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Sennheiser HD800 and HDVA 600 Review

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

 

 

 

It is not unusual for me to get carried away with audio upgrades. What starts out as a simple change to one thing often leads to two, three, or four additional changes before the dust settles on a particular upgrade. So it was with my decision to upgrade from my trusted Sennheiser HD600 headphone to the new Sennheiser HD800. In fact, I started out to purchase the HD700 but right out of the gate I couldn't make my mouse click on the buy button. When I viewed the HD800 page my pointer just flew to the buy button on that page and in a trance like state I clicked away. I guess some things are just meant to be.

 

At any rate, the HD800 headphone arrived quickly and I was very pleased to discover the big improvement in performance and comfort over my HD600. After a couple weeks of enjoying the HD800 with my Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P tube Class A headphone amplifier I found myself daydreaming about the new Sennheiser HDVA 600 balanced solid state headphone amplifier and their new balanced headphone cable. As I researched the HDVA 600 and read reviews my daydream turned into a smoldering desire to own this combination. I felt it was a match made in headphone heaven and since I already had the HD800 in the house why not go all the way. I ordered the Sennheiser HDVA 600 headphone amp and CH 800 S balanced headphone cable from Sound Earphones and had both in my warm hands the very next day. Now my new headphone listening station is complete, well almost. I ordered a pair of balanced Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects to replace the Tributaries interconnects I have been using, plus a Wireworld Silver Starlight digital coaxial cable to replace the Wireworld Starlight digital coaxial cable I have been using. Fortunately I already own two Wireworld Aurora power cables. As you can see, what began as a new headphone rapidly snowballed into a number of other upgrades before I came to my senses. It seems like this happens to me all the time.

 

I now have 138 hours on the HD800 headphone and 120 hours on the HDVA 600 headphone amplifier and balanced headphone cable. I am still waiting on the Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects and Silver Starlight digital coaxial cable to arrive. The present set up is as follows: Sennheiser HD800 headphone, HDVA 600 headphone amplifier, CH 800 S balanced headphone cable, Wired 4 Sound DAC2, Sony Vaio i7 laptop computer with JRiver Media Center 19 feeding the DAC2 via a Wireworld Platinum Starlight USB cable, Oppo BDP-83 used as a transport feeding the DAC2 via a Wireworld Starlight digital coaxial cable, and both the DAC2 and the HDVA 600 are powered with Wireworld Aurora power cables from an APC 800 UPS.

 

Right out of the box both the HD800 headphone and the HDVA 600 amp sounded very good with no unusual sonic irregularities that I noticed. The HD800 and the HDVA 600 with the balanced headphone cable represents a worthy headphone system. As the hours have been logged on both the headphone and the amp I have noticed a gradual improvement in the texture and depth of bass. There has also been an expansion of what was already an amazing sound stage. This was further aided with the balanced headphone cable where channel separation seemed to become even more dramatic. What has surprised me more than anything is how little difference has developed after 90+ hours on the amp and 120+ hours on the headphone. The break-in has demonstrated only minor differences in performance from fresh out of the boxes. The break-in period revealed subtle improvements but nothing dramatic. It is quite remarkable how good the headphone and the amplifier sounded from the first minute.

 

Both the HD800 and the HDVA 600 are delivering exceptional sound quality. I have difficulty taking the headphones off once I begin listening. The full rich dynamic sound of this headphone rig is addicting. The sound stage dimensions are astonishing and quite different from any other headphone I have experienced. I am enjoying this headphone system so much I haven't listened to the studio sound system in over a week and pretty much sums up my happiness with the new Sennheiser HD800 and HDVA 600 setup. I am anticipating additional performance improvements when the Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects and Silver Starlight digital coaxial cable finally arrives and break-in is completed.

 

Like I said at the start, I can get carried away quite easily. This headphone upgrade has been a perfect example. What started out as a $1500 headphone upgrade led to a total investment that has exceeded $4k without counting the value of the W4S DAC2, Oppo BDP-83 or the Sony Vaio laptop sources. I need to remember this when I start thinking about another upgrade. It is never as simple as I think or as inexpensive as I initially convince myself. Don't misunderstand, I am thrilled with the results of my new headphone outfit. I wouldn't change a thing. It is fabulous. I just need to remember to remove my blinders in the beginning. Upgrades are great fun but rarely end with a single item purchase. None the less, I am an extremely pleased headphone enthusiast with the Sennheiser HD800 headphone and HDVA 600 headphone amplifier. It is top notch gear and highly recommended for those considering a new headphone rig.


Edited by jdandy - 1/25/14 at 5:02pm
post #2 of 15
Thread Starter 

The pair of half meter balanced Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects and the one and a half meter Silver Starlight digital coaxial cable finally arrived for my headphone rig. The Silver Starlight coax cable replaced a Wireworld Starlight coax cable between the Oppo BDP-83 and the Wyred 4 Sound DAC2. The half meter pair of balanced Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects replaced a two meter pair of balanced Tributaries Silver Series interconnects between the W4S DAC2 and the Sennheiser HDVA 600 headphone amplifier. The new interconnects and digital cable sound excellent but I know they will improve with a hundred hours of break-in. I'll just let the music keep right on playing. I remember several years back when I swapped all the balanced Tributaries Silver Series interconnects in my living room sound system for balanced Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects the overall improvement in resolution was well worth the investment. I know the new Sennheiser headphone system will reap the same beneficial improvements once the cable break-in is behind me. I like the half meter interconnects between the DAC2 and the HDVA 600 amp much better the two meter interconnects that were hanging down the wall and back up. This cable upgrade completes the new headphone system.  I was listening to my old Sennheiser HD600 with the Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P setup about 15 to 20 hours a month.  I am now enjoying the Sennheiser HD800 with the HDVA 600 amplifier 100+ hours a month.  I couldn't be happier with how well this headphone system has come together.


Edited by jdandy - 1/31/14 at 12:05pm
post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

The Sennheiser HD800 headphone now has 265 hours on it. The Sennheiser HDVA 600 headphone amplifier and CH 800 S balanced headphone cable now have 247 hours logged on them. The Wireworld Silver Eclipse balanced interconnects and Silver Starlight coaxial digital cable now have 110 hours break-in on them. The total package has become so liquid and transparent the flow of music is almost hypnotic. The sound stage developed by the HD800 is astonishing. The ability to accurately localize instrument positions and voices has only improved as the headphone, amplifier and cables have settled into their permanent voices. Listening to this headphone system is so intoxicating. What starts as an hour easily becomes a full non-stop afternoon of complete listening enjoyment.

 

I am still totally satisfied with the comfort level of the HD800. It doesn't seem to matter whether I wear the headphone for one hour or ten hours, they never become uncomfortable. The sound is so fluid and pure, totally non-fatiguing. Time becomes meaningless when the music is playing. One recording leads to the next with no desire to stop listening. I have never experienced such delight with a headphone system before this system.

 

I just wanted to update this thread now that I feel the headphone, amplifier, and cables have had sufficient time and use to be considered broken in. Truth be known, there has been minimal change in the sound from day one until now. There has been some improvement noted in the overall clarity and sound stage focus when I changed from the Tributaries interconnects to the Wireworld Silver Eclipse and the Silver Starlight coaxial cable. The overall frequency response is faithfully reproduced in a fulfilling, satisfying and extremely revealing performance. The HD800 and HDVA 600 can almost be considered addicting. Just looking at the HD800 hanging on the headphone stand is all it takes to trigger a desire to reach for them and begin a listening session. I am beyond pleased with this headphone system, I am ecstatic.

 

 

post #4 of 15

great reading !!

 

i have the dac2 and the hd800's with a variety of amps in between so was particularly interested in how you found the HDVA600

 

hope you continue to enjoy 

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hedphonz View Post
 

great reading !!

 

i have the dac2 and the hd800's with a variety of amps in between so was particularly interested in how you found the HDVA600

 

hope you continue to enjoy 


hedphonz.......Thanks for your reply.  I was beginning to think I was talking to myself with this thread. 

 

I have been through a number of headphone amplifiers including the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite and a Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P.  The Sennheiser HDVA 600 is a major step up in resolution, balanced frequency response, and absolute background silence.  It doesn't matter what volume level I listen, the HDVA 600 is dead quiet.  Music appears from jet black silence.  In my opinion, this Sennheiser headphone amplifier is the perfect mate for the HD800 unless you also need a DAC, then the Sennheiser HDVD 800 would be my choice.

post #6 of 15

Hoping to get this system too, but with the HDVA800 instead for it's internal DAC. I'm sure this won't be my "end game" purchase ,but this is going to be close to it. I hope this is worth the money.

post #7 of 15
Great to see you are enjoying your system. In your system everything downstream of the source is a dedicated component that I would describe as single function. This kind of setup using an all purpose compting device as the source is probably quite common but being someone who dislikes inconsistency I can't help feeling it is odd that the source isn't a dedicated device with a single function like the others. I am not saying your laptop is ineffective at sending a signal to your DAC however. I was considering buying a QLS QA660 digital turntable but the cost of buying a separate DAC/Amplifier/SD storage card was too much. Have you ever considered buying a high end digital transport that you could transfer your files to ?
post #8 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by jdandy View Post
 


hedphonz.......Thanks for your reply.  I was beginning to think I was talking to myself with this thread. 

 

I have been through a number of headphone amplifiers including the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite and a Musical Fidelity X-Can V8P.  The Sennheiser HDVA 600 is a major step up in resolution, balanced frequency response, and absolute background silence.  It doesn't matter what volume level I listen, the HDVA 600 is dead quiet.  Music appears from jet black silence.  In my opinion, this Sennheiser headphone amplifier is the perfect mate for the HD800 unless you also need a DAC, then the Sennheiser HDVD 800 would be my choice.

already got the DAC2 same as you plus using J River MC19 - apart from the amp were very similar setups. I went tube in the end - After my 4th SS amp i still could not get those hd800's to warm up or get much bass out of them. Eventually went with the schiit lyr and a pair of NOS mullards. 

 

How is the bass with the HDVA600 ? dont suppose you have that track angel by massive attack ? its my reference for bass as it goes extremely low that most amps cant play the lowest frequencies

post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by GeneraI View Post
 

Hoping to get this system too, but with the HDVA800 instead for it's internal DAC. I'm sure this won't be my "end game" purchase ,but this is going to be close to it. I hope this is worth the money.


GeneraI.......A friend bought the HD800, HDVD 800 amp/DAC, and the CH 800 S balanced cable the same day I bought mine.  He told me last night he is having difficulty taking the headphone off and going to bed.  He loves it.


Edited by jdandy - 2/9/14 at 7:37am
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by hedphonz View Post
 

already got the DAC2 same as you plus using J River MC19 - apart from the amp were very similar setups. I went tube in the end - After my 4th SS amp i still could not get those hd800's to warm up or get much bass out of them. Eventually went with the schiit lyr and a pair of NOS mullards. 

 

How is the bass with the HDVA600 ? dont suppose you have that track angel by massive attack ? its my reference for bass as it goes extremely low that most amps cant play the lowest frequencies


hedphonz.......I don't have the Massive Attack recording so I can't make comment to the bass on the HD800 with that music.  I tend to listen to Jazz and female vocals.  Lee Ritenour - Rhythm Sessions has a track titled "L.A. By Bike".  The bass and dynamics on that track are outstanding both on my speakers (Sonus faber Amati Anniversario's) and on the Sennheiser HD800 headphone.  I have no complaints with the bass.  The low frequency range and it's ability to have plenty of punch is quite satisfactory to me and seems in proper proportion to the rest of the frequency range.

post #11 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sefelt103 View Post

Great to see you are enjoying your system. In your system everything downstream of the source is a dedicated component that I would describe as single function. This kind of setup using an all purpose compting device as the source is probably quite common but being someone who dislikes inconsistency I can't help feeling it is odd that the source isn't a dedicated device with a single function like the others. I am not saying your laptop is ineffective at sending a signal to your DAC however. I was considering buying a QLS QA660 digital turntable but the cost of buying a separate DAC/Amplifier/SD storage card was too much. Have you ever considered buying a high end digital transport that you could transfer your files to ?


Sefelt103.......I have two Olive 04HD music servers and a McIntosh MC750 music server in different systems.  All are tremendous performers although the MS750 only does 16/44.1.  The 04HD is capable of 24/192 files.  I haven't considered using any of the music servers with the headphone setup because they are dedicated to the systems where they are presently installed.  My Sony Vaio laptop is not the primary source for my headphone rig, only the source for my hi-res download files.  At this time there is only 34 hi-res downloads on the laptop.  My primary source for the HD800/HDVA 600 is the Oppo BDP-83's digital output to the W4S DAC2.  I spin CD's in the Oppo transport as my primary source.  The headphone rig is set up in my office where I have squeezed it into limited space.  I really don't have room for another piece of gear, even if I wanted it.

post #12 of 15
Its seems you are thoroughly enjoying your system, that's quite a setup. I am right now transitioning sold my HD700 and a few more toys in order to purchase the HD800.
I have been looking for threads on Senn amps but there aren't many on the HDVA600 thx for your impressions.
post #13 of 15
Hello Folks

I just received my HD800 today. So far it sounds good, but probably still need some burn in. Highs are not as clear/bright as i wish them to be. But i hope this will settle in after a few days.

Using this on a highly advanced computer audio setup, top notch Dual-PC setup both Server 2012 R2 & AudiophileOptimizer, red PPA USB cable, SOtM DDC, Mytek DSD DAC, VOVOX cables, WooAudio WA2 and Beyer T1/HD800. Detailed overview: http://www.highend-audiopc.com/PDF/hardware-setup.pdf

It might be a good idea using the balanced XLR out's of the Mytek to connect to the HDVA600 and then via balanced headphone cable to HD800. Anybody using this particular setup (mytek, hdva600, hd800, balanced front to end)?

Phil
post #14 of 15
Thanks for the write up jdandy! Very helpful.
post #15 of 15

Thanks for this review.

 

I visited a hi-fi shop yesterday to audition LCD-3, LCD-X and HD-800, fully expecting to come out with one of the Audeze's after having read so much good about them. Coincidentally I had just bought the HDVA 600 amp on a very good price from Ebay and wanted to see how all 3 phones compared when paired with that particular amp.

 

I was really disappointed with both the Audeze models, way too dark and very average soundstage, little depth, quite heavy and uncomfortable (it was a hot day). The bass, whilst strong and deep, seemed to get in the way of everything else and there was a lot of resonance going on as far as I could tell.

 

Then I tried the HD-800 - wow! This amp really makes the HD-800 shine, even with the Sennheiser stock balanced cable. I had reservations before I went in to the shop about the bass in the HD-800, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Really really great bass, very deep, very fast, not quite as full bodied as the Audeze (where the bass seemed to muddy the rest of the frequency spectrum). Dynamics, transients, drum hits were all top notch. The mids and tops were also divine (a little grating in parts on a couple of tracks I do admit, cable upgrade may well help there). Where the HD-800 excelled of course was soundstage, imaging, depth - simply phenomenal with this amp (and others I'm sure).

 

I left the shop very happy and totally broke, having ordered the HD-800's to pair with my HDVA 600. Also ordered a Cardas Clear balanced cable. I will be using my old Yulong D100 as DAC for some time yet as there's no money left (!).

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