the phones tone justice. At least not without building your entire system around the HD650. Contrasted against the greater landscape it is a bit light and lacking in body. Someone needs to say that. 


So I hope I do not get flamed but I think that someone out there deserves to get a little objectivity on this headphone rather than just more gushing about "greatest ever". No I am not a Beyer or AKG fan boy going subterfuge.. I am just an average consumer with average taste and listening habits trying to give others like me some reasonable perspective. 


I suppose if you dedicate all your resources to just this one headphone, you can make it sound spectacular.... But to the average head-fier who has the same low riding, subwoofin tendencies that I do. Who listens to Muse, Foo, the Black Keys, Gaslight Anthem, The Strokes.... modern music.... this may not be such a strong fit. 


Just saying.


Pros: Sensational Excursion Factor , Exquisite Bass Extension , Almost perfect Mid-Range , Classic HE-60/90 Design , Potential Upper Treble Extension

Cons: Spare Part Cost , Grainy Compared To Beyers and E-Stats, Could Be More Distant


The one who started it all, the 650s was a unexpected purchase for me, I was 16 back then when I got the 650s , the only nice headphone I had was the v6 and a cheap Supra Sony but since I was building a nice PC at the time, I decided to invest in some Audio , wanted to get the best ....Initially I was gonna get the hd800, the price wasn't a issue since I had a huge budget but I decided to invest that elsewhere and got the 650s instead, these in one word are my "Favourite" Headphone, love them.


To the sound , I always thought the 650s were a acquired taste until I got AKGs, little did I know what I had there

The 650s signature is warm, rolled of yet detailed with a amazing bass extension, as far as dynamics go the only headphone I enjoyed the bass on was the Tesla 1, no other headphone has the 650 bass , control is just exceptional , I have test tones which determine the tightness and the 650s are off the charts , no headphone has performed like them , they also have a great excursion factor ...what that means is that they will never rattle, the membrane will never be over-driven, usually a lot of people call it SPL but not all high SPL headphones have a good excursion factor, usually excursion factor affects low frequencies, Output Impedance can minimize it but not eliminate it, more the control less the rattle but the 650s are extremely robust, these will never fail ...just sensational  




Let's descend this time - 


Treble - There is no doubt they are rolled off but ...I have heard the 650s on systems where the treble was right there, with all the detail and presence, would I call them veiled or muddy ...absolutely fuc**** not , they have all the detail, but this roll off can be good for some people who like a relaxed sound, they are just luscious and full bodied , they are never thin . As much as I love the treble they aren't grain-free when compared to Ultra-high end headphones, do I care, again absolutely  fuc**** not, musicality wins. 


Mids - If you are considering buying these, I don't need to tell you about the 6XX mids, imagine a sound which encompasses you in it , that's what the 650s do when it comes to the Mid-Range , they have one of the best Mids I have heard, to this date I have to find a dynamic headphone which has the musicality in the Mid-Range like the 650s do, if you know a dynamic headphone which has what I'm looking for, let me know down in the comments. 


Bass - The bass man ...I love the bass on these, the extension, tightness and overall sense of impact is top notch, as I said earlier the only dynamic headphone which impressed in the bass was the T1, now of course I know a Planar will kill it when it comes to sub-bass, that metal never rolls off, goes to down 20Hz with a flat line, but these are not a Planar so for a dynamic they are my top headphone, nothing touches the 650's extension and refinement. 


Build and Comfort - 


I think they are well put together, Senn is the Samsung of Headphones..all plastic of course.

But as I said they are well put together and have the solidity I could expect from a decent headphone. The Headband is plastic with two spring steel rails attaching to the ends.
They can easily be bended to make them clamp less if they bother you initially, I never found the clamp bothersome..at any rate natural break-in is the best of course, my two year old 650 compared to my brand new 600 have a significant difference.
The Earpads are generously padded and are very comfortable, the 650 happens to be my top headphone for comfort, which is a goof thing of course.   


Yes of course there are some negative things - 


1) The dt880 is more refined in the treble, is much less grainy but again it doesn't have the other tonality edge and the excursion factor is not even close to the 650s. 

2) The Soundstage is not that impressive, a lot of people use the classic term "3-Blob" I still don't know what that exactly means but hey ....The dt880-990 surpass the Senn in terms of Soundstage. 

3) I wish the Spares weren't so expensive, for a earpad I could buy a entire headphone like a NVX XPT100 , not cool Senn !!!!!


Some Random Notes - 


1) Although these are 300Ohms I find them to be fairly easy to drive.

2) The Stock cable can be easily made balanced.  

3) I would recommend a nice OTL, I am using the Valhalla 2, in a perfect world I could choose SS, like a Violectric Stack or maybe a HDVD-800 but since it's not a perfect world I have to resort to Mid-Fi/HiFi amps which are fine, they still portray the emotion. 


I will add more..this is all I can think of right now :P 






So yeah, love them to death 

I don't think my opinions will change until I get a 007 from STAX, till then I will enjoy the mids on my 650s 

The comfort is excellent and so is everything else , if you want some of the best dynamics in the world get the 650s , they will surely make you smile , it doesn't matter if you have the best of the best setup, if it doesn't make you smile, it's a waste of money, take this analogy .....Upgrading a BMW 328i (F30) to make it faster than a RS5 is more fun than getting a RS5 , of course a RS5 is a RS5 but it will not make you smile as much as a upgraded F30 will, that's what the 650 is for me .....a must have headphone, take it easy folks, my Video Review will come in 2 days. 


Video Review - 




Pros: full and intimate mids, soft treble, scales excellently, detailed almost every part is replaceable, easy to run balanced, bass warmth

Cons: slightly soft sounding, some grain in the treble, bass rolls off early in the sub bass, clamp, ear cups aren't deep enough

I bought the HD650 after owning a number of equally good headphones, including the Beyerdynamic DT880 Pro, DT990 Pro, AKG K702 65th Anniversary, and AKG K612 Pro. I'd have to say that while the HD650 has many competitors nowadays that it didn't have when it debuted in 2003; especially lower than its MSRP of USD 500, it nonetheless holds its own and still offers qualities that many of them do not offer. 


The HD650 is the most recent incarnation of its family of headphones. The basic driver design and headband design as far as I can tell dates back to the late 1980s-early 1990s with the HD545 and HD565. The design takes inspiration from Sennheiser's volume production version of their 16,000 (1991 money) dollar Orpheus HE-90 electrostatic flagship, the HE-60 "Baby Orpheus". In around 1993 Sennheiser launched the HD580 "Precision", in 1995, they launched the HD580 Jubilee Edition to celebrate their 50 year history. It had metal earcup grills instead of plastic ones, McLaren F1-esque carbon fiber furniture, and was sonically identical to the HD600, which was launched the following year in 1996. The HD600 had blueish granite furniture, and a sound comparatively warm and lush for its time while retaining a good level of neutrality. Then in 2003 came the HD650, retaining its position of Sennheiser's flagship headphone until the launch of the technical masterpiece, the HD800. The HD650 and HD600 are still sold together, with retail prices of 500 dollars and 400 dollars, respectively. While the HD600 earned itself the reputation of being the "Veiled Senn" due to its relatively warmer and more relaxed treble compared to similar flagships such as the Beyerdynamic DT990 and AKG K501, the HD650 has arguably been more deserving of the title. The HD650 was known by detractors for having a veiled, dark treble, a compressed soundstage, and a boosted, almost obese sounding mid bass; while the HD600 was the neutral of the two. However in 2010, Sennheiser retuned and updated the drivers on the HD650 to give it a less thick and a more energetic sound. The bass was lowered, the treble was raised, and the soundstage opened a bit more as a result. 2010 updated HD650s can be identified by their silver diaphragm shields, vs the black shields of the 2003 models. My HD650s are a 2014 model with the silver shields, and mine comes in a black black box and updated slip box, whereas the 2003-2013 pre and post retuning HD650s had a silver box and corrugated outer packaging slip box design. According to some unconfirmed rumors, the HD650 was retuned a second time to sound even more neutral for the 2014 model. I previously owned a 2010 HD650 with a silver box, and while there might have been more darkness and a bit more bass in that previous model, I can neither confirm nor deny this, as it may be a placebo or anecdote.


Here are some pictures of the 650's family members. The images belong to their respective owners. Just click on the names of the headphones. 


HE-60 "Baby Orpheus"


HD565 "Ovation" 


HD580 "Precision" 


HD580 Jubilee




HD650 (black driver)


HD650 (silver driver)


Build-wise, the HD650 is a timeless and no-frills modular design of mostly plastic and some metal. The outside headband, the bales and the ear cups are plastic, while the inner headband is spring steel and the outside earcup grill is some sort of metal mesh. The headphone can be disassembled by hand to its component parts and basically every part can be purchased from Sennheiser and replaced. That's something you don't see on many headphones today. The dual sided cable is detachable and has two pins for each side, making the headphone easy to run balanced. Just unplug the included cable and plug a balanced one in. The stock cable has decent enough shielding, is dual channeled, is about 10 feet long, and terminates to a 6.35 mm stereo plug with an excellent 6.35 to 3.5 mm adaptor cable that will not put strain on the 3.5 mm output jack of your source device. The cable doesn't tangle easily and doesn't retain kinks. I would have liked the y-splitter to have been a bit lower but that is all I have to complain about. I have not used a Venus Audio or Cardas Canare cable on the HD650, so I can neither confirm nor deny whether they are worth the purchase. My biggest complaint is that replacement ear pads are 60 dollars from Sennheiser, making them very expensive considering they have a tendency to flatten out after a couple of years. There are third party Chinese made ones on eBay for half the price though. 


Comfort-wise, I didn't originally like the HD650. I found the spring steel headband, while extremely durable, made it a vice grip on my head, causing a headache. Another side effect of this clamp was that the pressure caused the velour ear pads to prematurely collapse, leading to my ears pressing against the foam driver disks, making them red hot and sore. I find that the HD650 doesn't have deep enough ear pads, and the arey fairly narrow, causing the edges of the pads to rest on the backs of my ears. I found that stretching the headband out (by taking the ear pads off and placing the HD650 over a speaker cabinet overnight) lessened the clamp, and rotating the cup pivots to put more clamp on my temples made the ear pads keep their shape, and now my ears are no longer pressing against the drivers. I find this to be a lot of fiddle work just to make a headphone comfortable enough. Removing the foam driver covers does give a little more depth, though it makes the sound a little brighter. This might be desirable for some people though.


Personally I would have liked Sennheiser to have stuffed the HD650 ear pads with a denser material like gel or double memory foam to keep the shape for longer periods of time.


The hand band is a nylon-type material and has plenty of padding. There is an indentation in the middle of the pad so you can rest the headphone on a stand and not dent the padding, and for people with a Sagittal rest in the middle of their heads, this can provide a little more comfort as the headband isn't hanging up on the ridge and causing aches from hot spots.  


As amplification goes, the Sennheiser HD650 is a headphone like prefers a powerful yet somewhat lush sounding amplifier or tubes on an amplifier. Though it is 300 ohms, the HD650 is quite a sensitive headphone, which means one will not have to crank up the gain on an amplifier to get a satisfying listening level, and will not hear as much amplifier strain. I was able to listen to the HD650 at perfectly satisfying listening levels from the headphone jack on my iPhone 5, and it also sounded good on the FiiO E07K portable amp and DAC I owned. The HD650 is more performance hungry than gain hungry. The better the amp to feed it power, the better it will sound. The HD650 isn't as system-picky as AKG headphones like the K702 or K712 Pro, so it is easier to attain a better sounding synergy with. The HD650 DOES prefer an amp that has a powerful sound to it, so solid state or hybrid amps are more preferable. All-tube amps such as the Woo Audio WA6, WA7 Fireflies and WA6-SE are supposed to sound excellent with the HD650 due to their transparency and power while still being refined. Higher end solid state amps such as the Violectric HPA-V200, Burson Audio Soloist and Conductor, and Meridian Audio Prime are also said to be great with the HD650.


I personally use my Schiit Audio Lyr 2, which is a powerful sounding yet thick and refined hybrid headphone amplifier with the HD650s. It still doesn't make them bass cannons or treble monsters, as the HD650 will tend to keep its softer sound regardless, but on low gain it has plenty of power and refinement. On high gain, however, the Lyr 2 becomes a bit too gain happy and aggressive with its stock tubes on the HD650, making the midrange and lower treble too forward and splashy sounding. Low gain is the better setting and is more controlled sounding with the gain-sensitive HD650s.


Now for sound: 


The HD650 was and still remains unique, as unlike most Germanic headphones, and more similar to Japanese headphones, its sound is definitely tuned by the ear. And what I mean by this is that rather than being tuned to dig from the lowest to highest frequency, HD650's sound is slightly n-shaped with an intimate midrange, a polite treble and warm bass. 


Treble-wise, the HD650 has very good extension with some elevation in the very top end. I don't consider it to have rolled off treble like newer Sony headphones have, though it's not a highly dynamic and front stage treble like on some Beyerdynamic headphones. It's present, yet subtle. The lack of a ton of lower to mid treble DOES make the HD650 a little less than perfect for orchestral music due to less  airiness, but it still has enough texture for acoustic music. That said, the HD650 will still show sibilances and some grain with poorly recorded music. Extremely sibilant tracks, especially on lower powered systems that may strain somewhat, will still have some harshness, even on the HD650, and the slight graininess to the lower treble can add to this. But it's infrequent enough that I don't consider this to be a deal breaker in any way.


Mids are the true forté for the HD650. The mids are fairly intimate and forward from the lower midrange to the upper midrange. After listening to the HD650s, many other headphones will often sound "hollow" or "scooped", with some withdrawal or midrange recession in comparison. Female and male singers alike sound equally strong, and instruments have a natural timbre to them. People who love a front and center midrange without the added brightness of the treble will love the HD650. There is little to fault. As I mentioned in the amplification section, though, watch out for amplifiers that are overly forward sounding, as they can make the mid-forward HD650 harsh, brash or blarey. Headphone amplifiers and tubes with a neutral to somewhat soft midrange work best with the HD650. 


Bass is an interesting point for the HD650s=, and along with treble, is responsible for the HD650's highly enjoyable midrange. Upper to mid bass notes are forward, textured and extremely present on the HD650. It does not have that overly "groovy" sounding bass like the AKG K240 MKII/Studio due to a highly boosted upper bass, but its bass is more upper and mid-focused than say, a Beyerdynamic DT990. This creates the more filled-in sound of the HD650's mid range. Wind instruments and bass guitars are excellent on the HD650. The mid bass has some bloom to it, and while not the tightest, lends well to drums, and synthesized mid bass with house, trance and dance music. The sub bass, however, is the HD650's weakest point in its low frequencies, as it rolls off after the lower mids. This makes it not the best headphone for genres that need a more filled in or neutral low end such as hip-hop and drum and bass, or genres with powerful drumming such as Japanese Taiko drums. Due to the lack of low end bass, but extra upper to mid bass, the HD650 has a somewhat soft or liquid sound to it. The extra upper bass gives the HD650's bass timbre a more chesty or "wooden" sound that lends well to African, Arabian and South Asian genres of music. 


Soundstage, while being good with depth, lacks the layering and precise imaging of other headphones. This gives the HD650 that characteristic "3-blob" dimension to its imaging. You hear music from outwards, up and down, but instrument placing and layering is not as distinct. I would say that for symphonic and orchestral music this is probably the biggest weakness of the HD650.


There are a number of alternatives to the HD650 one might wish to consider instead. The obvious one is its older but still produced sibling, the HD600. The two are basically the same headphone design, with the finish of the plastic being different color schemes, the HD600 being a little less expensive, different headband padding, and the HD600 cable being thinner and terminating to a 3.5 mm connector. Both have a similar, mid-prominent lushness to them, but the HD600 gives up some bass energy and trades it for a bit more treble, which gives it a more acoustic and orchestral-friendly sound somewhat closer to neutral. The two from what I heard are similar enough that owning both isn't worthwhile unless collecting is an endeavor. 


The AKG K702, Q701, and K701 are often compared to the HD650, but they are lean and bright enough that they should be compared more to the HD600 than to the HD650. I owned a Q701, and it is a completely different sounding headphone, with deeper but harder ear pads, lesser grip but a bumpy headband, a zazzy upper midrange, bright lower to mid treble, tight and neutral though dry bass and a soundstage with outstanding airiness, layering, texture, dimension and imaging that made the headphone excellent for jazz, orchestral and symphony, and acoustic music. Though the strong upper midrange made the Q701 a bit too aggressive at anything above moderate listening volumes for trumpets and saxophones, and women singers who sing at high and loud octaves (e.g. Adele, Rebecca Ferguson).


A fairer comparison would be the newer K712 Pro, or the K702 65th Anniversary Edition, as their sound is more comparable to the HD650. I have compared the HD650 to my brand new AKG K7XX Massdrop Edition that is tuned to sound similar to both the K702 Annie and the K712. Compared to the HD650, the K7XX is more comfortable and less tight fitting. The K7XX has more treble and more sub bass, while being a little more withdrawn in the mids than the HD650. The K7XX like most AKGs is highly source-dependent. It will sound like garbage on garbage recordings, and it will sound sibilant on poorly matched systems, unlike the more source-forgiving HD650. I will be writing a more detailed comparison review of the K7XX and the HD650, so more comparisons will be found there. 


The closest Beyerdynamic for comparison is the DT990, as the DT880 is flatter and more comparable to the HD600. The DT990 Pro is less expensive than the HD650, and has a prominent u-shape to its sound, with very dynamic and bright treble, deeper and more rumbling sub bass and mid bass, a wider and more open soundstage, and a more scooped midrange. The HD650 is definitely the softer and more laid back of the two, and the DT990 the funner, more exciting sound. Both make excellent complements to one another for different listening moods. The DT990 Premium models are a little more neutral, with the DT990 Premium 600 ohm having the smoothest treble of the 990 models, and being the closest competitor to the HD650 due to its refinement. 


In the planar range, Hifiman's HE400i is priced at the same 500 dollar mark as the HD650. From what I have read, the HE400i has a strong clamping force, is somewhat heavier, has deeper extending and tighter bass, and the treble is more energetic. 


Another option to consider is the recently released Philips Fidelio X2, which according to reviews from owners, has a tighter and more present low end than the HD650, a more neutral treble, and a wider soundstage. 


While the HD650 at times can be soft sounding and isn't the most comfortable for long listening sessions, it nonetheless will remain a staple headphone in my fleet. I'm interested in seeing what upgrades to DACs and better tubes will do to improve refinement. 


Pros: Lush sound, bass impact, treble extension, packaging

Cons: Clamping force, paint is prone to chipping


Review Equipment:
Amplifier: Matrix M-stage (Audio-gd SUN v2 HDAM)
DAC: Matrix ASRC Cube DAC, Valab NOS DAC (v2.6)
Other headphones: AKG K702, ATH-ES7, Beyerdynamic DT770, Sennheiser HD555
Great packaging. The HD650 came in a hard box lined with tons of foam padding on the inside. The box is relatively durable and even had metal hinges for longevity. Included a nice 1/4" to 1/8" adaptor for use on smaller plugs. Overall, this is one of the best packaged headphones I've seen.
The Sennheisers fit like traditional circumaural headphones. Because of this, there is a good amount of clamping force. My smallish head does find the Senns comfortable, though my AKG K702 does rank higher. Nevertheless, I've been able to have 4+ hour listening sessions with the HD650 with no discomfort. The earpads and headband foam are easily replaceable. 
In terms of build, the headphones are pretty solid. Fit and finish is much better than the HD555 and does not have the same flex. Plastic feels solid and rigid and the headphone cable connection is secure and firm. No creaking on this pair. The paint on the headband is prone to chipping. Repairs for the HD650 by Sennheiser are actually affordable ($60) which is commendable.
Sound Quality:
I won't make any sweeping claims here, but the HD650 is a very good headphone for its current price. The first thing you'll notice is the darker, lush tone. This darker nature is interpreted by some as a veil, but I do not notice one with my current setup. However, if I substitute a less powerful amp (Matrix CUBE) in place of the Matrix m-stage, I do hear a veil of sorts, though it is not obtrusive.
The bass on this headphones is awesome. Has great impact and PRAT, especially in comparison to the AKG K702. However, it does lack a little of the bass extension that the K702 has. The bass does not intrude on the other frequencies, but does make its presence known. However, the great bass impact also means that the headphones are a bit slower. They won't be able to keep pace with faster rock, although they are acceptable with slower classic rock.
The midbass is where the real magic is. This lends the lush tone that the HD650 are known for. They also give great texture to string and woodwind instruments (something the K702 does not do as well). I find this extremely enjoyable with large classical and most jazz. 
The HD650 are often described as dark headphones. That being said, I find the treble to be exceptionally detailed and present. In fact, they extend further than the treble on the AKG K702. This is a double-edged sword as it makes music sound detailed, but also reveals sibilant recordings. Much like the K702, I am able to hear minute details like page turns or the artist's movements. The mids on the HD650 are good, but are not as exceptional as the treble or bass. They have slightly more grain and are not as smooth as the K702. Even so, vocals and piano (which typically cover the midrange) are excellent with this pair.
The soundstage on the HD650 is interesting to say the least. While you do not get the open airy feeling of headphones like the AD700 and K702, you do get excellent, accurate imaging that surpasses most headphones I've heard (even the K702). Not only can the HD650 separate different instruments distinctly from each other, but can also show where they are. On large scale orchestral works it is easy to pick out where every section of the orchestra is.
The Sennheiser HD650 is a great pair of headphones, especially at it's current pricepoint. Its relatively inoffensive nature allows to to excel at many genres (assuming good recording/mastering quality). Good amplification is a must for this pair as it lacks many of its great characteristics without it (imaging, bass imapct, etc). A good source is also key as it does reveal bad sources (not as ruthlessly as the AKG K702). Makes a great complement to airier headphones.


Pros: Richly detailed, supremely textured, natural sound that is smooth, effortless and relaxing to listen to. A forgiving allrounder with superb comfort.

Cons: Open headphone that requires good source and amplification

I've listenend to all the top offerings from Denon, Audeze, AKG, Hifiman, Ultrasone & Sennheiser and this is one of my personal favourites. It is a true reference class headphone that is very natural sounding, albeit leaning ever so slightly towards a darker tone. The sound is detailed, smooth and richly textured, especially drums come alive amazingly well. It has no problem spanning all the way from the deepest bass to the highest highs with supreme control and plenty of muscles to spare.


For the money I think this is a real audiophile bargain, the HD650 exists on that plane of ultimate performance where sound quality becomes no longer a factor of quality but rather personal taste. It really doesn't get much more "enjoyable" than this no matter what you pay. The HD800 has better resolution, speed and spacial presentation - but can be a bit cold, analytical and unforgiving. The LCD-3 is arguably a "better" heaphone with amazing resolution, extension and control - but in my humble opinion it can sound a little dry and laid-back compared to something like a HD650, Grado, Hifiman or D7000 which are more "fun" and energetic with a more "forward" sound.


So in short - the HD650 I think is truly great, not unbeatable in specific genres but an amazing allrounder. It should however be said that it only truly begins to show what it can do with top notch source and amplification - I wouldn't recommend driving this beauty with anything like a phone or Mp3 player due to its rather high imepedance and revealing nature.


Although "revaling" is also a relative term since they are infinitely more forgiving towards bad recodings than a HD800 or LCD-2/LCD-3. It should also be said that I do think they exhibit a slight veil (this eternal debate) but ONLY at low listening levels - so that those who find themselves always listening at very low volumes might want to also consider something along the lines of a grado reference headphone which are known for their "intimacy".


All in all the HD650 is a superb headphone that comfortably matches, or beats, competitors at more than twice its price. A superb allrounder with a fun and energetic play-style, detailed but not too unforgiving - not to be overlooked!



Edited: updated May 2014


Pros: Smooth, sweet, loving sound. Comfortable.

Cons: Nothing to me

I am by no means experienced in this field. I am a poor 18 year old who spent a lot of time dishwashing in order to support his unreasonable obsession with great sound.


When searching for my perfect headphone, I narrowed down my choices to two headphones: The Sennheiser HD650 and the HifiMan He-400. I originally picked up the HifiMan He-400s and spent a month with them before parting. They sounded great and were built like a tank, but I knew that the ortho sound wasn't for me. The sound was too fatiguing, and this was exaggerated by the poor comfort that they provided.


My next step, obviously, was to pick up the Sennheisers. As soon as i put them on my head, i knew these were right for me. Comfort was above (my admittedly high) expectations. I could sleep with these babys on, and the sound exceeds their comfort. The smooth, romantic sound woes me in every time. These are the cans that you could listen to for days. 


The Sennheisers gave me what I ultimately wanted. And that was to have sonic nirvana poured into my ears for hours on end. I can slip these on and do my homework without being interrupted or l can critically listen to some vinyl.


Pros: Crystal clear sound, no distortion, and good highs, mids, and present bass.

Cons: Plastic design.

So it has been quite a while since i've had these headphones(about 7 months or so), so I figured it was time to write a proper review, to the best of my knowledge.

Allot has already been said about these awesome set of headphones, so i'll focus on my personal experiences.

Please note, I am not a seasoned audiophile, i've only owned quality audio gear for about 2 years.


First off, the package:

It comes in a cardboard box, as most products, which I frowned uppon a little, considering the price. But once the cardboard is removed, a quality ''hinged'' box is revealed, which really adds to the unboxing experience. It is like opening your 18th birthday present, something really special. 

As for the contents of the box: it doesnt feel extra premium, but it does feel like you have bought a quality product. The foam packs the headphones in nicely, and is not bad on the eye. 


''Alright, enough about the package.. what does it sound like?''

First off, I should list my DAC, which is a https://www.mayflowerelectronics.com/shop/mayflower-custom-products/desktop-objective2-with-odac/ . Which is one of the most, if not the most neutral DAC's out there. Meaning that it doesn't alter highs/mids/lows(bass).

Second, the headphones that I own, and can compare it to, are: Sennheisser HD280(more then 12 years old), and the Sony MDR-1RBT(recent purchase, after HD650). I also own two 5.1 sound systems, one being a basic pc speaker system from Logitech, and the second being a fairly decent system for the TV, called Sony BDV-N590. And a JBL Extreme(bluetooth speaker)

Considering all these audio systems, I will now give my impressions of the HD650 Finally:).


Using only Foobar2000 music player, playing FLAC music, and Spotify Premium(for quality) for the music unavaiable on FLAC, I listen mainly to Pop, Rock, Country, Rap R&B and Worship(christian) music.

The highs are clear and defined, especially when listening to Rock music, but it works for every type of music. 

The mids are always present, meaning that the HD650 doesn't miss a chance to display its excellent range. It really doesnt miss a beat. 

The bass is always viewed as ''less present'' in Sennheisser headphones. To be honest, I am not so sure... the bass sounds great even when compared to the subwoofer in my TV set. Which fills a 6*6 meter room without even breaking a sweat.

More important is the clearness of the sound. There is NO distortion, even at high volume levels. And it feels to me as if the drivers aren't even trying.

Another thing about sound: you'll be able to hear people talking to you, because of the open back design. I have many conversations with friends and family while wearing these headphones. While a little dimmed(as expected with headphones), I really didn't have to try hard to hear any of them.


To summarize the sound quality:

Highs/Treble: +++ Superior

Mids: ++ Very good

Lows/Bass: ++ Suprisingly good

All in all these are the best headphones I have listened to myself. Even compared to an hour long session with the HD600, provided by a friend's father.


Design and feel:

This is where these headphones get a ''-'', in my opinion. The sound may be superior, but the plastic headband really doesn't reflect this sadly.

It makes it feel cheap whenever you put it on. That is untill you turn the sound on, that is..

Also, the double cables WILL TWIST, unless you are prepared to invest in a more expensive third party cable.

However, these headphones are insanely comfortable. I can wear them all day long without any discomfort.(using standard vellour earpads). 




These headphones are my go-to system for listening to music at home. I havent used any of my 5.1 sound systems seriously since purchasing this gem.

It sounds like a dream, and that's giving it less praise than it deserves. Even the sony mdr-1rbt headphones wired up(no bluetooth at home), dont come even close.


If you want only quality sound. below flagship price, these headphones are the ones to get. 


Pros: Smooth, non-fatiguing sound, comfortable, well-balanced sonic signature

Cons: Sub-bass could be deeper, treble could be slightly more airy

My first Sennheiser was the HD555, which was a real gem for its price bracket, and then when it broke, I replaced it with the HD600. I immediately exchanged it for the HD650 as I found the HD600 to sound so similar to the HD555 (just a little bit more treble mainly) that the price difference wasn't justified. The HD650 is very similar to the HD600, but with a bit more weight in the bass, and a slightly smoother sound overall. But in any case, these upgrades are all diminishing returns, as the HD555 really is excellent already.


The HD650's clamping force is strongest of the three, but it's still comfortable enough that I often forget to take them off after I was done listening to something. The velour earcups are always the most comfortable to me compared to leather, pleather, or foam.


In terms of looks, the Sennheiser are probably lagging behind all the competitors, looking kind of drab and boring, while the HD800 takes things to the opposite extreme, looking like some science-fiction head gear.


I quite like the Sennheiser sonic signaure, which many people refer to as being relaxed, or veiled. I think of it as being very smooth and non-offensive. The treble and upper mids never get fatiguing or too bright, and the overall tonal balance is very good, with nothing sticking out or recessed in any of the frequency ranges. The sub-bass rolls off around 30Hz and I wish the HD650 had more extended sub-bass and weight, since that's what it needs in order to sound like a full-range speaker system. The Audio-Technica ATH-M50, ES-10, and Denon AH-D7000 all do this very well--sounding like there's a subwoofer in the headphones. The treble of the Sennheiser is nice and smooth and articulate, but it seems to lack just a little bit of that airiness that audiophiles really love.


Overall, I tend to think of the Sennheiser HD5xx/6xx series as workhorse headphones that sound great, are very comfortable, and are never offensive. They may not win awards for looks or have that really high-end "magical" hi-fi sound, but they are tonally well-balanced and very pleasant to listen to.


Pros: Great smooth, lush beautiful sound, very balanced and relaxing. Quite detailed. Dark. Very comfortable

Cons: Build quality

I love my HD650 for rock, jazz and weightier orchestral pieces. The sound is very detailed but somehow dark (which is good with some recordings). This headphone never sounds obtrusive or hard. It is very comfortable. I have it as a companion to another great headphone, AKG k701, and they work great with their parts of my record collection.


Pros: Light and comfortable.

Cons: Too much money for what it is.

This is my second round with these "holy grail" of headphones.  First time around I was just laughing at it's meager power capability.  The sound was good, but not mind blowing.  Zero sub bass control, with ok bass.impact.  I got the Hifiman 400i and couldn't be any happier.  Has everything that I'm looking for at an "affordable" price.  I got a lot of heat from my fellow headphone enthusiasts for my nonesense.


  I listen to all kind of music and DO NOT like to be limited to what I can listen too from my music library with an expensive headphone.  For 300+ dollars I want my subbass and bass with authority.  At the same time I want it to be super smooth with stuff like Enya, Enigma, Grace Memo, etc.  


So back to the HD650.  It sounds really good when hooked up to my EQ and sound processor.  Without them it just sounds ok with EDM and such.  I don't need to repeat what others have already said about how good it sounds with their music library.  I'm just saying that with modern music, this headphone takes just more than an amp and cable upgrade to eek all the sound out that it's capable off.  For less money you can get a headphone that can do more with less hardware.  


So I hooked up the HD650 to the NAD 2140 amplifier speaker output.  Resistor value of around 347 ohms in between headphone and amp.  Sound goes through my good ol' Ibasso D7, into Henry engineering Matchbox, through Behringer virtualizer, Rane EQ and then through the NAD.  That is what it took to get the best out of the HD650 to get the sound out that comes close the the Hifiman 400i that I jam on most of the days.  The subbass came out and the bass had good impact.  The mids and highs are always there ofcourse.  But Sjeesus, I can enjoy the Hifiman with a smaller amp, whereas I can't really enjoy the HD650 without all the other stuff.  


Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones

The HD 650 has superbly low harmonic distortion and precision sound reproduction across the entire frequency range. The bass is well ballanced and crisp, with authentic deep bass reproduction. The treble and mid range are well ballanced and ensure superbly realistic voice reproduction. Instrumental music pleasantly natural and yet lower notes clear and vibrant.

FeatureLightweight aluminum voice coils for very fast transient response
Height0 inches
Length0 inches
Weight0.57 pounds
Width0 inches
List Price$649.95
ModelHD 650
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameHEADPHONES
TitleSennheiser HD 650
Batteries Included0
Is Autographed0
Is Memorabilia0
Warranty2 years warranty
Special Featuresnv: Headphones^Specifications | Contact Pressure^Approx. 3.4N 0.3N | Nominal Impedance^300ohms | General^Specifications | Transducer Principle^Dynamic, open | Frequency Response^10-39500Hz-10dB | Weight^260g | Transducer Principle^Dynamic, open | Ear Coupling^Circumaural | Distortion^Less or equal to 0.05 | Connector^6.3mm stereo jack with 3.5mm adapter | Weight Wo Cable^260g
Product Type Subcategory2300799
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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