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Sennheiser HD800 vs. Stax SR-007 - entering Summit-Fi.

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

Hi everybody!

 

I've been a head-fier for an indecent amount of time, and I've spent an equally indecent amount of money on this hobby of ours. The next 'step' on my proverbial ladder, however, is to enter Summit-Fi proper. Before I talk about why I opened this thread, I want to talk about the situation.

 

Current gear:

 

Apple Macbook Pro 15" Retina 2012 running Spotify 320 kB/s AAC streams and/or localised content ->

Presonus Firestudio Mobile w/ S/PDIF output ->

Cambridge Audio DacMagic ->

Stax SRM-323A ->

Stax SR-407 (leather pads)

 

That's my current chain. It's complex, it could lose an entire layer by removing the Presonus and moving to the Cambridge DAC if I so desired, but the Firestudio allows me to also route game/movie/TV/YouTube audio from my PC, audio from my TV and audio from my Apple TV for Airplay purposes. It runs standalone so the MacBook doesn't need to be part of the chain if I desire. Very, very useful feature set, in my opinion!

 

I also have a pair of Adam A5X monitor speakers and a Final Audio S200 active subwoofer for my speaker-based system, a strange combination but it works well. I'm mainly a headphone guy when it comes to core audiophilia.

 

I listen to a variety of music. Norah Jones, James Taylor, Radiohead, Steely Dan, John Mayer, Sting, Rickie Lee Jones, Dire Straits, Jimi Hendrix, Donald Fagen, Eagles, Venice, and so on. A lot of 70's-80's pop and rock, but some modern music as well. I also happen to like live audio recordings a lot (though not the YouTube kind...), which I think is of note.

 

On to the headphones. My biggest revelation in audiophilia came from electrostatic speakers that my father bought some time back (they failed fairly quickly, but I digress) - there's a smooth and almost otherworldly distinction that separates them from anything dynamic I've ever heard, as if they're in a class of their own. A couple years later I heard a Stax-setup for the first time, the SR-404LE in fact, and I fell in love again. I bought an SR-202 with a simple amp and used that until I upgraded to the SRM-323A and SR-407 setup I have now. And a week or two back I decided to listen to an SR-007 in a shop, using the same setup. I found the difference between my Lambdas and the Omega II MK II astounding, and it revealed many of the flaws and issues that the Lambdas and indeed most electrostatic headphones have. In other words, upgrade time.

 

Now however, I've been swayed by some things I've read online. Tyll Herstens for instance prefers the HD800 over the SR-007, and the HD800 gets a lot, lot lot lot of praise here. The Audeze LCD-2/3 get a lot of praise as well, but they're more bass-heavy and dark from what I've heard, which is not quite the sound signature I tend to like.

 

I have heard the HD800 a few years ago at the same meet where I heard the SR-404LE and found them dry and lifeless at the time. I don't remember the amp used, but they were unbalanced. I have however grown a lot in terms of knowledge and I fear my dismissal at the time was inappropriate. It is however not very easy to hear a properly amped HD800 near me, and I myself don't possess anything close to a suitable amp.

 

I am at a loss on how to proceed. The issue of cost plays a small role here, but I doubt there would exist a large difference even if I decide to keep the Stax setup I currently have. The SR-007, imported, costs about 1700 euros, and the Senn is about a thousand if I get a decent deal. That leaves a couple of hundred euros to spend on a decent amp, which makes even a lower-end balanced amp (and cable, I'd likely fit my own 4-pin XLR) a reasonable option.

 

The SR-007, when I heard it, sounded very strange to me. I mean that in a good way that also makes me doubt whether this is the right path. It sounded much more organic and natural than the SR-407, especially in the bass area. Now I'm no basshead, but when I heard what it could do in the lower end of the scale, I was astonished. It manages to do what electrostats usually can't - deliver a balanced sound that retains a lot of the "effortless open air" sound I love of electrostats. However, it also showed me that headphones can sound very different and still be extremely detail-rich and analytical, traits I do appreciate of them. That made me think about the HD800 again and whether or not it was worth seriously looking into, I still don't know for sure.

 

TL;DR: Have setup above. Just listened to SR-007. Great sound but made me doubt if electrostats are the perfect answer. Have heard but didn't like HD800, willing to give it a second chance. Worth it or am I being silly?

post #2 of 18

I have the Stax 009 and 007MkII now, both driven by a Stax 007TII amp, and I have had the HD800 driven by many different mid- to upper-level amps, both tube and solid state.

 

I think the 009 is a big step beyond the 007, and both are a big step beyond the HD800, which sounded lifeless and dead - "overcontrolled" - to me.  I think the 009 sounds neutral, the 007 sounds warm, and the HD800 is a bit bright.

 

But, lordy, that's just me.  At this level, you have to hear these things, and, preferably, live with them for awhile and then sell some of them at a slight loss, before you can make up your mind what you'd like to live with long-term.  Stax and Senns are well-engineered and beloved products. 

 

Buy, listen, and cull, is my advice. 

post #3 of 18
I'd suggest stopping listening to mp3 before buying any new audio equipment
post #4 of 18

realmassy makes a good point.................

post #5 of 18

Hmmm ... a lot of people did not hear any difference between a good mp3 and flac.

post #6 of 18
And then why bothering getting an high end setup?
post #7 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by realmassy View Post

And then why bothering getting an high end setup?

 

And another good point.

post #8 of 18
And probably I'd upgrade the source before getting new headphones: I used to own the DACMagic and really didn't like it. There are so many DAC out there though and you've got to listen with your own ears. I'm sure your dealer will give you a demo of some DACs in different price targets.
As for the headphones, I think the 407 is very good, having owned the 507. Good dynamics and bass impact, very neutral, although they sound a bit monitor-like.
If you like their timbre then you'll probably like the 009 better than the 007.
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by greggf View Post
 

I have the Stax 009 and 007MkII now, both driven by a Stax 007TII amp, and I have had the HD800 driven by many different mid- to upper-level amps, both tube and solid state.

 

I think the 009 is a big step beyond the 007, and both are a big step beyond the HD800, which sounded lifeless and dead - "overcontrolled" - to me.  I think the 009 sounds neutral, the 007 sounds warm, and the HD800 is a bit bright.

 

But, lordy, that's just me.  At this level, you have to hear these things, and, preferably, live with them for awhile and then sell some of them at a slight loss, before you can make up your mind what you'd like to live with long-term.  Stax and Senns are well-engineered and beloved products. 

 

Buy, listen, and cull, is my advice. 

It's true that listening should help a lot. I don't have the financial position to listen to both of these at the same time (because I can't purchase both at the same time)  and almost no shops in the Netherlands have the setup to properly audition the Sennheiser or the SR-007. However, I think I'm swayed back a lot towards the SR-007 - they sound much more like my taste in how audio should sound. I'm less convinced that the two are on the same level.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by realmassy View Post

I'd suggest stopping listening to mp3 before buying any new audio equipment
 
Glad I'm not listening to MP3 then (it's AAC). But more seriously, the difference between the SR-407 and SR-007 is gargantuan, as it is with all drivers. While I don't doubt that lossless will offer some improvement, the ability to listen to anything I want when I want to is too big an advantage to simply give up on. I do intend to start a small collection of FLAC/ALAC songs, this is not in my opinion the topic at hand.
 
The DAC is a different matter. Obviously my signal chain is very complex, and I do plan to change that with a new audio interface. Since I don't want to give up on my studio equipment's ease of use, this will involve a more high-end audio interface with a dedicated analog line output. That however I will do after the headphone upgrade.
 
I appreciate the sentiment (and it is important to mention), but it didn't quite help my situation so far. Luckily I have read a lot about the subject and greggf has helped me as well.
post #10 of 18
I've told you what I'd do in your shoes: stop using lossy files, improve your source and then think about the headphones. You need some balance to get a good result, you can't use a 2k pair of headphones with a 200 source, which will be the bottleneck of the system. This is what I'd call advise.
Having said that, if you like the 407 i doubt you'll like the 007 better, especially with the 323. Can't comment on the other headphones you mentioned as i've never owned them.
post #11 of 18

Get the 007s, worry about the rest later.

post #12 of 18

Between the HD800 and 007 MK2, I'd choose the former and tweak the hell out of the downstream. Unless you think they're fully enjoyable straight off, which is then fair enough. However HD800s and 007 MKI, the latter. I also agree with the previous comments regarding source and content.

post #13 of 18
I have owned both the 007 mk1 and the HD800. The HD800 is still around over a year later and the Stax was sold after two weeks of wondering why they are so highly praised. There are some things they do right, but they do some things really wrong, enough that I didn't really give them a second chance. The HD800 isn't perfect either, but its faults are much more slight.
post #14 of 18

The 007 on a KGSS beats the HD800 with Anax 2 mod off an 80w balanced Class A amp.

 

The HD800 is my facourite dynamic phone, but it's just not up to the 007 on a KGSS or KGSSHV.  As usual YMMV.

 

I have not tried the 007 in a Stax amp or SRD-7 box, so that MAY pull in favour of the HD800.

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by wink View Post
 

The 007 on a KGSS beats the HD800 with Anax 2 mod off an 80w balanced Class A amp.

 

The HD800 is my facourite dynamic phone, but it's just not up to the 007 on a KGSS or KGSSHV.  As usual YMMV.

 

I have not tried the 007 in a Stax amp or SRD-7 box, so that MAY pull in favour of the HD800.


Tried 007mk1 on a KGSSHV (the playback chain involved on-the-fly PCM to DSD conversion and DSD decoding via Mytek) for about one and a half hour when I bought the KGSSHV. (even I don't have electrostats right now lol)

 

While the setup had really good sounding, I don't think my home setup with stock HD800 pales in any way.. not a side-by-side comparison though, but I think this depends a lot on personal preference.

 

But I can't say for HD800 with tube amps, as my only experience was the Crack (don't know which tube was in use though), which to me was very horrible. Personally I like HD800 on clean SS amps.

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