Introduction to the Journal
This article is a work in progress and as time goes I will be adding things to it. Please refer to this table of contents for the sections:
- Introduction – Page 1
- I wish my HD800 sounds like the HD700 – Page 1
- What I Thought The HD700 Would Sound Like – Page 2
- Sound Impressions – Page 2
- Comparisons to the LCD-2 – Page 2
- Comparisons to the HD650 – Page 3
- Comparisons to the HD800 – Page 3
- More Sound Impressions – Page 4 (updated Feb 27, 2012)
- Final Impressions – Page 5 (updated March 12, 2012)
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.
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…