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The HD800 - My Favorite Headphones

A Review On: Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

Rated # 3 in Over-Ear
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Design
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Price paid: $1,040.00
Nordwestlicht
Posted · 327 Views · 43 Comments

Pros: OVERALL SOUND QUALITY & SIGNATURE, WEARING COMFORT, OPENESS, BUILD QUALITY, MADE IN GERMANY, ALCANTARA, ETC.

Cons: PAINTING, PRICE OF SPARE PARTS, SOMETIMES PIERCING HIGHS

ACHTUNG!

This is a completly subjective

-or let's say in some aspects probably "subjective-neutral"-

review.

 

1000

 

 

The HD800

A condensed account after nearly two years of daily use

 

 

My setup:

 

Denon DVD-3910 SACD/DVD-A/HDCD/CD/MP3-Player ->

Sommer Cable SC-Classique ->

Meier Audio Corda Cantate.2 ->

Sennheiser HD800

 

 

 

BAD:

 

- relatively high prices for spare parts (a pair of ear pads costs about 75 EUR)

 

- relatively damageable silver paint

 

- not comfortable for (very) small heads

 

- sometimes piercing highs in bad recordings

 

- not suitable for music that requires tons of bass

 

- not suitable for music files encoded with a low quality

 

- not suitable for very bad sources and amps

 

 

NEUTRAL:

 

o very wide soundstage

 

o futuristic design/look with nice Volkswagen silver metallic paint

 

o technical ability

 

o mainly plastics, some metal

 

o the price might seem to be high, but compared to e.g. SR009, it's kind of a steal

 

o unique ring transducer

 

o somewhat unforgiving sound

 

o diffusfeldentzerrt (just a joke, because it's a normal feature and I like this German word... biggrin.gif)

 

 

GOOD:

 

+ easy to clean inside and outside

 

+ washable and replaceable pads

 

+ spacious earcups (the ears stay fairly cool)

 

+ nice feeling Alcantara fabric

 

+ luxuirous wearing comfort (for large and medium head sizes)

 

+ detachable cable

 

+ overall good haptic, finish and build quality

 

+ very good cable quality

 

+ can easily and reversible be modded with foam, felt or slices of wood, to raise the bass level, tame the highs and very slightly change the sound signature, too

 

+ "Made in Germany" (Hooray!!! wink.gif -  no patriotism, I only want to express, that it's not "Made in China" like most audio/video products [even expansive ones of well known Western/Japanese/South Korean brands] today)

 

+ overall very pleasing sound quality and general sound signature

 

+ the Neumann/Klein&Hummel monitors sitting on your head wink.gif (Sennheiser = Neumann/K+H)

 

+ one of the best headphones for classical music (opera, chamber, big orchestra, organ, etc.) and jazz

 

+ suitable for audio mastering

 

+ absolutely stunning with good audio recordings

 

+ also pleasing with medium quality rock/pop/some electro/"whatever"

 

+ analytical sound with a fun factor

 

+ extraordinary nice voice rendering

 

+ overall relatively balanced sound

 

+ no audible resonances

 

+ low distortions

 

+ very open and airy sound

 

+ holographic sound image (deep and very broad)

 

+ (somewhat) natural sounding coloration

 

+ excellent instrument separation

 

+ extended, detailed and fast bass

 

+ natural and detailed mids

 

+ very resolving highs

 

+ no artificial sound (like e.g. some "Ultrasones")

 

+ superb and refined detail retrieval

 

+ absolutely controlled sound (manages e.g. Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung perfectly)

 

+ very good positioning in width and depth

 

+ very good at lower volumes

 

+ is able to play very loud, paired with the right amp

 

+ better than the best of DT880/600, HD600, HD650 and K701 together

 

 

A last thing to mention:

Believe me or not, the HD800 can be perfectly driven by a Meier Audio Corda Cantate.2 and does not need recabling! (IMHO, because I tried out several setups and a highly recommended aftermarket cable and the very good results offered by the stock HD800 didn't get any better this way)

 

THE END

 

PS: Sorry for every textual mistake in advance!

43 Comments:

" HD800 can be perfectly driven by a Meier Audio Corda Cantate.2 and does not need recabling!" ----> Really??!
Just now, I did an A/B test bewteen Corda Classic and WA2 with my HD800.
Classic is undeniably waaaay better than Cantate2 and it still can't drive HD800 well......
Perhaps u should try more different amplifiers with HD800 first~
Sorry, but you're totally wrong. The Corda Classic is no way better together with the HD800. It's a marginal difference and to me the Cantate.2 sounds a tad warmer and therefore better for my likings. I don't know who told you that the Classic is waaaay better or whom you believe in doing such judgements. You shouldn't believe in snake-oil statements and have an open mind and decide for yourself which amp sounds better to you. The Cantate.2 is a very good match for the HD800 and I've tried several amps from Lehmann, Meier Audio, SPL, Lake People/Violectric and even some tube amps. Also I have to say that I rather like slightly warm SS amps together with the HD800 than any tube amps, because I generally don't like tube amps.
Well... that's why the designer of the Amp, Jan, told me. Classic is the upgrade version of Concerto while Concerto is the upgrade version of Symphony2. Classic is obviously better than Cantate2 in all aspects. (I used to own a Cantate2 and I own Classic now.)
*snake-oil statements* ??!! so u think the designer and builder of the amp is not gd enough to judge that?
Even my Classic doesn't hv enough power the release the dynamic and soundstage of my HD800.... Ur Cantate2 seems like a "special" version.
Yeah I know that. And I know, that Dr. Meier also "believes" in the sounding of cables. I don't, because it's snake oil. The Classic is newer and of cause praised to be better by the developer (and by others), but that's simply not true. The Classic has of cause other features and specs, but the Cantate.2 is nevertheless 100% capable of driving the HD800 to the for me best volume level with a very good quality, unless you want to get really deaf. Have you ever done a side by side comparison with the equal volume level on both amps? So many people tend to believe in things that are simply not there... nothing new so far. If you can proof your thesis, that the Cantate.2 is not able to drive the HD800 properly with measurements that will have a real audible effect, then please show it to me. There is no flaw within the Cantate.2 when it comes to drive the HD800. Your statement that the Classic hasn't got the power to release the dynamic and soundstage of your HD800 is also wrong, but the Classic sounds very slightly more sharp with the HD800, compared to the Cantate.2. What then does have the power to drive the HD800 in your opinion? Colored tube amps?! That's ridiculous, but I know it's a popular opinion here on head-fi, sometimes also know as "hype-fi". Different tastes can be satisfied with different amps, but that does not make them more capable of driving a special dynamic headphone. If you're happy with your equipment for the HD800, that's just fine. I am 100% happy with the Cantate.2 for driving the HD800, because it's 100% capable of doing this, except you need it really really loud. The 12 o'clock volume setting on the Cantate.2 @ high gain is in most cases enough power for me. Btw. have you ever thought about what a headphone amp is ought to do?! It "simply" has to amplify the headphones with no interfering effects. Tube amps otherwise manipulate the sound, sometimes very much. That's not very high-fi or high-end. My statement is clear: the Cantate.2 is all you need for the HD800, other more expansive SS headphone amps are also very fine. Tube amps do manipulate the sound very often and are to some extend not recommended, except you want a special ans specific thing that such an amp does with the sound. The Cantate.2 is a very slightly warm SS amp with a black background that can drive the HD800 clear and clean. For my likings it's out of many amps just perfect and just as good as other very good solid state amps. There is simply no improvement with using tube amps, but it's a different sound on each amp that may be liked more or less compared to other amps. But if you really think that the Cantate.2 can not drive the HD800 properly, please prove it to me.
(Cantate.2 is nevertheless 100% capable of driving the HD800 to the for me best volume level with a very good quality, unless you want to get really deaf.)
--> u know wt, even my iPod Classic's capabe of driving the HD800 to a loud volume level... What do u need an amplifier??
( And I know, that Dr. Meier also "believes" in the sounding of cables. I don't, because it's snake oil.)
---> As far as i know, u r also using the Sommer Cable SC-Classique, right? don't use it, it's just snake oil. XD
(please prove it to me.)
--> If u think owning both of them is still not enough, then how can u say Cantate2 is better than Classic in terms of driving HD800?
Please prove it to me.
(The 12 o'clock volume setting on the Cantate.2 @ high gain is in most cases enough power for me.)
---> I guess u know that high gain in any amplifier will result in more distortion and higher noise floor level (background noise).
(My statement is clear: the Cantate.2 is all you need for the HD800, other more expansive SS headphone amps are also very fine.)
---> NO, ur statement is not this one.... The original one is: D800 can be perfectly driven by a Meier Audio Corda Cantate.2 and does not need recabling!
No offense at all, just wanna discuss aout that. If u don't want to countinue the discussion, pls let me know.
Alright, I got it. HD800 can be perfectly driven by Cantate.2 and doesn't need recabling. haha~
Yeah. I see, you don't take it seriously.
Just believe in your hoodoo-voodoo-audio equipment... billions of people believe in the existence of God... and they also can't be wrong... right?! *re-haha*
Btw. the Somme Cable SC Classique is no voodoo, it's a sturdy well made 100% shielded guitar cable. Price: ~25EUR (cinch, pair, 0,5m).
I think a discussion would lead to nothing. You believe in your stuff -better said: you believe that the Cantate.2 can not drive the HD800 adequate- and I don't, because I know it can do it.
And well, I don't know whether the HD800 can be driven by an Ipod, but a Sony NW-HD5 can drive it with very good results, and it has even not a zero ohms output impedance.
To my headphone amps are totally overrated and tube amps may produce nice sound to some, but often not the sound in terms of high-fidelity.
okay, so ur Sommer Cable SC-Classique is doing it work while the other cables are "snake oil", gotya!
According to ur theory, u don't actually need the Cantate.2, just use the iPod to drive HD800 instead, unless you want to get really deaf. XD
Let me remind u again, ur thesis is "HD800 can be perfectly driven by a Meier Audio Corda Cantate.2 and does not need recabling!", not "The Cantate.2 is 100% capable of driving the HD800 to the for me best volume level with a very good quality".
Prefectly = unparalleled which means u think Cantate.2 is the BEST amplifier driving the HD800~
Thank you so much, i do learn a lot from u~
1. The SC Classique is cheap and does do what it should do: transport the signal. Other cables are said to sound better, what is of cause nonsense. Other cables may cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and are praised to have a better sound. Again: this is nonsense. Why would someone want to recable the HD800, without reasons like "the standart cable is too long"? The cable of the HD800 does, what a cable should do: it transports the signal. Other cables which are said to do more/better are just hoodoo-voodoo-snake-oil rubbish, sold to people who want to believe in it and that for loads of money.
2. Yes, the Cantate.2 can perfectly drive the HD800. There is no audible noise added and the output resistor is at zero ohms. It lets hear you all the characteristics that are specific for the HD800. There is no manipulation like (some) tube amps do it. Maybe the Cantate.2 is a tad warmer than e.g. the Classic, but that also might be my imagination. I'm very careful with this.
You might like other amps with tubes for your HD800. That's your opinion. But those amps are simply not better in terms of sound quality, just different and better for your personal likings, probably and farer away from "high-fidelity". For me, the Cantate.2 can do, all an amp can do with the HD800. There are no more details and space and other snake-oil descriptions with other amps, at the volume I listen to music and out of my personal experience. You think there are? Why? You heard it? - The "but I can hear it" is a false argument. For tube amps it is true, I think, but for solid state amps... nope... not really.
Maybe other people are able to hear better, but I'm aware of the differences in sound comparing different headphones. Those differences are sometimes huge. Even the difference between e.g. SR009, HD800 and T1 are huge for me, while no one is better, just different and a matter of taste/use. The differences between well built solid state amps are -if existent- very minor ones, barley audible or simply not audible. Tube amps can do other things, but they are often constructed to influence the sound in another non high-fidelity way.
Long speech, but fact is, that the Cantate.2 can drive the HD800 perfectly at my listening volume. There is no "better", just an "other way" and how should different amps and especially tube amps create more space, details, etc. together with the HD800 compared to other amps... out of thin air?
So far...
So much text, here my short summary:
1. A clean zero ohms amplifier is all the HD800 needs, in the first place.
(If you want to hear at very loud levels, your amp needs more power of cause.)
2. Different cables are snake oil, unless you realize a different resistor with them, what would make the HD800 sound different, but which can be achieved easier and cheaper.
3. Tube amps can produce another sound (but not better - some may like it more, though),
4. different resistors also produce different sound-behaviours and
5. different modifications on the phones also produce different sound images.
Maybe I forgot something... but basically this is, what I've experienced with different gears over the last 12 years.
first of all, some of the cables such as OCC (continuous casted pure crystalline copper) does hv a higher purity and lower resistance than normal cables. (http://www.qables.com/shop/images/pdf/OCC%20description.pdf) That's undeniable fact. Whether human can hear the differences or not, there's no an absolute answer. But base on the data, YES, OCC (or silver) is better while it's much more expensive, unless u hv a new set of testing result and data.
I hvn't never said tube amp is the best for HD800. All i am trying to say is that, Cantate2 is not 100% capable of driving the HD800.
(You think there are? Why? You heard it?) ---> I hv never said that, pls don't pretend like u know wt I am thinking.
Let me ask u a very simple question, which amp do u think will drive HD800 better, Cantate.2 or Classic?
*Typing mistake: I *hv never said tube amp is the best for HD800. All i am trying to say is that, Cantate2 is not 100% capable of driving the HD800.
Also, according to ur theory, u don't actually need the Cantate.2, just use the iPod to drive HD800 instead, unless you want to get really deaf.
Do u agree? ? ?
I very much doubt the advantage of OCC copper used in such a cable, same goes for silver. Why?: For the lenght (about 3 meters) it simply has no relevance, unless you use a 50 meters long cable or so... and you can of cause simply use a thicker cable for lower resistance (which wouldn't be very practical). But for normal headphone cable length there is no need for that. So for your purpose OCC is some kind of useless, because it does not effect the sound, because the way is way to short.
And do you really think a company's proud flagship of a headphone has a cable on board that has audible flaws, while other after market cables designed by voodoo-people who want your best (your money) would be better?
On to your question:
Both, the Cantate.2 and the Classic are able to drive the HD800 perfectly, maybe even the Ipod can do it, I've never used any Apple products, so I can't comment on this. For my likings and out of my experience with both, the Cantate.2 and Classic, I'd say that the Cantate.2 is very slightly different, because it produces a warmer overall sound, but just minimal warmer and I might be wrong. It's hard to say. My decision for the Cantate.2 is based on its (for me awesome) looks for an SS amp, because it sounds as good as other SS amps I've tried, so the sound was no buying factor here. The Corda Symphony, while having more power, sounded equally on the zero impedance output jack, but it had to much features I don't need and I liked the looks of the Cantate.2 still more.
If the Ipod has zero ohms output impedance and a black/noise free background, and it can achieve a certain level of volume with the HD800, I don't know why it shouldn't be able to drive the HD800 as perfect, as the other SS amps do.
Now here my question to you:
WHY do you think the Cantate.2 and Classic, as well as other amps, are not able to drive the HD800 properly?
WHICH amp instead -according to your experience- can drive the HD800 properly?
I'm willing to try out such an amp, unless it is no tube amp.
Btw. I will listen to the new Sennheiser HDVD800 amp in the beginning of the next year and compare it to my Cantate.2. I'm really curious about what I will hear and if I will detect a (huge) difference between both, because according to your theory, the HDVD800 should sound "more perfectly", as long as Sennheiser didn't make a mistake in its construction, because the amp really seems to be dedicated for the HD800, and what could be better for the HD800 than an amp made by the manufacturer and specially dedicated for it?
WHY do you think the Cantate.2 and Classic, as well as other amps, are not able to drive the HD800 properly?
Ans: again, pls read wt i typed carefully before u ask me any questions. I hv never said "properly" this word. I said "Cantate.2 is not able to drive HD800 perfectly." Wt I am saying is that, some other amplifiers can drive HD800 better than Cantate.2, especially when u r using the high gain on Cantate.2.
what could be better for the HD800 than an amp made by the manufacturer and specially dedicated for it?
Ans: Aftermarket products can always be better than original manufacturer's product. For instance, Shure iem cable VS whiplash TWag2. The shure iem cable is well known for it's bad quality, not flexible at all and will break easily while the TWag2 has a much lower inpedence and very flexible. Besides, the MSRP of Sennheiser's amp is pretty high because of their advertising cost, brand's fame as well as the cost to run the company.
WHICH amp instead -according to your experience- can drive the HD800 better than Cantate.2?
Corda Classic, Bryston BHA-1, SPL Phonitor, Headamp GS1.... just to mention a few
My question: If u claim the difference that cable can make is unnoticeable, how can u distinguish the difference between SS amp and Tube amp? (base on the fact that there distortion difference is less than 0.01%)
As I read many of ur posts on head-fi, u keep emphasizing that ur setup (HD800 + Cantate2) is the perfect combo... advertising?? XD
P.S u do realize that Cantate.2 and Classic use different opamps, don't u? U do know that different opamps can hv different effects on sonic performances, don't u? It seems like I am not the only one disagree with u, more and more head-fi'ers disagree with u on the Sennheiser HD800 Appreciation Thread~
Some aftermarket products are indeed better than the original ones. That's true.
But that another cable for the HD800 is better than the stock one, is not true. It's simply imagination. I've tried out e.g. the Black Dragon V2 vs. the stock cable. Nothing happened. A waste of money, if I had bought it.
I've compared my Cantate.2 to Corda Classic, Symphony, Arietta, Opera, SPL Phonitor, Lehmann BCL and some other SS amps, because I love my HD800 and truly want the best for it.
The Cantate.2 has nothing less to offer than the other amps, despite all are technically different. Maybe there are slightly variations in the sound, but those -I say it again- also might be imagination. Different opamps can sound differently, you can measure it. BUT you can't hear it at all... or maybe only very slightly.
Other people on this forum have already written a lot of crap, that's why this forum is known to some as "hype-fi" in the German hifi-world.
I don't think you want to hype anything, and I also think that you might hear differences between different amps which makes one amp better to you than another. But I bet that this won't stand a blinded comparison (don't know whether this is the right term). Blinded comparisons have often proven that people are not able to make out concrete differences between some SS amps and even more between different cables used. Be happy with your equipment, I am with mine and after several comparison I continue to say that the Cantate.2 is capable of driving the HD800 perfectly like any other (good) SS amp. :-)
On the other side I don't want to hype the Cantate.2. For me, it's a very good SS amp as it does what it should do and also looks very nice to me. If others hear differences with different amps and find them to be better, than it's the way it is.
I've tried out many things and came to the conclusion, that the Cantate.2 is indeed as perfect as an SS amp can get together with the HD800. That's my conclusion and others who disagree can maybe hear better than me or have just more fantasy... :D
Btw. serious listening comparisons require basically three things:
1. A quiet room and atmosphere. (for concentration)
2. A fast changing between the tested components, using short (max. 2min) sound impressions that have to be repeatedly compared.
3. The same volume level on both devices!
If only one point fails, the comparison is worthless.
u hvn't answered my question yet....
--> If u claim the difference that cable can make is unnoticeable, how can u distinguish the difference between SS amp and Tube amp? (base on the fact that there distortion difference is less than 0.01%, just like cables)

I've tried out several tube amps, but that's longer time ago. All of them added noise and other characteristics to the sound. If a tube amp is well built, with low distortion, it should sound like a good SS amp. And why in this case buy old technology? But some (many?) people also prefer vinyl over the CD/SACD... - I think this is a nostalgic placebo effect combined with a show off bling-bling factor, but maybe you can enlighten me, what is better on a very good tube amp compared to an SS amp?!
(Maybe many/a few people like the "non-hifi-like" sound produced by several tube amps.)
The "best" tube amp, I've listened to under good conditions -that was not so long ago- was the Eternal Arts OTL together with the HD800. I liked this combo even slightly more than the SR009 + T2 combo. But maybe, because I like the HD800 generally slightly more than the big Stax.
I was not able to make a direct comparison between the OTL and a SS amp, so I can't comment whether it sounds better/worse/the same together with the HD800.
Because of the flaws the tube amps offer compared to SS amps, I don't see a use for them, except for people who want to have something nice glowing in their living/listening room. Different aftermarket cables that are purposed to better the sound, are even more ridiculous, though. :D
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