Sennheiser makes some of the best headphones in the world. Its top-end HD 800 headphones are one of just a couple of pairs of receive our Editor's Choice award. The new Sennheiser HD 700 bridge the gap between this £1000 pair and the £300 HD 650. From any other manufacturer, a £600 set like these would be top dog, and they have a lot to prove.
The Sennheiser HD 700 headphones borrow design chops from their big brother, the HD 800. They have a similar space-age look, with cups full of silvery sections, split with a mix of curves and sharp, defined lines. It's a design that makes the HD 650 look rather plain - but that's not to say many won't prefer the more sober looks of the all-grill 650s.
Why all the complicated seams and sections? It's all in an effort to create a structure that completely dampens vibrations, eliminating distortion and keeping the sound as pure as possible.
These are - like the other high-end HD-series models - open-back headphones. The silvery sections that form part of each earcup's back are made of fine steel mesh, curved perfectly for a smooth surface. This mesh covers each opening in the largely-plastic frame. This build is very similar to the HD 800, although the rear grill is much smaller here.
Behind the grill sits the 40mm driver and the "turbulence-reducing" technology that Sennheiser is keen to big-up in this new set. When there's nothing to see of this without tearing the headphones apart, we recommend not thinking about it too much, but it's all about managing airflow and ensuring there are no air vacuums that could affect the driver unit. It's all very clever stuff that helps to justify the slightly Arthur C. Clarke looks.
The Sennheiser HD 700 are circumaural headphones that use pads topped with extremely fine velour. Like their bigger brothers - in both price and size - they are made deliberately large in order to help the weight distribution.
Although the padding is a little harder than some, these headphones are supremely comfortable. As certified at-home headphones they don't need to clamp your head too tight. With a mid-firm grip and light weight, they'll sit happily on your bonce for hours at a time. The headband in particular is extremely well-padded, distributing pressure across the entire top of your head rather than just a top-most point.
Most reading this would probably never consider these headphones for the purpose anyway, but just in case - these are absolutely not outdoors headphones. They offer virtually no sound isolation and leak noise considerably. Neither is a minus point in an open-back headphone, but it is nevertheless something to consider.
Accessories and cable
Keeping things simple in a manner that's typical of a high-end headphone, the Sennheiser HD 700 come in a protective presentation case but offer no accessories as such. Aimed at the home audio enthusiast and above, the cable ends in a 6.3mm jack, and no 3.5mm converter is included.
Much more important, though, the cable is of excellent quality and is removable. Unlike the Sennheiser HD 650 with its proprietary solution, each cup cable here uses a mono 2.5mm jack with an indent in the rubber shielding to aid insertion. The cable has a braided design, giving it a high-quality feel.
Although these headphones have less of a grand stature than the top-end Sennheiser HD 800, they are nevertheless stunningly well-built. Yes, they are not made entirely out of steel, glass, wood and other materials that feel conspicuously hard and expensive, but the movement of each joint and the assured flex of the headband tells you instantly that these are top-end headphones.