The Sennheiser Trio: HD580, HD600, HD650

This all started when I got a HD600 loaner from Jay. I told him I haven’t listened to the HD600 for a while, and asked him if I can borrow his HD600. Being the generous guy that Jay is, the HD600 arrived at my desk without much delay. The HD600 is similar to the HD650, but in a way it’s also different enough as it offers some things that you can’t seem to get with the HD650. I really enjoyed the HD600 that I decided to buy a new-old-stock HD580, which was discontinued a while ago. Now that I have all three members of the Trio in my hand, I decided to write a brief comparison between them.

The Trio apparently started life back in the Spring of 1993, with the release of the HD580 (there was also a wireless digital infra red HDi850 released in August 1993). Thanks to Tyll’s wonderful article at HeadRoom, I can get a sense of what it was like back then to have a HD580. To quote Tyll:

“The dynamic cans available in those days just wouldn’t hold a candle to the speed of the Mylar diaphragms and dedicated electronics of the e-stats. Then Sennheiser introduced the HD 580 and everybody that cared about headphones (there were like twelve of us back then) were stunned.”

“The HD 580 had punch and warmth, most headphones of the day were thinner sounding. There was speed and coherence up top, not the confusion and congestion that characterized the under-engineered “accessories” as they were thought of at the time. Sennheiser had really put some thought into these new cans and it was easy to hear.”

It seemed clear that the HD580 was quite a successful product, and on Sennheiser’s 50th Anniversary in 1995, the HD580 Jubilee Edition was released. The Jubilee is a limited edition version of the HD580 with a glossy carbon fiber look finish, a special box and special certificates. After the limited edition release is finished, Sennheiser continued the Jubilee into a regular production in 1996 as the HD600 (though without the certificate and the carbon fiber finishing). The HD600 supposedly have better acoustics and tighter driver matching than the HD580, although I can’t seem to differentiate the sound between the two (when you’ve changed the grills on the HD580, more on that later below).

In 2003, 10 years after the HD580, Sennheiser released the HD650. It seemed that they went around consulting almost everyone who cares about headphones, from high end audio people, engineers, journalists, and even internet forum members. From the HD650 Press Release:

“In their quest to develop even better dynamic headphones, Sennheiser consulted high-end specialists, sound engineers and trade journalists. They even consulted internet forums to complete the picture. This intensive research revealed an interesting fact: that listening habits have changed. Today, people prefer to “feel” the music rather than to analyze it. The result was the HD 650 – headphones that captivate the listener with the ultimate in lifelike reproduction, while still maintaining absolute precision.”

Indeed the research very accurately captured the kind of sound that people want to hear in a headphone. So accurate in fact, that even today many people still prefer the HD650 over the HD800’s sound. The HD650 become a headphone synonymous with its coloration, albeit a very pleasing coloration. While other headphones come and go, the HD580/600/650 continues to be respected among the enthusiasts circles, even by people who don’t enjoy them. At one point, the HD580, which is essentially a marked down HD600 is available for as low as $120. Never before has reference quality been so affordable. In the midst of the current race of $1,000 flagship headphones, I started to look back to the years when you can get the “best” headphone for merely $300.

HD650 disassembled.


Digging up further, I found an article by Wes Phillips that outlined even more of the changes on the HD650:

Sennheiser has actually used a tougher metal mesh for the earcups that shouldn’t dent as easily as the old stuff. (I welcomed this news — my 600s, which have traveled to many a recording session, are quite banged up.) The whole structure of the HD 650 seems far more solid and less resonant than that of its predecessors, possibly as a result of a stronger spring in the headband. Sennheiser states that it has beefed up the 650’s “baffling damper” — a membrane that controls the chamber resonances of and within the earcups themselves — for “tighter acoustic control.” If that means the headphones feel dead-quiet and free from any structural vibration, then: mission accomplished.

But the biggest changes in the HD 650 are the aluminum voice-coils, the new diaphragm material, and a Kevlar-shielded OFC cable that sports a dedicated 1/4″ phono plug (a phono-to-miniplug “cable reducer” is also provided). In addition to being made of a different material, the 650’s diaphragms are constructed differently — it’s a membrane of variable thickness that has been tuned by ear. Not only by ear — Sennheiser has comprehensive test and measurement facilities — but engineer Axel Grell found that when the ‘phones measured flat, they sounded harsh. So he very carefully tuned the response to have notches at 5kHz and 16kHz. These notches, speculates headphone maker-designer Tyll Hertsens, of HeadRoom, mimic the ridge notches of the concha — the largest and deepest concavity of the external ear, or pinna — which help you determine the azimuth and elevation of sounds.

So, from Wes Philips’ article, we learn of some additional differences between the HD650 to the predecessors. The HD650 has a more solid structure — this I can confirm. Not sure about the metal mesh, as I don’t want to damage my headphone to test it out, but that’s also possible. The beefier baffling damper is possible, seeing that the color for the HD650 assembly may indicate slightly different plastic material. All these changes would most probably contribute to a better acoustics, something that is definitely heard on the HD650. Then there is also the aluminum voice-coil, new diaphragm material, and a new cable. Interesting indeed. I won’t talk too much about the cables, but the aluminum voice coil and the new diaphragm with variable thickness may contribute very strongly to the superior HD650 soundstage (as we will discuss more thoroughly later).


With the right set up, the HD600 and the HD650 proved to be just as enjoyable to my ears as any of the thousand dollars offerings. Take the HD800 for instance, it has gobs of technicality superiorities over the HD650, and yet it didn’t win as many converts as the HD650 did. At a certain level, any additional technical superiority becomes irrelevant. And even if the HD650 may be inferior to new $1,000 flagships, it has enough technicalities to please just almost everyone outside the Electrostats-addicts. Perhaps the Sennheiser engineers were right when they opted for musicality rather than accuracy in developing the HD650.



The Sennheiser Trio: HD580, HD600, HD650
4.06 (81.15%) 52 votes

  • Hi Mike,

    I have a HiFiMAN HM-602 and am considering opting for the HD650 or HD600. Would the 602 drive them decently single-handedly? Or… Would it be worth it to spend a couple for a portable amp? I’ve read some reviews about the 602 and hd650 pairing but would like to hear more especially from you. 🙂

    • Julian,
      I would strongly recommend an amp to add punch and impact.

      • I see, 

        would you have specific portable amps to recommend I consider? I’m looking at around $300-$400 range. Less, if possible. 🙂

        • Well you can look at this article first, and decide the type of an amp that you want: size, form factor, and short list it from there:

          I’ve used the HM-602 with the Headstage Arrow and I think it’s a very nice pairing both in terms of size and sound. 

          • After reading your article, I’ve found interest in the TTVJ slim. Will this give enough punch and impact considering the size of the amp? I’ve read that the Arrow has a very long lead time. So it kind of turned me off.

            Thannks! 🙂

            • The impact on the TTVJ is nice and should be good for the HD600/650. Better yet, go for the RSA SR71A as it’ll give you even better impact for the HD600/650.
              The Arrow is nice, but not really that great in impact.

          • FuelForThought

            Mike, Re: TTVJ Slim with HD650. I am considering just this combo as I already own a TTVJ slim (with DAC) and am about to purchase the HD650. What would I miss compared to a Nuforce Icon HD (on sale for $300)? a Burson HA160DS?

          • FuelForThought: 
            I can’t compare it to the Icon HD, but compared to the Burson well it’s not even close. Better detail, better impact out of the Burson. 

            The TTVJ Slim is quite powerful though and shouldn’t have a problem driving the HD650. Bass impact is very good with it. 

          • I’ve finally decided on the HD650. 🙂

            Now, I’ve been reading a lot about amps and the JDS labs c421 looks promising. At its price range, it seems to have lots of positive feedback. Have you tried your c421 with the Senns?

            • Yes and I love it with the HD580.

  • I noticed that you listed a Matrix M-Stage among  your setup. Which Senns did you find paired the best with this amp? I have a HRT Music Streamer II+ with a M-Stage on the way and was thinking of getting a HD600 or HD650 to go with it. Or should I look for something else?

  • Fabio_Rocks

    Hi mike. What’s about hd650 paired to audinst mx-1? Is it better than Fiio alpen? 

    • The MX-1 will have a better DAC section, but the amp section is not as punchy as the Fiio Alpen. Your choice. 🙂

  • I just bought a used HD 600 (white driver cover version) that came with the HD 650 cable and love it! I seem to remember Mike writing that the HD 600 cable sounded better to him than the HD 650 cable and was wondering what cable you would recommend for the HD 600 – apart from the stock cable – so that neutrality is preserved and sound quality is maximally increased.

    Best wishes!

  • Really great feature! I’ve owned the 580’s and now the 650’s and the description of both these is very accurate.

    • Thanks, Greg. I keep on going back and forth between the two. After a long time with the HD650 I would miss the HD580 and likewise the other way around.

      • I used to be absolutely in love with the 580’s (they’re the can’s I’ve owned the longest) but the 650’s are like a new love that make everything before them look boring. The precision, impact and pure enjoyment of the sound that comes out of them is undeniable. What’s particularly interesting is the far more expensive (and better looking) HD 800’s simply don’t hold a candle to the fun of the 650’s. Where the 800’s are clinical, the 650’s are like an addictive drug that you can’t ever get enough of.

        • I know what you mean, Greg. I rarely listen to my HD800s these days. 😉
          I think we have very similar ears.

          • Will be interesting to see what most people think of the sound of the 700’s when they’re finally released. The previews so far indicate that they’re an upgraded 650 rather than a downgraded 800. Time will tell…

            • I think it’s definitely a step up in terms of technicalities. But there is something irreplaceable about the HD650’s bass.

              • Ohhhh yes, that bass. I think that’s where most of the ‘ear-heroine’ is stashed!

                • Yes I told Senn it would be great if we can have 650’s bass on the HD700.

                  They probably were like: *facepalm*

                  • This is Senn’s opportunity to bridge the gap between the 2 existing flagship headphones and if they want to sell many many more units, they need to look at fixing the ‘issues’ of the 800 by looking to the strength of 650’s. I think the much more palatable (though still steep) price point of the 700’s is the perfect ‘spot’ in which to create a set of cans that’s nowhere near as clinical (read: bland) as the 800’s with the punch, warmth and lovability of the 650’s. They should be looking at targeting 650 owners such as myself with an offer that tempts us to ‘upgrade’ to an even better sounding version of our existing phones. The difference between the 650 and 800 is vast because the 800’s try too hard to be accurate and technically proficient. The 650’s are far from perfect but are nonetheless superior to most other headphones and far more likeable too. Here’s hoping the 700’s hit that sweet spot with superior audio and off the charts satisfaction rating!

                    When do you get your post production set to test? Dying to know if they tune the bass properly! 🙂

                    • Greg,
                      I still don’t have a schedule for the production HD700 set, but honestly speaking (and I’m a bit sad to say this).. they may be able to add a little more bass quantity, but it’s probably going to be difficult to match the impact of the HD650.
                      I don’t know what Senn did on the 650, but outside of the 580/600 I don’t think I’ve ever heard any other headphones that does bass impact like the 650. They really did something right there.

                    • Yep! It’s like they installed a tiny sub in the ear cups. It doesn’t overwhelm you with bass like the boomy Dr Dre’s but you literally feel the bass as if it’s coming out of a quality subwoofer that gives a full and rounded sound to everything you hear.

                    • dalethorn

                      I gave away my 600 and 650 in 2009 when I got the 800, and gave away the 800 this year. So I can’t compare directly. But I have a good memory, and I have the Shure 1840 and Philips L1 here now, and while the Shure has no useful output below 30 hz, the L1 (with bass reduction ON) not only has that, but has a solid and strong output all the way down. It has to be at least as good or better than HD800 bass. So what I’m wondering is whether anyone can be more specific or detailed about the bottom of the range of the 700/800/600/650, and relate that to the 1840 and L1 possibly, just to get a more accurate picture of how these compare in the deepest bass.

                    • Dale,
                      I personally have never compared those headphones A-B-C-D with a focus on the 30hz frequency. I think what matters is first the overall sound signature, and second how the overall bass impact is perceived to be.

                    • dalethorn

                      Overall bass impact works for me. But it gets lost, the comparison that is, unless it’s revisited every so often. So many posts, so much to read….

                    • So many headphones, so much to write… 😉

                    • It’s worth noting that while we say “they”, in reality, it could be a completely different team doing the 700/800 as did the 650. The guy or guys who did the bass response design for the 650 may now be designing for Philips or AT – who knows ? In fact, software billionaire and sports team owner Mark Cuban once said that it makes more sense to bet on sports teams than to buy stocks of companies, because the sports teams always tell you when a key player leaves, while companies never tell you anything about their key employees…

                    • That’s true. It’s worth noting that the HD700 team is different than the HD800 team.

            • dalethorn

              I’ve been in a discussion on Amazon with a 700 owner, and I get the sense that they are really special, kinda like what Mike described in the original review. So not something I would regard as an upgrade to the 650, but something that’s worth the $1000 asking price.

              • Interesting. That’s what I’m hoping for! 🙂

  • I been coming back to this review on and off for several months – and i finally took the plunge with the HD 600s — listening to them at work with my “mobile” setup (macbook, audirvana plus (direct / integer) & async Nuforce uDac II). Impressed big time with the sound – heh really no comparisons with the PX 100-IIs.

    Can’t wait to get home and try them with the Schitt combo – Bifrost / Asgard.

    Finally – actually brought the HD 600s through one of the click through ads on this site – Gimmedigi – and managed to get free shipping / a 100 SGD plus savings. So a good experience all round.

    • That’s really nice to hear, Dave.

    • Hi Dave, like you I have been reading this article (and Mike’s site everyday) for several months and also just bought a HD600 (USD408). I’m enjoying it tremendously and I see you bought it from gimmedigi. I have been tempted to try the website but wasn’t comfortable. Guess I will now. Cheers.

  • Pkrdlr

    Mike, Greetings once again, amp advice needed. I have a Hp mini netbook+Odac w/ rca outs+Senn 600’s.Music is classical and rock.I will be doing a lot of traveling for work staying in cities 3-4 days at a time so a full size desktop wont work.I can buy new or pre-owned,budget is $250. Thx, Rick

    • Perhaps push your budget a little higher for the National or Corda Stepdance? I might also consider the JDS C421 or Corda XXS

    • The PA2V2 ($60), JDSLabs Cmoy ($60) the C421 ($180) or the ALO National ($299) are all great with Senn HD600s. Plenty of choice there.

      • Pkrdlr

        Mike, Thanks again for your advice, could the matrix m stage also be thrown in the mix, not like I don’t have enough choices already 🙂

        • Ummm… not a good pairing with the Senn. Besides I thought you want portable?

          • Pkrdlr

            Mike, My bad, definitely going portable, I threw the m stage in there for a possible pairing with the 600’s for a desktop setup down the road as a alternative to Asgard / Crack, I should have been more specific. Thanks again, Rick

  • Jonas

    Wich one of these would sound better with classical music?

    • Trent_D

      The word on the street (and Mike and L’s word from previous comments) is that both are good for classical, but, given the proper amplification (Crack, Pan Am, LF 339, WA6, etc…) the HD650 makes magic with classical. One of the best, if not the best headphone for it. Ask me in two or three years and I am sure I will agree.

      • Jonas

        Thanks for the answer. And sorry if I made an repetitive question 🙂 And how does the Schiit Asgard pair with the HD650? And what about the Matrix M-stage?

        • Trent_D

          All of this is regurgitating what I have read on this site (so no personal guaranties (although Mike, L and Nick do seem to know their hd650). The 650 is suppose to be… ok with the asgard, but is really brought to life with a good tube amp, like the ones mentioned above. And the M-stage… I don’t know on that one.

          • Jonas

            Would you know if a hybrid like the Hifiman EF5 would do the job?

            • Plainly asking which amp sounds better than which other really doesn’t help, as it all boils down to the desired sound. I have no experience with the EF5 but plainly speaking, Trent has already answered your question. You get okayish synergy with SS and SS-Tube hybrids, but truly shines with tube amps.

              • Jonas

                Oh… sorry Nick. I took a better look at the Crack and will save up for it 🙂 Thanks for your help guys!

            • Oh and please do lookup the Q&A forums and the comments on this page, I believe I’ve answered this question more than 4 times within this month xP

            • More than enough to do the job.

              Listen to what Trent said though.

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  • Trent_D

    So, my HD650’s arrived today, and I think they will be going right back. I plugged them into my ipod expecting this amazing sound you guys had been talking about, and it just wasn’t there. It was dark and veiled with no life. Truly overrated.

    Ok, all joking aside, I was actually surprised at how good it sounded coming out of my ipod. I was expecting it to be completely unlistenable, but it didn’t sound bad. Not ideal by any means, but not a complete wreck. I am looking forward to running this one up the food chain. I have been waiting for these phones for a long time…

    • Vern

      I finally got some replacement stock tubes for the LF339 (Cause one of my stock input tubes was defective), which inspired me to listen to the HD650 again despite just recently acquiring the HD800. Ah man, I must say I truly missed them… They sound SO musical and smooth that it’s ridiculous. The HD800 are better on technicalities, but the HD650s will always hold a spot in my collection due to its uniquely pleasant sound signature that no other headphone can quite reproduce in the same fashion.

      • I was just looking at Head-Fi’s ranking for full size headphones.

        #1 LCD-2

        #2 HD650

        #3 HD800

        Not bad for an old headphone.

        • Trent_D

          If something is done right, time won’t change that.

        • DecimationPro

          I prefer HD700’s (most likely not out at time of review?) to the above but rating something on that level is utterly unfair as some (like myself) love Sennheiser and some love Audeze and nothing can change a persons preferred sound therefore it is impossible to rate one ahead without using your ear as the guide which goes to your brain which may like a different sound (also the Orpheus, although not as accurate has a very lovable and pricey sound that warms the heart even if technically inferior to HD800’s or even cheaper sets in statistical tests).
          Obviously you can compare these against beats(en) (not with, these are headphones not base pots for crackpots.

          • But it does get more complicated when the Sennheiser ‘house sound’ makes a move toward dark and lush, like the 600/650 difference. The physical fit usually gets relegated to the background, but it’s critically important too.

  • Kanra

    I’ve used HD650 for about two months and I can say that I love it, even though I don’t have a proper setup to drive it well, the sound of HD650 is still Impressive.

    • Yes Indeed the HD650 is very nice. What amp are you using?

      • Kanra

        Hmmm… Something you will never want to know. In fact, it’s a portable amp with dac function which is obviously impossible to drive HD650 properly.(I want to have a better setup but I don’t have enough money…just saving money and try)

        • Trent_D

          I am curious what you are using. There is also a difference between driving something properly and driving something to its full potential. I have used a headstage dac cable and a cmoy, and found it to be very enjoyable.

        • Well give the Bottlehead Crack a try. It’s the best, lowest price amp I’ve found for the 650.

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  • yhong

    HD600 owner and mike,what is the suitable amp to drive this 300ohm headphone?

    • L.

      Have you read anything we wrote on Sennheiser? 🙂

      • yhong

        still not a conclusion or best suit~ ^ ^ but i will read all the comments and make final conclusion by my own~ thks

        • Trent_D

          for the price, I think you will have trouble beating it.

          • L.

            Exactly, The Bottlehead Crack is the best for the Senns under $500 for sure

            • Trent_D

              I have a tung-sol 5998 on the way. Can’t wait to hear that.

              • L.

                I prefer it with a darker sounding tube with less gain. Just try a couple 🙂

                • Trent_D

                  I actually didn’t love the tubes I got with it, but you will read all about that soon enough.

                  • yhong

                    nuetral headphone pair with a dark song amp?…too many tube to pair with also trouble~ ^ ^

                    • L.

                      What exactly do you mean @disqus_rpltCLgAq9:disqus ?

                    • yhong

                      you said prefer darker tubes,but HD600 is tend to neutral,so i will make improvement of the sounding? and more varieties more difficult to match the setup,cable,DAC,Amp,caps,now even fuse…. ,

                    • L.

                      No i just meant I’m not a big fan of the 5998 tubes but I prefer the sound of the chatham/RCA 6AS7G tubes

                    • Trent_D

                      Those seem fairly cheap. I… I feel this… itch… in my trigger finger again.

                    • yhong

                      if EHHA Rev A pair with HD600? anybody or mike try before?nice pair?

                    • L.

                      The Embedded Hybrid Headphone Amplifier Rev A. No idea, at all

                    • I wasn’t impressed with the EHHA at all to be honest. Maybe it was that one particular build, I don’t know. But the Crack definitely trumps it for Sennheiser pairing.

                    • “improvement” is a subjective term. Let it be a more likeable sound signature or just more detail is what we deem to be “improvements”. If you like your HD600 to sound more HD650 like, then RCA 6AS7G is the choice, a very bassy tube. If you prefer more detailed and cleaner sound, the Tung Sol 5998.

                      DAC> Definitely makes a difference. Each DAC has a different sound
                      Cables> Go do a bit of homework, there’s silver, copper, SPC and gold.
                      Amp> Bottlehead Crack. Best thing there is otherwise for the Sennheiser HD600/650/700. The combination of OTL and the high Z Senns is perfect. Just don’t look further unless you have more than $2000 to pull from your pockets
                      Caps, fuse, chokes, potentiometer and what not> At your own discretion. Upgrades from this point on are purely at your own personal judgement. Caps and pots do make quite the difference though.
                      Setup> The Bottlehead Crack does not drive eletrostats/orthos. Period.

                    • L.

                      Thanks @facebook-692862021:disqus

            • It’s best under $1K.

              • L.

                That’s a bit tougher

  • The 580’s are absolutely stunning cans. For a newbie like myself used to $20 discount jobs the first time I put them on they didn’t leave my ears for 6 hours straight. Never, ever imagined Puccini could sound this good… it was and remains a pivotal moment of my music listening.

    • Good to hear that, Privet!

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  • rob

    I recently picked up a pair of HD600’s for use with WA7 fireflies, using the electro harmonix valves, and i didn’t find there to be very much bass impact at all. Is that just a result of the pairing? I found a small adjustment in my eq around 64hz and a small trim at 4k helped. I love the detail but it just isn’t very immersive.

    • dalethorn

      My guess not having both of those (but having had the 600) is you’ve matched a slightly soft headphone to a slightly soft amp. I’d guess a headphone with a more crispy sound would be a better match.

      • rob

        sounds possible; any suggestions? I was looking at perhaps jumping into LCD-2 or alpha dogs next. I keep reading about the best bass texture which is important to me.

        • dalethorn

          From what I read here the Alpha Dogs are exciting to a lot of people, but don’t have the full bandwidth quality of the LCD2, which I guess you wouldn’t expect anyway. If I could, I’d get all of those ortho/planar mods just to have them. I first learned about the WA7 from the amazing review by Ken Rockwell. Still, I wouldn’t be inclined to drive an LCD2 from a small valve amp, even though Rockwell says it has a great power reserve. Solid state maybe, or a valve amp designed specifically for big planars. What I would choose myself would be a Beyer Tesla. That razor-sharp detail would be a good match for the WA7.

          • rob

            thanks for the feedback..i can tell you that even on lo-gain , i can’t pho past 2 o’clock with my hd600; way too loud and not comfortable at all. I usually use high gain and hang out between 10-12 o’clock depending on the recording. Other than that, i have found that careful use of the eq to trim out some sibilance around 4k really improves all of the lower freq. response.

          • I would sooner cut off my right arm than claim a review by Ken Rockwell is amazing, let alone valuable, notable or informative–it reads more tabloid like than anything else I have encountered in audiophilia. Many of his reviews are poorly written and are totally off the mark from what products actually are like.

            As for his Woo Audio WA7 review, I took a look at it just for the heck of it and I noticed so many inconsistencies in his terminology for audio, some being highly outdated (kc for kilocycles, for example, instead of KHz) and others never used in that context. The measurements themselves are far from impressive compared to a Objective 2 or a Benchmark DAC1 or DAC2’s frequency response, total harmonic distortion and channel balance performance levels. See and compare: ;

            I do not know who or what Ken Rockwell is or what his real intentions are with reviews like these but he is far from transparent and forthright in his practices. I respectfully accept the idea of subjectivity and preference but in speaking objectively of cold hard facts, there is no room for variance from widely established scientific evidence.

            • Ken Rockwell is a peculiar personality, but he’s as honest as the day is long, and I’d rather cut off my own arm than misrepresent what he is. He got very famous, especially on two large photo forums, when he published the article Your Camera Doesn’t Matter. There are analogies to that article in audiophilia – the endless and expensive pursuit of one disappointment after another, by a lot of hapless customers who can’t afford it. I wouldn’t vouch for his judgements of sound any more than I would vouch for Innerfidelity’s opinions or those of other similar testing sites. But on Ken Rockwell’s side, take a long look at his printed test measurements of gear – he’s the real deal, and I doubt there’s anyone who has better electronic testing skills.

              • I did take a long look and his conclusions were very much off the mark based on the numbers he obtained. His numbers are much worse than those in the Objective 2 and the Benchmark DAC series, as seen in the very links to NWAVGuy’s site whose results have been repeatedly verified and hold water to this day. Lest you believe an unhampered monetary pursuit for audio perfection is what I am a proponent of, which I am not (personally, I have not and will never spend over $500 on headphones and I only own two headphones at a time, one of them costing $100 or less), I am quick to point out that the Objective 2 is available for a totally economical $150 or less, less than half of the price of the $399 Woo Audio WA7, and performs decidedly better according to the numbers, and personal experience.
                As for his photography… I’ll just say that his photographs have major color, brightness and contrast balance issues and that is just being mildly descriptive of the clear issues in them. Yes, I have heard from photography experts before, and many of my friends are gifted photography majors at a prestigious university, that his ideas are akin to quack medicine–it is all psychological feel good and not real scientific, well-measured technique and skill. It is a good thing magazine covers and billboards do not use his photography techniques or we would be stepping several decades backward.

                • 1. Ken Rockwell’s test results are dead accurate.
                  2. Ken’s article that I referenced had nothing to do with his personal photography. It had to do with everyone’s ability to explore their own creativity. I found it to be a breath of fresh air among so many stagnant discussions.
                  3. I’m happy that you’re happy with your headphone and amplifier purchases, and I wish you well.

                  • Anonymous

                    Dale, I wager you have not looked at the numbers I specifically mentioned. I do not like being superfluous when it is entirely unnecessary but here it goes, cutting to the chase:

                    You mention Rockwell’s numbers are dead accurate. That is okay and that is not what I am questioning. It is his interpretation of those numbers that are off the mark. See these numbers for THD, channel separation and frequency response. They are taken directly from the linked articles by NWAVGuy and Rockwell. The more you know, the more you grow:

                    Woo Audio WA7
                    THD at 1 KHz, 37 ohms: 0.0111652% (A clear disadvantage by about a factor of 10. This is CMOY level performance.)

                    Frequency response: 3 dB down at 12 Hz (A built-in low-pass filter, I see. Jokes aside, this is way too much deviation for a product of this price range. A CMoy could easily outpace this.)

                    Channel Balance: 1 dB (See worst case scenario separation in the charts. It is not outright detectable, but this much imbalance does skew sound to one side to some degree. As a recall from some readings regarding psychoacoustics, it is on the order of 10 to 20 degrees off-center. No, thank you for that much cash.)

                    Output impedance (for kicks): ~22, ~35 and ~108 ohms (By the 1/8th rule, headphones below 168 ohms cannot even be used on this without some response changes. Forget IEMs which are finicky as all get it and can vary by +/- 5 dB or more from this. As for that 108 ohm output, that might as well be saved for the very rare vintage headphone that under perform most $20 modern headphones anyway.)

                    Objective 2
                    THD at 1 KHz, 15 and 150 Ohms: 0.0023% and 0.0016%

                    Frequency response: +/- 0.1 dB from 20 Hz to 20 KHz

                    Channel balance: 0.6 dB

                    Output impedance: 0.54 ohms
                    (These ensure no audible distortion, soundstage skewing, and the widest possible headphone compatability.)

                    I hope this helps clarify any confusion or misunderstanding. If this doesn’t make sense, some Google-Fu action can help you. In short, the Woo Audio WA7 isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you are buying based on the numbers, it easily falls behind. I believe even many of the FiiO’s surpass it on technical level. That is not to say a tube amp is bad. If you enjoy the sound, then I guess go ahead and spend the quid. However, I would submit that many would rather experience the purest beat and emotion the artist intended and save the stash of cash for a better pair of headphones or, better yet, music than spend extra for a substandard premier amp.

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  • Mike, just wanted to say thanks for this article. I have re-read it many times over the last few years. Great stuff man 🙂

  • Dimitry Kolbaskin

    A very sad article…