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Skeezix the Cat

Sennheiser HD 700 Headphones


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Appearance and feel
Before I even got to the cans themselves, I was impressed with the packaging. They came in an entirely oversized box, stuffed with paper to cushion the actual Sennheiser box which, contained another hinged box inside that housed a very springy memory foam with the headphones presented beautifully inside a smooth mould. The headphones themselves are admittedly more plastic than metal and some have voiced concern for it. I'm personally not against them being plastic if it means they're lighter for it. At 270 grams, or ~9.5 ounces they aren't setting any records but are far from heavy. Despite the plastic, holding them in your hands or even just looking at them screams quality. I had several friends and coworkers try them out and even those that weren't impressed by the sound and that an amp was required admitted they were the most comfortable headphones they'd ever tried. The pads are different from Sennheiser's usual go-to material of velour; they are made of microfiber, which isn't a huge upgrade from velour and will likely depend on your personal taste whether it's better or not. Either way it is an amazingly comfortable material and wish I had underwear made out of it.

Sound
Let me just say that I don't have the absolute best amps in the world. When connected to my computer I use the built in amp on my Sound Blaster Z sound card, which is good up to 600 ohms and any volume over 40 is very uncomfortably loud. How good the DAC is, though, I am unsure. When used with my phone, I have a Fiio E11 portable amp which I can't tell any difference when compared to the sound card amp.

I'll start with the soundstage. Most people would agree that the only places you'll ever find a wider soundstage is either on an actual stage or with the HD 800s. It's really something how you on some tracks you can tell which direction the artist is singing from, if you imagine yourself as the microphone. It sounds like it would be obvious with any headphones but I've never noticed it before. I wouldn't go so far as to say you could pinpoint the precise distance down to a couple inches where each instrument is in a recording, but it is abundantly clear what sounds are close, what sounds are kinda far and which ones are way out as well as if they're behind you, left of you, slightly in front of you and to the right, etc.

You definitely are missing out using .mp3s, even 320kbps. 320kbps sounds perfectly fine but just doesn't sound as good as it should. A lot of reviews point out how headphones like these will really let you know when you're listening to inferior recordings or files, and they're right to an extent but I think those claims are slightly exaggerated. Down to 256kbps is just acceptable if nothing better is available but you're really not getting your money's worth here. Like driving a Ferrari on gravel.

These cans definitely require a break-in period. Fresh out of the box the highs were not necessarily harsh, but overly sparkly and the letter S always turned into a hiss. Over the 5 or so hours that I listened to them on the first day I could tell they were getting better and after a few days the full range sounds about as it should. Highs are flawless, after hearing these it's impressive at just how poorly reproduced high frequency sound is by other headphones. The mids are the cleanest sounding I've ever heard out of any music listening device hands down. This is the kind of thing that you can only really understand once you've experienced it. It takes a lot of "noise" and distortion to become noticeable, but with these headphones you are absolutely certain there is next to none of either. Every musical detail comes out in stunning clarity, you can listen to a track over and over and find new things you've never noticed before. There are so many details all laid out before you cleanly and separate that it's impossible to really notice them all in one go. As for the bass, I have to admit I'm a basshead and am biased here. The HD 700s are reportedly the bassier version of the HD 800s, and if that's true then whatever the HD 800s make probably doesn't even qualify as "bass" by my standards. The 700s do make low frequency sounds, and it's about as tight and clean as it comes but unlike with the highs and mids this is not the best sounding I have ever heard, personally. Again I am biased and heavily involved in subwoofers in car audio, so that title is a hard one to win in my case.

When they were new there was some degree of listening fatigue mostly because of the hissy treble but now I can listen to them almost indefinitely. If I get tired of hearing music or even if my ears hurt a little from just having the volume unnecessarily high, I'll often stop it and completely forget to take the headphones off. Then I'll go and browse Facebook or go to Youtube and load a video then reach for my headphones before realizing I'm still wearing them.

Summary
These are a gorgeous, amazing feeling pair of headphones with a thick and sturdy removable nylon cable that scream quality despite being largely plastic. At 150 ohms, they are not hard to drive by basically any headphone amp you might have and will shine even on budget amps and DACs. The sound is god-tier but that does not necessarily mean you will have an out of body experience the moment you try them. These are still neutral, clean and not overly obnoxious sounding headphones and if you don't appreciate them at first, all you have to do is try to go back to a lesser set and see just what you've left behind. No matter what genre you like to listen to, these cans will deliver. Some cons are, admittedly;

1. Replacement cables are stupid. $35 for a 1.2m cable? How about no? And what in the actual heck is this?
2. They leak sound like no other. I would honestly guesstimate the loudness outside of the headphones to be maybe only 10db quieter than inside at best.
3. They are expensive. Overpriced, even. I would pay no more than $500 for these, but I also would pay no more than $500 for *any* set of headphones.
4. They need an amp. But is that really surprising?

Despite the cons, I still happily award these a 10/10. Yeah, replacement cables are overpriced but you couldn't hurt this cable short of setting fire to it. And if that's a concern, I'd be more worried about the cans themselves. The sound leaking is a non-issue entirely as I didn't buy these to take them on the subway or whatever. I have my IE 80s to take with me in public. This also negates the whole needing an amp thing. Being home listening headphones it's not a big deal to plug them into an amp instead of my phone directly and 90% of use will be with my computer which eliminates the need for an external amp anyway. I got these on Amazon for $400, they were new except the box had been opened. I couldn't pass up the deal so here we are. I definitely think they're worth $400, and as I said earlier I'd go up to $500 for them but no higher.

No headphones are perfect and I was aware of most of these "issues" a long time ago but they are part of the high end headphone scene and shouldn't even be considered problems. Kinda like still needing gas for your brand new BMW.

10/10

ShikuTeshi, swamp, Tucker933 and 1 other like this

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Sennheiser makes open back headphones. Audio leak isn't an "issue" but something that can't be prevented with open headphones.

 

However, the good thing with having open headphones is the ability to stay aware of your surroundings. Especially if you have a family.

Of course, if you want to be isolated or don't want to bother people around you, get a pair of closed headphones.

Edited by ShikuTeshi
Skeezix the Cat likes this

"You're nothing but a thing to me." -Tucker933 2016   

"Mine's not huge, but neither are my hands, so it's a real good fit." -Badga666 2017                

"It's not incest until it's in." -Caesar 2017

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Yeah but these leak on an entirely different level compared to other open Sennheisers I've had. You could still use them around people but maybe try to avoid nsfw stuff or maybe not while everyone is trying to sleep I guess? I do agree though that it really isn't a con but some people might think it is.


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