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disappointed by Sennheiser HD800, need advice

post #1 of 119
Thread Starter 

Hey guys,


So before I jump right in, I thought I would give you a little bit of background information on the situation, I'm not an audiophile by any mean, I'm coming from the home theater scene and I have what I'd like to think is a pretty high-end system.


Anyway few weeks ago my wife became tired of his man-child husband squatting the living room swearing at 15yo teenagers on Xbox live, watching movies involving gore, boobs or both and listening to music she doesn't understand… so she finally gave me the green light to use the guest room as my office (read man-cave).


So I got myself a 3D TV, moved the PS3/Xbox 360, media center/HTPC and made myself a pretty neat second system. The second step would involve audio but since I knew I wouldn't be able to get the same quality of sound with speakers due to room size and budget (I have a 5.1 system made of B&W series 8 as a main system) so I quickly started looking into a headphone solution.


Long story short I ended buying the Headzone Home HT from beyerdynamic, which is a 5.1 decoder and a pair of DT880 headphone with headtracking, also while I was at it I also got myself the Beyerdynamic amplifier A1 for music.


So I started using this system and was surprised to see how good it sounded, so the geek in me immediately wanted to know how to make it better which introduced me to Head-fi.


I did my share reading of reviews, forums and all that jazz to try to find out what was the headphone Nirvana, it became quickly evident that there wasn't many contestant and it was always the same name/model that were coming up, basically the T1, LCD-2, HD800, some Denon and Ultrasone. I continued looking those and finally made my mind on getting a pair of HD800.


I bought them from Head-fi, so the burn-in was done properly by previous user, just to get that out of the way. So I receive them and immediately was disappointed by the sound, usually there's always what I like to call the "honeymoon" period where everything is amazing and great with all electronics I bought but in that case I can say I didn't liked them from the very beginning.


I can clearly hear a difference between the DT880 and the HD800, the Sennheiser have much more details and are far more revealing, they have what I would like to call a crispness the DT880 lack, also the soundstage is much wider, when I listen to the beyerdynamic I know I'm listening to music on headphones but with the HD800 it can almost fool me from time to time, but one thing I really hate (yes hate) is the tonal balance on the HD800, I find them to be way too bright, like almost painfully bright if that makes any sense.


I noticed that If I increase the volume, the sound starts to balance itself and the high are not as dominant as they are at lower volume, but I'm talking about a volume where I can't listen to them comfortably, if I go back to the DT880 I can hear they are inferior but the sound is immediacy less aggressive to my hear and almost more enjoyable I must admit.


One thing I was thinking about was that maybe the amp is not the right one, but the beyerdynamic is usually know to be quite neutral, so I'm not exactly sure what to do, I know I will be able to sell them back here with almost no loss, so that's not the problem but on the other hand I don't to miss a great pair of headphone just because I misuse them.


So anyone had a similar experience, any advice?


Thanks a lot

post #2 of 119



I used to have a HD 800 (also have a pair of DT 880), so your dilemma is something I have first hand experience on. Actually I ended up selling the HD 800 because of the brightness and the harsh treble peak in particular.


It´s a topic that really divides people. Some will tell you you have buy a tube amplifier to introduce some harmonic distortion that will take the edge off. Some will say you need a different solid state amplifier. Others will claim you have to buy a certain expensive aftermarket cable (OCC copper mostly). Oh and quite a few don´t notice any treble peak / brightness at all (we´re all individuals). Some say power conditioning will take out the edge. However, it´s fair to say quite a lot of people think the brightness and the treble peak (harsh sibilance) is the main problem with that particular headphone.


Personally I think the HD 800 to my ears always sound bright and have an edgy treble peak, which made me not want to listen to them even though they do so many things very well (soundstage, bass control etc). I didn´t want to end up paying a lot more trying to get it right (if it is even possible), so I sold them and moved on. Great headphone, but the flaw you are describing made them unusable for me in the end. Then I moved to the LCD-2 that are definately not bright, but I have issues with them as well. So for me the search will continue.

post #3 of 119
Thread Starter 



Thanks a lot for your input, I will definitevly comment more on it once I'm back home but for the time being I just wanted to point that the pair I got already have a Stefan Audio Art voice cable upgrade, so I guess this should close the option of cable upgrade.

post #4 of 119

IME the Beyer A1 is an awful amplifier.  It's aggressively, insanely, bright and steely - way, way out of the mainstream - and possibly the worst match on earth for the HD800.  Step one would be to replace it with, say, the Violectric V200, which is around the same money and much sweeter and warmer, while retaining and probably enhancing the detail and transparency that the HD800 thrives on.


If that's not enough, the other amp solution would be to use tubes, and select them specifically for warmth and bass weight - i.e. essentially customize an amp to suit.  Personally I think that's worth it, because the HD800's strengths are extraordinary.


But ultimately it can't be denied that the HD800's native response is tilted away from the bass and toward the treble.  Plenty of good people have liked it, respected it, admired it - but rejected it.  You may become one of them, and you'll find alternatives.

post #5 of 119

I much prefer the Beyer T1 for TV, movies and gaming.  IMO, TV and gaming assume you are going to listen using inferior equipment and they transmit with too much treble.  Also, the HD-800's sound stage is too big for TV.  When 2 actors are talking face to face, I do not want it to sound like they are on a stage several rows in front of me.


On the other hand, I prefer the HD-800 for most music, particularly pop, vocals, jazz and classical.  With some rock, the HD-800s can be too much, so I often use my T-1 for rock, example, Led Zeppelin.


I cannot comment on your amp except I have read it is a little aggressive.  Still, sound from quality amps does not vary nearly as much as sound changes between quality headphones.  

Edited by XLR1 - 1/5/11 at 2:02pm
post #6 of 119

Obgligatory "send it here" post :)


I'm not surprised.  I bet you just need to experiment a little more to find what you want.  The hd800 is sort of an acquired taste imo.

post #7 of 119

Why dont you try the LCD-2? They will cut a lot the harshness out of the sound. 

post #8 of 119

You were satisfied with the DT880's why jump on the HD800, Sen and Beyer has a different signature almost all of them are but you should just grab the T1 since you're already enjoying the DT880's go with their flagship since money doesn't look like a problem. how about Denon D7? its not on the same league on the ones mentioned but I often used this than my Tesla.

post #9 of 119

I'm not a fan of these either, but before giving up on them you should at least try them out on a tube amp. The warmer and lusher the better. Single ended DHT would be a good choice. They do have their strengths. If nothing else, one of the best sound stages available .

post #10 of 119
I sold mine. I like the sound and fit of my HD650 better.
post #11 of 119

X2 :)


Originally Posted by DjAmTraX View Post

I sold mine. I like the sound and fit of my HD650 better.
post #12 of 119

Do yourself a favor and sell that dynamic rig and get some stats.  You can send me a pair of O2 pads as a thank you.

post #13 of 119
Originally Posted by FrankCooter View Post

I'm not a fan of these either, but before giving up on them you should at least try them out on a tube amp. The warmer and lusher the better. Single ended DHT would be a good choice. They do have their strengths. If nothing else, one of the best sound stages available .


I ended up loving the HD-800 after thinking they weren't going to improve much on the HD-600.

But I'll echo Frank's recommendation of a single-ended DHT. The HD-800 sounds amazing when driven by the 2A3 tube. I've never much liked the HD-800 on solid state and wasn't much impressed by the Beyerdynamic A1. There are a lot of less expensive solid state amps that offer better performance.
post #14 of 119
Thread Starter 

Thanks a lot for the feedback, I need to think a bit about what to do, either I invest some more cash into them and get another amp to see if their sound will evolve into something I enjoy more or I move on and try the LCD-2, T1 or others, once I have my 30 posts I will most likely put them up for trade and see if there's any interest and what kind of offer I'm getting.

post #15 of 119
Thread Starter 



I decided to sell the Sennheiser and found a pair of "used" LCD-2, got the ALO audio cable upgrade and should receive it all early next week, we will see if the LCD-2 sound is more what I'm looking for.

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