Sennheiser HD650: My Favorite Headphones

In the iPod age, headphones have become a fundamental part of lives of practically everyone. While many individuals are complacent living in lo-fi, unaware of the depths their music holds, some intuitive listeners yearn for something better. For those select few, it is often necessary to own two sets of headphones: a pair of earbuds and a pair of muffs, such as the HD650s.

Released in 2004 the Sennheiser HD650 rig is a heavy favorite of audiophiles everywhere — and for good reason. The 650s combine unparalleled comfort with some of the lushest sound quality to be found on any setup.

I began my love affair with Sennheiser about 10 years ago with a pair of HD570s (they just died this year, and they were used a lot). Those, like the 650s, utilize an open-ear design that doesn’t completely seal you off from the outside world. It also allows your ears to get some air which is conducive to long stretches with them attached to your head — which coincidentally make them ideal for gaming.

To be perfectly honest, part of my difficulty with conducting my review of these things is that every time I put them on to thoroughly consider music through them I became so engrossed that I lost my train of thought. It’s happening right now as I try to write this.

You can spend untold gobs of money on home-theater systems, but when you get right down to it, nothing is going to sound better than something like this. They offer a delicate balance of bass and highs that, while not the punchiest on the market, seems to serve perfectly any sort of music I’ve fed them.

My most consistent experiment involved Andrew Bird and the Armchair Apocrypha. I’ve listened to it about 1,000 times now and every time I’m humbled, both by Bird’s exquisite Apocrypha and by how the stellar craftsmanship of the HD650s augments the composition.

I’m not going to waste your time by presenting technical details about impedances and other jargon that ends up being irrelevant in the long run. What I will say is that for any music fiend and burgeoning audiophile a pair of headphones of this caliber can (and likely will) change your life. They will, absolutely, be that thing to send you tipping over the edge into financial ruin as you seek some greater audio high.

Buy these at your own peril. For once you do, you’ll find yourself on a downward spiral. Not only will you become jaded toward everything else available, you’ll inevitably end up plunking down loads of cash on silly crap like upgrade cables, then $1,000 headphone amps and prohibitively expensive SACDs in a last ditch effort to push something new and beautiful into your ears. It’s truly worse than smack (not that I have any familiarity with that).

The 650s currently have an MSRP of $499, but they can be had readily in the range of of $400. It’s cringe worthy, but investing in a pair of 650s is somewhere in line with buying a piece of art, except more rewarding. It’s a tool that allows you to listen to your favorite music in depths you’ve never before considered.