The Sennheiser HD 800 are an absolutely fantastic pair of headphones. Having had the opportunity to listen to them a couple of years ago, I was floored with the level of detail and clarity that was pouring out of the two ring radiator drivers.
But as impressive as the HD 800 are, they are not for everyone. Audio precision is a double-edged sword. While everybody yearns for it, there can be such a thing as too much of it. Of course, this does not apply to people who work in studios and who need to hear the sound as accurately as possible. But for people who listen to music simply to enjoy it and not analyze it, the analytical nature of the HD 800’s sound can be too cold and unforgiving.
This also caused another issue, where the HD 800 was simply not suited for several genres of music. Not all of us listen to classical music all the time. When dealing with bass-heavy genres such as trance or dubstep, the HD 800 would fall flat on its metal and plastic face. The bass response on the HD 800 is just too lean and precise to make these genres enjoyable.
Sennheiser’s significantly cheaper HD 650 did a much better job in this regard. Although they were nowhere near the neurosurgeon level of precision that the HD 800 are capable of, they had a far more laidback audio signature with a smooth and delicious bass response that was a lot more genre independent.
But what if someone wanted the clarity and the airiness of the HD 800’s sound along with a warmer and mellower sound signature? This is where the HD 700 comes in. The HD 700 is the bridge between the two extremes that are the HD 650 and the HD 800 and designed to strike a happy balance.
The first thing I noticed when put on the HD 700 and played some music was how much warmer the audio signature of the HD 700 is compared to the HD 800. The bass is a lot punchier, carries more weight and does a good job of balancing the overall sound without making it feel like all the action is happening up top.
At the same time the mids and highs on the HD 700 are also a lot more pronounced on the HD 700 compared to the HD 650. The soundstage is also wider, which coupled with the brighter mids and highs makes the sound a lot airier.
In terms of details, the HD 700 aren’t as spectacular as the HD 800, which could tell you what the playback singer had for breakfast that morning, but they still do a fine job nonetheless and you will definitely be hearing minor nuances in the music a lot more clearly on these than on the HD 650. The soundstage is once again wonderful, not as expansive as the HD 800 but noticeably wider than the HD 650.The HD 700 sound signature thus has the right amount of warmth without the low end feeling as if it would drown out the mids and the highs but at the same time the top end carries enough precision and detail to bring out the best in your music.
Looking at the other aspects of the headphones, the HD 700 look like the younger sibling of the HD 800 that they are. They aren’t as big, which is a good thing because wearing the HD 800 felt like someone strapped a couple of saucers around your ears. The HD 700 are also not as tight and cramped as the smaller earcups of the 650. They feel just the right size with enough room inside the earcups so that the speaker grille does not touch your pinnae.
Speaking of the design, these are undeniably one of the most handsome pair of headphones I’ve seen. Just like the HD 800 the design is very futuristic and stands out among the usual staid black designs you usually see. They don’t look as opulent as the headphones that use wood for their earcups but rather what one would describe as “cool”.
Like the HD 800, the HD 700 are constructed mostly out of high quality plastic with a hint of metal thrown in for good measure for the mesh grille on the earcups. Although it might seem as if the grille is tightly shut, that is not the case. Just hold the earcups against a light and you can see the light pouring in through from them. Despite the plastic body the build quality and the overall fit and finish is very good.
As mentioned before, the earcups are very spacious, especially considering how thin they appear from the outside. Inside you’ll find a cloth grille with the usual Sennheiser logo etched on it. The earcups are lined with soft foam cushion covered in a felt.
The HD 700 use a thick braided cable with a ¼-inch (6.3mm) headphone jack at one end and dual 2.5mm mono plugs on the other end going into each speaker. This is an improvement over the proprietary cables used on the HD 650 and the HD 800 as they can now be easily replaced from someone that is not Sennheiser. And some may want to do that because the cable is not particularly satisfactory. I found it to be too thick for my tastes and moreover it tends to retain the bends that it picked up inside the package. The cable also tends to bend and tangle quite easily.
In the end, there are two ways to look at the HD 700. There is the glass half-empty way, where you can say the HD 700 neither has the rich, luxurious bass response of the HD 650 nor does it have the same level of clarity and detail of the HD 800.
The other way to look at it is the glass half full way, where you can say that the HD 700 manages to bring the best of both together in a neat little package. This is for someone who craved a bit more warmth in the HD 800 sound, even at the cost of some of the detail or for someone who desired more clarity in the HD 650 sound. It’s also an all-round awesome pair of headphones, with one of the most balanced sound I’ve had the pleasure to hear that goes with practically everything. I even tried them with movies and games and even that worked out very well.
In other words, if you just have to have one pair of headphones, the HD 700 should be it. Assuming you can afford to shell out Rs. 54,990 for them.