Wayback Wednesday: Sennheiser HD650 – Love your music

Disclaimer: This article about the Sennhieser HD650 is part of the Wayback Wednesday series.  Check out the other Wayback Wednesday articles HERE

 

A lot of readers have been asking me when I was going to feature the good old Sennheiser HD650 on our Wayback Wednesday series, and well, today is the day. If you’ve been following my audio journey over all these years you of course know that I have a special connection with the Sennheiser HD650, but you’ll also know that a lot of people don’t like really like it. Normally I would say that that’s a very normal thing, but in case of the HD650 I would say you’re delusional: if you don’t like the HD650, you don’t like music.

In all seriousness though, I can see why one would prefer the HD600 or HE-560 over my precious headphone but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad headphone. A year or 10 ago I actually bought the HD600 first and I really liked it, but it was only after I bought the Beyer DT990 and the Lafigaro 339 amp that I felt I was missing something while listening to the HD600. Right now I would label it as musicality, even though the HD600 fans won’t agree with me. (But that’s perfectly fine)

It’s the HD650 that made me fall back in love with music.

To get the best out of your HD650 I recommend using a very detailed and neutral sounding dac, combined with a desktop amplifier, preferably one on tubes. Hook up the 250Ohm HD650 to an OTL amplifier such as the 339 or the Bottlehead crack and you should get goosebumps. If you don’t, I recommend seeing a doctor. Urgently.

The HD650 lets you enjoy your music. It’s detailed, sounds dynamic and it has excellent bass and treble with nicely rich (but not very extended) mids. With the right amp the HD650 doesn’t sound veiled, don’t let anyone fool you with that argument. But yes, the HD650 is a bit slower with full bodied and impactful bass. Its delivery is smooth and musical and it’s all about the music.

So basically as soon as I had my HD650 I sold the HD600 and I haven’t regretted it ever since. If I need a faster, cleaner sounding headphone, I pick up the Hifiman HE-560 and to me this combination of headphones will have all your wishes covered. We’re never sure that Sennheiser will keep making the HD650, so as a precaution I have bought an extra unit just to be sure I. The second HD650 is safely stored away in my office, it has never been unpacked and I don’t plan on doing so unless my first unit becomes irreparable.

Is there anything I would like to change in the HD650? Well, I wouldn’t mind Sennheiser changing their paint/headband material thing so the headband wouldn’t chip as fast as it does now. But I wouldn’t change the sound signature as there are enough other headphones on the market that deliver a different sound. Let the Sennheiser HD650 be a romantic headphone, it does so perfectly.

Still not convinced about the HD650 (which you really need to own at least once in your life time), then check out Dave’s review of it here:

 

Wayback Wednesday: Sennheiser HD650 – Love your music
4.4 (88.75%) 32 votes

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Lieven is living in Europe and he's the leader of the gang. He's running Headfonia as a side project next to his full time day job in Digital Marketing & Consultancy. He's a big fan of tube amps and custom inear monitors and has published hundreds of product reviews over the years.

41 Comments

  • Reply June 15, 2017

    Himanshu

    hey! i am looking to buy new pair of headphone
    i am confuse between these and DT 1990 pro
    which one is best buy?

    • Reply June 15, 2017

      Lieven

      Extremely different headphones!

      Source?
      Amplifier?
      Music?

      • Reply June 15, 2017

        himanshu

        source – chord mojo
        Amplifier -(suggest any if required)
        Music – POP,DANCE,EDM

        • Reply June 15, 2017

          Bharat

          For that, get the Fostex – Massdrop TH-X00 just not the ebony. you don’t need an amp for that.

          HD650 isn’t for POP or EDM, it can do it but won’t do justice to it,

          A AKG xxx will work great too.

          • Reply June 18, 2017

            himanshu

            Are they(fostex) available in India?

          • Reply July 4, 2017

            Marek

            Hi Himanshu,
            may I ask you what is wrong with the ebony version for electronic music?
            I’m wainting specially for these ones as they are supposed to sound the most balanced from all TH-X00s. Thanks for your reply.

            • Reply July 4, 2017

              Marek

              I’m sorry, this question is for Bharat, I have scrambled your names

  • Reply June 15, 2017

    tronco

    I got into this hobby about 4 years ago and the HD650 was my third headphone. I’ve bought and sold many headphones but this one stayed in my collection.

    I haven’t heard a better headphone in this price range. And you can get a used one for about 200 (swiss) bucks. Unbeatable value.

  • Reply June 15, 2017

    himanshu

    source – chord mojo
    Amplifier -(suggest any if required)
    Music – POP,DANCE,EDM

    • Reply June 15, 2017

      Lieven

      Go for the DT1990 then, the HD650 needs a different type/kind of amp imo

      • Reply June 15, 2017

        himanshu

        sure thanks for advice..

        • Reply June 15, 2017

          himanshu

          i,ve heard that highs are fatiguing in DT1990 are they? that is why i am considering HD 650..

  • Reply June 15, 2017

    Jonas Bonér

    Thanks for a great post. HD650 is a favorite of mine as well. I’m interested in getting the LaFigaro 339. Which tubes would you recommend with the 650? Also, which DACs would you recommend for this setup? Thanks.

  • Reply June 19, 2017

    Rob L

    I tried a WA7 with HD650 and I was not impressed. It was a little better with my Violectric V100. I have been using a Ressonessence Herus as a DAC for a few years now and I really like it, and I would like to pair it with a tube amp worthy of properly powering the HD650.
    Question – Do you think I will hear a difference between the WA7 and the 339?

    • Reply June 20, 2017

      Lieven

      Oh yes, there’s a big difference between both these amps. The 339 is an OTL amp and its character is more tube-ish than the WA7. I prefer the 339 myself, I never was the biggest fan of the WA7 (and I love Woo Audio)

  • Reply June 20, 2017

    Dave

    Well, I could hear the difference between the WA7 (which I did like) and the 336, so…

    • Reply June 20, 2017

      dale thorn

      I was really interested in the WA7 once, but then they introduced the alternative with the extra power supply box for more $$$. While I can appreciate that customers should have a choice of better gear for more money, I just don’t have a warm and fuzzy feeling about the good-better-best propositions with some products. Radio Shack used to do that a long time ago, and more recently AudioQuest with their Forest-Trees-Lake-River-Copper-Diamond-Gold etc. cables in 17 quality steps – no thanks. I want to buy from someone who makes the best product they can at a realistic price, then maybe later, like Chord with the Mojo, they try to squeeze as much of the flagship product into the affordable/portable version as they can, for much less money. It seems more honest that way.

  • Reply June 26, 2017

    Gregory

    These headphones are super cool!

  • Reply June 29, 2017

    Jurgen

    Every now and then I take a break from my HD650 and listen to some other cans. But the feeling I get when returning to the HD650 is just amazing… I don’t have this with other cans, not even my LCD-2.

    • Reply June 30, 2017

      dale thorn

      Stereophile did a rave review of the HD580 in the mid-90’s I think, and it was the first rave headphone review I remember, although they did some reviews decades before that when headphones were, umm, really different.

      But the HD580 was a little bit distant sounding, so they brought out the HD600, which had a more balanced tuning, although as time went on many headphone audiophiles regarded it as a little bit bright.

      Sennheiser also brought out a first-edition HD650 shortly after the HD600, and that HD650 sounded nearly identical to the HD600. Sometime after that they brought out the newer HD650 (early 2000’s?) which perfected the sound for most of the customers who followed this series, from the 580 to 600 to 650 first edition to 650 final edition.

      Maybe if the HD700 had the same exact tuning with a higher quality driver and so on, it might have been a greater success.

  • Reply July 10, 2017

    Eduardo M

    First congratulations for the post!
    I’m looking to get the HD 650, of all the headphone options above my HD599, the HD 650 caught my attention. The more I search amp / dac the more questions I have. When I bought the HD599 I searched his reviews a lot, and after acquiring them and knowing the sound I noticed that sennheiser described the qualities of the headphones perfectly on his site. Could you give me some idea of amp / dac for the HD650?
    My budget would be around 200 to 300 € (in the future I will look for the upper ones).
    For relying on sennheiser and for it’s indicating on its website the combination HD650 + Apogee Groove I’m interested in purchasing Groove as Amp / Dac. Other options would be the Lake People G103-P Phone amp, however these are just amp.
    I am giving more attention to Amp with two headphone outputs. In the case of the groove would have to use a divider for two outputs 3.5mm.

    • Reply August 30, 2017

      marco

      buy a schiit stack modi/magni. with that kind of money is the best you can get. or an ifi idsd bl used. it’s about 450 but you don’t have to upgrade for a long time

  • Reply September 2, 2017

    Marius

    Lieven,
    Are you familiar with the older black silk-backed HD 650? How does it compare to the silver, in particular on the 339? I feel the 650 is dark enough and I just can’t get used the original version. Maybe I just spent way too much time with the silver…
    Cheers,
    Marius

  • Reply November 1, 2017

    Eduardo

    with limited budget, which amp would you indicate for 650?
    I’m thinking of the Lake People G103-S, it has a good reputation to pontence it for headphones with high impedance.
    Sennheiser joined the 650 with Groove, what do you think? Has anyone tried it yet?

    • Reply November 1, 2017

      Lieven

      Good suggestion. Or the v100 or the Beyerdynamic A20 or the bottle head Crack.

      I love the 650 but it sucks on that Groove thing imho

      • Reply November 2, 2017

        Eduardo

        good suggestions! these three had already researched a bit about them and for my budget would probably go for the Beyerdynamic A20. The question now lies with the DAC. With your experience is it worth a 2 in 1 amp / dac or separate purchase?
        I could wait a while longer and get the V100, but for the European price they charge without being an amp / dac I do not know if it would go into them. I accompanied you here that you liked them very much, have you already tested them with the extra they have, a dac card that you buy from outside?

        I was already ready to buy the 650 I was now in this expectation about this release, the HD660, imagine you are faithful to the 650. Do you think sennheiser will keep the 650’s signature on them?

  • Reply November 2, 2017

    Lieven

    I would go for a separate dac and for the A20 I recommend the Herus.
    The 660 and 650 are complimentary, both great. Ever heard the HD700?

  • Reply November 2, 2017

    Eduardo

    Done then! I will leave the Beyerdynamic A20 at the top of my list at the time of the final decision, when I can buy (I am wanting an amp that I can use two headphones at the same time, and the A20 has these two exits).
    This suggestion of combination (A20 and Herus) fell like a glove! Because when use it with PC, it will be a clean combination. The Herus is small as a pendrive and only show the A20 on the table. But in my case, I could buy one at a time, if I first acquired the Herus, would it provide the necessary potency as AMP/DAC to 650 or even to the new 660S 150 ohms while waiting to buy the A20?

    Lieven, the Dragonfly is far away from the Herus in quality Amp/DAC?
    Would it be a good combination of the A20 with hanging out dragonfly?

    I did not hear the HD700, what I heard about it is that it has a warm sound and is in a middle term between the 650 and 800, and that does not have the deep bass that the 650 has, however it would be more refined and the signature sound with a larger sound spacing. What do you think of him, in your personal opinion?

    Some brands that produce headphones and which also make amplifiers, have opted to have prices that for many can be accessible, such as the A20. I don’t understand how Sennheiser hasn’t played in that area yet. The Sennheiser HDV 820 is at a price far above what I and most could afford.

    The oval design of the 650, which comes from drawings since the time of Orpheus/580/600/650 and now in 660, this oval design pleases me a lot. I only mean the aesthetic part, because I do not know the sound signature of these headphones.

  • Reply November 5, 2017

    DC

    At what price-point can you start to call an amplifier “sufficient” for the HD650?

  • Reply November 6, 2017

    DC

    in this case, I need to look for an amp that offers:

    Volts RMS required to reach 90dB SPL: 0.205 Vrms
    Power Needed for 90d BSPL 0.13 mW

    how do the amps report in mW, would it have to be greater or equivalent to 130 mW? would that be the power needed for the 650?

    • Reply November 7, 2017

      dale thorn

      I’ve asked people for actual watts needed for several components when only volts were given**, and never got an answer. But more to your question, if all you can get is 90db SPL for your strongest peaks, that’s not enough in my opinion. It’s true that you probably wouldn’t want 90 db steady sound (too loud), but if your amp is going to distort a peak that needs to be greater than 90 db (peak transients, percussion etc.), then that’s not good.

      **The DragonFly DACs were an example.

  • Reply November 7, 2017

    DC

    Dragonfly amp / dac (the black Dragonfly of 99 or the red Dragonfly ) has enough power for the 650?

    My budget is limited. I’m already ready to buy the 650, but I’m afraid of which amp / dac, since people say the 650 is hungry for power and did not want to buy an amp / dac that would leave the sound shiny, I want to preserve their hot signature . I just want to enjoy this beautiful 650 that you talk so well.

    The 650 I would use: on the computer via usb with lossless files (would be in the case with Dragonfly)
    and with a turntable (I would buy the A20 amp)

    • Reply November 7, 2017

      dale thorn

      For most of your music tracks, the DragonFlys would sound good with the HD650. For most people who enjoy high-res music, they have a few tracks (or sometimes a lot of tracks) that would not play loud enough with the HD650. And it can get worse, because of the extra power demands of the HD650 at low frequencies, which could cause “soft” clipping you wouldn’t notice until you’ve been listening for a long time. With all of my headphones, the DF Red plays about 6 db lower maximum than the DF Black. And that’s why I kept asking about the power output of each DF into a real-world load like a 300 ohm headphone, but I never got an answer.

  • Reply November 7, 2017

    DC

    DF Black just like Dac connected to the Beyerdinamic A20 and the 650 connected on it
    (PC-usb-DF-A20-650)?

    would have the power of the A20 and DF Dac, would be a good combination?

  • Reply November 22, 2017

    OffRamp

    Just came across this and I got the 6xx from Massdrop in the mail last week. Lieven is correct they are in a league of their own. I have the HD430 from way back and I will have to try them out against those. The 6xx’s are power soaks, you throw it at ’em and they soak it up and remain musical. I haven’t tried them on the Centrance yet but will. I haven’t gotten the separates system up yet because I’m waiting for dowels to build the furniture. So can’t wait to send em heads up against the pack on that system.
    Lieven was right again… so what must I do…
    Well I’m on tap for the 339 only I’m going to hook Oppo’s latest dac to it.

    Always in the background, always reading around…

    • Reply November 23, 2017

      Lieven

      Keep us posted about the journey. 339 on good tubes and HD650 is heaven

  • Reply December 30, 2017

    Carcara

    It could help which of these amp harmonize better between power and synergy with the HD650:
    Would the Lake People G103-S amplifier be sufficient for the hd650?
    or would it be worth going higher between the Lake People G109-S or Beyerdinamic A20?

  • Reply January 11, 2018

    Carcara

    what amplifier harmonize better between power and synergy with the HD650:
    Would the Lake People G103-S amplifier be sufficient for the hd650?
    or would it be worth going higher between the Lake People G109-S or Beyerdinamic A20?

  • Reply February 16, 2018

    DC

    Lieven, could you indicate an amp or amp / dac in the range of € 100 that I can buy to use with the 650 while I expect to be able to buy the A20 amp?

    ps. leaving the 650 with a soft and musical sound to listen already me interests, I know that for this price I can not want an amp / dac analytical and detail.
    At the moment I am listening to the 650 and it is very pleasant to hear, but lack power in the low frequencies and it is necessary to open more in the middle and high frequencies as well, and I would like to improve this in general, since I can not buy the A20 in the next months.

    If you can help me 😀

  • Reply April 27, 2018

    Eduardo M.

    Lieven, really the HD650 would be better with the lust of the tubes as you said, according to your Reviews and indications for the 650, would have the BH Crack and the La Figaro 339, but I do not like having two volume controls
    It would then have BH crack, but it would be almost the same price for min of WA3, you say that BH Crack has a great synergy with 650, and I noticed that WA3 comes with tube 6080, so I’m thinking of WA3 OTL ( 6922 x 2 vacuum tubes and 6080 x 1 vacuum tube) to use specifically with the sennheiser 300ohms, how would synergy with this amp? Would these input tubes provide a smooth and warm sound?

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