Originally published 6/21/15.
- 6/17/21. Article Update.
- 2/17/22. Article Update.
First, check out this quick comparison before we get started!
The HD650 offers a warmer and more relaxed overall sound. It tends to smooth over the rough edges in music, like sandpaper to wood.
It’s better suited for casual listening where your goal is to sit back, relax, and not analyze the music too much.
I also found the Soundstage on the 650 to be a bit better for Gaming and movies as it’s more immersive and tends to separate details and sounds better.
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 you’re interested in my in-depth look before you pull the trigger, read on.
Hey there friend, and Welcome aboard!!
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 ’90s and early ‘2000s.
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!
Sennheiser HD 600
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- Type: Open back.
- Fit: Circumaural.
- Impedance: 300 ohms.
- Sensitivity: 97dB/mW.
- Frequency response: 12Hz – 39000 kHz.
- Material: Metal Grilles, Carbon Fiber, Velour Ear Pads, Plastic.
- Color: Speckled Blue Finish, Black.
- Weight with Cable: 315g (11.1 Oz.)
- Weight without Cable: 262g (9.2 Oz.)
Sennheiser HD 650
- Price: Check Amazon! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
- Type: Open back. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
- Fit: Circumaural.
- Impedance: 300 Ohm.
- Sensitivity: 103dB/mW.
- Frequency response: 12 – 39000 Hz.
- Material: OFC copper (Kevlar Reinforced), Velour, Plastic.
- Color: Grey and Black Metal Flake Finish.
- Weight with Cable: 370g (13 Oz.)
- Weight without Cable: 259g (9.1 Oz.)
The build of each of these is roughly the same. They are very similar in weight as well. The internet has them both at 9.2 Oz., but I weighed them on my scale and the 650 is a bit lighter at 259g vs. 262 for the HD600 – something you likely won’t notice or really care about.
As you can see from above, with the cable, the HD650 is significantly bulkier because it needs a 1/4″ to 3.5mm adapter. The HD 600 terminates in a standard 3.5mm jack and comes with a great snap-on adapter.
Most of them are of the screw-on variety, but the 600s are unique because of the black base. I no longer have to worry about trying to find it. It sticks out like a sore thumb!
The padding on each headband is also a bit different. The 650 has one uniform pad with a sort of crater in the middle, while the 600s utilize 4 individual pads. Both are made of the same material and feel great to the touch.
Visually, the HD 600 has that speckled blue/marbled finish that you’re either going to love or hate. Personally, I love it. A friend of mine Cory from YouTube actually loved the color so much he did a custom controller mod with it!
In contrast, the HD 650 utilizes a Grey and Black Metal Flake finish, and personally to me, it doesn’t have as much character as the 600’s aesthetic.
Termination & Wiring
Another notable difference between these two headphones is their termination and cable.
The HD 600’s cable is very thin and very retro. I tend to run over it a lot with my chair, but it’s held up remarkably well.
Still, it’s kind of a bear to get the wire out of the ear cup. Each piece is incredibly small and it’s hard to get your fingers around it.
On the 650, I have no such issues. This time around Sennheiser made the cable larger overall, and thicker at the base. I can easily pull the cables out of each ear cup and they also feel a bit sturdier.
On the 600, there is a red cable to indicate that it should go into the right cup vs. all black for the 650. Both also have small “R” and “L” indicators on each piece. In this picture, you cannot see that for the 600 because they are turned over.
They have the same grilles, the same velour ear padding, and are made of roughly the same materials.
The headband adjustment going from the ear cup to the headband is also that same sliver of metal, and while it doesn’t look very durable, it actually is!
Both headphones’ ear cups move slightly in but don’t rotate otherwise. Lastly, both also have the rectangle on the side with “HD600” and “HD650” written. This adds an official touch and looks very nice as well.
Both of these feel almost the exact same on your head. They are both extremely comfortable but do need to be stretched out a bit at first. To do this, you can either:
- Just wear them as normal and wait for them to loosen up a bit.
- Stretch them out over some books, a pillow, or something similar.
Just be very careful with them.
The HD 600’s headband has been known to snap under pressure, sort of like Henry Hill in Goodfellas. 😛
Even though the headband padding on both is slightly different, I didn’t find much of a difference at all with regard to the comfort level. Fortunately, the padding is fantastic on both and never digs into your head over long listening sessions.
After both open up, clamp pressure is snug like a bug in a rug, and you’ll pretty much forget you’re wearing them.
Not much more to say here. In addition to the HD598, both of these are some of the comfiest I’ve ever worn.
Sound & Imaging
The HD 600 has a fairly balanced sound signature aside from that bump around 3k, which I’ve talked about ad nausea. Keep in mind that these headphones will sound fantastic for the most part.
There’s loads of detail, great instrument separation, smooth bass with some nice impact, and a darker sounding but still detailed treble.
The only real issue I’ve had with it since 2016 is that mid-range. It’s just too forward at times, and you will notice it at some point (especially the more time you spend with it).
By contrast, the 650’s mid-range tones that area down a bit, and it’s much more enjoyable overall. The other main difference is that the treble will be a bit darker than the 600, and dare I say “more veiled.”
In some ways, I think The Sennheiser Veil is kind of a myth, but it sort of does apply with the 650.
There are times when it’s so relaxing that it may actually lull you to sleep! Definitely not a bad thing in my opinion, but something to keep in mind.
In a world where most headphones overemphasize the treble, the 650 is a welcome deviation from the norm.
The other main difference here is the ever so slightly more elevated mid-bass on the 650. It’s a bit more subtle but still noticeable even though it may not show up on certain graphs.
From the above graphs, you can see the 600’s mid-range is a bit more elevated than the 600’s; something that shows up on pretty much every measurement – even terrible ones like mine.
The best way to describe the difference in sound is akin to something like wood and sandpaper. With the HD600, you’re getting a raw piece of wood.
The HD 650’s sound is like the effect of that same piece of wood after it’s been sanded down. It kind of smooths over the rough edges in music, and therefore becomes more accessible for the average listener who just wants to know what the whole audiophile experience is like. What is an Audiophile?
In fact, I firmly believe that the 650 is the quintessential audiophile headphone. Once you listen, you’ll kind of have a better understanding of why people get sucked down the rabbit hole and end up mortgaging away their life savings for better sound.
I find the bass roll-off with each of these two headphones to be a lot more tolerable than both an AKG K240 and a Sennheiser HD 598. With those, it’s almost too lean and won’t provide enough impact for more bass heavier genres that I like to listen to: namely Indie Pop, Hip-Hop, EDM, and the like.
As far as Imaging is concerned, I was surprised to find that the 650 excels a bit more here, especially for Gaming and Movies. I found myself more immersed in the environment and hearing sounds a lot farther away. The image is wider, with more depth and better spacing. The Best Headphones for Gaming!
The HD 600 does have a tendency to sound kind of closed in and narrow, but instrument separation is still phenomenal. Just don’t buy these headphones expecting them to work well with Gaming. They just won’t be as good as a 650.
The reason is that the Soundstage itself is also very closed in. If you put your hands on either side of your head and then move them out about 6 or so inches, that’s about all the width you’re going to get.
With a K702, it’s almost infinite. You’ll start to think you’re hearing stuff outside of your apartment, below you, above you, etc. It’s subtle, but definitely mimics the effect of speakers much better than an HD600.
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At 300 Ohms, these will also need an adequate amplifier to reach their full potential. They simply resist more power than your average headphone and also require more from an amp to reach acceptable listening levels. What is Headphone Impedance?
Interestingly enough, the HD650 at 103dB Sensitivity will not require quite as much, and you’ll have an easier time driving it.
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 600s are simply not as receptive to a steady volume level, which I find rather irritating at times. What is Sensitivity in Headphones?
They take a bit of burn-in time to really get acclimated, so prepare to really be thoroughly 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. Related: Do headphones need to be burned in?
I’ve prepared some helpful resources for you on How To Choose A Headphone Amp, as well as The Best Headphone Amps For The Sennheiser HD600 & 650!
If you have any questions let me know. 🙂
I find that both of these headphones handle a wide variety of genres pretty well. There aren’t really any standouts until you get to Rock.
I would say both probably do best for this type of music, as there’s the perfect amount of bass, good presence in the mid-range, and the treble isn’t over the top.
You’ll be able to kick back and listen for a long time with the HD 650, but be prepared to take semi-frequent breaks with a 600.
That said, I wouldn’t rely on either of these headphones for really crunchy guitars or genres like Hard Rock and Metal. While it will still sound good, it’s going to lack the raw power and excitement that something like an HD25 provides in spades.
I’d say these will do well with anything from Jazz, Classical, Hip-Hop, Rock, Indie/Pop, Acoustic, Folk, Bluegrass, and really anything in between.
What are these good for?
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!
Right now I’m actually working on a mix with the HD600, and everything just sounds “correct.”
There’s really no guesswork involved in trying to figure out if I’m EQ’ing correctly. I can quickly and easily boost the frequencies I need to in the sample without worrying about if I’m overdoing it. The HD600 will certainly let me know.
While bright treble in other headphones helps you find flaws quickly, it can sometimes be a detriment to the final mix if you end up boosting something unnecessarily and don’t fix it.
In other words, it can potentially be harder to detect.
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.
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 exceptionally well for both, as well as Indie Pop.
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.
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.
A reviewer I came across on Amazon 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.
This one should be pretty self-explanatory. These headphones are designed to be used in a quiet, isolated environment.
How about specifics?
Similarities & Differences
- Both headphones are Open back. Closed back vs. Open back headphones.
- 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. What is Soundstage?
- 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.
The HD600 has a blue speckled finish, while the 650 sports a grey and black metal flake finish.
The sound of each is very similar, but you will notice that the 650s 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.
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 the bass is warmer, 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.
This is rather subtle as well, but I noticed that the 650’s Soundstage is a bit wider than the 600’s.
This 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 its own right.
The 650s do a little better with this genre because of that slight bit of extra bass emphasis.
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.
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?
On 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.
If you are planning to do more mixing in the 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 100+ headphones I’ve demoed at the time of this writing, the HD600 and 650 are both in the Top 3-5 easily.
Interested in the HD600?
If you prefer a more colored sound and want to enjoy the experience rather than be too critical of it, the 650s may suit your tastes better.
They are less analytical overall and have been called the more “fun” sounding headphone out of the two.
If you’re interested in a more affordable option, why not consider the HD6XX?
Well that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed my Sennheiser HD 600 vs. HD 650 comparison review!
How did I do? Which of these suits your needs better? Let me know!
Also if you have any other specific questions, drop me a line down below or Contact me! I very much look forward to hearing from you.
All the best and God bless,