The Sennheiser HD700 Journal (Mar 16, 2012)

Introduction to the Journal

This article is a work in progress and as time goes I will be adding things to it, like a Sennheiser HD700 Journal. Please refer to this table of contents for the sections:


When Sennheiser introduced the HD800 three years ago, the resolution of its 58mm ring-radiator driver was mind blowing. However, there were two things about the HD800 that prevented it from getting public acceptance: First, it wasn’t voiced quite the right way (treble issues, bass issues, et cetera). Second, the competition from Beyerdynamic with the T1, Hifiman with the HE-6, and Audez’e with the LCD-2, were quite advanced with their own offerings. And for many people, they had a more “correct” voicing than the HD800 is. Especially the planar based drivers was winning a lot of fans around the world with their fast and accurate transients. Even though the planars don’t scale up as well as the HD800 on high-end set ups, it wasn’t relevant because the HD800 simply didn’t have the sound that they were looking for (and I agree, it was a hard headphone to enjoy).

And the fact is this:

Ten years after the release of the HD650 (2003), people are still yearning for something that sounds like the HD650 but a little more advanced in technicalities. Certainly, the HD800 was missing something important, and that is musicality.

I can imagine a hypothetical situation where the engineers at Sennheiser started the blueprint on creating the best headphone they are capable of. All the years of technological know how was poured into the design, and the result is what we know as the HD800. With the HD700, however, it was different. A different design team was gathered, and this time I would imagine they actually gathered a lot of feedback from users (especially the Head-Fi guys) and listened intensively to the planars from Hifiman and Audez’e to examine what is it about them that made them so successful.

We know for sure that Sennheiser is listening to the market, and that the HD700 should be a more musically involving headphone than the HD800 was. When the HD700 was finally unveiled, I am guessing that the headphone is going to sound a lot closer to the HD650 — the ultimate representation of the classic Sennheiser sound. Now that I have listened to the HD700, while it is mostly a darker sounding headphone than the HD800, it was completely different than what I had imagined. It was radically different and unlike anything else I’ve ever heard with a dynamic driver. It was not simply a re-tuned or a scaled down HD800 as the HE-500 is to the HE-6, the LCD-2 Rev 2 is to the Rev 1, or the Beyerdynamic T5p is to the T1.

I was awestruck. The design team, which is apparently a different team from the HD800, has pulled off something brilliant. Out of this world. Genius. I wish my HD800 sounded like the HD700. I really do. I wish Sennheiser would give me an HD700 sound, with a build quality like the HD800, and label it as the new HD800. It wasn’t simply a downgraded HD800 with a darker tonality. It was revolutionary and I’ve never heard anything like this being done with a dynamic driver.

I wish my HD800 sounds like the HD700

When the HD800 was launched 3 years ago, I received an invitation to audition it in Singapore in a private Sennheiser event. The system that we were listening to was nothing short of high end. They had that German high end audio brand T+A CD player that has this uncanny transients, paired with the highly transparent Lehmann Black Cube linear amp. They gave us private listening sessions in private rooms. They had audiophile recorded CDs that you can choose from, or a CD of your own if you happen to have one.

I though it was an impressive headphone technically, but I had mixed feelings about it. Impressive technicalities, but it was not one of those “I had to have one of these”.

I eventually bought an HD800 because I knew that it is the reference by which other headphones would be compared to. Over the years of doing reviews for Headfonia, I learned a lot about the HD800’s characteristics: what makes it work and not work, how you should build a set up around it, what makes it so painful at times, and what makes it sublime when the set up is right. And I still tell my friends today with their $3,000-$5,000 tube amps that the HD800 is the only headphone that will let them hear every single penny they’ve spent on their amps. It had the highest scalability factor, period. But once again, there is something missing with the HD800.


Continue to the next page…

The Sennheiser HD700 Journal (Mar 16, 2012)
4.6 (92%) 5 votes

  • mike roderigo

    hey mike,
    any way that a the HD700 paired with something like the burson ha160 and a little tweek with equalisation (remebered your article on than…but still afraid to be flamed 😉 might to the trick?
    kindest regards

    • It would probably help… yes but still it would be better if they can do it from the factory..

  • Hey Mike,
    Did you get a chance to try the HD 700 with a Fiio e11?

    • Nope, but the Ipod drives the HD700 just fine!

      • That’s amazing! I can’t wait to get my pair.


    • Nope, but the Ipod drives the HD700 just fine!

  • mizot

    Hi Mike,
    I’m french (sorry)…
    I listen to Techno music. I currently use a hd598 (plastics are noisy, and the bottom of the headsets is not comfortable) I do not appreciate the excessive tightening of the HD650 (I wear glasses) Therefore, I intend to focus on HD700 (more ergonomic) Is it a good choice (bass)?

  • jjhfhj ghmhg

    Hi Mike,

    I live in Iran & can’t test headphones before buying, so i should choose only one definite headphone.

    My budget is about 300 (headphone & amp) & I listen to & make dark ambient (e.g. lustmord, Raison d’etre & …) & noise music (e.g. Merzbow) through PC (with PreSonus audio interface), so as i read i need an open headphone with deep precise sub-bass and wide big soundstage for ambient can you recommend me a headphone & an amp (if it is needed).

    Thanks in advance.

    • Fabio_Rocks

      Something like Hifiman he-300 (249$) and Fiio e10 dac/amp ($80) will be fine

  • Is it on the market yet? Hardly wait…

    • L.

       see above 😀

  • How does this compare with HE-500?

    • Damián Bonadonna

      I second that! Please 🙂

      • I don’t even know where to start.. very different.

        • Damián Bonadonna

          I will make it more difficult!!

          Choose only one for your everyday use 🙂

          I really appreciate this, I don’t have the possibility to audition what a planar sound is 🙁

          • L.

            Luckily we don’t have to choose one… At the moment I wouldn’t even know. HD650/HD700/HE500…

  • dalethorn

    So is the HD700 readily available? I haven’t seen any sort of reliable review outside of this site, ignoring the headfi chatter.

    • L.

      Wasn’t that june?

      • It’s June now… 🙂

        • L.

          I’m waitlisted 😉

    • No, not yet I believe.

  • The_Grudge2

    Double post (slow verification process)

  • The_Grudge2

    Why would you ignore head-fi chatter? There are many great members there and it is also an excellent community of enthusiasts.

    • did you read the hd 700 thread ? The whole site is good. But that thread is all about people who haven’t listened to the headphone and already say they disappointed in it as not as good as hd800 bla bla. While  all people who actually have listened to it give very positive feedback. 

    • dalethorn

      I can’t argue against conflicting opinions. Opinions that differ are very important when you might be risking some money on a purchase, even if it’s not the whole amount. But when it’s page after page of pure opinion that doesn’t make careful comparisons to known entities, then it’s just a headbanger. I know they need good moderation there because of the large number of members and newbies, but they also go overboard and suppress a lot of important discussion, so more headbanging. I could get more out of it if I had some high-tech forum search tools, but I don’t know if those would work on every forum.

  • Fabio_Rocks

    Do they finally answer to your request to add more bass body?

    • They only say that the final version will be slightly different. I have no idea what that means, but I think it should have more bass yes.

  • GettCouped

    Thank you for the revision. First impressions and quick reviews are very difficult from a very subjective category like audio. It seems that the HD700 is an excellent headphone, but not a pinnacle of value, as if any $1000 headphone could be considered as such.

  • My experience with the HD800 is that it sound so so with an average headpone amp, butbwhen paired wirh the Cayin Ha1A its one of the best sounding audio components I have ever owned.

    • Yes, Bruce. Pair it with a Manley 300B if you have the opportunity.

  • Hello Mike. I’m getting reconciled with the Ultrasone Edition 8 sound signature… I know that you reviewed this hp longtime ago but, could you make any observation about bass punch/weight and overall character compared to the HD700?
    Thanks for your attention and your wonderful site

    • Javier,
      The difference is very big. The Ultrasone has a much better bass impact, faster pace, better PRaT and attack, just a little hollow on the mids. The HD700 is more laidback, smooth, warm, bigger sound.

      • Your description of the ultasone couldn’t be better. Thanks for your very appreciated answer.

        • You’re welcome, Javier

  • I am torn between between HD700 and T1 for my next upgrade. The price gap is very small and it seems HD700 is kinda overpriced (in my area anyways). This may be a surprise but I find the HD700 to be a lil bit ‘rough’ for the lack of a better word (or is it grainy the word I’m looking for?) compared to T1. Micro details is also better on the T1 and let’s not even talk about build quality. I’m sure everyone agrees T1 is built like a tank and IMO HD700 build quality is kinda flimsy. I’m really scared of the plastic material they’re using, they feel like they’re about to break (hopefully any HD700 owner could prove me wrong).

    However with HD700 I find it to be more fun sounding, especially the bass. This is probably because I’m used to DT880 sound. I also find that HD700 is much more comfortable to wear.

    If only HD700 is slightly cheaper (by $100) or have better build quality, I would definitely go for it; no question asked. But since over here the price difference between HD700 and T1 is less than $100, T1 seems to be a better purchase. But HD700 bass is too much fun!

    I don’t know why I’m ranting here. Just wanna share my 2 cents. 🙂

    • Thanks, Hariz.

  • Wait so you like the old LCD-2 better? I thought the REV2 was better in every way than the original? You need to update your reviews

    • L.

      No we both really do like the Rev 1 LCD-2 better. We prefer how it’s tuned over the 2nd revision, a lot of people do actually. Too bad the Rev 1s are getting scarce, you should listen to them both and then decide which one you like more

      • Did I read the LCD-2’s Rev.2 update wrong?

        The only Audiez dealer withing 500miles is only about an hour from me. I wonder what the chances are they have both?

        • The dealers probably won’t have Rev 1.

          • L.

            Maybe ALO still has one? No idea

            • Yes try ALO they may have one.

              • Ok. I’m still confused why did you say the Rev-2 was so much better in the update?

                • I said it *I think* in the context that the Rev-2 gives people the treble and the midrange they’ve been asking for, as well as build quality improvements. The Rev-1 is very dark, but personally I like it best.

  • Question for Mike, what was the “crossfeed” system that you had in mind?

    And on the other note, I think I don’t understand what you meant by the 800′ having more capable bass.

    • Crossfeed system? Can you post what I said here? Doesn’t recall saying it. If I have to guess it’s probably Fidelia’s FHX.

      800’s bass is just richer with information. Far richer. HD700 was quite one dimensional in terms of bass layering, for instance, compared to the HD800’s.

      • As in compared to HD700 which blends the two channels together well, you’d still listen to the HD800 with a crossfeed system. So the impression I’m getting is that the two channels of the HD800 are really isolated so that you’d want a crossfeed to blend in the two channels to create a better center image

  • Hey Mike, one more question regarding the HD700, how does the size of the soundstage compare between the 600-650-700-800?

    • L.

      I’m not mike but

      HD800>HD700>HD650/HD600 😀

      It is reasonably bigger and more spacious as the 650! Loved it!

      • well that was fairly obvious… lol why did I even ask

        no actually, that comparison between the 650 and 700 was good enough. Though I was wondering what people mean when they say that the soundstaging on the 700 is “just right”

        • L.

          it’s wide and deep but not overly wide like the HD800 can be or the HD650 can’t be :p

          • so really it’s true when the HD800’s soundstage sounds artificially large

            • It is when they play compressed recordings. Or closed-mic recordings.

    • Yea, what L said.

  • Markus Köhner

    hey guys, i know this thread has been dead for some time now, but i hope that someone could help me out here..
    i own the hd700 for quite some time now and im very excited with it, i compared it to the hd800 when i bought it and i acutally prefered the 700 which i found much more alive and enjoyable especially with rock music.
    anyway, so far i mostly use the asus xonar essence to drive it along with a head box from ject audio. i was aiming for an upgrade for that. especially to help out the hd700 with its bass performance. i was having a look at the aune t1 amp/dac. does anyone here have some experience with that?
    or can someone recommend a good amp/dac combination in the pricerange of around 300$? tube preferably but not mandatory.
    thanks a lot in advance and keep up the great work, really enjoy your website

    • Hi Markus,
      I don’t know about the T1 but normally when people want more bass i steer them toward the Burson or Violectric amps

      • Markus Köhner

        hi mike,
        first of all thanks a lot for your quick reply.
        i wasnt just looking for more bass, mostly i want a amp to get the most out of my hd700. i do also poses a hd25 which i use a lot for metal and rock music, i enjoy the versatility of the hd700 a lot, also its awesome comfort.
        i would be open to any recommendation for a good amp that complements the hd700, i was looking into tubes because i always like the sound of the tube guitar amps i was using back in the days, but in all honesty i dont know how good that sound translates to headphone amps

        • Dave Ulrich

          Well, in L’s review of the HD700, he thought the Bottlehead Crack made great music with it.

          • L.

            That’s correct!

        • I really enjoyed the HD700 out of the Fostex HP-A8. Tubes do sound very good for headphone amps. The Bottlehead Crack that I recommend strongly for the HD650 also works very well for the 700.

          • Markus Köhner

            given my horrible skills in assembling stuff i dont think a DIY project is the path for me, but i think the pan am will be a good alternative judging from the review on it?

            • L.

              PanAm is $499.

              • George Lai

                Plus the Passport and the Gateway?

              • Markus Köhner

                actually its a 15% holiday sale right now but yes true.. i spent too much money on my hobby. but then again who here doesnt? 😉

            • Yes the PanAm is a good choice

  • Khloe85

    Can someone please tell me what the author means by “grain in sound” and technicalities.

    • Check out the square wave charts on the innerfidelity site – there should be an explanation of how those relate to rise time, slew rate, ringing, all those technicalities that contribute to speed, PRaT, etc. Grain I found in the $1500 (now cheaper) AKG K812, but it wasn’t immediately obvious because of the shrillness. Lots of headphones boost the bass or roll off the highs, to mask all kinds of sins. If you get past the basic signature somehow, even by modding or EQ’ing, you might hear a very fine underlying roughness in some headphones that sounds grainy. The best headphones often have such smoothness in the mids that they sound ‘liquid’.