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My First Look at the Sennheiser HD800

post #1 of 161
Thread Starter 
You've no doubt read Jude's thread about these cans as he scooped the known headphone universe with his first listen last night, well, as far as I'm concerned, he nailed it .... or, I should say, Sennheiser nailed it. These cans slay.



Lemme back-pedal just a tad and draw this out a bit.

You know, I been listening to headphones for the past sixteen years looking for the perfect can. What I've learned is there is no such beast. For starters, everyone's ears are different; and certain things don't tend to come at the same time---punchyness and airy depth for example. But that hasn't stopped me, in my head, building up my own personal sonic image of what I think the best headphone would sound like. It would even have some characteristics that I would embrace rather unwillingly. I hate harshness, for example, and would tend to err on the side of smoothness; it's why I like the laid-back sound of the HD600/650. I like the "veil", in fact I contend that it's the sound of coherent smoothness and most folks just don't get it. But I know the truth in my soul, the 600/650 is too smooth; should be a dB and a half brighter. What I'm getting to here is that my image of the perfect headphone is actually a tad to quick sounding for my taste, because I know my taste runs a tad dark.

When I put on th 800s today they were a tad to quick, but in a rocking good way that I didn't imagine even being there. The transient response of these cans is like none other I've heard. I've often used the words "eye-blinking impact" about Grado cans (though I don't like many other things about Grado cans in general), the 800s have eyeblinking impact ... in a very good way. Not the slightest taste of harshness, just lightning quick response, it's hard to believe that fast sounds this good.

That, of course, isn't the half of it. These headphones hit it in so many ways that there's only one really decent way to express it: they're as close to a straight pipe headphone as I've ever heard. I'll happily agree that there is plenty of room for audio editorialization in reproduction gear. I'l love a 300B tube amp along with the next guy. But when it comes to a neutral, non-editing, perfectly transperant headphone, there's basically only one answer, and the new HD800 is as close to that as I've ever heard.

Shockingly neutral and articulate, they immerse you immediately in every transient and nuance as if it were just the music but better than you've ever heard. It's hard to say enough really, in the end I just want to listen more.

On other fronts:

The build quality looks outstanding. not a gilded lily, but a really good mix of quality and great materials, with an eye towards no spending money just for the heck of it. The stainless steel, extremely fine mesh ear cups are just lovely. The ear cup inner liner is easy to remove and is machine washable. the cans are light, secure, and comfortable, though somehow a little different feeling on my head. Maybe slightly more rearward fitting than most cans.

The price will be $1399.95. Sennheiser (and many high-end product manufacturers) have come to realize how important it is for a products success to not be heavily discounted. It cheapens the perceived value of the product, and it doesn't allow for the competent sales effort needed to help customers understand the values of the product during the sales process, and to properly service customers after the sale. There will be about 10 or fewer places where these cans can be purchased. HeadRoom is one of these, and the order we placed today puts us number one in line for HD800s arriving in the US.

We do have a web page in place where you can place a pre order, if you desire, and can get a guaranteed position in line. I am told these headphones are basically hand built in Germany, and production is somewhat speed limited---though we are wisely not being informed about exact manufacturing rates.

You can find our web page here.

You can find my photos here.

You will dig these cans.
post #2 of 161
Tyll, I cannot imagine a reviewer whose word I trust more than yours. I know there are whole lines of headphones you simply won't sell, simply because they don't meet your standards. I've also heard that headphones you don't like don't spend much time on your head, and you listened to these for a full 20 minutes today.

Thanks for the excellent writeup, and for giving this headphone a "place" in the spectrum of currently available products. Detailed, neutral ... wonderful!

I know that Sennheiser has promised to publish an FR chart for each headphone, referenced to serial number. Is the info about a particular can info Headroom would be able to provide for those who preorder?

Also, is it possible to tell us what kind of equipment you heard the Hd 800s from today? Is that a Lemo plug? So many questions!

Thanks again for the writeup, and the heads up, Tyll. These sound like a really phenomenal new offering, and I can personally inform anyone interested in purchasing them that Headroom is as good a retailer of headphones as ever has existed. Get in line now, basically.
post #3 of 161
Agreed, Thank you for your writeup!

however I would be very curious how these compare to other ~$1,000 statement headphones that you carry and would love to read your impressions/comparison.
post #4 of 161
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sherwood View Post
I know that Sennheiser has promised to publish an FR chart for each headphone, referenced to serial number. Is the info about a particular can info Headroom would be able to provide for those who preorder?
That's a really interesting point. I will discuss the possibility of measureing the HD800s we sell individually. Ivy and I have been talking, in fact, about way we can use our measurement capability as a competative advantage, and this may just be one such case. Since these headphones will not be discounted (as best we can tell and hope) providing individual measurements may be the perfect opportunity to excesize this capability. No promises, but interesting point.

Quote:
Also, is it possible to tell us what kind of equipment you heard the Hd 800s from today? Is that a Lemo plug? So many questions!
I believe it is a Lemo, but possibly not a common one. One of the product people told me they will get back to me with this info; I will let you know.

Quote:
Thanks again for the writeup, and the heads up, Tyll. These sound like a really phenomenal new offering, and I can personally inform anyone interested in purchasing them that Headroom is as good a retailer of headphones as ever has existed. Get in line now, basically.
As Spammy as it smells, I suggest this is a good idea for those who are well waleed enough to be ready to jump.

As always, sorry about your wallet. I will say this is a "cry once" and be forever happy thereafter type of product, I reckon.
post #5 of 161
Thanks for your review Tyll. I know you're a straight shooter, so it's always good to get what you hear...
post #6 of 161
I was hoping you would say that they suck eggs, but that's just because I'd love to be a fly on the wall as I watched you and Jude slugging it out on the forums. Brothers taking up arms, as it were.
post #7 of 161
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelvinz View Post
Agreed, Thank you for your writeup!

however I would be very curious how these compare to other ~$1,000 statement headphones that you carry and would love to read your impressions/comparison.
They're the best headphones I've ever heard.

Mention a flaw of any other over $1000 headphone---GS1000 too tipped up at both ends; Denon D-7000 a bit too much bass; AKG K1000 to hard to drive and poor extension; Sony R10 just bit too loose sounding; Stax Omega poor bass and dynamics; etc---and get rid of the problem. That's the HD800.

Sorry, but yes, even in only 20 minutes of listening, they're that good.

Heck I got a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, take me up on it, you won't be sorry .... if you really can afford them.

edit --- Oh! I was listening to my iRiver iHP140 with my reference wav file collection through my very own hot-rodded Portable Desktop Amp---a system I am immanently familiar with.

Don't go buying them if you can't afford the though, dahmik! Now is not the time to be a fool with your money, and I don't want a bunch of refunds and b-stock 800s.

But if you've got the dough and a good headphone amp, rock on, they're terrific.
post #8 of 161
Hmmmmm....Ve-dy in-ter-estin' , but not stuuu-pit.

It will be nice to have a new dynamic can in the $1K range. There's been this void in that price range for a while, sans the GS1000's.

Can't wait to try it out.
I hoping that it will be in the Sennheiser room at HE '09 to try out.
post #9 of 161
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyll Hertsens View Post
As Spammy as it smells, I suggest this is a good idea for those who are well waleed enough to be ready to jump.
Yeah, Spammy as charged. Nonetheless, with the impressions on this board thusfar, and the hand-made nature of these, I don't think starved supply is that unreasonable. Folks who preorder early will have a guaranteed pair on launch date, folks who wait until they read some reviews and sell some gear may not see them for months. If you're insane enough to be seriously thinking about spending $1400 on a pair of hadphones, you may as well admit to yourself that you're eventually going to buy them. Why not be a trailblazer?

On another note, I look forward to more news about the connectors, the FR charts, and which HR amp pairs with these best...
post #10 of 161
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wmcmanus View Post
I was hoping you would say that they suck eggs, but that's just because I'd love to be a fly on the wall as I watched you and Jude slugging it out on the forums. Brothers taking up arms, as it were.
And you're perfectly aware of the fact that I have no problem "taking up arms" with folks---even Jude---but methinks he and I are lock-step, arm-in-arm on this one.

PS -- We're going to see Diana Ross on Monster Cable's dime tomorrow night, Jude and I, and I expect we're gong to have a rollickingly good time. Hyeah, nyeah nyeah, nyeah, nyeah.
post #11 of 161
Quote:
Originally Posted by immtbiker View Post
Hmmmmm....Ve-dy in-ter-estin' , but not stuuu-pit.

It will be nice to have a new dynamic can in the $1K range. There's been this void in that price range for a while, sans the GS1000's.

Can't wait to try it out.
I hoping that it will be in the Sennheiser room at HE '09 to try out.
By HE '09 do you mean THE Show, as in Home Entertainment? When be dat?

Edit: Google says THE Show is in Vegas, January 8-11... now I'm confused. Did they combine it with CES? http://theshowlasvegas.com/2009/special_offers.php
post #12 of 161
Right before the AVN show you bought tickets for last April, Wayne. You're set.
post #13 of 161
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sherwood View Post
Right before the AVN show you bought tickets for last April, Wayne. You're set.
Oh, that explains it! I'm usually blind by the time I walk (err, attempt to walk) out of there...
post #14 of 161
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tyll Hertsens View Post
They're the best headphones I've ever heard.

Mention a flaw of any other over $1000 headphone---GS1000 too tipped up at both ends; Denon D-7000 a bit too much bass; AKG K1000 to hard to drive and poor extension; Sony R10 just bit too loose sounding; Stax Omega poor bass and dynamics; etc---and get rid of the problem. That's the HD800.

Sorry, but yes, even in only 20 minutes of listening, they're that good.

Heck I got a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, take me up on it, you won't be sorry .... if you really can afford them.

edit --- Oh! I was listening to my iRiver iHP140 with my reference wav file collection through my very own hot-rodded Portable Desktop Amp---a system I am immanently familiar with.

Don't go buying them if you can't afford the though, dahmik! Now is not the time to be a fool with your money, and I don't want a bunch of refunds and b-stock 800s.

But if you've got the dough and a good headphone amp, rock on, they're terrific.
Wow I'm floored by your impressions very tempted to cancel my D7000 order from J&R and order the HD800.

Honestly the only reason why I'm on the fence is that historically Sennheiser MSRP has been dramatically different than their street prices. As you said money is king at the moment and I'd be angry if I purchased a full MSRP only to find the street price to be 30% less a month later
post #15 of 161
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by kelvinz View Post
and I'd be angry if I purchased a full MSRP only to find the street price to be 30% less a month later

Well, you and me both brother, but I think they're going to do the pricing thing right here.
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