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The quest for definitive stereo music reproduction finds a new acoustic chamber with the...

Sennheiser HD 700 Headphone

Rating:
4.26667/5,
  • The quest for definitive stereo music reproduction finds a new acoustic chamber with the Sennheiser HD-700. Using Sennheiser's mastership of acoustic properties, the HD 700 delivers an advanced acoustic DNA never before heard in headphones. Sennheiser engineers pulled out all the obstacles to create transcending headphones that recreate and restore your music excitement. Beginning with an angled transducer, the 700 angles sound to mimic the positioning of a set of reference monitors. This, in tandem with the DuoFol diaphragm, provides a wide sound stage with ultra-fast response and rest times: close your eyes and you are in the front row. A great headphone transducer is only half of the equation. Sennheiser's acoustic team used the HD 700 project as motivation to obtain a cleaner, purer sound in unconventional ways and thus the patent-pending ventilated magnet system was born. By venting the magnet laying behind the diaphragm, airflow was properly managed and overall turbulence was minimized. This advancement did not add to the sound- but subtracted an artifact from it. The results? Purity. The outer transducer chassis was also considered as a component of shared acoustic duty. By utilizing a specialty steel mesh molded to the natural shape of the acoustic sum, the open-aire system remained pure while properly directing airflow. These techniques combine to support the impeccable capabilities of the transducer with world-class, practical acoustic management. Borrowing a design cue from the flagship HD 800, the HD 700 also utilizes a vibration damping frame-- strategic layering of materials to aide in eliminating unwanted resonances from entering the acoustic chamber. The culmination of these technologies lends to the warm, detailed, balanced and utterly revealing sonic signature that is luxurious and practical for the audiophile

Recent Reviews

  1. Roderick
    Mini Review
    Written by Roderick
    Published Apr 26, 2019
    2.5/5,
    Pros - - High-end build quality, comfort and design
    - Soundstage
    Cons - - Bass performance on lower frequencies
    - Peaky treble
    Sennheiser HD700: Mini Review

    IMG_20190416_075637.jpg

    Build quality and comfort:


    Just by the looks and holding one at your hand, one can guess that this is not a headphone designed for the price range it is now. HD700 has this same futuristic design as it's big brother HD800. It's just smaller in size but the family resemblance is there. Can't argue with the design. Ear cups are shaped like an ear, not round, triangle or oval.

    IMG_20190416_072105.jpg

    I actually find hd 700 to be more comfortable than hd 800. HD800 is quite a bulky beast. It engulfes most of my head and feels quite intrusive even. Suede on HD 700 might not match luxury of alcantara on hd800 but it is very high quality and extremely pleasent against skin.

    IMG_20190416_074728.jpg

    On some aspects I even find hd700 to be superior to hd800. HD800 has exotic lemo connectors where as hd700 uses more traditional 2.5mm X 2 to 6.3mm connection. HD700 cable is more common, so spares don't cost as much. And when you actually take a look, HD700 cable looks better. Plug has some design effort going on and the Y-splitter has some details too. Quite funny how they neglected this aspect with HD800. However I find HD800 cable to be more convenient, it just somehow rolls better into a circle and is easier to store.

    IMG_20190416_072906.jpg


    For design and comfort HD700 is best in it's class. I can't find anything bad about it. It is light, it is comfortable and about equal to it's a lot more expensive big brother.

    IMG_20190416_072226.jpg



    Sound Quality:

    Let's take a listen. First thing that I pay attention with hd700 is the soundstage. Surely it can't match hd800 somewhat legendary soundstage. However among it's similarly priced peers hd700 soundstage is very good. Imaging is accurate but not to the level of Brainwavz alara or Hifiman Sundara in my opinion. HD700 does easily beat both when talking about the soundstage size though.



    Bass on HD700 is tight and precise but it does roll of too early. I't starts rolling of after 100hz which is unaccebtable performance if compared to planars or better dynamics in this prize range. What bass is there, is tight and punchy but it just lacks presence.



    With the midrange hd700 has some issues too. Gradyally downwards sloping response gives the mids some body but it does that to an extent it becomes a bit too dark.



    Highs are notorius for their peakyness. And it is true. Treble peak around 7khz region makes these allmost unbearable with some recordings.

    Here is hd700 frequency response measured with hd650 for comparison. That peak on hd650 measurement is not there in reality. It's a measurement glitch.

    HD700 vs HD650.jpg


    Conclusions:


    I won't go into further detail because at this point it is clear, that Sennheiser dropped ball on this one. HD700 does not have the bass to please the bass crowd. Mids are quite laid back and have nice smoot tone to them which is killed by the treble peak. Someone said that HD700 is a combination of what is wrong with HD650 and HD800 and I have to agree. I't takes some effort to make a headphone that is bass light, dark and exceedingly bright. With it's original msrp of about $900 HD700 is a bad joke. Now that they cost about 1/3 of the original price, I still can't recommend them. Even if one wants a headphone with treble peak HD700 would not be my first choice. Beyerdynamic DT1990 has that traditional peaky beyer treble but it also is a better headphone than HD700. Only if build quality and comfort is an utmost priority only then HD700 is something to consider.

    IMG_20190416_071357.jpg
  2. Avean
    Best headset i've owned
    Written by Avean
    Published Mar 28, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Great soundstage
    Great clarity
    Extremely comfortable
    Good for any situation may be it music, movies or games
    Cons - Not really
    I upgraded from HD650 and it took me weeks and weeks of reading reviews if i would hear any difference going from HD650. The price of HD700 is pretty high but after seeing Sennheiser claiming these were a major upgrade from the HD650 i went and bought a pair. I am in a different world right now, they are so much better sounding. I am using EqualizerAPO with custom presets from Head-Fi which transforms these sets from very good to simply musical nirvana.

    I use them heavily for music and games and they are truly astonishing. Huge soundstage, amazing bass and a lot of details. I guess my next step is now HD800S but i honestly cant understand what set can beat these....
  3. Pharron
    The HD700 is an acquired taste
    Written by Pharron
    Published Jan 10, 2018
    4.0/5,
    Pros - Exceptional sound stage; Incredible detail; Punchy bass; Unmatched comfort
    Cons - Overly analytical sound at times; Vocals can seem distant; Treble peaks can bother some
    The HD700 has been on the market for some time now, so most of its strengths and weaknesses have long since been covered. To my ears, this is one of the strangest headphones out there, and so I’ll try to explain why this product is so polarizing.


    First off, Sennheiser is a giant in the world of HiFi headphones. There one of the older manufacturers, and they produce some of the most coveted headphones on the planet. Seriously, they make the benchmarks that all other headphones are measured by. Many of their products have been on the market for decades, and they’re still at the top of most people recommendation list. So why are the HD700s regarded so poorly?


    The answer to that question is the subjective nature of our perception of sound. Our ear are all unique, and so are our taste. Some folks like cherry jelly beans, and others like those foul black ones. Some folks like Taylor Swift, and others Beethoven. While a few of us like one thing or the other, most of us are somewhere in between. Our tastes are broad. In my opinion the HD700 was not made for broad tastes. It serves a very limited slice of preference. If your likes fit into what it’s serving, you’re in for a treat, otherwise your going to despise the 700s.


    After trying every type of genre, I feel fairly confident saying that the HD700 works best with instrumental music. Music made with real instruments that are not enhanced or synthetic. Genres like Classical and Jazz are a dream on these things. Genres where the vocals are the focus fall short.


    All this comes from the sound signature Sennheiser has built into the 700s. The one thing that has confused me with 700s is they seem to shift in quality based on what genre or even song within a genre I’m listening to. One minute I’ll think these things are terrible, and then when the next song comes up, I think I’m hearing sonic greatness. It’s strange.



    Before we dive into sound though, let’s talk about build and comfort. In this category the HD700 is in a league all by itself. Especially for the sub $500 price. All the material are high-quality. Much nicer than what’s found in the HD6xx line. The construction is primarily plastic, but it still feels premium. The weight is blissfully light, and it’s easy to forget you’re wearing them. The clamping pressure feel is almost non-existent. The ear pads are soft and plush, and the ear cups are enormous. Just about about any ear shape or size should be accommodated. About the only complaint I have is with the cord, which is well made and braided, but too stiff and thick. It feels very durable, but it often gets in the way, and I would probably replace it if I was going to own a pair of these.


    Lows:

    The low end is punchy, but it doesn’t dig deep into the sub bass frequencies. It rolls off like most dynamics. With the bass, the graphs all show a slight bass extension, but with the way the treble is presented, I hardly notice. I found it adequate to render instruments accurately, but nothing beyond that. It’s quick, and detailed, but it’s not full and rich.


    Highs:

    The treble on HD700 is superb! That is if you enjoy sharp treble, which I do. I want to hear all the detail of my music, and in this area HD700 does not disappoint. It’s a very capable headphone, and the driver provide holographic imagine. Seriously, it’s an experience. These things are very positional, and even though the sound stage is not enormous like the HD800, it’s still much larger then the HD6xx models. They’re so detailed that it actually works against them on some recordings. If a live recording as a little noise in the microphone you hear it. It’s not subtle, and sometimes it becomes so distracting it’s hard to appreciate the music you’re listening to. Still, it’s impressive how resolving these things are. They may lack all the attributes required for a complete HiFi package, but when it comes to detail they are very competitive at any price point. If unrelenting detail is what you’re after, you will be pleased with HD700.


    So what’s wrong with it? The problem stems from dip( more like a hole) in the response from 1k to 4k. This makes vocals seem distant and thin. All the smooth vocal presence that the HD600 is famous for, is completely missing here. I suspect, when most people try to raise the volume in order to hear the vocals, they end up pushing the treble to uncomfortable levels. Like I said before though, if you’re listening to instrumental music, you’ll never notice what’s missing.




    Can you fix them with EQ? I couldn’t. Nothing I did seemed to bring the sounds of HD700 back into balance. These things are an acquired taste




    Comparisons


    HD 600

    Vocals on the 600 are much better than the 700. This is not because of a lack of clarity. It’s because the position of the vocals. They’re upfront with the 600s, and recessed with the 700s. From the graphs you might think that the 700s have more bass, and perhaps they do. I hear more with the 600s though, this is probably due to the excellent mid-bass of the 600s.


    Audeze LCD2.2

    There’s really no comparison between these two. LCD2 is a far superior headphone. The bass of the 700 is not even in the same league of the LCD2. The highs are much more pronounced on the 700s, but they’re sweeter and easier to listen to on the Audeze set. The two areas where you might prefer the 700s are in sound stage and comfort. In these areas the 700s are the winner.


    Hifiman HE560


    I would say that the HE560 is much more musical, and it definitely has deeper bass response. That said, I may prefer the 700, as its detail is so much better.
      Cheaplad and Justin0505 like this.
  4. BigBadBirdman
    Great for Opera and Orchestral Music
    Written by BigBadBirdman
    Published Oct 2, 2017
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Fantastic soundstage and big orchestral sound
    Cons - Sound changes with ear cup placement, high price
    Introduction

    The Sennheiser HD700 is a controversial headphone. It is the most expensive headphone I own and in many ways, it is my favorite. Others do not like it at all.

    The main problem for me is the sound changes depending on how it is situated on my head. When I bought the HD700, it sounded muddy. After 3 weeks of trying to burn it in I was on verge of returning it for a refund. I decided to give it one last try and found that if I removed my glasses and moved the ear cups back and pressed them inward, the sound dramatically changed. Suddenly the sound became crystal clear and it had the best soundstage I have ever heard from a headphone.

    There have been many reviews of the HD700 and nobody else has had the problems I have, so maybe there is a chance I got a defective unit since I bought it used.

    I use the HD700 primarily for opera, choral and large orchestral. I have 5 other headphones and I use others when listening to small orchestral, chamber, or solo piano.

    My Setup

    I use CD, Blu-ray, and DVD as my sound source. I mostly use a Marantz CD6005 but sometimes use an Onkyo C-7030 as my CD player. I use a cheap Sony Blu-ray player for video.

    I drive all my headphones with a Schiit Asgard 2 headphone amplifier. However, when I purchased the HD700 I was using the headphone jack from my CD player and it sounded fine.

    The HD700 is designed for home use. I do not use any portable listening devices and do all my listening exclusively at home.

    I primarily listen to opera and orchestral music. The other headphones I currently own are the Sennheiser HD600, Audio Technica ATH-MSR7, Beyerdynamic DT-990, Beyerdynamic T51i, and Philips Fidelio X2.

    My speakers are the Apogee Centaurs driven by an old Carver solid state amp and a passive preamp. I live in a small condo, so I cannot play my music very loud without disturbing the neighbors. I do most of my music listening with headphones and use the speakers for movies and television.

    Sound Quality

    I would characterize the HD700 as a warm sounding headphone. It has more upper bass and lower midrange than my other headphones. This can be a problem on some recordings but it can make a big improvement on others.

    The biggest flaw with the HD700 is that the sound changes with ear cup placement. With all my other headphones, you can just put them on your head and listen. With the HD700, I have to jiggle them around, push down on the ear cups, and move them around some more. Small adjustments to the ear cups make a huge difference in the sound quality. Since I wear glasses, this makes getting the best sound from the HD700 even more of a challenge. Sometimes it can take me a while to find the ideal position.

    I notice that nobody else has remarked on having problems with ear cup placement being such an issue, so maybe it is a problem with my particular unit.

    The Highs

    I find the treble on the HD700 to be one of its best qualities. It is detailed and well extended. I have found a few recordings where the highs sound harsh but that is something I attribute to the recording, not the headphones. Some of the older reviews for the HD700 complained about the treble quality but I have not had any problems with it. I find the treble is well extended but not overly prominent. In fact, the treble volume is lower and less harsh than my Beyerdynamic DT-990, Audio Technica ATH-MSR7 and Philips X2.

    The Midrange

    The midrange is smooth and warm. On some recordings the midrange can sound muddy due to too much warmth. On other recordings, it sounds just right.

    Most headphones I own have a big dip in the lower midrange and upper bass that accentuates the upper midrange. The HD700 does not have that dip. The warmth of the midrange can make some recordings that sound harsh on other headphones sound lush. On the other hand, some recordings with too much lower midrange can end up sounding a bit muddy.

    On Stravinsky’s Pulcinella conducted by Pierre Boulez, the sound was real grainy on my HD600, DT-990, and X2. Changing to the HD700 completely transformed this recording to a lifelike concert experience.

    The Bass

    The bass if full, extended, and warm. It does not have the big impact of the X2 but it is more detailed and textured. When I listen to the video of Giulio Cesare conducted by William Christie, the lower strings sound fantastic. It sounds like sitting right in front of the orchestra pit.

    On the Mozart Requiem conducted by William Christie, the bass was thin and anemic on the HD600. When I switched over to the HD700, it was big. It was like I was sitting in the front row of the concert hall. It entirely transformed the sound of this recording.

    Soundstage

    On some recordings, if you have the headphones just right and the volume set correctly, you can get the best soundstage I have ever heard from headphones. On the Giulio Cesare video, you can actually hear that the orchestra is in the pit and the singers are on the stage.

    On the Ariodante recording conducted by Alan Curtis, you are surrounded by the orchestra as if you are on the podium and the singers are in front and above. You can hear every instrument in the orchestra and they sound like they are all coming from a separate location. You can hear the texture of the instruments, especially the lower strings.

    Conclusion

    The Sennheiser HD700 is the most expensive headphone I own. I purchased it for $400 “used” from Amazon Warehouse Deals in January of 2016 and there are many excellent headphones available at or below this price point.

    At its best, it is the best sounding headphone I have heard but it is also the most frustrating. It can be very hard to get it to sound its best. I need to get the ear cups positioned just right and the volume setting needs to be precise. If the volume is too loud, the soundstage collapses.

    The HD700 is pretty comfortable but I prefer the HD600 and DT-990 for comfort. The HD700 sounds best with a good seal and wearing glasses compromises the seal which makes it more difficult to get good sound. However, the HD700 is the headphone I use for the majority of my Blu-ray opera recordings, so it is work the effort as far as I’m concerned.

    The Sennheiser HD700 is the fussiest headphone I own but under the right conditions it can be the most rewarding.

    *********Addendum 4/30/19

    I have come across a modification for the HD700 that addresses the problem I have when wearing eyeglasses. Simply replace the stock earpads with the Grado G Cushion (aka "salad bowls") or an aftermarket knockoff.

    I find that this not only makes listening with eyeglasses more comfortable, but it also improves the sound stage and imaging. If you own the HD700 and have had some of the problems I have mentioned, you might give it a try.

    Actually, I recommend replacing the stock pads with the G Cushion even if you don't wear glasses. It really opens up the soundstage and it makes the HD700 more comfortable. Be advised, you will lose a lot of sound pressure, so you will need to turn up the volume and you will need to have a powerful amp.

    [
      trellus and FastAndClean like this.
  5. ganzosrevenge
    Sennheiser with a Sledgehammer
    Written by ganzosrevenge
    Published Jan 27, 2017
    4.5/5,
    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.
     
    Sennheiser HD598
    1. Color: BEIGE / Brown
    2. Impedance: 50 Ω
    3. Build: Plastic body, faux leather headrest, velour pads, steel ear-grilles
    4. Driver Size: 40mm
    5. Sound Range: 12hz – 38500hz
    6. Weight: 270g
    7. Jack: ¼ inch Jack included (Moon Audio Cable has 1/8 inch jack)
    8. Head Connector: twist-in 2.5mm jack
    9. THD: 0.1% (1khz / 100db sound pressure level)
    10. Where’s it Made: China
    11. Price and Where I bought it: $120 @ Amazon
     
    Sennheiser HD700:
    1. Color: Anthracite / Light Gray / Black
    2. Impedance: 150 Ω
    3. Build: Plastic body, metal earpiece adjusters, alcantara earpads (I think), stainless mesh ear-grilles with visible driver backside
    4. Driver Size: 40mm
    5. Sound Range: 15hz – 40000hz (-3db); 8hz – 44000hz (-10db)
    6. Weight: 270g without cable
    7. Jack: ¼ inch gold plated jack, I use a Grado ¼ inch to 1/8 inch converter for PONO use
    8. Head Connector: 1 2.5mm click-in headphone connector per earpiece
    9. THD: 0.03%
    10. Where it’s Made: Ireland
    11. 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 9th 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 9th 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.
     
    9/10.
     

      trellus and maxh22 like this.
    1. Malfunkt
      Great review of the HD700, give it some time to adjust to the sound. I'm a relatively new owner of the HD700 and I think they are exceptional for classical music. In my opinion, while they may not have the same familiar reference signatures as say something like the HD600, they are much more realistic in tonal presentation combined with their soundstage.
       
      Familiar with the 598s, good headphone, but not close to the technicalities of the 700. Still, I can see how it can still be more enjoyable in certain contexts. But for music with true dynamic range, the HD700 excels. Listening to Martha Argerich right now on the HD700 :) 
      Malfunkt, Jan 28, 2017
    2. barondla
      Super review. You explain the sound well. The 700 should sound even better with more breakin. Give them time.

      I bought Senn HD600 years ago (directly from dist.) and the cables came attached. It was years later I found out the cables were detachable. I like the long cable. The HD series are pretty big to use as portable.

      Excellent pick on the Pono. I use one as well. Can't be beat sonically. You should notice a big improvement going to balanced cables. Now I am thinking about HD700.
      Thanks for the illuminating review.
      barondla, Jan 29, 2017
    3. ganzosrevenge
      @Malfunkt Thanks!  I'm giving it a bit of time.  I got to try a pair of HD800s with the HDVD800 DAC/AMP combo today @ the Sennheiser Pop-Up Store in SoHo.  While it does whip the HD700 in terms of soundstage and "reference accuracy," The HD700 is a more fun and portable headphone (if you can call the HD700 portable) compared to the HD800s.  It's also easier for me to drive on my PONO.  That being said, I'm thinking to get a CODEX to hook up to my computer, which will be my desktop DAC/AMP and absolutely will wipe the floor with my PONO
       
      @barondla I'm at about 40 to 45 hours right now.  I'm talking with @drubrew and the crew at Moon Audio about getting a Black Dragon with Balanced PONO outs for my PONO player.  I do have a balanced cable for the HD598s, and it does make a HUGE improvement for the 598s (still not 700 levels, but definitely makes things better).  The reason I did not add that as part of the review is because it would be an unfair variable.  In the interest of keeping the review somewhat fair, I wanted to do single-ended vs. single-ended.  Not a fair fight in favor of the 598s (either way), but it would be one less variable for me to have to deal with and explain how each one works.
       
      To All:  The PONO is CRIMINALLY underrated.  Take away the Neil Young promotional fluff, and what you get is a seriously legit, very well-priced music player that will play 99.9% of recorded music out there and put it through about 90% of headphones without any outside assistance.
      ganzosrevenge, Jan 29, 2017
  6. LugBug1
    Now the price has dropped - snap em up!
    Written by LugBug1
    Published Aug 18, 2016
    4.5/5,
    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 :D ). 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 :)   
      HungryPanda and trellus like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. QualitySound
      @abby normal
      On Amazon they are $426 right now in the US, referb models for 350-370
      QualitySound, Oct 24, 2016
    3. DLR Group
      I got mine for 424.00/ free ship, B&H, Amazon, most others same price late December.  I agree the cable could be ironed!
      Otherwise, they must be improved since the assholishofhollies reviewed, as mine a par excellence, better than my Audeze LCD's.
      DLR Group, Dec 28, 2016
    4. garbulky
      Hi I'm hoping to get these HD700's. I am a bit conflicted with which one I want. What amp do you use? I LOVE the signature of the HD600. I want something like that with more width, placement and more detail. . However I don't like the tonal balance of the HD6xx at all. I find the low mids/upper bass cranked up too much. But I do like the speaker-like soundstage of the 6XX . So what I'm worried because I'm is that it will be more HD6xx tonal balance
      garbulky, Jan 27, 2019
  7. DJ Liquid
    These are enjoyable sounding long session headphones for edm to jazz with tight bass and overall crystal clear sound
    Written by DJ Liquid
    Published May 28, 2016
    4.5/5,
    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.
    1. seanwee
      I love your "pretzel cords" comment XD
      seanwee, May 28, 2016
  8. snapacap
    The Smirking Guy in the Back of the Room. :smirk:
    Written by snapacap
    Published Mar 17, 2016
    4.5/5,
    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.
     
    Looks:
    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. :smirk:"
    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.
     
    Build:
     
    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.
     
    Features:
    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)
    Light Weight
     
    Comfort:
    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.
     
    Sound:
     
    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.
     
    Recommended song:
    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.
    1. Brettclue
      Great review, these headphones are my first nicer headphones and I am really enjoying them so far.
      Brettclue, Mar 18, 2016
    2. Solarium
      I sold the HD700 recently, since upgrading to my HD800. Even with the HD800 and the T1, I often reminisce having the HD700 around. I've gone more on my sonic journey to try different amps/DAC's and other headphones, but I still believe that the HD700 is an extremely capable headphone for everyday listening. They are still the most comfortable headphone I've ever worn on my head and one of the most fun and enjoyable headphones I've heard.
      Solarium, Apr 6, 2016
    3. mikek200
      LOL,one of the best reviews I've ever heard on head-fi,so much so,I will order the HD700's.
      Thanks snapacap...good job.
      mikek200, Sep 10, 2016
      garbulky likes this.
  9. techboy
    HD 700 vs HD 650 Comparison
    Written by techboy
    Published Mar 10, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Absolute resolution and clarity; very clear, superb transients, awesomest comfort - extreme comfort; sound good out of everything; good vocals
    Cons - slightly peaky treble; not ideal for extended listening sessions
    Sennheiser was kind enough to lend me their HD 700 for a home demo. And as you know, I already own the HD 650 (silver drivers) to compare them to. And thankfully, Sennheiser has also agreed to lend me their HD 800 in a few days, for a more thorough side by side comparison. But that is best left to another review.

    I'm not sure whether these HD 700 headphones have been burned in or not. But. Neither do I care. Because I'm not a big believer in burn in making a radical difference to the sound. At least in the majority of cases. Anyway, just mentioned this to explicitly state that I've no idea.

    How much time have I spent with Sennheiser's HD 700 so far?

    Not much. Less than 24 hrs in fact. But. I've already listened to a few songs I'm reasonably familiar with.

    So. This isn't a review done after extensive testing. But. I've tried to be as accurate as possible.

    How much time have I spent with the HD 650 and the rest of my setup?

    At least over 2 years or so. Maybe longer. So that shouldn't hinder this review.

    The Setup

    Headphones: HD 700 (2012), HD 650 (silver drivers)

    Headphone Amplifier: Project Ember v1.0 (just tried a single tube, Marconi 6dj8 is what I recall from memory)

    DAC: Asus Essence One Muses Edition

    Transport: Asus Essence STX SPDIF to the PC

    The HD 650 was tested with and without Sonarworks. Sonarworks is a VST plugin that neutralises the tonality of supported headphones. Sonarworks doesn't support the HD 700 yet.

    Music

    Bollywood (Arijit Singh etc)

    Mozart (very little)

    I'd like to sum up the basic advantages of each headphone over the other, before I proceed to a more detailed review. So those in a hurry can still quickly get to know the overall gist in brief.

    Advantages of the HD 700 over the HD 650
     
    Way more comfortable. In fact, the HD 700 is so comfortable that that alone justifies twice the price over the HD 650 if you consider them equals otherwise.

    More or less better all around when it comes to technical prowess.

    Clearer, cleaner, more articulate, crisper transients and better speed.

    The overall sound is very tight and coherent.

    The bass is a lot tighter.

    Much better resolution; more detailed.

    Reasonably improved soundstage and imaging.

    More open and slightly more speaker like.

    More detailed and believable vocals.

    Basically, the difference in going from a mid range to a high-end can. ​

    Disadvantages of the HD 700 over the HD 650

    Additional treble that makes it unnaturally bright (not ear piercing though).

    Fatiguing and not as polite for extended listening sessions.

    There is something that makes them sound less natural and less musical.

    The tonality isn't as neutral; the vocals are a bit upfront as compared to the rest.

    Advantages of the HD 650 over the HD 700 (Many of these advantages may be audible only if you have Sonarworks, as that takes the experience to another level.)

    More musical, lush, smoother and sweet overall.

    The bass isn't as tight but perhaps more natural and with greater punch.

    The treble isn't as sharp; it is smoother.

    More suitable for extended listening.

    It has most of the pros of the HD 700 but not quite to the same level. In terms of technical prowess, it is what it is. An outdated flagship. 

    Now.

    You're probably waiting for a more in-depth comparison between the two. And that is exactly what I'm coming to now.

    HD 700 v/s HD 650 (with Sonarworks) - One on one

    Sound signature

    HD 700

    The HD 700 isn't as connect in tonality. But it is a very enjoyable sound signature nevertheless. The bass is super tight. The treble is lively and slightly Brit. The vocals are upfront. The sound is very tight overall. Everything is very tight.

    HD 650

    More neutral and balanced. Sounds smoother and sweeter, more musical. Nothing stands out even though the vocals are delicious.

    Soundstage & Imaging

    HD 700 > HD 650

    The difference isn't huge. But is still significant. And easily audible. Can be a deal breaker for many once they get used to the HD 700.

    I'm not too certain about the imaging. But. I think the HD 700 has an edge there as well.

    Vocals

    HD 700

    More articulate and realistic. They have better resolution and are more detailed. Also more upfront. Crisper.

    HD 650

    More musical, rounded and smoother. But not quite of the same stature.

    Bass

    HD 700

    A lot tighter. Perhaps artificially tight. Not sure though.

    HD 650 

    Far more hollow and rounded. But a tad more natural. Smoother. And with more punch.

    Treble

    HD 650 > HD 700

    HD 650's treble is just right with Sonarworks. HD 700 is a bit peaky and that takes time to adjust to. Note, the HD 700 isn't very bright. But the 650 is just more natural and balanced.

    Transients, speed, articulation

    HD 700 > HD 650

    Not even a contest. There are really far apart here. The HD 650 is very good in its own right. But not of the same pedigree.

    Timbre and tonality

    HD 650 is a bit better than the HD 700 here.

    Comfort

    Don't get me wrong. The HD 650 is pretty comfortable on its own. However, although its sound is suitable for extended listening, it's comfort isn't exemplary. It is just good.

    The HD 700 is probably the most comfortable headphone ever. More comfortable than the HD 800 I think. (I have tried the HD 800 twice.)

    It is like going from average to superlative in terms of comfort. That alone justifies 2x the price for the HD 700.

    Finally. Is the HD 700 a true upgrade to the HD 650?

    Technically, yes. Definitely.

    However, since the sound signature isn't exactly the same, subjective preferences may differ. Some may take one over the other.

    But as far as technical prowess is concerned, the 700 definitely has an edge. And a definite one at that. And combined with the much better comfort, its price is justified. Without doubt.

    Yes. I recommend the HD 700 over the HD 650 even at twice the price. But only if you feel the need for something that the HD 650 is unable to deliver. And ideally, you should try to audition before you buy it.

    Update to Sennheiser HD 700's review

    I have had a chance to listen to the HD 700 with two more setups:

    Asus Essence One Muses DAC/Amp

    iPad Mini 2 -> FiiO E12

    I also compared it to the HD 650 with both setups.

    The Fiio E12 setup sounds pretty good. With both cans. But not quite at the level of my previous setup or even the Asus E1 Muses.

    I didn't do an AB test or DBT, so I can't be sure. And being an objectivist, I'm not sure why or whether there should be this kind of difference. But for some reason, the Asus setup sounds cleaner, clearer and less muffled.

    The FiiO E12 is very good in its own right. And even with low gain I'm at about 12 o clock to get reasonably loud volume with either headphone.

    HD 700 vs HD 650

    After some more listening, I have come to realise that the HD 700 is a clear and very significant step up. And not only in terms of comfort. 

    The HD 700 is a lot cleaner, clearer, tighter, more articulate, faster and just gets the vocals a lot more right. 

    The HD 650 is still better for extended listening as the HD 700 does fatigue you after a while. But I've become used to HD 700's treble in under 72 hrs (and less than 2 hrs of use). It is not really fatiguing. But definitely a bit for extended listening. Unlike the HD 650. 

    Everything else goes in favour of the HD 700. You can hear a lot more detail. And the transients are a lot crisper as well.

    The HD 650 does sound musical and lush. But vocals are relatively frighteningly real with the HD 700.

    Honestly, I can't see much reason to choose the HD 650 over the HD 700 except for the smoother treble and better suitability for extended listening.

    The HD 700 is difficult to use for over 20-40 minutes tops at a time. Unlike the HD 650. But that could be very personal. I couldn't listen to Soundmagic E80s for over 5 minutes tops. So maybe I'm just used to the less treble energetic HD 650.

    Also, do note that most of these comparisons have been done while using the HD 650 with Sonarworks. So the HD 650 was dot neutral. In its stock form it is a bit too laid back for my tastes. And just can't compete with the HD 700.

    Stuff like breath and air movements are something that really make the HD 700 shine. The HD 650 is okay here. But not in the same playing field.

    The Fiio E12 does a good job with both the HD 700 and HD 650. But. I don't know why. I preferred the Asus Essence One Muses Edition with both the headphones.

    Solid State vs Tube

    For some reason, I always felt the HD 650 felt dead and cold with the Asus Essence One Muses edition. It felt lifeless. Like something was lacking.

    However, the HD 700 also fares really well with this solid state amp. In fact, I preferred it with the Asus over my hybrid tube amp Project Ember, I think. I'm not sure though.

    But. With the HD 650 I always chose Project Ember instead.

    Now I'm really not sure why this is happening. I may have gone mad and maybe this is all placebo. But these are my findings so far...

    P.S. Honestly, after listening to the HD 700 for a while, the HD 650 sounds like a distorted and muffled mess. The difference is at least as big if not bigger than moving from a HD 598 to a HD 650. The jump is probably a lot bigger in fact.

    The HD 700 does better most of the stuff the HD 650 does well, and much better at that. But it is definitely a different presentation. And it is best to audition before you buy either!​
    1. Barra
      FYI, the SonarWorks HD800 plugin works wonderfully with the HD700 eliminating the treble issues. If you try it you are in for a real treat and there are is no comparison to the HD650, They are two very different signatures, but the HD650 as fun as it is only scales to mid-fi IMO while the HD700 with the SonarWorks plugin scales to TOTL. This comes for direct AB comparisons with most the TOTL HPs with the HD650 in the mix. The problem with the HD650 SonarWorks plugin is that there is nothing to correct with the HD650 as they got it right out of the box as is. The HD700 on the other hand has a treble veal that is very clear if you use the HD800 plugin and toggle it on and off. Not saying that there is anything wrong with the HD700 as is as it does sound great out of the box, but once you hear it corrected with the SonarWorks plugin, it is hard to go back.
      Barra, Mar 10, 2016
    2. techboy
      I tried with Sonarworks. With that enabled a lot of HD 700's strengths' take a hit.
       
      It is no more really detailed or as tight.
       
      Sounds better without Sonarworks in this case I think. With the HD 650 it is the opposite.
      techboy, Mar 13, 2016
  10. genclaymore
    Great sounding headphones
    Written by genclaymore
    Published Feb 19, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - very Comfortable,Very lite, Works very well, Great all over sound and sound stage, Good seperation.
    Cons - It can be bright with certain Amp's, Op-amp or tubes, No 3rd party earpads.
    HD700_2.jpg
     
     
                                                   
     
     The Sennheiser HD 700 is the little brother of the HD 800, the design looks like it stolen from an art museum in the future, Or a futurist earmuff. The cups are in the shape of your ear, the ear pads can be removed by unsnapping them from the headphone’s themselves, and sadly I haven’t seen any 3rd party ear pads as Sennheiser HD 700 ear pads cost around 80-99 dollars. Maybe in the future (no pun intended) they will create different ear pads that are thicker for those whose ears touches the drivers or that stick out further from their heads.
     
    The each ear has a plug for the headphone cable’s which are Dual mono, Also besides each cup has a connector on them, it makes it easier down the line to swap to balanced cables to use with a balanced Amp.
     
    The headphone’s easily adjust to the size you need, You have to make sure you get both sides the right amount for your head, having visual numbers would have made it easier to do, cups moves forward and back, but they do not twist.
     
    The HD 700’s are very light headphone’s other than my ear touching the driver a bit, the ear pads them self are very comfortable as so the headband pads. I just wish the ear pads was thicker.
     
    Unlike my last pair of headphone’s the HE-500’s, the HD700 are easier to drive, they work great on both my Gustard H10 and my Burson Lycan the only thing that I have that they don’t work with on is the Fiio E7 which can’t drive them correctly, The HD700’s are 500mW @ 150ohms.
     
     
    The Setup
     
    For the review, I will be using my Gustard X12 Dac paired with my Burson Lycan amp which will have the Burson V5-OPA-D Op-amp installed.
     
    HD700_1.jpg
     
     
    The Results
     
    Shazzka – Showtime
     
    The first thing you notice in this song is how hard the bass hits while going deep, Its clean and not messy, It does not leak into the other freq’s either. The Snare’s and the drum’s sound really good, the snares have a type of snap to them.
     
    The highs are detailed while clean, not too bright, Sound really nice to me. They have a good image as I can hear the location of the different instruments.
     
    The Vocals are in the center, they have weight behind them, some of the vocal’s pan out towards the left and right, while still sounding nice. The sound stage to me is big and sounds like it’s 3Dish to me, the sound isn’t close to my head but surrounds it.
    CloZee – Koto
     
    The instrument and the snares in the first part of the song is spread out thru the sound stage, it’s very clean and heard. The sound imaging is really good in this song. The bass also hits hard but not as hard like the other song, but it still goes deep as well.
     
    The vocals are in the center like the singer is in front of you on the stage in the back ground. While another sounds like is in the front of that one.  The 3rd is at the left of the center, All 3 of them are heard clearly and does not overlap each other.
     
     
    Arkaik – Moving on (Original mix)
     
    The song has a very airly feel to it, the drum kit is in the center directly in front of you, clearly heard and detailed. The location of the bass is in the left channel which is very deep. Both the drum kit and the bass is heard separately.
     
     The 2nd bass note feels like it surrounds you before it goes into an error, when it just the drums kit and the bass note playing. The sound stage feels like it very open. I enjoying this song.
     
     
    Ben Soundscape, Superior Selectionz – Abbey (Original mix)
     
    Like the last song, this one also have a airly feel to it, The drum kit and the snare is in the center of you in a such a way like the drummer is hitting the drums just for you. The Snare and the bass is separated from the drumming. The drums hit very deep and there some weight behind each fast hit.
     
    The vocals are soft and the position of the singer is in front of the drummer, they don’t drown each other out.
     
    The sound stage is also 3D while being large and it surrounds you like the other song, each person and instrument is easy heard all thru the sound stage as their separate thing.
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    Over all I enjoyed the way most of the songs sounded on the headphones, it worked really well with what I paired with them for this review. Prior I had the HE-500, Honestly I glad I move on to the HD700 as I prefer the way that these headphones sound over them. While the HE-500 did sound good, I just like the HD700 more so, since they like I said very light and you don’t feel them on your head unlike the HE-500.

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