The Sennheiser HD700 Journal (Mar 16, 2012)

Final Thoughts: March 16, 2012

After a few weeks with the HD700, I don’t think I’d change most of my initial impressions, but there are some notes that I’d like to add and points that I want to elaborate further.

Headband Pressure: Pre Production vs Final Version

The biggest variable between this HD700 and the final production version is going to be the amount of headband pressure Sennheiser adds to final version. I’ve been told specifically that this pre-production version is very loose and that the final version is going to have a more proper headband pressure. To give you an idea, I’m always surprised by the added clamping pressure the HD800 has over this pre-production HD700. Those of you who’ve tried the HD800 know that the HD800 isn’t exactly the death-grip type, and in fact may be the among the most comfortable headphone ever designed. I really expect the final HD700 to have a more proper headband clamp, as this version is just way too relaxed.

Since I know that the final version is going to have a stronger headband clamp, I’ve tried to do a lot of listening impressions with my hands pushing on the cups to simulate a stronger headband pressure. The sound changes, obviously, as you’re practically compressing the effective acoustic space. One notable change is a more closed-in, less open and less spacious sound. As the driver is moved closer to the ears, to my surprise that high treble peak that tend to accentuate sibilance is reduced significantly. Very nice. Not only that but as the sound become less spacious, vocals are more engaging, midrange body is boosted up and the overall tone becomes warmer and slightly weightier. Of course the degree of the changes depend on how much pressure is applied, and so I’m eager to see how far the final version will apply the headband pressure.

With the added pressure also brings in an additional bass body, though still not enough to my ears. While nobody is going to call the HD700 a bass light headphone, I still don’t think that it’s weighty enough. It has a tight punch, but I still think that the HD700 can be an even better headphone with a HD650/600 like impact and weight.

The two headphones that I use mostly for comparison is the current top dynamics, the Sennheiser HD800 and the Beyerdynamic T1. Everytime I move up to the HD800 or the T1, I always feel the added resolution, the music becoming richer and more involving, so again there is no denying that the driver resolution of the HD700 is inferior, especially to the HD800. However I still stand by my initial impression that the way the HD700 is voiced is just more pleasing than the HD800. The more forward vocals of the HD800 is very impressive for short listening time, but gets tiring for long listening times. The HD700’s vocals are never distant, but done just right and I’m loving vocals on the HD700. It doesn’t color the vocals like on some warmer headphones, it doesn’t mellow the recording or add some tubey effect to it, and yet it’s never dry and never distant and with good clarity. I can listen to the HD700 for much longer periods than I can with the HD800, and a lot of it I think has to do with the way the vocals are presented with just enough presence, and the zero-grain sound of the HD700.

In comparison to the Beyerdynamic T1, I think the T1 remains unique enough in its presentation. For instance, both headphones have a fast pace, but the HD700 doesn’t attack as strongly as the T1, and I’m saying this in a good context as we all know good Rock headphones need to have a strong attack to it — something that the T1 would still excel. Aside from the different sound presentation of the T1, it also remains to be the more resolving headphone, superior in low level detail, layering and three dimensionality.

All the talks about the HD700 being inferior to the technicalities of the HD800 and the T1 seem to have given the wrong impression to people, and as a result people are speaking about how overpriced the HD700 is. Thing is, I’ve spent many paragraphs trying explain the special thing about the HD700’s sound presentation: how it is the cleanest sounding dynamics I’ve listened to, how it’s different from any other Senns I’ve listened to, how it’s not like any other dynamics, but at the end of the day nothing really replaces a real auditioning session. In fact despite the inferior technicalities, the HD700 remains the headphone that I listen to the most these past few weeks, not the T1 nor the HD800. I really wanted to know if all my glowing first impression is just a new toy’s syndrome, but the reality is that I’ve been hesitant to pick up the other headphones up for a listen even now, three weeks after the HD700 first arrived here. Three weeks of quiet listening time on my home set up, almost every night, and I still wish that my HD800 would have a sound presentation like the HD700.

I’m actually surprised to hear all the comments downplaying the HD700 due to its inferior technicalities to the HD800. We all know that the LCD-2 and the HE-6/HE-500 don’t have the supreme technicalities that the HD800, but it doesn’t stop people from choosing them over the HD800. At the end of the day, you only need so much technicalities, and the HD700 is way past that level, so let’s stop fretting over the inferior technicalities.

Now, I made some comments about the build quality that I think I need to revise. I’m sorry for the hasty first impression comments, but while the HD700 is no HD800, it’s not like RS180-like as I first said it is. The plastic frame doesn’t quite have the density of the HD800’s special plastic, but clearly this is better than the RS180 or HD558/598 level. The matte metallic finish also looks very sharp in real life. In some angles, the HD700 now makes my futuristic HD800 look a little outdated.

More on Amplifier Pairings

The HD700 may be the easiest to drive full size headphone I’ve ever encountered. Moving from small portable amps to big desktop set ups, I never really feel the small portable amps to be inferior in driving the HD700 in terms of impact and authority. Where the difference lies, however, is in the technicalities, refinement, and sound signature. Bigger, better amps would give you a bigger sound with a far blacker background and more distinct instrument separation. And if I feel the HD700 to lack strongly at is low bass impact, big amps like the RSA Dark Star helps tremendously with that, though it’s still not going to turn the HD700 into an LCD-2. I also had the chance to try the HD700 with the Yamamoto HA-02 tube amplifier, and the typical mellow vocals shows through very clearly. So the HD700 definitely reacts to changes in amplifications, either in the technicalities or the sound signature department. Though as I’ve mentioned earlier, the HD700 doesn’t quite scale up like the HD800 or the T1.

End Words

Next week I’m going to prepare to send the HD700 back to Sennheiser, and unless there are any surprise finds, I think this is going to be the end of the HD700 journal (at least the pre-production version).

The firmer headband pressure on the final version is definitely going to be something that I look forward to testing. Like room acoustic improvements in a speaker set up, it does enough changes to improve the overall experience.


Disclaimer: This is based on a pre-production sample HD700. The final production unit will have a more proper headband fit (this one is a little loose), and that ought to affect the sound a little since I’d expect the pads to seal better then.


hd700_sketch_03 hd700_sketch_02 hd700_sketch_01 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-025 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-024 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-023 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-022 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-021 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-020 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-019 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-018 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-017 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-016 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-015 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-014 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-013 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-012 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-011 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-010 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-009 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-008 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-007 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-006 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-005 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-004 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-003 sennheiser_hd700_unboxing-002

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’.