INTRO Since joining head-fi around eighteen months ago, I have (surprise, surprise expanded my headphone collection, recently buying a few new items including Sennheiser's HD 800, HD 600, and brand new (at time of writing) Amperior headphones. I didn’t buy them all with the intention of keeping all the headphones I would then own; I bought them to give myself the opportunity to find the headphones I liked best by taking my time to evaluate them. To reveal the areas that each of the headphones shine at, I thought it would be interesting to listen with them using a variety of different tracks, so that’s just what I did. After making that comparison I thought that since the headphones I tried were some of the most popular on head-fi, that my findings may be of interest and of service to the head-fi community, so as an offering of thanks and service to this community, I posted my findings a few weeks ago in a head-fi article, which has since been deleted to make way for this thread (read on for why). Fast forward a few weeks since creating that article, and as opportunity would have it, yesterday I had the chance to hear a loaner set of both the Audez'e LCD-3 and the Sennheiser HD 700 together, so I acted on that with gusto, and in the process I made some notes. When trying to update my aforementioned head-fi article I discovered that I couldn't edit the title, so rather than its body be updated and the title be misleading, I asked a moderator to delete the article (thanks Currawong), and what this post contains is my original article, updated with today's results. I hope you enjoy it. Headphones used for this comparison (all stock-cabled unless indicated): · Sennheiser HD 600: · Sennheiser HD 700*: · Sennheiser HD 800 (with Moon Audio Black Dragon single-ended cable, not pictured)**: · Sennheiser HD 25-1 (tested pair fitted with velour pads): · Sennheiser Amperior: · Audio-Technica ATH-M50s: · Audez’e LCD-2 rev.2: · Audez’e LCD-3: I decided to evaluate each of the above headphones using the following 'types' of music and audio: · Pop/Rock · Jazz · Classical · New Age · R&B · Reggae · Electronic · Latin · Spoken Word Each of the selected tracks (in Apple Lossless file format) were played from my MacBook Pro using iTunes and Amarra Hifi, which was then fed via a JPS Labs Optical cable and Lavry DA 10 DAC/Amp to each headphone in turn. Volume adjustments were made to ensure that each headphone spoke at roughly the same dB level. Based on what I thought was fair, I gave each headphone a relative score out of 10, so if I was rating a headphone on it’s own I may have given it a higher or lower score e.g. a 6/10-rated HD 25-1 may have scored higher if it wasn’t being compared with the HD 800. I switched between headphones until the score for each one felt right to me in my gut in the moment, and, speaking of the the moment, during the tests I stayed as present as I could and did my best to rate each headphone fairly and in a unbiased way. When writing the article after making my notes, I thought it could be interesting to show the highest rated headphone in each category; such headphones have been highlighted in red. Lastly, I used a gold-plated 1/8 -> ¼ inch solid adapter for the Amperior and a silver one for the HD 25-1, and near the end of this review, I discovered that the gold plug had a warmer sound than the silver one, so that probably affected my impressions of the HD 25-1 slightly. OK. Are you sitting comfortably? If so, then let’s begin. Oh, I forgot to say, if you don't want to read every last nugget of comparative info, you can just scroll down this article looking at the pictures and then read the results and/or final thoughts. Whatever you like. New Age – Don’t Know Why – Pat Metheny HD 600 The recording sounded warmer than with the HD 800, which I tried first, and didn’t have the same level of detail, particularly in the treble region. I much preferred the HD 800 for this track. But the HD 600 still sounded enjoyable. 7.5/10 HD 700 Very clear and detailed, Metheny's guitar had more body and impact with the HD 700, though without the upper treble presence of the HD 800. The HD 700 was enjoyably full-sounding for this track but it lacked the magic the HD 800 seemed to have and the natural timbre of the LCD-2. However, the HD 700 was still very enjoyable sounding here and with this track I prefer it to the the LCD-2 due to the nuances revealed by the HD 700, particularly fret noise, in the upper treble region. 9/10 HD 800 With the HD 800 I could hear every note and fret noise from Pat Metheny’s guitar. It was as if he was performing right next to me. With a slightly brighter than natural presentation, the HD 800 shines as it presents the ethereal quality of this music. 9.5/10 LCD-2 This had the most realistic timbre of all the headphones tested here, but there was a lack of treble extension that - though it made this track easy on the ears to listen to - detracted from the realism slightly. 8.5/10 LCD-3 Very natural sounding and a step up in clarity from the LCD-2, but still lacking the upper treble presence of the HD 700 and HD 800. Due to that I prefer those headphones to the LCD-3 for this track. 8.5/10 Amperior This headphone had a reference-quality sound. The details of Pat Metheny’s guitar playing were clear, but there was an overall muddiness and resonance in the bass region that wasn’t ideal to my ears for this track after listening with the above headphones, which was due to the vibration of the Amperior’s on-ear design. Still, an excellent sound created through the Amperior though. 7.5/10 HD 25-1 This had a more neutral sound than the Amperior and lacked the Amperior’s thick resonance. There was slightly less micro detail retrieved by the HD 25 in a very flat, monitor-like way, but there was a resonance in the bass region that distracted me from just hearing the music. 7/10 M50 The M50’s ear cups surrounded my ears and delivered less sonic pressure than the HD 25. All the details were very clear and I enjoyed the sound of this track, though the bass region was a tad muddy sounding. 7/10 Pop/Rock – .3 – Porcupine Tree HD 600 Everything sounded clear and the overall sound was slightly soft but a little thin in the bass region and lacking in sonic weight. However the frequency balance was very even across the board. 6.5/10 HD 700 The HD 700's bass presentation worked really well here, for me striking a satisfying balance between the HD800 and LCD-3. The HD 700 revealed enough brightness to allow the immaculate upper level detail of the track, such as the strings, to glimmer and shine clearly, but it was still a notch behind the HD800 in clarity and neutrality. The HD 700 may preferable for those who like to rock out due to its bass impact, which I enjoy and find much more satisfying here than with the HD800, especially when the drums re-enter in the latter third of the track. 9.5/10 HD 800 The HD 800 revealed this pristine recording with immaculate transient clarity and the sound was lush and grandiose. The bass was full-sounding with a great toe-tapping factor i.e. PRaT, but ultimately the sound was a bit thin in relation to what I would could ‘natural’ (hearing live music in person) and when listening with the LCD-3. There seemed to be a slight sheen on everything here with the HD 800, but overall this configuration was still enjoyable. 9/10 LCD-2 The bass impact was the best so far; it had great low-end impact. The treble was rounded off and didn’t extend as far as the Sennheiser HD’s did, which contributed to a very smooth sounding headphone experience from the LCD-2 overall. 8/10 LCD-3 The LCD-3 created a smooth, magical sound with this track. Everything was very clear and smooth sounding and never harsh, but some more treble sparkle may have been better for this track. The LCD-3 was a more laid-back and warm listen than the HD 800 and very impressive sounding, but for me the HD 700 were more enjoyable with this track. 8.5/10 Amperior The mids sounded a bit congested and think that this headphone may need some more burn-in. But once I relaxed into the Amperior’s sound signature, the music sounded very clear and refined with great PRaT. This is a great headphone for rock music. A tentative (due to possible new headphone syndrome) 7/10 HD 25-1 The sound was a little less lush-sounding than the Amperior, which had a nicer sound signature to my ears. The HD 25’s PRaT was enjoyable though a little bit boomy in the bass region. The overall sound was again very neutral here but lacking in the refinement of some of the other headphones. 6/10 M50 The first thing I noticed was the sub bass which was quite boomy. The mids were very smooth and pleasantly lush sounding, and the treble was bright in a way that sounded a little artificial. But overall things sounded very clear. The M50 gets the edge over the HD 25 here in terms of clarity 6.5/10 Jazz – Resolution – John Coltrane HD 600 A well-balanced sound overall. The music had soft edges and the upright bass was lacking in definition. Good but not great. 7.5/10 HD 700 Less clear / slightly muddier sounding than the HD 800, but there was more bass impact with the HD 700 which provided a more visceral experience with this track. The HD 800's more open soundstage gave it the upper hand over the HD 700 in that regard, but overall the HD 700 was my favourite, providing the most enjoyable experience with this track, mainly due to it's rhythmic presentation. 9/10 HD 800 A very big step up in clarity over the HD 600. The soundstaging of the HD 800 is incredibly expansive. The recording sounds great, if a little lacking in sonic weight, relative to watching a live performance in person. An excellent experience with this headphone though. Though the HD 800 and LCD-3 were excellent performers in different areas e.g. the HD 800 had the clearest treble and the LCD-3 had the best bass impact, overall there was no 'better' headphone between them for this track, just what the listener would prefer depending on their preferred flavour of headphone. 8.5/10 LCD-2 Very smooth-sounding bass impact and overall presentation. The sound is intimate and refined with accurate timbre, with exception of the treble which is lacking in extension. That said, the treble is clear yet not as bright as the HD 600 or 800. 7.5/10 LCD-3 The music sounded crystal clear and was presented with a clean, weighty timbre with natural-sounding rhythmic impact. Though it didn't have the same treble detail as the HD 700 and HD 800, the LCD-3 was still excellent with this track. However, I preferred the HD 700 here due to its presentation, particularly the impact of the rhythm section. The HD 800, though it sounded clearer in the treble region, displaying all the details of Coltrane's sax nuances, the bass sounded a bit underpowered and lacking in impact compared to the LCD-3. But the clarity of the transients were higher with the HD 800. 8.5/10 Amperior Nice treble definition and extension relative to the LCD-2, but the sound isn’t quite as natural as the flagship cans, particularly the LCD-2. The midrange muddiness is persistant and can get in the way of the music, but again, once I accustomed myself to the sound signature, the sound was presented very clearly and with excellent instrumental separation. As it stands, I’d prefer the sound of the Amperior sans the boominess. 7/10 HD 25-1 This sounds more neutral than the Amperior initially, mainly because it lacks the constant boominess in the bass region that the Amperior has. But the overall sound of the music is less refined with the HD 25. 6/10 M50 Clear-sounding in the mids/treble but the sub bass is a bit boomy and blurs the definition of the upright bass on this track. This sounds less natural than the Amperior, which is starting to reveal itself as the strongest of the non-flagship headphones here. The M50 is still very clear though. 6.5/10 R&B – Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough – Michael Jackson HD 600 The HD 600 sounded thin next to the LCD-2, which I listened to before the HD 600. Nice even frequency balance and good overall clarity by the HD 600 but the flagships were clearly better performers with this track. 7.5/10 HD 700 A step up from the HD 600 but the overall tone sounded a bit thin, which was probably also due the recording which is quite lean... But more punch than the 800 make it the groovier ware though a little bit less detailed. I just prefer the LCD-2 though due to the smooth, warm sound and subdued sparkle of the upper-frequencies 8.5/10 HD 800 Very clear sonic presentation by the HD 800. This track, as most others do, sound slightly brighter than natural, but within that brightness, the music sounds very well balanced, if a little thin in the bass region. More bass from the HD 800 would be welcome here. 8.5/10 LCD-2 Now we’re talkin’. The extra bass on this track with these headphones really makes a big difference. All the treble details are clear though they’re lacking in some extension. The LCD-2 have excelled here. 9/10 LCD-3 Full, deep bass and crystal-clear treble details revealed, such as the abundant percussion parts. The LCD-3 had more clarity than the LCD-2 and the treble details jumped out at me more. Overall, the relaxed, warm clarity and emphatic rhythmic impact of LCD-3 made it my favourite here. 9.5/10 M50 Great bass weight, though it did sound a little loose. The treble details were clear and occasionally a little piercing, but the music sounded alive. Enjoyably-impressive performance by the M50 here. 6.5/10 HD 25-1 These sounded a little bit congested relative to the other headphones, but the overall balance was very clear. The details were a little bit muddy, which I wasn’t to keen on for a recording of as high production value as this one is. 6/10 Amperior This sounded really good. The bass had a boomy punch but the impact was clear; that seems to be the main character of the Amperior’s bass presentation. The details were presented with clear separation of all the instruments and a more enjoyable overall timbre to me than the M50 created. I’m impressed. I’d rate the Amperior higher than the HD600 if it didn’t have the constant drone/noise due to the on-ear pads, but that’s just my preference, given the way I like how this track sounds with the open-backed headphones on test here. 7/10 Jazz-Rock – Josie – Steely Dan HD 600 In relation to the HD 800, the HD 600’s bass impact was welcome here, but the treble details of the HD 800 were missing. This HD 600 created a well-balanced sound that was satisfying and enjoyable with this track, and I seemed to connect more with the feel of the music more than with the HD 800, but even then I still wanted for the extra clarity of the HD 800. Somehow more surprisingly, I initially seemed to enjoy this track even more with the Amperior due to it’s great PRaT, but in terms of neutrality, the HD 600’s great ‘flat’ topped it. 8/10 HD 700 A step up from the HD 600 but the overall tone of this recording sounded a bit thin, which probably in part due the recording, which is quite lean-sounding. The HD 700 provided more rhythmic impact with a higher toe-tapping factor than the HD 800, making the HD 700 the groovier ware here, even though its not the most detail-revealing listen. However, I prefer the Audez'e headphones for this track due to their smooth, warm sound and (in relation to the HD 700 and 800) relatively subdued-sparkle of the upper-frequencies. 8.5/10 HD 800 The HD 800 sounds like it were made for hearing all the sonic details of tracks like this, which are immaculately produced. Though the bass is crystal clear and extends deep, it’s still a little thin sounding. But there’s more to the HD 800 than the bass – the clarity is great and every detail I focus on is presented with clear precision. 7.5/10 LCD-2 A very full sound. I wasn’t so keen on the lack of upper treble, which prompted me to listen extra closely to hear some of the lyrical detail. But the LCD-2 wasn’t exactly lacking detail. Every detail I wanted to hear was present, though not with the same clarity as the HD 800 (due to the LCD-2’s boominess). The timbre of the instruments on this track was the most realistic of all these headphones, and overall I enjoyed this music most with the LCD-2. 9/10 LCD-3 A more refined and well-balanced sound over the LCD-2. Awesome is all I have to say here. 9.5/10 Amperior A very nice sonic presentation. The bass was still a bit boomy due to the on-ear design, but the PRaT and separation of each instrument made up for that. However the Amperior’s timbre was more artificial-sounding than the LCD-2, and the HD 800 initially sound thin by comparison, but then the superior overall clarity of the flagships shone through. The Amperior is revealing itself to be a neutral headphone within its own unique sonic colour. 7.5/10 HD 25-1 Quite neutral. The HD 25 headphone is starting to sound a little bit thin in relation to the Amperior which is sounding better-and-better the more I listen with it. The HD25 has a more evenly-balanced sound for this track than the M50 does. 6/10 M50 The sub bass extension of the M50 is initially fun and enjoyable here, but its boominess gets in the way of the music, and it’s also becoming clear that the Amperior is a superior headphone to my ears than the M50. Apart from the M50’s boominess, the M50 is clear sounding headphone that sounds a little bit unnatural due to its sparkly treble, but it’s still enjoyable with this track due to the visceral quality it presents the music with. 6/10 Classical – The Rite of Spring – Igor Stravinsky HD 600 The HD 600 sounded very well balanced. The different layers of the orchestra were audible and smooth sounding and the timbre sounded more accurate than the HD 800 (in relation to ‘natural’) but the clarity of the room ambience and the instrumental definition was lesser. Due to the HD 600’s soundstage, it sounded as though I was further away from the orchestra than with the HD 800. I wanted to hear more treble clarity from the HD 600 here and am thinking that a recable would probably do the trick. 7.5/10 HD 700 The HD 700 gave more weight to the recording and a wider soundstage than the HD 600 but a slightly narrower soundstage than the HD 800 gave. Less instrumental separation with the HD 700 than with the HD 800, but the HD 700's percussion was more emphatic. 9.5/10 HD 800 Oh my goodness, this sounds eargasmic! This is without a doubt the best sounding classical playback I’ve yet heard through headphones. Just incredible. There is crystal clarity and separation with every instrument and the room ambience is very, very clear; game, set, and match for the HD 800 here. 10/10 LCD-2 The sound was weighty and visceral, but the upper-level detail was less prominent and as a result the music sounded less convincing with the LCD-2. However, the timbre was just like hearing the instruments for real with my own ears, very natural (the percussion in particular stood out as very realistic). But overall, the LCD-2, due to it’s treble deficiency, wasn’t as impactful as the HD 800 or HD 600. 6/10 LCD-3 Accurate instrumental timbres presented but the treble sounded a little bit subdued and I missed hearing the room sound which was clearer with the HD 700 and HD 800. The bass region with the LCD-3 sounded a little bit muddy at times though, but it was a big step up from the LCD-2 in terms of micro-details. 8.5/10 M50 The clear treble was enjoyable and clearer than that of the LCD-2, but the rumbly bass made the orchestra sound a bit blurry at times in the bass region. That said, there was still a good deal of instrumental clarity. Though the bass presentation isn’t as clear as the HD 600 with this track, the M50’s treble extension evens up the score, and the larger, more open, soundstage takes the M50 above the Amperior here. 7.5/10 HD 25-1 The HD 25’s neutral sound stands our here, and I’m very impressed. The tense midrange and relaxed treble don’t provide the same clarity as some of the other headphones, but the presentation is very listenable and easily enjoyable. More treble extension would be nice though. I initially enjoyed the HD 25 here more than the Amperior due the HD 25’s lack of boominess, but the Amperior’s higher transient clarity won me over in the end. 6/10 Amperior The room ambience is clear and there’s great instrumental separation/definition with the Amperior, which clearly stands above the HD 25 here. Within the Amperior’s sonic colour it provides a very enjoyable rendition (to my ears) of this recording, though those looking for an experience closest to the real thing i.e. being present in a concert hall during a live orchestra performance, would most probably prefer the more spacious soundstage of the HD 800. For classical music, the main downsides of the Amperior are its more closed-in soundstage and coloured presentation. 7.5/10 Reggae – Exodus – Bob Marley HD 600 I immediately preferred the HD 600 for this track due to the reduced brightness in relation to the HD 800, as well as the relatively increased bass quantity, which for this type of music is an essential feature. 8.5/10 HD 700 The additional bass weight and treble clarity was especially welcome over the HD 600 here. A very satisfying listen. 9/10 HD 800 Clear, no nonsense detail retrieval by the HD 800 here. It does lack in bass quantity for this music though, and the horns and vocals sounded a little bit bright. Looking forward to hearing this track with the Amperior. 6/10 LCD-2 Great bass here, but I missed the treble extension of the HD 600. The lack of extended treble left things sounding a little colder than natural, but overall I slightly preferred the clarity of the HD 800 to the boom of the LCD-2, which I actually found to sound slightly muddy. Yet it feels right to here award the LCD-2. 8/10 LCD-3 The LCD-3 clearly seemed to have a blacker, darker background than the brighter Sennheisers did. Great clarity across the board and the treble was never too bright or sparkly. With this track, the bass-centric nature of the LCD-3 was much more enjoyable to me than the sparkle of the HD 700. 9.5/10 M50 The sub bass was particularly effective with this track, but it sounded a little bit unclear when I listened closely. Though the treble sounded a little metallic, everything was crystal clear. But the overall image wasn’t quite on par with the HD 600, and I preferred the more open soundstage to that of the Amperior, hence a rating of 7.5/10 HD 25-1 Very clear and with good bass impact but the overall sound wasn’t very coherent; I got the impression that the clear treble and booming bass were somehow separate, probably due to the cohesive sound of the Amperior. Enjoyable listen here with the HD 25 though, mainly due to its great PRaT. 6/10 Amperior This headphone and this track go together well. The bass presentation of the Amperior works effectively here and facilitates a visceral listening experience. The overall sound of the Amperior is more coherent than the HD 25 and the Amperior’s clarity is excellent, apart from the slight sonic muddiness in the mid-range, just enough made me want to go to the HD 600 to check the frequency balance of the recording. 7/10 Electronic – Rose Rouge – St. Germain HD 600 The HD 600 delivered well here. A nice round smooth sound that was very clear and enjoyable. Some more treble detail could make this track more satisfying with this headphone. 8/10 HD 800 Very nice. The treble detail of the trumpets and vocals were a clear step up from the HD 600 and H D700 and the bass was enjoyably full. I didn’t experience any loss in treble extension that I detected with the HD 600. Overall, a nice surprise result of 8.5/10 HD 700 The increased bass impact over the HD 800 made me feel the rhythm of the track more. The treble emissions of the trumpet parts sounded bright but not piercingly so. 9/10 LCD-2 The bass impact of the LCD-2 worked well here, but the details and instrument definition were less than with the Senn HD’s. The warm and full sound was enjoyable, but I would have preferred a cleaner and greater treble presentation for this track. 7.5/10 LCD-3 The laid-back yet crystal clear-sounding LCD-3 was a stellar performer here and displayed the music intimately with warmth that hit the spot nicely. Some more treble extension would have been welcome though. 9.5/10 M50 The boomy bass was impactful but its looseness put me off. The treble extended far but the overall sound was dirgy and in need of some clarity and instrumental defintion to allow this music to speak more clearly. 6/10 HD 25-1 * I’ve just discovered that the silver jack adapter I’ve been using with the HD 25 has a much lower quality than the gold one I’ve been using with the Amperior. Therefore, the HD 25 scores for this test will probably come our unfairly low. I’ll use the gold adapter with the HD 25 from now on. The HD 25 here was very clear sounding and neutral with no boomy sub bass like the M50 has; just focused clarity with a decent amount of PRaT. 6.5/10 Amperior The Amperior portrayed this track very well. The sound was more refined than the HD 25 and the Amperior’s boomy bass didn’t get in the way as much as it did with other tracks. It was very controlled, clear, and focused, with excellent PRaT, like the HD 25 but better. 7/10 Latin – Pueblo Nuevo – Buena Vista Social Club HD 600 Felt like I was in the room with the musicians playing this track. The instrumental timbres sounded natural and overall the track was very enjoyable. The only thing I would wish for with this headphone with this track is more treble extension. 8/10 HD 800 A level up in sound quality from the HD 600, with the HD 800 I heard many details that were inaudible to me with the HD 600. The HD 800’s soundstage was excellent and the layering of instruments was first class. Every nuance of the performance was audible. 10/10 HD 700 The upright bass was more forward and weighty sounding than the HD800 but the soundstage was more congested than the HD 800, which revealed the sumptuous elegance of the piano, as well as the bass and percussion parts. The 700 was clearer-sounding and revealing of ambient detail than the LCD-2, but less so than the HD 800, whose clarity and air around instruments in the treble area made it my pick for this track. 9.5/10 LCD-2 Excellent timbres, but the decay of the bass often boomed on a little bit longer than I would prefer to hear. A very enjoyable experience though. 8.5/10 LCD-3 Very clear and natural timbre but less treble detail, air, and room ambience than the HD 700 and HD 800; such detail in that region made them a more enjoyable and convincing listen than the LCD-3 here. 9/10 M50 The M50’s boomy bass got in the way and coloured the performance, and the music sounded slightly artifical. 6.5/10 HD 25-1 Very neutral sound from the HD 25 here Slightly bloomy bass and closed-in soundstage get in the way of feeling like I am in the room with the musicians. Excellent overall quality though. 7/10 Amperior Though slightly boomy and retaining the closed-in sound of the HD 25, the Amperior delivers an enjoyable listening experience of great quality. 7.5/10 Spoken word – Misc recordings HD 600 These present a lot of detail and have a slightly forward, natural tone. Everything just sounds right. Probably the most enjoyable headphone of the group though. 8/10 HD 700 The more forward nature of the HD 700 made the tone of the same speaker's voice more impactful and weighty than the HD 800 did, which sounded more like being in the same room as the speaker but less massaged by their voice, a feeling the 700 seemed conducive to facilitating. 9/10 HD 800 Impeccably detailed. Every nuance of the speaker’s voice was heard, though it was presented slightly brighter than what would be natural to my ears. Impeccable timbre within the HD 800’s sound signature. 8.5/10 LCD-2 The LCD-2 have very natural tone but lose some of the subtleties that the HD 800 deliver. I don’t like the comfort as much as the other headphones, such a preference being evident to me at this point after so much headphone-wearing. 7/10 (due to comfort) LCD-3 This had the most accurate vocal timbre and it sounded like the person speaking was inside my head. A different timbral experience from the other headphones in the group and a step up from the LCD-2, subtly but significantly. The LCD-3 emerged as the winner here. 9.5/10 M50 With the M50, the voice was very clear. The bass qualities were very deep, the mids/tonality was smooth, and the treble frequencies were clear, if ever-so-slightly bright. The sound was slightly unnatural thought, but still the M50’s clarity result in an 8/10 HD 25-1 Quite natural sounding if slightly forward. Great PRaT but to a less dep extent than the LCD-2. 6/10 Amperior The treble was slightly bright, but the overall sound was very refined and quite natural sounding. 6.5/10 THE RESULTS Spoiler: Warning%3A%20Spoiler! Total 'wins' (headphone with the highest score per track): LCD-3 – 5 HD 800 – 3 HD 700 – 2 Total scores (/100, highest to lowest): HD 700 – 90.5 LCD-3 – 90.5 HD 800 – 86 LCD-2 – 79 HD 600 – 77 Amperior – 71.5 M50 – 68 HD 25-1 – 62.5 FINAL THOUGHTS It’s interesting for me as I read the above results, particularly since it's the first time I've allocated numerical scores to headphones when comparing them. Prior to beginning this test, I had a suspicion that the HD 800 and LCD-3 would do very well across the board, which they did, and that the HD 600 would be suitable for everything, which it was, and the Amperior would impress me, which it has, but I never expected the Amperior to come close to the HD 600 in my estimations, which it does (the excellent portability and excellent iDevice integration are the icing on the cake that makes the Amperior a definite keeper for me now), but probably the biggest surprise for me here - and I'm guessing that I won't be alone on this one - is the HD 700, which, at one third of the price of the LCD-3 and around two thirds of the price of the HD 800, shows just what a great, versatile, excellent-value headphone it is. It just seemed to hit the spot, more often than not, than pretty much all other headphones in the group. Looking again at the results, as subjective as they are, they seem ‘right’ to me, even though I'm still pleasantly surprised by the performance of the HD 700. The two ‘flagship’ headphones, the HD 800 and LCD-3 (though I'd probably class the HD 700 as a flagship-worthy candidate now, too) sit deservedly aloft the pile and the others seem to fall behind. It's all relative. I think the HD 25-1 would have scored slightly higher if I’d used the gold plug I fitted the Amperior with (though I do think the Amperior would have still scored higher than its predecessor); the resulting difference between the HD 25-1 and M50 may then have been less. I think the HD 25-1 and Amperior are both excellent headphones for the money and very long-lasting, which is probably an important consideration to many headphone buyers (I had my recently sold HD 25-1 for over ten years and all that time it stayed in great condition, cosmetically and sonically). The more spacious soundstage and comparatively larger frequency extension of the M50 may win it some fans over the HD 25-1 and possibly the Amperior, but the Sennheiser’s neutrality and excellent PRaT may be more preferable to you. The HD 600 is a good all round headphone, which could make it great in the eyes of some, but it’s lack of technicalities and transient clarity relative to the flagship headphones prevent me giving it a bona fide award of greatness. The HD 800 performed excellently here and has always an obviously impressive headphone to my ears, eyes, nose (gotta love the Sennheiser packaging smell), and touch, and mouth (well let's not go there . But it's not great with everything, especially when the recordings fed to it aren't of the highest quality (not the case in this test). The HD 800 can sound a little bit thin at times relative to the other headphones (and to what sounds natural), but it clearly trumps the rest of the group in terms of detail-retrieval and transient clarity and its soundstage is unmatched by any other headphone I've yet heard. The LCD-2 is an awesome sounding headphone that is very, very easy to enjoy (perhaps with the exception of it's weight/comfort, and to those preferring a brighter sounding headphone) and in my opinion is held back slightly by its boomy bass and lack of treble extension, which really stood out during the classical music part of this test. Again, depending on what music you listen to, the LCD-2 may be ideal for you, and I still recommend it as an excellent headphone. The LCD-3 is a fabulous listen. I'm not sure if the one I used for this test is one of the 'veiled' LCD-3's that I've read about, and as stated above I used it in stock configuration (I didn't try the toilet paper mod, honest. , but it did sound as though it could benefit from a less veiled sound. A silver cable could be just the trick if you think that is the case. However, like everything else, that is subjective, and what is also subjective is that no other headphone I've heard has the neutral/hinting-at-dark character of the LCD-3, and if you love the Audez'e sound, as many people clearly do, there's only one company to get it from! Lastly and again, the HD 700 has emerged - for me, at least - as the biggest surprise of the group. It has the best price-performance ratio of all the higher-end headphones on test here and stands out as an incredible balance of being musically versatile, a great technical performer, and very easy to enjoy. Seems like a winner! Thanks for reading. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. * special thanks to rgs9200m for the loaner Black Dragon cable. * special thanks to mcee for his patience and HD 700.