First and foremost I would like to take the opportunity to thank Justin W of Headamp for the wonderful opportunity to try out Sennheiser's HD700 at home with my own gear. I first met Justin at a local headfi meet in Northern Virginia where I found him to not only be generous on the gear he brought (the BHSE is an amazing amp) but is also very approachable.
Disclaimer: I have no relationship with Justin or Headamp aside from the traditional retailer-customer one. I have purchased an LCD3 from Justin and I am awaiting delivery of his GSX-mkII (which I was very impressed with during my initial demo in a headfi meet setting). I have not been compensated in anyway for posting this review. The review period was for approximately 1 week.
This is my first formal review of a headphone or any audio product so please bear with my 'noobness'. I hope this review will be the spring board for future reviews on other products I own. My musical preferences is widely diverse, but tends to focus around stronger vocal parts, while my listening perspective tends to lean toward the subjective side
:insert obligatory attack from objectiveivsts here:
Please feel free to present constructive criticism where appropriate.
Source: 2011 Bootcamped Windows7 iMac , WD MyBook (firewire 800), Foobar 2000 (WASAPI)
DAC: PS Audio NuWave DAC
AMP: Violectric V200
Cables: Wire world Starlight USB (series 7), Wire World Stratus 7, Custom XLR
Headphone comparison: LCD3, HD650, Grado HF-2
Test Headphone: HD700
If I was to describe this headphone in one word it would be this: Technical.
But before we dive into the sound, let's talk a little about the ergonomics of the headphone. From pictures, you can obviously see the resemblance to the ToTL HD800 and the build quality is excellent as can be expected from Sennheiser. While the HD800 is by no means a heavy can, the size and clamping force can be a bit unwieldy for people with smaller heads. From this perspective, the HD700 fortunately is a bit smaller in all dimensions while still maintaining plenty of ear-cup space for your ears. Clamping force is medium, but does not feel precarious when moving around semi-aggressively, this is on par with the HD650 while feeling a smidgen lighter. Definitely a comfortable pair of headphone that stays secure even in a recumbent position.
The immediate thing that jumps out at me, sonically speaking, with this headphone is the amazing level of detail retrieval and 3-D positioning. From memory the sound stage and pin-point accuracy of the HD700 is only a hair behind the HD800. I-Ching's “Gadamaylin” sounds so surreal thru the HD700 almost as if you can reach out and touch notes floating in space. Clarity is similarly excellent and listening to Alice and Chain's MTV Unplugged album presents a new level of detail in the ambiance of the auditorium that I've not noticed before. While the HD800 really shines with well recorded material, the HD700 seems to play well with a slightly wider genre list to encompass most modern popular music I've thrown at it.
Treble extension stretches to the upper registers and while I would like to say the highs extend smoothly, I do have to admit there's a bit of a treble spike somewhere that leads to mild sibilance. The sibilance is especially noticeable with female vocals such as Adele's 19 album song “Chaseing Pavements” and is even evident in Bob Katz's 15th anniversary remaster of Rebecca Pidgeon's “Spanish Harlem”; that squeak at the end of 'Spanish Harlem' is a bit of an ear splitter with the HD700. Fortunately, the technical nature of the headphone is not overshadowed by the slight treble spike and the headphone are not fatiguing to listen to for long sessions ala lower tier Grados.
Mids are as amazing as you would expect form a higher end Sennheiser. Vocals are very present and naturally forward even when compared with the HD650. The human voice is one of the greatest instruments in the world and the harmony of The Persuasions is particularly persuasive thru these headphones (pardon the pun).
From a technical standpoint, the HD700 bass extends cleanly down to the lowest reaches, but the LCD3/HD650 has the HD700 cleanly beat when it comes to bass impact and slam; the HD700's bass has the HD800s beat by a good margin, however. Dr Checky's Binaural Sound Show's rendition of Bach's “Toccata and Fugue” is a perfect example of technical excellence of the HD700's bass while still lacking the sub-bass 'omph' that other darker headphones so musically presents.
Technically the HD700 is clearly superior to the HD600/650 group while still address the weakness of the HD800 for the main stream crowd (mainly the lack of bass in the HD800). The HD700 is a compelling offering for those of us who appreciate a more refined and technically superior headphone vs other headphones in the price bracket. But for those times where you just want to rock out to the pop-album-of-the-month, may be better served by the also excellent LCD2.