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A Review On: Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones

Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones

Rated # 1 in Over-Ear
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Price paid: $400.00
TwoEars
Posted · Updated · 140553 Views · 15 Comments

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

15 Comments:

I completely disagree. I own both a HD650 and Audeze LCD-2, run from a Benchmark DAC1. The Audeze utterly destroys the HD650 in terms of resolution, the ability to tell the timbre of different instruments in a mix, the microdynamics, while also having quite a dark signature. Read more in the LCD-2 thread, if you wish. In particular the paragraph "the HD650 exists on that plane of ultimate performance where sound quality becomes no longer a factor" is ludicrous to my ears. I can understand a personal preference, but I find the LCD-2s resolution advantage plain obvious when you hear them for a few tracks. The HD650 is far from the plane of ultimate performance to me. I would have thought the HD800 and other high-end competitors also outperform the HD650, but haven't heard them.
FH123, remember that this is the reviewer's opinion, and if you didn't find ultimate audio nirvana with HD650 then that is YOUR case, as many still(and righfully so) hold the HD650 in very high regard.
Holding it in high regard is very different from saying that it hasn't been eclipsed in every aspect of performance by other headphones - in particular, if you seek to match the HD 650 sound signature, the LCD-2 previously mentioned. In terms of value, yes, the HD 650 is excellent (although it is certainly my opinion that the HD 600 is an even better value) - but that does not make it equal in performance. Nor does it diminish the excellent performance that it does provide.
I completely agree with TwoEars on his comments on the quality of the HD650. I have found my audio nirvana with Audiostatic DCM5 electrostatics. In itself a brilliant speaker, but part of the quest was finding the right cables, careful positioning etc etc. which finally paid off. As a component, the HD650 also has audiophile grade potential but it may take some time to get there. If I would have to give up my DCM5's, I could live with my HD650 quite happily. It's that good.
I completely agree with the reviewer.

There comes a point in the pursuit of audio excellence where you face diminishing returns based on price. The 650’s can be had for around $500 dollars. The next step up from here is the $1000 dollar price range.

Are the new Sennheiser 700s and the Audeze’s worth $500 dollars more than the Sennheiser 650’s? That’s a personal assessment we each make individually. But the step up in quality to the $1000 dollar price point is incrementally less than the jump from the $100 dollar to the $500 dollar price point. Which makes the Sennheiser 650 an important headphone to consider.

Most stuff beyond this headphone becomes marginally or incrementally better in certain areas. Are the headphones above the 650 truly better? Absolutely, no argument there.

But I’ve read a few reviews which would suggest that the sound out of the 650’s is likened to a transistor AM radio. Which indicates the reviewer is trying to make us think he knows something the rest of us simply can’t comprehend, which is retarded.

If you’re reading this, you have a passion for headphones and music. As such, I enjoy reading what you think about stuff you’ve tried, and stuff you own, even if you don’t agree with me. That’s part of the fun of this hobby. The many different reviews of the Sennheiser 800s are one of my favorite parts of this website. How so many different pairs of ears have a different listening experience with the same equipment is fascinating. I can't wait to add my own verse some day.

I suspect I will be diving deeper into the $1000 dollar category in the future, and playing with different amp and can combinations for the fun of it. And the sound does get better (and worse!) with different combinations, no question.

But to suggest you won’t have a good experience by plugging a pair of 650’s directly out of your iPod or MacBook is a stupid comment by stupid people. It’s elitist BS that adds little to the discussion.

Hope that wasn't too harsh! :)
"But to suggest you won’t have a good experience by plugging a pair of 650’s directly out of your iPod or MacBook is a stupid comment by stupid people. It’s elitist BS that adds little to the discussion."
I'm on board with everything you say, with the exception of this comment. After all, we are talking about a 300 ohm headphone with a specific impedance of 475 ohms in the 40 - 70 Hz range. iPods are intended for earbuds with 32 ohms impedance. How is it elitist to point out the two are really mismatched?
my favorite part of this review was the statement "where sound quality becomes no longer a factor of quality but rather personal taste".  while i think it's true that more expensive headphones do some things better, the biggest difference to me is the sound signature.
I agree with two ears! I love my hd650 :-)
It's the best headphone I've ever heard. I've heard the hd800, which I think sounded really awesome, but the hd650 has some very awesome accuracy, and I love the musicality they offer, and only costing $500 this is a real winner with me! very detailed, awesome soundstage, and depth
I've been at this a while now, and I'm much deeper into this hobby than when I wrote this-- I've been through a Burson amp, a WA6, now I own a WA5LE with $1500 in tubes, and HD800s.  I've sold my HD650s along the way, but I still consider them among the best headphones you can purchase.  
 
I stand by the statement that to suggest you won't have a good experience by plugging a pair of HD650s into your MacBook and start jamming away.  Here's why:  I'm not saying that by adding an external amp, D/A, or anything else, the experience won't get better.  I'm pointing out that out of the box, the HD650 sounds fabulous, no matter what's driving it, because it is so efficient.
 
You can expect a great experience simply by jumping up to this entry level into the world class headphone models.  The territory ahead (into the $1000-$5000 dollar headphones) is diminishing returns beyond this headphone.  You pay more, for a lesser return.
 
With the HD800 (at $1000 more in price) I had to add a $2500 amp, and then test and swap more than $1600 in tubes before I got sound that was clearly superior to the HD650.  And to be perfectly honest, on the WA6, the HD650 probably sounded better, because the HD800 is an extremely picky headphone when it comes to amplification, and is a mediocre headphone on anything cheap or low powered.  
 
The HD650 sounds great with any decent source, and gets even better as you improve your HiFi chain, while maintaining its terrific attributes such as open soundstage, deep bass response, darkness, and detail.  
 
If someone wants to get their feet wet in the high-end headphone world, the HD650 should be their first step.
In my honest opinion, with my setup, marantz cd5004, blue Dragon v3 headphone cable, monster prolink cables, and little dot mk3 with telefunken 6ak5w driver tubes, I think the hd650 is absolutely world class. You just have to feed them right. They give you what you give them...
Yep - the HD series NEEDS world class amplification - I use a WA6SE with specific tubes and they all sound exceptional - different - but any one of them I can settle down and do some serious listening - HD800 does beat both but not for all music genres or moods....I think the best value for money is the HD600 - very similar to the HD800 but I find that the HD600 is more intimate and invariably I end up going to sleep listening to the music (which is a win in my book!)
Upon first hearing the HD650s years ago I was impressed to the point that I decided almost immediately to buy them. It was at a large head-fi meet in Toronto where many people had different very high quality set-ups.
 
This was before the days when headphones costing North of $1000 was common. There were a few that did and I listened to the Sony R10 at that meet and heard what a $5000 headphone (driven with a balanced amp costing about the same) sounded like.
 
An interesting anecdote is that the same person with the Sony R10 had a pair of HD600s as his second pair of cans. The 600s saw more head time because if anything were to happen to the R10s they would be near impossible to repair.
 
I heard those 600s and then the 650s and just preferred the 650s more muscular presentation. They made much too common poorly recorded/mastered music tolerable and made well mastered music sound how I wanted it to.
 
I have heard today's top tier headphones through highly regarded sources/amps and perhaps if I had money to burn I'd buy the HD800s or LCD3s. But as a mere mortal with a very limited budget I'm grateful for the ever engaging presentation of the HD650s. I never feel like I need anything better.
 
If I bought an additional pair of cans it would likely be the HD600s again as they're sometimes preferable to these ears with a small percentage of music I listen to. At one time I had both the 600s and 650s but needed cash so had to choose between them...I kept the 650s and if need be would do the same again. I have not heard anything beat the HD650s for the same (and sometimes much more) money...but hey, I'm using my own ears so you'll have to decide for yourself!
I was in NYC yesterday, and had the opportunity of a lifetime! I went to an audio store in NYC, and I brought along my sennheiser hd650's with a moon audio blue Dragon v3 headphone cable, and I got to listen to the sennheiser hd800, and also the audeze LCD-X.....and while the hd800 had detail that was alittle better, and a bigger soundstage, and nice luscious mid's, I will admit one thing.....I preferred my hd650's way more than the hd800! That's probably because I was doing the comparisons on a Mcintosh DAC/AMP combo that costs $4500!!! Also listening to FLAC audio, and I really liked my hd650's more actually......I couldn't believe my ears....the sound coming from my hd650's was incredible at the least! Two ears is right. I think IMHO, the hd650's are class leading headphones! I actually preferred them over hd800's and the LCD-X I wouldn't believe that I would be saying what I'm saying right now, but my ears made me realize how good the hd650 really is....it was just that incredible! The hd650's really came so close in performance, that sound quality doesn't matter....it's really about personal taste. And my personal taste is the nice, thick, intimate sound from the hd650's. Just my impressions from yesterday though
@ spiderking31
 
It's good to hear from someone with a similar feeling for these great cans. You're certainly not alone in your assessment and appreciation of them.
 
A good friend of mine who owns both the HD800s and LCD2 rev.2 still gives plenty of head-time to his balanced HD650s. When you look at the price difference that's really saying something about the SQ and engaging presentation the 650s have when properly fed with a great source and amp.
 
I honestly never feel the need to upgrade and am only considering custom IEMs now for more portable listening. If they give me close to what the 650s do I'll be very happy.
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