Pros: Exceedingly comfortable, easy to drive, many of the strengths of the HD800 at a lower price
Cons: The price will be an issue if it doesn't get discounted, highs can be bothersome, plastic construction may not feel like $1K headphones
Just adding a quick summary based on my time with the prototype version of the HD700. In my opinion this is a very good headphone, yet I know it won't be perfect for everybody. But no headphone ever is!
It basically takes the HD800 sound, reduces the treble energy to some degree, and possibly bumps up the bass impact a tad. Either that or it just seems that way due to the treble balance. Since mine was a prototype version, there is a chance that the final sound will change. Therefore I'll be speaking in generalities. I know for sure that there will be updates to the headband to offer more padding. Despite that, I already found the HD700 to be supremely comfortable. Maybe it is just my head being the perfect size for them, but I think these are the most comfy headphones I've ever worn. Revised padding shouldn't change that, and if anything will make it even better.
As mentioned above, these have a similar overall tone to the HD800. If you despised the HD800 then the HD700 probably won't win you back. But for some people this might be perfect. Maybe you loved the HD800 but couldn't afford it. Or maybe you could afford the HD800 alone but not the quality amplification it requires. Or maybe you loved the HD800 clarity and soundstage but couldn't quite get over the lightness of the bass in relation to the treble. The HD700 addresses all of those issues to some degree:
- At $999, it isn't cheap, but still quite a bit less than the $1500 HD800
- It seems significantly easier to drive. Not only that, but it seems less "picky" about amplification, pairing fairly well with almost anything I threw at it. This might be partially due to the less tipped-up sound signature in general.
- It has a somewhat more "mainstream" ratio of bass to treble. By that I mean the treble is shelved down by a noticeable amount (though still prominent - this is no HD650). So while the best sound still comes by way of Diana Krall style "audiophile" tracks, you can comfortably play some Steve Miller Band and not feel like the bass is too shy. I know that many people find the HD800 perfect in this regard - but we have to recognize that many others do not.
Is this headphone actually better than the HD800? Not exactly. The HD800 still has superior imaging and soundstage, though the HD700 comes rather close. The HD800 still has better details. And on the proper rig, I think the HD800 is just a more transparent window into the music. But the HD700 comes close in many ways, and doesn't take as much to get there in terms of source and amplification. I think it could be a better match for more people and more systems.
It isn't the perfect headphone. There is an issue with sibilance in some tracks. In other cases the highs can be peaky and sharp. The plastic construction, while extremely light weight and comfortable, will be fundamentally disappointing to some users. And in the end some folks will still find them too bass light. There is strong competition from planar models like the HE-500 and LCD-2, though in my opinion the HD700 is roughly as good as those (though obviously different). The HE-500 manages to undercut the HD700 by $300, which can't be ignored.
Take all this discussion with a huge grain of salt - these are not yet finalized, and could have some significant changes before they come to market in a few months. A big determining factor will be the manner in which Sennheiser handles their sales: if retailers are forced to strictly enforce the MSRP, I believe there will be less interest. But if the "street price" drops to around $800-something I believe they will become extremely popular. Either way I believe HeadFi will be buzzing about the HD700, for better or worse, for some time.
And now some eye candy: