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Updated September 24th, 2018
6,104 word post, approx. 9-10 min read.
Click here to jump to the Table of Contents, or check out the quick view if you’re ready to purchase the HD600 or 650!
The Quick View
Before we get into the comparison proper, I’ll condense it down real fast if you’re looking to make a quick like a bunny rabbit decision on either of these. I love them both, and there are subtle but noticeable differences between them. I also consider both of these the sweetspot in audiophile headphones. They hover right around the point in which the law of diminishing returns sets in with anything more expensive. So if you’re kind of new to this hobby, you’re absolutely in the right place!!
Are you after a warmer sound with a bit more bass emphasis and fun? The 650 is for you. I would say the sound of this headphone is like wood after it’s been hit with sandpaper. It tends to smooth out the rough edges in music, and is definitely less sterile than the somewhat colder sounding HD600. It presents music in a way that is more immediately enjoyable and accessible. That’s the main difference. It’s a headphone for the more casual enthusiast for sure. It just works well for any genre of music, and is also a bit easier to pair with a variety of Amp/DACs due to it’s higher Sensitivity and need for less current. If this all sounds exciting to you:
The HD600 by contrast is a little cleaner sounding, and definitely less warm than the 650. This is a mixing and mastering headphone above all else, as it will reveal flaws in the recording quite easily. I would also say that the mid-range sounds a bit more forward, due to the increased roll off in the bass, or simply a bump around 1-3k. In all honesty, I don’t hear this amount of “forwardness” with the 650, and at times the mids of the 600 can simply be too much from a pure musical enjoyment standpoint.
If your desire is to be more critical of the music, and you’d rather hear some of the finer details, the HD600 is your homie. Sound good?
If you’re interested in my in depth look before you pull the trigger, I totally understand. I’m that way too, so read on!!
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
Prepare yourself, as this article will attempt to cover any and all questions you may have regarding the Sennheiser HD600 vs. 650, two former flagship models that really set a standard for audiophile headphones back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.
The HD 600 debuted in 1997 and the 650 followed in 2003. They have both been around a long time, and have a great track record as some of the most respected, and best all around open back cans in existence to this day!
Before we get started with all the fun, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because..
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
Contents in 3..2..1..
Click any of these to navigate the mini HD600Review!
Because I know what I’m talking about. I haz an education!
Lol. I’m being funny but I’m also serious.
I don’t have fancy credentials like some people (and I don’t think that automatically means you’re legit by the way), but like Craig Boyles said about me on his website Mage Audio,
“Stu knows headphones. He’s reviewed over 70 of them on his website.”
I’ve been a headphone enthusiast for as long as I can remember, ever since I had a pair (or 8) of Sony MDR V150’s. I’ve loved music and everything about it for equally as long. I’ve been making and producing music for over 10 years, and have learned a lot about EQ and sound a long the way. I’ve sold beats, I’ve given them away, I’ve collaborated with a lot of people, and I’ve had a lot of fun.
I’ve had plenty of experience with high end amps, entry level ones, and anything in between. I don’t claim to know everything, but do I know what sounds good and what doesn’t. I know what’s worth your money and what can be glossed over and discarded.
Check out my Resources Page for more helpful information!!
The Main Reason
The biggest reason to trust me is that I’m just like you! I do an exhaustive amount of research before I purchase anything, and don’t stop searching just because I own a product. I keep up with trends, reviews, blogs, and stay immersed in this niche because I’m truly passionate about it and care a great deal about it as well.
My Goal is to Help You
In addition that, I receive emails, comments, and testimonials fairly frequently from people thanking me profusely for what I do here, and for making such great recommendations specific to their need. It’s refreshing to be able to connect with people from all over the world and help them make the best decisions possible with regards to studio equipment and anything music production related! I truly love and enjoy conversing with you all, because I’m passionate about this stuff!
Lastly, I’m truly a genuine person and have fostered relationships with a lot of the people that frequent my blog and YouTube channel. In other words, I’m not a faceless corporation or even a faceless blog. I respond to all emails and comments, and value true interaction with people. Peruse my YouTube channel, Instagram feed, Facebook page, Soundcloud page, or any comment thread on my blog and you’ll quickly come to realize that I’m truly here to help in any way I can.
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Material: metal grilles, carbon fiber, plastic, velour ear pads.
Color: Speckled blue finish, black.
What more can be said about these? Well I’ll tell you!
For starters, they may be the best reference headphone that you can buy. This is across the board pretty much a consensus among-st audiophiles and casual listeners a like. I will never forget the first time I read this review on amazon. The reviewer claimed that buying an HD 600 would revolutionize not only the music you may listen to in the future, but also what you already own!
It’s a very powerful concept that stuck with me. Being able to re-discover old sounds is something that is truly priceless. Everyone loves music.
Imagine if the feeling you got from an old album was like hearing it for the first time again, only it was better, and sounded fresh and unique?!
That’s what these headphones provide. They give you the subtlety and details you’ve never heard before in recordings. They also reveal quite a bit of flaws in a mix/master, so be wary that these headphones were made for good quality recordings from good sources. I have listened to them with 192 kbps Spotify songs, but I would highly recommend to try and stick to 256, 320, and high quality WAV or FLAC. Also make sure to purchase a decent enough amp to power these correctly. At 300 Ohms and 97dB of Sensitivity, it is pretty much mandatory. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
Bass. Great bass and low end. It’s not overpowering but rather strong, clear, and well defined.
Durability. Build quality is solid. They may seem a tad light in your hands, but I liken the build to something like a natural body builder with a wiry but musclar frame. He’s solid and strong, but not jacked like your typical meat head steroid user. 😛
Gold standard for neutrality and accuracy in studio environments. Everything sounds exactly as it is, with very little coloration. There is a bit of emphasis in the mid-range which at times seems to get a bit out of line. This is a nitpick and you can EQ it if need be. All in all, the mid-range revealsvoices and instruments with stunning clarity, depth, and cohesiveness.
Airy, open, and detailed, but at the same time doesn’t sound thin.
Velour ear pads make these extremely comfortable.
The price to performance ratio is virtually unmatched. Buying these may be the best investment you’ll ever make, with audio equipment or otherwise.
Detachable cable. If your cat decides to munch on your chord, you can simply buy a new one!! 😀
All parts replaceable. The grilles, padding, and chords are all replaceable, and given proper care the headphone should last a lifetime.
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Perhaps the most transparent and honest set of cans you will find in the mid-tier price bracket. The bass is clear and precise, but doesn’t really hit as hard as some would like. Just be aware of your sound source before passing judgement on the headphones themselves. A good Amp/DAC is mandatory to bring out the best in these as well!
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. I like to use the term “succulent.” They are a bit juicer sounding than their colder older brother. Blame it on parenting. Lol.
Being a little less neutral, they are more enjoyable from a pure musical standpoint, and work better for the casual listener/budding audiophile. As an open back model, these will leak sound so be wary of that and know that they perform best in an isolated studio environment, absent any extraneous noise and distraction. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
Another thing to note is the impedance level. At 300 Ohms, these will also need an adequate amplifier to reach their full potential. They simply require more power than your average headphone. Interestingly enough, they do not require as much current as an HD600 (103dB vs. 97dB), which would explain why they’re somewhat easier to pair with a variety of Amp/DAC combos. I find that I’m not having to dial up the volume as much with an HD650, whereas with an HD600 I feel like I’m constantly adjusting and re-adjusting the volume based on the source, as well as their “on the cusp of being low” Sensitivity. The 600’s are simply not as receptive to a steady volume level, which I find rather irritating at times. What is Headphone Impedance?
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. Do headphones need to be burned in?
The good and bad?
Extremely accurate and transparent.
Great body, warmth, and smoothness.
Nice Soundstage 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, as well as vocals and instruments in general.
Tight and authoritative bass response. It’s less neutral than the HD 600. There’s more bass here for certain. Like the 600, 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 Picky. It’s not too picky about which amp you choose to pair with it. Sounds pretty fantastic with most amps. More on that later!
Very versatile. In terms of genre, it can handle a wide range of musical styles. Rock music is arguably it’s strongest suit, but I love these with Indie Pop and Hip-Hop as well!
Comfort. Those velour ear pads make it so you can wear these for hours and not get fatigued. I’ve never taken a 650 off of my head because it was uncomfortable. These will sit on your melon for the duration of the listening session with no questions asked!
Longevity. Replaceable parts, which ensures longevity out of your purchase. The pads are easily replaceable. The cable can be replaced.
Too smooth. Like Fonzie except not, these headphones are so chill that they may lull you to sleep!
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. What is the Sennheiser veil?
Video coming soon..
My Video Review
What’s the consensus?
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. Regardless, 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!
Now let’s delve into the comparison shall we?
What are these good for?
Production. Critical listeners and producers looking for an honest mix down. The HD650’s signature isn’t as conducive to mixing, but they will still work. Just know that even though there are differences between the two headphones, they are fairly subtle. More on that in a bit!
Jazz and Classical. The HD650 in particular is sublime with certain Jazz recordings. Make sure you’re primarily listening to the highest quality sources possible, but also know that the 650 tends to smooth out the rough edges in music. It’s a headphone that’s a bit more immediately enjoyable, as opposed to the more sterile sounding HD600.
Hip-Hop/Indie Pop. There are some folks who wouldn’t outright recommend either of these for Hip-Hop, but I’m not one of those people. I think they do exceptional for both, as well as Indie Pop. Why? Because instead of feeling the bass, you’re able to now hear it. Because of this, the music immediately has more detail and sounds much better than a pure bass head can. You’ll start to hear things that you never dreamed were there. For instance, I much prefer Lauryn Hill’s Lost Ones with a 600/650 than I do with a more V-shaped can. It just sounds so much better and more refined.
Rock. Perhaps their bread and butter, both of these headphones do phenomenal for Rock as there is a perfect amount of bass and the mid-range is really allowed to shine. The somewhat darker treble never gets out of line either, but still retains a great sense of clarity and detail.
They sound good with just about every type of music though, and have been called a genre master.
What are they not good for?
Not for every recording. They are really honest and will reveal flaws in your everyday recordings. This reviewer mentioned that he was tempted to throw away all of his old badly mastered stuff. Make sure your source is of good quality! The 650 is a bit more forgiving in this case, so it will match better with the more casual listener. I do find myself skipping over some tracks with the HD600 as the mix/master just sounds awful. This is the exception and not the rule, but still something to keep in mind.
Office and portable use, etc. They will bleed sound and aren’t really made for on the go situations or where there’s the potential for disturbing others.
Both headphones have 300 ohm Impedance, and do well with similar amplifiers.
Both headphones have a Circumaural fit (around the ears).
Both headphones have that nice velour padding, and are very comfortable.
Both have an open, airy sound, and provide great Soundstage as well as instrument separation. Be aware that the Soundstage on the HD600, while good, isn’t particularly wide like an AKG model. You’re getting more of a pinpoint accurate sound. With the 650 it’s a bit wider. More on that below.
Both have detachable cables.
Both weigh roughly the same.
Both have the same grilles and headband adjustment.
Both ear cups move in the same way.
Color. The HD600 has a blue speckled finish, while the 650 sports a grey and black metal flake finish.
Sound. The sound of each is very similar, but you will notice that the 650’s are a little warmer & more colored. Their target audience is people who prefer a more enjoyable listening experience rather than the critical one that the 600’s provide. The 600’s are a bit livelier and crisper by contrast. This difference is rather subtle and took me going back and forth a few times before it became apparent.
Bass. The bass is the main difference. With the 650, you’re getting that warmer, lusher, and slightly more in your face bass. It’s a bit more syrupy like Sunday Mornings with Aunt Jemima. It hits a tad harder, but is still in no way out of line. The main thing to understand is that because of the warmer sound of the bass, it renders the 650 slightly less clinical/sterile as opposed to the 600. The 600’s are crisper, with a tad more clarity, while the 650 comes off as a bit more exciting. I suppose the 650 may suit the casual listener a little more.
Soundstage. This is rather subtle as well, but I noticed that the 650’s Soundstage is a bit wider than the 600’s, and may explain why part of me enjoys the 650 more than the 600, even though I prefer the more clinical sound of the 600.
Detail & Transparency. The problem with the HD600 revealing more detail than the 650 is that it can make certain recordings sound downright awful because it’s so honest and transparent. That said, with stellar recordings there is really no contest. I’ve heard things with the 600’s that really have no business being heard. Even so, they have a tendency to become a bit metallic and somewhat harsh at times in the way that they portray instruments and voices. On the other hand, the 650 kind of smooths out a lot of imperfections in music and sounds more pleasant with a wider variety of tracks. This renders them better for pure musical listening enjoyment. The casual audiophile is likely to be more drawn to this type of sound, and cares little about accuracy even though the 650 is an accurate headphone in it’s own right.
Hip-Hop. The 650’s do a little better with this genre because of that slight bit of extra bass emphasis.
Construction. The 650 improves on the durability and overall build. The 600 is solid, but a bit less so.
Headband padding. The padding on both headbands is made of the same material, but shaped differently. The 600 has 4 small pads while the 650 has 2 uniform pads. I didn’t notice a difference in comfort with either. Both are very comfortable.
Wires. Let’s face it: the HD600’s chord looks and feels like 1997. It’s cheap, and belongs on a $20 set of headphones. That said, I haven’t had issues with it. It’s long and cumbersome, so you may want to grab a twist tie. I’ve run over mine countless times with my computer chair but it’s still doing fine. Maybe it’s not so cheap after all? To the contrary, the 650’s chord is much improved, thicker, and detaches from the ear cup with greater ease. I found myself tugging rather hard to get the chord out of the 600’s cups. Both have the same termination, but the pieces that insert are smaller on the 600, and therefore are harder to pull out with your fingers.
My fingers hurt!
Both of these headphones are going to need a good amp to deliver optimal sound quality and volume. The good news is that they aren’t incredibly picky about what you go with. That said, some combos are going to sound better than others. In particular, a tube amp makes both the 600 and 650 really shine. The downside is that tube amps are a bit less reliable than a solid state. Learn more: Tube amp vs. Solid State.
Before we get into it..
The great news about both of these headphones is that they aren’t that picky about what Amp you decide to purchase.
I’ve found quite a few entry level options to work extremely well. I wouldn’t become too concerned about trying to find the perfect pairing, although a tube amp like the Bottlehead Crack is likely the best overall as far as synergy and warmth is concerned.
To start out, I would recommend a solid desktop solution or an Amp/DAC combo. You’re going to really enjoy the sound regardless.
For under $100, this is the Amp/DAC to get if you are a bit strapped for cash but want an incredible sound. I’ve been using the E10K with my HD600’s as well as the 650’s, and the response is phenomenal. It’s crisp, neutral, and immensely detailed with a hint of warmth. It’s got an output impedance of less than 1.04, which means that it will power most headphones without a problem. I wouldn’t try to drive anything over 300 Ohms however. Do be aware that it’s total power output at 32 Ohms is 2oomW, whereas something like an Objective 2 outputs 613mW into 33 Ohms. It doesn’t have the raw power of other amps, but is still a lot more capable than people give it credit for. It’s got a bass boost, gain switch, coaxial out, line out, and USB input. I’ve found the gain really helps with something like and HD600/650, and there’s still some headroom left as well! What more do you need?
The Audioengine D1 is a small Amp with extra large capabilities. In my opinion this (along with the Dragonfly Red) is the next logical step up from something like an E10K as far as portability and sound goes. This combo has RCA/Analog outs, as well as Toslink/Optical out and USB input. So you can rig it up to a gaming console like your PS4, use it to power some studio monitors, and use it as a headphone amp. It’s more than capable as well with regard to sound. With Fallout 4, the gaming environment was 100x more immersive, detailed, and rich, with life like sounds forming in all directions. This would make a perfect FPS rig as well. Not only that, but music sounds equally as lush and inviting. If you’re searching for a versatile Amp/DAC that can handle everything, look no further.
This is the #1 portable option without question in my mind, and perhaps the most convenient piece of gear ever assembled. It looks like a flash drive but can power my HD600’s. How is that even possible? The good folks over at Audioquest really accomplished something great with this piece. Like the E10K, I wouldn’t try to power anything over 300 Ohm with it, but it’s incredibly powerful especially given how tiny it is.
What’s more, you can take it anywhere with you, as it needs absolutely nothing but a USB slot. This is one of my main gripes with most Amp/DACs, even though it’s not really the fault of the manufacturer. I crave convenience, and the Dragonfly Red is king in this regard. There’s absolutely no hassle involved. Just plug it in and be taken away to audio bliss.
Even paired with your phone it only needs a dongle, which isn’t a big deal at all as they are very affordable.
A fantastic portable amp that really makes music come alive. Out of everything I’ve tried, the HA2 had the best build and the 2nd best overall sound. It used to be my benchmark for Amp/DACs until I heard the Chord Mojo. The HA2 functions as a desktop or portable amp, with a gain switch and bass boost like the E10K. It’s got USB, micro USB, and line out, as well as a gain switch for more power hungry headphones and a bass boost for you bass heads. 😛 What makes the sound better than the other options is that the sound is so crystal clear it may give you goosebumps. The detail, clarity, and Timbre of the music just comes through in such a powerfully honest and raw way, without sounding too sterile. This combo gets my highest endorsement.
I always thought there were little differences between budget amps and more expensive ones, until I plugged the MrSpeakers Aeon Flow into the Mojo and got completely blindsided. Yes, we’re discussing the 650, but bear with me. I think the Aeon closed would make a great closed back compliment to the open 650.
Simply put, there’s no Amp/DAC combo you need more than this one. If you’re looking to drop some serious money on a set up and be done with it for A LONG TIME, then stop what you’re doing and just purchase an HD650 with this Amp/DAC and don’t look back. Don’t ask questions. Just trust me. Lol.
The bundle to the right will allow you to pair it with your iPhone!
It’s absolutely the best I’ve heard, with music taking on an almost lifelike quality and hyper sense of realism. The vocals are so intimate that it’s like the artist is speaking directly to you. The attack, sustain, and decay with instruments is absolutely mind blowing, to the point of discomfort.
You know how sometimes when you’re listening to music it’s sort of like being on auto-pilot? Maybe you’re preoccupied with something and are kind of halfway listening. With the Mojo I was frozen dead in my tracks as soon as the first vocal passage came on. This thing demands your attention in a powerful way.
Instrument Timbre, dynamics, resolution, clarity, detail, warmth. They all come together in such a way that leaves you almost speechless. You know you’ve met your match when the music makes you want to do cartwheels. 😛
Designed and built by NwAvGuy (Northwest Audio Video Guy), this amp has an output impedance 0.54 ohms. I believe it to be a superior amp to the Magni 2, paired it with the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100, or even paired with Schiit’s Modi DAC. The Objective 2 amp provides a cleaner and more resolving sound than the Magni. More details are present, and the sound takes on a more revealing, life like quality with better resolution, vividness, impact, Timbre, and Soundstage.
What I recommend?
Buy the JDS Labs Objective 2 + these cables + a DAC Magic 100. Boom. Plug in the power brick from the amp to the outlet. Plug in the 3.5mm jack to the front of the 02. Plug the other ends into the DAC Magic (RCA). Plug the DAC Magic into your computer using USB. Plug your headphones in. Take a swim. Lol.
One of my go to desktop solutions. Learn more:Schiit Magni 2 Review. These have a minuscule output impedance of less than 0.1 which makes them compatible with nearly any headphone. I’ve been using them on my desktop for quite awhile with a plethora of headphones, and they do not disappoint. You’re getting an incredibly clean, crisp, and neutral response which makes the amp extremely valuable for a wide range of cans. I even got to try them with a Focal Utopia and the sound was absolutely marvelous!
I do think the Objective 2 provides a cleaner overall sound than the Magni, but it’s very close.
Lake People G109. Another clean and transparent offering, this time from the good folks over at Vioelectric. The G109 has very good bass depth and detail, and hits hard. This amp also does well with many different headphones so if you decide to upgrade or add to your collection, it bodes very well.
A perfect entry level tube amp to get your feet wet. Does a great job of providing plenty of warmth and detail, while also separating sounds and providing a good 3D landscape. What is Soundstage?
Includes 2x input ports including line in and RCA. It’s also got 3x output ports including 3.5mm jack, 1/4″ jack, and RCA jacks. So it’s flexible in that if your headphone terminates in a 1/4″ jack you won’t need an adapter.
This is probably the overall top pick for both the HD600 and 650 because of the fact that it’s both warm and detailed at the same time. Be advised that it is a DIY project, but by all accounts that I have read it’s fairly straightforward and fun! You can also request them to build it at an extra price, but I would recommend getting your hands dirty.
This is likely the second best tube amp to pair with the 650, and it doesn’t disappoint. You will want to immediately upgrade the tubes however, as the majority of folks weren’t digging the stock homies that come with the amp. The Amp seems to add color and warms up the sound of the 650, while also bringing the mid-range forward a bit. This renders songs in a way that’s very resolving but also musical, with a Soundstage to die for!
A lot of folks like this option as the best overall for a tube amp paired with a Bifrost DAC. In fact, both the Darkvoice and Valhalla are probably tied for the #2 spot behind the Crack for best pairing with the 650.
This little beast pairs extremely well with a Topping D3 DAC, and has RCA outputs on the back for some added flexibility. You can use it as a preamp to power some studio monitors or you can hook it up to your Turntable for some fresh Vinyl snacks! Like the Darkvoice, this Little Dot also benefits from some tube rolling but the stock tubes sound fine too if you don’t want to upgrade right away. This amp is not to be taken lightly, as it’s one of the best overall pairings with the HD650. It has a rock solid build and lots of power as well. If you’re coming from a cheaper solid state amp, get ready to have your mind blown!
These aren’t always available all of the time, but you can always request a drop.
La Figaro 339. A great upgrade from the Darkvoice 337.
Massdrop x Alex Cavalli Tube Hybrid Amp.
All of these options, across the board, are considered the go to in regards to quality and convenience. There’s a little something for everyone on the list, but I didn’t just choose these haphazardly. They all specifically pair well with both the HD600 and 650, so you won’t be disappointed regardless of your budget or preferences. 🙂
So what’s my final word?
The HD 600 and 650 are two very similar sets of headphones. If you are planning to do more mixing in studio, and need a revolutionary reference can that has the ability to reveal even the smallest of nuances, look no further than the HD 600. They just may be the finest example of an open back model that has ever been made. Don’t believe me? Out of 58 headphones reviewed, only 4 from this man’s collection received an A+ price to performance ratio.
Out of the roughly 80 headphones I’ve demoed (as of this article), the HD600 and 650 are both in the Top 3-5 easily.
If you prefer a more colored sound, and want to enjoy the experience rather than be too critical of it, the 650’s may suit your tastes better. They are less analytical overall, and have been called the more “fun” sounding headphone out of the two.
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.