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Sennheiser HD-800 vs. Hifiman HE-500 first impressions

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Thanks to Justin at Headamp for letting me demo the Hifiman HE-500 headphone.

 

I A/B'ed the two headphones for about 90 minutes. I used an XRCD Ernie Watts, "Classic Moods" jazz cd and a Roku Soundbridge internet radio. I only listened to jazz, which is my main genre I listen to. I should point out that my HD-800 is balanced vs. the HE-500 being single-ended.

 

The Sound:

 

Bass: The HD-800 has about the same extension as the HE-500. Both headphones could use a little more extension. The HD-800 bass is a little more tighter, but the HE-500 is not boomy or muddy. The HE-500 has more mid-bass, which can give the impression as having more bass. I prefer the bass quality on the HD-800.

 

Mid-range: The HE-500 has a more forward mid-range. It's almost Grado like. It's very smooth. I prefer the mid-range to be neither forward or recessed, therefore I prefer the HD-800 mid-range.

 

Treble: Both headphones have great treble extension. The HD-800 may have slightly more extension. But the HE-500 treble is very smooth. The HD-800 can sometimes be just a little bit sibilant. I prefer the quantity and quality a little bit more on the HD-800.

 

The HD-800 is very detailed. You can hear every little detail. The HE-500 is not bad in this regard, it's just that the HD-800 is so good. The same can be said about the soundstage. This is where HD-800 excels. It has an expansive soundstage. The HE-500 is good, but no where near the separation the HD-800 has. The HD-800 is a very open sounding headphone. The HE-500 does not have the openess that the HD-800 has. I prefer the HD-800 detail, soundstage and openess.

 

The HE-500 is a fairly heavy headphone compared to the HD-800. The HE-500 is pretty comfortable considering it's weight. The pads are very comfortable. I prefer the HD-800 because it's lighter and the pads are even more comfortable than the HE-500.

 

For me listening to jazz, I prefer the HD-800. The HE-500 is a great headphone at $700. I could be happy with it. But when A/B' ing the two headphones, I have to go with the HD-800. The more difficult question is the HD-800 worth $1500 vs. the HE-500 at $700 to you. For me, it's the point of diminishing returns. But for me, it is worth it. The HD-800 is an awesome technical headphone for the jazz lover. I can't speak about the HD-800 vs. HE-500 for other music styles. I can say though that you would be happy with either headphone at it's price points.

post #2 of 13

The HE-500 is a tricky headphone.  With a lower quality setup and certain tracks it sounds pretty fun and laid back, but with other setups it is so neutral sounding that it sounds somewhat lifeless.  I did a similar comparison between the HE-500 and Denon AH-D2000 and to my ears, for fun listening, the D2000 won out.  It was just more lively and fun with most of my music whereas the HE-500 become very neutral sounding.

 

Headphones are strange beasts.  Psychology plays such a huge roll in listening.  I always give myself about a month before I decide whether I really like how a headphone sounds or not.  Initial impressions are almost always misleading be it good or bad.

post #3 of 13

I never thought the HE-500 would excel the HD-800, despite some people's comments.  The two headphones have different aims and objectives.  Moreover, the LCD2s weren't really taken as such and they're more in line with the HE-500.

post #4 of 13

I had both the HE-600 and HD800 together. I felt like they were a closer match than the HE-500 and HD800s.

post #5 of 13

I must agree with 3rdear; this is indeed a strange comparison. HD 800 is unequivocally in a class of its own. Like you said, the 3D layering, micro details, soundstage and clarity of that headphone is simply astonishing. Then comes the comfort. HE-500 weighs a ton while HD 800 feels like two cloud pillows of euphonic bliss covering my ears. 

 

HE-500 are absolutely fantastic for the price, no question about it. But it's like comparing BMW M3 to Ferrari 458. They're both top notch in their respective price points but their worlds really don't intersect. 

post #6 of 13

I dislike HD800's top-heavy tonal balance. Guess I'm an ortho-head.

post #7 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by vladinecko View Post

 

HE-500 are absolutely fantastic for the price, no question about it. But it's like comparing BMW M3 to Ferrari 458. They're both top notch in their respective price points but their worlds really don't intersect. 

 

I think the practice of grading headphones by price is very tricky. In Oz the HD800 was originally $2500; now it's typically $1500. The Hifiman was originally $899; now it's $699. Headphones don't say to themselves, "Hey, my price has dropped $200 so I'd better not perform as well." I don't know of any technical reason why a headphone at $700 cannnot perform as well as one at $1500. At $700 there should be no practical limitations of material, driver quality, rigidity of enclosure or damping. It worries me a little when people say, "Oh, but the Super Brumby 3a is over $1000, so you wouldn't expect the Antica 2b at $450 to seriously compete with it." To take a real world example: the HD650 has always maintained it's typical selling price of $500, while the DT880 has dropped from a recommended price quite close to that to a typical selling price of $250. Does that mean the DT880 is half as good as the HD650? Prices are set by manufacturers on the basis of many factors, and Senheiser has never been generous to customers in its pricing structure. In that sense it trades heavily on its name.

 

Sorry, not picking on you, but there are a lot of posts that put a huge emphasis on price. Unlike a car or a fridge, a headphone is not priced on material cost. A $700 phone can have more material worth than one twice the price, and often that's the case. Usually phones are quite arbitrarily priced; thus the large price drops on the HE-500 and HD800. It's what the manufacturer thinks the market can bear, and Sennheiser obviously thinks the market is very tolerant of its pricing structure (and it's correct in that assumption). One might ask: is the LCD-3 worth two LCD-2s? Clearly not, but clearly Audeze thinks there's a market in the +$2000 area. and those who buy it probably can't help thinking, "Hey, This is a $2000 headphone. Anything worth that much has to be great." I'm not saying it isn't; just that there's a huge psychological factor at work here, and the manufacturers know it. It's very hard for all of us to judge a phone purely on performance regardless of price, and if we group and separate phone according to price in our posts and in our minds too rigidly, it becomes even harder. No one is suggesting that an HD201 has the potential to sound like an HD800, but there's certainly the potential for a headphone half the HD800s price to sound as good or better.

post #8 of 13

I have had both phones for for quite a while and enjoy both for their respective strengths. On the whole I prefer the 800's but I have to say that the bass on the 500's is both more extended and emphatic....my opinion

post #9 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by philo50 View Post
 

I have had both phones for for quite a while and enjoy both for their respective strengths. On the whole I prefer the 800's but I have to say that the bass on the 500's is both more extended and emphatic....my opinion


Strongly agree! I own both too, I would say HE500 is dark-oriented while HD800 is brighter. As for better experience, go with HD800. When it comes to the price, I have to say Hd800 is not twice better than HE500. Maybe 1.3-1.65bertter given of different records. But wear HD800 for most time and longest time, enjoy every minute with HD800.

post #10 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by pp312 View Post

No one is suggesting that an HD201 has the potential to sound like an HD800, but there's certainly the potential for a headphone half the HD800s price to sound as good or better.

 

Originally Posted by vladinecko

View Post HE-500 are absolutely fantastic for the price, no question about it. But it's like comparing BMW M3 to Ferrari 458. They're both top notch in their respective price points but their worlds really don't intersect.agian

Again I have both, but I disagree with both statement. I cannot believe one manufacture can half the HD800s price to sound as good or better. Consider HE90. what if one headphone excels HE90, how can he90 maintain its price. It tags its performance with its price. It always goes higher when they are pricing.

 

As for hd500, I would only say the price matches its performance. Meanwhile I would prefer Hd650 in terms of overall performance, if thought some argue hd600 is too warm and HE500 is more accurate. Hd650 is more euphonious than 500 and 500 can have more detail, but just slight more. 500 is not suitable for all records, especially for symphony classic, its soundstage is narrow. I do not know why so many people love 500 compared with 650. 

post #11 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by wtnwin111 View Post
 

 

Again I have both, but I disagree with both statement. I cannot believe one manufacture can half the HD800s price to sound as good or better. Consider HE90. what if one headphone excels HE90, how can he90 maintain its price. It tags its performance with its price. It always goes higher when they are pricing.

 

As for hd500, I would only say the price matches its performance. Meanwhile I would prefer Hd650 in terms of overall performance, if thought some argue hd600 is too warm and HE500 is more accurate. Hd650 is more euphonious than 500 and 500 can have more detail, but just slight more. 500 is not suitable for all records, especially for symphony classic, its soundstage is narrow. I do not know why so many people love 500 compared with 650. 

Not all pros and cons are weighed equally. It's safe to assume that the "so many people" who "love 500 compared to 650" find 500's pros outweighing the cons, and vise versa for 650. Of course there is also a sizeable number of people who are the other way around on what they prioritize in SQ, and favour 650 over 500. What's not to understand?

post #12 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by NA Blur View Post
 

The HE-500 is a tricky headphone.  With a lower quality setup and certain tracks it sounds pretty fun and laid back, but with other setups it is so neutral sounding that it sounds somewhat lifeless.  I did a similar comparison between the HE-500 and Denon AH-D2000 and to my ears, for fun listening, the D2000 won out.  It was just more lively and fun with most of my music whereas the HE-500 become very neutral sounding.

 

Headphones are strange beasts.  Psychology plays such a huge roll in listening.  I always give myself about a month before I decide whether I really like how a headphone sounds or not.  Initial impressions are almost always misleading be it good or bad.

Quoting an old post but, I couldn't agree more. I find my He-500's to be more fascinating when driven by my IPad then my O2.

post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by headphonatic View Post

Quoting an old post but, I couldn't agree more. I find my He-500's to be more fascinating when driven by my IPad then my O2.
Quote:
Originally Posted by headphonatic View Post

Quoting an old post but, I couldn't agree more. I find my He-500's to be more fascinating when driven by my IPad then my O2.

I agree. Why does it sound better with my Ipad?
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