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Is the Senn HD650 over-bright and sibilant? Some seem to think so.

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 

This has come up in a couple of threads now (maybe more) so I thought I'd give it it's own thread. Some posters are finding their 650s over-bright and harsh, to the point of giving up on them. Here's a typical post from a recent thread:


"I think I'm done with my HD650's. Over a month now, I've been admiring their wonderfully lush midrange and tonality... as well as dreading that shrill treble spike thing I keep hearing and can't get rid of. There's definitely either something fundamentally wrong with the treble or it's very incompatible with my ears. "


If this were an isolated complaint it wouldn't be worth examining, but a number of people are chiming in to agree. So what's happening? For years the main complaint about the 650 has been that its treble is not incisive enough. Now suddenly, to some ears, it seems to be coming over all K702/DT880/HD800. Has Sennheiser done something recently to  these phones, or is it the equipment these posters are using? We all know the 650 got a little brighter in 2007, or supposedly so, but no one to my knowledge has suggested it was TOO bright. As a 650 owner myself I can't explain what these posters are hearing, but I don't for a moment suggest their opinions are invalid. And since the 650 is such a popular, iconic phone it seems important to get a general consensus on the issue.


Maybe anyone replying should state how old his phone is--certainly if it's pre-2007. Also associated equipment.  





post #2 of 62

I bought a new pair in 2007 with the silver/white internals, and NEVER found them bright, sibilant, or peaked anywhere in the highs. I even wished they had a tad more treble energy and extension. I eventually sold them cause I simply was getting bored with their slight mellowness in the highs. I bought a pair of HD600's, and I feel they are more true to life when it comes to overall treble balance, and not too laid back in the highs.

Maybe Sennheiser either produced some defective units, or has made a change to their overall balance, and hasn't told anyone.

It would be very interesting to know what the real deal is.

If anyone finds out for sure, please post it.

Edited by daltonlanny - 11/28/10 at 5:32am
post #3 of 62

i have a brand new set that i got less than a week ago. they were from an authorized seller on ebay that seems to be moving a good amount of these out. so i'd imagine i got a fresh pair. if anyone knows of a place to check for a date or serial number i'll look further into it though. so since we'll assume that i got a fresh pair i'd have to say that they didn't sneak in a huge amount of extra treble. i actually have the brightness switch on my HeadRoom amp set to "filter 1" to add some extra treble and balance out the effects of HeadRooms crossfeed. i have always been quite sensitive to harsh treble and sibilance and i hear none on these HD650's. they can be bright if i listen to a bright recording, but then in that case it's the musics fault, not the headphones. my pair by themselves are def not harsh or sibilant. they have a good amount of treble for my tastes with the added brightness from HeadRooms brightness filter. without the filter engaged i'd def call them dark and boring with most recordings. without the filter engaged bright sounding recordings are no longer bright. i am not one to change a setting on a per song basis so i just work through it or turn the volume down on a bright song. 

post #4 of 62

hmm i have the white-screened hd650, post 2007, and compared to the beyer dt880, dt990, and the stax lambda pro, the hd650 just sounds so darn dark :)


not that i'm complaining. since most of my gear sounds bright by comparison, these senns give out a great contrast :)


never really found them sibilant either. that would be the dt990...

post #5 of 62

I had a post 2007 pair with silver screens and found them anything but bright. I've also owned the K701 which I found a bit too bright and the DT990 which I found to be shrill. I'm also somewhat sensitive to treble and haven't heard anything resembling elevated treble energy in the HD650. The only reason I sold them was to thin the herd for the incoming LCD2s.

post #6 of 62
I used to own both version of hd650. They are far from " bright and sibilant" compared to Grado Gs1000.
post #7 of 62

I bought myself an RS1i because i find my HD600 too mellow sounding, and the HD650 is even darker.

I suppose you're just very sensitive to treble. What other headphones have you heard that you liked? It could be your source that's too bright, or maybe your HD650 are being underpowered.

post #8 of 62

Very strange.  I never heard a treble peak in the HD-650.

post #9 of 62
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Aizura View Post

I suppose you're just very sensitive to treble. What other headphones have you heard that you liked? It could be your source that's too bright, or maybe your HD650 are being underpowered.

If this is directed at me, I'm just relaying what others are saying. I don't find my 650s harsh or bright at all; far from it. I use mine with a Cambridge Audio A340SE integrated, and it might help those posters troubled by the rolled off treble of the 650 if I explain why I chose this particular amp . I picked the 340SE for 2 reasons:


1. It got good reviews re sound quality, and those reviews all noted that it had a mildly lean, incisive quality--the ideal match for the slightly bass heavy, treble light 650.


2. It has tone controls that only affect the frequency extremes, particularly the treble, which has a maximum boost of +7db at 20khz with a rollover frequency of 10khz. In other words the boosting starts very high, in that area where the 650 is starting to roll off drastically. The effect at maximum boost is so subtle that a couple of 340 owners have posted that they cannot hear any difference with the tone controls switched in or out even at maximum; nevertheless it's enough to compensate for the 650's slight (but infamous) veil. This makes the 340 a synergistic match for the 650 whilst still being of a high enough quality not to compromise the phone's organic lushness.  


As you may have guessed I'm not a great fan of dedicated HP amps, but that's another story and shall be told another time...

post #10 of 62

I don't find my HD650s bright or siblant UNLESS I'm listening to a particularly poor recording.  Which I'm guessing is often the case for this sort of thing.

post #11 of 62

I shall chip in my experience with hd650 and hd600. They were always abit dull or rounded off (treble wise) compared to k701/k501 and rs1 despite whatever amp or source you use with them. One example is i compared hd600 to dt880 in my friend'setup that consisted of marantz cd63 and darkvoice. Though vocal sounded sweeter with the hd600 , the dt880 has more treble presence.  The same hd600 sounded better in my own previous setup ( arcam cd 192 and mapletree amp). I must admit that when it comes to male vocal , they get the tonality right. In other words , hd650 may be more to the mid low region of the sound.

post #12 of 62

I also don't find the HD650 bright. In fact, they're dark enough for me to be able to listen to them for hours and hours - I'm talking 4 to 6 hours or even more sometimes.


I get fatigued from my SR60, M50 and SRH840 long before I get fatigued from my HD650. In fact, my head will get tired from wearing them before my ears get fatigued from the sound.


I pretty much only listen to self-ripped flacs if that has anything to do with it.

post #13 of 62

HD650  over-bright and sibilant????


People are you serious?


For years I've read headfi and listened to people(non-headfi members) comment on the confusing and contradictory information this site.I really am interested in what many people say here and have learned a good deal about the headphone world and the perceptions of those within it.




At this point in my life I have spent 40 years on this planet intimately involved with sound.My parents and most friends were or are hardcore audiophiles and trained and professional musicians.I have 20 years of professional music experience in studios,bars,theaters,arenas etc... I'm not bragging but I have VERY MUCH experience with sound.


My HD650 provides consistently the most non-sibilant and non-bright listening for me.I know this based on my real world experience and this:In the last 2-3 years I have developed tinnitus.This makes it impossible for me to listen to treble in any excess.The HD650 is the only headphone  I can listen to without pain.I can no longer listen to my grados or shures.


I am aware of the fact that I don't use the typical headfi terminology here but...................

post #14 of 62

Something is VERY wrong with the system if HD650 sound bright and sibilant. 


Perhaps its the amp, more likely its the source, and there is always the possibility that the problem is square between the earcups. 

post #15 of 62

it's not over-bright, the upper treble is not recessed.  It may be more notable due to the small dip in the lower treble/upper mids.  There is no sibilance introduced by the headphone, only the recording and sibilant sounds.  Cymbals, for example, seem fine to me.

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