Sennheiser HD 650 over-ear open-back Headphones - Official Thread

They are great headhones and have stood the test of time. However the are dymamic and their high end is lacking.(they really squeeze one’s head!) I bought a pair of HiFiMAN He-300’s for $300(they were being being “upgraded”. and after some serious modifications and some power I’ve heard lowering efficienty cost some fidelity.) But back to the subject. I’ve A/B the He-300’s and Sennheiser very close 2nd. After the modifications, which does nullified the warranty, the comparison. These are planars and need a dedicated amp. Which all hi-end headphones do. This is not a personal belief, but a fact.


The thing I hate most about the HD650 is that a headphone that just straight up improves on it doesn’t exist. In my listening, I’m very tonal focused; I’d take good tone over good technicalities almost every time. The HD650 just nails tone for me. But of course, tone isn’t everything for me—my ideal headphone still has good technicalities. Even out of the best setups I’ve used, the HD650 still has slightly muddy bass, treble grain, and this distinct lack of resolution that makes it clear that this headphone, while great, is limited. Still, it’s one of my all time favorite headphones.


The HD650 was my first proper audiophile headphone and is the only one I’ve never sold. Like @Ishcabible above, there is nothing out there that is just the 650 but better.

I modded mine for improved bass response and tightness and they’re balanced now, but of the offensive number of headphones I’ve tried to replace the HD650 with, nothing ever wins overall.

I started acquiring headphones for specific genres until I realized I had thousands of dollars of cans and still usually used the HD650s.

Now I use the Senns and a pair of Future Sonics MG5HX in-ears. I’ll get the bug again later but every headphone disappoints me. Probably just on to soundproofing and speakers next.


Can’t add much to what’s been said above except that in an attempt to improve any of the treble deficiencies I felt/heard to exist in the HD650 I purchased a silver cable. Not silver plated…silver wire.

I was in fact a cable sceptic until trying the original Cardas “smurf” with the HD600 and couldn’t deny the difference.

But I didn’t find equal improvement with the Cardas/650s so did a lot of research and listening (thanks to friends, forums and meets).
I went with advice on a well made (used) silver cable from a reputable company.
I was and remain very happy with the results.
Again, I had the good fortune to be able to experiment with a great deal of a friend’s gear without having to purchase it.
This also allowed both of us to compare notes/impressions on differences and/or improvements we heard consistently.


I just got my first HD650. I like it a lot so far :slight_smile:

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Like the others above I find the HD650 to have a few faults but they are not deal breakers like many other headphones that I’ve tried. I’m still on the fence on modding my HD650 like some have done to reduce the “faults” but since I also got a HD6XX I might have a go with modding it over the HD650.

Do you use EQ? I’ve never heard the HD 650, but I do have the HD 600 and feel very similarly about it. Other than my powered monitors, it’s got probably the most natural sounding tonal balance I’ve heard (in the midrange and up) but the bass isn’t great and their grain really stands out in comparison to my DT 1990s and LCD2Cs. It’s not as bad as I remember the grain in my HD 598s, but still very noticeable and not pleasing.

I’ve found that tonal balance on something like my DT 1990s is something I can largely correct with EQ without suffering adverse effects, so that’s basically what I do. Have you played with EQ much to see if you can make your more technically sound headphones achieve an HD 650 tonality?

The only can for me that was an upgrade to that HD650 magic was the Atticus w/ lambskin Ori pads. I have to say though, the HD600/650 mid range just sounds so organic, it’s really addicting.

I don’t really use EQ because I like being able to have a consistent experience between different sources. I occasionally use my stuff out of my phone and since I can’t use EQ on that, I don’t want to get too used to a particular sound so I usually do mechanical mods instead.

The problem with higher end headphones is that they all seem to have a dip past 1kHz, so for a similar experience, I’ll need to shelf everything around 1-4kHz which would be possible, but that still doesn’t compensate for other headphones’ issues in that area. Right now I have a Utopia and HE6 on loan and even with EQ, it really isn’t right. HE6 has a plasticky timbre in the upper midrange and Utopia has a strange resonance around 4kHz that is consistently bothering me. The HD800 also has a bit of plasticky timbre even when I EQ it too, so as much as I wish I could EQ it, I’m never fully satisfied with it.

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If you’re on Android, I can heartily recommend USB Audio Player Pro. Has parametric EQ (with Toneboosters plugin) and can also play my Google Play and Tidal music, thereby allowing me to apply EQ to those. On desktop, I pretty much use Roon which has good built-in EQ as well.

I agree though, if I could find a resolving high-end headphone without tonality issues, I would love being able to go without EQ. I’d love to hear the Focal Clear sometime, as that seems like it might come the closest.

I use iOS unfortunately. I’ve been wanting to switch back to Android, but I use Facetime and iMessage pretty religiously so transitioning would be a pain.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the Clear to be honest. I found it a bit too shouty and the bass was a bit too muddy for my liking. It’s definitely cleaner than the HD6X0, but for what it costs, I was expecting a bit more. I need to give it more of a try though, because I was comparing it to the Elex which was noticeably less shouty.


What high end headphone have you heard that comes closest to not needing EQ for your tastes?

Probably the HE6 I used to own–I’m not sure how much merit there is to the 4 screw vs 6 screw argument, but I don’t like this particular one that happens to be a 6 screw nearly as much as I like mine, which happened to be a 4 screw.

Other than that, Utopia is probably it. I want to say HD800 so badly, but it’s too warm for my tastes and that contrasting the dipped upper midrange is too much.


I know this will sound strange, if not stupid, but my love of the HD 650 has gone so far as to outfit them with $650 worth of Cardas Clear cables–almost twice the current cost of the headphones. But the upgraded cables ameliorate the weaknesses of these phones, notably adding a good deal of clarity and smooth, high frequency detail. In my opinion the 650’s are one of the best headphones ever made (especially the ones with the transducers made in Ireland). And with the Cardas Clears I believe they’ll never sound better. My other two 650’s also have Cardas wire–the Tradition gray cables, in different lengths and terminations.


I personally found the traditional Cardas great with the HD600s to help tame any perceived harshness and give them a bit more body.
When I got the 650s I went with a silver cable (Toxic cables) and felt it helped across the spectrum much as you describe.
Noticed your post because I just bought the Jubilee 580 clone from MASSDROP and was looking at the Cardas Clear they have on sale fir I think $149 right now. I’d like something shorter than the 9ft. Cardas I used on the 600s (before I sold them).
My relative in the US will disown me if I have anymore MASSDROP stuff shipped to him so I might just shorten the older Cardas and wait until the next drop (assuming there’ll be one).
At least the custom cables can be used on 580s and all the HD6X0 Senn cans (and several other older models).

I missed the 600s enough once in awhile that I bought the 580s as a replacement. The 5ft. Cardas clear with the small termination sounds like a future possibility for sure.

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If you can get a Cardas Clear for $149 I’d grab it. Over the years I’ve owned just about all the high-end cables ($500++) and think Clear is the best of the lot. If you’re interested in the science of what makes them so good, it’s explained on the Cardas website…by George Cardas himself.

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I appreciate the information. Although I’m pretty sure every CEO/owner will have a strong argument for why their wire works best.
One thing about Cardas that is different than most though, is that he stands behind his cables for life. That’s the company and the cable’s life, not just the original buyer’s (last time I checked anyway).

I don’t think it’s stupid at all. If the cables enhance your experience then I would take no notice of anyone who gives you negativity. I haven’t bought many aftermarket cables myself but I did buy a balanced one for my andromeda’s. I shall probably get one for some of my overear cans too. I can notice a difference however slight with better cables. Even if it is just placebo for me. I can’t give anyone scientific proof of change. But who cares it’s my money and I don’t need anyone’s affirmation. I should get round to making a cable myself. But I haven’t soldered before though I would be willing to give it a do. It makes much more sense to make my own.

Keep enjoying your present setup and happy listening. :grinning:.


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Hi Paul. You’re right–it’s my money, plus I love listening to music through headphones. I see and enjoy your posts, so it’s clear you love music too…Lee

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Thanks. I do enjoy my music and anything that enhances my listening I will give a go. Within reason of course. I draw the line with magic crystals and what have you. :grin: