Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I received note from Sennheiser, offering me the unique opportunity to review the new HD8 DJ headphone, freshly announced at CES 2014 in Las Vegas. With piqued curiosity, I agreed to share my thoughts on this headphone.
As both a DJ and a Head-Fier, I happen to have a couple DJ headphones already on hand. For several years, I've been happily using the Adidas Originals, a special edition of the venerable and delightfully named Sennheiser HD 25-1 II -- henceforth referred to as HD25. I recently picked up an AKG K550 to see how I liked the design. I like how the K550's swiveling cups allow me to cue from the neck, but the cups are funky-large. They also have a very loose grip on the head. The HD25, by contrast, grips the head quite tightly. This is nice for mixing but not so great for extended listening. While I've seen DJ's pull off the crooked head cue technique with the HD25, it's really not ideal.
The physical design of the HD8 DJ easily bests both of these headphones. For general listening, the circumaural grip they put on my head is perfect. They aren't going to move around, and they isolate from the outside world *very* well. I find them to be very nice street headphones (especially for these snowy days in Detroit) though a shorter cable would be better for this. While the cups don't fold flat like the K510, they do rotate much of the way. Between that motion and the nicely flexible headband, neck cueing is definitely easy and comfortable to do -- and the cups funnel the sound in.
These headphones seem to have very robust build qualities. When I shake it in my hand, I can tell it was made with the intention of withstanding years of physical abuse. One of the key improvements over the HD7 DJ is the use of metal parts in key locations like the round hinge clearly visible on the sides. This allows the cup to swivel between a few notched angles, including up into the headband for easier travel. The replaceable cable plugs into a 2.5mm locking port on either the left or the right side of the headphone.
Along with the headphones, the box also contains a nice, though rather large carrying case. To be honest, I'll probably throw these headphones in my bag without the case. The headphones came with a pair of soft velour earpads installed, but I think I slightly prefer the slightly grippier leatherette pads also included. A curled cable and a straight one are included, both 3 meters in length. (Coiled cable is 1.5m without stretching.)
Compared to the already dynamic and punchy sound signature of the HD25, the HD8 DJ seems to have the same perspective, but better. When the HD8 DJ makes its comfy little seal around your ears, you're delivered a big, dynamic sound with plenty of bass that is smooth, accurate, and deep. This is definitely not the laid back, bass-neutral sound signature of the K550. I'm actually finding the sound quite fun and engaging.
So in the end, not only does the HD8 DJ best the form and ergonomics of my other two pairs, but it is a comfortable and fun-sounding headphone for general listening, too. I honestly don't recall using a DJ headphone that I prefer. Sennheiser deserves proper respect for this well-designed piece! I want to give a big thanks to Rosmadi Mahmood from Sennheiser for the headphones and for the opportunity to share my thoughts on them ahead of release. Also thanks to Jude Mansilla for recommending me.
Edit - I meant the K550- not the K501 as originally published.