So I've reached an impasse with the HD800 and I hope folks can weigh in. They are, at once, the most amazing headphone I've owned, and one of the most frustrating. They overwhelmed me when I first heard them at the headphone counter at J&R through my portable amp and iPod—the soundstaging, out-of-head thing in particular—so I bought a pair. But over the long run, I've found them difficult to kick back with and simply enjoy. They can have a slightly lit-up, even wiry timbre that I can't quite relax into. I'm not talking about excessive treble or brightness but rather what I hear as a slightly metallic tonality.
I've tried a bevy of amps and just ordered a balanced Cardas cable. Currently I'm auditioning Donald North's superb Sonett 2, based on his Stratus, and recently had a chance to take the HD800 to another Head-Fier's place (thanks ericfarrell85!) where I listened to them through a Decware CSP2+ and a Zana Deux. Both superb amps, in their respective ways. Neither, to my mind, succeeded entirely in making the HD800 a pleasurable and relaxing headphone. Honestly, the only amp I've heard come close was the easy-going, cheap but good Matrix M-Stage, by warming up the presentation, but I didn't think it was able to take full advantage of the HD800s resolving and imaging potential. And that's the conundrum—the Hd800 seems to demand an amp (and source) that's at once super-resolving and utterly laid back. And I'm not sure such a thing exists. With my HD650, I can relax and enjoy the music for hours, but I also know that they are simply not as good as the HD800. But when I put on the HD800, the enjoyment often proves elusive and I can't focus on the music. I'm beginning to fear that they may not be for me. Can anyone dissuade me?
I agree to a certain extent. With the HD800 source is extremely important and more so than other headphones I've owned. Many headphones the DAC doesn't matter as much as long as it is a good quality dac but with these I found a big difference (to me at least) with different dacs. I had the Anedio D1 as my dac which I thought was excellent but I think it gives the same kind of tonality as you were referring to. At that time I had the HE6 as well and my choice went to the HE6 most of the time. I found a Buffalo III dac and that changed everything for me.
I do agree that the HD800 is amazing but yet also so frustrating at the same time if you can't find the right rig for it.