- Tonally, which sounds better to me, the HD700 or the HD 800? Out of the amps I have on hand for the HD 800, my current favorite is the Ray Samuels Audio Raptor (the Raptor is an output transformerless (OTL) tube amp). When driven by this amp (the tube selection for which was meticulously made), the HD 800 shines, with a relatively neutral-ish sound signature, its bass impact never overdone, but deep and impactful; the mids similarly even and remarkably detailed; and the treble a bit more present than neutral, and insanely detailed, but almost never harsh. It is an amp/headphone pairing I've brought to many a meet, and impressed many a fellow Head-Fi'er with.
So far, out of any amp I've tried the HD700 with (and it likewise pairs nicely with the Raptor), the HD700 is always a click behind the HD 800 at its best. The HD 800 at its best seems to convey a touch more detail across the board than the HD700 at its best. But here's the thing (and this is a big but): The HD700 possesses so many of the qualities of the HD 800 at its best, pretty much all the time, out of most any setup good or better. The HD 700's bass has for me always been deep and impactful, but never over-emphasized; the HD 700's mids are always free-breathing, detailed, and open; its treble presence north of neutral by a touch, always exacting, rarely harsh. Sound familiar?
To answer this question simply: From rig to rig, I prefer the HD700 to the HD 800 most of the time, so I feel comfortable saying the HD 700 sounds better to me than the HD 800 in most setups. When both are at their best, though, the HD 800 edges the HD700 out, being a touch more articulate from one end to the other. Getting the best out of the HD 800, however, can be a journey, with a lot of trial and error. Getting the best out of the HD700 often just involves plugging it into virtually any good amp. (Of course, in either case, I'm assuming good source components at the front.)
- Which images better, the HD700 or the HD 800? This is an area where there is as much difference as similarity. Some people believe the HD 800 one of Head-Fi-dom's best imaging headphones, with a wide, open, airy soundstage, and pinpoint sonic image placement within that--I am one of those people. Some, however, find the HD 800's imaging to be too diffuse. If you've heard the HD 800 and the latter view of its imaging is more in line with how you feel, then you'll find the HD700 an improvement. Its imaging is still very open and precise, but its width and airiness is at least a bit more reined in, and so those in the latter camp might find the HD700's imaging more coherent. I find the HD700's imaging to be one of its core strengths, relative to most other headphones; but it is, to me, another aspect of the HD700 that is just a click behind its older sibling's abilities in this regard, but still amazing.
- What don't I like about the Sennheiser HD700? I have one sonic nit to pick with this headphone, and its with sibilance. Though the HD700 does not impart sibilance, recordings that contain any over-emphasis of sibilance may have it spotlit by the HD700. This has not been an issue for me, as it rears its head only once in a while. But it is something I'd prefer was tuned out of it somehow.
- How would I compare it to my other favorite open headphones in its price range? My clear favorite in this price range has been Audeze's LCD-2 (revision 2). I won't go into a detailed comparison here, in the interest of time (I'm at CES now), but I will make a couple of observations. The LCD-2 is easy to drive, but the HD700 is more comfortable being driven in my good portable rigs than even the LCD-2. There is currently no full-sized, open headphone I prefer with my good portable rigs than the HD700, overall.
The LCD-2's bass is more impactful, and remains one of the high standards of bass reproduction at any price, so advantage in this regard goes to the LCD-2, to my ears. The LCD-2 possesses more midrange lushness, which I also find to be to the the LCD-2's advantage.
In terms of imaging, there is no contest--the HD700 images far more openly and precisely. To have such beautiful imaging in a headphone that is very comfortably and very capably driven by my good portable rigs gives a sense of big-rig imaging performance on-the-go that may be the top of its class (on-the-go). Big advantage here for the HD700.
Overall, I don't know that I will ever be able to say I like one more than the other--at this level of performance, it comes down to which flavor of awesome I feel like at the moment. And, though I've had it for a while, the HD700 is still new to me, and, knowing that its launch was coming, I've spent more time with it than with any other single headphone I have in my possession since it arrived (with the HD 800 finding second slot for the sake of the most obvious comparison). As I settle back into a fairer rotation, I'll likely have more to say about the HD700 relative to other headphones.
At its price, given its fidelity and versatility, the HD700 is fantastic. If you've had the HD 800, experienced glimpses of magic from it, but couldn't get the synergy in your system right to get it just so, then the HD700 is very likely the first headphone you should put on your to-buy list. If you're on-the-go, and are looking for a top-tier headphone you can use with your portable rigs for world class performance, put the HD700 on the top of your list. If you're simply shopping for a top-tier headphone, with no clear preferences yet established, add the HD700 to the list of contenders.
Filling the product line gap between the HD 650 and the HD 800 was long overdue, and Sennheiser's latest does the job thoroughly, completely. The Sennheiser HD700 is another world-class headphone from Sennheiser.