Soundstage. The K701 is infamous for having an unnaturally wide Soundstage. However, many people really enjoy it immensely because you’re able to discern different sounds far easier. With the 880’s, individual layers of music tend to get clumped together with complex musical arrangements. The 701 handles these passages with ease, while the 880 may get muddy at times. This is however the exception and not the rule. For the most part, the 880 is a phenomenal sounding can. What is Soundstage?
Detail/Crispness. Because of the above mentioned, the detail retrieval of the K701’s is superior to that of the 880’s, as well as the overall crispy nature of the sound.
Treble. The treble range on the DT880 can become shrill/sibilant at times, while the 701’s remain tamer. What does Sibilant mean? With the 701, you get that upper sparkle that the 880’s don’t quite achieve (although they come close).
Bass. While the 701’s bass is by no means heavy, it does go deeper, revealing more complex tones. By contrast, the 880’s bass is a little heavier but isn’t as detailed.
Vocals/Mid-range. This may be where each headphone differs most. With the 701, the vocals blend in with the music, but may sound more distant. The 880’s vocals are more balanced within the overall structure of the song, and sound more intimate. You’re more aware that they’re closer to you. The mid-range overall on the 701’s is a tad recessed in comparison to the 880’s.
Padding. The pads are less comfortable than the 880.
Amp. The 701 functions best with a quality tube amp, while the 880 isn’t very picky in this regard. A basic high quality solid state amp will do the trick just fine. Tube amp vs. Solid state.
Comfort. The DT880’s are more comfortable overall than the K701’s.
Size. The 880’s are quite small and dainty (but compact) compared to the K701’s.
Build quality. The build of the 880’s is better overall than the K701’s.
Type. The 880 is a semi-open back headphone, while the K701 is a traditional open back headphone. Closed back headphones vs. Open back headphones. This basically means that with the 880, you get the soundstage and openness of an open back, with the added benefit of the isolation that a closed back provides. The 880’s will leak a small amount of sound and let more sound in, while the 701’s leak quite a bit and will let a lot in.
Headband. The 880’s headband is perfect, and how a headband should be designed.
Analytical. While the 880 is known for being analytical, the 701 is ruthless in this regard, and much more clinical overall. It will reveal bad recordings with no mercy whatsoever. The DT880’s are definitely more forgiving overall, and will sound good with most any genre of music.
Genre/Versatility. The K701 excels better with Acoustic, Classical, live, and instrumental recordings, while the DT880 sounds better as an all around type of headphone.
If you’re looking for an uncolored, neutral, mid-tier headphone, you’re in the right place! I would say that overall, the K701 has a more airy, spacious sound, with leaner bass and a mid-range that isn’t quite as prominent as the 880. If you desire a larger soundstage with more detail retrieval, the 701 is the headphone to choose here, but the Q701 improves upon everything that the 701 lacked. It’s bass has been elevated, the Soundstage is more natural, and they do better with more genres of music.
On the flip side, the 880 is a phenomenal headphone without a doubt. It’s more comfortable than the 701, and has a mid-range that becomes more intimate and enjoyable. However, if you’re looking for the Gold Standard, the 880 comes in a close second place. If you’re interested in learning about the absolute go to headphone in this class, the Sennheiser HD600 is your boy. It’s the benchmark to which everything should be compared, and does a few things better than the 880: It’s not sibilant in the treble range, and subsequently doesn’t suffer from a loss of detail. T his is what finally sold me on the 600’s. Interested in learning more about my favorite audiophile headphone?
Stu is determined to provide the truth about all things audio, and strives to deliver excellent content to you the reader! In his spare time, he likes to fish, paint, play guitar, attend church, take photos, record videos, graphic design, and more. His attention to detail and perfectionist attitude are what allow him to excel, but it can be both a blessing and a hindrance at times.