Hey there friend and Welcome!
Today I will be comin’ at you hard, with a rock solid post about two highly regarded audiophile type headphones in my Sennheiser HD 800 vs. HD 650 review!
Note: If you were looking for a review of the Sennheiser HD 650 vs. HD 700, click on over! Otherwise, enjoy the showdown…
Before we get started, grab a snack, sit back and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
of each headphone
- Amp/DAC Requirements
- Who this headphone benefits?
- Similarities and Differences
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
Sennheiser HD 800
best price: check amazon! | check eBay!
type: Open back
fit: Circumaural (Over-ear)
impedance: 300 Ohm
frequency response: 6–51,000 Hz (-10 dB); 14–44,100 Hz (-3 dB)
material: alcantara, stainless steel, teflon, velour
color: Black and Grey
These are some of the most highly regarded headphones in existence today, and are almost an overall perfect set.
They are meant to reproduce the sound you hear at it’s most natural state, and therefore can be called the most honest, and neutral pair available on the market. If you value an even sound across the entire frequency spectrum, and appreciate things like sound-stage, neutrality, detail, honesty, and comfort, then this may be the headphone for you. One concern that I’ve found to be quite common in my research is that this headphone may become boring to some. It’s almost too much of a good thing, and can be exhausting and fatiguing after awhile.
One of the main concerns is that they may sound a bit too bright for some peoples taste, even bordering on sibilant sounding. It isn’t a perfect headphone by any stretch, but still maintains an A rating across the board despite some shortcomings (Outlined in “Cons”).
That said, The HD 800 excels with nearly everything that makes a listening experience great. It boasts a wide and amazing sound-stage, with depth and width being the standouts here. The height doesn’t quite measure up, but for classical music in particular these really excel in startling ways. The mid-range is also exceptional, and instruments such as Pianos, acoustic guitars, trumpets etc. all sound about as uncolored as it gets.
- extremely comfortable. The velour ear pads are like pillows
- a great sound-stage
- use of silence/clarity.
- Phenomenal mid-range. Perhaps it’s bread and butter.
- neutrality and even sound across the spectrum
- remarkable amount of detail present
- great for in studio mixing and mastering
- natural and dreamy sound. This reviewer on amazon said that they re-invigorated his spirit and hope after 40 years
- unlike anything you’ve ever heard, the thrill of music returns with these.
- a tad bright in the treble range
- may be a bit too clinical for some. The sound may become fatiguing, or dare I say “boring”, and lack personality.
- Amp requirements are pretty hefty. These are very picky about which amp you choose. More on that in a jiffy!
- reveals all flaws, so be aware of your sound source. The HD 800 can be rather unforgiving of poorly mastered songs in general.
- no going back to other headphones once you hear these. Is that a con? Depends on who you ask I suppose.
Check out the video!
The Amp/DAC requirements for the HD 800 are a bit on the picky side, as alluded to above. After careful research, I can give my best endorsement for some great options here:
- Woo Audio WA2
- SPL Phonitor
- Vioelectric V200 (high end amp without the high end price tag)
- Fostex HP-P1 (a great and more affordable pairing)
Who this headphone benefits?
- Does very well with classical, acoustic, jazz, and well recorded music.
- people who appreciate the most honest sound reproduction
- people who want to re-discover music
- People who like a big sound-stage and extreme clarity
A headphone that is as faithful and accurate to the original recording as anything else in existence. Great sound-stage, use of silence and clarity, as well as a very durable and comfortable phone overall. May be a bit too bright in the high end, and generally boring and clinical for some. All flaws are revealed when you put these on!
It has been said that the HD 800’s are like living with a genius. They will give you a newfound appreciation for all of your music, new and old. The downside is that they will also reveal every flaw in said music. You know, stuff like warts and other imperfections 😛
Sennheiser HD 650
best price: check amazon! | check eBay!
type: open back
impedance: 300 Ohm
frequency response: 12 – 39000 Hz
material: OFC copper (kevlar reinforced), velour ear pads
color: grey and black metal flake finish
These are some of the most accurate and well respected headphones on the planet. They are a little warmer, lusher, and thicker than their younger brother, the HD 600. They are also a bit more refined.
They are also a little less neutral and more enjoyable to listen with. As an open back model, these will leak sound so be weary of that and know that they perform best in an isolated studio environment, absent any extraneous noise and distraction.
Another thing to note is the impedance level. At 300 Ohms, these will need an adequate amplifier to reach their full potential.
More on amps a bit later!!
They take a bit of burn in time to really get acclimated, so prepare to really be impressed after around the 50 hour mark. Things start to open up considerably and everything kind of settles in. The sound becomes focused and tightly in place, which results in a very clean overall signature.
- extremely accurate and transparent
- great body, warmth, and smoothness
- nice sound-stage and imaging. You are able to place where the musicians are on stage, and being an open backed can, the sound won’t get trapped in your head and leave you fatigued.
- a forward and engaging mid-range. helps with the presentation of the male voice.
- tight and authoritative bass response. less neutral than the HD 600. The bass, rather than being bloated and loud, is accurate and precise. You will be able to hear the tone of a kick drum as well as different textures in frequency. An important thing to remember is to make sure your sound source is of good quality. These will reveal flaws in haphazard mix downs and masters.
- not too picky about which amp you choose to pair with it. Sounds pretty fantastic with most amps.
- very versatile in terms of genre, handling a wide range of musical styles. Rock music is it’s strongest suit.
- comfort. those velour ear pads make it so you can wear these for hours and not get fatigued.
- replaceable parts, which ensures longevity out of your purchase.
- too smooth. Like Fonzie except not, these headphones are so chill that they may make you fall asleep!
- treble is lacking a bit. This is the “veiled” sound that people talk about in regards to Sennheiser headphones. Somewhat lacking in air and harmonic content.
- HD 600. Many people prefer the more neutral HD 600 over the laid back sound signature of the HD 650. Others like the fact that the 650’s bass has a little more impact and weight behind it.
Check out the video!
The great thing about the HD 650 is that it isn’t too picky about which amp you choose. At 300 Ohms, it does need one to reach it’s full potential, and a few good options would be:
- The JDS labs 02
- Magni/Modi combo (very common and a great option)
- E09k paired with the E17
- Bottle-head crack
Pricier options include:
- Valhalla 2 + Modi (many are saying this is the best overall combo)
- Asgard 2 + Modi
Who this headphone benefits?
As alluded to in the open, this is a very versatile headphone that handles a wide variety of genres including:
It’s bread and butter is most definitely for Rock music. This is in part due to the mid-range as well as the bass not drowning out other frequencies. The treble also has a lot to do with it.
Since 2003, It’s been one of the most beautiful sounding headphones around. It’s extremely accurate, has a really great mid-range, accurate bass, and is very comfortable over a long period of time. It’s treble is lacking a bit in the upper registers, and it has been criticized for being a bit too smooth, almost lulling you to sleep..
What you are getting with these is a brand new music collection. Why? Because they revolutionize everything you own, plus the music you haven’t heard. It’s like hearing all of your old favorites for the first time again. You will start to notice things in music that you never knew were there. This is one of the best things about higher end headphones. They make you realize what you were missing!
Similarities & Differences
- They are both open back and leak sound.
- Both are meant to be listened with in an isolated studio environment.
- Both have great sound-stage.
- Price. The HD 800’s are considerably more expensive than the 600’s.
- Sound. The HD800’s are about as neutral as it gets. They have been called the “neutrality king” actually, and deliver sound at it’s most natural state. The 650’s by contrast are a bit warmer, lusher, and function as a more “fun” sounding headphone. They are definitely more colored than the 800. That said, both can be used for mixing to fine effect.
- Material. A big difference between the HD 650 and the HD800’s to note is the material. The 650’s are made of mostly plastic (albeit strong & sturdy), while the 800’s have components made of stainless steel, alcantara, and teflon. Both however have velour ear padding.
- Detail. Both allow you to hear detail previously unheard in recordings, but the HD 800 improves on that immensely. The 650’s lack some detail that the 800’s have in spades.
- Sibilant. Sometimes the 800’s are so honest, that they become harsh/sibilant, and dare I say “boring”. I’ve read quite a few different audiophiles around the net claiming that the 800’s lack personality, and aren’t particularly exciting or fun to listen with. The 650’s by contrast are the complete opposite in this regard, and come across as warmer and friendlier. They cater to a more casual demographic. People who really want to enjoy themselves while listening to music.
- Sound-stage. With classical tracks, the 800’s really shine due to the clarity of the different strings and woodwinds. They also have a slightly wider and more pronounced sound stage than the 650’s. The separation between the instruments is greater, therefore providing more clarity.
- Comfort. As far as comfort, both are extremely comfortable, but the 800’s look and feel more comfy in your hands rather than on your head. The 650’s feel amazingly comfy on your melon, and it has been said that the clamping force is a bit tight at first. As time goes on they really settle in.
- Amplification. The HD 800 is extremely picky about which amp sounds best. The 650 is not.
- Genre. The 800’s bread and butter in terms of genre is Jazz and Classical overall. The 650 is at it’s best with Rock.
If you need the absolute best in terms of neutrality, and won’t settle for anything less, then the HD 800’s are most definitely for you. Just be aware that if you plan on taking the plunge, a suitable amp is of the utmost importance. Being arguably the most amp finicky headphone, the difference between a proper solution and a sub-par one is like night and day. It could make the 800 sound either truly amazing or downright awful.
If you still value an honest reproduction of sound, but prefer your listening experience to be an enjoyable one, then go with the HD 650. It is warmer, lusher, and the more colored out of the two. It gives you immediate satisfaction rather than a sound you may labor over, but still greatly excels in so many areas. It’s also pretty versatile in terms of musical genre and studio reference application.
Are the HD 800’s a bit out of your price range? Do you still need the absolute best mixing/reference headphone in it’s class or otherwise? Check out the gold standard in Price to Performance ratio in my ..
Well that’s about it for today my friend. I hope you’ve enjoyed my comparison review of the Sennheiser HD 800 vs. HD 650!
Which of these are you more likely to purchase? Convinced that the HD 600 is the best in price to performance ratio? Let me know!!
If you have any further specific questions, or need me to clear something up, I would be glad to help. Please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below or Contact me!
All the best and God bless,