Picture of the Sennheiser HD650 Reference Class Headphones, top side view.

Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones Review

We’ve owned the Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones  for a decade now. In that time, we used them with many CD players, iPods, iPads, earphone amps, and stereo receivers. Our impressions follow in this review.

Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones Overview

Impressive dynamic headphones  with their notably full response. There’s no part of the audio frequency spectrum that this audio head-gear fails to reproduce well. The HD 650s by far sound the best that we’ve ever owned. Their sheer over all qualit is unmistakable, and we’ve owned lots of headphones prior.  Brands include Sony, Koss, Grado, and Apple over the past 35 years. The Sennheisers indeed shine among these others.

Picture of the Sennheiser HD650 Reference Class Headphones, top side view.
Sennheiser HD650 Reference Class Earphones, top side view. Sennheiser HD-650 headphones review.

But unfortunately, with great audio reproduction comes a high price. In fact, their cost seems just as high today as it was when we bought ours in 2006. But after using them a while, it’s clear why people keep paying.  Why? Because these earphones set a high audio standard that’s hard to beat for the less expensive units. Even some of the higher-priced sets do not out-perform Sennheiser.

So if you’ve got the roughly $500 (current retail) to spend, we highly recommend the Sennheiser HD 650. While you may regret how much money you must shell out, the HD 650 extreme quality more than compensates you for that huge purchase price.

These open-air earphones won’t return your money (unless you resell them while still new). But they’ll please you with their durability and accurate sound response for all types of music. The HD 650 has a high resale value as well, in the even that you choose to part with them. But why you would do that, we can’t imagine. Shop around though when buying or selling, as the price on this Sennheiser product varies a lot.

Picture showing the open Back of the left earphone.
Showing the open Back of left speaker can. 

Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones Benefits, Advantages, Features, and Pros

Very Lightweight Given their Size

We found them very light given the large size of the cans; especially after we got used to wearing the Koss Tech 2 headphones for more than a decade.  Those weighted much more than Sennheiser.

Long Lasting Comfort

Due to their lightness and very large size of the “ear muffs,” you can wear the HD-650 earphones for hours at a stretch without discomfort. You’ll get tired of the music before they wear thin on your head.

Soft Ear Cushions

Sennheiser included velour earcushions on the HD-650, with big enough openings that your ears easily fit inside them (completely over-the-ear design). Thus, they rest on your head, around the ear. Neither the cushions nor the back wall inside (where the drivers are) touch the ear when positioned properly, and this indeed enhances the comfort of these phones.

The Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones Feature Large, Over Ear Speakers

The silky cushions are very large, preventing points of high presser from forming anywhere on your head, even when wearing glasses as do I.

Padded Head Band

The Sennheiser signature headband includes spongy soft padding as well that further enhances overall comfort. They surely paid as much attention to comfort when they designed the HD 650, as they did to great audio performance.

Durable Fabrics

The HD-650 earcushions appear quite durable. Mine look brand new still after several years of use, and so far, have not shed any fuzz balls. These earphones have held up better than some of the Sonys I’ve used such as the MDR 7506 and MDR-V500 units. I had to replace the cushions after a couple of years on those, but not on these, so far.

Great Looking Design

These hi-fi phones looks as great as they play, featuring black with silver trim that gives these headphones a modern, hi-tech appearance.

These Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones are Plenty Loud

They can play quite loud, with the wide dynamic range over the entire audio frequency band. This makes them particularly grand for widely varying musical volumes such as found in classical music. For pop music, these earphones play loudly enough to deafen us. Yet they do it with neither loss in fidelity nor increase in distortion.

Detachable Cable

You can unplug the premium grade cable; a useful feature should you ever need to replace it. We experienced cables failing in our other headphones and replacing them required taking the phones apart. But not the HD 650. You can buy new cords from Sennheiser, as well from many internet vendors.

Wear Them Either Way

Wear the Sennheiser HD-650 product with equal comfort either way (left earphone on left ear, or left earphone on right ear). The angle adjustment on each earpiece accounts for this advantage, that I use when listening to hit compilation CDs, where they mastered the stereo left and right channels backwards from the original recordings.

Picture of the Sennheiser HD650 Hi Fi Headphones, packed in included case.
Sennheiser HD650 Hi Fi Headphones, packed in included case.

Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones Disadvantages, Cons, Problems, and Limitations

High Retail Price

As mentioned, the Sennheiser suggested retail price is high.

Easily Scratched Metal Grill on Speaker Backs 

There’s a black, glaze-coated grill on the back of each earpiece.  This is an integral part of the open-air design. But be careful because it scratches, dents, and chips easily. If you beat these up too much, you’ll notice little silver “freckles” appearing on this screen.  You should not therefore, just throw this device into your cable cart.  Always pack it away for storage in its original storage box or something similar.

Seem Fragile

Perhaps owing to their lightness, these Sennheiser phones appear quite delicate. These are not earphones that you’d want to throw down on the table when done with them. They may not really be fragile.  But because they seem like they would be, we fear subjecting them to much serious abuse.  So we cannot comment on how well they’d hold up under such abuse.

No Carrying Case Except the Original Package

These headphones do not come with a protective carrying or storage case, except for the original packaging. But as easily as they can scratched, a padded tote would be nice. This would not only protect them from nicks and dings, but would keep dust off of  them too.

Not Much Sound Isolation Offered by the Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones

More a drawback of open-air design itself than specifically these phones, they do not reduce surrounding noise much. So to listen to the quieter forms of music such as classical or soft guitar, you need a low-noise place. Even a softly running refrigerator nearby can be heard clearly while wearing these.

Also, audio output from their drivers can be heard clearly by others, even when not playing them very loud. So this is not a good headset for when your partner is trying to sleep beside you in the bedroom. The audio spill into the surrounding environment will likely disturb others.

A Bit Hard to Drive

An iPod does not adequately power these earphones.  So, we use a headphone amplifier (the Presonus HP-4) to better drive them.  Decent driving produces a richer overall sound.

Not Great Phones for iPod

The sound you get via an iPod is quite bass-loaded. You can cut back on the bass with the built-in equalizer in the iPod to a degree, but at a loss of overall loudness in.  We would thus, advise against these phones for iPod listening, unless you run the signal through a headphone amplifier first, as I do.

The Ear Cups Pick Up Dust Quickly

The velour ear cups readily collect dust and lint. So we must run a horse hair vacuum brush over them now and then. This is another reason why a rugged and dust-tight tote case would go well with the HD 650.

Side view picture of the phones.
Side view of the phones.

Our Rating for the Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones

On the whole, we found the Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones top-notch for our listening purposes.  We will likely never buy any higher caliber earphones. These phones lack none of the features we expect from a great pair of headphones. So we would buy them again, even at their high price.  We rate them at 97 out of 100 therefore.

Suggested Reading

  1. Sony MDR 7509HD Professional Headphones Review
  2. Bose QuietComfort 15 Noise Cancelling Headphones Review
  3. Sony Dynamic Stereo Headphones MDR 7506 Review
  4. Bose QuietComfort 35 QC35 Wireless Headphones Review
  5. Sony MDR 7506 Headphones Review, Studio Monitor
  6. Koss Tech 2 Headphones Review, Vintage Stereo
  7. Sony MDR-V4 Digital Dynamic Stereo Headphones Review
  8. Bose Wave Music System First Generation Review
  9. Sony MDR V700 Headphones Review, Dynamic Stereo

References for this Sennheiser HD 650 Headphones Review

  1. Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones review on CNET
  2. Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones specs on CNET
  3. Where to Buy the   Sennheiser HD-650 Open Air Headphones 

Suggested Reading

Revision History

  • 2019-02-23: Added key phrase targeting, more subheadings, and more tags.
  • 2015-11-28: Added appropriate tags.
  • 2015-09-24: Added pictures and more tags.
  • 2015-09-21: Added the Suggested Reading section.
  • 2014-11-25: Applied more whitespace, adjusted ad positioning, and extended the References section.
  • 2012-08-22: Originally published.