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Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones

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Posted

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

Cons: Earpad Cost , Grainy Compared To HD800s , Beyers and E-Stats , Under Priced - In My Opinion , 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 

 

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 - 

 

Posted

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 the 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 back when they designed it, long before headphones were valued as a fashion accessory and long before OEM's thought they could make flagships 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 without raising eyebrows. But at $500 out the door for a former flagship headphone that was intended for listening at home through a serious system... I don’t know.... I just expected something a little more substantial.

 

The other 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 its own 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 break 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 the clamping force seems to have been measured perfectly to counteract the lightweight construction's tendency towards moving easily.... 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 not immune... The hif world is littered with glitzy machine tone arms, anodized aluminum faceplates with machine metal knobs, high gloss enamel finishes, wood side panels.. 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 low end.

 

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, the light show was stunning and their stage set was unbelievable but the drums, synthesizer and dubstep wobbles that they used a lot in 2nd law, they literally vibrated you right down to your spine.... 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. 

 

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 like concert can... nor can they give you what well crafted speakers can, and speakers can't give you want amps and guitars and miked 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 have had a few people ask me which I prefer. The HE400 on the surface has a little more low end rumble but its acoustic chops max out well short of the Sennheiser’s limit. That additional 260 Ohms of professional tuned impedance allows the 650 to fill out much fuller, more powerfully and more linearly when the volume pot starts rolling clockwise. This is where the 650 can start gaining back some ground. 

 

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 livewire 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 and highs get more…. crisp. The HE400 although good to a point, begins to get crispy and its budget level planar membrane starts to show. I could live with either, but if I could only have one, it’d probably be the 650. However if I had less current available in my amp and was working with a more budget system... I would probably lean towards the HE400.... even though it tends to get a little fuzzy and distorted when it is under powered. It's basic presentation with a modest amp is a little 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. I dare say I prefer the look of it and feel of it over all my others. The only one that I’d chalk up as near even would be the Denon D5k. With wood, pleather, magnesium and aluminum, the Denon is another headphone that has a luxurious look and feel to it, but the X1 is simply gorgeous. People like to contrast it against the Sennheiser Momentum…. No, the Momentum doesn’t hold a candle.

 

The 650 is the technically superior headphone. For the same reasons the HE400 couldn’t hang, the X1 can’t either… It doesn’t have that same ultimate linearity that the Sennheiser has when current starts flowing from the amp. But the X1 has a more impactful and bass head friendly tone. It is rich and creamy and fun. 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 stays tight and smooth.  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 once again has a very natural tone, very sweet mid range, and a nice open soundstage but the Denon D5k and JVC DX700 are simply more dynamic more emotionally engaging, and just plain more musical. 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). 

 

The D5k will get crispy and hot long before the HD650 does, but this only comes at volume levels well north of normal listening (even for young folk). Up until the point where the Denon gets speed wobbles it is, in my mind, a superior closed back design to the HD650's open back. At least from a music lover's perspective..... from a technical guy's perspective, yeah the 650 probably has it.... but I play music through my headphones, so the Denon would be the one I'd grab off a sinking boat. 

 

One thing that is important to note is that headphones like the X1, D5K and Ultrasone Pro are not good on an integrated amp like my Sui 517.... the Sui has a very high output impedance... because of that the X1, D5k and Pro900 all have horrible damping factors and sound bloated and loose..... the Senn doesn't suffer the same fate and actually benefits from the added warmth injected by the high output impedance of the headphone jack on the 517.

 

The HE400 does not have the same problems as the others, both it and the LCD2 play beautifully with the Sui 517..... This is where the Sennheiser headphone belongs... connected to a large, powerful integrated amp with a tipped up output impedance that adds warmth and body to its otherwise thin tone. 

 

WRAP IT UP!

 

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. 

 

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.

Posted

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

Posted

Pros: Warm sound signature, detailed, non-fatiguing

Cons: 3-blob soundstage, clamping a little strong at first

The HD650's don't do anything really wrong.

They have a natural sound signature and slightly elevated midbass that is easy on the ear (non-fatiguing).

Most people will find that they appreciate their sound.

They are not the final word in transparency and speed, but they are advanced enough technically to allow them to be true to the source material, offering an excellent sonic window into the music.

This neutrality allows them to be used for reference purposes; as a studio headphone mixes done on them translate well to monitors.

Similarly, they sound great with all genres, and don't dominate any particular one.

 

For a beginner head-fi'er, HD650's paired with a <$500 SS amp and a cheap DAC might be the last headphone rig you ever need.

Inversely, the HD650 scales very well with upgrades, sounding best to these ears with a powerful tube amp.

However, If you don't like the sound of these phones on first (amped) listen, don't try change the sound signature with cable upgrades because the differences are relatively subtle.

Posted

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
 
Packaging:
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.
 
Comfort/Build:
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.
 
Conclusion:
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.

Posted

Pros: Very comfortable with a mellow, involving sound that harmonises brilliantly with live recordings.

Cons: Paint chips off headband with regular use

There's plenty of debate around here as to what makes a headphone "high end". Putting price aside for a moment, I have no doubt that the HD650 marks the beginning of the high-end range. I've auditioned many headphones over the past few years and while many sound different only the electrostats such as the HE60 truly sound superior in every way to the 650s.

 

In terms of sound the HD650 is what I would call a "natural" headphone. Very rarely do I get the feeling that any part of the spectrum is being over-emphasised and the result is an intimate presentation with good (if not exceptional) soundstage - perfect for live performances. Some would criticise the 650s for their rolled-off treble and I believe this is valid but mainly when the headphones are poorly amplified or paired with a poor DAC unit; I would certainly avoid running these directly from a computer's sound card, for example. My pair are used with a DAC1 which does a good job of brightening the 650s' sound signature without making the treble sound sterile.

 

The low-end and midrange of these cans is what stands out for me. Bass is almost perfect with good extension and decent impact. Though dark-sounding I never get the impression that the bass is being emphasised to the detriment of other frequencies. I also find that bass quality improves dramatically with higher volumes, this is likely because I listen at quite low volume most of the time and the extra juice is just what these cans need to shine. Moving on to midrange, these cans are excellent for female vocals as well as string / brass instruments with the original tonality being replicated solidly.

 

I paid almost exactly £200GBP for my pair in 2007 and I find that to be excellent value for money. Build quality is sturdy and the sound that you get for the price is ridiculously good - others have spoken highly of the ability of these cans to scale with the rest of your system and I can only echo this. My one gripe (the reason I docked a star for design) is that the paint tends to flake off slightly around the midpoint of the headband over time; continual flexing of this point as you stretch the headphones over your head contributes to the wear.

Posted

Pros: Work well with pretty much every genre; extremely relaxing; superb bass; look great

Cons: A little bit of a tight clamp

I've owned these headphones for around a year now, when I first bought them they were a quantum leap forward in my headphone listening life. It felt like a big spend as I had to buy a desktop amp and a dac at the same time and it took a pay rise at the point where I was questioning the wisdom of it all to finally pull the trigger. I never looked back.

 

It is funny that the cost seemed so extreme to me now; once you delve into the audio enthusiasts world and see the prices some other headphones go for you realise that the HD650 is in fact a serious bargain, especially since many people (myself included) think it is a far better phone than many of those higher priced offerings.

 

The sound signature is one with bass emphasised yet superbly controlled and clear; I am definitely in the camp that thinks that a respectable boost in the bass region makes music sound more natural.  Perhaps this is because the majority of cheap music systems have speakers that put out uneven bass so producers make the decision to counteract that with reduced bass? Whatever the reason, the HD650 level of bass and mid-bass is spot on for making the music sound real and natural and live.

 

Laid back is another term often used to describe these headphones and for good reason. Some people call this a "veil" over the sound but I think that again, what they are reproducing is a very lifelike sound. In real life the source of all sound is not an inch of so from the ear like with headphones, everything does seem a little pushed back from us and since we are used to this I find that it adds to the natural feeling of the phones.

 

In terms of sound stage, well I used to think it was perfect, but since I got the AKG K702 I have to say I have found myself wishing the HD650 could be a little spacier. Everything else about the headphones sound sig, from the laid back presentation to the natural bass boost seems to be aiming for a realistic sounding reproduction of live sound so to have it all so close around the head is a little self defeating. That said, it is certainly big enough for analytical listening and beats other high end phones, like Grados, by a country mile.

 

Since everything about the sound engineering of these phones seems to be aimed towards making you forget you are wearing them it does seem an odd decision for the product designers to have added a clamp so tight you really cannot be unaware they are on your head. This is well counteracted by the softness of the very comfortable pads and I was very used to it but when I got my AKG K702 I did start becoming a bit less forgiving. When my other main headphones were the MS2i with flats the HD650 showed up favourably in the comfort stakes, but with the velour laden K702 with its self adjusting headband and super light clamp I definitely now feel the pressure on my temples of the HD650. I've read about people bending parts of the headband to relieve this. I've also seen pictures of snapped headbands as a result so am going to play it safe and live with it. It has slowly reduced over a year and I imagine will disappear completely in the future. This is a shame though as the sound of these phones is one I find extremely relaxing and this effect is negated by an unfortunate product design decision. 

 

This is the one minor bugbear regarding a high quality, great value package. Everything about them screams quality, from the classy timeless design to the velour pads and padded headband to the sound when you put them into action. While there are some genres other phones do better with (K702 certainly a better option for classical and electronica) there is no genre these do not do proud. So long as they don't break (and I do baby these headphones) I would not be surprised if I'm still putting these on my head in retirement.

Posted

Pros: Great bass, scales well

Cons: 3-blob soundstage

A pair of headphones I wish I kept.  Great bass, excellent highs with the right equipment.  Scales with the best of equipment.  Everyone should own a pair at least once.  

Posted

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.

Posted

Pros: Tonality, Easier to match with other equipments, smooth sounding, beautiful mids

Cons: For some recordings and with some equipment it can sound bass heavy or too dark, narrow soundstage, colored treble

My reference for reviewing the HD 650 is the AKG K701. I've used the HD650 with various amps and sources including the Nuforce HDP, Headroom Ultra Micro Amp (now discontinued), the Beta 22 (2 channels), Musical Fidelity M1 and the ALO Rex MKII. Sources included Marantz CD5003, Ultra Micro DAC (discontinued), Ultra Desktop DAC (discontinued) Nuforce HDP and Centrance DACPort LX.

 

I think many reviewers have already talked a great deal about the characteristics of the HD650. Most of them have better experience and probably are more capable of discerning the pros and  cons. I only wanted to add a few points regarding classical music listening.

 

Some listeners shy away from the HD650 when listening to classical for their dark sound and lack of airiness but for my ears they are suitable for the genre. First of all they have a beautiful natural tone for strings and winds, in comparison to the K701 which has an anemic neutral to bright tonality. The HD600 has a similar tonality to the HD650 but IMO the latter is more refined, less grainy and enjoys a better sound stage and imaging. The only drawback is the HD650 need for a neutral to bright system to sound their best. With some set ups it can sound too dark and dull. I heard them at their best with the Beta 22: a very big and tall soundstage with exceptional depth and detail. 

 

When listening to orchestral music on the HD 650 there is more weight and impact. The experience is closer to live performances in comparison to K701. There is also more emotional involvement, using the K701 is like reading the notes, while both HD600 and 650 reveal the mood and the feelings of the piece. In other words, listening to the HD 650 is like being in the concert hall, while the K701 experience is closer to being in the studio. 

 

The HD650 is more forgiving with older recordings. Classical gems like Arrau's recordings of Beethoven's piano sonatas or Oistrakh glorious recordings of Prokofiev and Shostakovitch can't be rendered with revealing headphones like the K701 or the HD800.

 

It's also much easier to match the HD650 with the right DAC and AMP in comparison to the K701. Actually the HD650 is an excellent performer with high grade equipment and a steal at its current price (around $300 used). For the K701 it's very hard to find the right amp to pair with it, it sounded at their best on the Luxman and MF M1 HPA amps. 

 

The K701 is definitely more airy, with a wider sound stage, but the warm tone of the HD650 provide a solid placement of instruments in space. Sometimes I feel the K701 too thin sounding for complex passages compared to the HD650. 

 

This review was done on mid fi gear involving Cetrance Dacport Lx and ALO RxII. 

 

Update 03/28/14

 

I did an extensive comparison on the current set up: Flac and Aiff files played by Audirvana plus on a Macbook computer. The macbook is connected by optical cable to Headroom Ultra Desktop DAC. The UDAC is connected to Musical Fidelity M1 headphone amplifier via DiMarzio RCA cables. 

 

On this set up the AKG Q701 is performing very well indeed. The highs are smoother and the sound is more open, with fuller, richer and clearer mids. The imaging and the depth of the soundstage have been immensely improved. In short I feel that the Q701 and the MF M1 amp are very good combo, much better than the HD650 combined with the same amp. Probably the M1 being slightly warmish works better with brighter headphones like the Q701 and the HD800. 

 

The HD650 is certainly more fun to listen to, but the Q701 is more detailed with a wider and bigger sound stage, better imaging and more extended treble. But the tonality of the HD650 is more true to life, where K701 sounds pale in comparison. When listening to the HD650 you feel like living inside the music, while the Q701 is more objective and cold. The mid on the HD650 is rich and has a palpable presence, compared to the thinner mid on the Q701.

 

 

Of course these observations are purely subjective, and based on my experiences with different set ups. 

Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones
Description:

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.

Details:
DetailValue
BindingElectronics
BrandSennheiser
ColorSilver
EAN0615104099692
FeatureLightweight aluminum voice coils for very fast transient response
Height0 inches
Length0 inches
Weight0.57 pounds
Width0 inches
LabelSennheiser
List Price$649.95
ManufacturerSennheiser
ModelHD 650
MPNHD 650
Package Quantity1
Product GroupCE
Product Type NameHEADPHONES
PublisherSennheiser
StudioSennheiser
TitleSennheiser HD 650
UPC615104099692
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
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC
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