These Sennheisers are one of the most comfortable headphones I own, and I can wear these for hours without feeling uncomfortable, despite wearing glasses. Weighing in at just 260 grams, I don’t notice them on my head unlike heavy headphones such as the fidelio X1s (430 grams). The slightly speckled and semi glossy dark grey finish gives them a very subtle but sleek look, and the velour pads are spacious and comfortable.
With that said, there are few minor things that bother me. The stock y cables get in the way when putting on headphones, but aftermarket cables will solve this. The new velour pads do squeak on movement, but it should be resolved as it breaks in. Lastly, I can see how the clamping force can be an issue, but it hasn’t ever been an issue for me, even with glasses. I prefer this secure clamp, which is similar to Beyer clamping, unlike looser headphones like AKGs or Fidelio X series.
To start, there’s a need to establish that these are not neutral headphones. Frequency response and listening impressions clearly show a slightly rolled off treble and a bump in bass, which results in a warm and smooth sound. Despite this warmness, there’s a ton of detail in the sound if you search for it, which is a key difference from a lot of Beyer headphones which I also adore. Beyer headphones instantly feel like they are detailed due to the bump in treble and the separation in the soundstage width. On the contrast, the HD650s have a slightly narrower soundstage, but the separation is still present and can be heard if you listen for a specific instrument. I don’t think the “narrower” soundstage is bad at all and was intentionally tuned this way because it oftentimes gives a more realistic and cohesive sound you’d hear at a concert venue. One thing I do want to emphasize is that the treble isn’t gone. There are a lot of headphones that roll off treble significantly, and these are not one of them. While the treble isn’t in your face, you will definitely notice it if you are listening to music with these headphones.
The other strength in the HD650s is the soundstage depth. There’s a ton of depth when listening for resonance in each instrument, and this spacious depth creates a feeling of 3D-ness when listening to the sound. People often call Beyer headphones “flat” or “dry,” and it’s this key difference that causes that listening impression. At the end of the day, I think a majority of listeners are only really listening to music 25% of the time tops, where they’re trying to hear every little part in the music. When you want to get lost in the music, the HD650s do a really great job engaging you with the recording.
Lastly, the mids are definitely the highlight of these headphones. It’s universally agreed that these headphones have one of the best sounding mids compared to its competitors, and I wholeheartedly agree. So, what does all this mean?
Genres HD650s kill it are mid focused genres that have relatively sparse compositions. I absolutely love them for vocalists, opera, solo instruments, musicals, and they also do a fantastic job with some rock artists like Queen. In addition, there’s ample bass for me to listen to a lot of electronic artists and enjoy. After recently attending an Above & Beyond concert and listening to the set on these headphones, the depth created such an engaging listening experience for me.
When it comes to heavily layered music, it’s when I start to feel like these headphones are letting me down slightly. While listening to crazy Dream Theater riffs on the 650s still lets me hear all the details, I just feel like I want more separation and harshness that brighter headphones offer. This also stands true when listening to heavily layered romantic era symphonies. It’s a fair argument to say that the narrower soundstage is realistic when you attend a live performance with the sounds blending in, especially sitting in tier 1 seats, I personally also enjoy being able to hear each section distinctly.
Overall, these headphones do most genres impressively well, and it still handles most of its weaker genres better than how the other headphones handle their weaker genres, if that makes sense. That’s why these headphones will always be my pick if I could only have 1 headphone, but let’s be real – who in the right mind has only 1 pair of headphones in this hobby?
- 00:00 – 00:36 – There’s a lot of depth in soundstage such as resonance in his voice and background bass guitar. Overall, it sounds slightly warm, but soundstage width feels just right enough to give it a cohesive sound.
- 00:36 – 1:08 – There’s definitely treble as the drum parts are present. Bass is tight and slightly louder relative to mids. The guitar pops blend in nicely unlike K550s, which can feel very distant. I personally prefer the HD650 soundstage.
- 6:58 – 7:30 – Again, bass is definitely present and above average, there’s plenty of highs, and the soundstage makes the turntable lines sound very distinct whereas it gets lost in most headphones.
- 00:00 – 00:50 Response sounds just slightly warm. Again, the highs are present in cymbals, separation and soundstage width feel just right. Interestingly, the bass guitar lines, unlike the bass drum hits, starting at 00:36 isn’t as present as I thought it would be.
- 00:00 -1:00 Same story here as above. Voice is smooth, there’s a lot of depth to the sound, which can be heard from resonance in voice and upright bass parts. I think separation could be better, but I think it’s more a problem with the recording (since Diana Krall and other things sound great).
- 00:00 – 00:44 These headphones are on the warmer side, but they’re not crazy warm as people make it out to be. Separation between string sections are present with the harpsichord blending in nicely, and the attacks are not harsh at all thanks to it’s smooth highs.
- 00:45 -1:04 Attacks aren’t harsh, but they’re definitely impactful. Nice balance from supporting violins.
- 1:05 – 1:20 – Again, love the balance here. Feels like soundstage equivalent to a smaller hall sitting around first tier seats.
- 00:00 – 00:41 Again, great soundstage balance, sax sections feel slightly warm, which I love, but trumpet and drum hits are still present. Upright bass is there, but not overwhelming at all.
- 1:10 – 1:39 Bari entrance is very forward in some headphones, but they sound balanced here. Nice warm sound from a world class sax section here.
- These might not be my recommendations for new audio enthusiasts. I think for the majority of people, it takes awhile to seek a more “balanced” sound in a market full of headphones that will instantly wow you. When I first heard these 8 years ago, I also wasn’t particularly impressed, but after cycling through more than a dozen headphones, these feel right at home.
- I’d consider these “value” for those seeking higher end headphones but definitely not value for headphones in general. For new enthusiasts, the utility value / $ probably peaks highest on headphones between 100 – 200 dollars, especially with the market out there.
- They do require an amp. I’m an advocate for using the minimal gear possible because of diminishing return, but I find it hard to enjoy them with no gear. A budget amp such as Fiio will still make a huge difference and is adequate to drive them in all genres except maybe classical recordings
- I definitely see myself keeping these headphones for a long long time, and these headphones will sit right alongside my neutral speakers (Zaph 5.2s + sub) for when I can’t listen to my main set up. These almost feel like they have a similar sound to the SR71 speakers by Zaph, which are stupid good speakers.