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.