Sennheiser HD 700 Review
- Excellent detail
- Extremely comfortable
- Great build quality
- Not an HD 800-beater
- Some may prefer brighter signature
- Review Price: £599.99
- Open-back design
- 8-44,000Hz frequency response
- 40mm drivers
- 6.3mm jack
- Removable cable with 2.5mm mono jacks
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.
On each side of the Sennheiser HD 700 there lies cause for raised expectations. Below it in price are the Sennheiser HD 650, extremely popular headphones with a bassy, dark sound and above it the HD 800 – which are some of the most intensely detailed-sounding headphones in the world.
True to form, the Sennheiser HD 700 fall somewhere in-between. These headphones are darker sounding and warmer than the bright-ish HD 800 and better-resolved and more detailed than 650s.
Having given Sennheiser a great many plaudits over the past year, part of us wanted to be able to announce it had finally mucked-up. That the HD 700 weren’t worth the money, and aren’t a patch on the HD 800. Sadly, we can’t.
Superb balance and a smooth run from low bass to the top of the frequency spectrum give them a simply wonderful sound that makes them good for all-day listening. At our original preview during CES, there were points where we seemed to encounter some harshness, but we’re yet to hear any with out review units. If anything, the warmer, darker sound makes them less tiring to listen to than the breathtaking HD 800.
Bass character is similar to the Sennheiser HD 800. It’s lean and muscular, with plenty of attack and enough volume to lend excitement to tracks that rely on a pounding bass line. However, if you’re upgrading from the HD 650 or other lower-end HD-series open-back headphones, you’ll need to get used to the reduced level of bass on offer here. As a result, though, clarity is much, much improved – there is zero sense of mid-range muddling here.
The character of the sound is nevertheless on the dark side, which is one of the key things that differentiates these headphones from the HD 800. Well, that and the less-wide soundstage and overall lesser detail – although this should be viewed from the perspective that the Sennheiser HD 800 are the outliers in their field on both these fronts. These are still highly-detailed headphones with a wide sound that you’d expect given their open-back design.
To find out how they compare closer to their own field, we pitched them up against the Shure SRH1440 and HiFiMAN HE-5. They offer greater clarity and sonic integrity than the SRH1440, and perform on a similar level to the HE-5, but with greater warmth and thickness – perhaps not an entirely good thing, depending on your outlook.
However, they are also less warm and bassy than a great many Sennheiser headphones. We found this helped to get rid of the tendency to sound slightly dull, seen most recently in the otherwise-great Sennheiser RS 220.
With great mid and treble crispness, the texture of driving instruments like guitars and synths is rendered with great verve – they can and do sound exciting. As such, we prefer them to the lower-end models for rock music, much as you might assume their weightier bass might hand them the win. This same crispness does wonders for dialogue in films too.
Easy to drive?
The 6.3mm jack at the end of the HD 700 cable should be enough to tell you that these headphones are not there to be plugged into your MP3 player. Most of our testing was done with the basic Fiio E9 desktop amplifier and the more powerful HiFiMAN EF-5, but these headphones are not particularly hard to drive. At 150ohm impedance, they should in theory be easier to handle than the 300ohm Sennheiser HD 650.
Once you get into the land of serious headphones, the notion of value becomes hard to quantify. The best we can do is to compare the Sennheiser HD 700 to their rivals. They significantly outperform the Shure SRH1440, and are a definite upgrade over the Sennheiser HD 650. These aren’t the magic headphone that manages to surpass all its more-expensive rivals, though – the Beyerdynamic T1 and Sennheiser HD 800 are better in several respects. However, they do deserve their place on shelves, even at the high price.
The Sennheiser HD 700 are serious £600 headphones that sit between the long-standing HD 650 and HD 800 models. Tonally, they sit somewhere in between too, melding the dark-leaning tone of the 650 with the more refined detailing and superior bass balance of the HD 800. If you want plenty of detail without a bright sound signature, they’re an excellent choice.
Score in detail
Design & Features 9
Sound Quality 9