Sennheiser HD650

Discussion in 'OT Technology' started by ittech, Apr 9, 2004.

  1. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    is on the way to replace my Sennheiser HD600...

    Will let you guys know how much of an improvement it is, and do a little review.

    Best part is it works with my Equinox cable that i use on the 600. :cool:
     
  2. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    Got it in today just in time for burning in over the weekend.

    Will review and compare to HD600,HD570,ER-4P, and my Creek 5350SE/Soliloquy bookshelfs.

    My headgear:
    Lossless WMA9 Rips of CD's, mucho downloaded stuff
    ESI Waveterminal 192X Pro Studio Soundcard
    Low loss TRS 1/4" > RCA adapter
    MIT RCA cables (medium grade MIT)
    Tera Labs Space and Time III Series RCA Cables
    X-CAN V2 + mods
    mods : X-PSU, Telefunken 1969 E88CC tubes instead of Phillips 2001 tubes, Elna Silmic (silk) Capacitors and Black Gate Audio Capacitors instead of Jamicon Electrolytic Generics, Silver audio solder used on all components.
    Stefan Audio-Art Equinox Series Upgrade cable 10' connected to a
    Sennheiser HD600 (650 now!)


    Here's some pictures for now:

    The box:
    [​IMG]

    The case:
    [​IMG]

    Inside the case:
    [​IMG]

    Manual:
    [​IMG]

    My setup before HD650, oh so boring:
    [​IMG]

    Take 2:
    [​IMG]

    Twins!... Hopefully the 650 is worth it because they sure look real close:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Connecting the Equinox, no issues there:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Stock cable, much beefier than the Stock 600 IIRC, definetly an upgrade for Sennheiser... Maybe i'll plug it in and A/B the equinox again if i've got time.:
    [​IMG]

    Getting some tunes flowing:
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    Out of the dell dim8300 media center... you can't see the dynamat extreme i've put all over the inside or the fanbus controller... All seagate hdds, 120s and a few 200s in acoustic quiet mode. of course i should close it :) :
    [​IMG]

    The top view:
    [​IMG]

    Sennheiser 3-way :o :
    [​IMG]

    Etyomic ER-4P's:
    [​IMG]

    Anything I should listen to?

    I'm going to let them run for 10 hours or so, and let my tube amp get all warmed up too before i really get critical about them.

    First impression, they fucking rock... Maybe not a huge difference from 600's will have to listen a lot longer after breakin, but the bass is considerably more true to the source, instead of sounding a little lacking and flat, it is definetly "there" but not distorting anything else either. :bigthumb:
     
  3. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    IBcleanyourdesk
    IBbuyabetterdigicam

    :)
     
  4. fyp619

    fyp619 New Member

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    you so crazy... :bigthumb:
     
  5. EE CUMMINGS

    EE CUMMINGS aka RobHuang

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    that looks badass but whats is that thing that those two x-can tubes are sitting on?
     
  6. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    http://www.auralex.com/

    They're auralex foam isolation pad levelers... Notice the Bookshelf speakers are on foam pads that tilt them up 5 degrees or so... that's because the tweeter is on the bottom on the soliloquy's and because i don't want to hear my desk / equipment resonating... It comes with those to let you set to 0 degrees or 15 degrees or something... i just put the X-cans on them because I don't like vibrating my tubes, and hey, they were there.

    I'd like to do the whole room up, but it's just not practical. Also I have big ass LCD's right in between the speakers which affects the stereo image already.
     
  7. Kinks

    Kinks Sup. OT Supporter

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    nice setup :)

    not a huge fan of headphones, got a pair of HD575's and even the 600's are way better (but $$!). But it looks like you're well sorted for audio :p
     
  8. Axlerod

    Axlerod Grammar Police

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    What you need is a better source to do your kit justice :)

    I am running an AOpen TubeSound board to my ASL valve amp

    It's silent, and I guarantee you it will outperform any other sound card on the market.

    [​IMG]
     
  9. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    I can't imagine the aopen motherboard being that great... Isn't it still fed from a VIA DAC? The 6922 is internally shielded, but is it enough? Have you measured the noise floor and THD with RMAA or something?

    ASL makes some nice gear though. :)
     
  10. vtec1994

    vtec1994 It always rains at Le Mans

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    so what the hell does all that shit do?
     
  11. Axlerod

    Axlerod Grammar Police

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    No, I haven't done such testing myself, and to be fair I haven't heard many of the nicer cards on the market, but I have heard quite a few. It's silent in that I really cant HEAR any interference in my setup , unlike all the other cards I have heard when connected to a decent kit. You get things like a whine when the CD or hard drive spins up, and just an annoying hum from everything going on in there. Not to mention the harsh compressed digital-ness that they all seem to have.

    Now don't get me wrong, the board itself is a pain in the ass - it's liveable and well worth it for the tube, but it's still an AOpen :) I believe it's fed by the mediocre AC'97, but let me tell you, it certainly doesnt sound like an AC'97. Cardas has lent a hand in there as well with the wires.

    The 6922 is the same tube found in your X-Cans, am I right? I almost bought an X-Cans until I ran across this great deal on my ASL :cool:
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2004
  12. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    My own measuring of AC97 without the tube is absolutely awful, portable cd players do better... Nvidia's MCP Soundstorm is better, but not great, SBLive is better, but not great... Audigy2 is pretty damn clean, probably best consumer card... If i were you i'd pick up an audigy 2 somewhere like best buy where you can return with no restock, and test it out, i think you'll find it to be better, but maybe not... I haven't heard the aopen myself, as i don't need any motherboards :)

    Yeah, the xcan/v2 had JAN/Phillips 6922's... The sovtek's i rolled were so much better than the Phillips IMHO, but the Telefunken's outshone the sovteks, with a surprisingly flat and uncolored output from 20-25khz. and hell, they sound better :)

    The capacitor upgrade/tube upgrade i did on the xcan v2 turned it from a good amp into a pretty awesome amp... I have a xcan v1 with the sovteks in it now, and the brick power and stock caps, and you can really hear the difference between them, so i'm happy. :cool:
     
  13. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    Sennheiser HD650 Review
    -----------------------
    04/16/04 By ittech


    First of all, I have to start off by stating I am not a professional reviewer, I do not work for any audio company, or any publication. I am not a professional writer as well. Audio is a hobby of mine. I love music, and want to share what I can about this equipment. This, like any review without scientific testing, is just an informed opinion. That said, lets get started on the new Sennheiser HD650 Headphone.

    Test Rig:
    Lossless WMA9 Rips of CD's, mucho downloaded stuff
    ESI Waveterminal 192X Pro Studio Soundcard
    Low loss TRS 1/4" > RCA adapter
    MIT RCA cables (medium grade MIT)
    Tera Labs Space and Time III Series RCA Cables
    X-CAN V2 + mods
    mods : X-PSU, Telefunken 1969 E88CC tubes instead of Phillips 2001 tubes, Elna Silmic (silk) Capacitors and Black Gate Audio Capacitors instead of Jamicon Electrolytic Generics, Silver audio solder used on all components.
    Stefan Audio-Art Equinox Series Upgrade cable 10' connected to a
    Sennheiser HD650

    Other Equipment:
    Creek 5350SE's Headphone Jack
    Waveterminal 192X's Headphone Jack
    Sennheiser HD600
    Sennheiser HD570
    Etyomic Research ER-4P (not in this review at this time)
    Countless Standard "Freebie" Headphones/Earbuds
    Soliloquy 5.0s Bookshelf Speakers connected to Creek 5350SE

    Also note I'm using "decent" connection cables/speaker cables... Tara Labs and MIT...

    Most of my comparison is going to be between the 3 Sennheiser Headphones...

    I started off with my primary setup, with the Waveterminal card hooked directly to the X-cans via MIT cable. First Lossless-Rip WMA CD, "The Red Hot Chili Peppers' Blood Sugar Sex Magik" on all 3 headphones. The 570's handle the dynamics of the music well, but they seem to have a little harsh treble, and a noticible gap in bass, especially where bass guitars are used. Was fatiguing after a short time on this CD unless the volume was low. Moving up to the 600's was a HUGE improvement... Dynamics, clarity, tonal balance, everything seemed 'right' Less harsh treble than the 570's, very smooth and natural. Great soundstage. Also remember that I'm using the Equinox cable on the 600/650 and the stock cable on the 570's. The Equinox does make a positive difference on both of these headphones, but the 570's with upgraded cable would still not come close. On to the 650's. Well. This is what RHCP should sound like. I've listened to this CD on a very nice setup of McIntosh monoblocks and B&W 801's, and this is the closest I've heard to it. The first thing that hit me was the improved bass response, not "more" bass like a bass-boost option, just cleaner, deeper, really amazing accuracy. My Soliloquy's are more like the 600 headphone, missing a range of the bass, they only go so low, and they only have so much impact. After the bass, the midrange seems moved more "forward" on the track, instead of sinking into the background with all the instruments that are being played, the vocals are very clear, and high cymbal clashes roll on hard and off smoothly. On "Give It Away" the low bass guitar is very distinct from the voice, and instead of fading off on complex passages it is always there in the background, even when I assume the sound from the guitar was turned down on the mixer board when the vocals are rolling.

    The real test, was listening to this CD for about 20 minutes on the 650's, then putting back on the 600's. The 650's are just plain better sound. The 570's have a muffled soundstage, fatiguing trebles, poor midbass and low bass, feels wrong to listen to the CD on them. The 600's are no slouch of course as proven gear, and I've listened to mine for hundreds of hours on every music genre. But the 650's are another 15% better, if possible in my opinion.

    On to some more selections.

    On "The Narada Nutcracker", the smoothness of the 650's treble and forward midrange really shone. The detail was amazing, you could hear the noise the orchestra's instruments were making when they were playing very fast tempo like in "Russian Dance" Going between the 600 and 650 on this track you could tell which one was better but only if you listened very closely. The 650. There is some lower bass on this track from a wind instrument? that you simply do not notice on the 600. The 600 and the 650 handle the dynamics of orchestra very very well. This track on my bookshelf speakers is just not the same after hearing it on the 600/650. Sure it's clean, but there's a lot of treble detail just missing. Listening to this on the 570 is like listening to it through some foreign material that blocks the realism of the instruments. You almost think, hey, this could be synthesized instead of a real recorded orchestra. The 570 fails to deliver on some of the trumpets, it just sounds like there is too much going on, and it all blurs a bit. Of course, listening to this on my klipsch 2.1 promedias and freebie headphones, make the 570 sound like a god in audio. So they aren't horrible as headphones go, but they aren't close to the 600/650, which is why of course the 6 series demand a higher price.

    Keeping the 570's on my head, and moving to the "Dire Straits - Money for Nothing" I listen for a good portion of the CD. I can still enjoy the 570's, especially driven by the modified X-can v2. Plugging the 570's directly into the soundcard instantly degrades the sound. Moving them to the Creek's headphone jack improve the sound greatly. Of course this Creek is very clean, but it is missing dynamics and soundstage that the X-can's deliver on, but it is close on the 570's. My reccomendation would be a nice value amp like Creek's headphone OBH-11 for the 570's or higher. You will need an amp to make the 570's sound decent, and that goes for the 600's and 650's. The headphone port on "most" receivers may have the power to drive them, but not the quality. Now still on this CD, I go to the 600's. Night and Day. So much cleaner bass, midrange, everything. I think now I'm going to swap the 570's out of my testing for now and go to the Etymotics on the next CD. The 650's are an improvement on this track as well. Moving between the Creek and the X-Cans on the 650's is interesting. There is noticable difference between the creek and the x-cans. The Creek has a lower noise floor, very clean and detailed, the x-cans sound more "natural" on the vocals, smooth out some of the synth tones, while the creek plays them very accurately, if abrupt. Of course the x-cans are tube gear, and the creek is solid state. It's really a matter of preference. The X-Cans sound better to me, so I'll be using them for my listening, but the creek is very good and I could see switching to listening on the creek for certain types of music. The 650 sounds easier to drive than the 600 on both amps. There is less of a "difference" doing that switch on the amps with the 600. They are almost identical. But I think this means the 650's are playing on a better flatter response curve, and more accurate to real life sounds than the 600.

    Listening to the overplayed "Norah Jones - Come Away with Me" on the 650's, I go back to x-can power. Trading off a very very low noise floor for improved vocals and a nice warm feeling on the piano that the creek doesn't sound as realistic on. Listening to the piano on this track shows the 650 as more capable of properly resembling a real piano than the 600. Very similar results with Sinead O'Connor's albums.

    So far, I haven't found a case where I thought the 600's were better than the 650's. Close, yes. Are the 600's damn good. Yes! The 650's are just amazing +3... They have the great soundstage of the 600's, not changed much at all, the amazing detail of the 600 PLUS amazing midbass/lowbass detail and accuracy. Instruments sound more real on a 650, voices sound more real on a 650. The 600 is really great at all of this, so improving on it is really quite a feat, without losing any good traits of the 600.

    I've been very happy with the quality (finally) of my x-can v2, modified heavily to more of a "solid-state" sound and response than a tube, but still have great tube qualities for vocals and classical music. Heavy bass music like Robbie Robertson's Music for Native Americans, Madonna's Single Justify My Love, Techno-bass and remixes, Chemical Brothers, etc all sound very close or better than the Creek's solid state amp, so I'm satisfied in my choice to use it over my other options.

    The Waveterminal Soundcard is a huge part in this picture, as it is my source. Lossless WMA's don't lose any information from the original CD, so consider them like a WAV file of your CD. Piping that through the powerful and clean DACs on the Waveterminal make a huge difference compared to my Audigy, and onboard sound.

    The Equinox cable is an improvement over stock for the 600/650 headphones. Not as big of a difference on the 650 as the stock 650 cable is better than the stock 600 cable was, but still easily noticable. I highly reccomend it, but only after source and amp are decent. I can't tell what if any difference in the cable when plugging the headphone into my Nakamichi receiver's headphone port.

    The Creek 5350SE is truely a great integrated amp. Even the headphone jack is quite useable as your only headphone source. The speaker outputs are powerful and clean, way above the likes of Denon and such. Stereophile rated it class A for a reason, and after comparing it to Red Rose's integrated amp, McIntosh gear, etc I agree.

    The Soliloquy bookshelf 5.0s are great speakers. They retail for around $1300-1500, but I picked up a pair new, for $500. At $500 I beleive they are the best value for the sound possible, but not at what they retail at. Comparing them to other $500 price range speakers like the lower end B&W speakers, they blow away the B&Ws for 90% of musical tracks, on the creek amp. I tested them side by side with the B&W 601's and am happy with the choice of the Soliloquy's. They could definetly use a good Subwoofer, and would sound even better on stands and without LCD monitors between them. But they sound close to my Sennheiser 600's when they are plugged into a not so great amp. In other words, good, but not great. Great is thousands more. :)


    When I upgrade a component I want to get something tangible out of it. I've gotten relearning my favorite albums and experiencing them in a way I hadn't before, which makes them defintely worth the upgrade over the 600's.

    If you can afford the 600's, get the 650's, it's worth it. Unless you get a great deal on the 600's on ebay.

    For those that don't want to go all out, but still have great sound, I'd suggest this as an option:

    Sennheiser HD580's
    Creek OBH-11
    SB Audigy 2
    Tara labs or MIT's lowest grade RCA cables

    For the ultimate, you have to start with the HD650's and find a great amp. The X-can v3 is supposed to be affordable and great, and hopefully you won't end up modding the heck out of it like I did the v2. Headroom makes some nice amps, the Headroom Max is supposedly awesome, so I'd go with that if i had the cash. Get a pro audio soundcard with big trs or xlr outputs, like the waveterminal series, a 2496 can be picked up cheaply, or a 192L or 192X are a little more. Other companies make good pro soundcards, just check them out first and test them if you can. The Audigy 2 is also "good enough" for 95% of people, and the sound card is less important if you have other great analog sources and actually use CD's or want to go SACD/DVDA.


    Hopefully I've provided some good information, and portrayed what you would hear if you tested my setup. I can't express enough how much better the 580/600/650 series is than any other sennheiser model. If you have any other sennheiser already, you know they sound good... Imagine 3x, 4x better sound. that is the 6 series. Imagine listening to all your music again and closing your eyes and having the realism of it all startle you when a trumpet blows suddenly. It goes from simply listening to music to experiencing music. Find a friend who has decent gear, go into a local high end audio shop (NOT GOODGUYS/MAGNOLIA people...) and listen to the gear, order some sennheisers and an amp and check them out, take them back if you don't agree, but I can't see how you couldn't, unless your collection is full of 128kbps mp3s.

    Speaking of MP3's, the source quality is very important... When you get to the 600/650 and a decent amp, you can take a lossless file and compress it to 128, 192, 256, 320 mp3, and tell the difference in all but the 320 and 256 on most good music. I prefer WMA9 VBR set to quality 10 for my compression, it sounds like 320 MP3 but is 20% or more smaller. For CD's that are really great, WMA 9 Lossless keeps them perfect. And why not, with hard drives so large now.

    Another thing to mention is, the 570/600/650's are not iPod / portable mp3 player headphones. Not without a battery powered portable headroom amp anyways. That's why I own the etymotic earbuds, which i'll try to get to later.

    I'll end this review with a list of Albums that I've really enjoyed on the 650, and if anyone has any questions feel free to let me know. Make sure you check out the pictures in this thread too!

    -ittech

    Albums: (lossless or WMA9/10q on the HUB)

    Adiemus - Songs of Sanctuary
    Alanis Morissette - Jagged Little Pill
    Ani Difranco - Evolve
    Annie Lennox - Diva, Medusa
    Audioslave - Self Titled
    B.B. King - Blues on the Bayou
    Bryan Adams - So Far So Good
    The Chemical Brothers - *.*
    Collective Soul - *.*
    The Crystal Method - Legion of Boom, Community Service
    Dave Matthews - Live at Luther College, Crash, Under the Table and Dreaming
    Depeche Mode - Ultra, Violator
    The Eagles - Hell Freezes Over
    Enigma - MCMXC A.D., The Cross of Changes
    Enya - *.*
    Eric Clapton - Unplugged
    Evanescence - Fallen, Origin
    The Fixx - Calm Animals
    Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
    Gin Blossoms - New Miserable Experience
    INXS - Kick, Elegantly Wasted
    Jane's Addiction - Kettle Whistle, Self Titled
    Joe Satriani - Engines of Creation, Self Titled
    Keb'Mo' - Slow Down
    Leo Kottke - One Guitar No Vocals
    Live - The Distance to Here, Throwing Copper
    Loreena McKennitt - Book of Secrets
    Madonna - The Immaculate Collection
    Maroon 5 - Songs About Jane
    Matchbox 20 - More Than You Think You Are (Special ed)
    Metallica - Black Album, S&M
    Michael Hedges - *.*
    Natalie Merchant - Ophelia, Tigerlily
    Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile, The Downward Spiral
    Nirvana - Self Titled, Nevermind
    No Doubt - Tragic Kingdom, Return of Saturn
    Paul Oakenfold - Bunkka, Ibiza
    Peppino d'Agostino - Close to the Heart
    A Perfect Circle - Mer de Noms
    Pink Floyd - The Wall, Dark Side of the Moon
    The Police - Every Breath You Take
    Rebecca Pidgeon - The Raven
    Red Hot Chili Peppers - *.*
    Robbie Robertson - Music for the Native Americans
    Roger Waters - Amused to Death
    The Rolling Stones - Forty Licks
    Santana - Supernatural, Shaman, Best of Santana
    Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Toward Ecstacy, Afterglow, Surfacing
    Seal - Self Titled, Seal IV
    Sinead O'Connor - Faith and Courage, Am I Not Your Girl
    Sting - *.*
    Stone Temple Pilots - Core
    Third Eye Blind - Self Titled
    Tom Petty - Greatest Hits
    Tracy Chapman - Self Titled, Telling Stories, New Beginning
    U2 - *.*
    The White Stripes - Elephant
    Willie Nelson - Stardust
    +Various Classical and Jazz albums
     
  14. Rocker_II

    Rocker_II K-Car pride

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    Wow. You sold me. I already have a set of 570's but I don't have any kind of headphone amp. Good review and keep us updated on how those etyomic's sound ;)
     
  15. GlocksRock

    GlocksRock Glock > You

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    Very nice setup, I wish I had the time and money for all that.
     
  16. el_gato_negro

    el_gato_negro New Member

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    Query:

    How does the X-Can improve the sound from the headphones? You have the same source, so all of the audio bugaboos in the soundcard are still present. I guess the X-Can might drive the headphones more "comfortably", but it's not as if it takes a lot to drive headphones.... :dunno:
     
  17. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    With the external large powersupply and the large capacitors in the x-cans, basically that means that there is a ton of clean power available to the headphone, so very complex audio is "clearer" even at loud volumes. It also has a very low noise floor for a tube amp, using the higher quality components all the way to the headphones makes a difference.

    There is a night and day difference between the headphone jack on my Nakamichi AV-9 Receiver, which will power the headphones to a listenable volume, and the creek's headphone port / x-cans...

    Why when they are all set to the same listen volume do they sound different? Different design. You could argue that any of them sound the way things are supposed to sound, but listen to live classical music or something and you will be able to tell very quickly which one is "better" and that crosses over to everything else you listen to with them.

    I'd love to get a Headroom Max, one of the nicest digital headphone amps, and try that out... Supposedly that one can even deliver enough power for small bookshelf speakers. :bigthumb:
     
  18. 04

    04 Guest

    Exactly. Headphone amps are usefull when you are driving high impedence headphones (like the Senn's) at high volume levels.

    For example, I tried running my HD-600's on my brother's AC97 built in soundcard. The maximum volume levels were PATHETIC (and the noise floor was high for that matter too). However, I have run them off a discman at normal listening levels with good results (just don't turn them up real loud). My reciever also does a good job driving them.

    In fact, I typically don't even use the CMOY headphone amplifier that I have, as in my situation it really isnt needed.
     
  19. el_gato_negro

    el_gato_negro New Member

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    Ah...that's right...the big Senns have astronomically high impedance. I hadn't considered that.

    Now I'm sure that I'll never buy HD600/650s... :big grin:
     
  20. 04

    04 Guest

    :hs: It really isnt THAT high. Like I said, I can drive em from a discman as long as it's not loud ;)

    You should at least listen to a pair though, they sound great.
     
  21. el_gato_negro

    el_gato_negro New Member

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    I don't doubt it - I own HD500s. :big grin:

    I don't use them enough to justify the cost of 650s...that's all.
     
  22. ittech

    ittech "If You're Not Part of the Solution, There's Good OT Supporter

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    true... but they are going to sound much better from an amp, and i can't stand walking around with my 650/600's and a mp3 player, too large, too much cord. :)

    that's why i have the 4p's... :bigthumb:
     
  23. Chitown B

    Chitown B Active Member

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    Location:
    chicago, il
    I know this is super, super old - and you may not even still have the 600/650's.

    but i'm looking at both, and going to be driving them with my Pioneer Elite SC-05 receiver as well as my Astro a40 mix-amp for gaming.

    Any issues or comments since 2004? Which do you like better, and for what? Thanks!
     

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