The HD 650 has superbly low harmonic distortion and precision sound reproduction across the entire frequency range. The bass is well ballanced and crisp, with authentic deep bass reproduction. The treble and mid range are well ballanced and ensure superbly realistic voice reproduction. Instrumental music pleasantly natural and yet lower notes clear and vibrant.
Pros: Affordable Hi-Fi with lasting construction. Portable amps can fully drive these headsets. I've preferred the FiiO e12K MB.
Cons: 11 year old unit blows the newer sample out of the water.
A former boss was an audiophile with varied amps and headsets. I tested, then backed up my pick with reviews from this very forum over a decade ago. My 650 is still my daily driver and it doesn't mind cheaper amps from FiiO. I have been using an E12K MB and sometimes an E10K for specific applications. I found I don't require a fantastic amp as I can combine with PulseEffect profiles and convolutions.
I'm nothing but delighted with the range of this headset. Balanced bass, crisp vocals, clear instrumentals, and it doesn't skip a beat on busy pieces. I also use vocal free electronic music and epics when working to avoid distraction. It amazes. Also after 11 years the build quality has surpassed expectation.
I noticed the HD650 consistently on sale and recommended it to a friend. I was devastated when he complained. His headset is only marginally better than my Platronics Gamecom 780 with PEQ/Atmos. I'm unsure if it is a bad sample or an explanation of the consistent "sale" going on for this headset. I've asked him to return and review this forum instead...
Powering the Sennheiser HD650 with the Asgard 3- Driving Miss Daisy
Pros: Greatly improved bass, treble, details, imaging and soundstage from previous amp
Driven very easily with the Asgard 3
Cons: Some midrange vocal issues
Slight veil still present
Driving Miss Daisy? For those of you who have seen the movie you might get the analogy.
You hear a lot on HiFi forums regarding the Sennheiser HD650s. Phrases like ‘legendary’ abound in many amateur (and some professional) reviews and you get the impression that these headphones are the best thing since sliced bread. Glowing superlatives regarding sound stage, imaging, bass control, detail retrieval are there in droves. I own the HD580s and love them so eventually I bought a pair of the 650s just to see what the hype was all about. And my initial conclusion after running them in was just that – hype!
Running the 650s through my Burson Playmate 2 what I heard was definitely underwhelming.
Bass – somewhat bloated, not well controlled and it rolled off in the upper levels. Some slam but not really enough and they didn’t go low enough without losing definition
Midrange – smooth, almost urbane but vocals didn’t impress as they often sounded a bit timid
Treble – definitely dialed back and taking all the fun and excitement out of lead guitars
Imaging – three blobs of sound (left, centre and right) that seem to meet up at the edges
Sound stage – narrow and compressed with no depth
Detail – what detail? Things I’d heard on cheaper cans just weren’t there.
So I went back to the reviews and wondered if the pundits were using the same cans as me. Why were these reviewed so positively, what were the factors that made these supposedly so good for the money? After a while one factor from my research began to stand out - scalability - with driving power a major aspect. Quite simply what they were saying was you need the right amp. To cut a long story short it became evident that my PM2 (a great DAC/Amp) that while being classed as powerful still didn’t have the chops to get anything near the best out of the HD650.
Enter the Schiit Asgard3 which I bought just to see what the HD650s could do – not something I’d normally do. With four times the power of the Burson and recommended by many it was also a reasonable price. Would it prove the HD650 fans correct and bring them to life? The answer is Yes.
I’ve spent a few weeks with the HD650s as my only listening device. I wasn’t trying to make comparisons so no need for my Audeze LCD1, HD580s, etc. I just wanted to hear what the Asgard3 did to the 650s without having another set of headphones colouring my opinion. So why did I say yes, what’s improved? Let’s go back to my original criteria
Bass – possibly this is where the biggest improvement is for these Senns. Slam, good definition (but it doesn’t quite go all the way down) and the roll off has been minimized to the point where you don’t really notice it. It’s not bass head stuff but it’s enjoyable and it’s definitely faster and tighter.
Treble – Yay, there is now some sparkle and you definitely hear it on the upper registers of guitars and similar instruments. What’s more it’s cleaner and tighter without getting peaky.
Imaging – also a huge improvement. The three blobs are gone and the whole sound stage is now covered albeit with one or two little dead areas.
Detail – of course with improved imaging then those little details that I couldn’t really hear using my PM2 have emerged.
Midrange – you’ll notice I’ve left this for last as, for me, there are some ambivalences. Often touted as one of the HD650s strengths it’s also a bit of an achilles heel IMHO – or at least with this set up.
The midrange is warm, smooth, almost beguiling. It’s at it’s strongest in the lower mids and I feel that this is to the disadvantage to the higher registers of the midrange which don’t project anywhere near as well. The mids seem to try to smooth over recording imperfections and a good example of this is vocal sibilance which is usually caused by poor use of a mike and a lack of basic vocal technique. I imagine that this drives recording engineers nuts as it’s almost impossible to correct without compromising the recording. On Mary Black's beautiful rendition of ‘Bright Blue Rose’ you can hear the sibilance on just about every set of cans I’ve ever used except the HD650s. The other effect of the somewhat recessed upper mids is to push many vocalists into the background. Imagine that they have taken two or three steps back towards the drummer and are singing from there – that’s the effect that I hear. And it’s also this effect, along with those slightly recessed vocals and the ‘smoothing effect that gives rise to the old chestnut, the Sennheiser 'veil'. I don’t think the A3 has totally removed it.
In conclusion, yes, I believe that these cans definitely scale up when paired with an appropriate amp and what the Asgard3 has done has made the 650s a keeper for me, they now sound great with above the caveats above excepted. The Audeze LCD1s I own blow these out of the water in just about every department but we are talking two different beasts here with quite different sound signatures so the comparison lacks some validity.
I’ve yet to hear all that some claim these 650s are capable of but do I want to spend a disproportionate amount of money for an amp considering the cost of the 650s to find out? No, I’d rather get a better set of headphones and preferably ones that are not so picky about the amp.
Cons: The cable is kinda annoying, it keeps getting in the way and my ears get zapped occasionally (very low air humidity in here)
From a post of mine:
I realized something about the HD650, now that I'm listening to my 2nd pair (rebought ~6 years after selling my 1st pair): an immature listener might completely under-appreciate what they do, how they present recordings, have no idea and then just sell them like I did. It took me that many years to understand what I want and what I hear... It's hard to explain but at the moment I feel like these bastards will only be sold if I go deaf. They're just so competent, they shift my attention to music. The detail level is really good and the way they image is sorta enigmatic but competent and engaging. I can't say that I miss the soundstage or sub-bass of my bass-port modified Q701. It's like when you listen to HD650 you're in a world where other headphones don't exist, or the things that HD650 are incapable of are just irrelevant or don't matter. This second pair smells exactly the same as my 1st (I wonder what psyche-manipulating stuff Senn puts into that fragrance...).
BTW I think it's important to maintain the pads in good shape, replace them once they compress and especially replace them right away on a newly acquired used pair (mine is ~12 years old).