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Sennheiser HD660S... Finally a successor for the HD650?

Discussion in 'Headphones (full-size)' started by Levanter, Oct 8, 2017.
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  1. PeteMtl
    Could it be that Sales/Marketing are taken over Sennheiser’s decisions now that A. Grell has left the company he was working for for the last 27 years? The sales/marketing shift may have some repercussions even in the audiophile department. Maybe we won’t many many more new products in this department in the future, only cosmetic makeups, facelifts as you say, such as these new dies and facelift on vintage products... Senn has to compete against The Beats and Boses of this world and will probably favor new mainstream products such as Bluetooth and Noise cancel headphones and drive their strategic decisions by the sales/marketing department. Budgets may shift in favor of more consumer oriented mainstream products or else for inexpensive facelifts. Yes dies cost a lot, but far less than R&D of new audiophile products. I may be wrong all the way, but I think that Grell’s departure asks these questions...
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
  2. kman1211
    Wasn't aware he left the company. I'm mostly curious of if/how the sound signature vision of Sennheiser will change in the coming years. This is something that may take years to know, whenever the next audiophile level headphone comes out most likely. But the focus may shift a bit more to the mainstream as you suggest.
    Last edited: Sep 15, 2019
  3. pietcux
    My HD660S headband clearly shows the typical signs old overused mold. Each time a mold is used a fraction of it's metal body comes of and remains on the surface of the plastic part produces. A very small fraction, but the produced part gets different over time. Then you have a specified limit which marks the time when you want to renew the the mold to have a good plastic part again. If Grado does not need to do so or wants to do so, this might be based on small qtys or just ignorance. Or they can correct each part manually.
    Evshrug likes this.
  4. Deftone
    I really couldnt care less about the mold when it sounds so damn good.
  5. lambdastorm
    Does that mean all 3 of the 600 family are produced in Romania now? Or is the Ireland plant still operating?
    Evshrug likes this.
  6. Deftone
    I was looking through some stuff I found these two snippets from the manuals interesting


    Evshrug, trellus and Ichos like this.
  7. Ichos
    I think that they are describing it well.
    That is how am experiencing things myself
    Evshrug likes this.
  8. Mike F
    Well, finally I’ve had the chance to listen to the HD660S! After well over a year of speculation as to what it might sound like and whether I would like it, I now know. Spoiler and warning; if you love the HD660S and don’t want to read an alternative opinion or have your views challenged, look away now! If you do continue to read then I would like to make it clear from the beginning that these views are my own personal opinion based on my listening experience with my equipment to my music according to my taste and affected by my own physiology.
    Having waited so long to get the HD660S I found myself eagerly awaiting its arrival when I finally ordered it. First impressions didn’t disappoint. The matt black finish and the new shaped grill with the Sennheiser logo make it look something special, and the new driver just looks the business! I was really hoping that with Sennheiser’s know how and with the installation of the new better driver that all of the good reports about the sound would be true.

    I have to say that I think the title of this thread is somewhat unfortunate. Had it been ‘Sennheiser HD660S..... Finally a worthy addition to the 6 series?’ I might have given a qualified ‘yes’, but a worthy successor? No. Sorry, but no.

    I’m not going to attempt to do a full review - there have been plenty of those from people better able to do that than me, but I would like to explain why I came to that conclusion and also my listening methods and material.
    I did most of my comparison using a chain which I am extremely familiar with. Namely, a Marantz CD12 DA12 (with the famous TDA1541A-S1 converters) and Lehmann Black Cube Linear. The transport and DAC are connected with a Van Den Hull The First Ultimate and the DAC and amp are connected with Nordost Blue Heaven cables. More casual comparison was done with a Sennheiser HDVD800 with lossless files from my Mac. Most listening was done single ended, although I did compare them in balanced mode. Balanced operation benefited both phones similarly with perhaps a slight advantage to the HD650. There was of course, unfortunately, a volume difference between the two, but with a lot of switching I became comfortable with matching the volumes to my satisfaction. I also listened both for extended periods of several tracks at a time and switched as directly as possible between them.

    I listened mostly to material with which I am very familiar with and in most cases have known and used as test material as well as listening for pleasure for many years. Those CD’s included; Jan Garbarek Visible World 1996 ECM, Fauré Requiem, 1994 Philips, Gator Barbieri Que Pasa,1997 Columbia, and
    The Hunchback of Notre Dame Studio Cast Recording 2016 Ghostlight records.
    Listening to the Jan Garbarek - the recording with which I am most familiar, revealed almost everything. This recording has that wonderful acoustic and sometimes ambient sound stage that ECM is famous for. Jan Garbarek’s tenor and soprano sax is set in an enormous soundscape with Marilyn Mazur and Manu Katche’s drums and percussion coming from all around the listener, Rainer Brüninghaus’s piano beautifully clear and articulate and Eberhard Weber’s electric acoustic bass providing both high melodic and low luscious bass sounds.

    The first thing to note, and very significantly I think, is that the HD650 and HD660S sound far more similar, on higher end equipment at least, than they do different. That firstly makes one wonder why they bothered and at the same time focus on the differences that exist much more closely.
    The first thing that became apparent to me when switching to the HD650 was how smooth and effortless it sounds by comparison. When I had listened to the HD660S on my phone (the only source I had for several days) it didn’t occur to me that the sound was harsh in any way, and indeed I would still not describe it as such, but in comparison to the HD650 it simply lacks that headphones smooth and effortless presentation. Gone was the silky smooth, inky black ECM soundscape on Jan Garbarek’s Visible World. It occurred to me then that it was this that has lead some to describe the HD660S as grainy. Unfortunately, having noticed that and made the connection, it was impossible to un-hear. I’m sure it’s true to say that one man’s smooth is another man’s veil, and similarly that one man’s grain is another man’s detail, but there you go.......
    However, talking of detail I didn’t find the HD660S to be more detailed. Certainly it has more treble energy, but more detail - no. In fact if anything the slightly harsher and more obvious presentation of the upper treble seems to me to make it harder to hear the fine details which are present in the mids and upper mids - the area where most of that information exists, and that area is slightly recessed on the HD660S so for me it’s a bad combination. Resolution of fine detail is so important to me - more important ultimately than a lively and dynamic sound.

    The next thing which I noticed and couldn’t shake off no matter how many times I switched headphones or changed tracks, was the impression that the soundstage seems smaller. Only a bit, but definitely smaller. Not as wide, high or deep - less three dimensional in fact. This, combined with the dynamic drive of the HD660S (which is arguably better, particularly in the bass) may very well be an advantage for many, depending on genre, but for well recorded acoustic music, and especially large scale orchestral music, it is not.

    The other issue for me was the tonality and naturalness of the sound. Again, the differences between the headphones is not great, but for me, and knowing the recording as I do having listened to it for years on many good to great transducers (and having heard it live four times) Rainer Brüninghaus’s piano on Visible World has a hard edge to the sound which was somewhat unnatural. The sound after the initial attack was also coloured in a slightly unnatural way. I found the same with the string sounds on the recording of Fauré’s Requiem, for instance at the beginning of the second track where the cellos sounded somehow more metallic, for want of a better description. The same was unfortunately true of Jan Garbarek’s saxophone - an instrument which I play and therefore have a very critical ear for. Still, the HD660S faired a lot better in this respect than some other well regarded and more expensive headphones that I’ve tried - just not quite as well as the headphone it set out to be better than.

    I’m sure that the HD660S could be regarded as (and quite possibly sound) better on a DAP or lower end amp than the HD650 (which is admittedly notoriously difficult to drive properly), but it would be better in the same way that a nice ice cold Coca-Cola is better with hamburger and fries than a good glass of red wine would be. However, go for a nice meal at a proper restaurant and the good red wine will be on the table.

    It could well be largely a matter of my musical preferences combined with the fact that I generally listen at fairly low volumes, but I honestly couldn’t find anything which I thought sounded better on the HD660S than the HD650, sadly. And sadly it is, because as I look at the HD660S on the table in front of me waiting to be sent back, it’s very easy to be seduced by the sleek good looks and that driver which looks so special. In the end, despite all of my previous reservations, I had sincerely hoped that it would sound as good as it looks. Unfortunately, for me, it is not the case. I’ve even considered keeping them just to own all of the 6 series headphones, but I just can’t bring myself to spend nearly €400 on a headphone which is remarkably like the HD650 but isn’t quite as good. Sennheiser seems to have succeeded in producing a headphone that sounds very similar to the HD650 whilst making it more amp friendly and with tweaks to the sound which will appeal to many. If that was Sennheiser’s aim then they succeeded. If they genuinely tried to produce something better than the HD650, they failed.

    It’s revealing, I think, that Sennheiser seem to have acknowledged that themselves. After the persistent rumours and reports, often from Sennheiser reps, that the HD650 would be discontinued in favour of the HD660S it has now become clear that they, along with the HD600, will continue in production with the new look design at Sennheiser’s factory in Romania. It’s good to know that Sennheiser is listening to the feedback!
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2019
  9. CaptainFantastic
    @Mike F Awesome write up, Mike. You covered with good detail and examples exactly what I heard when i bought the 660S in August. It went back after a week and just made me love the 600 and 650 more.
    Mike F likes this.
  10. donlin
    I'm definitely going to get one of the new style HD650's when they become available.
    Evshrug and Mike F like this.
  11. OrganMonster
  12. OrganMonster
    Wow, @Mike F, that was a fantastic post. I myself compose music and perform classical music. I played in orchestras in New York city for years and have a pretty good ear. Which brings me up to my search of the right headphones. The HD-600 and 650 seem to scare me away due to the very high 300 ohm impedance numbers and being hard to drive. The phones must be on the go due to the concerts I conduct and setup.

    Is the MassDrop 6XX the same as the 650 / 600 or did Senn remove something to make it more affordable.

    Can the 650 / 600 be able to drive by a portable amp like the Fiio A5 or does it need a big home amp?

    I am still on the fence about this.
    Evshrug and Mike F like this.
  13. DavidA
    @Mike F , great review and I found it interesting that you are like my friends daughters (both professional musicians, violin / piano) who also think the HD650 is the one that sounds more like the instrument that they play. I didn't notice any grain in the pair that my friend had but like you said I might have mistaken the grain as slightly better details so I'll ask my friend to bring over the HD660S the next time he is over for dinner/drinks so I/we can hear any grain.

    Like I said before, its a bit over priced but I'll still get one when they are under $300 since to me they do sound better on lesser gear like phones and computer headphone jacks while the HD650/600 do sound better on a decent OTL amp IMO.

    @OrganMonster, HD6XX is the HD650 but to me and a few others there is a very slight difference between them. I'd suggest the HD58X over the HD660S since its 1/2 the cost with the same 150ohm rating but its not the same tuning since it has a bit more mid-bass and to me a bit of grain in the highs but like Mike F noted I might have mistaken the better details of the HD660S for grain.
    Mike F likes this.
  14. OrganMonster
    I recently purchased the Senn HD-598 CS and had them for around 1 day (and returned them). I had them on for a 7 hour session with a group of musicians setting up a concert. The ear pads were a little thin and after 7 hours I knew they would not work out for longer sessions in the future. They were ok but a little treble heavy. I have never heard in person the 600 / 650 so I am trying to get as much knowledge as I can from this thread on the Senn.
  15. donlin
    I would say that the 600 would lead to quicker treble fatigue than the 650 for most people. When the 650 first came out, I remember that the treble seemed like a relief to me after using the 600 as my main headphone for a few years.
    Evshrug and Mike F like this.
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