Can the Sennheiser HD650 do BIG SCALE classical???

Hello Audiogoners,

I have the Senn HD650 (equinox cable) that I use with various high-end sources (analog and digital) and an MG Head DT amplifier. I love them. They make rock music rock, jazz swing, folk and chamber are wonderful and intimate, they are never bright, and are very comfortable.

However, big scale classical does not work for me. They have for me a bit of the "car stereo" syndrome, where the big scale dynamics blow me out, and just are not fun to listen to. The setup that I have now is not in control of large scale classical, and cannot handle big dynamic swings with confidence.

My question is this: Are these headphones capable of doing big scale classical with all the macro-dynamics well? I don't want to be reaching for the volume knob whenever a forte comes in. It's not that they sound bright or edgy, just not in control of the music. Really the only thing that I can think of optimizing for this setup is the amplifier. Would upgrading to a different amplifier enable these headphones to shine on large scale classical? If so - what amplifiers have you used to successful reproduce very macro-dynamic heavy large scale classical?

I'm suprised. Are you using the OTL jack or the transformer jack?

I have the MG head and Senn 600's and they do large scale music fine.

The Senns can't compare with my AKG K1000 with ASL AQ1001DT for large scale classical music and for that matter everything else played through it , but it's not in the same price category either.
If you have not already done so, go to, the folks over there talk 95% headphones and you'll get rapid and nice opinions that are highly headphone oriented. Senn HD650, I don't have, but my buddy does and from what he says and what I've read, it's a laid back sound that is great for soundstage and depth but not crazy dynamics and speed and whatnot. There's a warmth and also the controversial "veil." A cable replacement, zu or cardas, is often done to these cans. I have a very different animal, a pair of Audio Technica's (L3000s) that would be appropriate, but are much more expensive (and now discontinued).

- walkman
Thanks for the posts

I am familliar with head-fi, it is generally a younger crowd over there, and orchestra music is not the common kind of music that people listen to over there from my experience.

Yes, I have an upgraded cable, the equinox cable as I mentioned in my post.

The MG Head I have is the original version that is not OTL
The MG head is not the best amp out there. Not that it is bad, but you can do much better. And there are some classical fans at head-fi. I also agree with Robm that while the 650s are good, they are no substitute for the K1000s or as I call them, K1Ks, with a good tube amp.
Swampwalker - My question is this-

Will upgrading to a superior amp, (ie Singlepower or whatever), make my headphone setup excel at big orchestral classical?

In other words, I'm not looking for a little more robustness, a little more freq response, a little more micro-detail... What I'm trying to find out is if switching to a superior head-amp will be a "game-changing" shift in terms of big-scale dynamic control of classical music.

Goatboy- Wish I knew, I never did such a comparison. However, I will say 2 things-
1. Senns not known for being dynamic
2. There are HP amps out there known for being substantially better than MG Head.
If you are in NE US, you are welcome to come over and try 2 hp amps (Granite Audio and Audiovalve RKV M2) I own with your Senns. Or try to find a "meet" on near your home. There will likely be 5-10 different hp amps there to try out with your music and cans.
Swamp - Thanks for the post!

Boston area here. Where in NE US are you? I've always wanted to hear a pair of merlins too... ( : I'm also a Supratek owner, btw.
I'm in W. Hartford, CT. Supratek long gone, but you are welcome to come down anytime. we can run the hp amps off of the big rig or off an Audio Aero Prima. I guess I should update my system...
I second the recommandation to visit a local head-fi meet. You have to listen and decide for yourself what works for you. And unlike our big bulky equipments, most of the head-fi gears are easier to lug around. So at these meets, you will see a wealth of equipment and headphones. Just make sure you don't get carried away. ;-)

I visited my first head-fi meet about two years ago when my wife was pregnant, and I had begun looking into putting together a headphone based system in the study room for those late night listening sessions. The people are fairly nice. I brought my digital front end with me to the meet, and was able to listen to several amps through my system. Now I have four headphone amps and four pairs of headphones...(this is in addition to my main speaker-based set up in the living room) Why do I need four pairs of headphones? Let me think...for me, my wife, my baby boy, and...uh.....yeah, my dog. Yeah, my dog needs a pair too!

You might look for a solid state amp at headroom or something like that, but I think it is the Senns. Those headphones are neutral and decent, but not very dynamic or frankly exciting. They caused me to go to Grado headphones where it's all musical if not romantic and agressive (but don't sounstage like the Senns), then I found the most dynamic and musical in teh K1K's ;)
Rob - Frankly I'm not that into Grados for comfort alone, they are just disqualified as I don't find them comfortable.

I am looking into the K1Ks however. They look interesting. Given that I'd be willing to spend a grand or so on an amp for the senns, it probably makes sense to also consider the K1K along with a nice, cheap tube amp (norh?) for pretty much the same amount of dough.
That's true Goatwuss. I would rule out Grado simply for the lack of soundstage as well. By no means was I recommending them over the Senns for symphony recordings. You can use the amp you have now if you are willing to swap out the connections on your amplifier for your speakers assuming you have one, get an adapter, or as you mentioned buy a relatively innexpensive low powered amp 7watts or more is enough.
Goatboy- As you may remember, I've got the K1Ks here is you want to try those as well. I think you will be spoiled, but I will also say that since they are very resolving, I would not recommend goind with a "relatively inexpensive low powered amp" 7 watts is more than enough, but they should be good watts and a good source. My experience has been that very resolving transducers in your system (be they cartridge, speaker, DAC) will really bring out all the crap that is upstream.
Swamp - I read your post again and now see that mention of the K1K - I must have missed it... heh interesting

So You wouldn't recommend a relatively inexpensive low power amp? Maybe something like a Lamm ML2? Audio Note Ongaku?

Ha! I think starting with a relatively modest low powered EL34 or other amp would be ok. The problems at least wouldn't be brightness/harshness/dryness. Granted, the whole point of the pursuit is for macro-dynamic control, so I wouldn't want to be throwing that off the boat... but if relative to the Senn650 the K1K with a modest amp is in another league (sorry about the A-phile cliche), then I would be quite happy. I'm sure there are plenty of sub $1000 amps that wouldn't butcher the job too badly. I'd either be using my supratek or my EE Minimax as a pre, and both of those are quite transparent and good sounding, so all I'd need is the power-amp section. I'd be interested to hear what they'd sound like with my plinius 102 in class A... Would it damage them to hook them up to serious 100WPC+ amps just for the fun of it?

Anyway - Your entourage of gear sounds very compelling for a potential drop-by. Do you have the merlins set up too? If so, do you have a photo of the room/setup?

I agree with swampwalker about the fact that they reveal what is in your system warts and all, but I did see some discussion about people having success with budget amps at headfi.

Do you have a decent amp for your speakers now? If so, that's what I use.

I burned my K1K's in with a 200wpc amp, so as long as you keep the volume at a reasonable level (unless you want to lose your hearing), then it should be ok.

By the way if you buy new like I did they take close to 500 hours to burn in from what I was told and can confirm that to be true.

If you have funds though a decent tube amp would be best, but I know you have a budget that doesn't allow much left over for the amp. I hope you get a chance to listen with Swampwalker also, that will give you an idea if it's the right route to go for you.
I have the Merlins set up and would love to have you come down sometime. I will have my new TT set up in a week or 2; right now source is an Exemplar 3910 or an Audio Aero Prima.

As far as the amp goes, it depends on what you call modest. I believe you said inexpensive: that's what I would be concerned about; a cheap amp. Using your Supra or EE with a decent quality 10-15 wpc amp would be fine; an EL-34 might be just the ticket. I don't think you would damage them running a Plinius 100 wpc per se, but I would be concerned about the lack of fine volume control. My Supratek did NOT have the gain switch; a high gain pre-amp like that with a big amp would be a problem. Easy to damage your ears and the phones. Of course an Ongaku would be perfect ;~) or a Lamm would be great. You could probably also get great sound with an older Pass design Class A if you want ss, or any 300b SET amp like the Cary integrated that I use now.