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Classical Music ... HD800 vs. HD650 vs. HD600?

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

 

Hello:

 

I am a classical music lover who is planning on purchasing headphones soon. My current system is “vintage” but good quality (McIntosh, Nakamichi, Klipschorns, etc.). I haven’t got much experience with headphones but I've learned a lot from this great site. I am heavily leaning toward the Sennheiser phones mostly due to their great reputation, high marks on soundstage/imaging and comfort.

 

I am considering the HD800s, despite their high cost but have also heard (and read here) great things about the HD600 and HD650. I am wondering if any of you have gone through this thought process and what your recommendations are? I would especially appreciate a description of advantages/disadvantages of these models.

 

In addition to sound quality, I am placing a heavy weight (no pun intended) on comfort. I am a big guy and have a large head and I have read the HD800s are the most comfortable (and expandable) of the three models.

 

To reiterate, these phones will be used only for classical music – about equally split between orchestral works and chamber/solo piano.

 

Thanks very much for any help you can give. BTW, I did search and found a more open-ended thread from January – it was helpful but got a bit sidetracked.

 

Thanks again,

 

Dave  

post #2 of 27
Welcome! I throw quite a bit of classical at the HD-800 and it's a real favorite. Extremely detailed and comfortable to wear for hours. The HD-600 and HD-650 are also quite good, but lack the ultimate detail and transparency of the HD-800. I can't say anything bad about the two, but the HD-800 is better. My head size is average (though one ex insisted that it's too big) and the HD-600/650 was a little tight, so they may not work for you.

Though have you considered the older AKGs? The K-501 has been a go-to headphone for classical fans. Sadly out of production, but they turn up around $150. They have a natural, organic and detailed sound with a huge soundstage. Even if you get a HD-800, look out for a K-501. You'd probably enjoy it Nd they're very comfortable. Same with the also discontinued AKG K-1000. The K-1000 is an earspeaker that doesn't touch your ears - very comfortable and it has the best soundstage of any headphone. The sound is similar to the K-501, but with more extension and detail. A side benefit is that the K-1000 is designed to hook directly to a speaker amp. It needs 8W or better. The K-1000 is sought after, but they turn up around $1,000-$1,500 depending on condition.

A couple dark horses you might like are the AKG K-240DF and Beyerdynamic DT48. The K-240DF is also out of production, but turns up under $100. As comfortable as the K-501, but it has a very neutral sound - it was intended for serious studio work. So is the DT48, which has been in production forever. About $300 new though I've found them for $100 or less used. It's built like a tank, with a steel headband and turned aluminum cups. Heavy and I only listen to it for an hour at a time or so. Then again, it's one of the best I've heard for piano and small chamber work - not so great for orchestras. It has a wonderfully transparent tone and is a favorite. I don't know if you'd like it, but if one shows up on eBay for $70, give it a try.

You're also going to get comments from the Stax Mafia and various planar owners. Stax makes wonderful headphones, but amplification can double or triple the cost of the headphones. The LCD2 is great, but I've only listened to them for maybe 30 minutes total, so I don't know enough to make a solid recommendation.

For classical, my headphone listening is a tossup between the HD-800 and K-1000. Both are tremendous. With speakers, I like to run ESL-63s for classical.
Edited by Uncle Erik - 7/16/11 at 9:53pm
post #3 of 27

The Sennheiser HD800 sound amazing for classical genres.


Edited by ZARIM - 7/16/11 at 10:20pm
post #4 of 27
Thread Starter 

 

Thank you both for your input. I am finding this a little daunting because the only headphones I’ve ever owned (1980’s Koss) are old and pretty poor and now in disrepair to boot! Moreover, there seems to be no way for me to try out the different models before I buy. There are no shops nearby that stock Senns (or any other decent headphones). I am planning on purchasing the headphones from Amazon who allows a 30-day return. This is a wonderful selling feature but I don’t want to abuse it.

 

Uncle Erik – I just looked on eBay just to get an idea on the AKGs. There are no 501s currently up for sale but, as you say, a pair recently sold for $130. An AKG 1000 just sold for $1265. Wow! For that price I would definitely go for a new HD800 instead.

 

What I am guessing will be very important to me is what you folks call “soundstage” or “imaging.” The problem I’ve had with the very few phones I have sampled in the past is that the music seems to be coming to my ears equally from both sides. It’s just there – as if coming at me from all directions. I have wonderful speakers (Klipschorns) that I listen to daily. I love that I can hear the detail of the instruments across the soundstage – the horns are where they should be, the strings, etc. If I can’t duplicate this to a great extent with headphones, I’ll just pass on the idea of getting them at all. My wife (of 42 years) is a saint and is very understanding about my listening. But there are times (late at night, for example) that I would like to listen to my music louder than would be fair to her. Sorry to be long winded but that is more of the background here.

 

I have read with interest Skylab’s very thorough review of the HD800s on this site. He also mentioned the superior soundstaging of the 800s compared to anything else he has heard. I have also read similar comments from other reviews. So that is how I came to seriously consider the HD800. The key question – one that I know has no clear-cut answer – is how much better is the HD800 than the HD650 (or 600) on this single parameter? Said another way: Is it worth $1500 vs $398 for the HD650?

 

I know that no one can answer this for me, but I certainly welcome your comments.

 

Thanks again for all your help – I do appreciate it.

 

Dave


Edited by MBlue72 - 7/17/11 at 1:09pm
post #5 of 27

If you don't want to spend the money on the HD800, you want to buy new and you want soundstage then perhaps also take a listen to the K702 which I use for my clasical listening.

post #6 of 27

For having heard all the lambda models and all the Stax amps, I can confirm that an entry-level Stax system is very good with classical music. I cannot compare them to other headphones on their price range as I lack experience in sedentary audio. So in addition to the headphones you're looking at, you can definitely get interested in Stax headphones.

post #7 of 27

I agree with Uncle Erik. HD800, K-1000, and I'll add the HE-6/HE-500 to that.

post #8 of 27

Dave, save some money for a nice SS amp, and just go with the K-702 they're the one for acoustic and classic music. 

post #9 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by Acix View Post

Dave, save some money for a nice SS amp, and just go with the K-702 they're the one for acoustic and classic music. 


x2, I am using the Burson HA160 with the K702s and it is quite good.
 

 

post #10 of 27

i am happy with and currently use the HD600. Many would probably say its not the best for classical, and I would add it needs good amplification to open up its sound.

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MayaTlab View Post

For having heard all the lambda models and all the Stax amps, I can confirm that an entry-level Stax system is very good with classical music. I cannot compare them to other headphones on their price range as I lack experience in sedentary audio. So in addition to the headphones you're looking at, you can definitely get interested in Stax headphones.



Have't heard the Lamdas yet but have been researching it recently, in preparation the next classical-centric system. I have read comments that its high energy treble can overpower even classical, and sometimes impart an off tonal quality. Hope to do some auditions on my next trip to America.

post #11 of 27

I used to own hd600 and now own a k702. 702s are fantastic with both classical and jazz

post #12 of 27


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by tamu View Post

I used to own hd600 and now own a k702. 702s are fantastic with both classical and jazz


Excellent suggestion; the K702 isn't especially good for rock, pop or electronica in my opinion. I will however agree that they are very well suited to classical, acoustic, jazz etc.

 

The HD800 is a great headphone but it's an allrounder that can do metal, rock, pop, electronica, classical, acoustic, jazz, r'n'b etc..... that's what you're paying for really - the versatility.

 

If you only going to listen to classical save the money and get the HD600 or K702 and be done with it, $200-400 headphones are very, very good these days. If you really want to spend more.... get the HE-6 instead and drive it from a speaker amp, it's better for classical than the HD800.

post #13 of 27

Based on your second post you may want to avoid the HD600 and HD650, as the imaging with those is not the most impressive nor are they the most spacious sounding (this can be improved with the right amp, though only to an extent). If you're willing to consider older models the K400 is very nice if you can track down a pair. Right now I am very happy with my Q701 for classical music. Compared to the K701 I used to own they are less colored sounding in the midrange and seem a bit smoother in the upper frequencies. I have not heard the HD800 but I have spent some time with the T1 and K1000 and I don't know that the additional price for those two would be justified over that of the Q701 for example.

post #14 of 27

If I had to pick between those three it would easily be the HD800 and the HD600 is a second. The HD650 masks too many details in classical.

 

Too bad you don't have the T1 in there. It's a darned good phone for classical, and even cheaper than a HD800.

post #15 of 27

 Having heard all 3 about the only genre I think the HD800 are good for is classical and bass soft music.  They are better than the HD600/650 but not 4x the price better.  If money's no issue get the HD800 otherwise stick with the HD600.

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