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HD650 Review by Headphones.com

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Sennheiser’s HD650 is one of the purest sounding headphones I have ever heard.  While quite a few offerings trump the HD650s in terms of detail retrieval, soundstage and instrument placement – very few headphones sound as seductively beautiful as the HD650.  For this reason, I often find myself returning to the HD650 even though newer flagships are stronger in specific areas.

HD650.jpg&lr=t&bw=320&w=320&bh=320&h=320

The HD650 was an evolution of the HD600, a headphone which was already an evolution of another headphone – the HD580.  Experienced headphone audiophiles like to debate which of these three headphones is the superior one.  It is generally agreed however that this trilogy was comprised of Sennheiser’s three finest dynamic transducer headphones until the release of their HD800 in 2009.  Even today, there are plenty of headphone enthusiasts whom prefer the warm lush tone of the HD650 to the more neutral / analytical tone of the HD800.  For me, it is a matter of which amp I am using and which music I am listening to.  The HD650 are much less picky when it comes to amplification.  For relatively little money, you can get a terrific sound out of the HD650.  With the HD800, I recommend tubes when possible, and a good tube amp at that.  When compared with the HD800, the HD650 sounds thicker.  The soundstage is also much narrower than that of the HD800.  For this reason, I still prefer the HD650 for rock music more than the HD800.  When it comes to classical, I would take the HD800.  What I am really getting at here is that for some listeners, the HD650 is still going to be among the best headphones on the planet, if not the best.  It is that gorgeous sounding – I am willing to make such an assertion.

 

I will also mention that for me the HD650 is perhaps my favorite of the trilogy mentioned previously (HD580 / HD600 / HD650) because it is the most flavored and it is a flavor I really like.  The HD600 and HD580 are more neutral by comparison, but for me, lack a certain magic that the HD650 has.  The HD600 however is one of the most neutral headphones on the market and I can certainly understand if someone preferred it to the HD650.  The HD580 has been long discontinued by the manufacturer.

 

THE FIT & THE FINISH

One thing Sennheiser does better than anyone else, in my opinion, is ear cushions.  I love the earpads on the HD650 – the shape; the feel; the removability.  Ovals fit the human ear better than circles in my opinion.  It ensures that the ear will not have a pad resting on it.  One criticism I have heard in the past is that the pads are so large that they can exert some pressure on the jaw.  This has never been the case with me, but I think it is worth mentioning.  The outer grills are removable as well – should you dent them or wish to replace them in the future, the manufacturer makes it easy!  It is worth mentioning here that the headphone itself is open-back – the grills are vented to allow sound in and out of the headphone.  No sound isolation here.

HD650-2.jpg&lr=t&bw=750&w=750&bh=525&h=525

The cable is removable too!  This way you can easily use an aftermarket cable should you get the urge to upgrade your system.  The cable itself is a Y-split design, approximately 3 meters and terminates to a ¼” plug.  Sennheiser includes a very nice 1/4 " to 3.5 mm adapter.  This adapter is designed as a small extension cable in order to not put stress on the headphone minijack you plug it into.  The HD650 ships in a hard cardboard box with a secure foam interlay.  Outside of this box is a thin ridged cardboard sleeve. 

 

ALL ABOUT THE SOUND

When I think about the sound that the HD650 brings to my ears, a few words come to mind: Beautiful; Smooth; Sultry; Warm; Dark.  Of course, I state these attributes with a positive implication, but if I had any criticism of the sound at all it would be perhaps that the sound is simply too beautiful, too smooth, and in the process, not as revealing as some other headphones.  Still, when listening to something so pure sounding as the HD650, it is hard to imagine a better sounding headphone. 

 

THE GOOD

  • The sound is as beautiful as it is transparent
  • Voices have great presence and depth
  • Bass is punchy without any bloat
  • Extremely forgiving with bad quality recordings
  • Non-fatiguing for long listening sessions
  • Sounds great with most genres (Rock, Jazz, Hip Hop and even Classical)

 

THE BAD

  • The headphones do not render upper harmonics as forwardly as some other headphones and this leads to what some have called a slightly veiled sound
  • The soundstage and instrument placement abilities are bested by other offerings

 

To get the most out of the HD650 you will need to use an amplifier.  I highly recommend the SPL Auditor.  At its price, I have heard no better amp for the HD650.  I also particularly like the way the HD650 sounds in balanced configuration.  Balancing the HD650 will require you buying an aftermarket cable that terminates to dual 3-pin XLR or 4-pin XLR and then you will also need to plug it into an amp which has balanced outputs.  Finally you will need to have a source that connects to your amplifier in balanced mode.  This can be rather expensive!

HD650-3.jpg&lr=t&bw=750&w=750&bh=525&h=525

 

Listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” I am reminded by how impactful the sound of the HD650 is.  Drums sound so full and have so much slam; the round tone of the bass is forward without interfering with the vocal at all.  The cymbals have a lot of presence without being particularly piercing or fatiguing.  In fact, I’d venture to say that the HD650 is among the least fatiguing audiophile-grade headphones in the industry. 

 

Listening to Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, I am struck by the sheer openness and seductiveness of the sound.  With the HD650, I almost completely forget that there are headphones on my head.  When John Handy’s tenor solo began, I felt like I was in Columbia Studios 1959, hearing it live as it was played just before me.  For me, the HD650 is among the finest choices for jazz.  The music sounds alive!  It is with jazz in particular that I feel the HD650 excels over the HD600.

 

Listening to Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 as performed by Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, I feel the sound is a tad masked and congested.  The instruments do not sound as though they are spread out across a stage.  Strings sound a bit lush and lacking in realism.  Still the overall tone is extremely compelling.  The HD650 are not my preference with classical, but they certainly do not sound badly matched.

 

LAST WORD

The HD650s have been around for nearly a decade.  In this time, several manufacturers including Sennheiser have released new headphones which were their attempt at raising the bar.  While the bar has certainly been raised, the HD650 still has a place in a state-of-the-art headphone set up.  In my opinion, there is still reason to call the HD650 the world’s most beautiful sounding headphone. 

 

RATING CHART @ PRICEPOINT

Sound Quality: 10

Design & Features: 9.5

Comfort: 9.5

Value: 9.5

 

-DavidMahler


Edited by HeadphonesCom - 2/7/12 at 10:35am
post #2 of 15

Wow, I'm loving these reviews! The HD650 is certainly one of the most purely beautiful sounding headphones I have ever heard. I will treasure mine as long as it sits in one piece.

post #3 of 15

The HD650's is a classic headphone. I think this is the next step coming from my 598's. 

 

thanks for such a nice review. 

post #4 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by juantendo8 View Post

Wow, I'm loving these reviews! The HD650 is certainly one of the most purely beautiful sounding headphones I have ever heard. I will treasure mine as long as it sits in one piece.


Thank you for the compliment!  Hope yours stays in one piece :D

 



Quote:
Originally Posted by fabio-fi View Post

The HD650's is a classic headphone. I think this is the next step coming from my 598's. 

 

thanks for such a nice review. 

It's definitely a nice upgrade from the 598.  Make sure that you have an amp to get the most from it.  The 598s don't need an amp to the same degree as the HD650.

 

Thanks:)
 

 

post #5 of 15

Excellent writeup as always Dave. I started out with the MS-1i and when the upgrade bug hit, I went against the grain pulled the trigger on a headphone seemingly on the opposite end of the spectrum. At the time I was enamoured with the Alessandro flavour but I was drawn to the HD650 despite reading descriptions of a slow, veiled and boring headphone. Its ranking in your 20 Headphones Compared thread solidified the urge and I gambled.

 

I'm glad I did. Technically it's trumped by the LCD-2, but to me the HD650 taps into something the LCD-2 doesn't. I find it more engaging as a result and reach for it more often than not.

post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by olor1n View Post

Excellent writeup as always Dave. I started out with the MS-1i and when the upgrade bug hit, I went against the grain pulled the trigger on a headphone seemingly on the opposite end of the spectrum. At the time I was enamoured with the Alessandro flavour but I was drawn to the HD650 despite reading descriptions of a slow, veiled and boring headphone. Its ranking in your 20 Headphones Compared thread solidified the urge and I gambled.

 

I'm glad I did. Technically it's trumped by the LCD-2, but to me the HD650 taps into something the LCD-2 doesn't. I find it more engaging as a result and reach for it more often than not.



Thanks!

 

I agree that there is something extremely engaging about the HD650.  It's a headphone I've never let go of despite having so many in my personal collection.

 

You brought up my old thread from about 15 months ago! I Originally I intended to add to it, but I have since begun a new review thread is much more in-depth and extensive and is comprised of many many more headphones and amps. I keep getting sidetracked by so many new models and other obligations, but in it I will comparing essentially every major flagship.  It's something I have been working on for several months and I'm nearing its finish

 

In my roster I have:

 

My thread will be a shootout between 50 top level headphones.... the best headphones

SENNHEISER:  HE90, HD800, HD650, HD600, IE8 (no HD700 yet...though I'd like to compare it for the sake of the community)

 

BEYERDYNAMIC: T1, DT880, DT770, DT660  (I have reviewed the T5P, but I do not own it and such it will not be in the comparison)

 

SONY: MDR-R10 (bass light), MDR-R10 (bass heavy), Qualia 010, SA5000K, X700LP

 

STAX: SR-009, SR-Omega SR-007 MK1, SR-007 MK2, SR-507

 

AKG: K1000, K702, K501

 

JH AUDIO: JH13, JH16

 

AUDEZ'E: LCD 2 (rev 1); LCD 3

 

HIFIMAN: HE6 (I am considering getting an HE500 to add to the mix.  I have owned the HE5 as well but this will not be in the review since I no longer have it)

 

WESTONE: ES5; Westone 4, Westone UM3X, Westone 3

 

SHURE: SRH1840, SE535, SE530

 

DENON: AH-D7000, AH-D950 (I have owned the AH-D5000 as well but no longer have it and it will not be in the review)

 

UlLTRASONE: Edition 8 LE, HFI700 (I am debating whether to get an Edition 10 for the review)

 

GRADO: HP1000, RS1, RS2 (I have reviewed the PS500, but I don't know that it will be in this review.  I am not sure about including the PS1000 either.  I have auditioned them, but I did not buy them)

 

AUDIO TECHNICA: ATH-W5000, ATH-AD900 (I am considering adding the ATH-W3000ANV or ATH-L3000 for the review)

 

I'm considering adding the Foxtex TH900 as well.  I have reviewed the Audeo PFE232 (wonderful earphones) but I don't own them so I don't expect that they will be included in the review.

 

Definitely look for it soon.  Hopefully it will be done before the Spring!


Edited by DavidMahler - 2/7/12 at 12:08pm
post #7 of 15

That's wonderful! I loved your original thread very much. An updated thread is like Christmas all over again tongue_smile.gif

post #8 of 15

Damn...reading this write-up makes me sad once again that I have sold both of my 600s and 650s... Why why why !?! deadhorse.gif

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidMahler View Post



Thanks!

 

I agree that there is something extremely engaging about the HD650.  It's a headphone I've never let go of despite having so many in my personal collection.

 

You brought up my old thread from about 15 months ago! I Originally I intended to add to it, but I have since begun a new review thread is much more in-depth and extensive and is comprised of many many more headphones and amps. I keep getting sidetracked by so many new models and other obligations, but in it I will comparing essentially every major flagship.  It's something I have been working on for several months and I'm nearing its finish

 

In my roster I have:

 

My thread will be a shootout between 50 top level headphones.... the best headphones

 

...

 

I'm considering adding the Foxtex TH900 as well.  I have reviewed the Audeo PFE232 (wonderful earphones) but I don't own them so I don't expect that they will be included in the review.

 

Definitely look for it soon.  Hopefully it will be done before the Spring!


I'm looking forward to your 50-top-level-headphones shootout.

 

On the HD650, I think it's more of a love or hate thing. The HD650 is fuller sounding thanks to its emphasised bass but the dark signature really turned me off. Listening to classical on the HD650 is a bit of a misery when I auditioned them months ago so I grabbed the HD600 instead which is phenomenal. If the HD650 is an evolution, there shouldn't be any compromise in HD600's elements in the HD650. The HD650 is not an evolution. It's a revolution. That is why some still preferred the HD600 to the HD650. Sennheiser did a great job with the HD600, HD650 and HD800 which comprises of different signatures and characters so people swear by one or two.

 

 

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Downer View Post

Damn...reading this write-up makes me sad once again that I have sold both of my 600s and 650s... Why why why !?! deadhorse.gif


Hahah.  As long as they remain in production or on the used market, there's always the chance you will own it again.  I think the thing about the HD650 is that they're not irrelevant in a top level system.  I'd make the argument that in a top level system, there are a few great headphones that are less relevant.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by juantendo8 View Post

That's wonderful! I loved your original thread very much. An updated thread is like Christmas all over again tongue_smile.gif


:)  Hopefully we won't have to wait until Christmas LOL. I'm honestly waiting for a new source which is being made right now. 

 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by nikp View Post


I'm looking forward to your 50-top-level-headphones shootout.

 

On the HD650, I think it's more of a love or hate thing. The HD650 is fuller sounding thanks to its emphasised bass but the dark signature really turned me off. Listening to classical on the HD650 is a bit of a misery when I auditioned them months ago so I grabbed the HD600 instead which is phenomenal. If the HD650 is an evolution, there shouldn't be any compromise in HD600's elements in the HD650. The HD650 is not an evolution. It's a revolution. That is why some still preferred the HD600 to the HD650. Sennheiser did a great job with the HD600, HD650 and HD800 which comprises of different signatures and characters so people swear by one or two.

 

 

Thanks!
 

I will admit that the HD800 is a more technically impressive headphone.  I don't know that I see it so much as a hybrid of the HD600and HD650.  It definitely has more treble energy than either.  I think the HD800 fails to be as viscerally engaging as the HD650 on first impression.  I think the HD800 is far more capable of rendering complex passages.  In time, I think most tuned ears would see HD800 as a better headphone, but definitely not all.  There is still plenty of reason to prefer the HD650 over the HD800.  If I could only have one though, it would be the 800.

 


Edited by DavidMahler - 2/7/12 at 4:45pm
post #11 of 15

So glad to hear that you think the Auditor is such a great amp for the 650 as my Auditor will be here tomorrow after a solid month of waiting! As an aside question David, have you ever heard of Vovox cables? The US distributor is sending me a set with the Auditor as an apology for taking so long getting me the Auditor. It will be worth the wait from everything I have heard.

post #12 of 15

Great reiew

post #13 of 15

Very nice review!  I had a question though...

 

"Ovals fit the human ear better than circles in my opinion. It ensures that the ear will not have a pad resting on it. One criticism I have heard in the past is that the pads are so large that they can exert some pressure on the jaw."

 

I always fit the back of the pad to the back of my ear lobe. It sounds better to me.  There's a better seal with more bass and the imaging is placed a little forward in front of my head.  Its not the most comfortable, but it seems to work well enough.  I heard other folks where the HD650s this way.  When i place them around my ears it seems like theres a slight gap open at the neck area.  Are you really supposed to have the pad around your ear? 

 

BTW, I wear my HD580s the same way as my computer headphones.

 

Oh, i found a thread on this:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/557719/how-to-wear-the-hd650s-properly


Edited by Max F - 7/5/12 at 11:26am
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Max F View Post

Very nice review!  I had a question though...

 

"Ovals fit the human ear better than circles in my opinion. It ensures that the ear will not have a pad resting on it. One criticism I have heard in the past is that the pads are so large that they can exert some pressure on the jaw."

 

I always fit the back of the pad to the back of my ear lobe. It sounds better to me.  There's a better seal with more bass and the imaging is placed a little forward in front of my head.  Its not the most comfortable, but it seems to work well enough.  I heard other folks where the HD650s this way.  When i place them around my ears it seems like theres a slight gap open at the neck area.  Are you really supposed to have the pad around your ear? 

 

BTW, I wear my HD580s the same way as my computer headphones.

 

Oh, i found a thread on this:  http://www.head-fi.org/t/557719/how-to-wear-the-hd650s-properly

 

 

How to wear it it is really up to the listener:)

 

I believe having the center aimed at the canal is going to yield optimal results.

post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadphonesCom View Post

Sennheiser’s HD650 is one of the purest sounding headphones I have ever heard.  While quite a few offerings trump the HD650s in terms of detail retrieval, soundstage and instrument placement – very few headphones sound as seductively beautiful as the HD650.  For this reason, I often find myself returning to the HD650 even though newer flagships are stronger in specific areas.

HD650.jpg&lr=t&bw=320&w=320&bh=320&h=320

The HD650 was an evolution of the HD600, a headphone which was already an evolution of another headphone – the HD580.  Experienced headphone audiophiles like to debate which of these three headphones is the superior one.  It is generally agreed however that this trilogy was comprised of Sennheiser’s three finest dynamic transducer headphones until the release of their HD800 in 2009.  Even today, there are plenty of headphone enthusiasts whom prefer the warm lush tone of the HD650 to the more neutral / analytical tone of the HD800.  For me, it is a matter of which amp I am using and which music I am listening to.  The HD650 are much less picky when it comes to amplification.  For relatively little money, you can get a terrific sound out of the HD650.  With the HD800, I recommend tubes when possible, and a good tube amp at that.  When compared with the HD800, the HD650 sounds thicker.  The soundstage is also much narrower than that of the HD800.  For this reason, I still prefer the HD650 for rock music more than the HD800.  When it comes to classical, I would take the HD800.  What I am really getting at here is that for some listeners, the HD650 is still going to be among the best headphones on the planet, if not the best.  It is that gorgeous sounding – I am willing to make such an assertion.

 

I will also mention that for me the HD650 is perhaps my favorite of the trilogy mentioned previously (HD580 / HD600 / HD650) because it is the most flavored and it is a flavor I really like.  The HD600 and HD580 are more neutral by comparison, but for me, lack a certain magic that the HD650 has.  The HD600 however is one of the most neutral headphones on the market and I can certainly understand if someone preferred it to the HD650.  The HD580 has been long discontinued by the manufacturer.

 

THE FIT & THE FINISH

One thing Sennheiser does better than anyone else, in my opinion, is ear cushions.  I love the earpads on the HD650 – the shape; the feel; the removability.  Ovals fit the human ear better than circles in my opinion.  It ensures that the ear will not have a pad resting on it.  One criticism I have heard in the past is that the pads are so large that they can exert some pressure on the jaw.  This has never been the case with me, but I think it is worth mentioning.  The outer grills are removable as well – should you dent them or wish to replace them in the future, the manufacturer makes it easy!  It is worth mentioning here that the headphone itself is open-back – the grills are vented to allow sound in and out of the headphone.  No sound isolation here.

HD650-2.jpg&lr=t&bw=750&w=750&bh=525&h=525

The cable is removable too!  This way you can easily use an aftermarket cable should you get the urge to upgrade your system.  The cable itself is a Y-split design, approximately 3 meters and terminates to a ¼” plug.  Sennheiser includes a very nice 1/4 " to 3.5 mm adapter.  This adapter is designed as a small extension cable in order to not put stress on the headphone minijack you plug it into.  The HD650 ships in a hard cardboard box with a secure foam interlay.  Outside of this box is a thin ridged cardboard sleeve. 

 

ALL ABOUT THE SOUND

When I think about the sound that the HD650 brings to my ears, a few words come to mind: Beautiful; Smooth; Sultry; Warm; Dark.  Of course, I state these attributes with a positive implication, but if I had any criticism of the sound at all it would be perhaps that the sound is simply too beautiful, too smooth, and in the process, not as revealing as some other headphones.  Still, when listening to something so pure sounding as the HD650, it is hard to imagine a better sounding headphone. 

 

THE GOOD

  • The sound is as beautiful as it is transparent
  • Voices have great presence and depth
  • Bass is punchy without any bloat
  • Extremely forgiving with bad quality recordings
  • Non-fatiguing for long listening sessions
  • Sounds great with most genres (Rock, Jazz, Hip Hop and even Classical)

 

THE BAD

  • The headphones do not render upper harmonics as forwardly as some other headphones and this leads to what some have called a slightly veiled sound
  • The soundstage and instrument placement abilities are bested by other offerings

 

To get the most out of the HD650 you will need to use an amplifier.  I highly recommend the SPL Auditor.  At its price, I have heard no better amp for the HD650.  I also particularly like the way the HD650 sounds in balanced configuration.  Balancing the HD650 will require you buying an aftermarket cable that terminates to dual 3-pin XLR or 4-pin XLR and then you will also need to plug it into an amp which has balanced outputs.  Finally you will need to have a source that connects to your amplifier in balanced mode.  This can be rather expensive!

HD650-3.jpg&lr=t&bw=750&w=750&bh=525&h=525

 

Listening to Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” I am reminded by how impactful the sound of the HD650 is.  Drums sound so full and have so much slam; the round tone of the bass is forward without interfering with the vocal at all.  The cymbals have a lot of presence without being particularly piercing or fatiguing.  In fact, I’d venture to say that the HD650 is among the least fatiguing audiophile-grade headphones in the industry. 

 

Listening to Charles Mingus’s “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat”, I am struck by the sheer openness and seductiveness of the sound.  With the HD650, I almost completely forget that there are headphones on my head.  When John Handy’s tenor solo began, I felt like I was in Columbia Studios 1959, hearing it live as it was played just before me.  For me, the HD650 is among the finest choices for jazz.  The music sounds alive!  It is with jazz in particular that I feel the HD650 excels over the HD600.

 

Listening to Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 as performed by Ivan Fischer and the Budapest Festival Orchestra, I feel the sound is a tad masked and congested.  The instruments do not sound as though they are spread out across a stage.  Strings sound a bit lush and lacking in realism.  Still the overall tone is extremely compelling.  The HD650 are not my preference with classical, but they certainly do not sound badly matched.

 

LAST WORD

The HD650s have been around for nearly a decade.  In this time, several manufacturers including Sennheiser have released new headphones which were their attempt at raising the bar.  While the bar has certainly been raised, the HD650 still has a place in a state-of-the-art headphone set up.  In my opinion, there is still reason to call the HD650 the world’s most beautiful sounding headphone. 

 

RATING CHART @ PRICEPOINT

Sound Quality: 10

Design & Features: 9.5

Comfort: 9.5

Value: 9.5

 

-DavidMahler

This nails what I have found with my HD650's. I know I can spend more and have possibly better, but in the bang for the buck arena, they are terrific. I am listening to Lorenna McKinnet now ripped lossless AIFF through my DMPlus DAC, no amp. Seductive is the word. Smooth and engaging for sure. I am considering a few amps to add into the equation, but I am definitely enjoying what the 650's can do.

 

Highly recommended!  smily_headphones1.gif

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