When it comes to mid-fi headphones, Sennheiser always gets a good rep – and with good reason. From the HD600 on up, time and again we see people falling head-over-heels in love with their headphones. But if you’re new to the Sennheiser lineup, and you’re debating on the Sennheiser HD650 or the HD700, which one do you opt for and why? We’ve boiled it all down for you.
Sennheiser HD650 vs HD700 Comparison Review
For my comparison review, I used the Beyerdynamic A20 desktop amplifier. It’ll drive anything up to 600 ohms, and it has dual output, so I could drive both Sennheisers at once and switch between the two as I saw fit. Personally, if I were listening to just one, I might pair it with the HifiMan EF100 for a slightly warmer sound, or for the always-impressive Chord Mojo. Suffice to say, though, that the A20 is more than capable of handling both of these ‘phones, and with ease – even if the amp does add a little more contrast to the sound.
The Sennheiser HD650
Ah, the 650. Generally regarded as a fun-sounding headphone that improves upon the benchmark standard of the HD600, the 650 offers slightly more coloration to a dynamic sound that remains detailed, even if that makes it less than optimal for the most critical of listening scenarios.
Build quality is top-notch, and no one can really complain about the effort Sennheiser put into the design and packaging of this headphone. With a solid plastic exterior reinforced with aluminum extenders and removable cables, the HD650 can take a beating and then some.
Where the HD650 really excels is in bassy music. Of course, you could use it for classical or acoustic music too – anything requiring the ability to hear lots of detail. However, there may be better options out there…
The Sennheiser HD700
If the HD800 and HD800s are the top dogs in the Sennheiser lineup, the HD700 is the next dog. As far as headphones go, though, this is anything but a dog – with a snazzy design that begs your attention. It’s a plastic and aluminum build with less clamp force than the HD650 and a deeper and wider earcup.
Sound-wise, the HD700 plays second fiddle the HD800 and HD800s, which have really stolen the spotlight when it comes to Sennheiser’s hifi offerings. But there’s something amazing about the HD700: for $599 it sounds better than anything else at a similar price. More dynamic than the Beyerdyanmic T90 or the Grado PS500e and more detailed than the higher-priced Audeze EL-8, the HD700 is a detailed set of cans with ample bass and treble – an almost perfect listening machine.
Stacked against each other, the HD650 distinguishes itself as a laid back alternative with a slightly relaxed sound. The HD700, on the other hand, seems to offer a more dynamic sound overall, with rich highs and lows. Where bass is concerned, I found the HD650 a little cleaner, but lacking the depth that I found with the HD700. That lack of depth and detail makes me feel like the HD650 is a little more controlled, and therefore better for a wide-array of listening tastes. The 650 might suffer from some slight bleeding in the low end – something I found almost intolerable when listening to rock and hip hop. On the high-end of the frequency range, the HD700 came out on top, with noticeably more detail.
Mids on both are great, but due to the sound characteristics of both headphones, this makes or breaks them for different listeners. On the 650, the mids are detailed and present, leading to an overall forward sound. When I switched to classical music, it felt downright oppressive, as though too many notes were vying for the same amount of attention. Soundstage, usually one of the lauded aspects of the 650, suffered as a result. The 700, however, seemed to have a slightly more recessed mid-range, which allowed the low and high end to give the overall sound a decidedly v-shaped signature. And while those mids were slightly recessed, there was absolutely no loss in detail.
Overall, the 650 then comes across as a forward-leaning, middle-of-the-road option with good bass, good mids, and good treble. The HD700 seemed more detailed and more articulate overall, with a crisp and contrasting sound that offered real depth and a sense of space.
If you’re after the headphone that does everything, the HD650 is probably a better bet. It’s not quite as dynamic as the 700, and the mids make it seem almost somewhat flat when compared to the 650. However, I found that for high-end recordings of some acoustic or classic rock, as well as classical music in general, the sound of the HD700 was more to my liking. Dollar for dollar, both models are worth the price – the decision should hinge on your personal listening taste more than anything.
If you’re on the fence between these two models, swing by our Manhattan showroom and test drive them for yourself. We’d love to hear your take!