Separate names with a comma.
Over-Ear item created by nickvalluri, Feb 1, 2012
Pros - Light, nice looking
Cons - Distorted sound
At the San Francisco Bay Area Head-Fi meet this afternoon I met one of the guys behind the Woo Audio tables, who encouraged me to try my old AKG K-340 on the Woo WA7 amp at the table. He said he owns several AKG models himself including the K-340 and assured me it would perform very well. He tuned the source to a piece from Prokofiev's ballet Romeo & Juliet that has BIG powerful deep bass passages. I have seen and heard this ballet live in San Francisco several times so I know the effect of the particular scene in the opera house. The whole orchestra from top to bottom sounded terrific on the K-340, even the high strings which are usually the weak link (they typically sound scratchy.on my home system, which apart from the phones is not very good (old Yamaha receiver instead of a proper amp).
Then out of casual curiosity I plugged in a set of other phones that was lying next to the amp, which turned out to be the Sennheiser HD 700. I was taken aback. The sound was completely different. The orchestral instruments did not sound faithful at all. Lots of distortion high and low, some instruments unrecognizable. I wondered why the Woo staff would lay out such a cheap headphone to test their sophisticated equipment. Then later I looked up the price -- MSP $1000 and street price around $500.
This was not a rigorous test, just a side by side comparison impression of two very dissimilar headphones on the same music and amp. But the proof is in the hearing. Anybody considering a purchase of this phone (or any other serious one, for that matter), should do his own careful research first-hand.
Pros - Super comfy
Cons - Too exciting for my tastes, mid suckout, spotlit treble, too expensive, ugly
Personally I don't like it, but I can see why other people may.
For a broader angle drier approach to these see: http://www.head-fi.org/t/614011/sennheiser-hd700-review
Pros - Comfort, looks, non fatiguing
Cons - Value, overall audio quality,
Let me begin by saying there is nothing special about these headphones. My first impression of them made me smile because I fell in love with the oral shaped ear cups (I'm a sucker for "small" full ear headphones). Comfort is a highlight that sennheiser did not lose when they made these headphones. But when your paying $1000 dollars on headphones comfort shouldn't sway you from giving up large gapes of audio quality. Which leads me to audio quality, if the only headphone drivers that existed were still dynamic drivers then this would have a great success for sennheiser. (Note I burned them in 6 hrs a day until roughly 250hrs) The best way to describe these headphones would be to call them average(neutral a good thing for studio) with plenty of warmth and a bit of harsh treble (not good for studio). A big con is the pain it can create in your ears if you listen to songs with lots of T's and S's. Some characterizes of headphones in the 300-500 dollar beat these headphones. And stiff competition such as the Audeze Lcd 2 and even hifiman he500 (that are hundreds less) make these headphones a rip off to some extent if your in the market of hifi headphones that are in the warm side.
Pros - Un-coloured sound, feel solid and professional, removeable and replacable cord.
Cons - The cotton cord with a mind of its own, very open design lets a lot of sound out.
After building a very exotic valve headphone amp, with a Sophia Mesh Plate Rec. tube, I wanted to match this thermionic marvel with REAL quality phones. I have a pair of AT ATH700 Airs which I love and think excellent value for $160. I also have my "train" pair of Phiaton 400s with their closed back. The Phiatons are good but the ATs much better. I Googled for the "best headphones" the the answer came back "Sennheiser HD700s". Too many good reviews to ignore them and at around the $1K mark I must have a pair. RRP for these pro. phones is $1,100. Even on eBay they were going for $1,050. But shopping about I picked up an authentic new pair for $750. At $750 these are a steel. I'd pay $750 just for the foam padded box they came in. The HD700s are made in Germany and feel solid and very profession. And that's just how they sound. Rated 150ohms and 105db efficient these are easy to drive phones.
But lets talk about the sound. Firstly the bass is very extended but far from overblown like so many cheaper phones can be. Bass is very articulated and no problems following a slap bass (doubled bass) being played with gusto. You can hear inside the bass and the air around it. Mids are linear, clean and harmonically rich particularly through the valve HP amp. I could understand if some think them a little dry because they really add nothing to the mids where some might want extra weight here. Treble is balanced and not over bright and sibilance is controlled but not overly so. They may be a tough too much "sshhh" and not so much "S". Again a different amp may offer a different balance.
I would thoroughly recommend the Sennheiser HD700 even if you pay full price. These phones are keepers for the at home serious listener. To achieve the very best from them match them a high quality amp\driver and play REAL music through them not compressed mp3 sound files. These phones are why we listen to music the way we do.
Pros - Exceedingly comfortable, easy to drive, many of the strengths of the HD800 at a lower price
Cons - The price will be an issue if it doesn't get discounted, highs can be bothersome, plastic construction may not feel like $1K headphones
Just adding a quick summary based on my time with the prototype version of the HD700. In my opinion this is a very good headphone, yet I know it won't be perfect for everybody. But no headphone ever is!
It basically takes the HD800 sound, reduces the treble energy to some degree, and possibly bumps up the bass impact a tad. Either that or it just seems that way due to the treble balance. Since mine was a prototype version, there is a chance that the final sound will change. Therefore I'll be speaking in generalities. I know for sure that there will be updates to the headband to offer more padding. Despite that, I already found the HD700 to be supremely comfortable. Maybe it is just my head being the perfect size for them, but I think these are the most comfy headphones I've ever worn. Revised padding shouldn't change that, and if anything will make it even better.
As mentioned above, these have a similar overall tone to the HD800. If you despised the HD800 then the HD700 probably won't win you back. But for some people this might be perfect. Maybe you loved the HD800 but couldn't afford it. Or maybe you could afford the HD800 alone but not the quality amplification it requires. Or maybe you loved the HD800 clarity and soundstage but couldn't quite get over the lightness of the bass in relation to the treble. The HD700 addresses all of those issues to some degree:
At $999, it isn't cheap, but still quite a bit less than the $1500 HD800
It seems significantly easier to drive. Not only that, but it seems less "picky" about amplification, pairing fairly well with almost anything I threw at it. This might be partially due to the less tipped-up sound signature in general.
It has a somewhat more "mainstream" ratio of bass to treble. By that I mean the treble is shelved down by a noticeable amount (though still prominent - this is no HD650). So while the best sound still comes by way of Diana Krall style "audiophile" tracks, you can comfortably play some Steve Miller Band and not feel like the bass is too shy. I know that many people find the HD800 perfect in this regard - but we have to recognize that many others do not.
Is this headphone actually better than the HD800? Not exactly. The HD800 still has superior imaging and soundstage, though the HD700 comes rather close. The HD800 still has better details. And on the proper rig, I think the HD800 is just a more transparent window into the music. But the HD700 comes close in many ways, and doesn't take as much to get there in terms of source and amplification. I think it could be a better match for more people and more systems.
It isn't the perfect headphone. There is an issue with sibilance in some tracks. In other cases the highs can be peaky and sharp. The plastic construction, while extremely light weight and comfortable, will be fundamentally disappointing to some users. And in the end some folks will still find them too bass light. There is strong competition from planar models like the HE-500 and LCD-2, though in my opinion the HD700 is roughly as good as those (though obviously different). The HE-500 manages to undercut the HD700 by $300, which can't be ignored.
Take all this discussion with a huge grain of salt - these are not yet finalized, and could have some significant changes before they come to market in a few months. A big determining factor will be the manner in which Sennheiser handles their sales: if retailers are forced to strictly enforce the MSRP, I believe there will be less interest. But if the "street price" drops to around $800-something I believe they will become extremely popular. Either way I believe HeadFi will be buzzing about the HD700, for better or worse, for some time.
And now some eye candy:
Pros - In-Yer-Face, LOVES the PONO, easy to power, not as distended soundstage as HD800
Cons - Can be harsh / in yer face, reveals poor sources / media, somewhat high impedance,
Sennheiser HD700: Sennheiser with a Sledgehammer
Sennheisers of the HD6xx and HD8xx line have a tendency to be fantastic reference headphones with ample soundstage that generally share one (or both) of the following two tendencies: An expansive soundstage with exquisite detail reproduction, or the ability to find their ways into studios as reference headphones for listening, mixing, and editing recorded audio. They also have a tendency to sound veiled at the high frequencies regardless of their analytical nature. The HD700, one of Sennheiser’s high-end headphones, seems to buck this trend; eschewing reference quality for a more “Grado-esque” sound generation. This more “in-your-face” approach has made it one of the most polarizing high-end headphones on the market, and I’m going to write this review as a first impression; primarily focusing on the empirical, and about 20 to 25 hours of “break-in” having been done. (FULL DISCLOSURE: I KNOW THAT THIS IS NOT A FULLY BROKEN IN HEADPHONE.)
This review will focus on the HD700 as a headphone used in the PONO player, and in comparison to my Sennheiser HD598 that have been upgraded with a Moon Audio Blue Dragon cable. I’m going to, as applicable, compare the sound quality, portability, and even how the PONO’s battery life is affected between the two headphones. I will also go over less “audio-important” aspects such as the presentation of the headphones, the cost, and whether the price : performance ratio validates one, or both, headphones in one’s headphone arsenal. Before this review goes further, I’m going to lay out the specs of both headphones.
Color: BEIGE / Brown
Impedance: 50 Ω
Build: Plastic body, faux leather headrest, velour pads, steel ear-grilles
Driver Size: 40mm
Sound Range: 12hz – 38500hz
Jack: ¼ inch Jack included (Moon Audio Cable has 1/8 inch jack)
Head Connector: twist-in 2.5mm jack
THD: 0.1% (1khz / 100db sound pressure level)
Where’s it Made: China
Price and Where I bought it: $120 @ Amazon
Color: Anthracite / Light Gray / Black
Impedance: 150 Ω
Build: Plastic body, metal earpiece adjusters, alcantara earpads (I think), stainless mesh ear-grilles with visible driver backside
Driver Size: 40mm
Sound Range: 15hz – 40000hz (-3db); 8hz – 44000hz (-10db)
Weight: 270g without cable
Jack: ¼ inch gold plated jack, I use a Grado ¼ inch to 1/8 inch converter for PONO use
Head Connector: 1 2.5mm click-in headphone connector per earpiece
Where it’s Made: Ireland
Price and Where I bought it: $749.99 MSRP; $425 @ B&H (before coupons and gift cards)
With enough variables out of the way to give this review some semblance of science, let’s compare the initial handshake that the HD700 gives. The handshake is also known as the unboxing process.
UNBOXING AND FIRST IMPRESSIONS
The HD700 comes in a rather large box with a silhouette of the HD700 on the front, and the slogan “Truly Excite Your Ears” on it. I’m not sure if this means that Sennheiser is trying to make a more “in your face” headphone meant to entice those who feel other high-end Sennheisers are more “veiled,” or if this headphone was the beginning of a new direction for Sennheiser that accepts less “reference sounding” headphones. Anywho, opening the box reveals…. ANOTHER BOX! (albeit a very nice one) This box opens on a hinge to reveal the HD700 sitting inside, surrounded by super soft foam, and the 3m kevlar-wrapped cable is kept in its own separate compartment. It’s not the crushed velvet introduction of the HD800 / HD800s, but it’s also not a handmade-in-Germany, cost-be-damned headphone. It’s one step below, but Sennheiser is still letting you know that this is a serious headphone that’s more than capable of bringing world-class performance without the exorbitant prices of its German superiors. In contrast, the HD598s came in a basic box, with blister plastic around them, but otherwise very well presented for their price point.
Removing the HD700s was a bit of a task at first. The foam surrounding the headphones themselves holds them very securely, but I was not expecting the headphone cables to be connected at the initial unboxing. Thankfully, the 2.5mm earpiece connectors were solidly in place, and the box itself was not compromised. I do wonder if this is how it came from the factory, or if it was a return… either way, they work, and they play nicely, so I’m content. The factory cable itself is a 3 meter (about 9.8 foot) long cable wrapped in a kevlar-like cloth. I’m not sure what the wires inside are, but they are extremely flexible and it is extremely high quality. So far, everything about this headphone seems to be up snuff for the $425 street / $750 MSRP. So I began clicking them to get them set up. Initially I tried to eyeball them to my HD598s, which I liked at 4 clicks short of maximum. I lined this up to 6 clicks past the smallest size on the HD700s. Over time, the HD700s broke in, and I found that reducing this to 5 clicks past the smallest size provided a better fit. Clamping force is light, but assured, and does not harm my glasses. Will they move? No, will they clamp? Yes. Will they clamp so hard that they’ll snap the arms off your eyeglasses? Thankfully, no. The HD598s, would clamp hard enough to bend the ear-pieces on one’s glasses, relegating a lot of its listening to glasses-less time. In contrast, the HD700s can be worn for hours with glasses with no ill effects on the glasses’ integrity.
My enthusiasm was dampened somewhat by the connector itself. Not due to an issue on the part of Sennheiser; they market this as a high-end, near-endgame headphone, so a long cord with a ¼ jack is justifiable, but why not throw in different cables as well? Quite a few HD700s are pressed into service on portable DAPs, so a 1.5m 1/8 termination, or an XLR balanced cable not unlike the HD800s that was released early in 2016, would be a welcome improvement for increasing its versatility out of the box. (Now ideally, I’d like a balanced cable for my PONO player, since this set of HD700s will see extensive use with it, but that’s such a niche request I can understand Sennheiser not going that route.) The HD598s come with a 3m cable, rubber coated, and also terminated into a ¼ inch jack, but presumably due to the lower impedance and subsequent greater likelihood of being used with a mobile DAP, a ¼ inch to 1/8 inch converter is included. A nice touch, but due to the length of connector that ensues with the HD598, it can put a LOT of torque on DAP connectors, and PC connectors. (NB: 2 of my sound connections were damaged by the HD598s ¼ to 1/8 inch converter mechanism that, when combined with a 10 foot cable, can easily yank connectors right off their solder points…. Be careful.)
However, the HD700 required a connection converter of its own, because it did not come with a 1/8 inch male jack. To this end, I put a GRADO ¼ inch to 1/8 inch converter on it. Whereas the 598’s included converter was a direct plug, the GRADO plug had a small amount of cable on it, which helped to relieve some of the torque-factor that was inherent in the 598. Unfortunately it would make the cable even more snag-prone, and only serves as a roundabout solution. OK, enough handshakes and empiricals, let’s get to the headphone behavior itself!
THE MUSIC EXPERIENCE
In Full Disclosure: Before I go further with this section, I do need to disclose that my music experience is based on using my HD700s in stock configuration through a PONO player. The PONO Player is a DAP that was designed by Ayre Acoustics, and much of it resembles a sort of cross-breeding between a traditional DAP (ie: iPod) and the Ayre Codex, which is a dedicated DAC / AMP that shares much of the PONO’s design, albeit in a larger and SUBSTANTIALLY more powerful form factor. The PONO has a balanced mode achieved with certain headphone / cable combinations that does allow for the player to send double the power up to the headphones, while effectively canceling out noise, but for the purpose of this review, I will limit my observations to single-ended (ie: plugging one 3.5mm jack into the player) experiences, with the volume at approximately 35 to 50% for the HD700s.
The initial impression of these headphones was, to put it gently, BOXY. Sure, alcantara feels nice, the body and cable and connection reek of quality, but these headphones were BOXY… the soundspace was not developed, bass was dominant, with mids and highs nowhere to be found. I decided to give the headphone a bit of “break-in time” where I wouldn’t listen, and I would return to the same track in a week to see if any progress ensued. I performed about 20 to 25 hours of break-in by leaving the PONO player charged and leaving the PONO in “mix mode” so that it could randomly pick tunes while I was at work to feed the HD700s in the hopes of “opening them up.” The test song in this case was “Good Lava” by Esperanza Spalding off of her 2016 Album “Emily’s D+Evolution.” I bought the album in 96/24 WAV from HDTracks. The listening level on the PONO was approximately 35 to 40%, accounting for the lowish DR of the song. The initial listen was all bass, and there was not a great amount of fidelity in Ms. Spalding’s voice, and the soundstage was a bit more closed in than I would have expected. I knew these were 150 ohm headphones, so they may have been a bit hard to drive. So I looked at InnerFidelity’s headphone measurement compendium for the HD700’s page (see: http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD700.pdf) and found that only 0.15 volts was needed to get to a 90db listening level. A bit higher than ideal for running single-ended (it should be less than .1v RMS), but not as bad as I feared.
After the initial break-in with the aforementioned track, I found that Ms. Spalding’s voice opened up, there were more than just pile-driving bass and drums to be found, and that the various instruments (guitar, bass, drums, backing vocals) had begun to space themselves out to where the songs did not sound as “congested” as initially. I tried a different song, “Kodachrome / Maybelline” off of Simon and Garfunkel – The Concert in Central Park, in order to move away from the bass-heavy to something a bit more folk-rock in nature. (Format: 192/24 WAV, also from HDTracks.). Whereas the HD700s absolutely crushed it with the bass-heavy fusion-cum-funk-cum-jazz of Esperanza Spalding, they presented almost an excessively heavy-handed presentation to Kodachrome that gave a wide soundspace, but over-emphasis to the bass and drums. Other songs, such as “Mrs. Robinson” and “The Sound of Silence” had an exquisitely open, yet never brittle, presentation. In comparison, the HD598s, even with the improved Blue Dragon cable, gave a very bass-light presentation to “Good Lava,” but absolutely nailed it with Simon & Garfunkel. These HD700s weren’t your traditional Sennheisers, they were bringing me back to my days as a college DJ where I ran my show with Grado RS2s into a console…. Punchy, and in your face.
I decided to mix things up a bit and move away from folk-rock and modern-engineered fusion-pop and geared up to my reference albums; Bob Marley: Legend (192/24 WAV), Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue (192/24 WAV), and Claudio Abbado conducting the Berlin Philharmoniker through Beethoven’s 9[sup]th[/sup] symphony (96/24 WAV). Each one gave me a varied result. Bob Marley’s Legend was a bass-heavy experience on the HD700s. I never felt wanting for more bass, and the album hit the headphones hard. At this point, I realized that the HD700s were something that the 598s were not: FAST. These headphones never stumbled over passages that melded piledriving bass lines with delicate female background vocals, nor did they fail to pick up nuances when instruments peeked in (i.e.: Jammin’) out of nowhere. This trend of picking up nuances continued with Kind of Blue. On the HD598s, the opening of “So What” had a noticeable bassline, but the HD700s revealed a more analytical mindset, picking up the bass plucks, but the sound of fingers going onto the fingerboard right before the pluck itself. My fears that the lack of treble would hurt the listening experience (as it did somewhat in the Simon and Garfunkel Central Park concert) were unfounded, as even Bill Evans’ delicate piano work was brought to the forefront. Even in “All Blues” where the piano takes a backseat to Miles’ muted trumpet, the random progression of piano that sounded like one note being pushed constantly was in actuality many notes played rapidly in a progression. The HD598s stumbled here, seemingly having to choose between muted trumpet and rapid piano, and not asserting either one.
Lastly, Abbado’s rendering of the 9[sup]th[/sup] symphony. I’m not going to ever say that the HD700s are the ideal “classical listening headphone,” as while they are analytical, they’re anything but reference (whereas the HD598s are not terribly analytical, but very neutral). They powerhouse through the album, and while they sacrifice some absolute top-end, they bring out the bass. On O Freunde nicht dise Tone”, the bass of the timpanis was highly emphasized, while vocals and violins somewhat subdued, although very existent. I’m not sure if this is because the DR of this album is 16, or if it’s because the glut of this album is outside of the HD700’s sweet spot. I consistently found myself having to raise the volume, only to be caught out by one of the more powerful sections (i.e.: Ode to Joy) of the movement. At the same time, it could be that the PONO is near its power limits in single-ended operation. The HD598s won out here, being grainier in delivery, but more consistent based on the available amount of power that could be sent to the headphones.
Listening to the HD700s is not like any other Sennheiser, and could be described as a cross between the analytical nature of the HD800s, and the in-yer-face nature of a Grado RS2e. It does reveal flaws and limitations in the playback media, the DAP, as well as even in the listener. At 150 ohms, it is right at the limit of what the PONO can do single-ended without any outside help. That being said, they have become my #1 go-to headphone for music listening, and won out over the HD800 and HD800s when I went to buy them.
SO WHERE FROM HERE?! (AND WHY OVER THE HD800?!)
I will wrap up this review by answering the second question first. To be blunt, the HD800 is a WONDERFUL headphone, analytical, and more than capable of bringing out the best of your DAP and DAC / AMP setups when configured right. However, with Rock Music, or any DAC / AMP combo, it becomes the headphone equivalent of Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory. Wickedly intelligent, yet incapable of not talking about quantum physics even at a beer bash. It is so open and revealing the sound almost appears distended. The HD700s, on the other hand, proved to be adept at classical music, providing enough soundspace to be enjoyable, yet not sounding distended when listening to rock and roll. It showed the limitations of low DR / poorly mastered albums, and still allowed the reference works plenty of space to show off why they are considered reference material.
The first question is not as easy to answer. The PONO is amazing with the HD700, but I feel is pushed to its limits powerwise. Additionally, in the brief attempts with my computer, the HD700s never felt fully powered. I may take two steps to rectify this: A balanced cable for the PONO to allow for more power to hit the HD700s (and possibly opening the sound up even more and getting rid of some fidelity issues), and getting a dac / amp setup to plug into my computer to allow for even more power than the PONO could ever provide to get to the HD700s. Whether I go with a combo such as the Ayre CODEX, or some sort of dac / amp combo remains to be seen, but the HD700 is a great headphone, isn’t terribly picky, but just needs some extra power to really make it shine.
Pros - Detailed, warm, relaxing sound with extended top.
Cons - awkward stiff cable that needs ironing!
Few early impressions from my first night and following day with these fellas (I think early impressions are important before they have time to brainwash you ). I was pleasantly surprised by the treble straight away. It's hard not to have preconceptions when a headphone has been labelled this or that.. So I try as hard as possible to listen with my ears and no-one else's when judging SQ. My music preference is Classical and Jazz.
So... Starting with the overall balance and image: These seem balanced to me in regards to treble and bass. I hear both a hump in the mid bass and also a peak in the upper registers. This creates an exciting/fun sound. Its fun, but also refined at the same time. There is a missing part in the upper mids (just like the HD800) that helps create a smoothness. This gives this headphone a more U shape compared to the HD800 because of the extra bass lift. Sometimes I'm getting the feeling that the bass is sometimes segregated a little too much from the treble. Bass extents low but is more concentrated further up. The imaging can change from recording to recording... One minute I'm really impressed then the next I'm thinking it doesn't sound right compared to the HD6xx. This is obviously to do with the angled drivers and overall different presentation. Something I'll no doubt get used to.
Soundstage: This took me a while to understand fully. It doesn't seem that much bigger than the HD6xx series when you first put them on, but when the music calls for it they are capable of going very wide indeed. (something the 6xx can't do) So depending on the music, they don't over-stretch a cozy quartet, but they will expand to let an orchestra breath. The depth is good but not much different to the 6xx. What is better, is the space around instruments and overall control of different timbres. No smearing.
Tone: The overall tone is warm. Very warm at the bottom but also reasonably bright at the top. The treble extends all the way up and is on par with the hd800 for allowing the top to breath. Every nuance in the recording is there. There is also no hardness in the treble as with the 6xx series and I'm putting this down to the dip in the upper mids. The bass seems to change with amplification. On my trusty NAD vintage amps (the best amps I've tried with HD800) the bass is big, warm and thunderous at times! There is a slight bloat in the lower mids but not as much as the 650. Changing to a solid state hp amp and the bass drops significantly. It is tight and better controlled. But this loses too much drama for me. It turns a fun hp into a more delicate and easy listen.
I'm still sussing the mids out. I was expecting these to suffer with the freq response graphs I'd seen posted. But just like the HD800 they are actually very pleasing. Strings sound silky smooth, violins don't have the hardness (grain) that the HD600 especially can show. Now, I know a lot of folk like the response to be flatter in the upper mids as this gives electric guitar grit and texture for example. But from an acoustic perspective the mids here are pleasing. Maybe a little polite, but pleasing. Vocals sound natural to me, again for the same reasons quoted above.
Compared to the other top Senns. (HD800, 600, 650)
These come across as being more different than better. Yes they are technically impressive but I believe it comes down to music enjoyment - as that is the their job right? Last night I was getting shivers up my spine with some of my favourite classical tracks and so this is a good sign. Other times my attention was drawn to the "sound" of the headphone itself. So only time will tell if I can switch off completely from the technical merits/effects of this hp to immerse myself fully into the music (like I can with the HD650, but couldn't with the HD800 sometimes).
Putting my HD650's on this morning after another hour with the HD700 and I welcomed the airy, relaxing sound.. But I could soon hear the 650's shortcomings in regards to the treble and separation. I went back to the HD700 and welcomed the refinement and smoothness. They do inherit a few traits of the HD800 but are very different to my ears. The HD800 are still the kings of dynamic headphone hifi in respect to accurately reproducing music.
Love the design and size of these. Small, light and fit over my ears comfortably. Might change the cable though.
Early days, but I think I'll be welcoming these to live alongside my trusty 650's. For my preference the HD700 are better than the HE500 or LCD2 for example, so in that respect they are an absolute bargain now.
*Edit 4 months later*
Delighted with this purchase now. So much so I sold my HD650 and now use these as my main headphone. All headphones have a burn in time (whether brain or or whatever) and these when amped right can sound outstanding. Seriously, there's not much to miss having owned the HD800 for two years. These are more fun. So.. Unless you have a high end set up, I'm sure you could live very happily with these rather than paying for the HD800. Especially if you want a bit more oomph down below
Pros - Aesthetically pleasing comfortable for the discerning audiophile grade
Cons - The pretzel cords are annoying along with the unfounded negative critiques
These headphones need to be amped. If you choose to use them without doing so, they will sound weak and lifeless. The complaints I read about seem to me to be with people that haven't synergized them correctly with the right equipment. They are not as picky as the HD 800's to match up with the right dac/amps. They like nice files to listen to as they hear crap files like crap. Reading that they are bad??? is just absurd. Those folks are just trolls demonstrating their finest behavior. I respect opinions but only knowledge based ones.
Pros - Comfort, sound quality, non-fatiguing, Scalability
Cons - Cable (come on Sennheiser...), pad material, fells a bit reaching
I put off this review for a while for a few reasons. First, I wanted to try these out with more than one amp before making a call on these. Second, The HD700 have some things that just generally confuse, or/and seem a bit odd/hard to describe.
The HD700 is my first venture into the >$300 price range, and I now see the potential high-end headphones really have. The scenario that has occurred while using these is confusing to say the least.
Well, the Sennheiser HD700 are one odd, strangely cool, somewhat mysterious looking headphones. The way I describe it is the title: "The Smirking Guy in the Back of the Room. "
They clearly know what's up, but also have no intention of sharing any insight. They also don't care for what anyone thinks of them, while still being cool.
The headband has the same adjustment system, and many equal parts to the G4ME/GAME series, and the HD380 Pro. The part that gets weird is the headband pad, and layered, rubber-like top portion. The weirdness of this build is in part due to the headband pad. The cloth has a feel that reminds me of those tan self-adhesive sports injury wraps. It is like Sennheiser wanted to make velour bleed sound less, and at the same time be a microfiber/Velour combo. The result is kinda odd, and I don't think I like it very much. The same fabric is used on the earcups as well. The headband pad itself is thick for no reason. The cushion does not compress too easily, and the headphones do not weigh very much. As a result, it looks a bit odd, and feels as such. Actual contact space with the head is kinda low, and for me can get a tad annoying after a while. I think Sennheiser could have done a better job on the headband, specifically the cushion.
The actual earcups are something other manufacturers should have learned about a looooong time ago. Guess what! They are shaped like ears! What a novel idea! Something designed for an ear, shaped like an ear! Who would have thought! In all seriousness, this is fantastic that they are shaped like this. It makes them more comfortable for sure. The HD700 has a unique earcup design that borrows largely from the HD800. The lighter colored panels are actually a fine mesh. Light passes through these, as does some sound. The inside of the earcup is spacious compared to most other headphones, and the first to only touch one of my ears on the inside! space that would normally be covered over in most headphones is contoured by the inside mesh/dust cover thing that keeps you from touching the actual driver build. This allows much more room for your ear, and I think it looks kinda cool as well.
Sennheiser has this bad habit of making the worst cables ever. They all tend to be too long for most, defaulting to 1/4 inch, and have an unnecessary springyness.
The HD700 is no exception whatsoever. The cord is like a quality-scaled version of the cord on old Oreck vacuums. The cable loops for to easily, is isn't malleable enough to sort itself out either. It is heavy too. As someone who rearranges his setup all the time, this cord just gets in the way, and is a real pain. On top of that, these cables are super expensive to replace, if you want the official one (not that anyone would want another one of these...). At least it is braided from the split to the 1/4 inch.
I'm bored of talking about the build, just look at the thing...... Let's move on.
Adjustable headband, which pivots slightly, and rotates vertically further than anyone would need them to.
D-shaped earcups, or ear-shaped if you prefer. (Which is sad that this is a notable feature.)
removable cable (thank goodness)
Are they comfortable? yes. Are they all you ever wanted? no.
As stated before, the headband leaves something to be desired. The pad does not make enough contact with the head, and is covered in that microfiber/velour weird fabric that I don't like. I much prefer the Headband of the Philips Fidelio X2, or the Philips SHP9500. I think the SHP9500 has one of the best headband designs of all time btw.
The clamp force is low as the default width is quite high, but it is not super flexible, and can bother me a tad.
The headphones are quite lightweight, which add to the comfort too.
The pad material bothers me a bit too, which is a shame.
Only one earcup touches my ear inside at all, which I cannot say about any other headphone I have tried. The G4ME Zero comes close, and I think are overall more comfortable than the HD700.
I think most people will find the HD700 to be super comfortable, but for me there are just enough things that bother me to not hit the mark. Quite comfortable overall, but not perfect by any means.
The HD700 is once again that smirking kid in the back of the room.
I first noticed that the HD700 are quite similar to the K7XX in sound. The HD700 being more spacious, more exciting, and cleaner than the K7XX, but the K7XX seemed more neutral to me. I think the strongest link between them is that I can hear a treble spike in roughly the same place, but found it to be less of a problem on the HD700.
The HD700 is quite odd in that it has some of the best mids I have ever heard, yet the mids are a tad recessed. This trait is the opposite of most headphones. the best frequencies are usually a little forward to display their strengths well. I did not feel like I was missing the mids though. Another odd thing is that as clear as the audio is, most of the time if does not sound totally natural. This is not so in the mids, but apparent elsewhere.
Some things, especially in the mids simply sound real. For example: while listening to Tusk - Fleetwood Mac a tuba appears at one point that made my jaw momentarily drop a little.
I find the highs to be about half-way between the K7XX and the Fidelio X2, but far cleaner. The revealing factor is very, very good, but I feel it is possible to be even better.
I usually give headphones a trial with a few people who do not know very much about the subject to get their impressions without any kind of brand, or price bias. The results were overwhelmingly good for all but one person. I had to almost pry these out of the hands of a couple of people. (Odd correlation, they were both well toward the older half of the population.) They could not get over how clean, and spacious they sounded. The odd person out did not like how they felt on his head, but thought they sounded very good.
I decided I had to try HD700 with more than one amp to truly determine their worth. I found that they are surprisingly efficient, taking a bit more power than the Fidelio X2. I do note that they are much better with a better source than a mobile phone, or onboard computer audio. They do seem to scale quite well. unlike most Sennheisers, I found I liked them more with a solid-state amp than a tube amp. I think these would really shine with a high end amp/dac.
The bass is not particularly lacking, but the HD700 is easily recognizable as a bright headphone. The treble peak is noticeable, but the particular air of headphones I got specifically because they had less spike in the peak. If there is one thing sound-wise I would prefer different would be to smooth that peak even more.One good thing about the treble peak is that some vocals are quite intimate when they sit in the range of the peak.
For gaming, these are Fantastic. For CS:GO, these are a no-brainer. They are spacious, and have great imaging, especially with the right dac/amp. I went from "I hear a couple lower tuns" to "I hear two at lower tuns box, and one on the stairs." Also, they are not very fatiguing (only a little, to me at least) so that helps in the long sessions.
With the HD700, I finally understand the mp3 vs flac mess. It is possible to distinguish between 320 & flac, but the difference was so insanely small that I see no point in spending more in both storage and dollars for the "higher quality" tracks. Only in tracks which I knew well was the file format even distinguishable at all.
sound conclusion: These are seriously good headphones, they just seem a tad confused about their identity. They want to be relaxed and fun, but also wanna be super clean and accurate. The result is not doing either particularly super. Their best traits are recessed, while others are emphasized. Luckily they sound so good, that it does not matter much. These are technically the most capable headphones I have bought, but definitely not the most neutral or analytical. I will keep using them until I find something I like more, and comparable or better in comfort. The advantages they offer in sound over the K7XX is clear, but I don't think they are worth double the price for what is gained in personal taste. The people I had try them thought otherwise, as most of them found the K7XX to be very boring in comparison.
Another thing I should mention is that I got the HD598 a couple of days before the HD700, and the result was a slaughter. The HD700 makes the HD598 sound like you are listening to the song through a thick cotton-filled sock. I generally think headphones are just different rather than better or worse, but I have to say that the HD700 makes some lesser headphones sound awful, regardless of sound signature.
Suna No Oshiro - Kanon Wakeshima
Overall, I think that the HD700 is a headphone that points to what is possible in other headphones by exhibiting its own unique qualities which you cannot simply take at face value. I feel as if the HD700 is reaching toward what could be. The feeling is almost mysterious, but not in a good or bad way. They feel like that that guy who sits in the back of the room and just smirks at everyone like he is hiding something. They are a unique pair of headphones with something to prove. I will keep loving these until I find something I like even more, or realize how much money I have put into audio.
Edit: After allowing even more time for my ears to adjust, I have discovered that the HD700 is FAR better than the Fidelio X2 in bass quality, and better in extension. Again, they are not as inherently bassy as the X2, but the bass is significantly smoother, well defined, and just better.
Pros - almost perfect all-rounder, very realistic and wide sound stage, impressively detailed and very live-like sound presentation, extremely comfy
Cons - ocassional sibilance, for some electronica it lacks just a bit more subbass energy
I would like to share my experience with Sennheiser HD700 and compare them directly with AKG K701.
I bought HD700 as upgrade to my K701.
At first please note that I wrote these impressions immediately after I finished the listening of mentioned track/album.
Secondly please note that I'm comparing two headphones where one today costs two times more!
HTPC-> Foobar2000 with ASIO plugin-> FLACs -> moded Audiotrak Prodigy 7.1 Hi-Fi
(I know that it is the weakest point of my audio chain, but still quite capable to sound good) ->
-> CustomWorks Hypa300SE (top class solid state DIY headphone amp)
My music range is quite wide - metal, rock, neurofunk, elctronica, industrial, minimal, classical/piano, indie etc.
Sennheiser HD700 (I paid 430EUR for new) vs AKG K701 (Price in year 2016 - 200EUR for new)
Metallica - Load (album)
Whole album seems to be mastered with preferred mid bass and more recessed trebles, which make these songs absolutely beautiful through HD700.Following of the bass guitar, which is perfectly separated, is simply a joy.Drum kick reproduction is nearly perfect but some sub bass energy below 50Hz is just slightly missing. But PRAT is very strong.Texture of distorted guitars is excellent. It is the main reason why I think that HD700 is a secret treasure headphone for metal, see below.Vocal is well placed just right in the middle horizontally and vertically- slightly distant. I noticed no harshness or shhh through the whole album, mainly due to mentioned mastering preferences.I have to say that K701 did not failed on this album and reproduced it very well.
Metallica - ...and Justice for All (album)
What a suprise! After my experience with K701 I expected something lifeless and unlistenable. But HD700 brings new life to this album. At first impressed me the amazing texture of distorted guitar and outstanding dynamics of midrange! Second impression was the clarity of cymbals - impressive body and steel feeling to them. And finally I can feel and follow bass - very well defined and fast. PRAT was also very strong. Dynamics of drum is first class even on this old album.I would like to pinpoint the song "One". For long time it was the only song on this album which I was able to listen through K701 - mostly due to presence of acoustic guitars and it's perfect rendering b K701. Always I was enjoying the first half (mostly acoustic part) of this song with K701 due to wide soundstage and detailed midrange repoduction of guitars. When distorted guitars staredt to play I immediately stopped reproduction every time in the past. HD700 gave me even better quality in the fist acoustic part and gave me excstasy when distorted guitars starts!Amazing experience to me.K701 had no chance to compete on this album without bass impact, more treble extension and too much forward midrange. Also with K701 I found that the midrange is sounding something like unreal on this album. Also too much wide and horizontally stretched soundstage of K701 did not help to reach reality of sound.All in all HD700 pretty amazed me on this album.
Metallica - Black album (album)
I never heard better bass guitar reproduction than here on this album through the HD700 - on "Enter Sandman" I was easily able to follow it through whole song. Lead guitars are extremely alive and perfectly placed on soundstage. Drum kick has energy but maybe just a bit of lowest subbass is missing here to really feel it right.Cymbals are very clear, steely, crisp and have trully live-like feeling. Hitting of cymbals is extremely dynamic. It balanced between revealing and sibilant through the whole album but luckily to me it never falls to the sibilant side. But I can imagine that sensitive persons would like to attenuate a trebles a little on this album.All in all the repoduction of this album was outstanding and very dynamic to my ears...K701 was suprisingly not so far away in sound quality. Of course bass had less weight, but midrange quality was very good on this album. Biggest surprise were the cymbals. K701 had same livelike feeling to them but slightly less prominent. Good steely splashing was also there but to my ears the lack of crispiness and treble dynamic leaves the K701's trebles just a level behind the HD700. Also something was not right with soundstage. What is it to me I will explain later...
Fear Factory - Genexus (album)
My main intention with this album was to check the speed of bass. Double kick reproduction is pretty fast with the right "sticky" sound with good amount of weight - not slow or lean at all! Lead guitar has again very seductive and organic texture which drag me to listen the whole album again with HD700.Trebles are naturally recessed/compressed and sacrificed for the rest frequencies on this master.HD700 tried to bring some life to them with their slight treble emphasis - no complaints here but also no amazement.K701 has bass which is same way fast but it lacks again the impact and weight. Also guitar is reproduced worst but more prominent.
Black Sabbath - 13 (album)
Studio master is made toward the midbass and midrange, trebles and lower bass are less prominent in the mix. Also a lot of compression was used.
Somewhere I read that some fans were not happy with mastering of drums on this album. I have to say that I agree with them.
For the most time on album the drums are sounding thin to me, especially the snare. HD700 gave a some more body to them compared to K701 but simply you can not squeeze out of song something what is not there. Maybe HD650 can help here I don't know yet On the other hand the Geezer's bass is incredibly detailed and it is crushing my ears with perfect dynamic. But HD700 shines especially in reproducing of Iommi's guitar - organic and liquid texture with impressive placement on soundstage. The each detail is so beautifully reporduced that I have feeling that he is standing right here in front of me. Again I have to say that the midrange quality of HD700 is top class to my ears and this album proved it to me again.K701 lacks especially in midrange quality - there was simply something not right.I read that some people described it like plasticky sound and now I know what they ment. There is much more midrange quantity than quality from K701.
Here I would like to pinpoint song "Zeitgeist". K701 was able to reproduce this acoustic trip to the outer space very good so I had big expectations from HD700. And HD700 outclassed K701 again in every spectre especially in realism and detail of reproduction. Especially the percussions were more crisp and alive with HD700.Also in "Damaged Soul" I felt like I'm sitting in front of the band inside the club and they are jamming only for me. Beautiful experience of precise soundstage imaging of HD700. K 701 had no chance on this album based on my ears.
Rammstein - Reise, Reise (album)
First time with HD700 I experienced shhh/sibilance issue during intensive vocal sequences. Not nice! On the other hand the midrange shines again. I would say that I don't agree that mids are recessed on HD700. I just think that mids are too much prominent on K701. It is same logic when my friend told me "I think that Note 4 is too big smartphone" and I told him back that "I think that other smartphones are too small" . On HD700 the quantity of mids is just right to my ears. Also the quality of midrange on HD700 is excellent. I would like to mention it again - quality (HD700) vs quantity (K701).
Black Sun Empire - Salvador (song)
Simple overall impression - with HD700 I can finally listen to the neurofunk, but with some small compromises.Bass on this track is prominent in the mix as it is expected from neurofunk. With HD700 the bass has a very good quality but slight lack of the subbass is more audible here than on metal tracks. HD700 is trying to heal it with more energy on midbass but body is still slightly missing. I expected a bit more here I have to say. But compared to the K701 it is like the night and the day to my ears. K701 was not even close to the overall bass quality/quantity. The rest of spectrum was reproduced very similar, but for neurofunk the bass is essential. It looks like I have to buy the HD650 especially for neurofunk...hmmm
Black Sun Empire - Tripel (song)
More-less the same as for "Salvador" is valid also here but on this track I was more satisfied with bass quantity of HD700...
Combichrist - We Love You (album)
Texture of synths are excellent, also midbass. Again I beg for just a bit more subbass here to get a perfect bass. But a little worst thing happened - on some tracks I experienced some strong shhhh in vocals so I had to go down with volume. What a shame! The overall reproduction was perfect through the whole spectrum until sibilance appeared. But overall full bodied sound through the all tracks can outshine this issue. But, you know, we always want to have everthing perfect.. K701 had no chance again with modern industrial where the strong bass needs to be reproducted.
Limp Bizkit - Chocolate Starfish and The Hot Dog Flavoured Water (album)
Great energy of this band is rendered very well on HD700. Drummer plays a lot with cymbals and HD700 really likes it a lot (and me too as well). The drums on this album are one of the best sounding metal drums which I heard so far (yes, sometimes too much compressed, but what we can do...). Kick is fat and strong, PRAT is great. Distorted guitar shines again. Especially in "Full Nelson" the render of distortion guitar is spectacular. Very enjoying experience overall! K701 shows the ability to similar quality of reproduction, but lack in bass region dismiss it. The trebles were very good and close to performance of HD700. K701 struggled in midrange again where the naturality of instruments (especially guitar) was lacking. But again treble of K701 was very good here!
London Grammar - Wasting My Young Years (song)
This nice indie-pop I played especially to test the rendering of female vocals. Out from all tested tracks, on this song the both headphones were closest in terms of performance.
K701 is very strong in female vocals reproduction. The voice was rendered perfectly and just right to my ears. But HD700 did it the same way and add on top the more coherent soundstage.
Depeche Mode - Welcome To My World (song)
Fat analog synths needs good bass extension and proper imaging. During this track I realised what is really wrong with K701 to my ears - IMO the Headfonia was right in their review od DT880/HD650/K701 when they tried to describe the K701's issue with soundstage. To desribe this I will use terminus-technicus from recording studio - the PAN.PAN is simply the potentiometer for setting where the recorded sound should play - on the left side(let's say that maximum is L10), on the right side (let's say that maximum is R10) or in the centre of soundstage (let's say value is 0). K701's soundstage is rendering well sounds around the centre (usually drums, bass guitar, vocals, etc.). But when I start to focus on soundstage quality between PAN=0 and PAN=L5 or R5 I found...virtually nothing! There is hollow place on soundstage which is filled only by some "air" or by stretched sound bodies from more left/right soundstage regions but not with the real body of instruments. I think that this is caused by lack of bass which is making drums and bass guitar sounding too thin and somehow separated from the left/right side of soundstage spectrum. This defect generates the hole between left/right and the centre of soundstage. Also I found that sounds which are playing very close to the maximum PAN=L10/R10 are compressed and squeezed toward the end of soundstage and there is no air around them. Something like a border is present here below the maximum PAN.
HD700 has not any soundstage issue at all. It is as wide as K701 but there is still air around the instruments if they are playing on the corners of soundstage. The soundstage of hd700 seems to me like a limitless place without any borders, which push HD700 to much higher quality league than K701 in terms of soundstage realism and imaging.
Ludovico Einaudi - In a Time Lapse (album)
I expected though fight here in classical/piano music arena. K701 use to render piano very well, but compared to HD700 reproduction was somehow lifeless and not 100% natural. HD700 shows how to do it right. Especially on "Brother" the gradation was ecstasic. HD700 wins due to precise midbass and it's fluent connection with midrange. Midbass gave a perfect dynamic and body to the piano while the midrange rendered main tones more realistic than K701. In the end the real sound stage and top class layering of HD700 nailed K701 definitelly.The song "Orbits" made this "hole" between these two headphones even more evident. The HD700's trebles plays their best in this track - the sparkling bells/tringels with prominent violin made me cry. Sorry guys I shall not to write it Ehm...again I have to mention one of the biggest weapon of HD700 - the soundstage realism and layering ability.I think that K701 is very good in this aspects (especially layering) but HD700 clearly plays higher league."Newton's Cradle" with HD700 was experience out of this world to me. The soundstage and imaging was so real that I thought I'm right in concert hall. Reproduction had everything which it should have IMO. Trully spectacular here. In overall the HD700 gave me absoultely flawless experience with piano/classical music, much better and unforgettable than with K701! Extremely real and strong experience to me...
Andy Stott - Hatch The Plan (song)
...good elctronic track to test sibilance HD700 impressed here with much better bass than I expected. Electronic kick drum is going quite low and I have no necessity for more subbass here. Noisy sounds and vocal effects are usually a good feed for HD700 but on this track they are very close to sibilance...a there it is , the first shhh...and second shhh! Hmmm, I'm not happy. I have to say that one should be careful if knows that some particular track is mastered with dominant trebles and agile/loud vocals, HD700 can have problems (more correct is to say that your ears on high volume can have problem On the other hand also K701 was sibilant on this track but much less. The drum kick rendered by K701 was, gently said, simply unsufficient here.
Pink Floyd - High Hopes (song)
Not much to say - true joy with HD700. Very coherent and alive, perfect details and soundstage. K701 is able to sound close to it but midrange and bass is playing lower league evidently.
Pink Floyd - Coming Back To Life (song)
Very complex song, because guitar on left is often playing different notes like guitar on the right. With K701 the soundstage issue mentioned above was clearly audible - the song sounds strange and not coherent at all - like two different songs played at the same time from left to right perspective of soundstage with common drums. HD700 had again no issue and due to perfect sound stage consistency the song was rendered really like the one song...Idiotic describe I know
HD700 is clearly the upgrade to K701 to my ears. It is perfect all-rounder. It can play very well a lot of different genres. Even old metal and rock tracks are sounding very good again through them. Ocassional sibilance can occur if the song is mastered with lot of treble and lot of shhh in vocals. On the other hand K701 is not sibilant but due to forward mids they were even more fatiguing to me for long time listening at higher volumes. HD700 was never fatigue to me at all on. HD700 simply improves the every sound aspect of K701. Bass is better, midrange is better, treble is better, soundstage is better and comfort is better as well.
Also the design is very nice and the comfort is excellent.
All-in-all HD700 is a very good headphone in my opinion and the right upgrade for me.
Also the HD700 price dropped a lot during last months. Current price tag of 430EUR is just OK in my opinion.
PS: Currently I'm finishing DIY clone of MAD Ear+ HD Super II tube amp so I'm looking forward to the happy marriage with HD700
Thanks for reading my mess...