L’s Take On the Sennheiser HD700
DISCLAIMER: I finally managed to get a sample of the highly discussed Sennheiser HD700 a couple of months after Mike was in possession of the pre-production sample. Do read his diary first to get a full picture of the headphone because I won’t go into detail about everything, this is merely my point of view of the HD700. The review sample was already returned to Sennheiser in the meantime, as usual.
After having read all the criticism about the sound, the bad measurements and its price, I really didn’t know what to expect but from the first minute I plugged in the HD700, I really liked it. Sometimes it’s good to trust your ears too and not only measurements.
What immediately strikes you when coming from the Sennheiser HD600/650 is the larger and deeper sound stage of the HD700. There is a lot more space between the instruments and the sound is much clearer and detailed. Not to the same extent as the HD800 but it is right in between the other models. The sound from the HD700 is very relaxed like a lot of the other Sennheiser headphones and the HD700 has this warm feeling (not warm like the HD650 of course) but it is strongly amp dependent. More on the amplifier pairings later. I would even dare to say the HD700 is speaker like in a way, it’s a dangerous statement, I know, but they sound so open and clear it’s amazing. (The HD700 is an open headphone as you all know and it leaks a lot of outgoing and incoming sound).
Bass on the HD700 can go really deep and can be really punchy as well but it will depend on your source material and the amplification used. In general the bass definitely is there, not like the HD650’s bass though and it isn’t a bass head headphone for sure. Bass here is more detailed and cleaner and less heavy as with the HD650, but it has more quality to it. It is closer to the HD650’s bass as it is to the HD800’s. Bass is never loose on the HD700 but the bass impact does depend on the amplifier used. In this regard the standard Bottlehead Crack with a Westinghouse branded Tung-Sol 6080wa tube scores best and gives you the heaviest bass.
The mid range of the HD700 was the most special to me. Vocals are very natural and real, clear and uncolored. This makes it a strong point and at the same time a weak spot of the HD700. For some songs this was great while with others it sounded a bit forward. Overall the mid range is very good but it might not suite all different musical styles. The mid range, like with many things on this headphone, is right in between that of the 650 and 800 but the HD700 is quite a bit faster as the 650.
Treble is also very detailed and overall very good. I have to agree with some of the opinions found online that the treble sometimes can be a bit hot, however this isn’t always the case and most of the time treble is perfect. I found it to be too hot mostly while listening to dance music like Netsky.
I wouldn’t say the HD700 is the perfect all-rounder. It is close and does all the genres good to extremely good, I love its sound, yet I wouldn’t recommend it if you only listen to rap and punk music. The HD700 is analytical but at the same time it is fast, it’s exciting, it has excellent balance and instrumental separation and just is fun to listen to. Build quality of the headphone and the Kevlar cable is great and it is one, if not “the” most comfortable headphone I ever had on my head.
We all know Sennheisers work best with OTL tube amps and luckily I have 3 of those here with me.
Without pre-amps or anything the best amplifier for the HD700 was, and here we go again, the Bottlehead Crack. Was this amp specially made for Sennheiser or what? The Crack works best for 150Ohm and surprisingly enough the HD700 is exactly rated that. Great sound stage, clarity and the best bass (tiny bit looser). With the Violectric V200, the only non OTL amp I tried it with, I got a lighter but very good tight bass, very fast and good sounding but too solid state sounding for me with this headphone. Not as smooth sounding and warm.
The Woo Audio WA2 and the LaFigaro 339 were very close. There is a very slight hum with the HD700 when no music is playing. It’s the first headphone to do that with both amps. It doesn’t bother when listening however and it sounds pretty good but less tube-ish. Bass has less impact as with the Crack and both amps are lighter, not as smooth & warm sounding but they are very clear. They both are a nice match but the Crack is that bit completer. The WA2 will give you more top treble and a bigger sound stage while the 339 gives you a bit more bass and body.
The very best result I achieved when using the WA2 as a pre-amp and the Lafigaro 339 as amplifier. Great bass, perfect detail, just the right smoothness, awesome mids, etc. Incredible. But we’re talking about a +$2K setup here, amplification only. It actually works better as WA2 + Crack (bass is a bit tighter), but when not using a pre-amp, the Crack solo is the best (and cheapest) for the HD700.
Continue to the next page…