HD650 vs. DT880...one listener's impressions

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by DCofficehack, Nov 8, 2017.
  1. DCofficehack
    I've been happily using a pair of Beyerdynamic DT880s (600 ohms) for two years, but curiosity--and this damned forum--got the better of me, and I just sprang for some HD650s. I wasn't at all dissatisfied with the Bayers, I just wanted to try the famous Sennheisers and see what the fuss was about. And the price was ok: $260 new on Ebay.

    I was hoping the difference between the two would be stark, and that this review would be long. But the fact of the matter is that with the major exception of clamp, the difference between the two headphones is slight.

    First, let's get the clamp out of the way. The Beyers have none. They fit my head like a floppy fisherman's cap. So, yes, they're really comfortable for long hours of use, although I've sometimes wished they had the clamp of my pair of DT770s, which I have at my office. The Senns have slightly more clamp than the DT770s, and I like it.

    Another difference is isolation. The 880s isolate a little. The HD650s not at all.

    Now for what you're all waiting for, the sound: Both bring astonishing detail to the music. Neither is better than the other in this regard. The more I listen to both, the more clearly I realize that the difference has to do with a treble emphasis (the Beyers) compared to more bass (the Sennheisers). Most of the time, what this means is that the 650s have more body to the sound, whereas the 880s sound comparatively thin. Not thin in a bad way like a bad recording or something, but just, well, less body or less heft. The lack of heft is not noticeable when one is not comparing. Meaning, back when I only had the Beyers, I thought the music was terrific. Nothing was absent. Only when A/Bing does one notice a difference.

    With a lot of music, either average music or stuff with lots of treble anyway (violin), I think I like the Sennheisers better. Not a lot better, but better. The treble on the 880s can be just a bit too much, a bit too bright, and I like the added power of the stronger bass on the 650s.. I am under the impression that for long listening, the relatively mild treble of the Beyers make for greater comfort.

    The flip side is that the 650s can be too boomy depending on the music. Most of the time, it's not an issue, but let's take this piece for example:

    Now, to be clear, I'm listening to an AAC rip of the CD of this music, not the youtube, but the youtube version's pretty good.

    When the pianist and the cellist dig deep in the lower registers, playing low and loud, the result on the 650s is boomy. It's possible that that's more accurate, and I'd know that if I could sit in the recording studio with the two women (a boy can dream!). But it sounds boomy, and the boom isn't present with the 880s. As a result, the overall result is, or seems to be, a touch more clarity and detail. So, for these, I'd rather listen on the 880s.

    There are other pieces of music in which I find this to be the case, mainly pieces featuring cellos and double basses. Again, perhaps the boom is real and its the 880s that are failing me, but I kind of doubt it. The 880s come off being more neutral and perhaps more accurate. Gosh, now I find myself wanting to try a pair of 600s.

    Here's another example of a piece of music that sounds really different on the two cans. Both do it really well, although the 650s are boomy. Is this more accurate? I don't think so. Again, I prefer the 880s.

    Then again, for most of the pop music I own, I'd opt for the 650s. More power. More fun, I guess.

    Anyway, is the Sennheiser better than the Beyerdynamic? Honestly, no. These cans are peers, and given the price difference with the MSRP, I'd have to say the Beyer is the wise choice. One can own one of these and not feel that one's missing out on something better. Except that there are different sound signatures, and one might prefer the one over the other. So not better, just different.

    At the same price...dunno. Buy according to the sound signature. At the Massdrop price for the 6xx ($200), it becomes kind of a no brainer, although some of the Beyers seem to be below $200...

    Now my problem is that I have both, and I really only need one. And my wife threw out the case the Beyers came in....
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  2. Hondadude85
    Excellent impressions. I love the HD650 and HD600 but my personal favorite of all the “old guard” headphones (K701, DT880, HD6xx) will always be the DT880. They have an airiness to them without being too harsh - at least for the 600 ohm model.
    Oscar-HiFi and javertim like this.
  3. DCofficehack
    I updated based on more listening.
  4. Sefelt103
    I find the difference between the two of them stark. Ironically their frequency curves are quite similar. The HD650s having slightly more bass and slightly less treble. But for me the really is quite different. For me the DT880 has accurate bass quantity, in fact as I can't hear over 14khz it feels accurate throughout the frequency range. In the HD650 the bass is always present in some form, it also has a thicker presentation of the recording. Flipping between the two, after the DT880 the music seems very bassy and warm, after the HD650 there is no bass and everything seems thin and colourless. I try to avoid changeovers because until you become finely attuned to each headphone you're not hearing what they are. The HD650 is for what I call Type B audiophiles and the DT880 is for Type A, refer to https://www.head-fi.org/threads/what-ive-learned-about-audio.862709/. The HD650 is much more of a 'fun' sounding headphone which is why it is so elegant sounding and immensely popular. The DT880 is much more accurate which limits its popularity. As for soundstage I find the DT880s to be larger (which is the only thing I'm not too keen on) and the HD650 to be more intimate. The DT880s are supposed to be semi-open which you might think would reduce their soundstage, but they seem like fully open headphones to me.
  5. DCofficehack
    Now of course I'm wondering if the HD600 represents something akin to a happy medium since I find the HD650 too bassy...
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2017
  6. Sefelt103
    The HD580/600/650 is a line that starts fairly neutral and becomes more colourised. The HD580 has a little colour and more bass than a DT880. It is one of my favourite headphones, however it is long out of production although you can find them used. Alternatively the HD600 is readily available.
  7. involuntarysoul
    880 can be found for much cheaper, newegg was selling 250ohm version for $130
  8. chris.egeskov
    Nice comparison - I like my HD 650. I have heard them up against the DT770 and the HD 650 have deeper low-ends and much richer sound in general.
  9. DCofficehack
    I own the Dt770 and listen to it every day at work, often for hours. While I love them and consider them one of the best if not the best closed cans for the price, they are not as good as the DT880s/HD650. Namely, they are not as detailed. There are sounds I don't hear on them that I hear with the 880s. On the other hand, they offer superlative sound attenuation (great for noisy environments) and are very comfortable. I think anyone who spends money on active sound cancellation like the Bose would be better off investing in 770s.
  10. DCofficehack
    Wow. That's much lower than when I bought mine. Unless one has a specific desire for the HD650s sound signature, the DT880s @ $130 is the better buy.
  11. gorman
    My DT880s have served me for several years now. The vinyl cover on the headband started peeling off and I ended up removing it altogether (the vinyl, not the headband). I wonder if there are replacements buyable anywhere. A great piece of equipment nonetheless. Some of the best money I've ever spent for music equipment.
  12. DCofficehack
    I've been doing more listening, and I think the Type A and Type B audio files applies not just to the headphones but also to the genre of music.

    Basically, when listening to rock or, to be blunt, artificial music (electrified or synthetic), sound accuracy is less relavent, and I really enjoy listening to it on the HD650s. Whatever coloration the cans give to the music enhances it, a bit like adding salt to a meal or a touch of tabasco to bring out already existing flavors. With classical, or perhaps more specifically with acoustic instruments, I find myself wanting to hear the instruments exactly as I would if I were in the audience. The tones and colors of a skilled musician playing a high quality violin...the color palet of an orchestra...Any coloration would be unwelcome, and I'd want my headphones to step aside.

    So I prefer the DT880s for that. I think they're more neutral than the HD650s, and I am convinced that the tones I hear with classical music are more true.
  13. DCofficehack
    An update: After listening exclusively to the 650s for about two months, just now I donned my DT880s and put on a track I was listening to early today on the 650s. First immediate impression: bright. Treble. The difference is unmistakable. And it's just short of being uncomfortable. On the other hand, the clarity is remarkable. Also, there's definitely less bass, although that's not necessarily a bad thing. Just sort of depends. Why do I have the terrible feeling that my goldilocks cans might in fact be the HD600s?
  14. DCofficehack
    An update, nine months later: I now have the DT880 at work, and the HD 650 at home. The DT880 is very good, but still I prefer the HD 650. The sound just as more body, and there's clearly more bass, but not annoyingly so. Overall the effect is of more power. I'm pleased.
  15. SilverEars
    Haha. Same experience here, and it's probably pretty common. HD650 is known to be a headphone you have to listen for a bit to realize it's best qualities. Initially it will sound dark, but over time you become more attuned to it's signature, and music starts to not notice sounding dark.

    I think the culprit of your initial impression is that you heard DT880 along side HD650 (both differing in treble responses) I have identical experience as those two were my first audiophile headphone that I've heard and compared. I thought HD650 was dark, but I didn't realize DT880 contributed to my impressions. I think I kept listening to HD650 about a week until I decided on them.

    Each headphone will skew how you hear the other headphone in terms of bright and dark. I think though DT880 was on the bright side.

    This thread is a pure example of the difficulties of headphone comparisons. It's not definite, it can change. Can this be categorized as expectation bias? Your ear expecting greater treble because it was used to it? All part of being human and not being a machine that hear the same all the time without a brain creating subjectivity. LOL.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2018

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