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Over-Ear item created by nickvalluri, Feb 1, 2012
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 - 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
More articulate and realistic. They have better resolution and are more detailed. Also more upfront. Crisper.
More musical, rounded and smoother. But not quite of the same stature.
A lot tighter. Perhaps artificially tight. Not sure though.
Far more hollow and rounded. But a tad more natural. Smoother. And with more punch.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 3[sup]rd[/sup] 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 2[sup]nd[/sup] 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.
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.
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...
Pros - detail and resolution, dynamics, imaging and huge soundstage
Cons - system dependent, cable a bit kinky
I wanted to discuss a bit about HD700 today. I wouldnt include graphs or too much technical information. Simply the way I hear them and how I made a system around them as that is very important with HD700. So, lets get started with little details.
BUILD AND FINISH
HD700 is built very well. All sliding and rotating mechanisms work with a precision that give away its stature as second only to HD800 in Sennheiser food chain. Head band is silicone treated and gives a rubbery texture on touch. Headband padding and earpads are covered in velour that feels a little differently textured from other pads I have tried of same material. Its a bit stiff at first but after a bit of time, it breaks in and becomes soft and comfortable. Ear cups are made by a mixture of plastic and metal parts. Plastic is of nicer variety and feels more dense and stronger on tapping. Overall it looks intriguing and people who see it are left in no doubt its a rather expensive headphone.
COMFORT AND ACCESSORIES
Its comfort is very good. When I put it on, all of its weight is distributed on top of my head. As I mentioned, headband padding is a little stiff that allows it to suspend a bit on top rather than put weight on my and ears completely. They have very subtle clamping force that keeps them on head if I lay down on bed, but not not too much to be uncomfortable. Overall all it remains firmly in place no matter how listen to them without uncomfortable clamp or anything. Weight distribution is quiet good. All contact points are covered with velour like material which is very comfortable for long listening sessions. Earpads are sufficiently deep and I can feel AC aor on my ears while wearing them. Perhaps a sign of how open they are.
Accessories are rather sparse. It comes in a cardboard box that is pretty big with generous foam cut outs to keep it protected in transit. Apart from that there is only a manual. The cable is removable with 2.5 mm mono plugs on one end and 6.3 mm jack on other. It does'nt come with 6.3 to 3.5 mm adapter so you will have to use your own if you want to plug it into source with 3.5 mm jack. Cable though is nicely made and covered in cloth below y splitter, kinks a lot and still has memory of how it was wrapped when you opened it. Its a bit intrusive in day to day use, and I have to sort the kinks everytime I start using it.
Ok so the important part. I will divide this section into subsections for easy reading.
When I originally recieved them, I was using Audinst HUD Mini. Its an entry level dac\amp unit and sounds good for the price. After few hours of burning in, I plugged in HD700 and was not convinced. Treble on HUD mini is not very refined and in just 30 min listeing session, I had to put down hp. It was too fatiguing. For me, simply unlistenable. Now I had two options, either to return HP or build a better setup for it. I obviously decided to do latter, to see if HD700 can sound convincing and enjoyable. Its treble had a bit of ringing to it, so I decided to go for a warm dac. After reading a bit on different threads, I decided to buy Fiio X5 classic and use it as transport and source. Some people were using it with HD800 and it seemed to solve treble issues. Also Sennheisers are known to work well with tube amps. After asking a bit on HD700 thread I decided to go for one of garage 1217 amps. So I am using following system at time of writing this:
Fiio X5 classic > Garage 1217 Project Solstice with 6H6N tube > HD700.
After Burn in
As I learnt from my first tube amp, tubes take a lot of time to settle down and sound their best. I can still detect sound changing from clausterphobic to wide open, mid focussed bass light to bass heavy. But its bigger issues, mainly treble ringing is completely cured with this setup and I can easily listen for hours at a time.
HD 700 is very system dependent and dependent on your preferences you can make it sound bass light or bass heavy. Its major characteristics remain same, you can change how much spotlight and space in soundstage it gives to bass frequencies. Bass is round and snappy. Its dynamic and fast. Does not go very deep like my closed back cans but has a bit of mid bass punch. It has good detail. Bassline almost always occupy lower half of soundstage, giving vocals and other instruments space above it. Maybe cause of great imaging I am able to pin point it. It holds nothing back if track allows for it and you use a bass heavy system.
On solid state system, generally instuments sound in second layer behind bass and vocals. Not distant but just one step behind. On tubes , everything expands and mids show bloom and are lot more prominant. In both cases mids are detailed, resolved and thick. If you love mids, I doubt you will remain dissatisfies, especially with tube amps. To show detail, it does naturally and does not sound forced. It seems like a higher quality driver with effortless resolution. Midrange is neutral sounding with little warm tilt.
Vocals are very lifelike and natural and it takes listener closer to their favourite artist one step. Does not polish them or give extra bite. Vocals are not overly forward and are well integrated with rest of instruments.
Treble has substantial presence, but it aids in giving an organic and natural presentation. It is not used as a tool to give perception of a lot of detail, or bite to vocals and guitars. It has sennheiser house sound and treble is not etched. I must warn you though, with a lot of systems, it can be ringing and fatiguing. But this hp only if you are ready to build a setup around it, if needed.
Treble is not rolled off and is detailed. Though I must say, tube I am using has little prominance in treble. Also my dac is warmer, so judging treble is a bit harder. But I can say as it is, its neither offensive nor rolled off or vieled. It aides presentation very well.
Soundstage and imaging
If I were to choose one aspect where a lesser hp can't touch it at all, it would be imaging. Its so pin point and gives cues of where sound is coming from extremely well. Soundstage width is very good. With my system, it gives a feel of 2nd row auditorium. All instruments are very big in size and not distant at all. Also soundstage depth is very good. Some instruments are in your face, while others are a bit distant, resulting in a very convincing presentation. Overall soundstage performance is its strong point, it can sometimes, depending on recording, can sound out of the head as well, as if sound is coming from in front of me.
Dynamics and timber
Dynamically very alive and give feel of ebb and flow of music really well. Very refined dynamics with lot of steps between loudest and quietest passages.
Timber on my system is rich, a little bright. It conveys inherent properties of instruments and vocals very well.
It was initially priced at $1000 and I think it performs like a higher end can. Its a definite step up over mid range cans I own or tried. The price I paid for it, I think its a very good value. For some people it can be a bit uninvolving as it tries to mimic the way music sounds in real life, without adding too much colouration. It does an excellent job at that and if you are looking for a hp that sounds natural, neutral, true to recording and music, you should check out Sennheiser HD700.
Thanks for reading.
Pros - Comfort, detailing, great balance between analytical and fun, great design, cables are removable, balance between bass quantity and quality
Cons - Cable, questionable material choice. Did I mention cable?
Everyone here and their mothers have heard of the HD600/650. After over 10+ years, the HD600 series still remains a timeless classic, withstanding the test of time with is beautiful musicality and fidelity while being very appropriately nice. But it's unlike companies to stand on its laurels: the HD800 was released in 2010, which remains the current defacto standard for soundstage and balance among dynamic driver headphones. That being said, it was still a relatively conservative headphone among its peers.
Enter the HD700
As the naming scheme suggests, the HD700 slots between the HD800 and HD600/650. That being said, it's not an exact compromise between the HD600 and HD800: its styling mimics the HD800's more, while its sound isn't quite either. That being said, I'm glad it's not a hybrid between the HD600 and HD800: if I wanted either sound, I'll just get either.
Having sufficient IEM's, I decided it was time to enter the headphone game. The MDR-1A was no slouch, but I was looking at open headphones. After a bit of hesitation, I tried out the HD700's at the only headphone store that demo'd it (Minidisc.com.au, check it out!) I bit the bullet and bought my most expensive pair yet ($600 AUD/ $480 USD).
It's been a little over 2 years since I started getting into this whole audio shenanigans. Started off with a humble Sony MH1C to replace my lost headset, then from there, things got a little......out of control. For reference, my gear consists of:
To preserve as much of the headphone's characteristics, I went with an O2/ODAC to begin with. I may revise this review when I finally get my mate's Musical Fidelity hybrid amp. Some may disagree with my choice, saying that the HD700 pairs well with other amps: however, considering that this is all I have (besides an old Yamaha speaker amp), there's not much I could do. Note that I'll be comparing these to my UE900S (my IEM of choice) and MDR-1A (my main headphone before this) as a rough reference, as well as the HD600/800 (the former which I borrowed off my brother).
I'm not going to bother to say I'm not an audiophile: I obviously care a lot with how music is reproduced. Using the very definition of the word, we here are all audiophiles. That being said, I don't tend to affiliate with the more 'cult'-like traditions of audiophiles: cables, tweaks, etc. Think of me as an objectivist, if you will.
Without further adieu, let's actually review these headphones!
Although it's probably the most mundane aspect of audio products, in my mind, the packaging is very important. That being said, I'm not particularly impressed by the HD700's packaging: it's more or less the same as the HD600's. However, that is not to say I'm unsatisfied with the packaging: it's just that, at this price range, it's nothing special. The box, however, is very useful and utilitarian, though a bit easy to nick.
Although the HD700 is a controversial headphone, there's pretty much universal consensus on its comfort: it's great. Bar none, it is the comfiest headphone I've ever worn, tying easily with the HD800 I tried for a brief period. Compared to the HD600, it comfortably (geddit?!) beats it. It is not hot at all, and the velour padding allows for wearing even with glasses for hours at end without the slightest touch of discomfort. Its light weight contributes heavily to this in my opinion. The only beef I have with the comfort is the fact that my left ear swells easily (due to me sleeping on it), and will occasionally nick the driver cover. Not a problem for 99% of the time.
Some swear the HD700 is a bastard of the HD800. I couldn't agree more: the aggressive space-age styling is very distinctive, and one I love. To be honest, I prefer the look of these over the HD800: these look a lot more aggressive and sleek. However, the questionable material choice is inherited from the HD800: plastics fantastic. Now, I have nothing against plastic: used properly, it is durable and is light weight: however, that 'premium quality' feel would be diminished.
And then we have the cable. Bar none, it's the worst aspect of the headphone. Don't get me wrong, it's a beautiful headphone, but that cable just refuses to keep straight. Oh, and it broke after 4 months, and I didn't even roll it over a chair wheel. At least Sennheiser didn't play the blame-game: I'll give them that much.
(Note: unless indicated, I will link the O2/ODAC with it, and listen to 320/V0/FLAC files)
The sound of the HD700 is controversial indeed: most of those that hate this headphone will hate it for its peaky treble. Thankfully for me, I happen to enjoy this 'peaky' treble, as it turns out. Let's start from the bottom.
Unlike the HD600 and HD800, where the bass was anemic to me, the HD700 packs satisfying amounts of bass, while retaining very good control of it. It does not spill over to the mids (unlike my MDR-1A's), but delivers sufficient punch for pop and drums. However, despite its healthy amount, it still does not match the HD650's level of bass (quantity, not quality): the HD700 easily wipes the floor in terms of bass compared to the 600 series, and only loses somewhat to the HD800 due to is lesser extension. Despite this, I favour the HD700's bass a lot more than the HD800: there is nothing more bothering to me than listening to classical that has no bass.
The bass excels in songs such as X Ambassadors's 'Jungle' where despite it being clipped to oblivion by the producers, produces a visceral punch without bloating the rest. The same cannot be said for the MDR-1A's, where the bass just tanks the detailing, and the UE900S, where the bass was insufficient.
The mids of this are, in my humble opinion, the weakest aspect of the HD700. That being said, I don't hate, I still love it: it's just that the bass and treble is better to me relatively. Vocals (especially female) are very exuberant yet natural, making it beautiful for artists such as Haley Westenra. Likewise, for orchestral instruments, this makes the instruments very smooth and articulated. However, all being said and done, it's slightly veiled to an extent, and despite the plots showing me that they are indeed quite a bit veiled, I never thought that for a moment.
Surprisingly, compared to the rest of my headphones, the HD700 doesn't particularly stand out: it sounds better than the MDR-1A, but barely nudges the UE900S. Songs such as Amazing Grace by Hayley Westenra benefit more from the air and treble of the HD700's than the mids.
And here's where all the controversy of the HD700 is. There's not denying it: it's bright. However, no, they're nowhere near as bright as some Grado's I've heard. No, it's not fatiguing to me. Yes, maybe tubes may help. No, I really don't know if they can help. No, the HD800 has better treble. All I know is, I love the treble on this. There is a lot of treble extensions, which undoubtedly help with is big soundstage. All those treble cues you use for imaging, yeah, it's all there. And it's beautiful. What can I say? I'm a sucker for V-shaped headphones.
The treble allows for an amazing experience with guitars: every pluck and slap can be heard with succinct detail. Hell, let's just include all stringed instruments. It's absolutely solid. Gustavo Santaolalla's 'The Last of Us' provides the perfect opportunity for this trait to be heard: every pluck is so finely reproduced, it's hard to imagine this is all coming from a headphone. That extra sparkle provides a lot of air and thus soundstaging, especially with classical songs. One almost-perfect example may be heard in Barenboim's reading of the Emperor Concerto: all the nuances, from the subtle page turning to pedal changes on the piano sounds absolutely immersive in such an environment.
Other Sound Stuff
Soundstage - impressive, in case you didn't get the hint
Sibilance - none. Zilch. Despite what the treble may tell you, unless your song/ source is clipped, there's absolutely no sibilance.
Cable noise - none, which is about the only good thing I could say about it. But then again, an el-cheapo cable I bought for this doesn't either.
Channel balance - practically dead-on. Not much else to say TBH.
Driving/amping - I can't comment on the effect tubes have on these headphones. I can, however, say this: comparing the O2/ODAC to my laptop/phone's output, there is significantly less noise and the sound doesn't sound like it's being slogged around. Can't really explain it either, and it's driving my inner objectivist insane. My phone barely outputs enough for the HD700, so amping in that case is vital.
Isolation - none. Don't bother. However, it doesn't leak much sound (at least no at my listening volumes)
I listen to practically all music (except EDM/house, because that isn't music to me , and jazz). If I was to pick one genre the HD700's stand out in, it's classical/orchestral. The wide soundstage really helps in selling the traits of classical music, while its peaky treble aids in providing detailing and sparkle. However, it's no slouch in the other genres: I am unable to pick out a single genre the HD700's suffer at. One thing the HD700 really suffers from is clipped music: that treble pulls no punches in absolutely destroying clipped/brickwalled songs.
The HD700 is almost perfect: as opposed to my MDR-1A, which were fun yet bloated, the HD700 strives for fidelity while preserving an element of fun and excitement. This compromise is to my ears and head excellent, and is something that quite a few who migrate from the HD600/800's must get used to for these headphones.
Keep in mind, however, that this is relative to the price ($600 AUD/ ~$480 USD) I paid: if it was priced at its MSRP, I'd hesitate a bit. But at that price, it's not exactly a bargain either, but it's damn good.
Now if only the cable they came with were actually any good...........
Hayley Westenra - Amazing Grace
Hayley Westenra - The Water is Wide
Celtic Woman - The Parting Glass (Emerald)
Taylor Swift - Everything has Changed
Florence + The Machine - Landscape (Demo)
Florence + The Machine - Hiding
Ed Sheeran - Thinking Out Loud
Adele - Skyfall
Charlie Puth - Marvin Gaye
Fun - Carry On
X Ambassadors - Jungle
Imagine Dragons - Radioactive
AC/DC - Shoot to Thrill
Tchaikovsky - Waltz of the Flowers (Tchaikovsky: The Nutcracker (2011 Remaster), André Previn)
Beethoven - Piano Concerto No.5 in E flat major Op.73 -"Emperor" (Beethoven For All: The Piano Concertos, Daniel Barenboim)
Mozart - Piano Concerto No.20 in D minor, K 466 (Mozart - Piano Concertos No. 27 & 20, Maria João Pires )
Mozart - Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat major, K 595 (Mozart - Piano Concertos No. 27 & 20, Maria João Pires)
Strauss II - The Beautiful Blue Danube (The 50 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music, London Philharmonic Orchestra)
Bach - Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048 (J. S. Bach: Six Brandenburg Concertos, Dunedin Consort)
Rachmaninov - Piano Concerto No.2 in C minor, Op.18 (Rachmaninov: Piano Concertos, Vladimir Ashkenazy)
Gershwin - Rhapsody in Blue (Gershin: Rhapsody in Blue, Piano Concerto in F, Stefano Bollani)
David Arnold - Bike Chase (Tomorrow Never Dies OST)
Gustavo Santaolalla - The Last of Us (The Last of Us OST)
Ramin Djawadi - Mako (Pacific Rim OST)
Ramin Djawadi - From Here (Medal of Honor (2010) OST)
Dario Marianelli - Brioni (Atonement OST)
Michael Giacchino - Welcome to Jurassic World (Jurassic World OST)
John Willilams - 'The Imperial March' from The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Greatest Hits 1969-1999)
Hans Zimmer - Earth (Gladiator OST)
Hanz Zimmer - Leave No Man Behind (Black Hawk Down OST)
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.