Sells for $350-$500
Oh, one of the most beloved and well known headphones in the audiophile community. These were my 'dream' headphone since the beginning of my audiophile journey. One I never thought I'd ever buy back then. It's also one of the few headphones that after I learned what sonic quality I wanted in a headphone, didn't think I would personally like. If I had bought them months or years ago, I'm not sure I would've liked them. I tend to prefer a bright, aggressive, bass and treble-centric headphone. The HD650 is known to be the opposite. Dark/warm, relaxed, and smooth, with dulled treble response. You can see why I was very adamant about not ever giving these a chance.
It wasn't until recently that I wanted to venture out and look for something a little different from my normal preferences. An alternative that I'd use whenever I wanted to sit back, and enjoy a soothing sound, with forward mids/vocals that I could watch my TV shows, movies, anime with. Ironically, my secondary can is considerably more expensive than my main can (DT990s) at the time. Lol, Head-fi logic. Well, I went and took the plunge, hoping for the best, but expecting the worst. I thought I would hate them. Really. It was an experiment that would cost me, but one I needed to do at some point, as the HD650 was always that ONE headphone I was always curious about (more than any other).
So what happened? Did I like them? Hate them? To my surprise... I loved them for music, movies, TV, and anime, and liked but wasn't thrilled by them for gaming. Let's get into the sound.Bass
: The lows. Well, this is surprising. They are actually pretty bassy. Not DT990 bassy, but they have a nice, full, bassy sound. I'd say it's between the DT880 and 990 in presence. It's a warm bass, with medium speed. Pretty much ideal for all-rounder headphones with good bass that would please those that like balance and a fun signature. The bass quantity is enjoyable for all crowds, unless you're a pure neutral-head or pure bass-head. I didn't find myself wanting more bass, though they do roll off in the sub-bass, which is typical of most dynamic headphones, something the HE-400 has no problems with.
If I could score the bass, it'd be; Quantity: 7.5, Quality: 8. Just really pleasing bass all around.Mids
: This is the star of the show. And when I say star... I mean, it is absolutely the best interpretation of mids/vocals I have EVER heard on any headphone...EVER.
I'm usually fine with mid recession as I tend to prefer bass and treble emphasis, but MAN... once I heard the HD650... it made me see mids in a whole new light. The vocals are so sweet, so upfront, so rich, so haunting! Based on mids alone, I recommend this headphone to ANYONE looking for a headphone that does vocals some amazing justice. The only other headphone that provides really sweet mids that I've heard is the Audio Technica ESW9, but the ESW9 is a closed on ear, with a considerably smaller soundstage, and overly smooth treble, and stuffy sound signature in comparison. The ESW9 is good, but not HD650 good.
The HD598 also has very forward mids, but I felt the lean bass, and thinner sound, made the mids sound unnaturally forward and shouty. The warmth and fullness of the HD650 basically destroyed any chance the HD598 had in a direct comparison. There was no competition. The HD650's mids demolish the HD598's in tone, realism, and richness. The HE400 is often compared to the HD650, and despite my preference for the HE400, the HD650 is clearly the king of mids here. The HE400 has great, INTEGRATED mids, that don't sound pushed back or forward with a realistic tone. That being said, the HD650's forward mids are special. The HD650 clearly wins here. As far as Q701 and HD650's mids, the HD650 wins again. The Q701 has forward mids, but they aren't nearly as full sounding, or as rich.
Long story shot, the mids are godly. If I had to score them: Quantity: 10, Quality: 10. That is perfection, because that's how I feel about the HD650's mids.Treble
: Oh the treble. This is single-handedly the ONLY reason I have put off getting the HD650 for so long. If you read about the HD650, the treble will always be discussed and debated on. Are they too smooth, rolled off, undetailed... veiled? This is a debate that will never end on Head-fi. As a fan of treble sparkle and some emphasis, I was absolutely mortified about hearing what people said of the HD650's smooth, laid back, dull, treble.
So how did they sound to me? Surprisingly, I REALLY liked the treble! I didn't LOVE it. I still do prefer some more sparkle, but as the relaxing alternative to my typical treble emphasized headphones, I didn't find the treble overly smooth or dull on the HD650. Trust me, when your main can is the DT990 which is known for it's SUPER treble emphasis, and compare it directly to the much more reserved and rolled off treble of the HD650, you would tend to notice a huge difference. In all honestly, I really thought the treble on the HD650s was right where it should be for the type of headphone that the HD650 is. Without that treble, I think the HD650 wouldn't sound as rich and 'creamy' as they do. Would I use the HD650s as my ONLY headphone? To be frank, no. They performed well in absolutely everything except genres that desired an aggressive signature. Stuff like metal, and EDM just didn't have the energy on the HD650s. So no, they aren't the perfect all rounders. However, through some vocal dependent tracks, and stuff like movies, TV, and most non-music needs (even gaming), the HD650s are indeed in a very good place. Unfortunately, I tend to listen to EDM and metal more than anything, so the HD650 lost a few points.
To score the treble; Quality: 7, Quantity: 7. If the treble is boosted by a bit, these could be what I'd consider very natural to neutral with a slight emphasis towards bass. I think they'd be less rich overall though, so I personally wouldn't want to touch what makes the HD650 what they are.Amping
: I have the HD650 paired up with the Audio-GD SA-31 which is much more powerful than pretty much any amp most of you use, or would use, so I'm not exactly sure how they'd sound with less power, but I personally felt that they aren't as hard to drive as people make them out to be. They need considerably less power than the DT990/600, and possibly even the DT990/250. I'd say they'd need about as much as the DT990/32 for at LEAST volume level. We know power =/= volume, but it helps. To be clear: they do not need a lot to be driven LOUDLY. I tested them with the Mixamp only, and they can be driven off it loud enough. I didn't test it enough to see how well they're actually driven, but they sounded good. They may be a little thinner sounding, which could actually be a good thing for gaming, as it makes pinpointing sounds a bit easier than the very rich, thick signature the HD650s have with the SA-31.
Okay, so how did they perform for gaming?Soundstage
: I haven't gotten to the specifics of gaming with the HD650s yet, but I'll mention the soundstage first. With and without extra amping the Mixamp, I felt the HD650's soundstage to be medium sized. Not big, and not little. However, I didn't find them to be stellar in terms of depth, so the sense of space for gaming, wasn't as good as I would have hoped. I was always expecting the HD650 to not be the greatest pairing for Dolby Headphone, and my fears were slightly warranted. The front/back depth isn't great. Let's get that out of the way. The width is good, but not close to being the best. The DT990 destroys the HD650 in both depth and width. So how's the air within the soundstage? Well, the problem with the HD650, is that it's a very full sounding headphone. Thick, warm tone tends to make the soundstage seems less airy and smaller. This is one of those times where a thinner/leaner sounding headphone has the advantage, like the AD700/HD598/K701. The HD650 isn't STUFFY like say the ESW9, but that rich tonality doesn't help gamers.Positioning
: Positioning and soundstage tend to go hand in hand, so if the soundstage isn't great, the positional cues will suffer. How did the HD650 fare positional-wise? Well, they were good. Not great, and could obviously be better, but they do their job. I could play something like Black Ops without any problems, though having used headphones much better for soundstage/positioning, I could tell they lacked a bit. I'd put the HD650 just ever so slightly above the DT880 positional wise, but they aren't that much better.Clarity
: You need clarity for soundwhoring in competitive gaming. Despite the laid back treble, I found the natural tone of the HD650 to be very detailed. The forward mids came off very clean and clear, and I felt I didn't miss any sounds. I've heard better overall (even the 990's are better for soundwhoring). The problem is that the HD650 is a very thick sounding headphone. Basically, the issues I explained in the soundstage section is what hurts clarity for gaming purposes.Comfort
: I mentioned that Sennheiser likes their clamp. The HD201, HD280 Pro (!), PC360, and HD598 all have some form of clamp. The HD650 is no different. They do clamp a bit more than I'd personally like, but it's a minor gripe overall. I find the HD650 to be very comfortable overall, and over extending the arms a little, to wear the HD650 slightly loose alleviates the clamp a bit. I've felt better, but not much better. The velours are great. Not too firm, and not too soft. The cups are huge and will fit ears very comfortably. I like the oval shape, which makes them easier to use while laying down compared to circular cups.Value
: The Sennheiser HD650 is a considerably expensive headphone. If your main purpose for getting a headphone is gaming, there are considerably better options for less. If pure audio fidelity, and non-gaming purposes is your main purpose, the HD650 is incredibly hard to beat. Their sound signature is just stellar for most things, save for a few genres, and they're competent for gaming, just not stellar. I personally can't justify owning both the HD650 and HE-400, so I stuck with the HE-400 which is a more energetic, and better equipped for gaming use.Final Impressions
: The HD650 has a very special place in my heart. It took years to finally take the plunge, but I'm VERY glad I did. They have quickly become one of my very favorite headphones. Though their gaming performance isn't as stellar as I would have hoped, it's better than I expected. I absolutely love the HD650 overall, and they have made me see the importance of mids, if even for just non-gaming, non-music use. Movies and TV shows are made for the HD650. Their incredible tonality, rich/full sound, perfect mids are an absolute blessing. Treble is definitely it's weakest aspect of sound, but they aren't veiled, just...reserved.
For gamers looking for all-rounders, these do put up a fight. They're better than the vast majority of headphones I mentioned on this guide in terms of audio fidelity, but in raw performance for gaming, they're outclassed by others costing considerably less.