These headphones sound absolutely amazing. Though the design is over a decade old, these headphones are a still winner. The build quality isn’t outstanding, with a good bit of plastic, and you may think with a $500 retail price that’s not acceptable. However, Amazon has these for $326.81 as of this review, and maybe that’s a bit more palatable. Keep in mind that you’ll need at least $100 more for a quality amplifier (currently I have a Schiit Audio Magni which retails for $99) and you’ll probably want a digital to analog converter (DAC) as well if you listen from your computer (Schiit Audio to the rescue again, $99 for a Modi). For a listening chair experience these headphones are amazing, but they’re open back so they don’t have good noise isolation- you will hear what’s around you, and people nearby will hear your music, though in a tiny version that isn’t too bothersome.
The ear cups feel like a great combination of felt and velvet and the open back design really makes these comfortable for long periods. The sound signature quite natural- bass is good but not overly so, and highs are warm without being shrill. Whether listening to the London Philharmonic, Pink Floyd, Stevie Wonder, or any number of artists, it’s all about amazing music reproduction. The detail of these headphones is second to none. Individual guitar plucks, brushes on cymbals, it’s all there in vivid detail. One thing to note, all music is not created equal. Even with lossless compression and high bitrate MP3s, many of todays albums are mastered extremely poorly. What on earth does that mean? The record producers apply filters to the music to essentially add their own frequency response to the music. You may find that with a set of headphones with this level of detail, it’s simply not as enjoyable to listen to poorly mastered music. I’m fine with the trade off. Of note, the bass is very good even in electronic dance music, but it’s not aggressive and over the top. Bass fans may not love the Sennheisers, but they’re such a great headphone that I don’t think it’ll matter. While the price may be off putting to some, many headphones like the Audeze LCD-3s go for nearly two thousand dollars and require special amplifiers for planar headphones that, you guessed it, have a lot of zeros after their prices as well. All in all, the HD650 is my pick for the best sanely priced headphone, as long as you have the amplification to drive it. Also of note, if you get into tube amplifiers (which are a whole topic in and of themselves), these headphones sound wonderful, buttery, smooth, and amazing depending on tube pairing. But that’s for another article.
Open back, 300 ohm impedance, $499 retail price
Sennheiser is a German company that has been manufacturing audio equipment including microphones and headphones since 1945 and is one of the largest players in the headphone market: currently they have a gross revenue of over 500 million euro.