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Sennheiser HD 650 Reference Level Headphones Print E-mail
Saturday, 01 July 2006
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Sennheiser HD 650 Reference Level Headphones
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ImageThe consumer headphone market has evolved considerably over the last 30 years. Headphones have been used for better than a half-century as an integral tool in the studio for recording and mastering due to their accuracy and immediacy. As a teen, I owned a pair of higher-end headphones that I used to defy my music curfew. They allowed me to listen to my raucous music at concert volumes without disturbing or, better yet, even alerting the rest of the household. Although the sonic pureness of headphones has rarely been in question, the fact remains that headphones, regardless of size, have always been plagued with the reputation of being fatiguing to both wear and listen to for extended periods of time. Additionally, there has been resistance from many audiophiles, who place huge stock in soundstage accuracy and instrument placement.

Sennheiser is no newcomer to the world of headphones. In fact, most recognize Sennheiser as the world leader in headphone transducer technology, as well as microphone, wireless and infrared sound transmission. Founded back in June of 1945 in Wedemark, Germany, following the end of WWII, Dr. Fritz Sennheiser and his team of engineers embarked upon a journey that has led the company to the top of their market.

The HD 650 is the flagship of Sennheiser’s consumer headphone line. Retailing for $499, the HD 650s employ a dynamic speaker configuration with an open shell design. The HD 650s have a frequency response of 10 Hz to 39,500 kHz. With headphones, the only statistic as important as sound is comfort. The HD 650s weigh in at 260 grams or just over eight ounces, making them an extremely light load for your neck to bear. The HD 650s come with the standard 6.3mm jack, as well as a handy 3.5mm adapter for smaller pieces, such as iPod and other portable devices. The HD 650s come handsomely packaged in a silver hinging case that’s nicely fitted with foam to protect your investment. Upon further inspection, the HD 650s are a very sexy piece of gear. The outer headphone is constructed with a high-gloss metal-flake plastic that looks like a million bucks. On the external part of the earpiece are matching gray, perforated screens that provide a view into the backside of the speaker array. The speaker cups are oval in shape, measuring four inches vertically and three inches across, and are fitted with a soft, velvety fabric. An interesting feature: the cords have two-pin connectors that plug into each of the ear cups. If you have a shorting issue with the headphones, the cable can be easily replaced. Those who use wired devices, such as headphones and game controllers, for extended periods of time know that the cables can someday fail if they are used excessively.

Headphone Fit
There are no two heads or two sets of ears that are the same. Therefore, the best fit for headphones for you is determined the old-fashioned way, by trying them on. There are a few basic configurations for headphones. There is the common in-ear style, often used with iPods or other portable devices. Then there is the over-ear style that sit on top of the ear, and then the enclosed style like that of the HD 650s. After using each of these on a regular basis, I offer this assessment. In-ear is convenient for portable devices, but often allows the majority of bass to escape, unless the earphones are fitted with sealing earpieces. (This excludes the professional in-ear models that are used by most touring musicians.) On-ear can often be the most comfortable of the batch, but offers zero noise isolation and, again, they allow bass information to escape. Enclosed headphones like the HD 650s offer a lower-noise experience, along with improved dynamics, due to a more controlled inner environment.

I utilized a variety of different sources to best evaluate the HD 650 headphones. My primary source was a Sonic Frontiers Line 3, outfitted with Headroom headphone circuitry. This tube stage headphone amp has been a reference of mine for many years. I additionally used the output from my Kenwood DV-5900 and DR-5900 to test the HD 650s on a moderately-priced source. Lastly, I used my iPod with MP3 files.


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