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HD800 or HE500 (upgrading from the HD6XX/Q701) impressions. (updated)

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

I thought I'd put all my recent impressions on this subject from a certain summit fi thread on here as I think it will be more helpful. I'd love to here your views on these headphones and whether you think the HD800 is a worthwhile upgrade. Is the HE500 on par? And what about upgrading from the HD600 and K/Q701 to either of these hp's. Was it worth it? 

 

Anyways..

 

For me the HD600 are closer to the HD800 than the K/Q701. Both the Senn's sound unmistakeably 'Sennheiser' - Its all in the natural tonality and air. The AKG's imaging and soundstage are closer to the HD800's - yes, but in regards to sound signature they are very different imo. Thats why I own both :) 

 

I've stated a few times that the closest anyone can get to the hd800 on a budget is a well driven HD600. The AKG's sound like AKG's.. No other headphone is as dry and tight. 

 

Regarding the HE500 v's HD800, having owned both I'd say its all a matter of taste. The only thing that I would say objectively would be that the bass is tighter and clearer on the HD800. The soundstage and imaging imo is a matter of taste. Those who always claim that the HD800 is superior in this area are judging it on the 'wow' factor. Yes it is very impressive. But some simply prefer a more compact, closer image. Music preference has to be a major factor here too. 

 

Then there is always going to be the scaling argument. I can't comment on this as I use vintage equipment. Very good vintage amps, but I have no idea what the latest uber high end hp amps sound like with either of these hp's. I would say however, that my experience with planars in general is that they don't scale as high as full dynamics. Planars imprint a very good sound on most amps and don't really change as much as dynamics with 'different sounding' amps. Only different power specs.

 

The treble of the HE500 is still the best I've heard from any hp. With velours it was perfect for my preference. I've never had any problems with the HD800 treble but the hifiman is defo smoother- silky.. I prefer the mids of the HD800 though. The HE500 mids are extremely engaging and have that planar liquid goodness, but the bass does creep into the lower half. In a similar way as the 650's. This can be a preference for some. But not for orchestral music imo. I want to be able to hear the layers of cello, viola etc clearly. In fact I would state that the HE500 are not ideal for orchestral music. They can sound pleasant, but I would prefer to use them with smaller ensembles. The soundstage for me is too restricted. This is a planar trait however.

 

So for my personal preference it is the HD800 all the way. I love a large sound stage for a start. Match them with a warm quality amp and they are the nearest I've heard to good speakers from an hp.

 

 

 

 

I think the HE500 can be a good complement to the HD800, and of course vice versa. I loved jazz and electronic music with the HE500. The bass (with the mild mid hump) can sound amazing with bass orientated electronica (Burial for e.g) More ambient orientated electronic music such as BT, Jon Hopkins sound much better with the HD800's though. The soundtrack to Monsters is amazing with the Senn's soundstage for an example. I also liked the way planars give older recordings a little smooth sheen. Both are great with acoustic music, but as soon as the music becomes complicated this is where the HD800 takes over and keeps everything in control and focused below the treble. Contemporary Jazz and classical where there are lots of conflicting timbres the HE500 can smear the instrumental colors and separation can get lost within busy sections (in comparison). Standard Jazz and small ensemble classical they both sound very good. 

 

 

 

 

 I think its established that the HE500 is a contender to the HD800. Maybe not as good technically but it is a high end hp that is a cheaper alternative and can rub shoulders with the best. The HD600 is now a lower tier headphone that is below both in performance- but not in regards to preference for some. A minority still prefer the HD600 over a lot of more expensive hp's. Fanboys maybe, but that can't be said about many hp's from the same price bracket these days. Got to give it cedit!

 

IMO the HD800 is the perfect upgrade from the HD600. But what about the HE500 being an upgrade option from the HD600? I think most people would be a little underwhelmed. I was, when I went from the 650 to the HE500. I was impressed with the resolution, clarity and smoothness. But I wanted (expected) more. More what? I here you ask :D Well, I wanted a more open sound. I was used to the airy Sennheiser sound stage. The Hifiman had a slightly larger image and the separation was much better, but the soundstage seemed restricted. I personally think the HD600 are better with dynamics, and can seem faster than the HE500. Not as clear, but quicker. So the speed and more 'air' for me gives a more dynamic presentation which can be better for e.g orchestral music. In regards to tonality they are too similar and I wouldn't like to say which one is best. 

 

 

 

The bass of the HE500 is better. It extends deeper and has more impact. I would never describe it as tight though. The HD600 bass is perfect for its balance. It doesn't extent to far but it can have a satisfying punch.

 

The treble of the HE500 is much MUCH better than the HD600. I hate to use this term as I don't actually think it exists, but only for relevance - There is no 'grain' at all with the hifman. Smooth as a Conger eel's foreskin :D The HD600 treble can be both a little too polite or a little too edgy depending on the recording. Also depending on how they are amped.

 

The mids are better with the HE500. But only because they are clearer. They are very similar otherwise. With the Senn's having less congestion at the lower end. But because of the uber clarity further up the FR in the hifiman, this can easily go unnoticed. 

 

Bottom line is, when you now go from a mid tier (past flagship) hp to a high end one costing at least as twice as much, I want to be 'blown away' so to speak. I don't just want to be nodding my head and saying, yup these are better. 

 

Going from the HD600 to the HD800 I think anyone would be blown away. Even if they still can't part with their HD600 ;)

Going from the HD600 to the HE500, I'd give it a couple of months before you start looking for even better

 

Thats just my rant.... I will extend more on the KQ701 when I get time. But what do YOU think? 

 

:beerchug:

 

 The Q701 (K701 latest version) is defo more of an acquired taste compared to the other hp's mentioned above. It's probably on par with the SR325 in respect to giving polarizing opinions. You either love it or hate it. 

I love it. Always have. Its unfair to compare it to the HD800 I believe, but at the same time I don't consider it to be that inferior. Its more different than the HD800 than both the HD600 and HE500. It's sound sig is much drier. Its more neutral/flat. A little too flat for a lot of folks. The soundstage size is similar to that of the HD800 but different in shape. Its not as deep or tall but is a little wider. The AKG's sound more distant and one dimensional. The Senn's have that holographic way of giving you a more real and deep image - more immersive. The AKG's are more like a big wide screen in front of you but you can't quite reach the instruments. 

 

The tonality does not match any of the higher end Senn's. Its too elevated in the upper mids. Like Grado it will shout guitars and vocals at you. Once you get used to this, most other hp's can sound a little polite in comparison. I however choose not to get used to this 2-3 khz spike and so I EQ it down a touch. This makes such a big difference to this otherwise brilliant headphone. 

 

The sound of the AKG's is as large but less airy than the hd800, drier and can sound faster because of the dryness. Detail retrieval is better on the HD800's however. But the AKG's are one of the most detailed headphones in the price range that I've heard. They are analytical and balanced from top to bottom. Great for chamber music and large string pieces. But they work the best imo with ambient music. 

 

Bass is tight and balanced with the treble. When they are amped with enough juice they really don't need any more bass.

 

Upgrading from the Q/K701 to the HD800 is defo a worthwhile upgrade if you want the very best. But I for one would be happy to live with an EQ tweaked AKG if there wasn't a better Sennheiser out there.   


Edited by LugBug1 - 3/3/14 at 10:28am
post #2 of 16

Speaking in ballpark numbers, you double the price of the can going from the HD 600 to the HE-500.  Then you double it again going from the HE-500 to the HD 800.

 

I can certainly understand someone concluding that the best value is achieved in this group with the HD 600.  However, for me that title goes to the HE-500. 

 

The HD 600 is a fine can, but so are the HD 650, AKG Q 701 & K 712, Beyer DT 880 600 Ohm (just to mention a few).  All are in the same quality tier as the HD 600 and currently sport street prices that range between $199 and $400.   Reasonable ears could pick any of these as the best among this group.

 

However the $699 HE-500 beats not only all the above referenced "mid-fi" class.  It also bests everything under about $1,000 (or more, as it beats the less neutral LCD 2 on my chart).  It has no significant weakness and to my ears is the lowest priced can for which this can be said.

 

Unless you place extreme value on body in your sound signature, the HD 800 is superior to the HE-500 in virtually every respect--but not in the quantities that the HE-500 is superior to the HD 600 in virtually every respect.  So doubling the $699 to get to the HD 800 does not not scream relative value.  And then there is also the HE-6 which undercuts the HD 800 by $100 to $200...


Edited by KG Jag - 1/20/14 at 1:47am
post #3 of 16

Heya

 

Huge thanks for this review, and really important info for me !!!

post #4 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumos View Post
 

Heya

 

Huge thanks for this review, and really important info for me !!!

You're welcome bud

post #5 of 16

I have been looking for an open headphone.  I would be interested in a comparison between the HE-500's ($599) and the HD700's (can be found for $649). They are much closer in terms of price, these days.

 

It can't be denied that the HE-500's review well with a lot of different people here.  The only issue I have is that I have owned the HE-5LE's, and I hear that the sound of the two are somewhat similar, and.....I no longer have the 5LE's, and obviously there are reasons for that.  I have also owned the LCD-2 rev. 2's.  I am honestly starting to think that I just do not care for planar / ortho's.  

post #6 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rsgladwin85 View Post
 

I have been looking for an open headphone.  I would be interested in a comparison between the HE-500's ($599) and the HD700's (can be found for $649). They are much closer in terms of price, these days.

 

It can't be denied that the HE-500's review well with a lot of different people here.  The only issue I have is that I have owned the HE-5LE's, and I hear that the sound of the two are somewhat similar, and.....I no longer have the 5LE's, and obviously there are reasons for that.  I have also owned the LCD-2 rev. 2's.  I am honestly starting to think that I just do not care for planar / ortho's.  

Yeah I kind of have that frame of mind these days... Been there done that with the orthos. No denying that they are great, but I found the HD800 to be superior. I haven't heard the HD700 but they do have polarizing opinions, mostly with the treble. 

 

My advice would be to hang fire and save for the HD800. They are true end gamers! Plus if you buy them used you can save a bit. 

post #7 of 16

Then only problem I have with the HD800, is the difficulty people have in pairing them with an amp. I don't really want to spend $1k for the HD800's, only to find that the right amp pairing for me is another $2k.  The HD700 is supposedly much easier to pair.  My current thoughts are for getting the HD700 with a Alo Audio PanAm.  However I have also given consideration to a Beyerdynamic T1, but I would much rather audition a pair of those before purchasing.

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by rsgladwin85 View Post
 

Then only problem I have with the HD800, is the difficulty people have in pairing them with an amp. I don't really want to spend $1k for the HD800's, only to find that the right amp pairing for me is another $2k.  The HD700 is supposedly much easier to pair.  My current thoughts are for getting the HD700 with a Alo Audio PanAm.  However I have also given consideration to a Beyerdynamic T1, but I would much rather audition a pair of those before purchasing.

My fave amp for the HD800 cost me $100. Seriously, they aren't as picky as they are made out to be. What they are is transparent. I own some lovely sounding vintage amps and the HD800 let me hear how nice they are. 

 

The HD700 are low impedance so you can amp them with portable sources.

 

Regarding hp amps on a budget for the HD800, the M stage is very good. The Vali is also getting very high praise with its synergy. 

post #9 of 16

It is good to hear that they aren't as picky as they are made out to be.  I honestly don't have a problem spending a bit of $$.  As I said, I just don't think spending twice as much for amping alone compared to the cans themselves makes much sense.  I suppose I could go for a Bottlehead Crack with Speedball upgrade, as I do enjoy a bit of DIY.  

post #10 of 16

Impatiently waiting Q701 impressions:beerchug:  It sound crazy but measurements from innerfidelity.com seems to show they have somewhat similar raw frequency response. Probably HD800 is much more refined version of Q701 but what OP thinks?

 

And I have read many people suggest that Q701 have tight bass which is really important for some classical music

post #11 of 16

Helpful impressions. Thanks.

 

Some brief responses:

 

I am not more impressed with HE500 and HD800 compared with HD600 + a good amp. I think it's a matter of taste, not a difference in quality.

 

K702 is decent for what it does, but is less integrated compared with the others. Soundstage lovers might consider it a baby HD800; that's not so important to me.

 

The sticking point for me is that one or another mid-priced model equals or surpasses the flagships and HE500 in every genre and subgenre I listen to.

 

HD600, K501, and K340 play solo piano better.

SR80i and SR225i play organ better.

HE500 stands out with solo vocal music, but K501 is just as valid a preference.

HD800 excels with orchestral music (too bright though), but HD600 is just as valid a choice and K501 might be too.

HE400 plays jazz better.

HD600 plays harpsichord better.

SR225i plays metal and rock better.

HD600 and K501 sound better with old records.

 

The guys at my local audio shop know that I listen to classical, and they're puzzled that I haven't bought an HD800 from them. In light of my explanation above, I'm puzzled why they think I should.

 

I'll have an opportunity to work with K812 in a couple of months, but my expectation that it will surpass the mid-priced models is realistically low.

post #12 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumos View Post
 

Impatiently waiting Q701 impressions:beerchug: 

Just updated bud :)

post #13 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by LugBug1 View Post
 

Just updated bud :)

Huge thanks :beerchug: I was about to decide to try out Q701 or not. Currently I have HD650, DT880 (600 Ohm) HD598 Shure SRH940 and I mainly listen classical, sometimes jazz and some others around. Honestly I prefer DT880 all of them, for my ears Beyer has better bass - piano lower notes, double bass and other instruments have simply more definition. Drums and percussion are also better articulated. However DT880 tends to be little bright or not warm enough for some vocal recordings but it is not always the case. 

 

HD650 has little ill defined bass but have more room/space for bass notes to float around. lacks air and sparkle for my liking, and are expensive enough to stay away in future. Otherwise great phone, comfortable and wisely built. (no screws)

 

HD598 is brighter downgraded 650, less bass, audibly more distortion overall, less full sounding male and female vocals, less true treble definition/more splashy but nice wide soundstage. Difference is not huge however.

 

Shure is very nice closed back phone. I don't think they lack the bass, it is nice and deep, but for vocals it it more splashy and brighter even compared to DT880.

 

So the question is- will HD600 will be for me, does it have better defined/articulated bass than 650 or DT880? I know it is brighter, and very much like to HD598. Square wave graphs from headphone.com and innerfidelity indicate that all these Senn's performance is slightly worse than DT880

 

http://graphs.headphone.com/graphCompare.php?graphType=3&graphID[]=853&graphID[]=573&graphID[]=2751&graphID[]=2851&scale=30

also innerfidelity.com claims that DT880 has less distortion in bass area.

 

AKG Q701 as you saying is shouty for vocals... that's not good news... if not equalized how bad effect could be? can you describe it more further?

 

If I find nice deal or manage to trade some of my gear for HE500 I should check them out, I am aware of some problems like speed as you mentioned (indicated on impulse response measurements also), but I like to hear more clarity and better definition on lower notes plus I have read really promising mods of HE500 could cure some of these issues.

 

Finally I really liked your review and learned from it a lot. Most reviews here are made by fanboys or not really neutral people who like music and understand sound reproduction more maturely.

 

Thank you again


Edited by Lumos - 3/3/14 at 12:06pm
post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumos View Post
 

Huge thanks :beerchug: I was about to decide to try out Q701 or not. Currently I have HD650, DT880 (600 Ohm) HD598 Shure SRH940 and I mainly listen classical, sometimes jazz and some others around. Honestly I prefer DT880 all of them, for my ears Beyer has better bass - piano lower notes, double bass and other instruments have simply more definition. Drums and percussion are also better articulated. However DT880 tends to be little bright or not warm enough for some vocal recordings but it is not always the case. 

 

HD650 has little ill defined bass but have more room/space for bass notes to float around. lacks air and sparkle for my liking, and are expensive enough to stay away in future. Otherwise great phone, comfortable and wisely built. (no screws)

 

HD598 is brighter downgraded 650, less bass, audibly more distortion overall, less full sounding male and female vocals, less true treble definition/more splashy but nice wide soundstage. Difference is not huge however.

 

Shure is very nice closed back phone. I don't think they lack the bass, it is nice and deep, but for vocals it it more splashy and brighter even compared to DT880.

 

So the question is- will HD600 will be for me, does it have better defined/articulated bass than 650? I know it is brighter, and very much like to HD598. Square wave graphs from headphone.com and innerfidelity indicate that all these Senn's performance is slightly worse than DT880

 

http://graphs.headphone.com/graphCompare.php?graphType=3&graphID[]=853&graphID[]=573&graphID[]=2751&graphID[]=2851&scale=30

also innerfidelity.com claims that DT880 has less distortion in bass area.

 

AKG Q701 as you saying is shouty for vocals... that's not good news... if not equalized how bad effect could be? can you describe it more further?

 

If I find nice deal or manage to trade some of my gear for HE500 I should check them out, I am aware of some problems like speed as you mentioned (indicated on impulse response measurements also), but I like to hear more clarity and better definition on lower notes plus I have read really promising mods of HE500 could cure some of these issues.

 

Finally I really liked your review and learned from it a lot. Most reviews here are made by fanboys or not really neutral people who like music and understand sound reproduction more maturely.

 

Thank you again

Thank you for the kind words :)

 

In answer to the 'shouty' AKG part.. This is no doubt a problem area with the drivers used and is well documented. It affects the tonality of the higher freqs. The mids have been described as plasticky and I can agree with this. They are just too forward in the upper part at around 2-3khz. Its an easy fix and they do sound a lot better and more natural with a little EQ. But I also understand that some either don't want to use EQ or they don't have the means. So its a bit of a deal breaker imo, especially if you value tonality(realism) like I do. The Senn's are the kings of tonality especially the HD600 and HD800. 

 

I find that I am more picky with music when I listen to with the AKG's, but give them a great recording and they can sound fantastic. With the Senn's especially the HD600 - all music sounds good in respect to recording quality. 

 

I'd say that owning the Q/K701 is a great choice to compliment a more musical (forgiving) hp. 

 

Also, you really can't go wrong with the HE500 - they do everything well. Plus I think there will be a lot of them popping up for sale from now on with the new Hifimans coming out ;) 

post #15 of 16
Quote:
Originally Posted by LugBug1 View Post
 

Thank you for the kind words :)

 

In answer to the 'shouty' AKG part.. This is no doubt a problem area with the drivers used and is well documented. It affects the tonality of the higher freqs. The mids have been described as plasticky and I can agree with this. They are just too forward in the upper part at around 2-3khz. Its an easy fix and they do sound a lot better and more natural with a little EQ. But I also understand that some either don't want to use EQ or they don't have the means. So its a bit of a deal breaker imo, especially if you value tonality(realism) like I do. The Senn's are the kings of tonality especially the HD600 and HD800. 

 

I find that I am more picky with music when I listen to with the AKG's, but give them a great recording and they can sound fantastic. With the Senn's especially the HD600 - all music sounds good in respect to recording quality. 

 

I'd say that owning the Q/K701 is a great choice to compliment a more musical (forgiving) hp. 

 

Also, you really can't go wrong with the HE500 - they do everything well. Plus I think there will be a lot of them popping up for sale from now on with the new Hifimans coming out ;) 

 

New AKG K612 pro is promising, some reviews suggest it does not have that 2 kHz bump and sounds smooth. also have better bass, tradeoff is soundstage

 

Thanks for the response

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Help and Getting Started › Introductions, Help and Recommendations › HD800 or HE500 (upgrading from the HD6XX/Q701) impressions. (updated)