Firstly, I am by no means an audiophile and don’t profess to be as much. I can appreciate the difference in audio gear, but I listed mostly in imperfect environments where my focus and concentration is not 100% on the music. I have a Sound Blaster E5 which I stream music to over APTX bluetooth from Sound Blaster BT-W2 (gasp) and also using a modified iPod 5.5g lia line-in. I listen to ALAC via iTunes, Tidal and Spotify (gasp). My current headphones are the Sennheiser RS 180 wireless and Sennheiser Momentum Wireless 2.0 over ear, with my previous set being Sennheiser HD 485. I don't really have any lengthy experience with any other brand. I listen to a wide range of music, from electronic, breakbeat and drum and bass, through to old school hip-hop, garage and classical music film soundtracks.
I bought these without testing their counterpart (HD650 in UK). They arrived well packaged in a nice box which has an outer sleeve branded as Massdrop. It’s a pleasant enough experience to unbox, but I’m not fussy as it just goes in the loft anyway. Immediately you can see that the 6XXs headphone band, adjustment arms and cup surrounds look a much lower quality than the Momentum’s as they are plastic and have the cheap plastic rippling effect throughout. However, they aren’t flimsy and still feel strong enough. I might spray them a different colour in the future, but the blue is so dark it’s almost black in reality so they blend in with my other black peripherals nicely enough.
Firstly, I was surprised at how tight the headband was, I was expecting it to be loose like the RS180 or 485, but it was tighter than my Momentums, really pushing the cups against your head. It seems looser after a few days although I may just be getting used to it. That said, it doesn't cause a headache and actually fits over my ears with plenty of room unlike most other cans. I can wear them for hours with no discomfort whatsoever.
They do sound fantastic, although at first I was disappointed as they sounded a little “muddled” (only word I can use to describe them!), however I disabled all EQ effects on the E5 and they sounded great. I recommend going to a direct sound from your source to start with. The bass is probably the biggest noticeable difference from the closed back Momentums, although the 6XXs are powerful, the bass at lower levels takes a little getting used to - it’s definitely “weaker” and you may be disappointed until you get used to it. That is the tradeoff with open backed phones, but it's worth it as the overall sound quality and detail to all musical styles is just far superior with the 6XXs. They are an absolute pleasure to listen to regardless of genre, and I had a big smile on my face for hours the first day I listened to them. They sound so smooth and luxurious. They are bright without being harsh - lots of top end detail (which I always felt I was missing) without being fatiguing. I didn’t have to keep adjusting the volume depending on the track playing because I found myself wincing at the harshness or volume. Although not as powerful, the bass is very tight and clearly defined, and a small adjustment to bring the lower frequencies up on the E5 did help without introducing any noticeable distortion (to my ears).
At the same volume level on the E5 these headphones are much quieter when compared with the Momentums in passive mode, due to the large difference in impedance for the drivers. However, with the E5 in high gain mode and the volume up a bit (to loud levels, not deafening!) the 6XXs really come into their own. The bass is thumping, strong and stays clean, and the mids and highs push through and it all just sounds amazing! However, being open backed you can only really get away with this when you are on your own.
I listen to these in my open office, and with the office radio on, people talking and working, you can have them at normal listening levels without causing too much disturbance to those around you and still drowning out all but the loudest shouters in the office. I also wear them when walking the dog in the morning and it’s nice to hear the birds over the top of chilled music. However, if you don’t want to hear the outside world, and you don’t want the outside world to hear your music, then these are absolutely not the phones for you. I might experiment with some modified closed back grilles in the future, but for now I’ll keep at sensible volumes in the office and use the momentums if necessary.
Hopefully this review helps, if anyone wants to know anything else then let me know.