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

Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones Earphones Headset Review

I’ve owned the Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones  for several years now. In that time, I’ve used them with various CD players, iPods, iPads, headphone amps, and stereo receivers. Impressions follow in this review.

These dynamic headphones highly impressed me with their notably full response. There’s no part of the audio frequency spectrum that this audio head-gear fails to reproduce well, and loudly besides if required. The HD-650s are by far the best-performing headphones that I’ve ever owned in terms of sheer overall quality, and I’ve owned numerous headphones from Sony, Koss, Grado, and Apple over the past 35 years.

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

But unfortunately, with great audio reproduction comes a high price for these audiophile-grade HD-650 headphones from Sennheiser. In fact, their cost seems just as high today as it was when I bought my set in 2006. But after using them a while, it’s clear why people continue paying this, because these earphones establish 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, I’d highly recommend the Sennheiser HD-650s. While you may regret how much money you must shell out initially, the HD-650 overall extreme quality will more than compensate you emotionally for that huge initial financial outlay.

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 reproduction for all types of music. The HD-650 product has a high resale value as well, in the even that you ultimately decide to part with them; though why you would do that, I’m not sure, unless you needed the money to eat or something. Be sure to shop around however when buying or selling, as the price on this Sennheiser product varies widely.

Picture of the Sennheiser HD-650 Professional Headphones, showing Open Back of left earphone.
Sennheiser HD-650 Professional Headphones, showing Open Back of left earphone.

Benefits, Advantages, Features, and Pros

I found them very light given the large size of the cans; especially after I’d gotten used to wearing the Koss Tech 2 headphones for more than a decade.

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.

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

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

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.

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

They will play plenty loud, with the wide dynamic range over the entire audio frequency band. This makes them particularly grand for widely varying musical volume levels such as found in classical music. For pop music listening, these earphones from Sennheiser play loudly enough to deafen me, yet with neither loss in fidelity nor increase in distortion.

You can unplug the premium grade cable; a useful feature should you ever need to replace it. I’ve experienced cables failing in my Sony headphones and replacing them was a bit of a chore that required disassembly. But not these. New cables are readily available from Sennheiser, as well from numerous Internet vendors.

This Sennheiser HD-650 product can be worn 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.

Disadvantages, Cons, Problems, and Limitations

As mentioned, the Sennheiser suggested retail price is high.

There’s a black, glaze-coated grill on the back of each earpiece that’s an integral part of the open-air design. However, be careful with this because it scratches, dents, and chips easily. Otherwise, you’ll begin noticing 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 similarly protective.

Perhaps owing to their lightness, these Sennheiser phones seem quite delicate. These are not earphones that you’d want to throw down on the table when finished listening. They may not be fragile, but because they seem like they would be, I’m afraid to subject them to much serious abuse.  So I cannot comment on how well they’d endure such abuse.

These headphones do not come with a protective carrying or storage case, except for the original packaging. But as easily as they can be scratched, a padded tote would have been wonderful, not only to protect them, but to keep dust away from them.

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.

An iPod does not sufficiently drive these earphones.  I use a headphone amplifier (the Presonus HP-4) to better drive these phones and produce a richer overall audio quality.

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 . I would thus, advise against these phones for iPod listening, unless you run the signal through a headphone amplifier first, as I do.

The velour ear cups readily collect dust and lint. So I must periodically run a horse hair vacuum brush over them. Thus, we have another reason why a rugged and dust-tight tote case would be highly useful.

Picture of the Sennheiser HD650 Around Ear Headphones, side view.
Sennheiser HD650 Around Ear Headphones, side view.

Our Rating

On the whole, I found the Sennheiser HD-650 Headphones to be top-notch for my listening purposes, and so I doubt that I’d ever look to buy any higher caliber earphones. These phones lack none of the features that I expect from a great pair of headphones. So I would definitely purchase them again, even at their high price.

Suggested Reading


Revision History

  • 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.