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Underwhlemed by Sennheiser HD650, other issues?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've recently purchased a used pair of Sennheiser HD650's (great condition), and I'm rather underwhelmed by the performance of these to be completely honest. Maybe all of the rave reviews gave me an unrealistic expectation.

 

I'm powering them with a Peachtree Decco65, also using the DAC to connect to my MacBook via USB. (i7, 8GB RAM, BitPerfect, etc)

 

Now I'll start off with the things I really like about these headphones.

 

Pros - Very comfortable (amazing), detail is great, very comfortable sound (not fatiguing)

 

Cons - Lack of separation (gets muddy with complex pieces), no stage whatsoever.

 

Could this possibly be my source of amplification? I figure its very possible due to the Peachtree not being geared for headphones exactly.

 

Any advice? Am I expecting too much? I've only owned the headphones for about 2 days, so maybe I just need to warm up to it. I tend to be disappointed with new equipment at first, and warm up to it over time.

post #2 of 11

I was also very underwhelmed by the HD-650. I had them about 2 or 3 years ago. I was driving them off an Icon-2 DAC/amp. I sold them and went on a bit of a journey through different headphones (Denon, Grado, other Senns). I've finally settled on the Beyer T90 - a very different sounding headphone. But, I really like it and most importantly, I think about it this way: The HD650 were released over a decade ago. They were (and I suppose technically still are) great headphones. But the T90 have over a decade's worth of advances in engineering technology. All things being equal, it just makes sense to go with the newer headphones. 

post #3 of 11

I don't own the HD650s anymore but I do miss their sound signature. I think their sound is something that grows on you over time. At least that's what happened to me. In my opinion they have one of the most enjoyable sound signatures around.

post #4 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by bmichael View Post
 

I was also very underwhelmed by the HD-650. ... I've finally settled on the Beyer T90 - a very different sounding headphone.

Same — I bought the HD-650 on its widespread praise, and was so disappointed in its sound (and especially its tacky metallic plastic) that I returned it and got the T90 instead.

 

The T90 is not a perfect headphone, but it's much closer to modern high-end sound than the HD-650. Its primary (and maybe only) flaw is an overly strong high end — bright, treble-heavy recordings sound harsh, and I've never quite been able to paper over this flaw with EQ adjustments. If you can get past that, it's extremely comfortable, very easy to drive (even from a portable or computer, without a dedicated amp), and has a crispness and precision to the sound that I haven't quite found in any other headphones.

 

I've now upgraded to the HD-800 for open and TH-900 for closed, and the biggest surprise is how little of an advantage these $1500 phones have over the $650 T90. I'd describe the HD-800 as very similar-sounding to the T90 but with that overly strong high end polished away to be more even and neutral. Worth the extra $900, though? Probably not to most people.

post #5 of 11

I had to smile when I saw this thread because I thought I was the only person in the world who didn't like the HD-650.  

 

A friendly co-worker lets me use his pair whenever he's away.  Since our hours don't overlap much and he's on the road for weeks on end, I've been able to spend hundreds of hours with the HD-650 without spending a dime. (Thanks, dude!)

 

When I first heard them, I was coming from a long-time Grado and Beyerdynamic background.  It felt like I was listening through a vat of honey.  The highs, especially, any shrillness sucked out of them... listening to fingernails on chalkboard would probably be pleasant through the HD-650.

 

I kept going back to them.  From a technical point of view (I saw a photo of their square-wave response: it's  virtually un-distorted) and (again) the universal acclaim) I wanted to understand what the excitement is about.

 

I'm starting to hear it now.  They need to be played pretty loud, around 75-80dB (measured with the Android SoundMeter app).  You're not looking for ultimate detail and edge but rather a velvety, immersive experience that you can relax into without concern that a screechy violin or clarinet will rip your brain in two.  

 

It's not for me, mostly because I have a modded Fostex T50-RP that is similar to the HD-650 but closeer to my preferences. But I get why people like it, and why it's the reference standard for a certain corner of "sound signature space".

post #6 of 11

I think a lot of it comes down to what you're used to. (It's a huge factor in your enjoyment of sound quality, and the real reason behind "burn-in" — burn-in is about you getting accustomed to a headphone's sound profile, not the headphone itself changing.)

 

If you've never heard a full-sized Beyerdynamic and its crisp, overly strong upper end, I imagine the 650 sounds great. When I was trying it, I did find a lot of recordings that I enjoyed on it better than the Beyers — mostly studio rock albums from the mid-2000s that were mastered with far too much treble to sound good on crappy earbuds.

 

But when you've tried the DT-880 or T90, you know what you're missing in the HD-650's upper end. Neither are perfect — the Beyers are too strong and the 650 is too weak — but I'd prefer too-strong to nothing.

 

And in whatever's the opposite of muddiness, technically — decay? crispness? — I've never heard a better headphone than the T90. (I haven't heard any orthos yet, but I gather that this factor is where they excel.)

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by marcoarment View Post

 

I've now upgraded to the HD-800 for open and TH-900 for closed, and the biggest surprise is how little of an advantage these $1500 phones have over the $650 T90. I'd describe the HD-800 as very similar-sounding to the T90 but with that overly strong high end polished away to be more even and neutral. Worth the extra $900, though? Probably not to most people.

 

I have not heard the T90.  I've auditioned the HD-800 vs. the T1 for a couple hours at the local audio store.  The owner was an HD-800 fan, so he may have walked me through material favoring the '800 (not to mention the old trick of manipulating the volume control).

 

But overall, I came away with the impression that the HD-800 creates a wide sound stage, from about a foot on either side my my ears and beautifully filled everywhere in-between.  The T1: much less so.

 

I'm on the verge of pulling the trigger on the '800.  My philosophy is to make one purchase to end them all, rather than buy something at $650 and then later also buy the $1500 headphone.  OTOH, I like saving $900.

 

Have you heard the T1?  How do you compare the ambiance and sound-stage of the HD-800 with the T1/T90?  I'm very interested in what you think.

post #8 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicko7i View Post

 

... But overall, I came away with the impression that the HD-800 creates a wide sound stage, from about a foot on either side my my ears and beautifully filled everywhere in-between.  The T1: much less so.

 

I'm on the verge of pulling the trigger on the '800.  My philosophy is to make one purchase to end them all, rather than buy something at $650 and then later also buy the $1500 headphone.  OTOH, I like saving $900.

 

Have you heard the T1?  How do you compare the ambiance and sound-stage of the HD-800 with the T1/T90?  I'm very interested in what you think.

 

I borrowed the T1 at the same time I had the 650 and T90 last fall. While it sounded good, I didn't think it sounded like its price.

 

In my opinion, the HD-800 has a more neutral sound, with zero high-end harshness — the T1 has some, but not as much as the T90 or DT-880. The HD-800 is also significantly lighter-weight and therefore more comfortable for long listening. The T1 seems unnecessarily heavy, even down to its bulky cable.

 

In most other respects, including soundstage, ambience, and crispness, the T90, T1, and HD-800 are much more similar than I expected. The HD-800 just performs the role a bit better in a few respects.

 

I don't think HD-800 owners need the T1, or vice versa. They're too similar. But if you don't own either of them yet and can't try them both to see which you prefer in person, I think the HD-800 is the safer bet.

 

And if you don't mind the harsh upper end, the T90 can get you 90% of the way there for $650. But for your philosophy of "one purchase to end them all", which I can certainly identify with, I think you'd end up regretting settling for the T90 when you know the HD-800 is out there.

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by marcoarment View Post
 

I think a lot of it comes down to what you're used to. (It's a huge factor in your enjoyment of sound quality, and the real reason behind "burn-in" — burn-in is about you getting accustomed to a headphone's sound profile, not the headphone itself changing.)

 

[SNIP]

 

And in whatever's the opposite of muddiness, technically — decay? crispness? — I've never heard a better headphone than the T90. (I haven't heard any orthos yet, but I gather that this factor is where they excel.)

 

Totally agree with you on burn-in.

 

Quite a statement about the T90.  Let me ask my question this way:  If cost didn't matter (a rich uncle is giving them to you for free) would you choose the T90 or the HD-800?  

 

Stated yet another way, now that you own both, which one do your reach for most often?

 

Thanks again.

post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by nicko7i View Post
 

 

If cost didn't matter (a rich uncle is giving them to you for free) would you choose the T90 or the HD-800?  

 

Stated yet another way, now that you own both, which one do your reach for most often?

 

Too early to say for sure. I've only had the HD-800 for a few days so far. But as I said, the differences are much smaller than I expected. I thought I'd be blown away by finally hearing the legendary HD-800 at almost three times the price of the T90, but the difference simply isn't that dramatic.

 

The T90 is a bit better than the HD-800 in a few ways: it's a bit more crisp (faster decay, I think), its strong upper end gives the sound more personality, and it's more convenient (1/8" one-sided cable, easy to drive).

 

The HD-800 is better than the T90 in neutrality. It's like the T90 with the strong personality removed. You can keep the volume up on bright recordings without feeling like your ears had WAY too much coffee.

 

I can't see myself wanting to keep both since they serve too-similar roles. I'm planning to sell the T90, I think. (Probably here.) Knowing the T90 now, I can't say the HD-800 is a good value by comparison, but if you could have either without worrying about the cost, the HD-800 is the better headphone — but not by a huge margin.

post #11 of 11

One more thing. I also got the TH-900 for my closed-back needs (sometimes there's someone working 6 feet away from my desk, and sometimes I have the room to myself).

 

The TH-900 is a pretty awesome middle ground between the HD-800's neutrality and the T90's sometimes-too-harsh personality. It has slightly boosted bass and treble, so music has a bit more personality and punch, but it's otherwise as crisp and precise as the HD-800.

 

It's shockingly good-sounding for a closed headphone. You'd think it was open if you didn't know better. Unfortunately, this might be because it's not that closed. It's about halfway between most open and most closed headphones in isolation, both ways. So when my officemate is here, I still can't crank the volume with the TH-900 — I just have much more headroom than with a completely open set like the HD-800 or T90.

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