Sennheiser HD 700 review: Sennheiser HD 700

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4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Very open sound; extremely clear audio; good build quality.

The Bad Pricey; Not particularly warm.

The Bottom Line The Sennheiser HD 700s offer a wide-open, crystal-clear sound that audio purists will appreciate. Thankfully, they've been built well enough to protect that £600 investment.

8.3 Overall

Some headphones are designed to be affordable upgrades from the terrible earbuds bundled with an iPod . Others are built for the home, for you to play back your music with all the clarity and beauty of a choir of angels drinking martinis. The Sennheiser HD 700s fall into the second category.

At £600 they're certainly not cheap, but these open-backed cans hope that their good build quality, wide sound and crystal-clear audio will tempt you to part with your cash.

Design and build quality

The HD 700s offer a particularly striking design, made up of various shades of steel grey, extremely fine mesh panels and angular struts of plastic clamping onto the large earcups. It's a very modern, almost aggressive look that will certainly find appeal among the more fashionable circles. It may well scare off those of you who find comfort in the classier wood-encased Denon AH-D7000s though.

They look very similar to Sennheiser's HD800s from 2010, and in fact share the same large earcups. That big size isn't just for show though -- it's apparently designed to place the driver further away from your ear in order to achieve a more open sound. I'll return to this later.

The earcups sit around the ear, rather than on it, and have a doughnut-shaped micro-fibre padding that's pretty comfortable. They're designed to be worn at home, probably sat down in a nice chair with a cocktail, rather than out and about, meaning the headband doesn't need to squeeze your head firmly. Instead, they sit comfortably in place and the fairly light weight means you can wear them for a long time without feeling the need to pull them off to regain blood circulation.

Sennheiser HD 700
The earcups will fit comfortably around your ears -- unless you're Andrew Marr, that is.

All the materials feel incredibly solid and well put together. The headband is thick, doesn't offer much flex and is coated in a rubber material that seems perfectly capable of shrugging off an attack from an errant pair of buttocks.

The cable is thick and wrapped in a hardy material that feels extremely durable. Sadly, it's not very flexible at all and seems to enjoy nothing more than to collect kinks along its length for you to untangle. It might not be much of an issue if you only leave your headphones in one place, but if you move them around or inadvertently turn them over a few times, you'll quickly find it becoming annoyingly twisted.

The cable is detachable so if you do tangle it beyond belief -- or somehow accidently slice it in half with a kitchen knife -- you can grab a replacement and plug it straight into the earcups.

Sennheiser HD 700 band
While the thick headband is robust, it won't clamp your brain to a mush.

Sound quality

With a £600 price tag, you'd be right to expect the HD 700s to offer superb sound quality along with the modern, sturdy design. They aren't intended for casual listening on your iPod. They're aimed at reproducing high-fidelity audio from a top-quality source. The best way to enjoy music with headphones of this class is to use lossless audio played through a good headphone amplifier and digital audio converter (DAC). In my testing, I used a combination of lossless WAV files and high bit-rate MP3s played through a Fiio E7 DAC.

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