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A short comparison of the HD650, HD600, DT880, and DT931

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by jan meier, Oct 17, 2003.
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  1. Jan Meier Contributor
    Dear Headfellows,

    Yesterday they finally arrived, those long awaited HD650s! I gave them a thorough 36 hours break-in and wanted to share my impressions with you. It's not an extended review though. I leave that up to people like Jude and all the others that soon will have their new toys at home.

    For comparison I used a HD600, DT880, and DT931 (modified and driven at 120 Ohm).

    Equipment: SONY SCD XB770 (modified), PREHEAD (LM6171), Meier-Audio interconnects

    CDs used:

    Christy Baron, "I thought about you", Chesky
    Fischer-Dieskau and Brendel performing Schubert's "Winterreise", Philips
    José Carreras in Ramirez's "Misa Criolla", Philips

    BUILD QUALITY
    As you all will know by now the HD650 have the same shape as the HD600. Merely colours and the paddings on the headband are different. It has 2 cushions with the HD650 and 4 smaller cushions with the HD600. I like the grey colours of the HD650 but that shiny black that is used on the ear cups could have been a little bit less shiny for my taste.

    The cable of the HD650 is thicker than that of the HD600 but the Sennheiser technician that is responsible for the cables (I met him in Berlin a few weeks ago) told me, that the inner conductors are the same for both cables. According to him there shouldn't be any major differences in cable sound.

    The Sennheiser cables are attached by small 2 pins interconnects. I personally don't like them and can't see the need in non-professional applications. They do have a tendency to result in poor electrical contact so I find it a pity Sennheiser hasn't come with a better solution.

    Build quality of the DT880 is excellent. I don't like the spiral cable very much but that's personal taste.

    Build quality of the DT931 is mediocre. The phone provides a real plastic feeling. The standard version also has a spiral cable (mine has a home-made version).

    COMFORT
    Comfort of the HD650, like that of the HD600, is medium only. The earpaddings aren't very large and these phones have a tendency to clamp (but I admit, I'm a bighead and I have big ears!).
    The Beyerdynamics are much more comfortable. Big paddings and much less pressure.

    SONIC BALANCE
    As could be expected the HD600 and HD650 showed great similarity. Warm and easy to listen to. A comfortable sound which places you in the middle of a concert hall. The HD600 has a somewhat stronger upper bass and a little bit more treble. The HD650 seems to have more lower bass and a more seamless transition of the various frequency ranges.

    The bass and midrange of the DT880 is surprisingly similar to that of the HD650 but treble is a little bit stronger. My initial impressions of the DT880 when it was launched (half a year ago) were, that it sounded darker than the HD600. I now come to the conclusion that the phone has a stronger lower bass then the Sennheiser and thereby attracts your attention to the lower frequencies, especially at bass heavy music. In reality the treble of the DT880 is a little bit stronger.

    The DT931 is a very different kind of headphone. More forwardly balanced and with more energy at the upper frequencies it places you in the first row of the concert hall. A more immediate contact with the musicians is the result.

    BASS
    I've always found the bass of the HD600 to be a little bit muddy and slow. Thankfully this has been greatly improved with the HD650. The latter simply is more tight and less resonant and has a better attack. It's in the same league of that of the DT880 but the latter goes deeper. The DT931 has the fastest attack and the best control of all but bass is less dominant as it is on the other phones.

    MIDRANGE
    The midrange always has been where the HD600 excelled. I'm happy to report that the HD650 is even better. More micro-detail, lower coloration, .... There's little left to wish for. The midrange of the DT880 is (almost) similarly good. The midrange of the DT931 is a little bit "stiff" in comparison.

    TREBLE
    My major complaint with the HD650 is, that its treble is even slightly more recessed than that of the HD600. As a result this phone never will get aggressive on you, but female voices simply lack air and percussion lacks that initial fast attack. The phone sounds slow in comparison to the other models. The HD600 are slightly better but for attack and air the DT880 is clearly superior. Surprisingly, although the HD600 has more treble, the HD650 shows more micro detail. This probably is a result of less distortion that this phone is claimed to have.
    The treble of the DT931 is somewhat pronounced. The result is a fast attack and every detail of the performance is made audible.

    SPACE
    Some of the major clues that give us a feeling of space are the low frequency echoes and reflections that are produced by the walls of the recording location. Since the bass of the DT931 is less strong than that of the other phones it presents less space. The HD600 conveys much more environment but is surpasses in this discipline by the HD650. The bass of the latter simply has a better definition. However, the DT880 is even better in this one.

    SOUND LEVELS
    When comparing headphones it's very important to listen at the same sound level for each phone. This implied that the volume had to be turned up considerably when listening to the DT880. This phone has a rather lower efficiency. However, the other headphones are not very efficient either and each needs a really good amplifier to shine. Potential buyers should be aware of that. These phones will sound rather miserable right out of portable!

    The Sennheisers and the DT880 put their emphasis on the bass. This strong bass easily shades the midrange and treble. Less detailed is heard at the same sound level. Thereby these phones create a tendency to hear at higher sound levels. Especially the HD650 and DT880 have this tendency as distortion (and thereby psychological restraint) is very low. The DT931 has more midrange and upper detail and therefore can be more easily listened to at lower sound levels. It's one of the major reasons that I have the DT931 for personal use.

    CONCLUSIONS
    The HD650 is a very fine headphone and in various areas it's a clear improvement over the HD600. My only complaints are the (slightly) more recessed treble, the medium level of comfort and that cable connector.

    And of course there's its price. The MRSP in Germany is EUR 400,- and I personally find that a lot money. The DT880 has a very similar quality (IMHO) but is much more affordable. To me it also doesn't seem to be so much better than the HD600 that it's worth the +80% in price. However, that's something everybody has to decide for himself

    Happy listenings,

    Jan
     
  2. kartik
    Muhahahaha!! And the winner is....
    .... The Grado RS-1. The more I hear descriptions of the Sennheiser, the less I seem to like them. ALthough I should probably at least give them a try, I just don't think they are for me. I belong to the school of thought that the Grado's could be more attacking. veryevil:
    On a diffeerent note, I would be interested if Dr. Meier could compare them head to head with the Grado RS-1 or it's poorer cousin the SR-325.:
     
  3. fewtch Contributor
    Thanks Jan... it looks like the wait is over, and the HD-650 is starting to spread around now and get listened to. What was the general release date again -- 24 October?

    Cheers...
     
  4. Jan Meier Contributor
    "I would be interested if Dr. Meier could compare them head to head with the Grado RS-1 or it's poorer cousin the SR-325"

    A few years ago I had a SR-225 and a SR-60 for testing. To be very honest, I didn't like them at all. Too aggressive. Couldn't wear them for more than 10 minutes.

    But then, everybody hears differently!

    :)

    "it looks like the wait is over, and the HD-650 is starting to spread around now and get listened to. What was the general release date again -- 24 October?

    Actually, the first copies that I received are for sale right now. I just submitted an add to Mall-Fi. Hopefully Jude will find some time to place it soon. According to the Sennheiser representative more phones are on their way from Ireland right now. I hope to get more by the end of next week or the week thereafter. No promisses though.

    Cheers,

    Jan
     
  5. Spent&Bent
    Quote:

    Originally posted by kartik
    Muhahahaha!! And the winner is....
    .... The Grado RS-1. The more I hear descriptions of the Sennheiser, the less I seem to like them. ALthough I should probably at least give them a try, I just don't think they are for me. I belong to the school of thought that the Grado's could be more attacking. veryevil:
    On a diffeerent note, I would be interested if Dr. Meier could compare them head to head with the Grado RS-1 or it's poorer cousin the SR-325.:



    Good idea!

    The thing that bugs me the most is the added cost of the amp to get any performance out of the 600 / 650.
    When quoting a price it's probably better to include the cash needed for a decent amp IMHO.

    I used to love the senn 410 sound when I first got into headphone listening, but that brand definately lost me along the way.

    I hope to hear the 650 myself sunday when I'm off to a hi-fi show in the netherlands where one or two dealers probably will be showcasing them (next to the perreaux which i'm very interested in to finally hear!!!), but I doubt the sound of the 650 will make me buy sennheiser again.
     
  6. TravelLite
    Jan, I know the folks have been curious, did you find the HD650 to be a little more efficient (SPL/mW) than the HD600? Or about the same? Thanks!

    TravelLite
     
  7. Jan Meier Contributor
    > did you find the HD650 to be a little more efficient (SPL/mW) than the HD600? Or about the same?

    It's about the same. A good amp is a must!
     
  8. wallijonn
    Jan,

    I swear my hearing must be getting pretty close to yours, as I find that I am agreeing with more and more of your assessments.

    As with all reviews, I think the Head-Fi members would like to know what equipment you used to audition the headphones.

    I think the biggest "let-down" to present HD600 owners is the seemingly failure of Sennheiser to upgrad their cable. Of course Equinox, Cardas, Clou Bue are probably sighing with relief right now and are probably creating a customised cable just for the HD650. [​IMG]

    I'm sure that those who found fault with the bass transient response and "feel" will automatically seek to upgrade (after all isn't that part of the reason why everyone bought aftermarket cables?)

    The perceived diminishment of treble bothers me, though. Is it just that the overall tonal balance has been shifted an octave or two towards the bass?

    I think that as new synergistic combos are discovered, there will be a resurgence of HD650 hype and mania. This is a good thing, in my estimation. It will drive members to audition the HD650, and, a drop in price and an increase in availability of the HD600.
     
  9. Jan Meier Contributor
    Dear Wallijon,

    "I swear my hearing must be getting pretty close to yours

    There's a training effect in listening to decent HiFi. People who have little experience tend to be easily impressed by some outstanding characteristics (strong bass, dynamicity, ..)

    For me, and for many of my friends, truly good HiFi doesn't produce a WOW-effect but simply brings you to the heart of the music and allows you to listen for long periods without fatigue.

    "I think the biggest "let-down" to present HD600 owners is the seemingly failure of Sennheiser to upgrad their cable. Of course Equinox, Cardas, Clou Bue are probably sighing with relief right now and are probably creating a customised cable just for the HD650.

    Wait for my advertisement and you will be surprised!

    :)

    "Is it just that the overall tonal balance has been shifted an octave or two towards the bass?

    No, the effect is very small. Actually it's only clearly noticable at a direct A-B comparison.

    > It drive members to audition the HD650, and, a drop in price and an increase in availability of the HD600.

    The dealer prices will not change. Sennheiser will have a very strict policy on this one. They want to prevent a situation like that with the HD600


    Jan
     
  10. Steve999
    Awesome review, Jan, I really appreciate the perspective you offer.... Good natured, not standard head-fi, doing your own listening and thinking, and very easy to understand.[​IMG]
     
  11. ph0rk
    Quote:

    Originally posted by kartik
    Muhahahaha!! And the winner is....
    .... The Grado RS-1. The more I hear descriptions of the Sennheiser, the less I seem to like them. ALthough I should probably at least give them a try, I just don't think they are for me. I belong to the school of thought that the Grado's could be more attacking. veryevil:
    On a diffeerent note, I would be interested if Dr. Meier could compare them head to head with the Grado RS-1 or it's poorer cousin the SR-325.:



    Don't forget that as we all get older, the treble goes first.

    meaning that someone with more intact hearing than you may prefer headphones with more relaxed treble. Someone with more hearing loss than you might find the relaxed treble of the HD580/600/650 to be missing treble.


    Nothing wrong with it, thats just how it goes. If you think grados need -more- treble then i wouldn't recommend HD580/600's [​IMG]
     
  12. JaZZ Contributor
    I'm not afraid of lacking treble with the HD 650. I know from my experience with the new HD 600 years ago how the original clamping force makes the sound full and dark. After loosening of the headband just by use or even some bending measures, the sonic balance considerably changes towards more brightness.

    [​IMG]
     
  13. wallijonn
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Jan Meier

    Wait for my advertisement and you will be surprised!

    :)

    Jan



    [​IMG] You, devil, you. [​IMG] Are you going to do a "Godfather" and make an offer they can't refuse? [​IMG] Or perhaps a Meier cable.... hmmmm. [​IMG]

    As far as driving the prices down, I was only talking about used prices.

    I can see it now, people buy the new HD650, swap the drivers (so they can keep the HD600 colour)...

    What about the special edition HD650? IS it even on the radar screen?
     
  14. Rizumu
    Thanks for taking the time to write up a comparison, Jan. I know jude and others will take it upon themselves do the really big reviews but I still enjoy reading your opinions. They fall in darn close with mine so I know I can rely on them.

    Good job! [​IMG]

    BTW, I must have a big head too since I suffered from the vice grip of the HD580/HD600 as well. [​IMG]
     
  15. kuma
    Quote:

    Originally posted by kartik
    Muhahahaha!! And the winner is....
    .... The Grado RS-1. The more I hear descriptions of the Sennheiser, the less I seem to like them. ALthough I should probably at least give them a try, I just don't think they are for me. I belong to the school of thought that the Grado's could be more attacking.



    Yeah.. me too. I never liked Senns. 650 has even more recessed trebles? yikes.

    He seems to think highly of DT880 which was not for me either. DT931 had totally different disposition from DT880. Yet direct comparison to the RS1 via Naim Headline 2/CDX II, it still sounded rather *tame*. But it offered a very natural and involving performance.

    Indeed diffrent 'fones for different taste![​IMG]
     
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