Going to listen to the IE800 extensively tomorrow. Still burning it in playing a local drum & bass electronica radio station stream. First impressions are still positive, but I´ll refrain from hasty comments this time. As a prelude to the more in depth post, there is something I want to bring up: stumbled upon a very interesting link in this thread, HD600/650/800/IE800 designer Axel Grell interview: http://gizmodo.com/5949316/ask-one-of-the-worlds-top-headphone-engineers-whatever-you-want (a few comments from the inteview have been discussed previously here, but not the vast majority)
Some interesting stuff for this thread:
(pasted from the Gizmodo interview, modified the Q parts a bit for easier reading, )
Q: What's was the biggest challenge in designing the new IS 800s?
IE 800? The biggest challenge was to design a transducers that covers the whole frequency range from 5 Hz to 46500 Hz. But it was definetely worth the work. It reproduces the sound without time differences what happens when you use a multi driver solution. The other thing is how to avoid the resonance that occurs when you put a earphone in your ear canal. The solutions is the dampened 2 chamber absorber. It leads to a smoother high frequency reproduction. Now you can hear r e a l heights instead of a peak at 7500 Hz!
Q: Replying to a site reader question about balanced armature driver pros and cons
Balanced armature drivers were originally developed as small, high efficiency narrow band transducers for hearing aids. There undistorted maximum SPL is limited. you have to use sveral of them for a good wideband sound reproduction. Multiway systems have the disadvantage of time differences between the signals from the different drivers (a well known problem with loudspeakers). A single, well engineered dynamic driver can do it better: Better wide band reproduction, no phase distortion, higher undistorted SPL and better wearing comfort, due to its smaller size.
Q: Replying to a site reader question regarding design goals, in particular regarding IE800
Hi, the design principle is simple: Bring the music to the listener the way the musician, tonmeister or producer has meant it. So more or less linear, but not boring. Add no distortion or exaggerated bass, mids heights that are not in the music. When a producer wants people to hear bass, he should put bass in his mix not in the headphone ;-) Sorry, I can't tell you everything about the design process in this Q&A.
I can recommend reading the rest too - maybe we´ll see planar magnetic or electrostatic headphones from Sennheiser someday :) It seems his all time favorite is the Orpheus. What sticks out in particular to me is the comment on bass: exaggerated bass was definitely not a goal. I know the frequency graphs have been posted here showing strong bass, but as far as I understand diffuse field EQ headphones need to be boosted in the bass to emulate sound in a free environment. That said, I´m not expert in any way when it comes to that and I´m sure others here can comment more wisely on the frequency response graphs.
That said, subjectively speaking the bass in the IE800 reminds me of listening to speakers that go really low. It´s something I haven´t experienced in IEMs before. Or on most full size headphones either. I sold my non-portable headphone gear some time ago and moved to speakers. I know this comment is controversial, but to me the closer headphones get to a speaker rig the better they are. That´s why I like the HD 800 for its speaker like soundstage for example. Anyway, IE800 is the first IEM that reminds me of good speakers. That said, my experience with portable gear is quite limited: the most high end IEMs I´ve owned previously are the Shure 530, Sennheiser IE8 and Ultimate Ears 700/Fischer Audio SBA2.
Last but not least a few small IE800 impressions before the longer post (hopefully) tomorrow: I can see it dividing people (audio preferences are very subjective after all!), but I feel it´s a very unique product. The venting system works: midrange is not colored by the bass at all, it doesn´t pressure your ears and it´s easily the most comfortable IEM I´ve ever used. Actually I personally can´t get used to most IEMs on the market due to the deep insertion - no problems here. It isn´t all that fussy about a tight seal either like BA-based IEMs in particular are. As for the sound quality: this isn´t a particularly airy IEM. But it´s very important to know that this does not mean it´s dark in any way. Quite the opposite, sounds quite balanced to me. It has good instrument separation and there is air around, but it´s not airy in the way BA driver IEMs tend to be. The forward mids remind me of pro studio monitors like Genelec. What sticks out in the sound signature the most to me is the PRAT. It´s simply extremely involving. In addition to the bass, vocals in particular have a dreamy emotionally connecting quality to them. There is no comparison to IE8 other than the bass is strong too. Very different otherwise. I don´t think it´s a turbo IE8 at all. More on that later though.
Source: Rockboxed Sansa Clip+ running FLAC (yeah I know, these IEMs will benefit from a better DAC/amplification)
Edited by vrln - 1/5/13 at 1:54pm