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Sennheiser HD 650 Reference Level Headphones  Print E-mail
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Written by Bryan Southard   
Saturday, 01 July 2006
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Sennheiser HD 650 Reference Level Headphones 
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Music and Movies
It was suggested that the Sennheiser HD 650 headphones were not a good match for lower-powered portable devices, such as my iPod, because they could not produce adequate volume. I am happy to report that they were wrong. The HD 650s provided as much or more volume than I can achieve with the stock Apple headphones. They seem considerably louder, in fact, due to the hugely increased bass response.

I started with Eric Clapton from his Unplugged CD (Reprise/WEA), using my Apple iPod as a source. “Lonely Stranger” provided me with an instant taste of what these headphones can do. There was major improvement in the bass and overall tonal balance. As Clapton slowly plucks his strings, the improved decay was greatly apparent.

One side of me hesitates to recommend $500 headphones for use with a $250 player, yet it sounded fantastic. I switched to my Sonic Frontiers setup and again listened to “Lonely Stranger.” Although I heard instant improvement, it was clear that the HD 650s were making everything they were plugged into sound great. There was solid isolation from the outside world. I paused for a moment to notice the sounds of my sprinklers running outside and TV playing in the upstairs room. Once fitted with the HD 650s, there was almost complete silence. For those with children – I was unable test this for you.

I compared my reference system using my Revel Salon speakers, a system that retails in the six figures, and noted that although the HD 650s didn’t outperform the Revels with dynamics, in many ways they kept up. They provided more immediacy and aural impact. Over the years, headphones have gotten a bad rap. They have been used by many but never fully respected in the audiophile world. True enthusiasts wouldn’t part with their beloved soundstages and three-dimensional imaging that their traditional speakers provided. Okay, so the HD 650s will not project the images through your front wall. On the other hand, they did provide a quality listening experience that you could only get with speakers costing 10 to 20 times their price. Bass response was huge and they had the knack for making instruments sound real.

Being fortunate enough to own one of Clapton’s signature Martins, I proceeded to humbly play one of his tunes and felt that the Sennheisers made the Martin tone most distinguishable: a great testament to accuracy. I moved to the Kenwood set-up and, although my reference system provided more information, the tone remained consistent with the other sources tested.

I loaded up the newly released 10,000 Days CD from Tool (EMI/Virgin) and played song nine, “Intension.” This cut starts with ambient noise that falls somewhere between a soup kitchen and the jungle. Information was clear and precise. There was very concise definition between instruments and a sonic air that separated them nicely. The occasional beat of a large kettledrum provided very low and accurate information. My room has been measured down to 10 Hz and the HD 650s provided every bit of low information. Of course, they lacked the physical impact of my speakers, but they nevertheless provided the balance necessary to experience a full-range listening experience. The bass guitar on this cut was eerily solid and projected with good authority.


 

 
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