The Dark Sennheiser HD650: All For The Music

senn_hd650_story_04

Editor’s Note: An HD650 review? Don’t we have one already? One of the reason for this newer review is because I noticed that the Sennheiser HD650 actually increased in popularity these past year, despite its age. In contrast, not too many people talk about the K701 and the DT880 that much anymore (the three were considered rivals in the old days). The other reason is to share the story from a common enthusiast’s point of view: Dave, who started like many of you, looking for a pair of good headphones to enjoy his music. Especially noteworthy is the talk on HD650 budget amplifiers on the second half of the review.

 

(a special thanks to Josh, Kate and Jacob for their input and help)
EPISODE I: THE DARK TIMES

It was over a year ago when I made a decision. I wanted a nice pair of headphones with which to listen to my music. My lowly iPod ear buds just weren’t cutting it; and I always found headphones more comfortable anyway. I wanted something that would do justice to the music of Beethoven, and Shostakovich and Bach I was so fond of. So, it was off to do research to find what pair of headphones would suit me best.

Now, I am sure there are others with the same affliction I have. You can read ninety-nine glowing reviews of something and have decided that is what you will get. But the second you see that ONE negative review, your whole plan is sent into a top spin. Needless to say, it was a difficult search. I will spare you, gentle reader, the gory details, but after lots of looking, browsing, reading, crying, worrying, circling, screaming and drinking, I decided I would get a Sennheiser HD280 and a Fiio e6. The only obstacle in my way at this point was my wife, who scoffed (SCOFFED!) at the idea of spending a hundred dollars on a pair of headphones. So, being a man of modest means (with a family that might take it personally if there was no food on the table because of the headphones on my head); I would need to save the money, myself. Incidentally, my wife can occasionally be heard muttering, as she cries herself to sleep, “if only I had let him get those one-hundred dollar headphones…”

 

EPISODE II: BASS IMPACT

Headfonia has had a large impact in how I listen to music, not just with what audio gear I use, but how I actually perceive music, and I am not just saying this because I bribed them into letting me write this review. See, up to this point, I never considered the importance of bass impact in music, particularly the classical music that I hold dear. So, when I saw a headphone (like the afore mentioned HD280) described as being weak in the bass department, I didn’t think that would be a big deal for me. This is why I found it funny when, after discovering Headfonia and starting to read the reviews, questions and answers lying within, Mike would refer to a pair of headphones as not having enough bass impact for classical music. I like bass with rock, or rap, but with a violin concerto? I didn’t get what Mike was talking about, so I kind of ignored his advice on the topic because we clearly were looking for two different things.

Then came the day when I took my sister to the Minnesota Orchestra for her birthday. After a wonderful performance of Stravinsky’s Symphony in Three Movements, and a very disappointing rendition of Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1, the concert came to a close with a PHENOMENAL performance of Rachmaninov’s Symphonic Dances. As the Dances ended with a thunderstorm of timpani and the audience shot to their feet, I had a realization: it was the bass that pulled you into the piece. Without that thunderous impact, the excitement of the music would have been lost. This completely changed how I looked at classical music.

 

EPISODE III: THE DARKER AGES

So needless to say, after that, I didn’t end up with the HD280. A little bit of saving, a tax refund and a wife in a good mood brought me my first “high end” headphone purchase. Based on a glowing review from another website, and a sale at Best Buy, I bought the Sennheiser HD518, and based on the glowing review here, I got a pair of Sennheiser HD202. I figured it would be nice to have a pair of cheap, beater headphones around, and the HD202 were only twenty dollars. I figured that setup would be good enough for me.
Something happened, however, that I didn’t expect. Despite the obvious superiority in technicalities, I found myself preferring the HD202 over the HD518 with almost every genre. It was the fuller midrange that did it, with nice low end-weight, and treble that never made me wince. It took me a few hours to get used to the sound of the HD202, it had a darker tonality than I was used to at the time, but once I did, I was in love. And this love stood the test of time. The mids on the HD518 were just too recessed. It couldn’t compete. Even when compared to the likes of the AKG K550, which is technically playing a whole other sport than the HD202 or HD518, I came back to the wonderful tonality of the HD202. I realized what this meant. If I wanted an upgrade, the only natural step for someone who loved the HD202 as I did is the legendary HD650. And then that day arrived…

 

senn_hd650_story_01

 

Continue to the next page…

The Dark Sennheiser HD650: All For The Music
3.32 (66.42%) 53 votes

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234 Comments

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    And no word on source equipment?

    • Reply March 16, 2013

      Mike

      That’s a good question, though I didn’t think that the source used would be too much of a big deal at this price level set up.

      • Reply March 16, 2013

        Dave Ulrich

        I actually did mention it. Second Page, “My set-up here consisted of a HP laptop running jRiver media Center, a
        Dacport LX (which I had gotten as a Christmas gift) and a JDSlabs cMoy.”

        • Reply March 18, 2013

          Mike

          And we all missed it, Dave!

          • Reply March 18, 2013

            Dave Ulrich

            I could SWEAR I had it in there! I didn’t make a huge point of it, because it wasn’t too important to this particular review. Plus, I was already running a bit long, and didn’t want to weigh it down with unnecessary exposition.

            • Reply March 18, 2013

              Mike

              Actually I remember reading that line in there, it’s just that when Rudolfs asked the question, I didn’t remember anything about it!

              #BrainNotFunctioning

    • Reply March 16, 2013

      L.

      True but I don’t think it is needed in the review, this is more of a “story” as an actual review. But maybe Dave can chime in on the source in the comments

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    George Lai

    Dang and I’m already so happy with my HD600.

    • Reply March 16, 2013

      Mike

      The 650 is about the bass, and if you think that you have enough bass, you should still try to audition the 650

      • Reply March 16, 2013

        George Lai

        I agree Mike except I listened to the HD700 today having read your review on it many many times and I’m in love! If you had to choose two of the three, 600/650/700, what would yours be?

        • Reply March 16, 2013

          Mike

          The H650 wins for the bass. It is just so addictive.

          The 700 is a great phone, much there technically, but it hasn’t quite reached the following the 650 has.

          I think you ought to give the 650 a try first.

          • Reply March 16, 2013

            George Lai

            There’s a HK website, gimmedigi.com, selling the 650 for USD371 with 2-year international warranty and free shipping to Singapore. Decisions decisions.

            • Reply March 16, 2013

              Nick Tam

              + 7% import GST -_-

              • Reply March 16, 2013

                George Lai

                Hi Nick, nice to hear from you again. You’ve been absent for a while from these pages. I believe you’re Singaporean. So is the Senn international warranty from this website real?

                • Reply March 16, 2013

                  Nick Tam

                  That I can’t know but honestly you don’t find fake high end Senns. I can’t guarantee you anything because I never bought any of my gear online so far, everything for me was purchased locally from retail stores in Hong Kong.

                  If you purchased online from Hong Kong however, you’d have to send it back for the warranty claim.

                  I’m technically from Hong Kong but yea…

                  • Reply March 16, 2013

                    George Lai

                    I guess you’re right regarding fakes. The pirates are more likely to target lower end Beats. What attracted me besides the price was the international warranty so there’d be no need to send it back to HK for warranty claims. Unless the warranty itself is fake.

                    • March 16, 2013

                      Nick Tam

                      Headphones, no. IE8 and IE80 fakes, loads of them all over the place.

                      And no, I don’t think you’d ever need the warranty anyways. My HD650 is now 2 years old and I don’t have any problems with it

              • Reply March 19, 2013

                George Lai

                Three days later and after receiving NO replies from Sennheiser HK (email and FB), as well as Sennheiser HQ in Germany (email and FB), regarding the authenticity of gimmedigi.com’s offerings, I still haven’t bought it. Great headphones, crap customer service.

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    L.

    Awesome piece Dave, but you already knew that as I keep mailing you that 🙂
    Also Mike, absolutely STUNNING pictures.

    Great job guys, I’m proud of you 😀

    Looking forward to reading more from you Dave

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Mike

      Great article, isn’t it.

  • […] The Dark Sennheiser HD650: All For The Music | Headfonia d(-_-)b Svar med sitat […]

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    dalethorn

    I guess they re-voiced the 650 somewhere. My 650 I bought when they first came out sounded exactly the same as my two 600’s except maybe 1 db different in the highs.

    • Reply March 16, 2013

      Nick Tam

      It was mentioned before that there were two versions of the HD650, the drivers easily distinguishable with their colors and the fact that the latter HD650 is far easier to drive

      • Reply March 16, 2013

        dalethorn

        I read that somewhere a long time ago, but had forgotten, because the last 100 or so references I’ve seen did not mention it, including this entire review and all of the comments. Do you think it should be mentioned when discussing “The HD650”, which in most people’s minds will mean that there’s only one version?

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Nick Tam

    And every HD650 review needs a spotlight for the Bottlehead Crack.

    To be honest, the Crack in stock form is indeed bang for the buck. But it is also very capable of mods and upgrades which makes it worthy of a more expensive amplifier than the Valhalla.

    Not to be mean on your wallet but…
    The HD650 needs good calibre aftermarket copper cables. Really.

    • Reply March 16, 2013

      EraserXIV

      What’s wrong with the new production Russian tubes? I just bought a new production Tung-Sol 12AU7 which is manufactured by the same company that makes the electro-harmonix tunes (New Sensor Corp). I had heard some good impressions about it around the Bottlehead forums and other audio forums.

      • Reply March 16, 2013

        Nick Tam

        Simply, I find the new production Russians not withstanding compared to those affordable vintage American ones.

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      John123John

      Weird, I always thought that the general consensus was that the HD650 needed a silver to get “rid of the veil”..

      • Reply March 18, 2013

        Nick Tam

        Silver never went well with the HD650 to begin with. I think it isn’t wrong to think that you should compensate the HD650’s treble rolloff with silver but that simply isn’t the case. The HD650 just needs good copper to bring out the best of its bass as the treble was not to main focus of its tuning to begin with.

        • Reply March 18, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          I never found the veil there to being with. I like the darker sound. There is good detail in the treble too, once you know how to hear it. Or I should say, once you are used to listening to it.

          • Reply March 19, 2013

            dalethorn

            I wonder if that depends on how much variation there is from sample to sample. For instance, looking at Innerfidelity’s test of the 650, look at the huge disparity between left and right channels around 14 khz.

        • Reply March 18, 2013

          John123John

          wow definitely did not know that. I will keep that in mind for future cables.
          ouch wallet.

      • Reply March 18, 2013

        Mike

        For people who find the 650 too dark, silver can help. For people like me, I want copper with my 650.

      • Reply March 18, 2013

        L.

        I use a self made cable with Mogami 2893 star quad. Helped clear up the sound. I do however also like the stock cable, depends on my mood. and it’s not a world of difference either

        • Reply March 18, 2013

          Mike

          Silver Dragon is popular with local owners due to cost (you can buy in bulk and solder the wire yourself, or ask a local DIYer). Personally the Equinox cable I think is better than SD. The best I’ve tried is ALO’s silver plated copper, but hey they’re site sponsors so it’s not easy for me to talk about ALO cables.

          • Reply March 18, 2013

            Dave Ulrich

            If I’m not mistaken though, if you don’t like the sound of the headphone, no amount of re-cabling will change your mind.

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Albert Broman

    Years I built a Bottlehead Foreplay amp that uses 12AU7. Went hunting for the ideal and ended up with a drawer full of 12AU7 tubes. What I am saying is that tube rolling is a hobby unto itself. You can get carried away and end up with a fair amount of money invested in tubes you don’t use, either because you no longer have kit that uses that type or have found your fave.
    A very good, affordable 12AU7 is the East German RFT. It seems to have a balanced response curve and an “open” sound. IMHO value for money. See, tube-rollers just can’t help offering opinions.

    • Reply March 16, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      You are right. And now I very much want to try that tube for itself.

    • Reply March 17, 2013

      Nick Tam

      From the choice of 12AU7s i can see as of now, the Tesla ECC802S is worth a try

  • Reply March 16, 2013

    Dave Ulrich

    And thanks Mike for the pictures. The ones I took were… less stunning, we will say.

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Mike

      You’re welcome, Dave. The pictures mean nothing without your writing. 🙂

  • Reply March 18, 2013

    Damián Bonadonna

    Great story!

    So, still there is no worthy successor? X1 maybe?

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Nick Tam

      Never will be. The HD650 has been tested with time, and nothing beats that addictive slamming bass, not even the HD700 and HD800 was able to replace the HD650 🙂

      • Reply March 19, 2013

        Damián Bonadonna

        Wow… I will try to audition it with my C421.. but I guess it will fall short to “unveil” it. I was thinking to buy an HE500 to complement the SRH1840… but you think and HD650 will make a better job? Again I have a C421 only :).

        • Reply March 19, 2013

          Mike

          Don’t we all love talking about the 650

        • Reply March 19, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          I actually thought the HD650 paired nicely with the C421. A little more clear than with the cMoy and a noticeably bigger sound-stage. And if I am not mistaken, the 1840 has a similar tonality to the HD650 except a little more refined, but loosing that bass impact (well, I’m out).

          • Reply March 19, 2013

            Mike

            Yes JDSLabs amps have always been great with the 600 and 650s.

            • Reply March 19, 2013

              Dave Ulrich

              Is that also a comment on the C5 with the HD650?

          • Reply March 19, 2013

            L.

            C421 + HD650 is my rig at work. It’s not the best for the HD650 but it does a pretty good job!

          • Reply March 23, 2013

            Damián Bonadonna

            So to complement the 1840, the HD650 would be better than HE400/500?

            • Reply March 23, 2013

              Dave Ulrich

              I haven’t heard the hifiman phones (yet), but I think they are the more different from the 1840. So if you are happy with the 1840 doing its thing, I would go for a hifiman next.

              • Reply March 23, 2013

                Mike

                That’s correct.

              • Reply March 24, 2013

                Damián Bonadonna

                Well it is really detailed I think, but not much bass slam there… I’ve just bought Sol Republic Amps HD (in-ear) and they really have the bass… I might want something in that style, non-fatiguing and more fun. Maybe the HE400 as is easier to amp than the HE500, although many people recommends the later. I would like a closed back for a change, the only one I have is a B&W P5, but who knows.. so many options :P. For now, as I’m moving around, cannot have a dedicated home setup.. so C421 + LX will be the source.

                HE400 then?

                • Reply March 25, 2013

                  Mike

                  So you want something with more bass slam and closed back?

                  • Reply March 25, 2013

                    Damián Bonadonna

                    I guess, so I can use them in the office as well… but I don’t want to lose clarity and mid-range for vocals. I listen mostly to Acoustics, Norah Jones, brit-pop, Coldplay, etc.. Not metal, not hard-rock, not much classical… problem is that I’ve never seen any Beyer in middle east.. and I cannot audition almost anything except Bose and Dr. Dre.

                    • March 26, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      I could use the new Bose AE2 in a pinch – the slanted drivers give it a spacious sound, bass is decent, mids are neither recessed or forward, and the treble is down about 3-4 db at 8 to 10 khz (down from ideal, not down from bright). I think some of the older AE2s might have sounded worse, based on freq. response charts I’ve seen. The treble isn’t perfectly smooth unfortunately, but still usable if not boosted much.

                    • March 26, 2013

                      Damián Bonadonna

                      I have the Q15, which I guess are better. I think I really want to try the planars. If not, maybe a Momentum or V-Moda M100… wanted the 3000ANV but they are quite expensive.

                    • March 27, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      I would suggest saving for the 3000ANV or a planar. You’ll probably find the M100 very bland (once you get past the bass emphasis), and the Momentum, while it’s pretty good, has an uneven treble that wears thin for serious listening.

                    • March 27, 2013

                      Mike

                      The 3000ANV, I think is a cans for someone who owns several high end headphones. It won’t do on its own if you’re looking for one high end cans.

                    • March 27, 2013

                      Damián Bonadonna

                      The SRH1840 can be considered high end? Or we are talking about 1000+ USD flagships?

                      Anyhow, I realized that when I listen most music is at work. At home, I don’t usually have a time as I’m jumping from doing one thing to another so I cannot be hook up to the computer. Or, when on a taxi.. or on the move. When on the move is much more practical to use IEMs, I found the Amps HD to be pretty good.. I only miss Shure Olives for comfort.

                      As open back are not for my type of office.. mmm… I was reading Tyll reviews, but it seems that what seems to be perfect for him (like the Momentum) have a lot of criticism in other sites.

                      Unfortunately I cannot try 99% of the headphones I want to buy, so I just buy for what I read :(. It is not about saving, is more about justifying what I buy. I could buy an HD800 + LCD3 +… but 1) I don’t have a place for a nice amp 2) I don’t think my music enjoyment will change radically 3) I don’t have a place for all the gear now.

                      After all these years of trying hundred of phones, which are your picks? I think the recommendation page is not updated, right?

                    • March 27, 2013

                      Mike

                      I was talking of the $1k flaghips

                    • March 27, 2013

                      dalethorn

                      I think the 1840 would be high end if it had a good bass response. The Momentum sounds good as a portable, but in home with a good system the treble is too uneven.

                • Reply March 25, 2013

                  L.

                  Bass + fun + Closed? -> Beyerdynamic Custom!

                  • Reply March 26, 2013

                    Damián Bonadonna

                    I read the review… but I do listen to Eddie Vedder 🙂 and I don’t want to miss the mids. As I listen to vocals mostly.. mids are very important.

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      The X1 is suppose to be awesome, but not quite the same. The HD650 seems to hold a special place in the hallowed halls of audiophilia.

      • Reply March 19, 2013

        Damián Bonadonna

        My only concern is the build quality.. chips in the painting I remember to have read. And well.. they don’t look too sexy :P.

        • Reply March 19, 2013

          Mike

          I think that problem is more common on the 600s.

          • Reply March 19, 2013

            L.

            My 650 started to chip 🙁 I think the 600 and 650 both will) I like the 650 , it’s the look of the 600 which is not so great with the blue

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Mike

      I would second what Dave said about the X1.

  • Reply March 18, 2013

    John123John

    Great Review Dave!
    This reminds me of my headphone/audiophile journey as I too ended up with the HD650 and Bottlehead Crack. Went through the M50, HD598, TF10, D2000, DT880, GR06 and HD600 (Still need to try the AKG 701 and SR325i) so it took me a little longer than you… haha
    I always knew that the HD650 was going to be my end game (for now) headphone but I guess that makes me subject to Confirmation Bias…

    Even after trying more “high end” headphones, I wouldn’t/couldn’t sell my HD650.

    You really just can’t get over that low end~

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Mike

      Excited to hear that, John! The low end is quite irreplaceable.

      And yes, even after all the high end gear, the HD650 still plays beautiful music for me.

  • Reply March 18, 2013

    Barun C

    Sennheiser had some great headphones back in the late 80s and 90s starting with the HD 560 Ovation and the HD 250 Linear II . Very competitive when compared to the 600/650s, few consider them better in every way especially considering the veil aspect of the 6xx series.

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Mike

      Sorry I have to disagree. They have more treble, yes. Detail, resolution, timbre, tonal, almost all aspect of technicalities however can’t compare to the 600/650.

      • Reply March 18, 2013

        Barun C

        Good for you, although there is a thing called perception. As I’ve stated there are a few who have this notion at head-fi including me. I have used all of these headphones with Class A 4W/channel and 5W/channel amps for more than 6 months now and in terms of tonality and timbre the 6XX series including the 580s do not come close. Except that the 560s have grainy highs. Yet to try the HD540 reference gold cans, have heard that the HD800 are a modified version of the 540s.

        The 250 Linear II is perhaps the best closed headphones ever made by Sennheiser . Their sound stage and imaging are commendable and deserves a look back from you guys at headfonia.

        In the 6XX series, the 600s sound more balanced to me compared to the 650s. 600s have a better overall representation, very smooth, neutral and moderately warm, 650s have a better resolution and bass but the highs are rolled off.

        People might agree or disagree but this is my take on the matter. Very well written article BTW, I always enjoy reading your articles.

        • Reply March 18, 2013

          dalethorn

          Tyll’s measurement of the 650 does show that rolloff pretty clearly, but that rolloff does seem to be a trend in a large part of the headphone community today (not sure about audiophile community).

  • Reply March 18, 2013

    yOnz

    I heard hd650 is a good match with bottlehead crack..but so far i do enjoy very much my hd650 with graham slee srg ii (+ centrance dac lx)..very nice sound !! I would say hd650 is headphone of all time 😉

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Nick Tam

      Have you not heard that the Crack is the word?

  • Reply March 18, 2013

    Ray Lucas

    Nice review Dave. The timing couldn’t have been better, as I just pulled the trigger a month ago on the HD650’s. I have been a long-time fan of big speakers, but after filling up every room of my house with gear, the next logical step was a pair of headphones. After reading and reading and reading (since it is hard to find Senn’s anywhere to audition), I went with the 650. The reason being, I read from a number of people that they sounded the most like speakers. That is what I was looking for and boy they don’t disappoint. I am running them off of my HK AVR-354 receiver’s headphone out and can’t wait to get a good amp behind them. With great brands like Schiit, Carey Audio, Woo, and for the DIY crowd the Bottlehead, I guess it is time to start researching my next purchase. In any case, thanks for sharing and cheers!

    • Reply March 18, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      For the money, I doubt you will be able to beat the Crack. Of course, I can’t claim to have heard all amps, but the 650/crack combo is very… well, you red my review.

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    ryan

    After reading this review, my H650 is out of the box after 2 months

    • Reply March 19, 2013

      dalethorn

      So how does it sound?

      • Reply March 19, 2013

        ryan

        Sounds great!
        HD650 is very special on its own warm and thick sound.

    • Reply March 19, 2013

      Mike

      Good to hear the review has a positive effect. 😉

      • Reply March 19, 2013

        ryan

        Even I don’t listen to it very often, I will keep and not sell it off just for the sake ‘I still own a HD650’

        • Reply March 19, 2013

          L.

          Why don’t you use it regularly?

          • Reply March 19, 2013

            Mike

            He probably has better headphones, and is not a blind 650 fan boy 😉

            • Reply March 19, 2013

              Nick Tam

              Blame it all on the DT770AE xP

              • Reply March 19, 2013

                ryan

                i blame T1 and HD800 now…hehehe

                • Reply March 19, 2013

                  L.

                  I have “better” ones too, yet I still use the HD650 too :p

          • Reply March 19, 2013

            ryan

            Well, I have better ones 🙂

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    foodiddly

    Y’all really need a copy editor.

    • Reply March 19, 2013

      Mike

      Thank you!

      • Reply March 19, 2013

        L.

        Thank you? Isn’t he criticizing us? 😉

        • Reply March 19, 2013

          Mike

          Well he’s probably right.

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    noname

    In my experience HD650 plays best with O2+ODAC. It’s very good in absolute terms, but a real killer in price/performance.

    • Reply March 20, 2013

      Isaiah Mackler

      I had bass distortion with that combo. It can be alleviated if you use a upgraded power source. I thought my HD650 was broke. Something about the output impedance of the ODAC… I didn’t have that problem with the line out of my Ipod Classic and O2

    • Reply April 3, 2013

      Ashneel Parahoo

      I thought that too..but after auditioning some OTL amps: Crack/Woo WA3, the 02 seemed a little lifeless for the HD650. For the price though, you can’t get any better. I still use the ODAC with my Crack

  • Reply March 19, 2013

    ryan

    Fostex HP-A8 with HD650 – Cool!!!

  • Reply March 21, 2013

    Mike

    I realize you all are having a lot of fun with this article, but I gotta move on and make room for new articles that are to come.

    You HD650 fanboys are free to continue the discussion here on this thread, but the article will not be at the top spot anymore. No offense, okay? 😉

    I should make a dedicated area for the HD650 on this website because we’re looking more and more like a HD650 cult website.

    Luckily we had that Beyer to save us from being branded Sennheiser fanboys. Right, L? 😉

    • Reply March 22, 2013

      George Lai

      Agreed. Picked up the DT770 LE for US$230 last week. But that doesn’t mean I still won’t eye an HD650. Soon. Very soon.

      • Reply March 22, 2013

        Mike

        Yeah and in the mean time I’m telling 650 owners to upgrade to the TH900. That’s what friends are for, after all.

        • Reply March 22, 2013

          George Lai

          Mike, I like to have a self imposed limit of around USD500 for my headphones for the simple reason that if I had say a TH900, I’d be tempted to use it the most and neglect my other loved ones. Variety is the spice of life.

          • Reply March 23, 2013

            Mike

            That’s the right way to go, George. Good for you if you can have that balance.

  • Reply March 22, 2013

    Andre

    Has anyone out there by any chance tried the HD650 with the Fiio e17/e9k stack or individually? I’m starting to notice particular cans don’t like that stack as much as others. My Denons and my a900x react completely different to the stack. The D5k’s work better with just the e17 and sound very basic with the stack while the a900x are amazing and actually sound better than the Denons with the stack. Wider better sound stage and mids are on a totally different level. So I was curious if anyone has had any experience with the pairing.

    Thanks

    • Reply March 22, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Mike said it was a decent pairing. Not great, but pretty good.

      • Reply March 22, 2013

        Mike

        Yeah the Fiio E17 is decent to pretty good for the 650. The E9K too, but when on the E9K I prefer the E7K.

  • Reply March 23, 2013

    Andrew Hulva

    Very nice review. Down to earth reviews pair nicely with the more experienced and technical ones on the site. I don’t know if you will, but I would love to read more of your writing. Two thumbs up!

    • Reply March 23, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      I will as long as they’ll have me.

      • Reply March 23, 2013

        L.

        I’m already looking forward to the next writeup!

  • Reply March 25, 2013

    A1_Dan

    Hi Mike, I have a pair of Senn IE80’s which I love, I’m looking for a pair of full size headphones with a similar sound signature. Would the HD650’s be what I’m looking for. I have a pair of Q701’s which are great but don’t seem to put me in the music like the IE80’s. Thanks

    • Reply March 25, 2013

      Mike

      Yes, go with the 650 if you enjoy the IE80. The signature is similar though the 650 is more laid back.

      • Reply March 26, 2013

        A1_Dan

        Thanks mike

  • Reply March 26, 2013

    Ashneel Parahoo

    Damn..I was about to get the Speedball. I am currently using the 6080 Stock. Should I take the tube rolling route instead? Doc loves the TS 5998/Mullard ECC82. Can someone advice me?

    • Reply March 26, 2013

      L.

      I could be wrong but maybe Dave’s opinion has been adjusted a little. I’m sure he’ll chime in later. I’d start with tube rolling first if you already have a crack. It’s more fun 🙂

      • Reply March 26, 2013

        Ashneel Parahoo

        Aye..tough call for me. What tubes are you using, and whats your take on speedball?

    • Reply March 26, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      Well, I loved the TS 5998/RCA cleartop with the stock kit. So, I reverted my kit to stock only to have my 5998 stop working, so I was unable to see if I still preferred the stock with those tubes. With my other tubes, I am finding myself definitely preferring it with the speedball. Of course, I am having issues reinstalling the speedball, but that is neither here nor there. In truth, I had only spent about a week with the speedball when I sent in my review. I might just have needed more time to get used to it. With the stock tubes, definitely the speedball.

      • Reply March 26, 2013

        Ashneel Parahoo

        Thanks..I think i’ll get the Speedball first. Sucks that the 5998 stopped working. I might also experiment with some cheaper RCA RCA 6AS7/RCA cleartops. $40 was the price for the 5998s some years back..>$80 nowadays for a NOS seems f**cked up

        • Reply March 26, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          I find the RCA 6as7 pairs well with the JJ ECC802S, provided you like a very warm sound.

      • Reply March 26, 2013

        Nick Tam

        Speedball: Maximizes the potential of the Crack.
        Output tube: Gives overall tonality to the Crack’s sound.
        Input tube: Tweaks the sound or further refines it.

        Speedball is a better value in this case if you’re looking for technicalities. If you want to tone your Crack, a RCA 6AS7G paired with the Cleartop 12AU7A is more than enough to give the Crack a musical tonality abeit less technicalities since neither of these two tubes are extremely high on the tube hierarchy

  • Reply March 26, 2013

    George Lai

    My HD650 came today at the same time as my cMoy BB. Guess it’s karma.

    • Reply March 26, 2013

      Mike

      Wow sweet!

      • Reply March 26, 2013

        George Lai

        Mike, just two hours without burn-in and just 256 Kbps MP3, it is already so so sweet. And that bass? Ready to rumble. Can’t wait till it’s settled down. Now with my HD600, the King and Queen are together at last.

        • Reply March 26, 2013

          Mike

          Good to hear that, bro.

          • Reply March 26, 2013

            George Lai

            Mike, thanks to you. Or is that no thanks? You know what I mean.

        • Reply March 26, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          Isn’t it amazing how musical it is with the cMoy?

          • Reply March 26, 2013

            George Lai

            Dave, match made in heaven. I’ll stick with that match for the time being. Of course, time is relative 😉

            • Reply March 26, 2013

              Dave Ulrich

              Since I foolishly kept messing with my Crack and it is now out of commission, I have been using the cMoy again, and my love for it never ceases.

              • Reply March 26, 2013

                George Lai

                With this hobby (or is that vice?), one must know when to stop. And smell the roses as they say.

                • Reply March 26, 2013

                  Mike

                  I think you’re almost ready for retirement. Just one more job left. A big $2k amp for the 650 and you’re all set.

                  Afterwards don’t ever come back to this site, ever.

                  • Reply March 26, 2013

                    George Lai

                    Mike, ha ha. As the Governator said those immortal words … I’ll Be Back!

                  • Reply March 26, 2013

                    Dave Ulrich

                    So Mike, does the Woo Audio 5 sound 8x as good as the Bottlehead Crack?

                    • March 27, 2013

                      Mike

                      Of course no, but we all still want the 5, right 😉

                    • March 27, 2013

                      Dave Ulrich

                      I know I do!

                  • Reply March 27, 2013

                    George Lai

                    So, Mike. If there is only ONE $2k amp to go with this (main genres are rock, and blues) which would YOU recommend?

                    • March 27, 2013

                      Mike

                      Zana Deux Se is perfect for that.

                    • March 27, 2013

                      George Lai

                      That’s two. (deux is two in French).

                    • March 27, 2013

                      Mike

                      Yes, and send one over to me 😉

                    • March 27, 2013

                      George Lai

                      Touché. I shall now go Google

                • Reply March 27, 2013

                  dalethorn

                  I don’t think of it as a hobby. I think of it as a roller coaster ride, where if I get off too early it could have a negative result.

                  • Reply March 27, 2013

                    George Lai

                    That’s so apt, Dale.

  • Reply March 28, 2013

    Zacks

    Hi Mike, I recently purchased a pair of MS pro’s, how does hd650 sound comparing to MS pro’s? I mainly listen to classical music, so I wonder how far MS pro’s can match to hd650 on this genre.

    • Reply March 28, 2013

      Mike

      If you listen to symphonies and pianos, the Sennheiser totally outdoes the Pro in bass impact. I have the Pro and I use it for flute and wind instruments, but anything that needs bass, the 650. German headphone for German (mainly) music.

      • Reply March 28, 2013

        Zacks

        Thanks, what about other features? Like sound stage and image.

        • Reply March 28, 2013

          Mike

          The Sennheiser feels more closed and less open, but soundstage image is far superior than the Pro. The Pro feels very open but image depth is very flat.

          • Reply March 28, 2013

            Zacks

            So, do you think if it’s worth to own both headphones? Use Pro for strings and concerto and use hd650 for symphonies.

            • Reply March 28, 2013

              Mike

              Yes. I personally think the HD650 is the better headphone for classical. The Pro is better for Jazz and Blues.

              • Reply March 28, 2013

                Zacks

                Actually I also curious about hd600, would there be any difference between hd600 and hd650 when listening to symphonies and concertos?

                • Reply March 28, 2013

                  Mike

                  I think the HD650 is better, but you can check out the review here

                  http://www.headfonia.com/tag/sennheiser

                  • Reply March 28, 2013

                    Zacks

                    I just did actually, looks like hd650 has a darker sound and a heavier bass presence.

                    • March 28, 2013

                      Mike

                      Yes, you’re correct

                  • Reply March 28, 2013

                    Zacks

                    I also own the hd598, how is its soundstage and accuracy comparing to hd650?

                • Reply March 28, 2013

                  Mike

                  Or do a Google search for

                  Headfonia hd600 HD650

                  Sorry the insite search function sucks.

  • Reply April 16, 2013

    ryan

    Finally I am letting go of my HD650…:)

    • Reply April 16, 2013

      Dave Ulrich

      If you are going to post that kind of trash, do it on another review 😉

  • Reply August 9, 2013

    Yongky

    hi mike, after dacport lx, ps500, and ms2i, i purchase GS Solo SRG ii just one month ago…just for having fun to add more bass and mid to my grado and alessandro.

    But now after i had solo ii, im just thinking, hey how about purchasing hd650?
    is there any clue what kind of sound that i will get from solo ii + hd650?
    does it gives me more micro details and imaging than solo ii + ps500?

    • Reply August 10, 2013

      Mike

      Yes the HD650 has better micro details and soundstage image than the Grados though you may have to adjust to the darker sound

      • Reply August 10, 2013

        Yongky

        how about mids, musicality, and overall presentation for pop, country, jazz, and vocal genre?can i said that hd650 is upgrade from ps500 also?

        • Reply August 10, 2013

          Mike

          The mids are different likewise the vocals. It’s hard to say if one is better than the other.

          • Reply August 10, 2013

            Yongky

            hmm…different taste?if that so…
            despite of the on ear and over ear things, which one has more musicality and enjoyable performance for a longer time?
            the bowl pads doesnt bother me, so…

            • Reply August 10, 2013

              Mike

              Well the HD650 has a much bigger following than the PS500.

              I think you’ve just got to give it a try.

              • Reply August 10, 2013

                Yongky

                i cant have my audition so all based on review 😀
                if u rated on the technicalities, are both of them on the same level?

                • Reply August 10, 2013

                  Mike

                  The Grados sound more open, other than that the HD650 should be superior on all other technicalities.

                  • Reply August 10, 2013

                    Yongky

                    wow! ok then!
                    what do u think of solo ii?it is a good partner for hd650?or hd650 deserved better than solo ii?

                    • August 10, 2013

                      Mike

                      HD650 + Bottlehead Crack is the best set up for it under $1-$2K.

  • Reply August 29, 2013

    John123John

    Just read the whole review again, if you can call it that; its more like a story.
    Great journey Dave.

    Its funny, I just sold my HD650 and Crack about a month ago and I’m already regretting it. Currently looking to re-buy lol!

  • Reply February 9, 2014

    Gos

    Hello, so I have a question. I own the K550’s and am looking to purchase the HD650. I need a desktop amp that would work good for both the K550’s and the HD650’s. I feel like I have not really heard the k550’s. All I have for amplification is the Fiio E11 portable. Not taking anything away from it of course as I love them. But for the 650’s I would like more…growl and punch.

    I also need a DAC and as such do not know if I need to purchase a DAC/Amp combo or an Amp & DAC (passive). Obviously the $500 headphones are there but I would like to not break the bank ($0 – 300) range would be awesome. I am willing to stretch it if necessary.

    Any and all suggestions are welcome. Thanks in advance.

    • Reply February 9, 2014

      L.

      First check the K550 review for amp advise. A good amp for the Senns is the Bottlehead crack, that’s the only amp I recommend in that price class for Senns

      • Reply February 11, 2014

        Gos

        What amp would you recommend for the HD650 if all of the marbles were in their proper basket? Somewhere around 500 give or take a hundred or so. So…500-600?

        • Reply February 11, 2014

          L.

          Crack, A20, WA3

          • Reply March 9, 2014

            Gos

            SO!! Upon your recommendation I have purchased the HD650’s as aforementioned. I will begin to say that these are my first open backed headphones. WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME ABOUT THESE? lol? But seriously, these or my K550’s? Hands down the 650’s. Also upon your recommendation I purchased the A20 amplifier. I must first state that the amplifier is one FAT astronaut. The pairing of the BeyerD A20 and the HD650 is almost magical. It is as though they were made for each other. Never in my young low end Audioholic days have I ever heard something as sweet as these two to my ears. Needless to say I won’t bore you with my 1000 page review which I feel is absolutely necessary but THANK YOU!! That I cannot say enough. Only thing needed to finish this marriage is the HRT II Music Streamer USB DAC and some PYST RCA cables. The HD650 has such punch, oomph, but yet somehow sweet.
            Signed,

            Sincerely In Love
            Gos

            • Reply March 9, 2014

              L.

              I’m glad you like it Gos. It’s always nice to see people enjoying our recommendations. I use the A20 + HD650 at the office for hours each day and it is a great combination. Enjoy and thanks for reporting back

  • Reply March 9, 2014

    Gos

    And, before I forget. Anyone know where I can get either a hard case (preferred) or a soft case for the 650’s?

    • Reply March 9, 2014

      dalethorn

      The Shure case they issue with the 1840 or 1440 or even the 940 could fit, but those are very large. Maybe someone could measure the insides for you. For a soft case, there are bags like Beyerdynamic issues that have stiff foam inserts that are customizable, which would be nearly as good as a hard case.

    • Reply March 9, 2014

      L.

      I myself use a Beyerdynamic case

  • Reply March 13, 2014

    Sergio Mejia

    I decided to buy the Senn HD650, and I’ve seen some recommendations on page amp, but I have two questions:

    1. What is the ideal amp for headphones (maximum $ 500)?
    2. Should I buy a Dac + Amp? Is it more appropriate to buy a separate amp as B22 and buy a more economical ampdac in the price?

    I appreciate your advice and comments.

    PD: That amp recommend different B22? There is something new from this quality on the market?

    • Reply March 13, 2014

      L.

      You ask a lot of questions and change your mind alot. Sennheisers like OTL Tube amps. but the A20 is great too. Yes buy a separate Amp and dac; it will be better in the long run

      • Reply March 13, 2014

        Sergio Mejia

        Thanks L. True, I’ve been very hesitant, but only because I want to make a good purchase. Surely you would ever could happen.

      • Reply March 13, 2014

        Sergio Mejia

        What do you think of “Valhalla Headphone Amplifier” for HD650?

        • Reply March 13, 2014

          L.

          Have you read the review of it? Personally I do not like Schiit

          • Reply March 14, 2014

            Ken Stuart

            L – The Headfonia reviews have been entirely of the Schiit amps, which seem to be good, but not great. Whereas the Schiit DACs are clearly a better value than anything else in their price range, especially the upgraded designs. For example, see:
            http://www.digitalaudioreview.net/2014/03/schiit-audio-bifrost-uber-w-gen-2-usb-dac-review/

            • Reply March 14, 2014

              L.

              I believe you. I am sure they have a good price quality ratio but I just dont like the brand

              • Reply March 14, 2014

                Ken Stuart

                I’m wondering what that is from? They have some of the best customer service, they sell direct in order to give customers the best possible value, and the two owners are both engineers with years of experience in the audio world. And they have a good sense of humor…

        • Reply March 13, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          The Valhalla isn’t amazing, as I say in the review. For the price, if you can solder, you can’t beat the Crack.

    • Reply March 13, 2014

      Gos

      I just purchased the A20 and it’s the best amp I have sounded that’s not tube. The combo is made for each other.

      • Reply March 13, 2014

        L.

        Glad you like it. Great amp with the HD650, right?

        • Reply March 13, 2014

          Gos

          Absolutely amazing.

  • Reply March 14, 2014

    Sergio Mejia

    Thanks for all the assessments, it is clear that the Crack is great but I have no knowledge of welding and A20 amp is out of my budget, what seems to them the amp + dac Glacier?

    The review of Mike is very good but if not ideal for HD650.

    Thanks in advance for your opinions.

    • Reply March 15, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      Maybe the Pan Am?

  • Reply March 28, 2014

    William

    Hey Dave, I’ve got a pair of Sennheiser HD650 myself and I love ’em.

    Problem is that the sound has started stuttering in the right earphone so I’m going to have to replace the cable, would you perhaps have any recommendation for a good cable for the hd650’s?

    • Reply March 28, 2014

      L.

      Stock cable is really good. If you want aftermarket cables check out Forza Audio Works or Effect audio for affordable great looking and sounding cables. Or make one yourself

    • Reply March 28, 2014

      dalethorn

      First, pull out the cable on both sides and wipe the tips, check for any crud in the jacks, then plug it back in.

  • Reply August 25, 2014

    SoundEskimoo

    Hi there, please enlighten me, between WooAudio WA6 vs OTL tube amp, which one will give better sound quality?
    OTL from wooaudio is WA2, or Crack, or other else.
    thanks

    • Reply August 25, 2014

      L.

      Better depends on your preferences. WA2: cleaner, bigger sound stage but less tube smoothness and warmth. Crack is in between and 339 is full tubeness

      • Reply August 25, 2014

        SoundEskimoo

        i like tube smoothness & warmth (not too thick), overall for voice and bass, the impact good for modern genre & jazz.
        i dont really enjoy like cold, analytic, super details but bass shy presentation. any idea for my preferences?
        how about WA6?

        • Reply August 25, 2014

          L.

          I recommend the OTL

          • Reply August 26, 2014

            SoundEskimoo

            My cans Sennheiser HD650, still confuse to choose the right one. Either choose WA6 (which i dont know why u didnt recommend) or OTL.
            On OTL camp which one to choose : WA2, WA3, Crack, LF339? need guidance pls.

            • Reply August 26, 2014

              L.

              WA6 is not OTL. Like I said it depends on the sound you want. WA3, Crack and 339 are good

  • Reply August 28, 2014

    chuck77

    I bought the HD650 a few days ago since I have always been curious about it. I’ve had the Crack with Speedball before, but never with a HD650. Between my HD800 and my Beyer T1, I find the HD800 very picky and extremely resolving and unforgiving. I am using my HD800 with a Zana Deux Transformer and a Audiolab 8200CDQ, which sounds great with the Beyer T1, but not as good with the HD800.

    This has me wondering about what I need to get the HD800 to sound fantastic. It’s hard to listen to them now, especially when I can hear so much background noise/artifacts, etc.

    • Reply August 28, 2014

      L.

      Zana and HD800 are supposed to be magical together. Maybe the HD800 is not for you?

      • Reply September 14, 2014

        chuck77

        It’s strange, because I prefer the HD650 synergy with the ZDT. It sounds fully and less tinny than with the HD800, even though it is slightly veiled and less detailed on the HD650.

        • Reply September 15, 2014

          dalethorn

          I don’t think you’ll get the ‘full’ sound with the HD800 unless you run right off of speaker taps, using some kind of step-down device.

  • Reply September 16, 2014

    SoundEskimoo

    Hello, which DAC would you highly recommend to accompany HD650, either with WA6 or CRACK amp?
    thanks

    • Reply September 16, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      there are so many. for the moment I’m a big fan of Resonessence Labs

      • Reply September 16, 2014

        SoundEskimoo

        ok. price matters, can you rank top 10 under 1000$?
        that brand you mentioned might not avail here

        • Reply September 16, 2014

          Headfonia_L.

          Sorry I don’t have time for that

          • Reply October 6, 2014

            SoundEskimoo

            ok

        • Reply September 17, 2014

          Dave Ulrich

          I second that. The Resonessence Labs Concero HD. It runs for $850.
          You can buy it through there website or see if a dealer is in your area.
          http://resonessencelabs.com/

          • Reply October 6, 2014

            SoundEskimoo

            so many killer DAC on $800 segments, including new Denon & Marantz.
            I will wait whether local dealer will sell Resonessence Labs.
            thanks

      • Reply October 6, 2014

        SoundEskimoo

        OK thanks

  • Reply October 10, 2014

    Ed.Rotteveel

    Hello my name is Eduard, after some research for a head amp for the hd650 i just bought, and find here tons of info ,moment zo mij wife is coming down, “are you coming to sleep” not nou love i am busy writing, hole evening you are busy with it. okay I can type my questians: is it a good fit with a Grace m902 a discontinuing amp/dac? i kan have it for an reasonable offer. €700

    Not to bad i think including the hd650. my tonal experiences are 3 years with grado 225I on the pc.

    I listen mainly hifi , classic orchestra and movies on a IMac. ok maybe also some rock, opinions? Also i read the big research on 3 golden oldies hd650.akg701 and the bd880 all in all an very nice site with reasonable explenations thanks

    • Reply October 28, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Thank you. I have to say I’m not familiar with the Grace m902. sorry

  • Reply October 28, 2014

    Synyster Jasnizam Paget

    hi i wanna know what amp best for this headphones..currently i using it with samsung galaxy note 4..i want mind-range level amp at least..thank

    • Reply October 28, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      I’m not sure if I have ever recommended this amp before, but the Bottlehead Crack at around 300 is the best there is in that segment.

      • Reply October 29, 2014

        Dave Ulrich

        This review might say as much too. I’m not sure.

      • Reply June 14, 2015

        Synyster Jasnizam Paget

        tq for your reply sir..very long time..huhu

  • Reply May 12, 2015

    Alfred Tolentino

    HI, I’ve had my Beyer DT990 Prem. 600ohm for a few months now, but now I possible deciding on getting the Senn HD650 300 ohm cans. I’ll be running it w/ a Valhalla (v1). What sort of difference or improvement will I experience?

    • Reply May 12, 2015

      Headfonia_L.

      It’s a completely different sounding headphone, I wouldn’t call it an improvement, it’s just different

      • Reply May 12, 2015

        Alfred Tolentino

        Thanks, DT990s seems a bit ‘bright’ on my benchmark DAC2, sounds ‘warmer’ through my Valhalla. But overall I like he sound, just thought the HD650 might be a bit warmer?

        • Reply May 12, 2015

          dalethorn

          My impression isn’t so much cold versus warm, it’s more soft-and-silky versus precise, detailed, and analytical. But that’s just my impression.

          • Reply May 12, 2015

            Alfred Tolentino

            Great choice in wording. Thanks for the input. I’ve actually put a layer of tissue in each cup and it did soften the 990s a bit.

  • Reply June 1, 2015

    DTSxJP

    Would the HD650 work great with Hip-Hop and R&B? How’s the bass?

  • Reply June 20, 2016

    Peart

    What of the mapletree ear+ HD tube amp with the senn 650s?

  • Reply June 21, 2016

    Dave

    I haven’t heard the mapletree, sorry.

  • Reply July 2, 2016

    Michael

    To me, the HD650 is the entry into true high fidelity headphone listening. They are the bar by which all wannabes are to be measured. A fully immersive experience, and the HD650 is the definition of a gateway drug.

    There are arguably better headphones, but I cannot fault anyone for buying the HD650 and staying.

    • Reply July 3, 2016

      Dave

      Headphones will come with better detail, clarity, balance, easier to drive, etc, but the HD650 will never cease being musical. I will never not enjoy my music through it, and that is why other headphones come and go, yet the HD650 remains a mainstay.

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