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Sennheiser HD650 or HD600 - Do they really need an amp?

post #1 of 54
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

Do I really need a headphone amp with a Sennheiser HD600 and/or HD650? I ask because just buying the headphones will pretty much wipe me out, let alone having to spend the same again on a decent amp! I'll be using them for mixing music. I might consider buying an amp if the sound difference will be significantly better, but not just if it will be a little bit better.

Many thanks for your opinions!

post #2 of 54

simple answer: YES, yes they do. they need, and deserve a good amp.


if you don't intend to amp then, then choose a different headphone. the HD555 or HD595 will still be open back headphones, but won't have the need for an amp in most cases. they will still benefit from and amp, but it won't be completely necessary. 

post #3 of 54

When I started out in head-fi I had an emu 0404 as a source/amp and even with that little thing I could tell the differences in performance between the HD595 and HD600.  If I could do it all again I would've paid the extra $50 and bought a HD600 instead of a HD595 even without a headphone amp.  Sure the HD650/HD600's deserve a headphone amp but it didn't take golden ears for me to understand that those two headphones were in a totally different league than the HD595. 


If you do need a decent pair of "mixing" headphones, maybe try the sennheiser EH350 as those are meant for mixing purposes. 

post #4 of 54
I have the HD650's, powered by a Mackie CFX12 mixer, that I use exclusively for recording and to be honest, they don't sound very nice when plugged straight to my iPod Touch - my HD428's sound better in that configuration. But the story changes as soon as I hook the iPod up to the mixer.
post #5 of 54
Thread Starter 

Thanks everyone. I have a fairly cheap USB audio interface, but it seems to power my Fostex T40's OK. If I buy an amp aren't I just colouring the signal more though? I want it as transparent and nuetral as possible for mixing of course. I won't be mixing at high levels (not a good idea in general anyway), so it all comes down to quality really.

post #6 of 54
Originally Posted by benstat View Post

. If I buy an amp aren't I just colouring the signal more though? 

This is a tricky question. 


What does Colored mean :p


Once you answer that, are the colorations from a big fancy amp worse than the colorations from a chip-amp that might not be able to drive the load (headphones) cleanly? Depending on your mood, you can find extremely neutral amps - amps that have a sonic signature thats VERY hard to pin down, and really just let the source through. A prime example would be one of the headamp Gilmore Lite or GS-1 amps - they are about the most true-to-source amps I have ever heard.

Edited by nikongod - 12/9/10 at 9:40am
post #7 of 54

I was surprised to find that my little Sansa Clip+ DAP actually was able to drive my HD650's w/o any additional amping and produce an acceptable sound.  Sure it would sound better with an amp, but it was surprisingly (to me) good w/o one.


Same thing with my headphone out on my laptop.  The HD650's sounded decent straight out from the headphone out.  Again, of course they sound MUCH better through my HDP (DAC/AMP), but weren't horrible without amping.


So I would say, it's quite OK to buy headphones like the HD 600's or 650's and use as is w/o a separate headphone amp until you can afford to add an amp and or DAC.  JMHO.

post #8 of 54

I received my HD650 and my HeadRoom amp/DAC the same day, so I had been used to the pair. Just for the hell of it I tried the HD650 with a PA2V2 paired with my Android smartphone and it was a mess. Sure it may be ok for very low listening levels, but that's it. It still sounds much much better paired with my HeadRoom amp when playing at low volume. The PA2V2 definitely could not cleanly drive them to enjoyable levels. It was pretty much what I expected when plugging them into an amp that is only powered by 2.4 volts. The HeadRoom amp uses a 15 volt power supply.

Edited by jasonb - 12/9/10 at 8:04pm
post #9 of 54

As someone who was using the HD650's un-amped for over 3 weeks i will say this:

it makes a HUGE difference. I had ordered an audio-GD fun a few weeks back. I had also ordered an asus xonar essence ST (gaming dolby headphone purposes). I ended up getting the asus card 3 days prior to the Fun arriving. I will say the first 5 minutes of listening through the Asus's headphone amp put a stupid grin on my face. The details that opened up were like putting on a different set of cans(kinda). Sounds became more vibrant and alive, you could hear an elevated amount of detail in the music. I am listening to the FUn right now with the earth op-amp. Apprently this amp needs a few hundred hours before it sounds at it's prime. Even with that little fact(?) the music I am hearing is out of this world. The headphones are good... an amp makes them great!

post #10 of 54
Thread Starter 

Thanks again for your advice everyone. I think I've made up my mind to get the headphones first, and an amp when I can stretch to it.

post #11 of 54

just don't be disappointed if they don't sound good to you. don't make any final judgments until you try them amped.

Originally Posted by benstat View Post

Thanks again for your advice everyone. I think I've made up my mind to get the headphones first, and an amp when I can stretch to it.

post #12 of 54

HD 650 has been my very first purchase of a high end headphone. At the moment i received them i plugged them into my essence ST. At first i was extremely disappointed. I decided I would give them some burn in time and see what it does the sound. I later returned and I felt i could hear a very slight improvement but I still wasn't satisfied with it.

So I went online and ordered the m-stage along with the class a modded opa627. I waited a few days for the amp to arrive and I tried plugging the HD 650 directly into my Zen X-fi instead of my ST. And guess what, there was barely any difference; the only difference was the changed FR of the source (the zen vs st).

Anyway, the M-stage arrived. At first my jaw dropped at emphasized dynamics. The bass got tighter and the highs were brought out. However, after a few hours i realised that it was just that, a wow-effect. When i started to listen in a relaxed and focused state things started to fall. The bass was now tight, but it had lost all character and weight. The highs plus the very dynamic sounding character of the m-stage made the HD 650 into a kind of headphone I dont believe it is supposed to be, going from its "ground signature". By ground signature i mean the sound signature when I listen to the HD 650 and subtract any coloration or altering from the source and/or amp, where I get the hint of source/amp from using other headphones.

Or in other words, to me it sounded like the M-stage was pushing the HD 650 more into a brighter sound. And the result was that the mids suffered badly and the warmth and smooth character of the HD 650 had disappeared, leaving it in a more crippled state. Despite the highs and everything, it sounded somewhat veiled because of the inferior midrange.


This lead me into making a thread on this site where i posted some various observation listening to my gear. And i was suggested to get a tube amp, which i did.

And I can now 100% confidently say this. Get a tube amp, or get another headphone. Compared to all the other SS options, this is in a completely different class. The warmth can now be heared in a sort of natural/realistic state instead of the "fake" warmth the HD 650 sounded like before. The highs are still very present, yet very relaxed and doesn't sound as "digital". And the bass keeps its weight as when i had it connected into the ST, but it sounds a lot like more the bass "integrates" into the midrange. It just sounds so smooth, as if all the different frequency ranges was weaved into each other. Listening to music from the amp feels like sitting behind a very tinny piece of glass, where on the other side all the music is in its purest form. I will never be plugging my HD 650 into any SS amp again. Unveiling/amping the HD 650 is not about bringing the bass down and the highs up, it is about giving them enough midrange love and it will sound very clear, smooth and most of all complete.


The tube amp i got is the Argon HA2. It is only distributed in scandinivia and it has been very newly released so there isnt much information about it on the internet at all. I had a chance to listen to it in my local hifi store. Having also listened to a X-can V8.P, I believe they are very close in sound signature.


Anyway, you should really try a tube amp with these, especially if you get disappointed at first listen.

Edited by Mong0 - 12/11/10 at 2:11pm
post #13 of 54
Have you considered a used pair? You'll find the HD-600 used for around $200-$225. Used pairs turn up regularly at Audiogon, as well. And X2 on the Gilmore Lite/Dynalo. Excellent, clean and natural amp.
post #14 of 54

I don't think it's quite fair to categorically rule out all solid state amps as being good matches for the HD600/650's.  For example, many users on this site (not just me) are of the opinion that the Nuforce HDP (DAC/Amp) has a particularly great synergy with the HD650's.  I believe the engineers and designers of the HDP even used the HD650s as one of the headphones they were targeting to sound great with HDP.  In any event, imo, the sound of the HDP with the HD650's is very lush, warm, smooth, transparent, spacious and natural despite the fact that it's a SS and not a tube amp.  Also, imo, the tendency of the HDP to sound somewhat bright and detailed seems to mix quite well and act as somewhat of a counterbalance to the lush warm/dark HD650s.  All imo.

post #15 of 54

I have to agree with this, the 650s sound wonderful out of my Schiit Asgard SS amp.

Originally Posted by harpua View Post

I don't think it's quite fair to categorically rule out all solid state amps as being good matches for the HD600/650's.  

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