WTF Revisited: Sennheiser HD700 Stories, Review, and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphones' started by purr1n, Aug 16, 2020.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Shortly after I took possession of my Balancing Act amplifier, I went to a headphone meet I think in Downey (or was it Norwalk, anyway it was in one of those parts of town where we might expect to see Dominic Torretto and his gang of seven hiding out in a warehouse). This was a weird meet because there were a lot of vendors there (a portent of things to come). As such, I almost erased this meet from my mind, except that I first met LFF here and we talked about music. LFF was born at the wrong time because he loved 80s music (at least the good stuff, the cream that rose to the top, because most of it was garbage) despite him not growing up as a kid in the 80s like how I did.

    At this meet there was a Sennheiser rep. American. Cocky as shit, because Germans aren't like this (the worse thing that Germans ever say is why is English pronunciation is inconsistent and all over the place). There were two young dudes who listened to the HD800 at the Sennheiser table with the amps there (the HDVD800 hadn't come out yet) and were grimacing in pain. They eventually made their way to my table and listened my HD800 (it could have been modded) out of my amp and were amazed. I was running 300Bs. Their bloomer sound, lifted bass, and rolled treble worked well with the HD800. Yup, two guys learned about "synergy" (which is kind of BS if we really think about it, but it is what it is) how picky the HD800 could be in terms of amps. I believe the music we were playing may have been either Nirvana or the Pixies.

    As the meet was wrapping up, somebody invited the Sennheiser rep to my table. It wasn't my idea to bring him to my table as I could have cared less what he thought. He listened for five seconds, took off the headphones, and said something to the effect of "Oh yeah, Oh yeah, I've heard stuff like that. The HD800 is perfectly neutral.", absolutely confident in himself. I'm like "Yeah, whatever Dude" <roll eyes>.

    Oh that's right. I almost lost my train of thought. This was the meet where I heard not one, but a bunch of people going around saying that there would be a successor the the HD800. You know, it's one of those bullshit secrets that go: "don't tell anyone because it's super secret, but I heard...": Sennheiser has something in the works with the HD800's technical ability, but with the tonality of the HD650. I kept eagerly waiting, and waiting, and waiting. It's 2020 now. I don't care anymore.

    Evidently, this successor to the HD800 was the HD700.
    hd700.jpg
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    So a couple of years ago when I started posting CSDs on HF of various headphones, HF made an announcement that Sennheiser was asking for beta-testers for their latest headphone, the HD700. All that was needed was a great essay. The ones who wrote the best essays would be awarded the honor to get a sneak peak of the HD700. That honor included paying return shipping with full insurance back to Indonesia (or was it Malaysia - apologies, because I know the two countries are different). I'm jumping ahead a bit, but it turned out that is wasn't any sort of beta test. In hindsight, the design was already finalized for production. Evidently the Sennheiser rep in that region, Rasmudi, Rasmundi, Rasputin, or something that like, had the great idea to use Head-Fi as a vehicle to strong-arm select quotes from well-known hobbyists in time for a CanJam. (I don't remember what event it was exactly. And by the way, I do embellish my stories, because reality is boring. It doesn't matter anyway because it's the visionary sphere that counts - consciousness is much more embellished than "reality").

    So I wrote my three or four sentences on why I deserved to be a beta-tester and sent them. I did not expected to be selected and I was not selected. (I had already suspected that Jude hated me because I had been exposing via CSDs the nasty treble peaks that many expensive headphones had at that time). However, LFF was selected!

    Years later, I can finally admit our Changstar shenanigans. I'm sure you guys know what happens next.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    LFF did lend them to me with the condition that I have the honor of sending them back to Indonesia. Fair enough I thought.

    Unfortunately for the HD700 and my ears, right off the bat, I selected a song (This Must Be the Place - Naive Melody) that happened to highlight all the things wrong with the HD700. It's not my style to be too much of a jerk, so I honored LFF's NDA and did not leak anything. Except privately within Changstar.

    Posting this as the hypothetical headphone that has horrible painful treble peaks became the joke though (without mentioning the HD700 of course.)

    [​IMG]

    I did not identify the HD700 and release a full set of measurements until it was for sale to the public. I actually bought the HD700 from Amazon to confirm that the measurements were exactly the same.

    So going back to the beta-test, that Sennheiser rep attempted to solicit some positive reviews from the testers. LFF, who didn't want to lie, replied that it was comfortable. Uncle Erik, a very well respected HF'er who really knew his shit, left HF and never came back. Currawong may have said it was good with classical, at least that's what he said to me. For anyone who has been around CS / SBAF, this is where the "good with classical" phrase comes from. It's an euphemism for nasty or uneven highs. Classical music will register on an analyzer without much bass or treble. It's just the the way it's recorded, mixed, and mastered. Oftentimes, a treble peak or two enhances the overly mid-centric masterings helping to bring out the overtones of natural instruments.

    I called out Jude on the HD700 on HF. He did acknowledge that the HD700 had a "spotlit" peak, fair enough. I didn't believe him when he said that he wore them around the house. I guess I could imagine him in his bathrobe with the HD700s around his neck, walking about the house in the morning getting his coffee.

    I'm pretty sure this was one of many things that made Jude hate my guts. (He felt I was trying to destroy HF. I was simply trying to destroy bad headphones). He only hates @zerodeefex more, but that is another story for another time.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2020
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Sennheiser HD700
    Frequency Response
    EARS with SBAF 3.2 compensation (line straight across approximates perceptual neutral)
    upload_2020-8-16_15-39-52.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2020
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  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Sennheiser HD700
    Frequency Response
    Flat Plate (no ear) Coupler 2.0compensation (line straight across approximates perceptual neutral)
    upload_2020-8-16_16-6-33.png

    This next one is from the foam coupler that attempts to some extent to simulate a free air measurement. There could be some advantages to gaining some insights into the nature of the higher frequencies as this measurement will be somewhat isolated from ear and head reflections. This also shows us how sensitive the bass frequencies are to seal since these measurements are in effect without a seal. Some headphones such as orthos that depend upon a seal will be less damped and show higher peaks that would not otherwise be there if the headphones were worn.

    Sennheiser HD700
    Frequency Response
    Foam Coupler (Free Air Sim)
    upload_2020-8-16_16-13-34.png
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2020
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Sennheiser HD700
    CSD
    Flate Plate Coupler
    FPC HD700 2 L.jpg
    FPC HD700 2 R.jpg

    Sennheiser HD700
    CSD
    Foam Coupler (Free Air Sim)
    FAC HD700 L.jpg
    FAC HD700 R.jpg
     
  7. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Where’s my mountain ranges? :)
     
  8. DEATHxMACHINE

    DEATHxMACHINE Friend

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    I guess they took Rocky Mountain Audio Fest quite literally.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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  10. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    there we go.

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Hrodulf

    Hrodulf Prohibited from acting as an MOT until year 2050

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    The only way how attain this would be wearing a pair of HD800's over the earcups of HD650. Everyone on HF knows that.
     
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  12. Taverius

    Taverius Smells like sausages

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    I'm still disappointed by the 700.

    It could have been great but its so badly executed.
     
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  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    B1696 HD700-2.burst.jpg

    Bass decay looks fast, but bass quality seems overshadowed by distortion. The bass sounds weird on the HD700, roboto timbre if that makes any sense. I don't know if others will agree. It's hard to explain. I will retake HD650 measurements and compare. (In all this time, I don't think I've provided a full set of HD650 measurements).

    There is some initial overshoot in 1.5kHz and 4.8kHz, which by itself may not sound bad (more like the leading edge of stats and Utopia). The 4.8kHz attack not only has overshoot but a sustained higher amplitude for second and third waves of the ten burst cycle. There is some correlation that this results in treble "nasties", e.g. graininess, sandiness, glare, etc. More data and experience will be needed.
     
  14. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    I still want to know WTF the Parasound zDAC v2 does to make the HD700 sound so good! There is some weird synergy going on there, HD700 works well across the board on that amp. I know the Parasound is definitely not a neutral amp and has some atypical coloration going on from other headphones I tried on it. Somehow it works with HD700 really well. Too bad nearly everything I've tried the HD700 on since then has been overall mediocre across all genres - as mentioned in another thread though, HD700 does do metal REALLY well. Put on some master of puppets and its my best headphone.

    my zdac v.2 is long sold or i would volunteer it for testing.

    the one thing I don't get is I keep hearing people say hd700 has horrendous treble but i found the original stock hd800 FAR more offensive in this department, like not even close - and while that catches treble heat too, seems less so than HD700 did.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  15. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Lol I want to know why Jude hates @zerodeefex so much. We should start a club.
     
  16. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    Could that sustain at 4800hz be perceived as ringing?
     
  17. Ruined

    Ruined HD700 ruined my ear holes

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    The HD700 is really weird, but I still really like it for some reason. I think part of it is that it really fits me well, I feel like I am not even wearing headphones with the HD700. Grados you get that sandpapery and ear squishing feel after an hour, HD600 you get the clamp effect pressure, HD8xx you get the massive earcup over your head making it awkward to turn and even lay down. HD700 though fits so darn nice, perfectly encapsulates the ear and is super light.

    On Liquid Platinum + MX-DAC after listening to my HD820 (heaven) I put on the HD700 and it just sounds wrong. Like a broken HD820, almost. But then after 10min my brain adjusts to the sound and the HD700 starts to sound good somehow - different than the HD820, but good in its own way. Like a scaled down HD820 soundstage with a bit weirder frequency response and some oddities in the presentation but kinda like if you brought the full orchestra that is the HD820 and reduced it to only 1 instrument of each type. Which does seem to have advantages in some cases, like in metal the electric guitar distortion sounds more raw, guttural, and immediate on the HD700 while it sounds more polished on HD820 - the former works better for metal.

    The brain's perceptual nature works in an odd way. I am not sure with audio, but with video perception i have read peer reviewed papers on the topic. If you take two TVs w/ mixed content displayed, one with low contrast/very high brightness and put it directly next to a TV with high contrast/average brightness in a darkened room, the TV with low contrast will appear low contrast quite obviously and the viewer will say - a ha! that tv on the left is obviously much lower contrast with poor black levels!

    However, if you:
    1) Put the same two TVs in two separate darkened rooms
    2) Put mixed content (mix of high brightness and deep blacks, like HDR) on both sets
    3) Put a lighted hallway that takes 10 seconds to traverse between the two rooms [reset brain white/black ceiling/floor]
    4) Have the viewer walk between the rooms to view the two TVs
    5) Now the viewer will struggle much more to determine which is lower contrast; because they no longer have the lower absolute blacks of the high contrast TV next to the low contrast TV as a reference, the very high brightness of the low contrast TV will cause the brain to shift the black level "perceptual floor" upwards, and now the low contrast TV appears to also be high contrast oddly! And then when going into the other room, the average brightness TV still appears high contrast but maybe doesn't pop as much as the other TV due to the average brightness (brain seems more sensitive to white level than .

    I wonder if something like this is happening when A/B headphones/amps/etc also. When I directly switch between the HD820 and HD700, the HD700 is obviously much worse, i am saying "this sounds bad." But if I listen to them separately and I don't have that immediately HD820 reference, my brain adapts to the HD700 profile and it sounds much better than when doing the back to back listening, I am saying "this doesn't sound bad". I'm just thinking how this compares to the example in the paper where the brain losing the A/B "absolute black" comparative reference allows it to shift its perception of contrast and black level floor, is something like this is happening in interpreting audio as well when doing A/B comparisons. If the answer is maybe, it could be the basis for disproving the validity of A/B/X testing also, btw :D
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
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  18. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Facebook Friend

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    Yes the "Brain Burn in" effect is extremely real and why you must always swap between headphones to get a good feel for what one sounds like. Our brains are extremely good at growing accustomed to sounds and even really crap headphones will actually sound decent if you listen long enough. Its one of the reasons the headphone reddit is full of "THE HD650 is TOTALLY SH1T< WORSE THAN MY RAZOR KRAKEN" posts, people get used to certain FR and it shapes their perspectives.

    I think the HD700 has a very flawed FR, because of the big 5-6kish peak, and that giant 3k dip. Ironically the HD800 also has a very similar giant 5-6k region spike but I think people were less harsh on it because it didnt have that big 3k dip, that combo makes the HD700 very weird sounding.

    The HD700 actually was a pretty great headphone once the FR was patched by EQ, it was incredibly comfortable as you mentioned and had a quite large soundstage with pretty solid imaging considering its soundstages size. Bass on it was quite punchy and fast, certainly faster than the HD6xx et all. It was decently resolving as well, better than its 6xx cousins IMO (at least on affordable amps, might be different on high end stuff). If it had been a bit cheaper I think it would have made a bigger splash, but it was about 700 bucks when it came out which is a LOT for a headphone with wonky FR. Still think its one of the best gaming headphones, as its got the comfort, the soundstage and decent enough imaging which is what you want. The wonky FR worked pretty well for picking up footsteps too.
     
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  19. Magnetostatic_Tubephile

    Magnetostatic_Tubephile Friend

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    It was actually 1000 USD. I recall a lot of people were very confused about the price when you could have the much better HD800s for not all that much more.
     
  20. Raimei Templar

    Raimei Templar Facebook Friend

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    That is even worse then lol, yeah at that price I would have returned them. I was led astray by google when I googled their retail price! I just remembered them being overpriced.

    I am really quite surprised that Drop never made a HD7xx to be honest. If they could have figured out a mod to chop that peak in half and sold it for like 400-500 bucks I think it probably would have been a hit. If they made it midnight blue would have been a bonus as I think that would have been quite cool looking.
     

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