Introducing the Sennheiser HD700’s
Sennheiser’s latest premium set of headphones are being touted as a ‘mid-way point’ between the Sennheiser’s flagship HD800’s and the HD650’s. At
$999 $519.99, the HD700’s come at a steep price, although $1,000 cheaper than the HD800’s. After spending some time with the HD700’s, I believe that these headphones would stand as the flagship for any of the other headphones manufacturers, and that the HD700’s improve on the weaknesses of both its predecessors. The result is a versatile set of headphones that will be the ‘best of both worlds’ for most.
First off, let me say that all three of these headphones are fantastic for classical music. All of them excel at this genre and none of them would be a disappointment. Each of them excels at certain aspects of the genre, however, and that’s where people’s preference (and pocketbooks) come into the decision making process.
The large ear-pads resemble the look pioneered by the HD800s. They were the first Sennheiser headphones to debut with this design, and it looks like Sennheiser’s engineers to took the opportunity to tweek the design to be more sleek and eye-catching.
Geeky Observation: It actually reminds me of how the Decepticon logo from Transformers is a sleeker, more stylized version of the Autobot logo. Please forgive my digression…
The HD700 Components:
The large earcups are very similar to the HD800s, but that’s on purpose. The HD800’s came out with this design to position the driver further away from the ear, creating that signature Sennheiser soundstage effect.(You can read more of how it works in my HD800 review).
The earcups are made of a soft micro-fibre that–while Sennheiser hasn’t officially stated it–feels just like the Japanese Alcantra fabric that makes the HD800s feel so luxurious on your head. If it isn’t Alcantra, then Sennheiser has managed to find a fabric that feels just as good.
The earcups themselves have an outer mesh skin and plastic design. This is a curious choice, since a lot of headphones manufacturers have been leaning towards wood earcups to give them a classier feel.
The official weight of the HD700s is 14.4 ounces, heavy for average headphones (although the Grado PS1000’s come in 17.6!). But you wouldn’t know it when you place them on your head. The comfortable micro-fibre material lines the headband, and the very-slight clamping pressure means you can wear them for hours and not notice them.
These are the ideal ‘sit at home and sip some wine while listening to your favourite music’ headphones. Just make sure you’re using a high quality music source, or these headphones, like the HD800s, will reveal it.
The Sennheiser HD700 Cable: Detachable, Thankfully.
In keeping with high-end headphones, the long, braided detachable cable comes with a 6.3mm jack. It does not include any 3.5mm converter, however.
The cord itself feels strong and durable. The other end features a detachable ‘Y-cord’ (3.5 mm each) that plug into each left / right earcup. It doesn’t have any anti-tangling design, which can be a problem if you move your headphones around a lot. Another reason to have an after-market cable.
HD700 Sound Quality:
My impression of sound quality are subjective and based purely on how the sound felt to me when I put on the headphones. I don’t use data graphs or anything like that. If you want that, there’s an in-depth data-based review on head-fi that is far beyond my capabilities. My impressions are my own, from how the headphones sound to me.
Sennheiser HD700 vs HD650
Sennheiser’s HD600 and HD650s are a popular headphones line and one of the best sounding headphones you can get in the $400-$500 range. Most high-end music producers will usually have a pair on hand in their studio. They’re a popular choice because of their lack of harmonic distortion and ability to make most genres of music sound good.
It’s no stretch to suggest that the HD700s are more comfortable on the head than the HD650s. Don’t get me wrong, the HD650s are no slouch, with comfy earcups that fit snugly over your ears. The trouble comes in clamping pressure. The HD650s clamp forcibly and it prevented me from doing any listening sessions for an extended period of time. I’ve read Amazon reviewers that suggested the clamping pressure lessens over time, but in the week I was able to try them they definitely the length of my listening sessions.
Sennheiser HD700 vs. HD800
The HD700s are going up against a pair of headphones that I called “The Best Headphones in the World”. Sennheiser was smart by not trying to create a scaled down version of the HD800 with these headphones. They’re trying to be a more robust pair of cans that improve on some of the ‘eccentricities’ of the HD800’s.
I’ve already mentioned that stylistically they are similar, with the HD700’s having a more sleek look to them. The driver is smaller: 40mm to 54mm for the HD800’s. The darker sounding HD700s are better, in a way, because they’re more forgiving on a tired pair of ears. A lot of treble can fatigue you pretty quickly, so having that darker presence helps for long listening sessions.
The HD700s are also warmer sounding and more balanced overall. The bass is tighter, however there’s some depth to the bass that the HD800 picks up that the HD700s do not. Which is fair, since the HD800s are the only pair of headphones where I’ve heard such depth.
When everything is perfect on your system (high quality tube amp, lossless audio source, etc.) the HD800s are unsurpassed. But they are demanding. It’s like hanging around a perfectionist that reminds you of all of your flaws. But your system doesn’t have to be perfect for your HD700s to shine. I used them with a FiiO E7 DAC Portable Headphone Amp and they sounded fine.
The HD800 is still the champion of soundstage. The soundstage effect is smaller with the HD700, which some may consider a good thing. The HD800’s instrument separation is so pronounced that, when listening to energy music like rock, the music can sound lifeless. I like to put it this way: the HD800s put you right into an orchestra, whereas the HD700s put you in the front row.
Notable HD700 Reviews From Around the Web:
Head-fi User Jude got a week to play with the HD700 before it was launched at CES 2012 and gives an in-depth review. Here’s the summation:
“At its price, given its fidelity and versatility, the HD700 is fantastic. If you’ve had the HD 800, experienced glimpses of magic from it, but couldn’t get the synergy in your system right to get it just so, then the HD700 is very likely the first headphone you should put on your to-buy list.”
Read the full review here.
Cnet UK Review:
“The HD 700s offer a modern, striking design and a reassuringly sturdy build. Their ability to reproduce excellently clear, open audio will be particularly welcome to fans of classical and live music, although the hardened bass nuts might want to look to closed-back cans.”
Where to Buy Sennheiser HD700:
As with most Headphones when they first come out, Sennheiser set the MAP (Minimum Approved Pricing) for Retailers at $999.99. That means that, wherever you go, the pricing is the same.
I just want to say this: the HD800’s will give you an unsurpassed music experience, but it will require you to have the greatest sources and amps, and won’t let you get by cutting corners.
The HD700’s are kind of the best of these worlds, taking what’s great about the HD700 and, without sacrificing too much detail, gives it a more robust ability to play a more varied selection of music.
Sennheiser HD700 Specs:
- 14.4 oz
- Driver: 40mm
- Harmonic Distortion:<0.03 %
- Jack Plug: 6.5mm
- Frequency Response: 10-42,000 Hz