The Sennheiser HD700 Journal (Mar 16, 2012)

What I Thought The HD700 Would Sound Like

Through writing reviews for Headfonia, I have learned how certain design aspects of a headphone would lead to a certain sound characteristics. We all know how different driver types have their own sound signature. Where vintage drivers tend to fall short to modern drivers. How the design of the housing and pads materials contribute to the overall sound. Why you should never mix different type of drivers in one headphone. It’s like with cars: Design parameters like wheelbase, chassis width, overhang, or engine placement would tell you roughly about how the car would handle. Planars would excel in transients and have a superb black background, but weak in soundstage image. Electrostats suck when it comes to bass impact. Dynamics are always good with soundstage imaging and low level detail, but usually always have this grain in their sound (the Ultrasones are among the exception, but for everybody else Senn, Beyer, AKG, Audio Technica and so on, you would hear grain in the sound).

Using these same sets of “unwritten conventions”, I had made my own little predictions on how the HD700 would sound: It would be darker than the HD800. It would have a smaller soundstage, but better intimacy. It would still have the typical dynamic driver grain (especially Sennheiser drivers are never free of this grain), and so on. In short, it would sound a lot like the HD650, but much improved especially in bass clarity (one of the weaknesses of the HD650).

It turns out that my predictions were far off. And it’s not that I made bad predictions, but

rather because the HD700 pulled off something I have never heard before in a dynamic driver.

I knew that the HD700 had a new technology that is not found on the HD800: “Patent-pending ventilated magnet system manages airflow” as Sennheiser put it. But I didn’t think the effect is going to be so radical. Listening to the HD700 out of the RSA Dark Star amp, with the Halide Design DAC HD and Fidelia as the source, I was blown away. Simply brilliant and mind-blowing. It was had a crisp electrostatic-like transients, but without the typical weaknesses of an electrostatic driver.

Sound Impressions

The HD700 is nothing like previous Sennheiser headphones. The tonality is mostly dark, but very different than the HD650’s dark, instead more like the LCD-2. The biggest difference from the HD650 is in the clarity factor. The HD700’s dark sound simply exudes with clarity, to the extent that the sound coming out of it is clearer than the HD800, the Beyerdynamic T1, the LCD-2, or the Stax O2. No one will be making veiled comments about the HD700 that’s for sure.

It’s like getting the clarity of the Hifiman HE-6, but without the treble, and still with a cleaner sound overall than the HE-6. The background is black and has zero grain. It is not as black as the LCD-2, but more or less like the Stax O2. I think this aspect is the most impressive part of the HD700’s sound: how it manages to pull off such a clear and clean sound while having a dark tonality.

Comparisons to the LCD-2

More comparisons should be drawn to the LCD-2, as it’s the only headphone that I think sound closest to the HD700.

Both have a dark tonality, but the LCD-2 is darker and has a better bass thump. I still love the Revision 1 LCD-2 the best, as I think the frequency response is more linear than the Revision 2. In this aspect, the HD700 maintains a generally linear frequency response throughout most of it’s range, except for a little peak at the high treble region (the HD800’s is at a lower frequency). And though I feel a better extension on the low bass, it doesn’t slam as hard as the LCD-2’s low bass (still king in that aspect). I do hope that since this is a pre-production sample, Sennheiser can still tweak down the top treble peak, though I won’t expect much changes from the bass impact.

The issue with the LCD-2 that a lot of people have is that one it is too dark sounding, and that two it sounds too closed for an open headphone. With the revision 2 they have added some treble to the mix, which helps to alleviate that treble issue and making the headphone to sound more open as well, but in the process losing some smoothness on the treble region.

The HD700 is quite different in this aspect and I think this is due to the nature of the different drivers. The overall sound is significantly clearer than the LCD-2 (again think of the clarity of the HE-6 but without its treble). Clarity level is much higher than the LCD-2 from top to bottom, but it’s especially evident around the midrange area. The bass is not as meaty or as slamming as the LCD-2, but with much better clarity on the bass. The soundstage is a lot more open than the LCD-2’s and the HD700 doesn’t suffer from the reverb issue that plague the LCD-2.

For a long time people have been asking for a headphone that combines the best of the LCD-2 and the HE-6, and I think the HD700 is it. I won’t know for sure, but it’s almost like Sennheiser had a listen to both planars and see what is it about them that make people enjoy them, and went to recreate a version of their own using a dynamic driver. I can see the HD700 to appeal to people who enjoy the HE-6 because it offers the same level of clarity (and even more, in the mids and bass regions), but without the hot treble and a much better soundstage image performance. With the LCD-2, I think the HD700 still can’t quite replicate the LCD-2’s bass, but a lot of people who’s complained about the LCD-2 being too closed and too dark really should check out the HD700.


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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’.