Type: Pro-level Wired Headphones
Key Specs: 40mm drivers / 8-44,000Hz frequency response / Open-back design
Price: Circa £600
A mid-range audiophile offering may sound like a clumsy stepping stone for Sennheiser between their HD 650s and HD 800 headphones, but the HD 700s are anything but. We dive into sonic sublimity with the Sennheiser HD 700 headphones in our full review.
Sennheiser set the standard for dynamic headphone driver design with the open-backed HD-800 headphones roughly three years ago. Offering a wide, incredibly detailed soundstage, the sci-fi stylings of the HD 800s were just as beautiful to look at as they were to listen to. But beauty comes at a high price, with the cans even now commanding a price tag around the £1,000 mark.
Enter then the HD 700s. A few hundred quid cheaper than the HD 800s, but sharing plenty of the same technology, they’re a frightfully tempting proposition.
Aesthetically, the HD 700s are an evolution of the now familiar HD 800 look. Again, they have a science fiction style tinge to the build, with an open-backed design shaped to look a little like slightly-squashed UFOs. A mix of chromes, greys and blacks, it’s a striking design, and while the HD 700s are quite bulky, they stay relatively light at around 270 grams. It’s about half the weight you’d expect of open-backed headphones of this size, and yet still sit comfortably on the head thanks to a firm headband and tight-yet-spacious earcups. Detachable cables pop into the underside of each can, joining up at a fabric-coated cable which helps massively in preventing the lead from becoming tangled.
As you’ve probably already guessed, we’re big fans of the HD 700s, and much of this is down to the clever design of the SYS 40 transducer. The Sennheiser audio whizzes have done lots to keep their new cans from distorting, with added damping to prevent the diaphragm from warping too much, as well as adding extra air vents to encourage air flow, keeping your ears cool and compression to a minimum. There’s also a tweaked magnet cage design inside, leading to more balanced frequency response levels and reining back distortion at high volume levels.
This all leads to a fabulous listening experience. Offering a wide and clear soundstage, the HD 700s are nigh-on perfectly balanced. Bass bellows deep with a strong kick, without ever becoming muddy or overpowered. Mid ranges are detailed with supreme clarity, while the treble presence is high but never shrill. The ultra-defiend resolution of the HD 800s is missing of course (there had to be a reason somewhere why these headphones are so much cheaper) but that’s not to put down what the HD 700s offer. They sound excellent, with their extra warmth and action making them best suited to thumping rock tracks.
However, while the open-back design allows for a wide, clear soundstage, you’re also going to get considerable audio leakage too. In other words, if you’re in a quiet environment like a library, you’re going to annoy the hell out of everyone around you, while if you’re walking down the street you’ll also have your tunes interrupted by all the ambient sounds surrounding you. You’ll want to settle down for a nice private listening session with the HD 700s to really appreciate them.
Though cheaper than the HD 800s by a considerable margin, that counts for little if you need a super-expensive audiophile-grade amp to drive them. While the HD 700s will indeed perform at their best when hooked up to a more expensive main rig, even portable amps like the Fiio E7 can produce wonderful results. Our humble iPod managed to drive the HD 700s reasonably easily too, showing the HD 700s to be a much more versatile pair than their more expensive stable mates.
While the HD 800s give a more consistently defined sound across the spectrum, they’re tons harder to drive, and apart from the extreme ends, sound quality is practically like-for-like. As a result, the HD 700s could prove the more popular pair thanks to the lower price point and improved portability.
It’s another direct hit from Sennheiser who, after the equally impressive RS 220 wireless headphones, are well on course for a stellar line up this year. Comfortable, detailed, easy to drive and a fair sight cheaper than the HD 800s, the HD 700 headphones deliver the sonic goods without breaking the bank.
By Gerald Lynch | April 16th, 2012