My Thoughts: Why are the Sennheiser HD600 and HD650 Still so Popular?
Nov 25, 2017 at 8:21 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 4


100+ Head-Fier
Dec 17, 2012
Southern California
When the Sennheiser HD600 and HD650 came out in 1996 (I think) and 2003, respectively, they were on top of the game. Ergonomic, great-sounding headphones in a comparatively nascent consumer audiophile headphones market. Needless to say, since the 2010s, the market has absolutely exploded, and the market sector has been flooded with headphones that compete with the HD600/650. One would think that these new headphones on the block would outcompete this 20-something-year-old headphone design into obscurity, but alas, the HD600/650 still remains a top seller, in spite of headphones that may surpass it for ergonomics, comfort, durability, drivability, and sound quality. So why then, do the HD600 and HD650 remain so popular despite this increased competition? Here are my thoughts, which are NOT related to sound quality.

Time on the Market and Consumer Familiarity.

These headphones have been on the market for almost 20 years, and in that time, most audiophiles have listened to them due to their ubiquitousness. The HD600 may not be THE most neutral headphone out there, but I think the fact that it has been listened to or owned by so many audiophiles makes it a benchmark for companies to tune their equipment based on its sound signature. Just like a BMW 3-Series, the more a product has been used or experienced by various people shopping for a product, the better manufactures know that it is a benchmark based on the experience customers share with one another.


This is where Sennheiser got it spot on with the HD600/650, and something a ton of other manufactures don't seem to care about doing anymore with their easily breakable plastics, glued or riveted-on parts, and elastics that wear out prematurely (COUGH COUGH AKG). I wouldn't want to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of headphones if the parts couldn't be serviced, or if something wore out prematurely, the headphones would become useless. Being able to easily work on the headphones yourself, and being able to buy spare parts is a huge plus for long-term durability.


This is where the HD600 and HD650 truly shine. They are higher sensitivity headphones, so they can be run off of portable amplifiers people still like today, but are 300 ohms of impedance, so they can be literally driven by any sort of desktop amplifier (tube, solid state, or hybrid) without worrying about output impedance mismatches. To me, a headphone that can only be driven on a certain set of headphone amplifiers and systems, but cannot work well with others, limits the headphones' use with different customers. A headphone that can be driven efficiently off a Bottlehead Crack OTL tube amp(which it arguably does better than the latters), an Astell and Kern Kann, and a Schiit Magni 3 is a headphone that is going to have a wider clientele with different systems, and therefore will be used and recommended more. Plus, being able to simply plug in a balanced cable in 5 seconds to run the headphone fully balanced is certainly a benefit for those who want to scale the HD600 and HD650 up with their systems.

All of this, in my opinion, explains why there was such a demand for Sennheiser to collaborate with Massdrop to make an affordable Sennheiser HD650, the HD6XX. This demand also explains why Sennheiser came out with the HD660 S, which has a lower impedance that makes it even more usable with portable amps and media players.
Nov 26, 2017 at 10:27 AM Post #2 of 4
What makes the Sennheiser HD600/650 so durable in the market ? It's quite a difficult question to comprehensively answer. Its origins are in the early 1990s with the HD580, nearly 3 decades later you would think they were long out of production as well as being obsolete. This line has many great things going for it:
1. Scalability
2. Durability
3. Modularity
4. Virtually flawless design (the tiny springs disconnect the cable)
5. Elegance
6. Comfort
7. Corporation level support
I'm sure there are other strengths not to mention the brilliance of the sound quality. As the OP states, it's not that they're absolutely neutral, this would in fact lessen their popularity. Like Apple's iPod Classic that did so many things well it makes them popular long after technology has moved on. Improvement is difficult because they do so many things well. Sennheiser might make a new HD600 model with a little more detail and a little more clarity from their HD800 driver technology but without the multiplying effect of the other elements it might not be as successful as the original. Their popularity stems from the whole being much greater than the sum of the parts. So many other headphones fall in some way or require user modification.
Nov 27, 2017 at 1:35 AM Post #3 of 4
I have always wondered what a HD600/650/660S series headphone would sound like with a ring radiator type driver similar to the HD800 or HD800S.
Dec 3, 2017 at 1:57 AM Post #4 of 4
What makes the HD 650 so popular is that it is cheap while performing really good. The HD 650 is one of my reference headphones. If a $1000+ headphone cannot destroy my $320 HD 650, then I'll just laugh and return it.
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