Pros: Comfort, sound quality, non-fatiguing, Scalability
Cons: Cable (come on Sennheiser...), pad material, fells a bit reaching
I put off this review for a while for a few reasons. First, I wanted to try these out with more than one amp before making a call on these. Second, The HD700 have some things that just generally confuse, or/and seem a bit odd/hard to describe.
The HD700 is my first venture into the >$300 price range, and I now see the potential high-end headphones really have. The scenario that has occurred while using these is confusing to say the least.
Well, the Sennheiser HD700 are one odd, strangely cool, somewhat mysterious looking headphones. The way I describe it is the title: "The Smirking Guy in the Back of the Room. 😏"
They clearly know what's up, but also have no intention of sharing any insight. They also don't care for what anyone thinks of them, while still being cool.
The headband has the same adjustment system, and many equal parts to the G4ME/GAME series, and the HD380 Pro. The part that gets weird is the headband pad, and layered, rubber-like top portion. The weirdness of this build is in part due to the headband pad. The cloth has a feel that reminds me of those tan self-adhesive sports injury wraps. It is like Sennheiser wanted to make velour bleed sound less, and at the same time be a microfiber/Velour combo. The result is kinda odd, and I don't think I like it very much. The same fabric is used on the earcups as well. The headband pad itself is thick for no reason. The cushion does not compress too easily, and the headphones do not weigh very much. As a result, it looks a bit odd, and feels as such. Actual contact space with the head is kinda low, and for me can get a tad annoying after a while. I think Sennheiser could have done a better job on the headband, specifically the cushion.
The actual earcups are something other manufacturers should have learned about a looooong time ago. Guess what! They are shaped like ears! What a novel idea! Something designed for an ear, shaped like an ear! Who would have thought! In all seriousness, this is fantastic that they are shaped like this. It makes them more comfortable for sure. The HD700 has a unique earcup design that borrows largely from the HD800. The lighter colored panels are actually a fine mesh. Light passes through these, as does some sound. The inside of the earcup is spacious compared to most other headphones, and the first to only touch one of my ears on the inside! space that would normally be covered over in most headphones is contoured by the inside mesh/dust cover thing that keeps you from touching the actual driver build. This allows much more room for your ear, and I think it looks kinda cool as well.
Sennheiser has this bad habit of making the worst cables ever. They all tend to be too long for most, defaulting to 1/4 inch, and have an unnecessary springyness.
The HD700 is no exception whatsoever. The cord is like a quality-scaled version of the cord on old Oreck vacuums. The cable loops for to easily, is isn't malleable enough to sort itself out either. It is heavy too. As someone who rearranges his setup all the time, this cord just gets in the way, and is a real pain. On top of that, these cables are super expensive to replace, if you want the official one (not that anyone would want another one of these...). At least it is braided from the split to the 1/4 inch.
I'm bored of talking about the build, just look at the thing...... Let's move on.
Adjustable headband, which pivots slightly, and rotates vertically further than anyone would need them to.
D-shaped earcups, or ear-shaped if you prefer. (Which is sad that this is a notable feature.)
removable cable (thank goodness)
Are they comfortable? yes. Are they all you ever wanted? no.
As stated before, the headband leaves something to be desired. The pad does not make enough contact with the head, and is covered in that microfiber/velour weird fabric that I don't like. I much prefer the Headband of the Philips Fidelio X2, or the Philips SHP9500. I think the SHP9500 has one of the best headband designs of all time btw.
The clamp force is low as the default width is quite high, but it is not super flexible, and can bother me a tad.
The headphones are quite lightweight, which add to the comfort too.
The pad material bothers me a bit too, which is a shame.
Only one earcup touches my ear inside at all, which I cannot say about any other headphone I have tried. The G4ME Zero comes close, and I think are overall more comfortable than the HD700.
I think most people will find the HD700 to be super comfortable, but for me there are just enough things that bother me to not hit the mark. Quite comfortable overall, but not perfect by any means.
The HD700 is once again that smirking kid in the back of the room.
I first noticed that the HD700 are quite similar to the K7XX in sound. The HD700 being more spacious, more exciting, and cleaner than the K7XX, but the K7XX seemed more neutral to me. I think the strongest link between them is that I can hear a treble spike in roughly the same place, but found it to be less of a problem on the HD700.
The HD700 is quite odd in that it has some of the best mids I have ever heard, yet the mids are a tad recessed. This trait is the opposite of most headphones. the best frequencies are usually a little forward to display their strengths well. I did not feel like I was missing the mids though. Another odd thing is that as clear as the audio is, most of the time if does not sound totally natural. This is not so in the mids, but apparent elsewhere.
Some things, especially in the mids simply sound real. For example: while listening to Tusk - Fleetwood Mac a tuba appears at one point that made my jaw momentarily drop a little.
I find the highs to be about half-way between the K7XX and the Fidelio X2, but far cleaner. The revealing factor is very, very good, but I feel it is possible to be even better.
I usually give headphones a trial with a few people who do not know very much about the subject to get their impressions without any kind of brand, or price bias. The results were overwhelmingly good for all but one person. I had to almost pry these out of the hands of a couple of people. (Odd correlation, they were both well toward the older half of the population.) They could not get over how clean, and spacious they sounded. The odd person out did not like how they felt on his head, but thought they sounded very good.
I decided I had to try HD700 with more than one amp to truly determine their worth. I found that they are surprisingly efficient, taking a bit more power than the Fidelio X2. I do note that they are much better with a better source than a mobile phone, or onboard computer audio. They do seem to scale quite well. unlike most Sennheisers, I found I liked them more with a solid-state amp than a tube amp. I think these would really shine with a high end amp/dac.
The bass is not particularly lacking, but the HD700 is easily recognizable as a bright headphone. The treble peak is noticeable, but the particular air of headphones I got specifically because they had less spike in the peak. If there is one thing sound-wise I would prefer different would be to smooth that peak even more.One good thing about the treble peak is that some vocals are quite intimate when they sit in the range of the peak.
For gaming, these are Fantastic. For CS:GO, these are a no-brainer. They are spacious, and have great imaging, especially with the right dac/amp. I went from "I hear a couple lower tuns" to "I hear two at lower tuns box, and one on the stairs." Also, they are not very fatiguing (only a little, to me at least) so that helps in the long sessions.
With the HD700, I finally understand the mp3 vs flac mess. It is possible to distinguish between 320 & flac, but the difference was so insanely small that I see no point in spending more in both storage and dollars for the "higher quality" tracks. Only in tracks which I knew well was the file format even distinguishable at all.
sound conclusion: These are seriously good headphones, they just seem a tad confused about their identity. They want to be relaxed and fun, but also wanna be super clean and accurate. The result is not doing either particularly super. Their best traits are recessed, while others are emphasized. Luckily they sound so good, that it does not matter much. These are technically the most capable headphones I have bought, but definitely not the most neutral or analytical. I will keep using them until I find something I like more, and comparable or better in comfort. The advantages they offer in sound over the K7XX is clear, but I don't think they are worth double the price for what is gained in personal taste. The people I had try them thought otherwise, as most of them found the K7XX to be very boring in comparison.
Another thing I should mention is that I got the HD598 a couple of days before the HD700, and the result was a slaughter. The HD700 makes the HD598 sound like you are listening to the song through a thick cotton-filled sock. I generally think headphones are just different rather than better or worse, but I have to say that the HD700 makes some lesser headphones sound awful, regardless of sound signature.
Suna No Oshiro - Kanon Wakeshima
Overall, I think that the HD700 is a headphone that points to what is possible in other headphones by exhibiting its own unique qualities which you cannot simply take at face value. I feel as if the HD700 is reaching toward what could be. The feeling is almost mysterious, but not in a good or bad way. They feel like that that guy who sits in the back of the room and just smirks at everyone like he is hiding something. They are a unique pair of headphones with something to prove. I will keep loving these until I find something I like even more, or realize how much money I have put into audio.
Edit: After allowing even more time for my ears to adjust, I have discovered that the HD700 is FAR better than the Fidelio X2 in bass quality, and better in extension. Again, they are not as inherently bassy as the X2, but the bass is significantly smoother, well defined, and just better.