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The (new) HD800 Impressions Thread - Page 231
Gear mentioned in this thread:
Tip: try googling Pirate and Innerfidelity.
Edited by M-13 - 6/27/13 at 12:54pm
Semantics. A resonance is a node that boosts a frequency band. You can diffuse it, the mod, or EQ it. One only affects the node, the EQ, the other changes the existing wave path. Pick your poison. More importantly the mod drops the peak by a fixed ~2dB. EQ can completely cancel it out.
The mod only affects that one headphone. When using EQ, you're bound to end up wondering why another pair of headphones suddenly sounds crap. Yes, it happened. :)
So I just demoed these today for the first time. First of all, I was randomly walking through a plaza in harvard square, when suddenly I saw a sign saying hi-fi on it, and I immediately went to check it out. I wasn't expecting much, but when I went in, the characteristic aesthetics of the HD800 caught my eye. I asked if I could try them out, and the shop keepers were kind enough to hook it up for me, although I really have no idea what the rig they used was composed of. Anyway, they do seem a bit smaller in person than when seen on online images, and it really didn't beat my ad900x in terms of comfort. Build quality at first sight was as expected.
As for the sound, I only listened for 20 minutes before needing to hurry off to class. Also, the only other high end headphone that I have heard was the HE400, which really impressed me, and the AD900x which was the best I could afford. Other than those, I haven't had any other experience with high end offerings, so my impressions of the HD800 may be skewed.
The thing that I took note of right off the bat, was, of course, the soundstage and imaging. The instrument separation was also incredible. Compared to the AD900x (I was actually able to compare them on the spot because I had brought my AD900x with me in my backpack), the HD800 really sounded a lot more clear and transparent, while also being more detailed. The piano that I heard was placed very clearly and the position of it was much more defined. Another thing that amazed me was how I was able to hear slight reverberation of the vocals that were inaudible on the AD900x, which attests to the amount of detail the HD800 offers. The HD800 really makes the ad900x sound thick and muddled in comparison. This was all expected though, as the ad900x is in a whole different price range. Nonetheless, my short experience with the HD800 was quite enlightening, and although I wasn't as blown away as I was when I first heard the HE400, I was very impressed. The HD800 had an overall very immersive feel to it.
Another thing, they said that they had the HD800 on sale for $1100, which is $400 less than the current amazon price. I'm not sure whether that's a good price for it, but even if it is, I still wouldn't be able to afford it. Perhaps I'll need to sell my soul for it... or not.
I posted this on the new DNA Sonett 2 thread, but thought it might also be relevant here:
"I think I received the Sonett 2 after Toads was done with it, so I'll share some impressions. Please let me know if you have questions.
In the meantime, I'll say that it's the best headphone amp I've spent time with. It's not in the slightest bit tubey sounding—the S2 is fast, extended, dynamic and highly resolving, the way I like it. And it retains the lit-from-within quality of good tube circuits as well as the beguiling lucidity of transformer-coupled single-ended triode amps. It's also powerful sounding, driving the Senn HD800 and HD650 with unremitting control. I hope to borrow the LCD-2 this week to try with it as well.
Part of my mission with the Sonett 2 was to figure out a way to tame the HD800—to make listening to it pleasant and relaxing rather than a cringe-fest. I'm happy to say it's come a long way. First, I replaced the stock cable with a Cardas cable with 4-pin balanced connector. Balanced drive on the S2 added bass, richness, a slightly wider soundstage and, of course, gain. (I cannot swear how much of the difference was due to the cable itself and how much to XLR drive, but the new cable helped a lot.) Replacing the JJ rectifier tube with a Mullard was another step in that direction—more richness, color and bass. Swapping out interconnects produced very audible differences as well, and the amp highlighted the distinctions between Cardas, Van den Hul, Analysis Plus and Wireworld. The S2 also allowed me hear the sound of different tubes in the buffer section of the DAC I was using, the MHDT Havana. Maybe the most unexpected gain came from lifting the amp off the shelf and letting it sit on 3 Vibrapods—the headstage got much bigger and more of the HD800s wiry tendencies receded. Now, with the latest version of Audirvana Plus providing an almost electron-microscope view of detail, the HD800 floats a huge stage with almost no hardness or brightness apparent. Far less fatigue. It's the sonic equivalent of being at a planetarium for one of those weed-scented rock shows—everything floats around the head. I'm psyched.
Experienced Head-Fiers sometimes refer to the HD650's ability to "scale," and now I know what they mean. It sounds insane with the Sonett 2, passing much more detail and ambience than I though the headphone was capable of. Really silly good. If not for the HD800, this combo would make me happy.
I appreciated the impedance and gain switches on the amp, but I didn't use them much. I preferred the impedance on low and gain on normal. Setting impedance on high softened the sound and added a layer of mist and bloom, which I didn't care for.
I've never heard the original Sonett and listened to the Stratus briefly at a meet, so I can't make meaningful comparisons to those amps. I can say that my Bottlehead Crack, a great little amp, isn't even in the same parking lot as the Sonett 2, which is better in every imaginable way. Same goes for the Matrix M-Stage, but more so. I heard the Bryston amp recently with my HD800 and frankly found it a little boring. While hosting the Sonett 2, I was happy to drop in on a fellow Head-Fier here in Brooklyn and listen to his Decware CSP2+ and EC Zana Deux through my HD800. I was unfamiliar with his (very expensive) DAC and cabling, so take these impressions with a chunk of salt. I did notice that the CSP2+ sounded more traditionally tubey than the Sonett 2, with a more prominent upper bass, more forgiving treble and less apparent power through the Senns. I can understand why the Decware amp is such a popular pairing with the Senn, but I preferred the bigger, clearer sound of the Sonett 2. The Zana sounded powerful, detailed and transparent, much like the S2, but to my ears added a bit of high-frequency etch that I didn't think flattered the already treble-prone Senn. It was also hot as a furnace.
I'm pretty thrilled with Sonett 2. I can't hear any character to it's sound that could be described as a flavor. It' strikes me as pure, transparent, and neutral, but not in the least boring or polite. It's colorful and rich. It has plenty of power and control with the phones I've tried it with. I can, as they say, hear things I've never heard before. It doesn't make me want to do something else after listening for 15 minutes. It makes the HD800 into the most revealing transducer I've heard—and, with the right attention to ancillaries, also makes it fun, something I wasn't sure was possible. It's not too big. I really like the way it looks, and that it's blue. And I can't think of another amp under $2K I'd rather listen to (though admittedly I haven't heard the EC Super 7).
Thank you, Donald North, for the opportunity to live with your new amplifier for a while. It's terrific."
For me, if a headphone can make a violin sound real (attack, tone, decay, etc.) then it can do any genre well. I have no baseline to judge a headphone based on how synthesized tones sound.
Edited by palmfish - 6/28/13 at 10:58am
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