Old School Trio: AKG K701, Beyerdynamics DT880, Sennheiser HD650

I still remember a few years ago when people used to wait for their turn to audition these “flagships” on a headphone meet. Back then, the headphone world was ruled by the trio consisting the AKG K701, the Beyerdynamic DT880, and the Sennheiser HD650. They were immensely popular back then, and everybody wants to have a piece of the three. Choosing the proper headphone become more than a simple decision. The headphone you choose ultimately would determine which “clan” you belong to, and you shall be prepared to defend the headphone’s reputation to the point of death. It wasn’t until Sennheiser introduced the $1,400 HD800 (and followed by the other manufacturer’s $1,000 offerings) that the trio quietly slides down into the background, compelled to give up their lordships.

These headphones may not command the same bragging rights they once had, and like everybody else, I too have moved to $1,000 headphones and $1,000 custom IEMs. And yet, I feel that I owe these guys a proper review, perhaps for sentimental or nostalgic reasons. Besides, what headphone site can be complete without a 701/880/650 review? Now that we actually have many other headphones that are better than them, it may be the best time to write an in-depth review of the three. After all, the new-toy syndrome and the subjective fanaticism should be long gone by now.

The landscape has changed considerably from the time when these headphones were still the “top-of-the-range” of the respective brands. Back then, headphone amplifiers were very scarce, and one of the problems that people had with these headphones is that they don’t run very well from an Ipod or a laptop’s headphone out. You’d often hear statements such as “without a proper amp, you cannot see the full potential of the headphones” and others like that. Now, we have more options on amplifiers than the actual headphones, and even entry level products such as the Matrix M-Stage or the Ibasso PB-1 can be used to drive these headphones with fairly good results. Additionally, good quality sources are also more common these days, making it easier to enjoy high quality hi-fi from these headphones.

Another change in the landscape is on the actual enthusiasts. I would say that the crowd is more mature and more learned these days. It’s common knowledge that the trio requires a good amp, and you almost never see these headphones being plugged into under-powered systems anymore. Finally, there is no denying that people’s preference on sound have changed. Three years ago, Grado was a big name among headphone enthusiasts. Perhaps one out of three headphone conversations would involve a Grado. These days, adjectives used to describe the Grado sound (i.e “bright”, “harsh”, or “piercing”) tend to reflect the negative vibes people have on the Grado brand. Many ex-Grado fans have actually turned to the Sennheiser HD650, which used to be the headphone they loathe. The phrase “Sennheiser veil” is less often used now, and people started to associate the HD650 with positive adjectives such as “smooth”, “pleasing”, and “refined”. The AKG K701 fan base has also been in decline, as the new detail-lovers seem to prefer the Beyerdynamic DT880 over the AKG. As I’m writing this article, I can probably say that the K701 have the smallest fan base today, compared to the DT880 and HD650.

A while ago, I wrote an article outlining the black and silver driver screen differences of the HD650. Today, I feel that the variations may be more complex than a simple black and silver version. Nonetheless, I am using the silver-screen version of the Sennheiser HD650 for this review. The Beyerdynamic DT880 that I’m reviewing is the newer version, since the older DT880 (2003) have been discontinued a long time ago. The newer DT880 comes in three impedance ratings: 32 Ohms, 250 Ohms, and 600 Ohms. The 600 Ohms is supposedly the most refined of the three, and that’s the version that I use here. The AKG K701 used is just a plain old K701. Although I heard rumors that the K701 also comes in two different variations, I’ve actually never heard of the “other” variants, and every K701/702 I’ve listened to sounds like the other.

A word of warning: this ends as a 4700 words article. If you are serious about these headphones, then you may be willing to read the whole thing, as every pages contain quite a deep evaluation about the headphones. If you don’t feel like going through six pages of content, you can skip all the pages and go straight to the last page for the conclusion. Then, if you don’t agree with the conclusion, you can go back to inspect the detailed report to see how I ended up with those conclusions.

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  • Mike

    I don't get it, Dave. What do you mean? o.0

  • dave

    its up to the producer to make it sound interesting.
    if it sounds punchy on the k701s, it willll be punchy on almost all systems. if it sounds thick, with depth, on the k701s, it will sound thick on most systems. the sound stage is so wide so you can accurately place instruments and hear exactly where they are in relation to other instruments
    the bass is to be heard, not felt. i need to hear my bass, not feel it.
    i assumed that's what they were for… anyways, my two pennies

    • Mike

      Exactly! That's what I mean. A monitoring headphone needs to be neutral and flat — that's why I think the K701 and DT880 were meant to be monitoring headphones.

      Sennheiser on the other hand clearly stated that they were developing a music listening headphone, not a monitoring headphone with the HD650.

  • Dexon

    Lol, K701 hate club. What are you all listening to? I guess mostly shitty recordings. All music that sounds plasticky on K701 is badly produced music. 95% of today music is produced to sound good when it's played through boom boxes and oomph sounding equipment. I've never heard tighter bass from any other phone. Certainly not form HD800 or T1. And to my ears microdynamics are far better on K701 than on any other phones I listened to. Is it perfect? Of course not. Its timber is totally shifted and unnatural. Soundstage super wide but no depth and imagining is poor either. Annoying peak at upper mids and so on. But compared to HD650 or DT800, K701 are far superior phones to my ears and with present prices, a bargain.

    • Karl Leung

      The K701 hate club stems from all the negatives about it you listed.  And remember, you’re the only one that has listened to pristine recordings with decent headphones *rolls eyes*. Also that joke of a headband..honestly, what were AKG thinking? Not to mention people who’ve listened to the older K601 and a mass amount of people preferring that over the K701. Also Headroom’s 50HZ  square wave response graph indicates differently about your ‘K701 has tighter bass’ argument. 

      • SoundEskimoo

        this article really outdated, since AKG make fixes with K702 and smooth bassy Quincy Jones Q701.
        I hope you write them down to enrich headfonia content, Mike.
        kudos for your K550 articles, you had good impressions K700-derivative sound signatures

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          Thanks, man. I will try to do an update.

          • SoundEskimoo

            You’re welcome Mike. Really enjoyed reading headfonia articles

    • AKG user

      AKGs have “tight bass”? Try NO BASS.

  • Zuqi

    Hi Mike, happy Chinese new year!
    I have two questions:
    1. my set up is an ipod classic and I will buy a relatively powerful PORTABLE amp in future (now waiting for pico power amp to release :<), which headphone of the three shall I go for? For classical music only.
    2. If I go for byer 880, based on my set up, which impedance shall I choose? 32,250 or 600?
    Regards

    • Anonymous

      Hi Zuqi,
      If you’re going to listen to classical music, I think all three of them are good. Personally my favorite for classical is the HD650as it is the only one that can give a good impact on symphonies.

      The ALO Rx should be a good companion for classical as well.

      • Zuqi

        Thanks Mike

    • Anonymous

      If you go with the Beyer, go with the 600 ohms version.

  • Van

    I have got 2 questions.
    1 Which has the best mid?
    I am deciding between HD650 and K701 here

    2 About K701 bass. People seem to said they don’t have any impact. Is that true?
    Not any impact at all? Or just less than other phone? Say I am coming from MS-1 (non i)

    Thank you for the review

    • Anonymous

      The K701 and the HD650 has good mids, both in their own way. The K701 is
      smooth but a little texture-less. The HD650 is thicker and darker.

      About the bass, the K701 has quite a weak impact. Perhaps more or less
      on a similar level of the MS-1.

      • Van

        Thanks a lot :D

  • Bendoran

    I have to disagree completely with the part of the review focusing on the Beyerdynamic DT 880 600 ohm. Your impressions couldn’t be farther from mine. I am very sensitive to harsh treble and clinical presentation in hifi, which sends me running at the speed of light. The DT880 are neither clinical nor hyper-detailed. The treble, while revealing, is just the sweetest I’ve ever heard, and I’ve heard lots of headphones (Grado, Alessandro, Audio Technica, AKG). All the Grados I’ve heard (< 325 ) sound grainy and cheap in comparison.
    The bass on my system is thick and layered and sounds absolutely gorgeous. The mids are recessed??? This must be a joke. I listen to jazz, classical, blues, fusion. These are just marvellous for all of these mid-heavy genres. It's great to have diversity of opinions and share points of view but this sounds a bit too much for me. Maybe you have a problem of synergy with your sources?

    • Anonymous

      Bendoran,
      I think the main differences you have in your impression is due to the
      recording you listen to. Most people agree that the Beyer monitoring
      line headphones have a bright treble and a thin mids. On the good jazz,
      classical, and blues recordings, it would not be as evident as it is on
      an average rock recording.

      • Bendoran

        But that is certainly not a fault with the headphones is it?

        If most people listen to hyper-compressed rock remasters (we all know of the so-called loudness war, sadly) or low-bitrate lossy files, how are the headphones to blame?

        I own several original vinyl pressings by AC/DC, Cream, Beck, Jimi Hendrix etc and I can assure you that there is no hint of brightness and “oversharpening”. Just a gorgeous balanced sound.

        Also the fact that “most people agree” on something gives no clue of the real quality of the headphones. Especially in this field, many people go on with the flow and build consensus about headphones they have never even owned. Eg I’ve heard so many times the mantra “grado headphones have no soundstage”. IMHO, the concept of soundstage as related to headphones is overrated. The difference between Grados and other headphones in this respect is not as big as the amount of posts on the subjects would lead us to believe. Having owned several Grados, if I hadn’t read about this supposed absence of soundstage, I would NOT have pinpointed it as one of the major faults of the product.

        Please apologies if this seems like a personal attack, it is not. I’m giving another opinion on a product that is being bashed for literally *nuances* in its sound signature when 99.999999% of the product is amazing. Also, I’m in no way affiliated with the brand neither I have any form of brand loyalty. I’ve owned Sennheisers before and liked them a lot. Also I use a pair of AKG K240 MKII in the office, which I find impressive when amped decently.

        • Anonymous

          Thanks for the thoughtful post, Bendoran.

          Yes it is certainly not a fault on the DT880 if they carry a signature
          like that. After all, they were made for monitoring — and that sound
          signature really makes sense for monitoring.

          I understand if you are totally happy with the DT880. But when I said
          that “most people agree”, I am not referring to the internet circle. We
          have a lot of headphone meets here in Indonesia, at least one meet in
          one week where I live, and so we do have quite a big group of headphone
          enthusiasts. Even among the Beyer owners, no body ever argues that the
          DT880 is bright and is lacking midrange body. That’s just the way the
          DT880 are relative to the other headphones on the market. Again words
          like “bright” is not a “fault”, but I still need to come up with
          descriptive adjective to properly describe the sound characteristics. In
          the same way the word “dark” is properly applied to the Sennheiser
          HD650, and it is not meant to be a negative comment either.

          Now, you happen to be listening to vinyl, which everyone knows, excel in
          mids body (especially in comparison to the digital sources), and you’re
          also listening to the classic Rock recordings which are more laid back
          in the treble and also quite full in the mids. That combination would
          sound quite good I suppose — and that is why you are saying that the
          sound is “gorgeous and balanced”.

          Everyone who writes to me, being satisfied with their rig, always blames
          me for using one kind of an adjective while to their ears the only
          adjective I should use for their headphone is “neutral” or “warm”. The
          other day another reader writes about the Audez’e LCD-2 which is a polar
          opposite in character to your Beyer (LCD-2 is dark), and he claims that
          the LCD-2 is “what real music sounds like” (or something along those
          lines). With the right recording, source, and amp, any good headphone
          would sound “neutral”, “natural”, or “what real music sounds like”. But
          if I limit myself to those pleasing words, then my reviews certainly
          wouldn’t be too informative to the other readers who’s looking for a
          recommendation.

          I hope you’re getting the general picture here.

          Regards

  • http://www.facebook.com/hahariz Hariz Razali

    Greetings.

    I am new to the audiophile territory. Currently owning SR60i and have set on getting a DT880/250 Pro soon. What is your opinion on pairing the cans with E7 and E9 combo setup?

    I would spend a little bit more on the dac/amp but I’m in a somewhat tight budget.

    • Anonymous

      I think it would make a decent entry level set up.

      • http://www.facebook.com/hahariz Hariz Razali

        Thanks for your opinion. :)

        • Anonymous

          Well, that’s not too much of an opinion isn’t it?

          You can also look into the Audinst HUD MX-1.
          http://www.headfonia.com/audinst-hud-mx1-dac/

          And the Tiny Tube:
          http://www.headfonia.com/uber-muzik-tiny-tube-dac/

          All three are good entry level pairings for the SR-60i and DT880.

          • http://www.facebook.com/hahariz Hariz Razali

            Awesome. Now that you mention it, I’m a person who really like to listen to the vocals (I assume this is in the mid range?). I don’t really mind the harsh treble as I’m used with the Grado sound and liking it.

            Now, hopefully my local store could bring them in.

            • Anonymous

              Mmm…. perhaps you will like the Tiny Tube better.

              The Audinst’s vocal isn’t that forward.

              • http://www.facebook.com/hahariz Hariz Razali

                Just wondering, what do you think of GoVibe Peak amp? Any experience with said amp?

                • Anonymous

                  I noticed it is the new amp from Govibe, but I haven’t had the chance to listen to it.

        • Anonymous

          Actually,
          Come to think about it again, I think I’d probaby go for the Audinst given the DT880 and the SR60 headphones. The synergy is *probably* going to be better than the Tiny Tube and the E9+E7.

          The DT880 in my opinion needs a boost in the mids and slightly more body on the lows. The SR60 can also use the same lower mid, and bass body boost.
          Both headphones are bright, so the relaxed treble of the Audinst would also pair fairly well.

          In short comparison, the E7+E9 is relatively laid back in the mids.
          The Tiny Tube has nice mids, but the treble isn’t as relaxed as the Audinst, and bass body isn’t as much as the Audinst.

          Hope that makes sense.

          Cheers.

  • oboeguy

    Hey Mike,

    I’m also new to all of this, somewhat, but I was wondering what your recommendation would be for a DAC/amp set up (regardless of portability) for the K701′s at ~$250 or less, especially for classical instrumental coming out of a Mac?

  • http://www.facebook.com/hahariz Hariz Razali

    Hello Mike, It’s me again.

    I’ve recently purchased DT880/250 with GoVibe Peak amp and currently listening to it. Man, it’s a whole new experience from my Grado SR60i though I somehow miss the Grado signature sound. I just want to say that you really helped me on deciding this purchase. Thank you.

    • Anonymous

      Glad you’re enjoying it, Razali.

      How is the Govibe Peak?

      • http://www.facebook.com/hahariz Hariz Razali

        Since this is my first amp and an audiophile tier headphone, I really can’t tell. Tested it with my Grado, I noticed the bass has been improved and the treble is not as harsh as it was.

        Now all I need is probably a DAC or a soundcard. :D

        • Anonymous

          Improved bass and better treble sounds good. :)

          Try the Tiny Tube DAC or the Audinst HUD MX-1. Should pair well with the
          Grado or the Beyer.

          http://www.headfonia.com/uber-muzik-tiny-tube-dac/

          http://www.headfonia.com/audinst-hud-mx1-dac/

          • http://www.facebook.com/hahariz Hariz Razali

            I should note that the bass improvement is very little but this is with the bass switch off (located at the back of the amp).

            I have also recently got a hold of one of the guys working with Audiohub, might be getting one of those Tiny Tubes from them soon.

            • Anonymous

              Yes, the Tiny Tube is good. :)

  • Sean

    Thanks for a very indepth review of these 3 classic cans. I too actually own all these 3 cans, the DT880 (2003 older version), HD650 and the K701. I concur with your findings, K701 is the hardest to recommend. My favourite headphone ranges from HD650 for Jazz and vocals and the DT880 for Classical.

    Just a note wrt a good amp for the DT880, I find that the Meier Audio amps pair very well with the DT880. Meier Audio amps tend to be warmer amps (when paired with the K701, the sounds is way too warm – to the point of being dull), and when paired with the DT880, tames the DT880 treble. Also, I find that the DT880 do have very deep, very accurate and surprisingly very impactful bass when amplified properly (I run mine with the older Meier Audio Corda Aria amp). Try the DT880 with a Meier Audio amp if you are able to and let me know your thoughts!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Sean,
      I have listened to the 2003 version of the DT880 and find it warmer and
      different sounding than the newer DT880s (the one in the picture).

      As for the Meier amplifiers, I heard that the older models like the Aria
      amps are warmer sounding. But I believe the newer Meier amps are dryer
      and more articulate like on the Concerto and the Stepdance (portable).

  • Onecolorist

    Hi Mike. I wanted to see if you had the JH-3A on order. I would be very interested in hearing your impressions! Thanks, Jeremy

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jeremy,
      Unfortunately no. No JH-3As for us.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jeremy,
      Unfortunately no. No JH-3As for us.

      • Onecolorist

        Will you be? Have you heard about it? I know there is often hype about a new product but, this one may be warranted.

        • Anonymous

          Yea, I think the JH3A is going to be awesome. It’s just that JH Audio told me there are not going to be any sample units for it, and the price tag is a bit steep for me.

          I know you’re not going to have any problem finding impressions on it on Head-Fi though.

          • Onecolorist

            Thats to bad. While I know I will find other impressions, I have grown to trust your ear! I think you provide the most balanced, detailed and unvarnished reviews on the web. I would donate to a fund to get you one! Thanks for responding.

            • Anonymous

              Oh, that’s very nice of you man. Well, who knows, maybe we can get lucky.

  • Donunus

    Just read this review again and I noticed you included the he6 as one of the headphones that tend towards the dark side. What do you mean by that? The he6 is bright as hell LOL

    • Anonymous

      Donunus,
      I must be drunk when I typed that.

      Thanks for the correction man.

      • Donunus

        LOL Ok Maybe you were thinking of LCD2s hehehe

        • Anonymous

          That’s it! It shouldve been the LCD-2.

  • Vieri_interfc

    Mike, ive just bought the dt880/600 Pro. Why it doesnt look the same as your pictures above. My 880 doesnt have the plate on the housing. It is just a spray written dt 880 pro. As well the box was written 250 ohm. But there’s a sticker written 600 ohm. And in the jack there was written 600 ohm.

    • Vieri_interfc

      And also the housing (cup) hanger on my880 is black, while yours is light grey.

      • guest

        Vieri: indeed, you have the pro model whereas the pictures are of the consumer model.

    • Anonymous

      HI Vieri,
      I believe yours is the DT880 PRO, while mine is the DT880 PREMIUM.

       

  • Anonymous

    Hi Mike,
    What is the best set-up for HD650? Thanks for ur recomendation.

    • Anonymous

      Budget?

      • Anonymous

        500 bucks for Amp, for sources..I have laptop Toshiba portege,iphone 3 GS,BB Bold, LG-T35 wireless,sony dvd player. Do I need  another good sources….???If yes, I have another budget about 300 bucks, but I prefer  a portable one. Thanks Mike.

  • http://twitter.com/SoundEskimoo Eskimoo

    hi Mike,

    im agreed with you about HD650. This headphone is magnificent , scaling so good with more expensive setup. if you got upto 2000$ budget, at least should buy one in our life. 
    altough many disagreed and said K701 better than HD650, especially in instrumental/classical genres, which usually AKG shines.
    everybody ears not built the same, right?

    Beyerdynamic? only for treble-lover ears. 
    how DT900 scales with those threes? especially DT880 focused heavily on monitoring, dry sounding.

    i think K701 from practical standpoint successfully shrinking hard-to-drive K1000 to K701. that’s a technological achievement , you know.
    People said that K701 “is easy to listen” version of K1000. more bodied bass, more warm, less edgy treble, smoother, have pin point accuracy.
    AKG play safe with its own way, compared to those two, definitely quite cheap setup you can buy for a hifi audiophile setup.

    • Anonymous

      Yes, thanks Eskimoo.

      • Anonymous

        how dt900 scales with those threes? just wondering.

        • Anonymous

          DT900? Never heard of it Eskimoo.

          • Anonymous

            lack information about it.
            okay . thanks

          • Anonymous

            Yea I think it is one of the newer Beyerdynamic headphones but if I’m not mistaken it’s positioned lower than the DT880-990 models? 

            Anyway Lieven in Belgium just received the new T70 headphone and he’ll be writing a review for us. 

          • Anonymous

            disqus dashboard didn’t show your message below this. i missed your comment.

            between DT770 (closed), DT880 (semiopen) and DT990 (full open), isnt the DT990 is the highest one? seems on the same league of K701 HD650.

            T70 the T1 tesla derivative? wow!

            • Anonymous

              Yes by the numbering the DT990 is the highest, but normally people don’t regard the DT990 as being higher up than the DT880 or even DT770. For these beyers I tend to think that they’re just open/semi/closed variations of the same basic design, whereas on the AKG and Senn line up, it is much clearer which model is the higher up headphone.

          • Anonymous

            ups! DT990, not DT900.

            so on the same basic design, beyerdynamic Full-open cans not quite on same ballpark as sennheiser and AKG? both their top-of the line based on FULL-OPEN design.

            • Anonymous

              No no no that’s not what I’m saying.

              What I’m saying is that the DT770-880-990 are roughly similar sounding headphones all with one Beyer house sound, similar technicalities, only different in closed/semi/open back housing — which alters the sound a little from one to the next.
              Whereas say with AKG K501-601-701, or Senn 558-598-600-650 the differences are more distinct, both in sound signature and technicalities.

              • Anonymous

                oh, i got it. on beyerdynamic the signature not big enough between series.

                so semi-open DT880 favorable than Full-open DT990?
                i thought, full-open cans always the state of the art than semi-open cans?

  • Jonnyhambone

    Thanks for the great review. I’ve been close to getting the 880′s (600 ohm model) but haven’t been able to test run yet. I have a pair of Grado HF-1′s that I love the sound of and a Woo Audio 6SE tube amp. I listen to everything but a good amount of aggressive rock/punk/metal – think the 880 sounds like a good match? Thanks again!

    • Anonymous

      Can you look elsewhere other than the DT880s? I think it would be too bright for rock/punk/metal recording. Though the detail, speed, articulation would be perfect.

      • Jonnyhambone

        The common description of them as bright and the treble-happiness has been what’s stopped my purchase so far.  I had thought maybe the warmth and mellowness of my tube amp would make the dt880′s just right, but of course, can’t say without hearing.  Any other recs. for under $500?!  thanks for your response!

        • Anonymous

          How is that HF-1 sounding to you for your music now?

          • Jonnyhambone

            well the Grado’s tend towards bright too I hear, but the HF-1′s don’t seem overly so to me.  I had a silver ALO cable for my last portable amp and that really brought out the bright in the Grados.  The Woo dials that back a lot and has made the HF-1′s sound really good to me.  Some music – acoustic guitar-based stuff esp. – is still a bit sharp.  I don’t have comparison headphone re: the limited soundstage that many report with the HF-1′s – I think a bit more instrument separation would be a good thing for me – but I do like the sound overall. 
            The Woo, as you note, isn’t super mellow, but it ‘holds down’ the recordings for me…maybe that’s an indication that I’d like less bright treble?  The Woo really tames the the sharper corners of the music I play through my Grados and warms it all up nicely.  I’m not very good at describing this but hopefully it makes some sense to you.
             

            • Anonymous

              Yes that sounds like a fairly accurate description of the HF-1. And the HF-1 is a bit mellower unlike typical SR-60 to RS-1 line up Grado. One question I would ask though, isn’t the HF-1 a little too slow (in terms of pace and attack) for those metal tracks?
              Now a $300 for metal and punk and rock. That’s actually very good to get. You want more soundstage, but what a wider soundstage does is that it actually diffuses the energy on fast-paced Rock and Metal music. Hence I think it’s good to stick to relatively small soundstage for those music.
              You can upgrade to the SR-series Grados like the SR325 and that’ll give you a little better soundstage but also more treble. So yes, maybe not the best choice. I want to recommend you the Sennheiser HD25-1 it’s a closed headphone and not quite Reference class territory like the Trio in this review. But sound signature wise it has been very popular to my friends who listens to Rock and Metal.

        • Anonymous

          Oh and the WA6SE is not quite the mellow sounding tube kind. It’s very smooth, but the pace is still relatively quick and clear.

  • Reticuli

    Odd.  Other than deep bass extension, the Q701 tests better than the other two (or 4 if you include the K version) and similar in bass extension to even the 650 but with better control.  I wonder if the soundstaging issue is the result of it being the most accurate, as headphones should theoretically be paired with a crossfeed circuit or DSP.  The lack of microdynamics could also be the result of being run with non-zero-ohm headphone amp.  The AKG should need well under 5 ohms and a massive draw of current to run correctly.  I’d also be interested in how the ESP950 stock sounds in relation to these, but that’s for purely selfish reasons ;-)  Still, I know the Ortofon O-One also has a slight lack of center imaging and has those S-Logic baffles.  Maybe the driver angle on the AKG is contributing to that.

    • Anonymous

      As it is in any scientific field, test results don’t always agree to what is actually observed in the field. In that case we need to go back and evaluate both the test results and the field observation, and even try to explain the logic behind the discrepancy.

  • Jake

    Mike, thanks for the great review.  I have the DT880/600′s and like them a lot.  But eventually I’d like to purchase another full size set of phones to complement them (for different music/mood).  (I also have TripleFi 10 and ER-4P IEMs, but I use those on the go).

    For budget in the $300 range, is the HD650 a solid bet?  I’d prefer not to get something too close in character to the DT880′s.

    I have the HiFiMan EF-5, an Audio-GD NFB-12, and soon a Bottlehead Crack w/Speedball – would any of those do justice to the HD650 or do I need to spend more?

  • CR

    Get the HD650, Can’t go wrong with them.  If not, you would second guess yourself and eventually wish you had bought the HD650.  I just got mine yesterday, brand new from auth dealer for <$300.

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  • Cartel535

    Mike, I have a DT880, the 600Ohm model. I’m actually using a FiiO E9 + E7 for his amplification. And I started to ask myself if a tube amp would be better, my budget is aroud U$200,00, and I will still be using the E7 as a DAC.

    So my question is: I will get a better perfomance with tube amps? The difference will be this big?

    • Anonymous

      I think a $200 tube amp would mostly work to change the sound signature to a warmer, smoother and fuller mids sound for the DT880. If that’s the sort of sound that you are looking for, then I’d say go for it. But I am not sure if there is a good $200 tube amp.

      • Cartel535

        My sound signature now is, very very bright, you tested the FiiO by yourself I think you know what I mean. More mids and a smoother sound for the DT880 its perfect for me.

        For the amp, I was thinking in a little dot mkIII, or something like that. What do you think?

    • Jake

      Bottlehead Crack (OTL tube amp) sounds great with my DT880/600′s and cost about $230 shipped, but it’s DIY.  Not very difficult to build.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, Jake.
        I’ve heard good things about the Bottlehead Crack.

    • borizm

      FiiO E7 + E9 is not an audiophile equipment (I have it and it getting dust) – everything else will be better, especially any good multibit DAC without opamps + simple A-Class buffer.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, Borizm. It makes a good entry level set up.

      • Karl Leung

        Eh no. I’m an audiophile but really, learn your science. Fiio E7 + Fiio E9 is a very good starting combo. Stop drinking the Head-fi source sub-forum Kool-Aid. Head-fi is fine and great for in0ears and headphones but for sources etc… oh gees, it’s a sorry state. There is a darker side to Head-fi people. DW, I used to frequent there but yeah, the darker side got to me. Lookup ‘NWAVGuy’ in Google and read.

    • Anonymous

      It would depend on which amp. Any good candidates for $200?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347080445 Jackson Taylor

    Mike, on the tube amp topic for the DT880s, the Darkvoice 337 is said to pair well with them, since it was made around them. I have the 650s with it and I do find them boring, and I am not enough of an audiophile to understand what slow/fast mean, but I just don’t feel the music. I am using a portable amp as a DAC over USB and I just ordered a PS Audio DLIII so hopefully that clears things up with the combo, since it shouldn’t be the amp because it is such a premium high end amp, the DV337. If that doesn’t fix it up, then I’ll order some DT880/600s and see how that goes. PM me on Head-Fi as jtaylor991 if you would like. Do you have an account there?

    • http://twitter.com/Lieven_V Lieven V

      Hi Jackson, let’s keep it on Headfonia ok? ;)

      I have a Lafigaro 339, which you probably know is related to the 337 from Darkvoice (if you don’t I’ll explain) and the HD650 sounds gorgeous on this amp, I haven’t heared any other amp make it sound this good. When friends come over they always pick the 339 as best amp for the Senns, it’s really great. So if you don’t think it sounds good then it probably is, like you say, a problem higher up your chain. So try with a dedicated DAC and see how that goes. Btw, I don’t like the 600ohm Beyers on the 339.

    • http://twitter.com/Lieven_V Lieven V

      Hi Jackson, let’s keep it on Headfonia ok? ;)

      I have a Lafigaro 339, which you probably know is related to the 337 from Darkvoice (if you don’t I’ll explain) and the HD650 sounds gorgeous on this amp, I haven’t heared any other amp make it sound this good. When friends come over they always pick the 339 as best amp for the Senns, it’s really great. So if you don’t think it sounds good then it probably is, like you say, a problem higher up your chain. So try with a dedicated DAC and see how that goes. Btw, I don’t like the 600ohm Beyers on the 339.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347080445 Jackson Taylor

        Yes I know of LaFigaro stemming from Darkvoice, so the 339 sounds like the version that came after mine (there is a DV337SE though). I won a PS Audio DLIII on ebay the other day for $500 and I hope I can pay soon so it can arrive soon and I can see what the 650s are really like. I don’t feel the music with the 650s out of the DV337 like I do my Beyer DT770 Pro 80ohm headphones, which seems impossible, but it’s true. I felt alive when listening through the beyers on the amp and I switched to the 650s and all I could comprehend was duuuuuullllllllllll -_-
        So yeah I hope I’m right as I’d like to keep this amp since it’s be impossible to sell without a loss higher than I’d like, unfortunately.

        • http://twitter.com/Lieven_V Lieven V

          Maybe the lush Senn sound just isn’t for you. The Senns and the Beyers are very different , yet very complementary. I don’t think your issue is amp related :)

          • Anonymous

            Yes I think it’s more of a headphone issue, rather than the amp.

          • Anonymous

            Yes I think it’s more of a headphone issue, rather than the amp.

        • http://twitter.com/Lieven_V Lieven V

          Maybe the lush Senn sound just isn’t for you. The Senns and the Beyers are very different , yet very complementary. I don’t think your issue is amp related :)

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347080445 Jackson Taylor

        Yes I know of LaFigaro stemming from Darkvoice, so the 339 sounds like the version that came after mine (there is a DV337SE though). I won a PS Audio DLIII on ebay the other day for $500 and I hope I can pay soon so it can arrive soon and I can see what the 650s are really like. I don’t feel the music with the 650s out of the DV337 like I do my Beyer DT770 Pro 80ohm headphones, which seems impossible, but it’s true. I felt alive when listening through the beyers on the amp and I switched to the 650s and all I could comprehend was duuuuuullllllllllll -_-
        So yeah I hope I’m right as I’d like to keep this amp since it’s be impossible to sell without a loss higher than I’d like, unfortunately.

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, L.

        Jackson I was going to refer your question to Lieven since I know he has the Lafigaro and the Beyer DT990 (which is very close to the DT880 in sound).

      • Anonymous

        Thanks, L.

        Jackson I was going to refer your question to Lieven since I know he has the Lafigaro and the Beyer DT990 (which is very close to the DT880 in sound).

  • Guest

    Old school already? I thought they are all pretty recent.
    Regarding monitoring purpose, I am not a audio pro myself but I did some researching for a recording purpose headphone. From what I read it seems that any high end headphone is equally recommended. For example just look at amazon, any of the three is highly popular. Much more crucial is the operator ability to ‘translate’ or gauge how the music will sound in other system from the sound of the headphone.
    About the car analogy, I tend to disagree as difference type of car have difference purpose, think of IEM, noise cancelling, closed monitor, wireless, high end, and such. For me I like to compare it with beverage. There is sweet, sour, hot, cold, soft, hard, juicy, creamy. Different taste for different occasion.

    For the last note, I don’t think your first page is written really well. There is a lot of questionable statement. What do you base it from? Internet exposure?

  • Ed

    Hi Mike
    Do you have any experience with the AKG Quincy Jones Q701?
    Some say its a rabadged K701, some say its an improved K702 some say its something totally different. Which of these argument is true?
    There is no review of this model on the website so could you review one please.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Ed,
      I have no experience with the Q701s. If I were to make a guess it’s probably some variations in the age of the pads, variations in manufacturing that leads to slightly different sound. I don’t think AKG designed a new driver for the Q701.
      Here is what I wrote a while ago that may help to explain the differences: http://www.headfonia.com/test-burn-in-and-production-variations/

      • Ed

        Thanks.

  • Jano Lisboa

    Hi, I’m trying to put together a home studio.
    I’m a classical musician that works in the Munich Chamber Orchestra and also have a piano quartet. The problem is that I’m also currently working on a rock project of mine and I’m recording a cd soon.
    I need some very good headphones to work at home at night. This headphones need to work well with the classical recordings I edit from my chamber music festival and other concerts and also for my rock project (kind of Nine Inche Nails-Muse-Radiohead-Queens of the Stone Age).
    I’m thinking of buying as audio interface either the Apogee duet 2 or the RME Babyface , and the speakers Adam A7X.

    The headphones will be for me to take them to the venues I record the classical performances and for home use when it’s too late to use the speakers.

    I also have the old HD25′s, Shure SE530 and recently bought the new version of the triple driver earphones Earsonics SM3-v2. 

    What do you suggest as the best headphone option for me? Are those audio interfaces good enough for them? Do I need something better? (the classical recordings are not intended for comercial release but the rock project will be – although I will go to a proper studio to record the guitars, drums and voices and send it to Abbey Road Studios for mastering)

    Thank you and excuse my long message! Cheers!

  • swede92

    Hi Mike sorry I have comment here before, but I am confused now I want a closed headphone and I been looking between the Beyers Dt880 and Denon ah-d2000 both cost the same here in sweden. I have the denon ah-d1100 and they are ok and little  bassy I wish it was lesser bassy, I supposed the d2000 will be bassy to. Do you think the Dt880 performs well with  music like progressiv rock like Pink Floyd, Porcupine Tree I lisent a bit to every genre like classical too but most different rock genre. Should I go with 250 ohm verision if I choose the dt880? Im not planning to buy a very high end amp but I think I might buy the Asus Xonar Essence One it is a DAC/headphone amp(not the stx soundcard) it cost 580$ well it is not so cheap but we have not so many options to chose amp/dac here and I rather buy here in sweden.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Chris,
      First of all the DT880 is not closed — it’s open back. ;)

      Now if you think that the D1100 is bassy, then the D2000 I’m not so sure it’ll be less bassy.
      Back to the recommendations, I think you should give the DT770 Beyer – 80 ohms a try. It’s a nice closed headphone with good bass, tighter than the D2000′s bass.

  • yakapo

    Mike, thanks for your review.  As a result of reading your article I purchased a pair of Q701′s.  Now, I’m in search of a headphone amp that will match well with the cans.  I listen to a wide variety of music – however my primary use for these specific headphones is live jazz.  

    Any specific recommendations?  If possible I’d like to get a usb/dac amp in one (unless you advise against it).  Also my budget is around $250.        

  • itineranti

    Hello Mike,

    I have thoroughly read your review, and although the AKGs are well critiziced, I happen to own a pair of K702s, and I’m not yet prepared to get rid of them and buy new a new pair of cans.

    I have been trying to read my way to the better Amp to drive them, capable of enough current and voltage to get the very best out of them.

    As far as I have been able to read and ask around, the Amp that keeps appearing in relation to the K702s, is the Burson HA-160. I don’t know If you could give me some advice here.

    I have also thought about the Centrance Dacport LX as a suitable DAC to pair with the Burson, using Centrance’s Reserve RCA interconnect cable, and taking advantage of Centrance’s superior DAC technology.

    My second option would go for Centrance’s Dacmini and get more DAC quality and versatility for the money, and obviously including the 1 Ohm mod that they offer.

    As usual, we head-fiers are faced with the problem of buying equipment that you can’t audition anywhere and taking a pretty big risk. It is of course not a great feeling to spend your money in such a blind way, and we are all thankful for good reviews and advice.

    I hope you can give a couple of good leads here, since among the reviewers I respect (NwAvGuy, Srajan Ebaen from 6moons and you), you are the only one I had not written to yet.

    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Best Regards,

    Camilo

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi,
      I think the saying that the K701, the DT880 and the HD650 are hard to drive are mostly a thing of the past. Back then it was difficult to find an amp that has enough voltage and current to drive these headphones, but I think now the majority of amplifiers released in the market should have more than enough to drive any of the three.
      The question right now is how you find the K702 to be? What areas do you think it lacks? What amplifier are you using now to drive it?

      • itineranti

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for your quick answer. Right now I’m doing a pretty lousy job driving the K702s with a FiiO E7. It works great with my Grados and Ultrasones, but the K702 demands far more muscle than the USB powered E7 has to offer.

        As you well put it, there are several Amps out there that could pretty much do the job. The question is which Amp can do it best, and of course within my budget ;-). In my case, I don’t want to spend more than $1650 on a headphone rig, and yet get the best sound possible for the kind of music I listen to.

        My preferences are acoustic Jazz and improvised music, and the line-ups of my CDs and 24Bit audio files, rarely surpass 6 musicians. I’m looking for a wide soundstage, lots of detail and rich tonalities.

        I believe the K702 is a great buy for the money, and I thought that either the Burson HA-160 paired with a Dacport LX, or the Dacmini alone would be the best options for the money.

        As I told you, I don’t have the possibility to listen to any of the components nor a combination of them, so I thought asking the experts, who have not only tried but thoroughly reviewed the products would be a good shot at my dilemma.

        I am of course open to suggestions and other ideas, but I would love to hear your opinion regarding these possible combinations.

        Thanks again for your kind contribution

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          I think the Burson is better than the Dacmini if you are looking for a rich tonal and a more analog sound. But both are good amps I believe. You can also look at Woo Audio WA6.

  • itineranti

    Hi Mike,

    Thanks again for your answer regarding the Amps.
    One last question: Do you think pairing the Burson HA-160 with the Dacport LX would be a good idea?

    THX

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      I would lean more toward the HA-160D or DS. Reason: better synergy between DAC and amp section.

  • itineranti

    Hi again Mike,

    Thanks for your answer regarding the Amps.
    One last question; do you think pairing the Burson HA-160 with Dacport LX is a good idea?

    THX