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A Twisted Review: HD800's Calculative, Clinical and Sterile Soul

post #1 of 167
Thread Starter 
This is an extension of opinions I recently posted in the high-end forum. I felt it was interesting to share my views on the HD800 in the general forum, where everyone hangs out.

I just sold my HD800's to a friend, after having them for almost a month. At the beginning, I remember being very excited about them, after so much hype in this forum and magazines all over the world, claims of superiority against the K1000's the O2's, the R10's, Q010's.... I kept thinking this are going to be simply amazing, I want to fall in love with them, I want to like them. What follows are a series of chronological impressions about them until the catharsis.

The first impression, the looks.

The box opening ceremony was exciting until I held them in my hands... I had just spent €1000, The built was impressive, in this regard they would make Germany proud, however I expected a bit more quality in the materials, especially in regards to the silver painted plastic and the velour like earcups. Now, as a professional designer, I can say that these are mechanically very well designed and executed, but the aesthetic side of it is bad, the fake space cadet / futuristic look is simply not coherent and very exaggerated to the level of grotesque, It is the perfect example of an over-designed object. I remember writing once that they looked like a power ranger headset from toys r us. But hey, looks dont matter if the sound is good, right? so I tried to forget about their ugliness and continued with what I bought them for, to reproduce music...

The first play

I connected them to my Lehmann BCL, I decided to use this amp first as there were many people in the industry claiming that Sennheiser used this amp to voice the HD800's. The Lehmann BCL is famous for its accuracy, neutrality and truthfulness to the source, I was expecting the HD800's to be on the warm side, since most of the analytical cans I had owned had never paired well with the Lehmann.

The first track I played was "trying time" from the album "Duplex Ride" by Sidsel Endresen and Bugge Wesseltoft, the track demonstrates female voice, rhythmic bass and spatial instrumental detail, and so I expected to be moved by emotions, everytime I play this track with the 007A's I cant help to move and twist, Im obliged to close my eyes and just listen, but with the hd800's, I was obliged to open my eyes wide, it was as if music was being played in a white shiny metal laboratory for its analysis, where it was being dissected and inspected for imperfections and spectral colorations, sucking the soul of a musical performance for the sake of perfection.

By now many of you might be thinking that simply the HD800's needed many hours of burn in right? Well thats what I also thought, and so I played them continuously for a week and a half, before I made any other observations.

After the burn

After little success with the Lehmann BCL, I tried the HD800's with a graham slee solo srg, spl phonitor, 2 costume tube amps and the Leben CS300x, none of this combinations made me feel excited about the HD800's. Actually, after the burn, the Lehmann did pretty well, especially against the Solo... The best combination was with the Phonitor, but not good enough to win me over. Every time I listened to them is as if the sounds were fabricated, artificially rendered into extreme detail but non-involving, plus that grainess, I always know they are on my head, my brain works to hard to distinguish the detail and I can never forget about them. They are always there, and that bothered me.

IMO the HD800's simply were not at the level of the K1000 and O2's. I understand now, that Sennheiser's marketing and the hype built around the HD800's has been successful in over-inflating the perceptions of many headfiers, psycho-marketing is a powerful tool.... Dont get me wrong, The HD800's are very good HP's, no question, they certainly leave the hd6xx's in the dust, but they have calculative, clinical and sterile soul which I have never related to music. HD800 defenders, please dont give me the "neutrality" defense, laboratory measured neutrality is very different than neutrality in a real musical performance... I care for the later.

This headphones are an excellent example of the difference between hifi'ity and musicality, the hd800 try on precision makes them measurement instruments rather than musical instruments, for some this might be the goal, for me, I just want the headphones to disappear as much as they can and until now the 007's are the best I know that can achieve this.

A final note

Again, and to be clear, I think this headphones are very good, among the top in current production dynamic HP's, but by no means I consider them among the very best, in this regard, I wouldnt choose them over the K1000's, O2's, HE90's, 4070's, HE60's, R10's, L3000's....and among the dynamics in current production, well, I still prefer some a bit more, but we need these companies to step up, isnt technology supposed to get better with time? Only STAX has managed to advance in this logic (and even some might refute this, O2mk1 vs O2mk2), what about the rest?
post #2 of 167
Thanks GuyDebord for your impressions, good to hear from the other side as well regarding the HD800. Whilst I don’t agree from experiences I’ve had with the HD800 in my system, I can certainly agree that we all hear music differently. BTW what is your source?
post #3 of 167
DA10? Dac1? That's what you would hear!
post #4 of 167
Nice writeup Reading that makes me feel asif they are in some way similar to the SA5K.
post #5 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyDebord View Post
The first impression, the looks.

The box opening ceremony was exciting until I held them in my hands... I had just spent €1000, The built was impressive, in this regard they would make Germany proud, however I expected a bit more quality in the materials, especially in regards to the silver painted plastic and the velour like earcups. Now, as a professional designer, I can say that these are mechanically very well designed and executed, but the aesthetic side of it is bad, the fake space cadet / futuristic look is simply not coherent and very exaggerated to the level of grotesque, It is the perfect example of an over-designed object. I remember writing once that they looked like a power ranger headset from toys r us. But hey, looks dont matter if the sound is good, right? so I tried to forget about their ugliness and continued with what I bought them for, to reproduce music...
Thank you for sharing with us all of your impressions. I am a bit surprised that many people have said that to get the best sound quality out of the HD800, one must use fairly restrictive associated components. It makes sense that the HD800 will scale up with better equipment but it seems to me that should also sound great with more diverse sources. It just doesn't seem to be the case. I could see someone writing in response to your impressions that your sources are not good enough for the HD800 and therefore your impressions don't accurately reflect the HD800's strengths. Are the HD800's that temperamental? It seems so. I have not heard the HD800's so what I have to say is rather meaningless, yet I have read similar impressions to yours over and over again. Of course, everyone knows by now the real beef I have with the HD800's. It is poorly designed and built. Good design needs no defense.
post #6 of 167
My experience with the HD 800 was similarly unpleasant at the start. The most characteristic trait was a treble emphasis (around the measured ~6-kHz peak), which hasn't completely disappeared after break-in, nevertheless the sound is clearly smoother now, after 250 hours. And finally I can enjoy the enormous detail richness and resolution. I'm aware that no headphone is free of colorations (which need adaptation from the listener), and the HD 800 is no exception. However, I consider it the most neutral headphone I've heard so far. It's definitely not the most euphonic, though.


Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyDebord View Post
...IMO the HD800's simply were not at the level of the K1000 and O2's. I understand now, that Sennheiser's marketing and the hype built around the HD800's has been successful in over-inflating the perceptions of many headfiles, psycho-marketing is a powerful tool...
I fully accept that you don't like the HD 800, and I can fully understand it. But the above statement I perceive as a rather unfriendly attempt to discredit diverging opinions.


Quote:
Dont get me wrong, The HD800's are very good HP's, no question, they certainly leave the hd6xx's in the dust, but they have calculative, clinical and sterile soul which I have never related to music. HD800 defenders, please dont give me the "neutrality" defense, laboratory measured neutrality is very different than neutrality in a real musical performance... I care for the later. This headphones are an excellent example of the difference between hifi'ity and musicality...
You have fallen into the subjectivity trap. For some reason you consider your own perception universally valid, for every pair of ears, and that is a gross mistake which I would rather expect from newbies than from someone with your experience and the gear listed in your profile.


Quote:
...the hd800 try on precision makes them measurement instruments rather than musical instruments, for some this might be the goal, for me, I just want the headphones to disappear as much as they can and until now the 007's are the best I know that can achieve this.
This reference may even be your main problem: The SR-007 is a very smooth sounding headphone.
.
post #7 of 167
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by achristilaw View Post
DA10? Dac1? That's what you would hear!
If you read bellow in the "other audio equipment" section you would notice the following, (the pictures are attached):

PRE: Lyngdorf DPA-1 -> Kharma Grand Reference XLR's -> AMP: Halcro MC20
ANALOGUE: Clearaudio Ambient CMB, Satisfy Carbon & Lyra Helikon SL, ASR Basis Exclusive phono pre -> Acoustic Zen Silver Reference II XLR’s
DIGITAL: Slim Devices Transporter -> Siltech Golden Ridge AES/EBU -> Lyngdorf DPA-1
AC: PS Audio Power Plant Premier, PS Audio Statement(PPP), ASR Magic Cord(ASR), Siltech SPX30 MKII's for the Lyngdorf, Halcro & Transporter

And my impressions were also valid with this sources! I was reviewing headphones, not source equipment , I am well aware of the sound signatures of all my sources, including the Lavry DA10 and the Audiocom Level 2 modded Benchmark DAC1 (which Im sure you have never heard!). The most disappointing source with the HD800 was my analogue system, I thought analogue would rescue them from sterility but it didnt.
LL
LL
post #8 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidhunternyc View Post
Of course, everyone knows by now the real beef I have with the HD800's. It is poorly designed and built. Good design needs no defense.
I have to ask: have you had the chance to check out a pair for yourself yet in real life, or are you still describing a headphone you have only seen in pictures?
post #9 of 167
To my eyes the HD 800 looks special but not particularly beautiful (not more so than on the pictures), but it feels very solid and is certainly extremely well built – form follows function. I don't need more to listen to music. Headphones are no status symbols or design objects for me. If at all I would rather care about the look of amps or DACs which I can see during listening.
.
post #10 of 167
Ah boo you edited it nm .
post #11 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by nor_spoon View Post
I have to ask: have you had the chance to check out a pair for yourself yet in real life, or are you still describing a headphone you have only seen in pictures?
Of course it is always O.K. to ask. Here is the thing though, I have answered time and time again, that yes, I have held the HD800's in my hands. I was open to change my opinion once I did see the HD800's, however, in pictures and in life, it is still silver spray-painted plastic. I want to design the HD900. Aston Martin... Look out.
post #12 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by GuyDebord View Post
isnt technology supposed to get better with time?
Technology can only go so far. How much can you do with a magnet, diaphragm and voice coil? You can only create or shape so many sounds. Some '70's headphones (ex. Yamaha HP-1) sound better than a lot of today's top dynamics.

Things don't get better, they get different and more expensive. And because a headphone costs more, people delude themselves into assuming it is better because a) so much research went into it and b) since it costs so much, it must be better. If the HD800 cost $200-$300, everybody would compare it to the HD595, and say it was not as good as the HD650.
post #13 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by JaZZ View Post
My experience with the HD 800 was similarly unpleasant at the start. The most characteristic trait was a treble emphasis (around the measured ~6-kHz peak), which hasn't completely disappeared after break-in, nevertheless the sound is clearly smoother now, after 250 hours. And finally I can enjoy the enormous detail richness and resolution. I'm aware that no headphone is free of colorations (which need adaptation from the listener), and the HD 800 is no exception. However, I consider it the most neutral headphone I've heard so far. It's definitely not the most euphonic, though.

I fully accept that you don't like the HD 800, and I can fully understand it. But the above statement I perceive as a rather unfriendly attempt to discredit diverging opinions.

You have fallen into the subjectivity trap. For some reason you consider your own perception universally valid, for every pair of ears, and that is a gross mistake which I would rather expect from newbies than from someone with your experience and the gear listed in your profile.

This reference may even be your main problem: The SR-007 is a very smooth sounding headphone.
.
Everything Jazz said in response to your instigative comments mirrors exactly what I would have said, but in a much kinder and professional tone.

I love it when people attempt to pass of their own opinion as fact.
post #14 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidhunternyc View Post
I have not heard the HD800's so what I have to say is rather meaningless, yet I have read similar impressions to yours over and over again. Of course, everyone knows by now the real beef I have with the HD800's. It is poorly designed and built. Good design needs no defense.
Quote:
Originally Posted by davidhunternyc View Post
Of course it is always O.K. to ask. Here is the thing though, I have answered time and time again, that yes, I have held the HD800's in my hands. I was open to change my opinion once I did see the HD800's, however, in pictures and in life, it is still silver spray-painted plastic. I want to design the HD900. Aston Martin? Look out.
So you had the opportunity to "hold the HD800s in your hands", but for some reason you didn't take the time to listen to them? Uhhh...yeah...sure.

It's the complete definition of irony that you can sit here and actually describe the HD800 as poorly designed and built, when we all know you worship in the tomb of the Qualia 010. One of the most poorly designed and fragile headphones to ever grace the market. You simply make no sense with this crusade you are still on months later to try and paint the HD800 as cheap.

Please don't flatter yourself with your regurgitation on redesign any longer. You couldn't begin to do better.
post #15 of 167
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beagle View Post
Technology can only go so far. How much can you do with a magnet, diaphragm and voice coil? You can only create or shape so many sounds. Some '70's headphones (ex. Yamaha HP-1) sound better than a lot of today's top dynamics.

Things don't get better, they get different and more expensive. And because a headphone costs more, people delude themselves into assuming it is better because a) so much research went into it and b) since it costs so much, it must be better. If the HD800 cost $200-$300, everybody would compare it to the HD595, and say it was not as good as the HD650.
Wow, thanks for telling us that; you must have a thorough knowledge of materials and engineering of headphones to know their limitations.

And thank you for pointing out to us that so many of us (including me) are deluded. I should return my HD800 and sue Sennheiser for using the pricing of this product to trick me into thinking that it is a great headphone. Sure fooled me, I really thought (still think) it was much better than my old HD650.
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