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REVIEW: Sennheiser HD 800 - Page 10

post #136 of 629
Skylab, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review and the discussion that follows. Thank you very much for taking the time to write it.

Like most of the participants in this thread, I agree with a lot of what you're saying. I also disagree with some of your views. But that's neither here nor there. The point is that you've written a very readable review on a topic (the quality of the HD800) that fascinates me. Yes, I'm a slobbering owner of the Senn Wundercans.

I've been debating with myself about posting a comment especially since what I have to say is somewhat critical. I've decided to speak out because I think my concerns are important for a forum that lives and dies by the written review. In the end, it's not what a writer says so much as how he says it that counts. For example, it doesn't matter if s/he praises or pisses on a product as long as he makes an effort to be objective, fair, and logical.

This is where my concern enters the picture.

Skylab, you say that you're approaching this review "with no pre-conceived notions," but you make it clear, especially in the conclusion, that the $1400 pricetag is the most critical factor in your review. Twice you use the phrase "in the context of a $1,400 headphone." You also say, "In the case of a headphone that costs $1,400, I think we have the right to expect a lot." Finally, you say, "I’m not going to be buying a pair, given that they cost $1,400."

The point is that you've approached this review from the perspective of cost. You're measuring the HD800 against your preconceived notion of what a $1400 pair of cans ought to sound like. Thus, the review begs the question: What should a $1400 headphone sound like? Is there a $1400 SQ that you're aware of that we're not privy to? If yes, what is it?

Another point that you make regards objectivity. In your opening paragraph, you present the odd premise that ownership of a piece of equipment automatically discredits a reviewer's opinion. You claim that a non-owner, e.g., a borrower, is therefore more objective. You toss out an explanation that includes something about buyer "euphoria" and "remorse," but it doesn't come close to proving that owners are automatically biased.

Take yourself, for example. You own much of the equipment used in your review -- headphones, amps, etc. And you use your judgment of their quality as a gauge to measure the HD800. Are you saying that because you own the equipment, we can't take your claims seriously? Yes or no, you're caught in a logical bind.

Furthermore, you contradict yourself when you say, "Please note that I am NOT saying that the views of the people who own them are not valid, or any less valid than my opinion. ALL opinions are equally valid." But that's exactly what you say -- if you own the HD800, you can't be objective.

You also try to give us the impression that you've eliminated the effects of other gear such as sources and amps in your exhaustive tests, thus isolating the HD800's true qualities. You say, "I used 6 different sources (all with their own set of high-quality cables), 9 different amps, and lots and lots of the world's finest recordings."

You say, "I believe this is more than sufficient to eliminate the other variables, and to decide what characteristics belong solely to the headphones themselves." I wonder. In any careful test, a clear explanation of methodology is criticial. How you obtained your data will determine the quality of your results. Yet you don't explain how you went about testing and how you decided on a fair range of equipment. If I remember correctly, threads on how best to compare head-fi equipment have always ended in tremendous controversy. Few if any can agree on what, exactly, constitutes a fair test.

You conclude, "The HD800 do not, IMO, change their own character radically from amp to amp." You obviously didn't use the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop. And I'm sure others could add the names of many other amps that weren't included in your study. Thus, your conclusion begs the question, Would a different set of amps produce different results? (See the list, below, of comments from this thread that directly or indirectly pose this very question.)

Furthermore, the headphones and speakers you used hardly qualify as representative of references comparable to the HD800: B&W N800, JVC DX1000, and Beyer DT880. The first are speakers, and the other two are closed and semi-closed cans. In all fairness, you mention other refs as well, e.g., the HD650, but these, too, aren't in the same class as the HD800. In this case, a fair comparison would be other reference quality open cans in the $1400 range, .i.e., if cost is your make-or-break factor.

In deciding to post this opinion, I carefully read and extracted comments (see the list below) made by a number of participants in this thread, and taken together, they raise the kinds of questions that I do about some of your conclusions and methodology.

Having said all this, I still feel that your review is excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the discussion that follows. I think eliminating the claims to objectivity would have eliminated most if not all of the issues I've mentioned. I hope this criticism isn't taken personally since none of us -- including myself -- can claim to be logical, objective, and fair all the time. All we can do is try, and if we don't succeed some or all the time, no problem. It all makes for great discussions anyway.


RANDOM* LIST OF SELECTED COMMENTS FROM THIS THREAD:
[edited 7.2.09: I meant "RANDOMLY ORDERED LIST . . ." Sorry for the confusion.]

Mudshark #44 Thanks for the thoughtful and well-written review, but your findings regarding the HD800's treble and bass are inconsistent with my own.

rangen #46 But there's another dimension of these headphones that grabs me . . . It's that they sound so clean. The way they seem to vanish, and just put you in the recording. The way the music seems to just appear in the air against a quiet background.

Lamenthe #48 [treble and bass are fine]

Currawong #35 bass is "just right"; upgrading my amp from the C2C to the Phoenix resulted in less irritation with sibilant tracks

Uncle Erik #38 I disagree about the bass - I had originally thought it a little too much, but it's starting to sound more and more right to me. I have noticed a fair amount of sensitivity to amplification.

number1sixerfan #43 For me the HD800 is perfect for more mellow music like Jazz, Classic, Alternative Rock, and Soul. That is when they sound nearly like the 'best I've ever heard'.
number1sixerfan #21 [re] "hotter" treble: I truly believe it is mainly the recording coming into play

elrod-tom #23 I spent several hours on two occasions with the HD800...but they were pre-production models. To me, they seemed neutral, natural, and revealing....VERY revealing. I was, frankly, blown away. The pairing with a Wadia 301 and Luxman P-1 might be the best I've ever heard.

Quadrangulum #26 I can't say I agree with it all (the HD800 is almost exactly what I've been looking for most of which is probably attributable to differences in equipment and music choice)

takezo #54 [re] the "hot treble": [question: is it] consistent in using all of your various sources or are they more salient with specific type of recording?

Iron_Dreamer #61 This is a nice review, so long as it is viewed through the prism of the writers historical preferences for darker/bassier headphones. While in such a context, the HD800 might not be worth $1400 to an individual, to others with different preferences, it is a bargain,

vcoheda #65 i feel the HD800 will turn out to be a headphone of exceptionally good value. just a few weeks with it and i already am confident enough in its ability and sound that i am selling most of my other headphones

john53 #66 I had no problem regarding the bass,it was well defined,with good impact and control and i also noticed some lower bass notes that i have never noticed . . . Regarding the treble now,i dissagree with skylab. I didn't find the treble to be hot or sibilant . . . downsides may be related to my lesser quality equipment

king.mark #110 "WOW" what an incredible sound [bass improves over time]

raccoon #113 The bass response is A LOT better after burning them in, for me at least. They're now perfect in my eyes (and ears). I'm really glad I got these cans.

Snacks #119 The point that I disagree with you on, is the bass . . . I have heard the HD 800 on a couple of pretty decent setups.
Snacks #123 HD 800 is a very peculiar beast when it comes to amplification/sourcing

dallan #124 I feel they make up in clarity and speed what weight(impact) in bass they loose, and the bass does feel right after adjusting to the different presentation . . . I have to admit I don't see the treble as being hot though, just different.

sillysally #125 [bass, mids, highs fine]

immtbiker #128 I feel that the 800's are pretty much the closest headphone that has addressed the needs of what most people want in a "desert island" headphone, that value high quality, realistic sound.
post #137 of 629
^^feifan, you failed to make a list of members that are in agreement with Skylab’s opinions.
post #138 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by feifan View Post
You claim that a non-owner, e.g., a borrower, is therefore more objective.
He did not claim that. He presented the background of his review, saying that he did so in the interests of full disclosure, and hinted that it might make a difference. I think it does. It's easier to keep a headphone you own, than to buy one you don't have.

Quote:
Originally Posted by feifan View Post
Would a different set of amps produce different results? (See the list, below, of comments from this thread that directly or indirectly pose this very question.)
You included a quote from me, but I don't think it "pose[s] this very question." Skylab agreed with my observations, with a quibble about terminology. It wasn't about amplifier choice. I do think that my Woo 6SE synergizes nicely with the HD800, but I don't think that that entered into what you've quoted.

You may have one or two points of arguable validity, but I think that you'd have been better served to use those points as a reason to post your own detailed review, using those points as inspiration, than to use them to pick minor nits in the most thorough and meticulous review of the HD800 that I've read to date. A review at the level of ambition of Skylab's is a rare thing. I couldn't do it as well, let alone better. If you can, I'd love to read it.
post #139 of 629
Feifan,

Several headfiers have said that he was dead on, so that kind of kills your whole argument. His state of mind seems to be pretty accurate whether he was biased or not. I just don't understand why that research and wall of text was necessary.
post #140 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post
^^feifan, you failed to make a list of members that are in agreement with Skylab’s opinions.
Hey, johnwmclean. You're right. But I also wouldn't take my surfboard with me when I try to climb Everest.
post #141 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by rangen View Post
He did not claim that. He presented the background of his review, saying that he did so in the interests of full disclosure, and hinted that it might make a difference. I think it does. It's easier to keep a headphone you own, than to buy one you don't have.
I don't get it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rangen View Post
A review at the level of ambition of Skylab's is a rare thing.
Indeed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rangen View Post
I couldn't do it as well, let alone better. If you can, I'd love to read it.
Me, too.
post #142 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by robm321 View Post
Feifan,

Several headfiers have said that he was dead on, so that kind of kills your whole argument.
Huh?

Quote:
Originally Posted by robm321 View Post
His state of mind seems to be pretty accurate whether he was biased or not.
HUH?

Quote:
Originally Posted by robm321 View Post
I just don't understand why that research and wall of text was necessary.
So we could have this conversation that we're having?
post #143 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by feifan View Post
Hey, johnwmclean. You're right. But I also wouldn't take my surfboard with me when I try to climb Everest.
LOL, your analogy is way off balance. I couldn’t be assed doing a list like you did - but I’d say it’d be more like a good picaxe.
post #144 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by johnwmclean View Post
LOL, your analogy is way off balance. I couldn’t be assed doing a list like you did - but I’d say it’d be more like a good picaxe.
ouch!
post #145 of 629
post #146 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by rangen View Post
He did not claim that. He presented the background of his review, saying that he did so in the interests of full disclosure, and hinted that it might make a difference. I think it does. It's easier to keep a headphone you own, than to buy one you don't have.
It's even harder to buy a headphone you were dead set against buying and selling off some much-loved gear to do so. I thought it was worth it for the HD-800, though.

That was a struggle. I went to CanJam thinking the HD-800 couldn't be that much better than the HD-650 and listened with a skeptical view. It took another two weeks to come full circle, eat crow and place the order.

For many of us, the HD-800 is a revelation and a joy to own. I think it is also worth noting that many HD-800 owners do not come from the same group of headphones Skylab used in his comparison. I've listened to the JVC and DT990. They didn't do much for me.

I know this is a matter of taste. However, the HD-800 is a superb fit with the headphones and speakers I've chosen. Many of the same criticisms could be made against the rest of my collection.

So it is important to put the review in context. Not just the ownership question, either. If your tastes run towards closed, bass-heavy headphones, the HD-800 probably won't be to your liking. On the other hand, if you enjoy electrostats, the K-1000, orthos, planar speakers, and the like, the HD-800 is a direct hit and nearly faultless.

Bassheads have their cans. The HD-800 is for the rest of us.
post #147 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by feifan View Post
You conclude, "The HD800 do not, IMO, change their own character radically from amp to amp." You obviously didn't use the HeadRoom Ultra Desktop. And I'm sure others could add the names of many other amps that weren't included in your study. Thus, your conclusion begs the question, Would a different set of amps produce different results? (See the list, below, of comments from this thread that directly or indirectly pose this very question.)
I recommended skylab(in another thread) to try out the x can v8 and i didn't get any reply.It is just not very kind to ignore newcomers this way.I know i'm not so experienced like some other members but i think i deserve a reply when i ask something.
It's not nice to ignore opinions by newcomers just because they don't have THE experience with expensive high end amps and cans,and don't listen to super high quality recordings(jazz,classical etc)
Sorry if i sound a bit bad with this post,but sometimes i feel that if somebody doesn't have too much experience with hi end stuff,his opinions don't count here.
post #148 of 629
Quote:
Originally Posted by john53 View Post
I recommended skylab(in another thread) to try out the x can v8 and i didn't get any reply.It is just not very kind to ignore newcomers this way.I know i'm not so experienced like some other members but i think i deserve a reply when i ask something.
It's not nice to ignore opinions by newcomers just because they don't have THE experience with expensive high end amps and cans,and don't listen to super high quality recordings(jazz,classical etc)
Sorry if i sound a bit bad with this post,but sometimes i feel that if somebody doesn't have too much experience with hi end stuff,his opinions don't count here.
Relax john53, I’m sure every member here has had one or several posts ignored at some stage, I know I have.
If you had looked at Skylabs signature, it would have told you what amps he has and doesn’t have.
post #149 of 629
I don't think there is no need to get any list all together, cos what Rob wrote, to me anyway, is like this, I tried, but sorry I am happy with what I already own, simply is that...

Not sure why folks can get unhappy reading such impressions/review, cos there are lots of positive things about HD800 in his thread, even more than negative, but having the headphones you already love, even they are not in USD 1400 range, doesn't mean automatically you cant compare them. Not sure what ever it is up here when we are talking about Sennheisers, but I was never thrilled by any of them I tried and I am very diplomatic to say that. Of course when you put yourself at the position of knowing better, is very difficult to say anything differently, catching myself on that as well, but so far, concerning the HD800 criticism, its like where the hell is it? What mostly speaks to me in Skylab's writings is the fact that he was not pushing anything at front, like others does. How many members can effort stats, R10, PS1000 or even RS1? Many? Hmmm, some, but majority of the group are not, include me. So, that's why is very important to have a different view on thing where you can ask yourself what ever such product would satisfy you or get you in more trouble. By trouble I mean that you may become a prisoner of your illusion, illusion that will be saying to you: if you buy this or that you will be there, but if not...you are sucking and that's the most frustrating thing you can go through. Just realizing you cant complete things will eats you from inside out to a last nerve, which will be keeping you from the most important thing, which is enjoying music...
post #150 of 629
I wouldn't go so far as to say I disagree but I'm simply not finding the sibilance or hot treble with my setup , grado's on the other hand...

I always feel like my posts are ignored though
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