Introduction, Source, Testing
Well, this is it. My long and beloved headphone journey has finally come to an end for the time being. I’ve been through many, and headphone after headphone failed to impress me in some aspect or another. I was beginning to lose hope in finding that “perfect” headphone for me. But then one day, I finally decided to purchase a MKIII. Now, I had to start all over again with trying out headphones -- or so I thought. I remembered two headphones that really stuck out from the rest of the bunch, and I wanted to get them both once more, not only to try them out with my new tube amp, but also compare them both side by side. So I bought the HD650, and a few weeks later, the D2000. Now, it’s up to my ears to tell me which one will be my “perfect” headphone, and the one I will keep indefinitely.
My testing will be consisting of two systems. My first system will be my P1260 CD player hooked into my Little Dot MKIII with Slyvania 6AK5 tubes. The tubes and amp itself have well over 150 hours of burn in time. My second system will be nothing but directly plugging them into my iAudio 7 with a flat EQ and no sound enhancements. My HD650 has around 80 hours of burn in, although my D2000 probably only has around 30 hours, guesstimating low. Both headphones have not been modded in any way, shape, or form, excluding me stretching the HD650’s headband for added comfort.
I find the only way I can get a truly accurate reading on a headphone is to compare it directly to another, side by side. Thus, I have both the HD650 and the D2000 with me right this second, and I will be doing extensive AB testing on a variety of music, at various volumes. With some songs, I prefer to test only a specific 30 second or so segment, such as a chorus, so I don’t get overwhelmed with trying to remember too much information. I then listen to it back and forth, multiple times, until I can tell a what differences set them apart. I also listen to specific segments four or five times in a row with one headphone -- to burn it into my head. Once I switch headphones, it becomes drastically apparent at the differences. When testing music, I also listen for moments I have fatigue, boredom, emotion, involvement, etc. Then, I can directly compare that with the other headphone to see if it has the same results. My testing consists of many songs and segments of songs, played multiple times across many days, to insure I get the best possible reading when judging a headphone.
Appearance, Build, Function, Cable
Ah, a great aspect of any headphone is its appearance. Whenever I’m not listening to one, I’m looking at it. Yes, I’ve seen and owned ugly headphones and didn’t really mind, but headphones earn extra brownie points when they just look flat out awesome! Because it’s always nice when something you buy looks as nice and luxurious as the price tag. Case in point, the D2000. Everything about this headphone just looks and feels absolutely luxurious. It’s very well made and uses great materials -- which makes this without a doubt, the most pleasing headphone I have ever laid my eyes on, or held in my hand. It just looks and feels expensive! Definitely something I can leave hanging on display, or be seen with it on my head. Now, let’s move on over to the HD650. You look at it, and you think nothing. Is that a bad thing? Of course not. It just doesn’t really make any sort of statement in my mind. Some headphones really do look ugly, and your eyes start to water just thinking about looking at them, and others like the D2000, you simply cannot get enough of looking at it. But with the HD650, it’s just plain old headphone. Nothing special, it’s just a headphone.
Alright, now since appearance is only skin deep, let’s look a little closer and examine how well these things are made. We’ll start out with the D2000. Now, I want to get a point across first. Everyone knows about the infamous screw falling out of the D2000, and many users claim it just looks too fragile to last. Well, I’m not going to use these as a substitute football helmet and I will definitely not be using them as a kickball, so I really have nothing to worry about. If these sheer off during my normal, careful use, then I’ll be concerned. But I have a feeling that won’t be an issue, so I’m not too concerned with their labeled fragility. Looking beyond that, these things are built really well, and I have no concerns whatsoever. Materials are top notch and very solid, and there is nothing I have an issue with. But unfortunately, when I move on to the HD650, issues suddenly become apparent. I remember when I had my first pair, and I was scared to death about how fragile they seemed to be made. I was most likely being a bit too paranoid as I shouldn’t worry as long as I was careful. So, with my second pair, I left worry and doubt with the first pair, so it wouldn’t interfere with my enjoyment of music. But I still must it to the attention of possible buyers as just a slight warning. First, these things are completely plastic. Yes, Fischer Price plastic. Compared to the very fine and solid materials the D2000 is made up of, this is a quite a disappointment. But I won’t judge on material alone, as even if it was constructed of something as insane as bungee cord adjusters and a bumpy headband, I couldn’t indicate on its sound based off that alone. But the HD650’s plastic has been known to crack, especially around the headband, and boy just the feel of this headphone does not look promising. No worries, just be careful like I am with my 2nd pair, and it will live life well. I hope. (He is where I get flocks of comments from HD650 owners claiming they abuse it to the max without any signs of wear. But hey, we abused our plastic toys when we were young too, and they still work to this day).
Well, I’m on a roll with the HD650, so let’s start out with it this time. Okay, let’s take an even closer look at the HD650 and start playing around with its functionality. The thing that is most apparent is how difficult it is to properly adjust the headband. Not only are there no notches or any sort of way to tell how far it’s been pulled out, but it’s very stiff and won’t come out with an easy tug. You won’t really know how far each side is pulled out, so you will have to just guess by eyeing it. But once you have it at the perfect position, it’s not like your head changes sizes every day, so most likely not that big of a problem. But, if you are showing friends your headphones, it may be a pain in the butt adjusting it for each person. Once again, nothing huge, but needs to be mentioned. The swivel on the HD650 is slightly strange as well, as it doesn’t really swivel -- at first. HD650 owners will know that that the headband can turn a bit forward and backward on a “point” that will literally dig into the headband itself, providing a nonfluid and slightly forced rotating. This will also scratch off some of the metal headband paint as well, but don’t worry, you cannot really see the scratched off paint. It does loosen up a bit over time though. Overall, for a $400 headphone, they obviously didn’t take too much into the design, as it has the absolute worst headband adjustment I have ever used. But hey, who’s giving gold stars out to perfect headband adjusters? But also, the overall build quality is probably one of the most disappointing I have seen as well, especially for anything remotely costing this much. If you have the HD650 on order now, and you are panicked by what you just read, try not to be. Just be careful, treat it well, and it should be fine. Alright, now that that is out of the way, I’ll explain the D2000. First off, cup swivel is smooth. Enough said. I just hope that single screw that enables the swivel and holds the cup doesn’t fall out! But that’s not really what I wanted to mention about the D2000’s functionality. It’s the headband adjustment system that I find truly extraordinary. Not only is it fantastically durable with two metal poles on each side, but they have deep notches in them that make a nice “click” whenever you adjust it to the next notch. This makes it absolutely pain free to adjust the headband, and you rest in peace knowing that it is plenty durable. Knowing this, the D2000 has the best headphone adjustment I have ever come across, and also the most durable. Another great component to a very well build headphone.
So let’s go ahead and jump to the secondary feature of all headphones, the cable. I’ll start out with the D2000 and its incredibly thick, yet stiff cable. Well, it is after all just a cable, so I really don’t even mind the worst headphone cables. The D2000 is not in any way bad, in fact, I find it quite nice. Resembling a garden hose, the D2000’s cable seems really quite durable. It’s covered in a type of cloth and is quite stiff, so it looks and feels pretty touch. It’s very moldable due to its stiffness, so kinks or anything of that nature isn’t a problem. Now, the HD650’s cable is really something else. It has more of a rubber texture and is of very high quality. No stiffness, little memory retention, and feels just right. It’s an excellent cable on top of it being detachable! Both of the cables on these headphones are good, with the HD650’s being better, but the cable isn’t something I really care for, but it’s always nice to have a good one. Regardless, both cables pale in comparison to the mighty AD700’s cable, which is the absolute best I have ever had. But, a cable is a cable, so even if it’s barbed wire, I still just want to listen to my music.
Initial and Long Term Comfort
I still remember when I first put the D2000 on my head. Wait, did I put them on my head? Of course I did, but I didn’t even notice, especially after a few minutes. Somehow, these now ended up as the absolute most comfortable headphone to first be place on my head -- or in other words, initial comfort. Within no time at all, they literally disappeared from my head -- something I normally wouldn’t say about any headphone, even the outstanding AD700. And yes, even the AD700 falls to the D2000’s supreme initial comfort. That is really saying something! Moving along to the HD650, I also remember when I first put these on my head as well. Let’s just say, I almost couldn’t get them off. Luckily, I carry a crowbar on me at all times, and they were safely removed with minimal damage to my head and headphone itself. After removed, I hastily adjusted the metal arms so the clamping force was greatly reduced and tried them on once more. Wow! What a difference! With that, these are really quite comfortable now! In fact, these are definitely now in my Top 5 most comfy headphone list. Not as good as the AD700 or the D2000, but still better than most.
Now here is an aspect that many users overlook when buying or trying a headphone. I’ve had headphones in the past that felt lovely when first placed on my head, but suddenly turned out to be horrendously uncomfortable after only half an hour. The true test of comfort is how long they can last on your head, just in case you accidentally get sucked into whatever you have them plugged into. That said, the HD650 and the D2000 are actually about tied in this area. Yes, tied. Unfortunately with how good the D2000’s initial comfort is, my headbandfobia likes to strike me down after only about a good hour with those on (I have a problem with nearly all headbands). As soon as I adjust them a bit or take a small break, I’m ready once again to wear them for another hour. The HD650’s headband on the other hand, is fantastic! It has padding in just the right places and also has that special miracle indent right in the middle. That really does wonders for me. Unfortunately, after about the same amount of time as the D2000’s, the ear pads get to me this time, as I can start to feel the ring around my ear where the ear pad rests. No biggie for either headphone, as a little readjustment or a small break will do the trick. But once again, the AD700 will now be the king in another aspect beside the cable -- its unrivaled long term comfort. I believe it was a little over five hours without even touching them, and then I got sick of playing whatever game I was playing. But remember, if you never plan on wearing them all that long in the first place, then you have nothing to worry about. Both are very comfortable within an hour.
Bass, Midrange, Treble, Balance, Overall Sound
Now this is what I’m talking about! Probably my favorite aspect of any good music is the bass. Whether the relentless bass drum, the overemphasized synthesized bass, or the sorrowful cellos, bass is the absolute best way to get goose bumps out of me -- when used wisely. So far, out of all the headphones I’ve ever owned, I am pretty sure these two do it the best. Good mix of presence and quality. HD650’s bass is excellent, and never steps out of line. It’s balanced with the rest of the spectrum, and has its proper place within the music. Although known as having more bass than average headphones, the HD650’s bass is perfect in a balanced sense. Now with the D2000, the bass sounds deeper and possesses greater authority. To me, I find it simply sounds better. Easily put, the D2000 has superb bass, and in no way do I find it flabby or uncontrolled like some have mentioned. It just sounds completely awesome, especially with songs with a good beat! For some songs, it might be too much, but since I’m on the bass head side of the spectrum, I really do love it with nearly anything. Mind you, I highly dislike the XB500’s bass, so it’s not like I enjoy the brains shaken out of me. I like the bass to be somewhat balanced, yet impactful -- fitting in with the rest of the music. The D2000 does that best for me. Although the HD650’s bass is still good, it’s just not as good.
You won't be seeing a white flag from the HD650 anytime soon, especially since we are about to hit it's strong point in sound. When I first wrote this review, I actually left out this section. Why? For me, midrange is fairly easy to glance over unless I really have my listening ears on. Either that, or these two headphones sound identical in the midrange and no comments need to be made. But everyone knows that's not the case. This is the only thing that makes me slightly jealous of the HD650 over the D2000. I almost glanced over the HD650's very lush and smooth midrange when I first listened, but after a closer examination, it became suddenly apparent. The D2000 was hiding something from me. I was having so much fun listening to the sound, I didn't even pay attention to the midrange. When I listened past the "fun", I noticed, "Yes, there definitely is a recession in the midrange compared to the HD650". When listening to some songs, I really don't even notice. But with many songs, I notice that in comparison to the HD650, there is something slightly missing. Or at least, there is too little of something. This only becomes apparent when I switch to the HD650's literally "perfectly" balanced sound, in which everything comes to it's own -- especially the midrange. I listen to the HD650 and hear that the middle has been filled, thus resulting in a more full sound. And yes, the HD650 does sound more full than the D2000 on some songs, while the D2000 feels more full on others. But the D2000 get's it's fullness from it's subterranean bass, while the HD650 uses it's very full and lush midrange. With songs on the soothing side of the spectrum, I will admit the HD650 has more skill in presentation, but the D2000 is no slouch. The presence of midrange alone will label the HD650 as mellow, hypnotizing, and relaxing, and the slight absence will label the D2000 as exciting, energetic, and full of life. Once again, both headphones sound fantastic, and I will admit the D2000 is more versatile with most music, but the HD650 comes to it's own when given the right stuff.
I can describe every single frequency of the HD650 with one word: Balanced. So I’ll say the same thing here as I did in the previous paragraph. The HD650’s treble just doesn’t step out of line. It has never once fatigued me, and I have never caught any signs of sibilance with any kind music. But as mentioned a bit before, the HD650’s sound is almost too safe. It doesn’t take any chances at boosting anything -- which for me is a bad thing, as a balanced headphone doesn’t sound as good as you might think. The D2000 though, gets the treble perfect. It uses its bass for a solid foundation, and its treble for a lift with vocals, details, and the sense of life. Compared to the HD650, the D2000 definitely seems brighter, but standalone, it’s not incredibly apparent like it was with the Beyers. Luckily, the D2000 is nowhere near the terribly bright treble of the DT990, and even the DT880. With those two headphones, sunglasses are required when listening, as you can actually see the incredible brightness as it breaches your audible sense, and crosses into your visual sense. Hmm, impressive! Anyway, for me, the D2000’s treble is preferred, as it gives it the perfect boost in categories mentioned above. And once again, the HD650’s treble is perfectly fine, but it’s too “safe” for me. The HD650’s whole sound is just too “safe” for me. But again, that’s not a bad thing.
Define the word HD650: Balanced. No, I didn’t call it neutral, so don’t correct me. The entire spectrum is balanced, and there seriously was never a time I thought a specific part of its sound was overemphasized or fatiguing due to presence. That’s pretty impressive, especially since the HD650 is the only headphone I have ever listened to that sounds so incredibly smooth and balanced. That’s another reason why I bought a second pair. But with that, it gets its relaxed and slightly boring, and even lifeless sound. But the D2000 gets it perfect, by boosting the bass and treble, which creates a better foundation and solid sound with its bass, and a more detailed and lively presentation with its treble. Perfect. I’m not sure how Denon pulled it off, but it just sounds wonderful. I think I’ve finally found “my” sound, and I just love it!
I knew this section would be tough. Not only was it difficult to pick a favorite from these two fantastic headphones, but it was also difficult to describe the strengths and weaknesses in their sound as well -- as they both just sound great. But simply put, all I’ll say is the D2000’s sound simply has more energy and life. It has more music interaction, has a more exciting presentation, and has much more life than the HD650. Don’t get me wrong, the HD650 has an absolutely fantastic and unique sound, which I found superior to everything I’ve tried in the past. But it’s simply too smooth and relaxed for my tastes. No, really, it’s so incredibly smooth and relaxed, that I actually find it quite frightening! Many may prefer this instead of a more lively, energetic, and involved sound like the D2000, and that’s perfectly fine -- we all have our preferences, but I will just mention this. If your music collection consists of mostly music with any type of beat or energy, get the D2000 hands down. They are just so much more alive than the HD650 in that regard. And no, I’m not talking about Grado alive -- I think Grado sound is horribly shrill and empty. The D2000’s sound has a full, fairly balanced, and extremely solid sound. Yes, that is exactly what the D2000 is: Solid. It just does everything well. Simply the best all-around headphone I’ve ever bought and is the absolute best for lively music. But with the HD650, comes its extremely laid back sound. This is what I found out to be its biggest weakness regarding sound. It’s a double edged sword. With energetic music with good beats and catchy lyrics, the HD650 is simply too boring. I listen to music at the edge of my chair, just wanting to jump out and dance, but the HD650 restricts me from doing so. It holds me back and says “Nope, I’m not giving that final push to you.” No matter how close I am to being a part of the music, even when the volume is cranked up, the HD650 just won’t let me get in all the way. Due to this, the entire spectrum really does seem to have a “veil” when listening to anything remotely exciting. It feels as if the whole spectrum is slightly blocked, so any sort of resolution cannot be made. With this, you can definitely hear something missing with the sound. But with slow and calming music, it does surprisingly well, as nothing in the spectrum is ever out of line, and it can put you in a sleepy mood. But the big question is, “So I guess the HD650 is better for mellow music, and the D2000 is better for lively music?” Well, yes and no. Just like a similar case with the DT880, I’ll take the D2000 for nearly every type of music over the HD650, even though the HD650 does excel with slower, mellower music. But even with that music, I’ll still be perfectly fine and enjoy it just as much listening with the D2000 over the HD650. Like I said, the D2000 simply makes anything you throw at it sound great. But, when you start throwing stuff at the D2000 that it’s REALLY good at to begin with, like music that makes you want to dance, then you will truly discover music like you never have experienced it before. That I like.
Conclusion, Final Thoughts, Recommendation
It’s been a long journey. I’ve seen many, I’ve tried many, and I’ve been disappointed by many. The HD650 and the D2000 were the only two that really had me attached to their sounds and left me thoroughly impressed. I don’t care what all the trained professionals say, these two do indeed sound similar, and I love both of their sounds. Forget the open and closed debates, and scrap the endless nonsense terminology thrown out. And most of all, ignore all the people who think they are all that and a bag of chips, that claim they hear everything that a graph has to show. The thing is, these two headphones do both sound similar, and yet both still sound great. The only main differences I can detect is the HD650 is ever so slightly more spacious, much more laid back, and is a little more balanced. How about detail and clarity? They both do really well, but don’t expect to hear things that are unable to be heard. Again, both have great detail and clarity, and I won’t declare a clear winner. Just note that if it is caught on the recording, you’ll hear it on either of these headphones. Although, in a general sense, since the D2000 does have the overall superior sound quality to my ears, I’ll have say that the D2000 slightly edges the HD650 in both detail and clarity -- most likely due to its increased treble. So in all, the D2000 nearly gets every sound award as well as getting nearly all the external awards as well. Beyond that, I get the psychological satisfaction in owning a miracle headphone.
Stop now Sennheiser fans. I’m not bashing the HD650 -- In fact, I haven’t even begun the reign of terror I’m about to go on about the HD650. No, just kidding. Jokes aside, I’m not against the HD650 like many of you have just perceived, I am simply suggesting to everyone that a cheaper, less glorified headphone takes the cake it the majority of aspects regarding superiority. The HD650 does have a great sound, and it did in fact beat out both of my Beyers. I loved it at one point, and I didn’t think I would like anything better in that price range, but I got introduced to something I simply found better. But in no way is the HD650 bad, it just got superseded by the D2000. Denon fans, I now can see and understand why you are fans. The D2000 (and the rest of the series) is absolutely superb! It just does everything great, and not in just music, but also in its basic design and appearance as well. It’s just a stellar headphone in all aspects -- one I would be more than happy to keep for years to come due to its incredible price to performance ratio.
My recommendation? If you are in the market for an excellent reference or all around headphone, I will instantly and without any hesitation, highly recommend the D2000. It simply will make anything you throw at it, sound fantastic! It’s built better, it looks better, it sounds better, and it even costs less. Two of those four are indeed facts, while the other two are preference, but still, favor leans for the D2000 any way I slice it. If you already own a nice reference headphone, think about picking up the D2000 or one of its siblings someday -- just to try it out. It’s truly an amazing piece of work, and I am elated that I have finally found a headphone that I can stand by, and better yet, simply just enjoy!
Edited by Katun - 1/7/11 at 12:56pm