Alright, I think I'm ready to give some initial impressions, but let me start by supplying a very brief background so that there's context to my statements.
I started this whole journey looking for headphones specifically for competitive gaming. Ended up with the AD700, a can I absolutely still adore, which turned out to be my gateway drug into this whole hobby. Since then, I played in the portable market and moved up into the mid-fi market which is where I've spent a lot of my time developing my preferences. At this point, I appreciate and own colorful cans, specifically bright, airy, and aggressive, but I've always preferred cans that are as neutral as possible. I'm a soundstage and detail whore, as well. So in reading what the HD 800 is all about, you can see why I've had it on my list for quite some time as a possible end-game can for me. As far as my buying habits go, it's about having the right tool for the right job. I love my PX 100-II, Porta Pro, MDR-1R, and XBA-3 for traveling. My K702 65th AE is amazing for competitive gaming. My SRH940 is a nice closed option for office use and when I can go open, I prefer my SR325is. I adore my HD 600 and HD 700 for open home. The HD 800 represents my first real move into the top-of-the-line or flagship market. Additionally, I've developed a collector's mentality. Do I need an HD 650? No, but I might as well grab once since I have the HD 600, HD 700, and now HD 800.
One other quick thought. I usually shy away from popular ideas or products unless I can have my own experiences with them to make up my own opinions. If you were to say to me a year ago that a decent amount of cans I’d own would be Sennheiser, I would have probably laughed in your face. Cut to today, I’ve been consistently and pleasantly surprised by most of their offerings and have developed a certain level of "faith" with them. I would not, in any way, shape, or form, call myself a Sennheiser fanboy. I’m just a fan of good product that works well for my needs.
So onto the HD 800. The first 72 hours of my can’s home life were spent going through endless loops of high quality pink noise and logarithmic sine. My impressions rely on about only 10 hours of listening after this break-in process. I’m going to be less technical and more emotional in explaining what I’m hearing.
I’ll start with the positives. What I’ve gathered in this short time is that this can’s sonics were made for my tastes. They are highly neutral and extremely resolving. This is the kind of detail I have always wanted to hear in my content. I feel like I’m looking to through a large, clear, wide open window into my music, experiencing it the way an artist intended it to be. That give me a great sense of joy, so I am not able to relate to the people who say there is no fun to be had in these cans or they’re not musical. Yes, they are highly analytical, but that’s one of the reasons I am so happy when they are on my head. I also can’t relate to people who call them cold. They are not cold. The bass is tight, accurate, and very well extended. It’s not warm. it’s just… perfect. On the opposite end, I simply can’t agree with anyone who calls these cans bright. They are very detailed and, again, very extended, but there’s no amount of harshness with it and I haven’t experienced any level of fatigue. Beyond the signature of the frequency, the soundstage is extremely wide and positional accuracy is the best I have ever heard.
Some of the factors that are just kinda neutral or so-so for me would be things like the fit. I suppose I must have a small head because I really haven’t read many issues with it. For me, they just don’t seem entirely secure on my noggin. I can lean my head forward or back and the cans will begin to shift on my head. It’s not as bad as I’m making it sound, but it’s something that could be better. Honestly, the HD 800’s younger brother, the HD 700, has just been the most perfect open full-size can when it comes to comfort and fit. Nothing has been able to come close to touching it.
I’ll finish this off with some critical things about the HD 800. You shouldn’t expect to pay $1500 for a headphone and get practically the same packaging and materials you get from the HD 600. A cardboard box, some foam, and a piece of silk? It’s in no way impressive. On top of this, the supplied “book” in several languages is somewhat laughable. The stock and finish are not that great of quality and the content inside is just not very interesting or informative. No, for $1500, I expect a whole lot more impressive packaging and extras than this.
Overall, I’m very happy. As time goes on, I think I’ll be exploring what the value of these cans mean to me, what else I can hear from them, and the further amping options I can play with. At this initial point, the HD 800 has exceeded almost every very high expectation I had of it and will be remaining within my collection for the foreseeable future.