HD 650 vs HD 700 Review

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by techboy, Mar 10, 2016.

  1. techboy

    techboy Rando

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    Sennheiser HD 700 - Sennheiser's Queen In 2016

    Sennheiser was kind enough to lend me their HD 700 for a home demo. And as you know, I already own the HD 650 (silver drivers) to compare them to. And thankfully, Sennheiser has also agreed to lend me their HD 800 in a few days, for a more thorough side by side comparison. But that is best left to another review.

    I'm not sure whether these HD 700 headphones have been burned in or not. But. Neither do I care. Because I'm not a big believer in burn in making a radical difference to the sound. At least in the majority of cases. Anyway, just mentioned this to explicitly state that I've no idea.

    How much time have I spent with Sennheiser's HD 700 so far?

    Not much. Less than 24 hrs in fact. But. I've already listened to a few songs I'm reasonably familiar with.

    So. This isn't a review done after extensive testing. But. I've tried to be as accurate as possible.

    How much time have I spent with the HD 650 and the rest of my setup?

    At least over 2 years or so. Maybe longer. So that shouldn't hinder this review.

    The Setup

    Headphones: HD 700 (2012), HD 650 (silver drivers)

    Headphone Amplifier: Project Ember v1.0 (just tried a single tube, Marconi 6dj8 is what I recall from memory)

    DAC: Asus Essence One Muses Edition

    Transport: Asus Essence STX SPDIF to the PC

    The HD 650 was tested with and without Sonarworks. Sonarworks is a VST plugin that neutralises the tonality of supported headphones. Sonarworks doesn't support the HD 700 yet.

    Music

    Bollywood (Arijit Singh etc)

    Mozart (very little)

    I'd like to sum up the basic advantages of each headphone over the other, before I proceed to a more detailed review. So those in a hurry can still quickly get to know the overall gist in brief.

    Advantages of the HD 700 over the HD 650

    Way more comfortable. In fact, the HD 700 is so comfortable that that alone justifies twice the price over the HD 650 if you consider them equals otherwise.

    More or less better all around when it comes to technical prowess.

    Clearer, cleaner, more articulate, crisper transients and better speed.

    The overall sound is very tight and coherent.

    The bass is a lot tighter.

    Much better resolution; more detailed.

    Reasonably improved soundstage and imaging.

    More open and slightly more speaker like.

    More detailed and believable vocals.

    Basically, the difference in going from a mid range to a high-end can.

    Disadvantages of the HD 700 over the HD 650

    Additional treble that makes it unnaturally bright (not ear piercing though).

    Fatiguing and not as polite for extended listening sessions.

    There is something that makes them sound less natural and less musical.

    The tonality isn't as neutral; the vocals are a bit upfront as compared to the rest.

    Advantages of the HD 650 over the HD 700 (Many of these advantages may be audible only if you have Sonarworks, as that takes the experience to another level.)

    More musical, lush, smoother and sweet overall.

    The bass isn't as tight but perhaps more natural and with greater punch.

    The treble isn't as sharp; it is smoother.

    More suitable for extended listening.

    It has most of the pros of the HD 700 but not quite to the same level. In terms of technical prowess, it is what it is. An outdated flagship.

    Now.

    You're probably waiting for a more in-depth comparison between the two. And that is exactly what I'm coming to now.

    HD 700 v/s HD 650 (with Sonarworks) - One on one

    Sound signature

    HD 700

    The HD 700 isn't as connect in tonality. But it is a very enjoyable sound signature nevertheless. The bass is super tight. The treble is lively and slightly Brit. The vocals are upfront. The sound is very tight overall. Everything is very tight.

    HD 650

    More neutral and balanced. Sounds smoother and sweeter, more musical. Nothing stands out even though the vocals are delicious.

    Soundstage & Imaging

    HD 700 > HD 650

    The difference isn't huge. But is still significant. And easily audible. Can be a deal breaker for many once they get used to the HD 700.

    I'm not too certain about the imaging. But. I think the HD 700 has an edge there as well.

    Vocals

    HD 700

    More articulate and realistic. They have better resolution and are more detailed. Also more upfront. Crisper.

    HD 650

    More musical, rounded and smoother. But not quite of the same stature.

    Bass

    HD 700

    A lot tighter. Perhaps artificially tight. Not sure though.

    HD 650

    Far more hollow and rounded. But a tad more natural. Smoother. And with more punch.

    Treble

    HD 650 > HD 700

    HD 650's treble is just right with Sonarworks. HD 700 is a bit peaky and that takes time to adjust to. Note, the HD 700 isn't very bright. But the 650 is just more natural and balanced.

    Transients, speed, articulation

    HD 700 > HD 650

    Not even a contest. There are really far apart here. The HD 650 is very good in its own right. But not of the same pedigree.

    Timbre and tonality

    HD 650 is a bit better than the HD 700 here.

    Comfort

    Don't get me wrong. The HD 650 is pretty comfortable on its own. However, although its sound is suitable for extended listening, it's comfort isn't exemplary. It is just good.

    The HD 700 is probably the most comfortable headphone ever. More comfortable than the HD 800 I think. (I have tried the HD 800 twice.)

    It is like going from average to superlative in terms of comfort. That alone justifies 2x the price for the HD 700.

    Finally. Is the HD 700 a true upgrade to the HD 650?

    Technically, yes. Definitely.

    However, since the sound signature isn't exactly the same, subjective preferences may differ. Some may take one over the other.

    But as far as technical prowess is concerned, the 700 definitely has an edge. And a definite one at that. And combined with the much better comfort, its price is justified. Without doubt.

    Yes. I recommend the HD 700 over the HD 650 even at twice the price. But only if you feel the need for something that the HD 650 is unable to deliver. And ideally, you should try to audition before you buy it.

    Update to Sennheiser HD 700's review

    I have had a chance to listen to the HD 700 with two more setups:

    Asus Essence One Muses DAC/Amp

    iPad Mini 2 -> FiiO E12

    I also compared it to the HD 650 with both setups.

    The Fiio E12 setup sounds pretty good. With both cans. But not quite at the level of my previous setup or even the Asus E1 Muses.

    I didn't do an AB test or DBT, so I can't be sure. And being an objectivist, I'm not sure why or whether there should be this kind of difference. But for some reason, the Asus setup sounds cleaner, clearer and less muffled.

    The FiiO E12 is very good in its own right. And even with low gain I'm at about 12 o clock to get reasonably loud volume with either headphone.

    HD 700 vs HD 650

    After some more listening, I have come to realise that the HD 700 is a clear and very significant step up. And not only in terms of comfort.

    The HD 700 is a lot cleaner, clearer, tighter, more articulate, faster and just gets the vocals a lot more right.

    The HD 650 is still better for extended listening as the HD 700 does fatigue you after a while. But I've become used to HD 700's treble in under 72 hrs (and less than 2 hrs of use). It is not really fatiguing. But definitely a bit for extended listening. Unlike the HD 650.

    Everything else goes in favour of the HD 700. You can hear a lot more detail. And the transients are a lot crisper as well.

    The HD 650 does sound musical and lush. But vocals are relatively frighteningly real with the HD 700.

    Honestly, I can't see much reason to choose the HD 650 over the HD 700 except for the smoother treble and better suitability for extended listening.

    The HD 700 is difficult to use for over 20-40 minutes tops at a time. Unlike the HD 650. But that could be very personal. I couldn't listen to Soundmagic E80s for over 5 minutes tops. So maybe I'm just used to the less treble energetic HD 650.

    Also, do note that most of these comparisons have been done while using the HD 650 with Sonarworks. So the HD 650 was dot neutral. In its stock form it is a bit too laid back for my tastes. And just can't compete with the HD 700.

    Stuff like breath and air movements are something that really make the HD 700 shine. The HD 650 is okay here. But not in the same playing field.

    The Fiio E12 does a good job with both the HD 700 and HD 650. But. I don't know why. I preferred the Asus Essence One Muses Edition with both the headphones.

    Solid State vs Tube

    For some reason, I always felt the HD 650 felt dead and cold with the Asus Essence One Muses edition. It felt lifeless. Like something was lacking.

    However, the HD 700 also fares really well with this solid state amp. In fact, I preferred it with the Asus over my hybrid tube amp Project Ember, I think. I'm not sure though.

    But. With the HD 650 I always chose Project Ember instead.

    Now I'm really not sure why this is happening. I may have gone mad and maybe this is all placebo. But these are my findings so far...

    P.S. Honestly, after listening to the HD 700 for a while, the HD 650 sounds like a distorted and muffled mess. The difference is at least as big if not bigger than moving from a HD 598 to a HD 650. The jump is probably a lot bigger in fact.

    The HD 700 does better most of the stuff the HD 650 does well, and much better at that. But it is definitely a different presentation. And it is best to audition before you buy either!

    Source:

    http://akshaytalwar.blogspot.in/2016/03/sennheiser-hd-700-sennheisers-queen-in.html
     
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  2. joeexp

    joeexp Facebook Friend

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    Are you sure?? lol
     
  3. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    Watch @techboy go back to the HD650 in a few years after he gets better upstream gear.
     
  4. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Bright headphones tend to convey a sense of articulation and perhaps better technicalities. But this many times at the expense of tonality and mids.

    Furthermore, and uneven response (particularly in the upper mids and treble) sometimes drops many details out of the picture. It may seem that other things come out more clearly, but usually at the expense of something else going completely missing.

    This eventually becomes old (for what you are missing) and annoying (due to fatigue) IME.

    BTW, this is not just chart looking talk. I heard the HD700 and HD650. IMO the HD700 is a miserable piece of unjustifiably expensive shit. Which is one of the reasons I did not bought it. Just my opinion though.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016
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  5. TMoney

    TMoney Shits on SBAF over at Head-Case to be cool

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    I agree with this review. The 700 is unquestionably the better headphone at technicalities (just look at Tyll's measurements), but its frequency response leaves something to be desired.
     
  6. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Here are the convenient linkyes:

    http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD650.pdf

    http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD700.pdf

    Seems to me the HD700 offers higher distortion in the bass regions. I just don't see the improvements from Tyll's measurements. But I could be missing something.

    SQ wise, I felt the HD700 were shit at their price point.

    Again, just my opinion which for some random reason I felt compelled to share. I may be full of shit.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016
  7. TMoney

    TMoney Shits on SBAF over at Head-Case to be cool

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    The 700 is DRAMATICALLY better in the 300hz sq. See below. Impulse response is also substantially quieter in the 700 which matches what you see in the 300hz sq. Both headphones do about the same on bass measurements.

    650
    [​IMG]

    700
    [​IMG]
     
  8. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Welp. Be careful about reading the impulse and the square wave responses.

    1) I'm not 100% sure the impulse response and the square wave responses are compensated the way frequency response is. I know many software packages do not apply compensation on anything but frequency response magnitude.

    2) Square wave, specially > 300 Hz tell you little about things because they miss a crap load of frequencies. > 30 Hz square waves are incapable of telling you anything below 30 Hz. Square waves are not step responses which say a hell of a lot more.

    3) Again, those impulse responses will likely look very different when compensated. And be careful about assuming a narrow response automatically means "speed". There are phase alignment issues (compensation may fix that) which may cause apparent lack of "speed" in the impulse response. Further note the HD700 oscillations kind of continue on for longer than the HD650s (which in the end may not mean much actually).

    Be very careful about the notion of impulse response "speed". It's IMO not that straight forward as some feel.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016
  9. SSL

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    Debatable. From my experience, headphones with saw-tooth 300Hz square wave tops tend to be overly sharp and/or hashy up top. The 650 has initial activity but ends up flat, whereas the 700 remains noisy.
     
  10. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Again guys. Many folks may have become good at assigning sound signatures to square waves (even folks I highly respect). I would be a bit careful about that (Again, I maybe full of shit).
     
  11. TMoney

    TMoney Shits on SBAF over at Head-Case to be cool

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    I think you might want to re-read @Tyll Hertsens's primers on what the measurements mean.

    Links can all be found on this page: http://www.innerfidelity.com/category/headphone-101
     
  12. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    Nothing against you personally Adam, but I am going to explain once and for all the dumbassery of trying to interpret square waves when I get to the office.

    I don't disagree with the subjective conclusions however.
     
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  13. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    LOL! Nah I read that. I don't fully agree with it.

    For example "As long as the frequency of the square wave used is longer than the lowest frequency of interest, a square wave is simply a series of step responses." (http://www.innerfidelity.com/conten...ined-square-wave-response#lzL6FSaZuRoOlG23.97). This is not exactly true. A step response is the running integral of the impulse response. You can think of a square wave as a discrete frequency odd harmonic sampling of the frequency response in the frequency domain.

    A square wave has very little information (particularly 30 and 300 Hz ones) relative to a true step response.
     
  14. Marvey

    Marvey Loves sex and records

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    In other words, a square wave can be largely reconstructed from a frequency response and can be mathematically accurately reconstructed from an impulse response.
     
  15. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Exactly. You could also use a true step response though.

    However, one cannot reconstruct a frequency response or an impulse response or even step response from a few square waves (say 300 and 30 Hz).
     
  16. SSL

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    Technically, you can use a square wave to reconstruct the response from the fundamental on up, as any single square wave contains all odd harmonics up to the bandwidth limit of the system. Obviously this isn't practical to do just by looking as there are other factors besides straight FR at work.
     
  17. ultrabike

    ultrabike Measurbator - Admin

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    Well, you would be missing all the continuum of frequencies in between the discrete odd harmonics, which are kind of a lot, specially if we are dealing with 300 and 30 Hz. I mean 30 Hz would paint a better picture than 300 Hz, but it's IMO still too short.

    On top of that you would still need to address compensation. Tyll and Arnaud had a discussion about that (square wave compensation) sometime ago in Changstar BTW.
     
  18. TMoney

    TMoney Shits on SBAF over at Head-Case to be cool

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    I'll be looking forward to it. I've always found it to be a very telling measurement but I'd love to hear your thoughts.
     
  19. SSL

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    FR is logarithmic, and odd harmonics would be better than octave resolution, I believe. But yeah, you'd miss finer detail in the response.
     
  20. techboy

    techboy Rando

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    Yes. The HD 650 is more natural, smoother, more musical, lusher and better for extended listening.

    I'd probably take the HD 650 over the HD 700 because the HD 700 is too bright for my type of music.

    But the HD 700 reproduces breath and voice with more detail. So it is better at technicalities.

    But it is a bit peaky. Making the HD 650 a very good choice as well. :)

    The HD 700 sounds artificial overall. But if you just look at voice reproduction, it is frighteningly real. HD 650's vocals are artificially lush and sweet.

    The HD 700 does have peaky treble and an odd frequency response. So it is there that the HD 650 retains its own.

    My biggest reason to recommend the HD 700 was the supreme comfort. That coupled with better technicalities makes it a step up. But something not everybody would appreciate.

    With the HD 700 Sennheiser has probably tried to pull off a Beyerdynamic.

    Long story short, I wouldn't use a HD 700. But if you want a bright sound, it is very very good indeed. And excellent at technicalities. And the comfort is just superb.
     
    Last edited: Mar 10, 2016

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