I received my HD 800's today.
I spent a nice 2 or 3 hours with them tonight just getting to know them. Played with a few amps and casual A/B with my D7000's (Lawton modded).
Amps: O2, Burson HA-160D, Schiit Lyr, and my Carver Receiver.
Initial impressions: Wow, the 800's really bring out the differences between amps. I admit I was a skeptic, but now I believe...
Here are the amps in order of how much I hate them through the HD 800:
1. O2 - shrill and scratchy, lacks body and coherence.
2. Lyr - Fairly well balanced, but a little too bright, slightly sibilant, and the bass is light - lacks weight.
3. Carver - A little stronger and muddier on the bottom that thickens the mids a smidge. Very good body and treble is nice. Smooth and detailed.
4. Burson - The best of the group with the HD 800. In between the Lyr and the Carver tonally - leaner than the Carver but fuller than the Lyr. Perfect balance between bass-mids-treble, and a little more open sounding than the Carver.
Funny though, when I compared the amps with my D7000, my findings were very different.
1. Lyr - I guess I just don't like this amp. Sounded like a layer of grime coating a window. Shrill treble yet smeared detail.
2/3. O2 and Burson - Really couldn't tell them apart. A little flat and dull sounding - grime like the Lyr but a little cleaner.
4. Carver - Clear, clean, tight bass, sparkly treble. A very good match aparently (also admittedly what I'm most accustomed to).
What frustrated me was that all of my observations are very song dependent. Some lush recordings (Patricia Barber for example) sound fantastic on the D7000/Carver rig and the 800/Burson rig. Other recordings that are super clean (overproduced?) like Dire Straits Brothers in Arms or anything by The Police are the opposite - they sound best on the 800/Carver rig and the D7000/Burson rig. Many other recordings fall somewhere unpredictably in between.
A few other observations:
*I found it interesting that the O2 sounds so good with the D7000 and so bad with the HD 800. I didn't expect this.
*The DAC portion of the HA-160D sounds identical to the DAC built into my Squeezebox Touch. This was after running both analog and Coax from the Touch to the Burson and switching between the two inputs.
*The Denon doesn't sacrifice any detail or refinement to the 800. It lacks the even frequency response and the more open/diffuse sound quality of the 800 in exchange for a more fun signature (tighter punchier bass) and a closer more pinpoint kind of sound. I haven't listened to classical music with the 800's yet, but I suspect that this is where they will shine. The D7000's are definitely a rock and roll headphone - JBL's for your head.
I'm definitely enjoying the HD 800's right now, though I don't know if they will find a permanent place in my home. More listening to follow...
My experience with the Lyr is quite different to yours. I have found it really transparent, and the HD800 reflects tube switches better than any other headphone I have tried. What tubes are you using with it? If you're just using stock or the GE or JJ tubes that come with it yeah, it's going to suck, but put some good NOS tubes in it and it is a different beast altogether. Try them with some Siemens, Lorenz or Telefunken tubes and you might be surprised.
Edit: The Lyr and Denons have a horrid synergy as well, they are simply too sensitive for this amp and is just about the worst pairing imaginable. The Lyr is simply not meant for Denons and it's quite sad considering they are so much fun to listen to.
Edited by toschek - 3/11/13 at 10:48pm