Sennheiser sent me their HD700 for review. After controversy upon release, I think that these headphones have aged well, given time.
Fit and Form
I'm a huge fan of these, visually. They come across as a slightly less in-your-face version of the HD800/S, which makes sense, given their placement in Sennheiser's lineup. Although they are mainly plastic, they do not feel cheap, in the slightest. There are no machining errors anywhere, and the design is very cohesive. It felt pretty great just to have these sitting on my desk, they're just very nice to look at.
The headband is plush, thick, and the pad itself is cloth-wrapped. The top is some form of hard rubber with "Sennheiser" embossed across it. The rest of the construction is a dense plastic, but the headphones on the whole are still lighter than they would be were they constructed from metal. This was part of what struck me as particularly good industrial design, as they don't sacrifice build quality while simultaneously and rightly sacrificing weight on-the-head.
The cable is a low point for these, admittedly. From the insertion point on each cup, which is a 2.5mm TS auxiliary connector, there are two rubber cables that meet at a relatively, but not ostentatiously, large Y-splitter, embossed on both sides with the Sennheiser logo. From there, it is a thick, nigh unbendable fabric wrapped cable that terminates in a very satisfactory, if also slightly large TRS 1/4" connector. The cable isn't too big a gripe for me, as these are an almost exclusively at-home pair of headphones; I only mention it as there are still kinks in it from the packaging after almost 3 weeks of use and many attempts to straighten it out.
These are super comfortable. I praise Sennheiser as highly as I can for seemingly being the only company to figure out that, in some of their headphones, earpads work best when actually shaped like someone's ears. They sit super comfortably on my head, if not super securely. These don't tolerate headbanging well, but I avoided that pretty easily, and had no issues. Otherwise, I had no qualms with comfort, and they oftentimes seemed to disappear on my head, which was appreciable.
I think these headphones have gotten a massive bad rep for very little reason. I had a little mental burn-in period as I was transitioning from the Dulce Bass, which are a very different beast entirely, but past that, they've been a lot of fun. They are relatively neutral in terms of frequency, but the combination of their detail, imagine, and soundstage make them a very musical headphone that I had no trouble enjoying.
Speaking of soundstage, these are pretty massive. They go very wide and very deep, with great imaging to keep the placement precise. They presented Steely Dan's Aja particularly well, and did a great job rendering Bernie Grundman's top of the shelf mastering. Each instrument found its own place, exactly where it belonged, without a single bit of fuzz between it and the next.
Songs used: Thief Rockers by Thievery Corporation, XYZ by Tennyson, and I Never Woke up in Handcuffs Before by Hans Zimmer
The bass on these is interesting. There's a roll-off starting around 70 Hz, as far as I can tell, and then it rolls into the mids, which seemed ever so slightly recessed. The bass, in its quantity, is very detailed and textured. It has pretty good punch for such an open headphone, when called for. It isn't particularly fast, but it doesn't ever become soupy or overly fluid. It couldn't quite keep up with the precision and speed required of "I Never Woke up in Handcuffs Before", but few headphones do, mainly planars and multi-BA IEMs, like Noble's Dulce Bass.
Key descriptors: textured, detailed, and well-extended
Songs used: Redbone by Childish Gambino, Spain by Chick Corea and Return to Forever, and When Someone Wants to Leave by Dolly Parton
The mids of these were a highlight for me. The "woo" ad-lib in "Spain" by Chick Corea and Return to Forever cuts through just as much as it should, and comes across as very detailed and forward. Every vocal quirk and turn in Dolly Parton's voice in "When Someone Wants to Leave" is portrayed as if she were in the same room, live. Instruments in general are rendered beautifully, with great detail and realism. Guitar twangs and harmonica riffs share a great cutting edge that kept me enthralled when they were present.
Key descriptors: lush, detailed, and realistic
Songs used: Morphogene by Machinedrum, Clarence! No! by goreshit, and Ageispolis by Aphex Twin
This is were a common critique comes to the HD700s. I've heard them referred to as "treble murder" more than a few times in the past, and I really don't agree. Although certainly forward, the treble never quite came across as murderous to me. I'd hesitate to even call it sibilant, it's just slightly bright. Although bright, it's airy and detailed at the same time, and being that I am not overly treble-sensitive, I didn't take issue with it. I appreciated the detail in high-frequency passages of electronic music with fair regularity.
Key descriptors: airy, bright, and forward
Minutia and Miscellaneous
It's my opinion that for anyone considering purchasing these, they should be given a good 1-week purely mental burn-in period before making an assessment. Initially, they seemed a little bright for my taste, but I moved past that after, again, about a week.
I enjoyed these a lot. They aren't necessarily analytical, but they don't stray too far from it. The soundstage presented is massive, and in conjunction with their stellar imaging, each instrument and vocal line is laser focused right where it belongs. The high point in my experience was their musicality, again, without straying too far from neutral. I again want to point out that I heard the album, "Aja", by Steely Dan better rendered than I had before through these headphones, and that experience alone made them pretty near worth it, especially in conjunction with rest of my library. These are great all-arounders, although I think they particularly excel in acoustic, classical, and vocal genres.
These headphones were provided to me for review by Sennheiser. I am not being paid by anyone to write this review, to endorse the product reviewed, or for the content that I put in the review.
These headphones were powered by an Astell&Kern AK Junior, a Google Pixel, a Neurochrome HP-1, an iFi iDSD Micro Black Label, and by whatever soundcard is in the motherboard of my computer.
I have had these headphones for about a two and a half weeks, and I have put about 60 hours of analytical listening through them during that period.