Any pair of headphones that costs more than $500 should have high expectations. At present, there are already plenty of fantastic $300 to $400 headphones made by pretty respectable companies and some audiophiles love them. Many of these modern products are on a mission to dethrone some of the longtime audiophile incumbents like the Sennheiser HD 700. The HD 700 was praised by many users and reviewers as one of the best-sounding audiophile headphones. Sennheiser also happens to be a recognized brand in premium audio electronics so they can afford to price their headphones above the competition. We already know how it did in 2012 but Sennheiser continues to sell these headphones today. It is time to take another look and see if the veteran needs another big price drop.
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About the Sennheiser HD 700
The HD 700 made its grand entrance in CES 2012 as a cheaper alternative to the HD 800 which was priced way too high even for seasoned listeners. It tries to take as many great things from the HD 800 as possible while cutting off some of the stuff that made the HD 800 so expensive. Judging by the name of the product alone, it is easy to guess that there is a noticeable drop in audio quality at least when compared to the HD 800.
But what makes the Sennheiser HD 700 so special is its highly futuristic design. This set of headphones really looks expensive and when compared to the more recent competitors, it actually looks more modern. The design might be an acquired taste for some people but it is pretty obvious that Sennheiser spent a lot of time making the HD 700 stand out. The headband and earpieces are made of plastic though so it doesn’t feel high-end. Still, all of the components are solidly made and should last several years with proper care.
The Sennheiser HD 700 also comes with a highly flexible Y-cable with a pair of 3.5mm connectors that fit right into each earpiece and a stereo 6.3mm connector making it suitable for headphone amps and home theater receivers. The wire itself covered in fabric and has a very premium feel so this is a cable you don’t want to lose. You need to buy a 3.5mm adapter separately if you want to use it on the average portable device or smartphone.
The HD 700 made one thing perfectly clear – you no longer have to spend $1,000+ on a pair of headphones if you want maximum comfort. Sennheiser somehow managed to take all the great things that made the HD 800 comfortable and applied it to the Sennheiser HD 700. In fact, it feels a little bit better than the HD 800 because the HD 700 weighs under 300 grams. The use of plastics have an advantage after all. Rather than using leather pads, Sennheiser opted for microfiber pads to allow a bit more air circulation. As a result, you can wear this pair of cans for longer periods of time without sweating. The earpieces themselves have a lot of freedom with regards to movement so you can be certain that this pair of headphones can fit anybody regardless of head shape. Clamping force is just right thanks to the adequate amount of padding.
Traveling with the Sennheiser HD 700 is a possibility but Sennheiser specifically designed this product around comfort and audio quality. The casing, which also comes with the package, is very well made and the inside has nice padding to protect the HD 700.
The Sennheiser HD 700 is the first pair of Sennheiser headphones to have 40mm drivers which could be the main source of the cost cutting. By comparison, the HD 800 possessed 56mm drivers but the overall difference in sound quality isn’t so bad especially when you take the price difference into account. Sennheiser made smart decisions with the design of the earpieces to make sure that these drivers perform as efficiency as possible. The earpieces are open-frame and the inner parts have stainless-steel mesh grilles to better control air movement behind the driver. This vastly improves the soundstage to the point that you can actually use it for serious movie watching. The HD 700 may not possess any of those surround-sound technologies but the expanded soundstage really makes the sounds feel like they are coming from greater distances.
As for playing music, sound clarity is one of the biggest strengths of the Sennheiser HD 700. From snare drums to string instruments, all aspects of the sound are well-defined and sound as if a live band is playing these instruments back. With that expanded soundstage, some tracks can sound pretty surreal. Playing back music from a traditional speaker system is less meaningful if you have a pair of HD 700 headphones. Vocals sound very crisp too so you can expect to enjoy a variety of genres with this set of headphones. Bass might be the weakest part of the equation but that is to be expected for a set of headphones that focus on natural sound. What matters to the audiophile is that the texture of the bass is present and the Sennheiser HD 700 doesn’t disappoint in that area. If you are unsure, it is best to listen to some EDM and dubstep with the HD 700 before buying. CD quality or lossless formats are highly recommended to fully appreciate the sublime audio quality.
• Just about as comfortable as the expensive Sennheiser HD 800
• Very wide soundstage makes it great for watching movies.
• Outstanding sound clarity.
• Premium carrying case.
• Still priced a bit high.
• Lacks a 3.5mm adapter.
• Bass can’t impress everyone.
With the Sennheiser HD 800 still hovering above the $1,000 price tag and the Sennheiser HD 700 falling below $600, the HD 700 remains as the best overall pick for most people looking for a serious headphones upgrade. Once you watch movies and play your favorite pop, hip-hop, jazz, rock and classical tracks with the Sennheiser HD 700, it starts to get real difficult to settle for anything cheaper. Even if those 40mm drivers don’t blow you away, there is always the comfort which simply cannot be matched by cheaper headphones.