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Sennheiser IE800

87% Positive Reviews
Rated #22 in Universal Fit

Posted

Pros: Amazing soundstage, incredible detail, deep impactful bass, very comfortable even for long periods, easy to drive, sound good even at low volume!

Cons: Price

After reading glowing reviews of both of these in ear monitors I was still unable to decide which one would be right for me so I bought both, first the Shure and a few weeks later the Sennheiser. I already own the JH Audio 16 Pro, Ultimate Ears Triple.fi 10 Pro, HiFi Man HE-500, Sennheiser  HD 650, Shure SRH940 among others. My music files are all in FLAC format and I play them through an Astell & Kern AK120 and also used a Samsung Galaxy S4 for comparison purposes. To boost the signal for some of my headphones I use an ALO Rx Mk2, a Schitt Lyr, and a JDS Labs O2 headphone amplifier.

 

I begin this review with the following disclaimer, since we all have different tastes in music and how we like it to sound, there is no universal "right" way for all music and sound gear to sound. I will try to convey how I like my music to sound and why I preferred one of these fine IEM's over the other though they are both excellent in their own right. I used to work in a recording studio in NY where I was taught that it was our job to capture the sound from the room behind the glass or auditorium as if it was a picture. Get as much detail as you possibly can without altering the overall sound signature while eliminating as many artifacts as possible that could distort or mask some of what we are attempting to preserve. So, I prefer my music to sound as close to "being there" as possible, I want to hear everything that was on the original recording with nothing added and nothing taken away. This of course is a difficult goal to achieve as there are always sonic imperfections inherent in music reproduction so we all make compromises when purchasing gear.

 

The standout area for the IE800 is what I call the "presence" area - that part of the lower treble that makes voices and some instruments sound more (or less) "alive". Being a vented, open-back design, the IE800 have a wider more convincing soundstage than the SE846. They have 2 vents, one is for the sound and the second one is to equalize the air between the eardrum and the outer ear, so the pressure goes away after you insert them. Although they are open backed in-ear headphones, don’t worry as the people around you can’t hear what you hear due to the small size of the vents. Yet, it is their unconventional single dynamic driver design coupled with their vented ceramic non-resonant enclosures that gives them their remarkably spacious soundstage especially for an in-ear model. They are breathtakingly clean with deep, extended, punchy bass response which never impinges on or overrides the rest of the music which to me is amazing. On the high end, the treble sparkles with clarity and incredible detail without a trace of stridency or harshness. That said, the mids, one of the strongest points of this headphone, are excellent  and all the instruments and voices have a good, natural and well textured presentation which surprised me given how deep the bass presentation can be when it is present in the original source material. Up until I listened to the IE 800's, I felt that the HE-500 Planar magnetic headphones from HiFiMan coupled to the Schitt Lyr headphone amp had the widest, most realistic soundstage I had ever heard - not so anymore!

 

Contrasting the IE 800 with the Shure SE846, I found their bass to be somewhat exaggerated especially in the mid-bass region which in my opinion overwhelmed the midrange at times. They reminded me of the Ultrasone PRO 900 S-Logic Surround Sound Professional Headphones  that I used to own but sold because although they had powerful bass, it came at the expense of the upper midrange. The other area where I really found the Shure's to be lacking was in the treble, especially in upper end. Compared to the Sennheiser's they sounded veiled or muffled however, before I actually had the Sennheiser's, I didn't realize how much the Shure were lacking. As I already own and frequently use the JH Audio 16 Pro IEM's, I compared them to the Shure and there too, the Shure came up short. The JH-16 Pro, also a multi-armature IEM blew them away for just a few hundred dollars more however, both have that "congested" IEM sound when compared to an open backed planar headphone like the HE-500. The JH-16 Pro's have a more extended treble with far more detail and transparency and when it comes to the bass, the Shure IEM's seemed to overwhelm the midrange while the JH 16's have deep extended bass that does not mask or in any way obscure any other portion of the music. The only negative to buying custom IEM's is that they are yours forever as they will only fit your ears so you can't ever sell them if you decide you no longer want them - something to consider.

 

What truly amazed me about the Sennheiser IE 800's was the openness, the spaciousness of their soundstage, coupled with the speed and detail they amply provide. They can even compete with the HE-500 amplified by the Lyr with custom pure silver cables and that to me was amazing. They have a low impedance of 16 Ohms  across their frequency range and are very efficient so they can easily be driven by any portable devices and don't require amplification to sound great. What these IEM's coupled to a good digital audio player (DAP) provide is an amazing high end sound system that you can fit in your pocket. Although they work very well with phones and other mobile devices they really shine when coupled with a high quality DAP so if you really want to hear all that the IE 800 have to offer, use a good DAP or DAC and play lossless files otherwise save your money and buy something like the UE Triple.fi 10 Pro for half the price.

 

The comfort of the IE 800 is really good and superior to the Shure. The IE 800s are super small, incredibly lightweight and the least intrusive of any IEM's I have used. I can literally keep them in my ears for hours without any discomfort in fact, I sometimes forget they are in there! Another quality of the IE 800 that I really appreciate is that they sound great even at lower volume levels which for me was a big surprise. Typically, I tend to enjoy listening to music at higher volumes because it just seems to sound better that way. The reason for this is that we perceive different frequencies, especially the deep bass and treble at higher loudness levels then we do midrange frequencies, which was first discovered by Fletcher and Munson in 1933. This is commonly referred to as the Fletcher–Munson equal-loudness contour which means that a listener perceives a constant loudness when presented with pure steady tones at different dB levels across the frequency response. Sennheiser designed the frequency response of these IEM's to compensate for this and therefore, they sound good even at lower volume levels which is a big plus.

 

I really thought of finding some cons to these headphones but other than the price I couldn’t find anything. The non detachable cables are not an issue for me as they are very well made and appear to be quite sturdy. They are more microphonic than the Shure cables however I position the IE 800's with the cord up so I can wrap it over my ears cancelling out their microphonic tendencies. Given the very small size of the earpieces and the fact that they are solid ceramic, it would be nearly impossible to install removable cables without increasing their size and weight as well as altering their sonic character. BTW, I would suggest buying these from an authorized dealer so that your warranty is valid given what they cost.

 

All in all, the Sennheiser IE 800's, connected directly to my AK120 are now my favorite headphone/IEM's, they're smaller, lighter, more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time and if I had listened to them before purchasing the HiFiMan HE-500 and the Schitt Lyr, I would be $1200 richer!

Posted

Pros: Dynamic bass , coherency , comfort , featherweight , good soundstage and imaging.

Cons: Good DAC is required .

Bought at (Singapore) S$1140 

Audio
This in ear is a marvel. I've auditioned quite a number of Balanced armatures and dynamic drivers in ears , and  over time, I’ve come to love most of the dynamic drivers a lot , regardless of brand or price , dynamic drivers always seems to deliver a more organic , believable , full bodied sound . This one is no different either.
It outperforms many Balanced Armatures in my opinion. 


Its sound, is simply majestic.
Bass quality is superb, quantity comfortably amounted, full bodied, believable speed with a perfect tuning of boom and taut. Treble reach is beautiful never spiky in the highs, presence and quality is sufficient and satisfying, mids are comforting, lightly warm, and vocals slightly backwards, with instrumentals a little more forward.

The sound signature is amazingly appealing to masses.
Energetic, Powerful, Lively, Clear, Warm, Smooth, Vibrant, Intimate, Delicate.

The soundstage is wide, I wouldn’t say it’s true to life, but it is definitely very believable with good dimension. Instrumental segregation is superb, each instrument is heard on its own with no bleeding into one another, this leads me to instrumental positioning, where I could very precisely locate each instrument’s direction & distance, layering of instruments were so undisturbed and clean , you could tell which instruments are behind which instruments . Overall, the soundstaging is of excellent quality and realism for an inEar. At this stage, it is already hard to believe that all these were produced all by a single small 7mm transducer.

Detail retrieval was a delight.  Each instrument from the bass, up to the splash cymbal were beautifully illustrated. Strings such as the acoustic bass and violins had their texture and smoothness delivered with richness and quality. Acoustic guitars had strings are so tangible, the texture of individual strings could be felt with each strum, plucking had a very realistic string after-rebound. The detail and reverb were so good, one could easily characterize the type of wood and its density used in the acoustic instruments. Hi-Hats, crash, splash and ride cymbals were so clear, their metallic response were laid out like the authentic. The distortion-free sound were a big plus too. Instruments on the IE800 were delivered with the utmost integrity to the source.

The emotional delivery is a very important deciding factor in most headphones or inear I audition. No form of electronic measurements could display this information on data sheets, this is raw, heartfelt soul and emotion, different headphones and inear delivers them differently. The IE800 is a capable one, capturing your heart and mind into the music, and just dwell you in its presence as it portray its majestic wonder. Quite a number of music delivers little tingle and shivers of satisfaction and bliss down your from your neck, shoulder, back and your thighs, otherwise a phenomena known as Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). The IE800 is certainly a deliverer of ethos, you’ll be drowned in it wanting more.

However, behind all these positivity, there is a concern which I feel I should raise to everyone of, I’d realise the trebles are sometimes out-of-control if you plug it directly from a poor audio source like your phone or computer, Sibilance may be present in all the "s" and "t”. The treble at times, may sound thinner, brighter and splashy-ier. This is improved when I added my iFi iDSD Micro into the equation. Soundstage increased, noise reduced, treble reach remained, with spikes and sibilant significantly reduced. Which I believe a good source would be necessary; this includes a good Lossless file, DAC and even connecting cables. Check out my iDSD Micro Review for more information on it.

The ie800 is undeniably a well-respected piece in the dynamic inear category that has others fighting for its position of where it is now. Sennheiser made the right decision of not using balanced armatures or hybrids for their flagship. They mentioned it was not necessary, and they certainly proved it with the IE800.
A dynamic that delivers dynamically.

Build
The fit of the IE800 is discrete and modest. The housing is made of scratch resistant ceramic and finished in gloss, which sennheiser guaranteed longevity of the iem. The left and right housing of the IE800 tap each other like high quality dense metal billets when you are trying the keep them.

The construction looks promising and durable, cables that seem like they can take a rough tug, the cable is only detachable from the Y split downwards, making common interchangeable wire-rolling impossible. Aftermarket cables could still be made with a 3.5mm male and 2.5mm female.

The leather case with the metal IE800 plate in it feels premium and classy, however, I would feel safer with my IE800 in my bulletproof, waterproof, crushproof, pelican case. I would bring the provided leather case only on formal occasions.

The eartips on the other hand, looked rather cheap, probably due to the fact that the silicone flange were not very thick, for example, westones and shures have their silicone flange thicker than that of the IE800. This was of minimal concern, knowing the sound reproduced from the inear were not degraded in any way. The housing and the eartips each have their own wire mesh to prevent earwax or other materials from entering and disrupting the drivers.

I do not find the microphonics to be much of a problem, it is present, but definitely not as exaggerated as some of the other users exclaimed. I use the IE800 mostly at home, or public transport. Minimal time were spent walking while listening, even during the times I did, you do hear the cord hitting your thigh, but it was somewhat negligible as you know the source of the noise, so it doesn’t really feel out of place, or distracting. Even though this is an inEar, I enjoy music best when my body is at rest. 


There’s a lot to love, and very little to hate. Whatever you may hate it for would be put aside after listening to them, and that includes the cost they sit at. That is also why I’ve never listed “price” as a con. They’re worth it.

I would recommend this to anyone who likes to unwind and enjoy music for pleasure.

 
So here are some of the photos i've taken !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted

Pros: Superb bass, gorgeous mids, smooth-yet-sparkling highs, expansive soundstage, excellent imaging, very comfortable

Cons: Microphonics, no remote/mic included, short cord

The IE800 are the best IEMs I have ever tried. This includes the Shure SE846 & 535, Audeo PFE232, AKG 3003, JH13 and JH16 and many others. I also prefer their sound to many full size cans like the beyerdynamic DT-880, T70, T90; Sennheiser Momentum, HD650; Shure SRH1840 etc. The closest I've heard to the amazingly balanced sound of the IE800 is the LCD-2 rev 2, which I also own.

 

The critical thing to note is how cohesive and musical the soundscape is -- these excel with all genres of music that I've tried, from rock to jazz, acoustic to classical/orchestral, electronic to metal. It's laid back when you need it to be, and it can push out the PRaT like crazy when that's required.

 

The bass is full-bodied, with intense impact and extension but never encroaching on the mids. There is detail and texture regardless of whether it's the bass drum, the bass guitar or an electronic bass note. Having played acoustic and electric bass in countless bands and orchestras, I love the bass on these. The amount of bass on these is certainly more than 'neutral', but since they're probably going to be used in noisy environments, the amount of bass is quite appropriate. 

 

The mids are engagingly lush and full-bodied, never sounding thin. Vocals are refreshingly realistic, rivalling the LCD-2. Guitars sound realistic and piano! Piano sounds spectacular with these. Having played piano since the age of 5, with a performance diploma under my belt, I can say these produce the most realistic piano timbre I've ever heard, save a real piano (and maybe the LCD-2).

 

And the treble -- don't get me started. They are so splendidly detailed, sparkling yet never harsh or sibilant. You can hear the smallest details in acoustic records; the movement of fingers along guitar frets, the shuffling of feet, the fuzz of piano string dampeners as the pianist pedals up and down. It's surreal. Adding to this is an expansive soundstage rivalling many high-end full size open cans, with pin-point precision in instrument separation and imaging.

 

The caveat to achieving such spectacular sound is in the fit -- when I first auditioned them in the store the tips were too large for me and the sound was quite sibilant. A smaller tip meant slightly deeper insertion and the sibilance disappeared and instead became sonic bliss.

 

To (very, very) briefly compare the IE800 to the following, mentioning the main reason for my preference of the IE800: 

Shure SE846 & 535 -- these sound more upfront and almost congested in comparison, as there isn't as much soundstage depth and width compared to the IE800. I'm unsure what filters were on the SE846 that I tried.

Audeo PFE232 -- less cohesive sounding, less bass impact and body with slightly sibilant and artificial highs.

AKG 3003 -- way too much treble for my taste, tends to be quite sibilant.

JH13 (universal tip) -- very neutral and thus lacks the bass impact of the IE800 -- great for monitoring and use by live musicians etc but not as overall enjoyable experience, musically. Can also be sibilant

JH16 (universal tip) -- much bassier than JH13 but still produces noticeable sibilance at times. But otherwise a superb IEM, just very bulky (same goes for JH13)

Beyerdynamic DT-880, T90, T70 -- apart from two of these being open, the main sticking point is very neutral bass presentation, which means excellent transparency (at each price point), but lacks that punch and musicality at times.

Sennheiser Momentum -- brilliant closed cans but lacks PRaT and is very laid back, with somewhat loose bass.

Sennheiser HD650 -- quite neutral (and dark), very laid back

Shure 1840 -- neutral, quite similar to DT-880

 

Compared to LCD-2 rev. 2 -- the bass on the LCD-2 is renowned in its quality -- the IE800 has, however, noticeably more bass. But it still maintains excellent detail and texture even compared to the LCD-2. Mids on both are superb, with the LCD-2 ahead but not by leaps and bounds. With treble detail, I would give the LCD-2 a slight edge, probably owning to a slightly wider soundstage lending them an even more airy feel than the IE800 (which suffer in this regard by being IEMs, not open planar magnetic cans, of course! :p). But of course, thanks to the IE800's isolating properties, it can be much more immersive than the LCD-2 when there are ambient noises, especially when coupled with their extreme comfort (LCD-2 pads are too rigid!); this makes the choice between LCD-2 and the IE800 for listening at home a harder one than one may think!

 

In everyday use, the microphonics can be quite distracting when walking, particularly at the Y-splitter/2.5mm jack, as it knocks against your chest. Any contact with the cable above the splitter also introduces significant microphonics. Unfortunately the cord is too short to go over-the-ear without being somewhat choked under the jaw. However, if the splitter is secured, there is minimal cable noise. Noise isolation is also decent, but not exceptional. I personally find it is a good balance between isolation and environmental noise awareness.

 

The IE800 are, however, extremely comfortable (given the right tips are used) and never tangle thanks to the Kevlar cabling. They also don’t suffer from the annoying suction effect that plagues most balanced-armature IEMs, as the vents quickly equalise with the pressure of the outside environment. It's just a shame that at this price Sennheiser didn't include a remote/mic cable like they do with the Momentum.

 

I usually run the IE800 straight out of my iPhone 5s and they sound great. Out of my desktop amp (Matrix M-Stage), there's certainly an improvement in bass response and soundstage, but given how incredible they sound out of a smartphone, there's really no need for a mobile amp, (cue outrage from you hardcore audiophiles out there! ;))

 

And to those out there looking at frequency response curves and waterfall plots for these, I wouldn't bother. They don't seem to represent at all the sound these produce in reality, since the IE800 are designed with a human ear canal in mind.

 

The IE800 are simply brilliant whether you're out-and-about and listening casually; at home and wanting to truly focus on the music; if you're monitoring or anything in between (except maybe during exercise, due to microphonics).

 

If I could only have one pair of earphones or headphones, I would pick the IE800. Every time. So, what are you waiting for? Go get a pair!

Posted

Pros: Treble energy, detail, openness for an IEM

Cons: Treble energy and at a certain point, transient response

As I have recently started moving away from IEMs, I wanted to get some of my thoughts out there on the IE800 before I forget them, in case they may be helpful to others. I have owned the IE800s (and SE846) for 1.5 years and have had a chance to really get to know them. That being said, throughout those 1.5 years, my opinion on them has changed a few times as I upgraded upstream equipment and as time went on, leading me to wonder even now if I actually know them? Anyways, I will structure these notes chronologically in the order I upgraded upstream equipment. I will focus on sound quality and leave out most comments on form factor, noise isolation, practicality, etc. as I feel they have been very well covered elsewhere.

 

Let's start with SQ out of an iPad/smartphone with decent sound output:

At this point, the defining characteristics of the IE800 for me were:

1) insane treble energy: a sore point for many, the treble of the IE800 is very forward, aggressive, and bordering on sibilant and artificial. Artificial in the sense that when cymbals hit, they sound kind of like synths. And so on with other instruments. I actually love the treble energy of the IE800, but I can see why many do not. Compared to the the SE846, the IE800 has much more noticeable treble, and as a result, has noticeably more detail in the treble. The trade-off is that the SE846 is less fatiguing over longer sessions and has less of that "artificial" sound.

2) good staging, very open sounding for an IEM: may have something to do with the the treble, but when I hear the IE800's, the word "open" pops up in my head. Sounds feel like they have a better defined placement in terms of more specific depth and right-left placement. In comparison, on the SE846, the sounds just pop up "in your face" in the right or left channel. In addition, the IE800 has better separation and sounds "airier." In more complex passages, instruments remain more separate instead of mushing up. Songs that give off a sense of being in a large room are better able to convey that ambiance. Great in this sense for classical music. In comparison, the SE846 sounds more congested.

3) very deep bass: my first impression of the IE800 bass was that it was "deep." Over time, I came to realize that this "deep" feeling resulted from the IE800 having tremendous subbass without very much midbass. By subbass, I mean maybe sub 40 or 50hz, and by midbass, I'm thinking more 50hz-150hz. In comparison, the SE846 is more weighted towards the midbass. The result is that the SE846 and IE800 are, for lack of a better term, "different" when it comes to bass, but I wouldn't say either are lacking or "lesser" compared to the other. Depending on where the bass hits are in a certain song, either the SE846 or IE800 (or both) are able to convey sick quantities of bass while still maintaining control. With an equalizer, the sky is the limit. However, because each song is different, with some songs the IE800s may seem to have lighter or not-as-impactful bass as the SE846, and vice versa. In fact, this is one of the main reasons I ended up with both the SE846 and IE800- because of the different bass presentations.

 

The mids were great on both the IE800 and SE846. Overall the SE846 sounds "meatier," "fuller," (or some similar adjective) while the IE800 sounds "leaner" and more V-shaped. At this point, I would have said that if I were to choose only 1 between the IE800 and the SE846, it would be the IE800 because of the better staging, openness, and treble detail, and because I prefer the leaner sound signature. I kept the SE846 around because of its different bass presentation and better sound isolation.

 

Additional notes on the above:

-I listen to the SE846 with aftermarket pure silver cables. While the cables kinda maybe sorta improve the treble response and instrument separation of the SE846, it is still definitely not to the levels of the IE800. I keep the stock cables on the IE800.

-In the passage where I say open sounding for an IEM, note that I use reserved words like "more" and "better" rather than "magnificent sensational ultimate magical fairies." The IE800 has good staging and openness for an IEM, but I personally still cannot, say, pick out the exact location of blah-de-blah in this song, nor does it make me believe my room is now a live concert stage. In this respect, the IE800 still cannot match something like a good over-ear, and much less good speakers.

 

A few months later out of curiosity I got a $200 Schiit Magni/Modi stack and:

Overall, I noticed improvements in both the SE846 and IE800. Most noticeably, the SE846 gained a good amount of treble response, and enough detail so that I no longer would have missed the treble of the IE800 if I had to give it up. IE800 still had a bit more treble response though. The SE846 treble may have gained more of that "artificial" flavor where things sound steely or synth-y. The treble on the IE800 is not really tamed, but where the treble on the smartphone sounded brash and grainy, the treble out of the magni/modi is more of a brash and clean. Both IEMs gained openness and better staging. I no longer really lamented about the SE846 sounding congested sometimes. With the IE800 I started getting hints of being at live performance. With the right recording and correct celestial alignment, I could perhaps close my eyes and pretend I was there. With this setup, the IE800s would be the one I would keep if I had to choose, because of the better staging.

 

Inevitably a few months later I upgraded again, to a $1500 Burson Soloist/Bifrost Uber, probably as far as I plan to take it with amping IEMs.

The most noticeable thing I noticed with this upgrade was that the treble on the IE800 no longer sounded nearly as loud, steely or artificial- less volume but more detail. Though I never had a problem with the IE800's treble with lower end amps/dacs, the treble out of a smartphone now just sounded downright harsh and low-res. The treble out of the magni/modi was steely and less resolving, though it was more aggressive and still clean. Staging and openness on the IE800 may have improved, though only slightly. The SE846 improved in similar ways here, though in terms of soundstage and openness it is still slightly behind the IE800. It has certainly closed the gap with the IE800 in that respect since I first listened to it straight out of a smartphone, however. The biggest thing with the SE846 was its noticeably better transient response, and on this setup, it sounds more detailed than the IE800 even in the treble. This suggests to me the SE846 scales better than the IE800 here, with the IE800 perhaps starting to reach its limits. Because of this, on this setup, if I were to only keep one IEM, it would be the SE846.

 

Well, that's it for now, and probably for later. But I hope that these notes are of some help if you are looking at getting the IE800s. Do note that we all hear differently, have different tastes, and use different adjectives, so as usual with me and with anyone, YMMV, everything I say is IMO, etc., and there is no substitute for an actual audition using your system.

Posted

Pros: FANTASTIC midrange quality. Very, very detailed without fatigue. Fun bass and extended high-end. Open sounding (for an IEM). Well built. Lightweight.

Cons: Cable microphonics. May sound bass-heavy to some. Expensive.

 

Still burning-in, but I can already say they are by far the best sounding IEM's I've ever heard. Fantastically clear/clean through the mids and treble - tremendous detail resolution without things sounding harsh or clinical. Treble is precise, rich, coherent and extended. Never piercing or bordering on overly bright to these ears, unless it's a crap recording of course. 

Midrange is where it's really at. Delicate, full-bodied and airy sounding. Vocals sound crisp, velvety smooth and true in tone. Maybe the best midrange I've heard from any portable audio system, no matter the type and size. 

Bass is a bit pumped-up down very low and, while still very well controlled and never hinting at midrange coloration, leans more towards fun than accurate. The thumping nature of the low-end covers up that last bit of texture definition, but for a portable unit meant to be used in noisy surroundings, I happen to think this is a wise and welcome trade-off. Extension is great and I've found the amount of bass very well adapted to on-the-go usage. 

 

While still an in-ear design and far from capable of the large, realistic imaging/staging of a great full-size headphone, they are certainly as open and expansive sounding as I've ever heard an IEM to be.

 

I'm also surprised how sonically different they are to their full-size TOTL equivalent, the HD 800. To my ears, the IE800's richer tone is far more appealing.

 

Construction-wise they are tiny (smaller than expected) and very lightweight. The minimalistic housings feel rock-solid and the kevlar-coated cable adds some fancy looks to it all. The case is nice and handy too. No issues whatsoever with comfort. 

My one major complaint is how microphonic the cable is. You can reduce this annoyance factor drastically by putting a clip where the cable splits and attaching it to your shirt/jacket. 

Oh, and they're expensive for something so petite. But they sound fantastic, so I'm a happy buyer. :D 

Posted

Pros: Amazing all around sound, superb bass, mids and treble, cool and modern design

Cons: Nothing for me. Non-detachable cable might bother some.

I'm not that much of an IEM guy. That said, I needed some IEMs as I sometimes travel. I wanted a good all-rounder, something with which I could listen to music on my phone and also play games on PS Vita.

 

I didn't want some "decent" IEMs though. I had those (Sennheiser CX-300 II, Audio-Technica ATH-CKX9IS) anyway. I wanted the best IEM out there. I've tried two that are said to be the best, Shure SE846 and Sennheiser IE800. I wanted a universal fit and these were said to be the best. SE846 are also great IEMs but to me they looked weird. IE800s look so cool and they are so small. Yet they sound amazing. I couldn't believe such small drivers could sound so good with any genre. Sub-bass is out of this world. Just listen to Daft Punk's Giorgio by Moroder with IE800s and you'll hear what I mean. Even though I can listen to these IEMs for hours without any fatigue, there's so much detail in the sound. These IEMs don't boost treble in order to create an illusion of a detailed sound but actually sound reference class without any coloration.

 

Also as gaming headphones on PS Vita (or multimedia) these headphones are amazing. Games sound great, and also movies. These also work well with Meridian Explorer.

 

I recommend these to everyone who want the best IEMs.

Posted

Pros: Good spatial imaging for an IEM; good sound; very comfortable and easy to put on

Cons: barely isolates at all (!); line noise (!); chord too short; even the case is designed poorly

Let me start with the good, and then explain why you should never buy this IEM.

 

Sound signature: The treble, mids and bass are sort of like that of an HD800, except downgraded. For example, one of the songs I use to test headphones is Michael Jackson's The Way You Make Me Feel. One of the key parts I listen for is that initial drum blast. On this, it sounds very close to the way it sounds on the HD800, except it's just missing a little bit. Moving on to a treble heavy song, it sounds similar to the HD800, but slightly muddier and the highs seem a little rolled off. Something is missing with the mids/voices as well -- they seem a little bit more distant. In general, it sounds like the HD800 but it's missing a little of that oomph, exhilaration or spine tingle that the HD800 gives (and a little is a lot when you're comparing headphones in this price range). Despite the fact that I keep noting differences between the IE800 and HD800, I do definitely sense a similar sound signature. For example, like the HD800, voices, instruments and all sound "natural" (they way they would sound right in front of you) as opposed to that synthetic and adulterated sound you hear in so many headphones. Well this is the best I can do now but when I can better articulate the similarities and differences I'll edit. But please do not misunderstand, this is a downgraded HD800, not at all an HD800. They're similar, yet also quite different.

 

Comparisons with Shure SE846: Is the bass as good as with the Shure Se846? No. Shure has invented a magical device in the SE846 that delivers beautiful, clean, tight and undistorted bass of whatever degree you want (depending on the filter you use). This is pretty good, not nonexistent bass (like, say, the Shure SE425), but I would compare it to something between the white and blue SE846 filters and even then the SE846 might be very slightly better in terms of quality. Is the treble as sparkly as the Se846 with a white filter? I'm not even sure about that; I would have to think about it a bit and do careful tests. But I disagree with reviewers I've seen that claim the Se846 sounds like its treble was rolled off relative to IE800. The IE800 has OK treble, but it also feels slightly rolled off relative to sparkly treble kings (like the HD800 and Audeze LCD XC).

 

Spatial imaging: For an IEM, the spatial imaging on this is amazing, better than the imaging of the Shure SE846 (but it's still no where near the spatial imaging of the HD800, and other over the ear cans can also do better; ultimately this is still just an IEM). It achieves that effect of making certain things feel closer and certain things feel farther away. On some songs you get a version of that cool echo/spaced out effect you get on the HD800, which is impressive in an IEM.

 

Detail and instrument separation: Detail and instrument separation is very good. Again this is not as crisp sounding as the HD800, but it does have a lot of detail. It's quite good. Of course, the cool aspect of the HD800's detail/separation is that the detail is placed in a certain virtual location, and as noted above this can't do that as well as the HD800.

 

Comfort: You do not need to go through an ordeal to insert these, unlike the Shures mentioned above. In addition, the wires are not stiff like the Shure wires which has to be another advantage. It's really hard to read which is left and which is right (but after you find out once you'll know forever based on their shape). In addition, it has a hole that equalizes the pressure between your ears and the outside, which is a good feature. Consistent with Sennheiser's other cans, this is extremely comfortable and easy to wear. I guess that deserves a 1/2 star boost.

 

Now for the negatives.

 

Design flaw #1: Isolation: I decided to take it outside near cars and busy activity to see how well it isolates. The first alarming thing I noticed was how loudly I heard the door close on my way out; not a good start. But I readjusted the tips and remained hopeful and optimistic . . . until I hit the street, when I was overcome with disappointment after hearing everything. I stopped, played with the tips, did every trick I could think of. Nothing. This isn't as bad as an open back headphone, but it's only a little better than a closed back. Sennheiser, don't you think that, perhaps, people wear IEMs to block out noise? If they want to hear outside noise they could easily wean an over the ear or on the ear can. Eventually, the only way I could listen to the music was to turn the volume up to a level that I later measured as 70-75 dbA (for comparison, the Shure SE846 isolate well enough to easily listen at 60-65 dbA). Thanks for the hearing loss Sennheiser!!! All the outside noise of an over the ear and the "pumping music directly into your ear canal to destroy your auditory hairs" dangers of an IEM. Great lose-lose combination you got there! Due to the risk of permanent hearing deterioration caused by this unacceptable and inexplicable design feature, it has to lose 1 1/2 points. (Edit: I measure dbA by putting the IEM tip right up against the port of a decibel meter).

 

Design flaw #2: Line noise. At first I decided to try it with the line hanging under my chin, the way you're supposed to wear it. But as soon as I started walking, it sounded like I was in a wind storm! There was no wind, but every time I would move, the chord would move, and apparently when the chord moves it has to let me know by sending this loud sound up and into my ear canal. Thud, thud, thud, thud. I get it chord, we're moving. You don't have to tell me every half-second. Let me move a bit without you machine gunning my ears. Sennheiser, did you even put this on and go for a walk with it before you decided to sell it to the public?! I wasn’t even exercising heavily. This is unacceptable, it has to lose 1 star over this. Edit: Sometimes I wonder if Sennheiser is playing a joke on us with this product. I say that because I just discovered that the Sennheiser HD800 has absolutely zero line noise. I tapped its line, shook it, whipped it . . . but I couldn't get it to produce even a tiny bit of line noise. So the HD800, which is designed for stationary use, has absolutely zero line noise, and the IE800, which is designed to be used while active, has insufferable line noise? Really Sennheiser? The fact that Sennheiser knows how to completely eliminate line noise means this flaw deserves another 1/2 star deduction.

 

Design flaw #3: So to cure the slight bit of chord noise you hear in every IEM, I discovered this trick I do whereby I let the IEM hang behind my head instead of under my chin. With the SE846 you hear nothing if you do this. I think your hair acts as some sort of sound baffle or cushion or something; whatever it is it works, and it helped a good amount with the IE800 too, but not as much as with the SE846 and the IE800 wasn’t as comfortable hanging behind your head. But whatever it's tolerable now and so I'm walking along and . . . I decide to put my player into my pocket, at which point I discover that the chord, from your ear to the jack, is only about 3 1/2 feet long! Sennheiser, did you test this on little people?! Did you think that perhaps customers would like just one measily foot of extra chord?!?! What terrible thing did you think would happen if you included a five foot chord like Shure? Fine, keep your chord short, but if I'm paying you $1,000, could you at least have thrown in an extra chord of a longer length? Shure includes two chords with the SE846 and their chords look to be of higher quality than yours, so why can't you? This inexcusable chintziness and lack of thought has to cost it 1/2 star.

 

Design flaw #4: This is minor but it shows how inconsiderate Sennheiser was when designing this. The case has no room to insert your extra tips. This four inch, by 3.5 inch, by one inch case (measure that out so you know how big it is) doesn't have room for the extra tips. The inside of the case is almost entirely foam, with a little groove where you insert the IE800 (you don't put the IE800's wire in the case, by the way, rather you must wrap the wire around the case). First of all, what happened to just being able to throw your IEM into a case and take it out with ease, rather than having to perform a complex lego piece insertion and removal each time? Back to the main point, Sennheier, if you're going to make a gigantic case as big as a fat wallet, could you let us use some of that room?! Cut a little area out of that foam where we can insert the extra tips you gave us. This is a small thing, but it shows such a lack of consideration and thought. It has to lose 1/4 star.

 

Conclusion: Ultimately, I am not going to keep these. Although I love the sound signature of the HD800 and this reminds me of that, I can't support a product engineered this poorly. It's of no use to me because if I'm in a loud area, I'll use my beautiful SE846 and if I'm in a quiet area I'll just use my HD800. This leaves the question of what rating to give these. Although the sound is very good, based on its hefty price tag it can't get more than 4 1/2 stars on sound (I have to save 5 stars for something that really wows you). Subtract 1 1/2 stars for lack of isolation, add 1/2 star on comfort, subtract 1 star for line noise, another 1/2 star for having line noise even though Sennheiser knows how to completely eliminate it, subtract 1/2 star for the chord, subtract 1/4 star for the case, and (this is very subjective) add 1/2 star for having something close to the HD800 sound signature (which I like) and for being made by Sennheiser, a very ethical headphone company that lets you return things you don't like for a full refund. So 4.5 -1.5 +.5 -1 -.5 -.5 -.25 +.5 = 1.75 stars, which I’ll round down to 1.5 stars because I expected better from a $1,000 headphone. For comparison, I gave the SE846 5 1/2 stars (capped at 5 stars). As anyone who has spoken to me on this board knows, I am a huge Sennheiser fan so I wanted to like this but this is just pointless.

Posted

Pros: Excellent well extended, tight and punchy bass, amazingly detailed mids, very detailed and sparkly treble without being bright. Good soundstage and positioning.

Cons: Other than price, I couldn't find any.

Hello guys,

I have been reading about the IE800 for some time now. I heard people saying it is a mini HD800. That intrigued me, as I love the HD800.

I usually hate IEMs for their congested and bassy sound. I also hate sticking something inside my ears, but was curious about Sennheisers' new addition.

It seems I am a lucky man,  as last week soundnews.ro asked me if I can write a review for them on their site.

Of course I accepted as I love their website. DarKu writes there and I have used it as a reference for many ears. In my opinion, It is the best romanian website about audio. It was an honor and an opportunity I couldn't refuse, so here I am, listening to IE800.

These headphones look quite nice. The cable has a good build quality and a nice sturdy feel.  The jack is with a 90 degrees angle so you can easily use a portable device in the pocket with them.

IE800 comes with a nice package that contains another 4 pairs of ear-buds of different sizes. What I love about them is that every ear-bud has an additional protective grill, keeping the unwanted stuff away from the driver that also has another protective grill.

The carry case it comes with is very elegant with a leather like material, well build and could easily fit in a pocket.

Also the comfort is quite nice. They have 2 vents. One is for the sound as they are opened in-ears and the second one is to vent the air between the earbud and your eardrum, so the pressure goes away.

Yes...but the sound..how is it?

The first time I put these headphones in my ears my jaw dropped on the floor. These babies are absolutely amazing. They don't have the typical IEM sound at all.

The first thing I observed is the soundstage, which was huge for a pair of in-ears.

It is quite weird. I felt like the sound is coming from inside my skull. I actually started with classical music and I felt like my head became a big, large scene with the orchestra inside it. I could not believe my ears. I instantly loved the classical music on these headphones.

The sound just hypnotized me, as I just stood still while listening to them. It is stunning.

I will start to explain some of my experiences with it on some songs:

Andre Rieu - Morning (Classical; Peer Gynt Suite) (E.Grieg)

The details are amazing and you can hear every instrument and every note. The dynamics, and micro-dynamics are on the same level, making you a part of the scene and making you feel the music in every part of your body.

Every instrument is well placed into space and easy to separate from the other. The treble is well defined with amazing details but still on the smooth side. The mids are very present and give the instruments a very good extension and a full body.

Pink Floyd - Time

The bells and ringing at the beginning of the song was really enjoyable. The treble had the necessary sparkle and detail but wasn't too hot. The sound was very opened for IEMS.  The IE800 surprises me everytime and I forget i listen to IEMs or even closed headphones. The sound is multi-layered with very good instrument separation, amazing details and very well balanced throughout the spectrum.

ACDC - Beating Around the Bush

The voice was very well textured and quite natural . The instruments did not blend in in one layer as with the other IEMS. These headphones know how to rock having a very good PRAT and energetic sound.

Infected Mushroom - Drum n' Bassa

I usually hate the bass on IEMS as it feels unnatural with too much pressure on the eardrum. Well until now the IE800 did not fit the  normal in-year standards and It was time to see if the bass really is better than with others.

Well...IE800 impressed me again. The bass is deep, punchy and tight, but not invading other parts of the spectrum. The PRAT was excellent and the overall experience toe-tapping.

Leonard Cohen - Be for Real

You know that this is my ultimate way of testing the  voice reproduction,  and I must say that Leonard's voice sounded very natural, well textured and had a very nice presence. I was not like Audeze LCD2 but it captured the essence of his voice.

I have listened to many other songs, but I will not add more impressions on songs as I have already stated the most important facts about IE800's characteristics and I would repeat myself.

Conclusions

These are without doubt the best IEMs I have ever listened to. I really think Sennheiser nailed it with IE800, and nailed it good.  As I said before, I usually don't like the usual sound of in ear headphones, but sennheiser somehow made it in a way that while listening to it, I forget they are in this category.

For their type, I think their openness is amazing. Also the sound is not at all congested, it is actually multi-layered, with very good instrument separation and good spatial positioning.

The details on them are quite stunning. This combined with very good dynamics  really give you goosebumps.

The mids are very good and all the instruments and voices have a good, natural and well textured presentation.

Also the bass is not at all typical to IEMS. It is well extended, punchy and tight and doesn't get over other frequencies.

The treble is very detailed and sparkly but not bright.

Overall the sound is very balanced throughout the spectrum and they were good with every genre I gave them.

I really thought of finding some cons to these headphones but other than the price I couldn't find anything.

And all of this can fit your pocket. They work very well with phones and other mobile devices but they benefit from some amplification and a good DAC . You can have high end sound with you, everywhere you go. For someone who is always traveling, these babies are perfect.

Posted

Pros: Unsurpassed midrange clarity, Treble extremely resolving, Great high and low end extension, Light and comfortable, Perfect for low volume listening

Cons: Fitment is unreliable stock, abundant fakes, treble splashy on some recordings

Introduction –

The ie800`s are as of March 2016, Sennheiser`s flagship iem that was designed by a small team over a period of 5 years. They were released with an absurd $1000 USD price tag that garnered much attention, but have since fallen down to as low as $550 USD. As such, they are actually one of the cheapest flagship iems, at least quite a bit cheaper than the Shure se846`s. I bought mine for the equivalent of $450 USD NIB and can confirm that they are genuine as they were replaced directly from Sennheiser about 2 year ago. I bought the ie800`s as an upgrade to my JVC FX-800`s and have since owned them for almost 3 years so all honeymoon period hype has mostly dissipated and I`ll try to be as objective as possible during this review. Most of my listening is through the ie800`s and I use them almost daily. They have proven to be durable, portable and versatile.

 

Accessories – 

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The ie800`s come in a large box that slides open to reveal the earphones and leather case in a foam velour cutout. Notably, the box has an authenticity sticker, however even fakes seem to pass Sennheiser`s online test so don`t judge your pair by this measure.

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Underneath the case lies a plate with 4 pairs of eartips (medium set already installed on the earphones for a total of 5 pairs), an earwax cleaning tool and papers. The flip case is magnetically bound and constructed from high density foam and genuine leather with a small metal plate containing the serial number.  I personally don`t find the case too practical as it is very large for what it is and leaves the cables exposed on the sides. Instead, I use a chimes mint tin with a craft foam lining that provides much more protection. The earphones are also made in Germany which is becoming increasingly rare since even premium products from Bose, Oppo, Bowers and Wilkins and Klipsch are made in China.

 

Design –

Probably the most controversial aspect of the ie800`s and my biggest fear when purchasing them, the design is a radical departure from the ie8`s with a cable down fit and non-sealed housing.

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First, let`s talk about those ceramic bodies. The housings on the ie800`s are very unique, they are absolutely diminutive (almost as small as the Klipsch x10`s) and you can feel how hard they are just from touch. They are smooth, ergonomic and coated in an ethereal silver/grey colour that shimmer in an intriguing fashion; the look is definitely befitting of a flagship product. The housings are absolutely scratch resistant, putting it into perspective, ceramic is over 4x harder than even steel (not tougher), but they may crack if you drop them on marble tiles or similar materials. I`ve dropped mine a few times on wood and tile and they have come out unscathed without a scratch, few people have reported cracking so far. In addition, ceramic is an EMI suppressor for even lower distortion and interference from other gadgets.

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The very sci-fi housing are sculpted somewhat like a teardrop with a slight lean forwards for a level fit once inserted in the ear. The strain reliefs and short housings signify a shallow fitment, but are angled for comfort. They don`t stick out of the ears too much but wind noise is very apparent due to the exposed D2CA system. They are very much an indoors earphone and won`t stay seated for long whilst walking. I do find that the cable down style is much easier to use than over ear iems. It isn`t as well secured of course, but they are much easier to wear to say, the library or around home and not worry about people trying to get your attention. Due to the shallow insertion and rear vents, the earphones can be difficult to wear at times, even sitting down. The tips get oily, lose pressure and slide out of the ears. This is mainly an issue with the stock tips however and regular cleaning will resolve any problems with seal. Overall I feel that there is a good balance between practicality and function and since I doubt the ie800`s were ever intended to be a sport or outdoor earphone, I wouldn`t try to make them one.

The cables are Kevlar reinforced and feel very strong, resisting tension well. Despite that, they are still very supple, a little stiff when cold but dramatically softer when warm. The addition of Kevlar also contributes to the relatively high levels of microphonics on these earphones, though a shirt clip does help a lot. Comfort and fitment also improve with a little warmth, but spinfits alleviate this issue completely and also decrease microphonics to an extent as they move the cable further from the face.

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Otherwise, it might be best to run them under your shirt to make the cable more pliable. The gold plating is also of especially high quality and hasn`t worn off like on my Klipsch X10 plug. They have strain reliefs at all cable ends, but the y split and 90 degree jack are a little stiff so the cable can get strain spots here. Luckily it is replaceable from the y split down (uses a recessed 2.5mm plug), but replacements can be upwards of $200, which is quite ridiculous.

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Mine haven`t broken or developed any signs of stress in the last year, but my first set hardened just underneath the y split. I`ve yet to link this to any particular cause but my new set haven`t had any sort of hardening and I`ve had them for much longer. My new set also aren`t past the 20k build number so they technically aren`t the “new revision” with cable fixes. Of note, hardening can be identified as a darkening in the transparent sheathing over the green weave in the cable.

The ie800 comes with 5 proprietary tips that mount through a unique clip mechanism. The silicone buds have a hard plastic sound tube and inbuilt metal mesh filters. The earphones themselves also have a mesh filter for added protection. Isolation is good, not nearly as good as sealed over ear style monitors, but decent enough for public transport though I wouldn`t take them on a plane.

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Comply 200 size tips will fit snugly on the soundtube, just make sure to wipe the plastic down to create a good purchase. With foams, the sound loses sparkle, but isolation is significantly increased. Using spinfits yields greater long term stability and slightly better isolation on account of a deeper fit, but the sound is slightly more v-shaped.

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The D2CA (Dual chamber absorber) technology actually works! Every manufacturer wants you to think that their product in unique through the addition of a proprietary technology, and creating this allure is within the basics of marketing. Whilst some do sound very good such as moving armatures, bio cellulose drivers, etc, none sound drastically different from a regular, well designed driver. The D2CA system is quite intricate in comparison to others, but in essence, one rear vent equalizes pressure in the ear canal whilst the other balances air pressure for the driver. Sennheiser claims that this solves the 6-8khz ear canal resonance issue associated with in ear earphones and have produced an earphone that not only reproduces one of the clearest sounds of any earphone i`ve tested, but also rivals many over ear headphones as well.

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Note: A lot of consumers had issues with the fitment, if you want the most vanilla sound experience possible, the stock tips are the only way to go. Push the earphones in until you feel suction, the sound fades and pressure gradually equalizes through rear vent until the earphones are well sited in the canal. The sound returns to normal after a second and no driver flex is audible, don`t worry about damaging the drivers.

 

Sound –

So, I like the ie800`s a lot. They are for my personal tastes my endgame iem and I`m not sure if i`ll ever feel the need to upgrade. But they are an acquired taste, they are not flat but well coloured, and they have a signature Sennheiser sound that has been painstakingly tuned.

While these iems are not perfectly flat, they are not overly sculpted either. They have a very mild u-shaped signature, but mid-bass through to the upper mids is perhaps just brighter than ruler flat. They have top tier imaging and the soundstage is well spaced. It`s not as large as some over ear headphones, but remains very good for an iem. There is no sense of congestion or claustrophobia and separation is up there with the best. Depth is excellent making for a very 3d soundstage that beats most closed earphones. Width isn`t bad either, perhaps only the pfe232 had a wider soundstage but not as much depth. This helps immensely with the coherence of the sound as instruments don`t get condensed into the centre, but rather splay out into their proper positions. As such, the ie800`s are great for everything from large scale orchestral music to clubhouse jazz with superlative instrument separation.

The earphones aren`t particularly sensitive but have a low impedance of 16ohms. Interestingly, they don`t hiss at all from pretty much any source I have, but just slightly from very noisy sources, tested on my Fiio Q1, HTC M8, Ipod Nano 7, Ipod Touch 4 and inbuilt laptop DAC. As they are a single dynamic driver earphone, frequency response does not change with output impedance and the ie800`s sound the same from all sources. They gain little from amping except small increases in detail, soundstage improvements and a little less noise. Running them through my Fiio Q1 opens up the soundstage and brings out more details, they definitely sound better. I never feel like I`m limited when listening through my HTC however.

Bass – 

Bass is tastefully sculpted. Sub bass has a mild boost whilst mid and upper bass response is only very slightly lifted if at all. The bass extends well into the lowest of lows with exquisite texturing and a very clean sound. Sub bass response isn`t too much for me but definitely not neutral, it might be too much for those upgrading from armature based gear since they often have a sub-bass roll-off. It`s actually not too emphasized compared to my Oppo PM3`s, most iems simply don`t have this level of extension. Bass has perfect decay and reproduces all detail with an effortless quality, not even phased by complex passages. I found that the sub-bass only sounds flabby on poorly mastered songs, but it`s still portrayed much better than on other earphones. Of note, string instruments are recreated with impressive timbre, capturing the intricate vibrations of the strings whilst acoustics sound simply fantastic with a great sense of reverb and enough midrange clarity to retain the sharpness of steel stringed guitars. Bass is punchy but retains good impact, a lack of a mid-bass hump can sound strange at first for those coming from more sculpted earphones, but this creates a more satisfying listen in the long run.

Mids – 

Mids have the best clarity of any gear I`ve tested including the renowned ath-ck100. They are extremely refined and the perfect union between smoothness and detail. Micro-detailing is superb and resolution is immense. Vocals attain an ethereal realistic quality and instruments are rendered with astounding accuracy. Every pluck and sting is felt in acoustic music whilst the scale of classical music is simply overwhelming. Mids are very flat throughout creating coherency and a natural sound. They have enough body to avoid sounding thin and are almost perfectly transparent, if ever so slightly warm. Vocals come through with incredible definition, the resolution and clarity is truly immense.

Treble – 

Treble again resolves more detail than any other iem I`ve ever owned or tested. It achieves this partly though a slight emphasis and perhaps through Sennheiser`s patented D2CA. For example you can hear when the drum stick hits the cymbal before the actual cymbal begins to shimmer in Radiohead songs, it`s phenomenal. I can hear the splashy character that some complain about but this is only apparent on some recordings and some other headphones are simply better at smoothing it out. The highs are very extended though the frequency response probably has nothing to do with it (46khz is not practical).

 

Comparisons – 

Se535 – ($549)

The Se535`s have pretty good bass extension and very punchy, rounded bass notes. The bass is detailed and fast, but the ie800`s are even more effortless and extend further. The midrange on the se535`s is very smooth and accentuated throughout. They bring vocals to the fore over instruments and portray both great detail and clarity. They are slightly bright in the mids. The ie800`s have more clarity and similar detailing, they are less prominent and darker sounding. The ie800`s sound less coloured, but the Shures can be enjoyable in their own regard. The highs on the se535`s are rolled off and recessed, even on the LTD model. Treble lacks air, and whilst this isn`t to the degree of earphones such as the Klipsch X10`s or Bose products, it`s still very noticeable and the se535`s trade excitement for smoothness. The soundstage is very 3D on the se535`s and well rounded like the Sennheisers, but the soundstage on the ie800`s are a larger. Imaging is great on both whilst separation goes to the ie800`s.

W30 – ($399)

The W30`s mid-bass response is quite a bit fuller than the ie800`s but it lacks sub-bass extension. They are less textured than the ie800 but still very good. As a result there is less slam and impact to the sound but bass remains very punchy. The midrange is slightly more prominent on the W30`s, but it is warmer and more brittle compared to the ie800`s. The ie800`s have much more clarity and transparency as well as better detail retrieval and the midrange sounds flatter than the W30`s which are slightly sculpted. The W30`s have more treble texture whilst the ie800`s resolve more treble details. The treble on the W30`s avoids the splashy sound that the ie800`s sometimes procure. The soundstage on the ie800`s is much more spacious in both width and depth, imaging is similar but instrument separation on the ie800`s is far ahead. The ie800 portrays more realistic timbres, but the W30 is very very good for a ba earphone.

PFE232 – ($600)

The PFE232`s have a similar sound, sub-bass is very good, extension is great with fantastic texturing. The ie800`s are slightly more sub-bassy, but have similar amounts of mid-bass, the PFE232`s may even have slightly better bass quality whilst losing a little slam compared to the ie800`s. The midrange is smoother, more prominent and clearer from the ie800`s. The PFE232`s are recessed all the way through but it does not ruin the experience. The treble response is very good on the PFE232`s, but again the ie800`s resolve more detail. The PFE232`s can sound splashy at times as well. In terms of soundstage, the PFE232`s have incredible width, and good depth whilst the ie800`s are more well rounded. This comes down to preference, but both are able to portray a great sense of space and separation.

 

Verdict – 

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Whilst I appreciate a flat sound (I love the sound on my Oppo PM3`s), I enjoy a mild v-shape. I know I`m not alone, the majority of listeners want to experience music, not to analyze it. So why is it that a flagship iem must be for monitoring or professionals? Sennheiser saw the success of the ie8 and ie80, an earphone that, whilst too bassy for me, focused upon musicality over accuracy. The ie800 is a great product because it combines the musicality of most high end consumer iems (such as those in the $300-400 price range) with the refinement of a true flagship product (1k+). It is first and foremost a statement, that an iem can hang with the best in terms of technical proficiency without losing the musicality that makes music so engaging to begin with.

Accessories – 6/10, Stock carrying case is not practical, stock tip selection is decent but could be better, if people want to change tips let them, if it sounds worse with different tips then consumers won`t use them. For the price it`s a bit disappointing, Dunu gives you a metal hardcase, soft pouch and almost twice the selection of tips for $30.

Design – 8/10, Striking to look at, indestructible build and a great cable (as long as it doesn`t harden) create a very positive impression, but proprietary tips and odd cable proportions prevent a perfect score.

Bass – 9.5/10, Punchy and dynamic, relatively balanced and sub-bass boost does not colour the mids.

Mids – 10/10, Perfect in every way, great clarity, amazing detail and great presence, does not sound recessed but in harmony with the rest of the spectrum.

Treble – 9.75/10, Unbelievably resolving, the treble response is fantastic but slightly thin as mentioned by other reviewers. James444 has a good cloth mod that alleviates this issue.

Soundstage, Imaging and Seperation – 8.5/10, The soundstage is spacious for an iem, imaging is spot on and seperation is very good. It`s not class leading, but it doesn`t hold the rest of the sound back like on some earphones.

Verdict – 9.5/10, The ie800 is a great earphone that is very well balanced and coherent. They are a great upgrade to any $300-400 earphone and will impress with copious amounts of details and unsurpassed midrange clarity. If you can live with the design quibbles, then they remain a great choice for those looking for a more exciting flagship.

Posted

Pros: Wonderful & sensual sound, stunning build

Cons: Almost proprietary horn, short cable

   

 

 

 I must first and foremost give a massive thank you to both Sennheiser and Bill Poteet for giving me the opportunity to review such an amazing product. Despite this being a flagship product it’s one I don’t see onto many lists of head-fi meets, so the likelihood of me having the ability of hearing this product let alone to such an extent would’ve likely been null and void. So again thank you for this humbling opportunity.

 

     

 

The Opening Experience

 

    The initial handshake is something I talk about in everyone of my reviews and will continue to do so for I firmly believe it’s one of the most important thing aside from sound quality. How does a company represent itself when it presents its product to the consumer? Will it be a memorable or will it be just another pair of headphones that don’t really mean anything?

    In the case with the IE800’s there’s absolutely no question I was delivered a firm handshake when I opened this product. The box feels premium and the graphics present this monitor as one worn by a professional.

    Upon opening you're greeted by that lovely new headphone smell and a presentation that screams excellence. The buds and custom, serialized, carrying case are gently placed within precision cut out foam grooves which leaves you giddier than a kid on Christmas to insert them in your ears and listen.

    

                                                                                                 

 

 

Construction

 

The build quality of the IE800 is top notch. Made of a ceramic body, these show no sign of weakness. It’s immaculate and high class sheen, beautiful and elegantly designed frame and notable vent ports on the back present a very close resemblance to a high end tower speaker.

The horn however gives me a decent amount of anguish. Not because it’s overly large which is my usual complaint but it’s almost proprietary. The tips provided with them, despite being various in size, don’t do much for my ears. I’ve grown accustomed to this ever since being spoiled with comply memory foam and their comfort, isolation and security in the ear. When I try and equip them to the IE800’s horn they barely stay on and always come off in my ear when pulling the earphones out which is vastly irritating, so I must use the tips provided which takes away from the musical enjoyment because I don’t get half the sense of security for they feel like they’re always falling out, even if they’re not. Also no matter which tip I used I could never get a great seal.

Moving down to the cable, I find it to be very well made, sturdy and fairly tangle resistant. Sennheiser went a step further and made these detachable in case one were to accidentally snag them, they can either break away preventing damage or easily be replaced. I’ve two downsides with this cable however. First is, I wish the interconnect would’ve been placed on the actual frame itself as opposed to a quarter of the way down. It’s more a personal thing but a negative for me nonetheless. Lastly, the cable is about 4-6” to small. I usually keep my phone in my back pocket and this cable just barely accomodates this.

  

                                                                                            

 

 

Comfort

 

    Arguably the second most important thing about a piece of audio gear is how long can it comfortably be worn? The IE800’s for the most part fair very well in this category. The frame is very light weight and the ceramic keeps them nice and cool in your ear. When I’m leaning back in my chair relaxing with these I completely forget where I am or that I even have these in my ear for that matter.

The horn is angles to put minimum strain on your tragus which is always a plus. But as said earlier the major takeaway from the comfort for me is the fact that you’re almost solely able to listen to these with the supplied silicone tips.

Finally is the cable, I do notice a small amount of feedback anytime the cable brushes against something. It’s not a huge distraction like other IEM’s I own but it is present nonetheless.

                                                                                                     

 

 

Sound

 

Finally there’s (at least in my opinion) the most important aspect in a piece of audio equipment and that’s how they perform musically. And I have to say these perform majestically. The IE800 could definitely perform admirably in the elite class but at only $800 these are definitely a pack leader in its respective price range.

The soundstage is wonderful, and quite vast considering it to be an IEM. To add onto the soundstage the separation presented is breathtaking. You can very easily discern different sections and almost individual instruments within a giant orchestra to such a wonderful degree I frequently forget I’m not sitting center isle.

The tonal balance is very neutral with a small hint of warmth which makes them ideal for what I look for in audio. Which is not entirely about sonic accuracy but more a warm, enjoyable, experience that swift's me away and relaxes me into the performance being delivered.

Once these were burned in and got rid of the veil on them they did this sublimely.

On the note of burn in, these absolutely need at least 10hrs. before they even start sounding like $800 earphones. The veil I just mentioned is very prominent in these and the expression “like taking off a dust shroud” couldn’t be any truer than with these. Unfortunately I didn’t have these long enough to fully burn them in but I guarantee they’ll continuously sound better with proper burn in. As for the individual aspects of the IE800’s sound,  I’ll divulge a small spoiler, amazing.

 

Treble

 

    The highs on the IE800 are awesome. They’re competent, energetic and full of life. I don’t find them tiring to listen to, even during extra long listening sessions. The only “thing” I could find, and I really searched for this, is these seem to wanna draw a little more juice to bring out the higher pitches. In comparison to the other notes the treble isn’t as, forward is the only word that comes to mind. Again not really notable at all but ever so slightly present nonetheless.



 

Mids

    

    The vocals, oh how I’ve come to love Sennheiser for their mids (most of their products anyways) and these are absolutely no exception. The vocals are stunningly accurate and intimate. I feel like I’m having a private concert performed with the accuracy and soulfulness that breaths realism. I have fell in love with the mids these produce. The only bias I can tell is a slight increase in the lower mid, upper bass which give a sensual warmth to it.

 

Bass

 

    Here I suspect will lose some people. The bass on these are not that heavy, in fact while playing some heavier bass songs these let me down a some. The upper bass range was great and meshed seamlessly into the mids but the mid bass is quite recessed, not absent but definitely recessed so bass heads will need to be aware. As for the sub bass feels, they’re there but very little.

 

                                                                                            

 

 

Conclusion

 

    To sum up the IE800’s, these are truly a work of art; both auditorily and aesthetically. When you’ve these in your ear you’ll not only feel like an audio professional, you’ll look like one. The sound is so silky smooth that I can about guarantee you’ll lose track of your surroundings while being drifted away into the performance being presented in front of you.

    I would recommend this without any restrictions to anyone who’s looking for not just a very accurate and neutral pair of IEMs but one gives a very relaxing experience as well. If you’re a bass head however these are most likely not going to be for you. As for the vast majority, it’ll be a purchase well spent.

 

Till next time my friends, also check out my unboxing video here, and my full video review here.

Sennheiser IE800
Description:

Key Features Very low overall THD Two protection meshes Dampened dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) Dynamic linear phase ultra-wide bandwidth (UWB) driver

Details:
DetailValue
Models:
Model Name/TypeMPNEAN/UPC

Video interview with Axell Grell, Senior Acoustic Engineer at Sennheiser discussing the IE800's.

 

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