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HD 650 vs DT 880 vs ...

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
I've been comparing the Sennheiser HD 650 to my Beyerdynamic DT 880 600 Ohm, and after 200 hours of dutiful burn-in, the winner is…

The HD 600!

Here's a recap of how I got to this point. Just add "to me" to the head of any sentence that describes the sound.

A couple of months ago I started searching for a new pair of headphones. I do audio for a living, so up until now all my headphones have been closed and chosen for their flat frequency response or their ability to cut during recording... not for their amazing presentation. This time I was looking for something that might be useful as a reference for mixing, but mostly for having an impressive audiophile-like presentation. I didn't plan on spending over $200. Ha ha!

The music I listen to is:
60% Rock/Pop (Alt and progressive rock, classic rock, pop rock; not much R&B or dance pop)
20% Metal
10% Jazz
10% Classical

I bought a pair of Beyerdynamic DT 880 600 Ohm headphones after comparing a few models, including the DT 770 and DT 880 Pro 250 Ohm. If you've seen any of my recent posts you know I'm loving their sweet open treble, but I dislike their tendency to sound thin and, with some material, harsh in the highs. Their openness and soundstage had me hooked though, so I set about building a system around them, including a Matrix Mini-i as a warm-ish DAC and a Darkvoice 336se tube amp. Then I added RCA NOS tubes known for their warmth. I'd say I've done everything I reasonably can to warm them up.

I'd also heard the HD 650s a few times while shopping around, and I really liked them but the price tag kept me away. I couldn't stop thinking about them, wondering if they'd be the answer, so I ordered a pair. They would either get returned or replace the Beyers. To make it a fair fight, I bought a Sylvania tube known for its brighter character, and I also have a solid state amp with two headphone outs that has a sparkly treble.

The HD 650 may as well just be called the opposite of the DT-880.

880: sweet, open treble. Check.
650: not exactly.
650: thick, warm low end. Oh yeah.
880: nope. (though the bass does extend deceivingly low, there's no thump)

With both of these phones I want to reach for an EQ to "fix" them. Meanwhile I kept reading about the HD 600's peak in the upper-mids and their cleaned-up lows, and they sounded promising. I was in the middle of burning-in the 650s (whether there was any merit to it, I didn't know, but there's such an overwhelming consensus on this that I couldn't ignore it) to see if they'd "open up" as some say, but my impatience got the best of me and I ordered a pair of 600s. I received them when the 650s had about 100 hours on them.

When I listened to them for the first time I knew right away they hit the mark for me. That bump in the upper mids seems to give the illusion that there's more treble and lifts the infamous veil of the 650s. Compared to the 650s, there's more clarity and less warmth. I have songs I've been referencing for over 20 years, so I've heard them on many, many systems and I know what they should sound like. To me, the 600s are more what mix and mastering engineers have in mind when they're frequency sculpting. Songs that have too much treble sound like it, and songs with too much bass are somewhat exposed. It's nice to find something that you just know is right without all the second-guessing.

The DT-880s are what you get when you take great headphones and hype the highs, taking audiophile treble detail to the next level. Fun!! (but thin)

And conversely, the 650s are what you get when you take a really beautiful sounding headphone and artificially warm up the low end and recess the upper-mids a bit. Also fun! (but muddy)

Now I understand what people mean when they talk about how music just floats by with the 650s . Usually they're talking about how smooth they are and how they get lost in the music. It's easy to do with these -- they don't beg for your attention, that's for sure.

The HD 600s strike middle-ground. I was afraid this was going to be Goldilocks syndrome: These headphones are too bright; these are too dark; etc... and it would never end. Fortunately for me, these headphones are almost perfect. I don't feel like I should add or subtract any EQ. This is from a mixing/mastering perspective, so it's what my ears are used to. We all have a sound signature that appeals to us and that can be quite different depending on our ears and what we're used to.

I'd read some conflicting comparisons to the HD 650s -- some saying that they're very similar, if not exactly the same. Not really. They DO have a very similar approach to sound and dynamics, but to my ears the 600s "fix" the 650s, and I'm sold. The box they came in had "Natural Sound" written across the top and I agree with that. At times the 600s border on too much peak in the upper-mids, but just barely. Hate to say it, but if Sennheiser made a "625" they might be absolutely perfect: A bit more of the big low end of the 650s and a dose of the veil-lifting upper mids of the 600s.

So the 650s will go back (I sure hope the next person doesn't try to burn them in for 200 hours and expect a change!!), and I'm keeping the 600s. The 650 are awesome, but the 600s are awesomer.

By the way, I'm finding that if I read enough comparisons here, I end up with an amazingly accurate picture of what things sound like. I know you can't just buy headphones based on reviews, but so far they've been spot-on with everything I've tried. There's always the occasional post that goes against everything else, but if you eliminate the extremes I think you get an accurate and true consensus.

Oh yeah... as of now, I think I'm keeping the 880s. For classical and jazz especially, I know I'd miss them too much. They're special for sure.

Lastly, my thoughts on the 650s break-in. I used a wide variety of music tracks, pink noise, and silence for 200 hours to break them in. They were not on my head for most of it, so the pad break-in -- that many people claim is the real change -- wasn't a factor in my results.

I fully admit I could've been imagining any changes. Sound gets so subjective you almost can't trust your ears. I can't tell you how many times I play something for a client and they say, "Hey, can you turn (this or that) up?". So I play it again to hear what it is they're talking about, and they shout, "Oh yeah, that's better". Huh? I haven't even done anything. OK, moving on...

And there isn't a mixer on the planet who hasn't been tweaking an EQ, thinking, "Yeah, that's better", when they were actually tweaking the wrong track (talk about humbling).

That said, if someone put a gun to my head and demanded answers, I would say this about the burn-in on the 650s: At first they sounded bass-heavy and muddy. Some people are referring to this as "bloated bass". At about 100 hours they actually thinned out and got a little peaky in the mids. At 200 hours they returned to their warm bass, but it was tightened up a bit, and the treble seemed more present and slightly more extended. However, these changes that I think I perceived were very subtle and really, the basic sound signature of the 650s didn't change. They were still too dark for me. I was very sad nonetheless to send them back.
Edited by ccash - 5/22/14 at 11:45pm
post #2 of 24

dun send your "625" back yet :P

 

post #17302

post #3 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by ccash View Post

I fully admit I could've been imagining any changes. Sound gets so subjective you almost can't trust your ears. I can't tell you how many times I play something for a client and they say, "Hey, can you turn (this or that) up?". So I play it again to hear what it is they're talking about, and they shout, "Oh yeah, that's better". Huh? I haven't even done anything. OK, moving on...

 

This passage sums up about 99% of the discussion here on Head-Fi. If people would only accept that hearing is subjective.:)

post #4 of 24
post #5 of 24

Thanks for the information.

post #6 of 24

Well thought out write-up. Thanks for posting. Why do you prefer the 880s for classical and jazz?

post #7 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lorspeaker View Post
 

dun send your "625" back yet :P

 

post #17302


heya! I thought a lot about what you said a couple weeks ago. You obviously knew exactly where I was coming from and described how to get a "625". I just don't want to have to buy some esoteric cables to find out, but it was tempting. I had to make a decision and the 600s really impressed me. I'll always wonder though... maybe someday I'll hear something like what you have at a meet.

post #8 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by New Yorker View Post
 

Well thought out write-up. Thanks for posting. Why do you prefer the 880s for classical and jazz?


Because the delicateness and airy breathiness of the 600 Ohm 880 just makes those genres sound exciting, open and  -- I want to say realistic -- but maybe it's hyper-realistic? They don't get shrill to me with those genres like they can with contemporary music. For classical and jazz the Sennheisers sound more like I'm wearing headphones.

 

Something I didn't mention yet is that for me the Senns are more comfortable. I really don't like the way the Beyer premiums barely sit on my ears. They're loose and it's weird, like someone barely touching you. I like the "positive feedback" of the Senns and I much prefer the oval shape to the round Beyers. Most people find the Beyers extremely comfortable though.

post #9 of 24
So u are Sein-less now? :-) just keeping the dt880?
post #10 of 24
Thread Starter 

Oh, no! I'm keeping the HD600s. They're going to be my go-to phones. I should sell the DT880s to alleviate financial guilt, but as of now I think I'm going to keep them.

post #11 of 24

i doubt the hd600 can be manipulated to give me enuf basspleasure...

tot it would be easier to work from the hd650 instead, n tried to give it abit more " steel" :P

(Changed a few cables on the hd600 b4, added some smoothness n body somewhat but nothing near hd650 heft.)

 

keep the dt880/600, sure u enjoyed it on your darkvoice :P

( i am using the 770/600, to keep out the buzzingnoise of mosquitoes )

post #12 of 24

I always felt the HD650 was a DT880 with the treble control at 9 0'Clock on a typical integrated. That's how they always sounded to me, and I've owned both for extensive periods (currently the 880), and that's what the FR suggests:

 

graphCompare.php?graphType=0&graphID[]=963&graphID[]=853&scale=30

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 

Wow, that IS interesting how similar the curves look -- all the peaks and dips in the same places. Not how I hear it though for some reason. Probably mostly about the lower treble and the less open sound for me. Maybe I needed more time with them.

 

Really enjoying the 600s so far.

post #14 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by ccash View Post
 

Wow, that IS interesting how similar the curves look -- all the peaks and dips in the same places. Not how I hear it though for some reason. Probably mostly about the lower treble and the less open sound for me. Maybe I needed more time with them.

 

Really enjoying the 600s so far.


It's not just the frequency response. There are other characteristics that distinguish those headphones from each other. The DT880s are far more compressed than the HD650/600. The HD650/600s have a nice dynamic bass. The other thing is that some headphones can have plenty of treble without having the ability to be fatigueing.

 

Very cool review BTW ! :)


Edited by HiSenn5 - 5/21/14 at 1:51am
post #15 of 24

Compressed? As I say, I've owned both (all three actually) and I wasn't aware of any compression, whatever that may mean in this context. Perhaps you can explain further.

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