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HD800 being "picky" with amps myth

post #1 of 308
Thread Starter 

I always found this strange, it seems like around the time the HD800 came out, someone said that it was difficult to drive and needed a good "partner" in terms of an amp. Ever since then, every post on head-fi regarding the hd800 seems to be about how "picky" the hd800 is and how you need to pair it with the "correct" amp.  I really don't see how this is possible. Is this just a case of sheep syndrome or what?

post #2 of 308

It is partly due to many people not being entirely satisfied with the frequency response of these headphones (treble emphasis with slightly recessed upper midrange - this also makes modern heavily compressed, clipped, and treble boosted recordings sound even worse) and try to use amplifiers as equalizers, and partly due to OCD: since the HD800 is a "flagship" product, by audiophile logic, one can only do justice to it by making everything else - amplifier, DAC, cables, etc. - similarly expensive.

 

There is a grain of truth behind the myth, as the HD800, like other mid to high end Sennheiser dynamic headphones, has significantly varying impedance over the audio frequency range. Therefore, an amplifier with an output impedance of >100 ohms adds some slight bass boost and "warmness" (although probably also increased distortion) that many prefer. However, the same applies even more to the cheaper HD5xx series, which are some of the most reactive dynamic headphones, yet one rarely hears about these being "picky".

post #3 of 308
Thread Starter 

That makes a lot of sense.

post #4 of 308

the hd800 doesn't sound like another phone, the signature is different with some overly bright parts(because high frequency are the most easy to place in space), the soundstage is very wide(too much for my own tastes), instrument separation can be too good for the music to actually sound like 1 piece of music(mostly because of the signature).

 

if it was me, to stand listening to a HD800 on a daily basis, I would need up to -8db in some medium to high frequencies(that's why I don't own one). I believe a lot of people are picky on amps mostly for that reason, sound signature, not driving power.

a huge number of misinformed people here believe EQ to be the ultimate devil(most without any real knowledge or experience of a good EQ). but doing exactly the same **** with at least the same defects by looking for a "colored amp" is OK.

didn't you ever hear something like "EQ is destroying the sound, I want the real sound"? and the solution they come up with is "let me amp swap, change firmwares, buy weird cables, mod my phone, tube roll, find the only dac that actually doesn't sound neutral... until I get the best real sound". best real sound an EQ could have done better with less distortion and some actual control. but who's counting? in audio, believing > actual facts.

 

so here it is, just for the specific signature of the hd800, a lot of people will not be happy with just a good neutral amp. it is a known fact that the majority of listeners like slightly warm signatures better(olive and welti just confirmed that again last year, it's neutral+the treble roll off that naturally occures in the air when not listening to headphones).

maybe some will look for an amp with bad stereo separation to soften the massive soundstage?

maybe some will look for a lot of distortion to mask some details of the music and have a less surgical, less fatiguing listening?

most reasons should scream "then don't buy a hd800!" but hey, it's a famous headphone. you look like a pro if you have one.

 

of course the hd800 is a great headphone and for those who actually want and like what it has to offer, it is the best quality I've heard on a dynamic driver. still I don't want one because I don't enjoy it.

 

else about actual driving power, the hd800 goes from 300 to 600ohm with a sensi of 102db, so IEM amps might not be the best idea. but there is still a vast number of amps able to do a good job on it.

post #5 of 308

From my experience the HD800 is both amplifier and people picky.

 

I bought one as it got excellent reviews on head-fi from other owners of my amplifier.  

 

Bad news.  The entire mid-range was flat, while the treble was both thin and bright and not extended on my DNA Stratus.  A number of experienced people listened to the combination and agreed.  Things sounded a bit better on my SS amp.

 

I took them down to a shop to sell on consignment, but first listened to them on the new Senn amplifier.  They sounded excellent.  I put them up for a consignment sale anyway.  I was just too worn out emotionally by the whole ordeal and my amplifier sounds lovely on K701s and HD650s, although neither of these have the sound stage or bass of the HD800.  

 

So, it goes in headphone land!

post #6 of 308

I strongly suggest you gain some first hand experiences BEFORE dismissing this. The HD800s are truly a tough nut to crack and the drivers scale with better gear like no other dynamic headphone I've owned. I started out with a MAD Ear+HD and preferred my T1s to the HD800s....then I got a WA2 and I liked them about the same...in came a WA22, Liquid Fire and GS-X Mk2 and the T1s are long gone and the HD800s are amongst the very best headphones I've heard (still own them after about 4.5 years).

 

Same goes for my DAC/Source upgrades too.

post #7 of 308

Using my lcd 2 what stv014 said is pretty much what i feel like is correct,

 

I do have a hd 800 coming so i can test it out with it. But most likely ill get to the seem conclusion.

 

I have heard many expensive setups, Including a lot of the summit headphones, (009, 007, all audeze, hd800, th900,  akg 812, and some flag ship iem). Once you get pass a price point i say 1000. Most of the headphones arn't exactly superior to each other, they are just different in sound signature. I feel like Amping is the same thing, where it is the last bit to tweaking people do to change the headphone's sound signature  to their liking. I know you can eq frequence response but idk about sound stage.

 

I think that when people say HD800 is amp picky its because they are very far from their ideal sound and require substantial tweaking to roll off the sound.

 

I also think that many people really like the massive sound stage but don't like the highs so they buy HD800 and spent considerable amount of money to roll of the highs while trying to keep the sound stage.

 

Just my opinion


Edited by OkawaiiO - 6/23/14 at 7:34pm
post #8 of 308
Quote:
Originally Posted by OkawaiiO View Post
 

Using my lcd 2 what stv014 said is pretty much what i feel like is correct,

 

I do have a hd 800 coming so i can test it out with it. But most likely ill get to the seem conclusion.

 

I have heard many expensive setups, Including a lot of the summit headphones, (009, 007, all audeze, hd800, th900,  akg 812, and some flag ship iem). Once you get pass a price point i say 1000. Most of the headphones arn't exactly superior to each other, they are just different in sound signature. I feel like Amping is the same thing, where it is the last bit to tweaking people do to change the headphone's sound signature  to their liking. I know you can eq frequence response but idk about sound stage.

 

I Feel that when people say HD800 is amp picky its because they are very far from their ideal sound and require substantial tweaking to roll off the sound.

Definitely not in my case (nor most HD800 owners I would reckon)...they just kept responding to improvements upstream. Please also remember, listening at meets and in one's home for a few days/weeks are two totally different experiences. I've had to eat crow a more times than I care to admit because of this.

post #9 of 308
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacedonianHero View Post
 

Definitely not in my case (nor most HD800 owners I would reckon)...they just kept responding to improvements upstream. Please also remember, listening at meets and in one's home for a few days/weeks are two totally different experiences. I've had to eat crow a more times than I care to admit because of this.

well Ill see for myself, my hd800 is coming in 2 or 3 days ill report back if i it changes my mind. I bought it because i love the sound stage and the highs. 

post #10 of 308
Quote:
Originally Posted by OkawaiiO View Post
 

well Ill see for myself, my hd800 is coming in 2 or 3 days ill report back if i it changes my mind. I bought it because i love the sound stage and the highs. 

Congrats! Just remember, with the HD800s, garbage in = garbage out. They'll be ruthless to your source material, DAC and amp. When it comes to auditioning new gear, the HD800s are the first headphones I reach for (unless of course we're talking of electrostatic amps :p).

post #11 of 308
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacedonianHero View Post
 

Congrats! Just remember, with the HD800s, garbage in = garbage out. They'll be ruthless to your source material, DAC and amp. When it comes to auditioning new gear, the HD800s are the first headphones I reach for (unless of course we're talking of electrostatic amps :p).

don't worry ill be using Schiit in and Schiit out. 

post #12 of 308
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacedonianHero View Post
 

Congrats! Just remember, with the HD800s, garbage in = garbage out. They'll be ruthless to your source material, DAC and amp. When it comes to auditioning new gear, the HD800s are the first headphones I reach for (unless of course we're talking of electrostatic amps :p).

 

:deadhorse:

post #13 of 308
Quote:
Originally Posted by OICWUTUDIDTHAR View Post
 

 

:deadhorse:

I would say you're doing the same thing by starting this thread and with your initial comments. Many with very limited experience have said the same thing. :tongue_smile: As I mentioned, my comments were based on my first hand experiences over the past 4.5-5 years. So right back at you....:deadhorse: 

post #14 of 308

I have 3 headphone amps and the HD800 sounds different with each of them. The differences are not as trivial as the quantity of bass or highs - it goes down to finer details like control of decay, speed, resolution.  

post #15 of 308
Quote:
Originally Posted by PleasantSounds View Post
 

I have 3 headphone amps and the HD800 sounds different with each of them. The differences are not as trivial as the quantity of bass or highs - it goes down to finer details like control of decay, speed, resolution.  

 

Can you relate these subjective descriptions to the physical mechanisms at play? how to control of decay, speed, and resolution relate to the differences in the signal driving the headphones? Usually the signal is quantified in terms of frequency response, distortion, and signal-to-noise, etc.

 

Can you tell us a little about your headphone amps that produce these differences? It would be helpful for us to understand what is happening that results in audible differences. What is their rated power, THD+n, output impedance, etc.?

 

Cheers

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