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Over-Ear item created by , May 5, 2010
Pros - Wonderful, cohesive sound with great soundstage.
Cons - none
The HD800 is the finest headphone sound that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. I put over 100 hours on them before giving them a serious go. Over the past week I have listened to a wide variety of music on them, from jazz and classical to rock and country with a little blues thrown in when the mood struck. The Senns reward great recordings with terrific detail, sparkling treble, rich full mid-range and a solid bass foundation. They do not add or subtract anything from the recordings, they are very neutral and natural sounding. I have paired them with several amps, including the Schiit Vahalla and Asgard, but they shine with the Burson HA-160.
On good jazz recordings you can clearly hear each individual instrument. The acoustic bass sounds very deep and detailed. Pianos sound realistic with a profound sense of the body of the instrument on display. Drums kick hard and resonate. Guitars are stunning, both electric and acoustic. The high hats are clear but never harsh or in your face. On orchestral music, the sound captures the full sweep and beauty of the orchestra. Rock and country sound great, and a well recorded blues disc puts you there. In particular I was struck listening to the Beatles remastered discs, as well as several remastered Elvis Presley cd's from the 60's and 70's. Today I rocked hard with the latest cd from Tom Petty, MOJO, which had all the right stuff going on. Vocals, both male and female sound superb.
In summing up the HD800, I only have the strongest praise for this marvelous piece of headphone engineering and would strongly recommend them to anyone considering them.
I also paired my AKG 702's with the Burson and that combo was also stunning. But the Senns truly shine.
So finally some impressions from me heh
For the past two weeks I'm listening to HD800 exclusively, I needed a month to adapt to the different sound signature of 800s. At first I was very annoyed about the lack of bass they have compared to HD600 (and some people say HD600 don't have enough bass already) but now I don't miss it, there's plenty now, its tight but not as deep as HD600. I understand why Sennheiser would want to reduce bass, in my opinion because everything else is now more forward sounding, more open, vocals wouldn't be as realistic as they are with more bass impact.
I have to repeat I don't miss any bass and I have tried them with variety of music. They work great even with bass heavy Trance and Electronica. R&B sound fantastic as well and my favourite Jazz is jaw dropping.
Some say HD800 are bright headphones but I disagree, they are however very detailed and certainly not veiled in anyway like the HD600. I have to admit vocals were never so close to reality before and soundstage is just amazing with HD800. Its like music is floating in my cans.
The first thing I noticed when I put them on my head is how much heavier they were compared to HD600 which are my reference cans. They aren't too heavy just heavier, noticeable. I used to say HD555s were the most comfy cans. Well I have a new reference when it comes to comfortability. These are huge and my ears don't even touch the cans.
The pads don't seem to be velour and are of much high quality and more skin friendly-they don't itch. Build quality is decent but in time the build flaws become apparent. The cable is very nicely build, don't know how many strands it has but its twisted and I don't see myself buying a new one unless I go balanced someday but that doesn't seem to happen any time soon since I enjoy them a lot with my current setup.
My setup is as follows: ND-S1 dock (which is the most neutral transport I have ever heard besides my Yamaha S-1000 cd transport) then the setup continues in either DacMagic with RA PSU>Auditor or Audio GD Ref5>LD IV SE.
I mostly use the 1st setup as its much more musical but the Ref5 has the detail. Interesting how some components just don't have synergy. LD IV with DM is grainy while REf5 and Auditor are harsh with HD800.
HD800 need a nice stand as they are very fragile cans. What more can I say, people who listen to them are jaw-dropping and I, myself now enjoy these fully. Are they worth the money? No, hugely overpriced, HD600 offer much more value at 1/5 of its price (Europe) but I don't imagine my setup without them (HD800).
Need to update when they arrive this friday, will have multiple sources to test them out on.
Pros - Detailed, balanced, powerful
Cons - Somewhat heavy, warm, expensive
I haven't had the chance to audition the new Audeze phones, but it would difficult to fault the sound and build quality of Senn's HD800 - a model that has been praised by some as the best dynamic headphone, ever. Given its reputation as top of Sennheiser line, and considering its price, it's a good idea to elevate expectations. This is a fine headphone - but there's a lot to expect. However, instead of regurgitating a fine review like Skylab - whose systematic evaluation covers the important points - it may be just as important to provide a more personal review of these phones.
What I Didn't Like
1. Weight. While I've owned heavier headphones (including all-wood designs), the HD800 is modestly heavy. Some of the wood/leather models compensate with a luxurious look and feel; that said, one can easily imagine wearing the HD800 for extended periods of time. Compared to the lightness of, say, an AKG-K701, which can be used alternately as ear-muffs, the HD800's heft leaves one feeling comfortable but truly comfortable.
2. Comfort. There's no question, Sennheiser has done an impressive job balancing sound and comfort. The padded cups don't exert too much pressure - but don't expect the feather lightness of a DT880 or AKG-K701. Your ears might feel a little hot after an extended listening session.
3. Cost. I don't intend to harp over the "value" issue; if you're paying a grand and a half for headphones, value probably isn't a paramount issue. That said, I believe you should at least sample the phones before making a decision. You might find that a dramatically cheaper phone would be more to your liking.
What I Liked
1. Detail. These phones emphasize quality bass and detailed mids, giving a convincing sense of accuracy. The more you spend on a pair of headphones, the more subtle the differences in sound; however, with the HD800, one comes away with the feeling that the music takes priority. It's detailed, but truly a generalist's headphone.
2. Brightness. It's easy to fall into the trap that the HD800 is a lighter-sounding headphone - when in fact it's extremely accurate. Don't expect a boomy bass; the HD800 sounds remarkably like well-mastered studio recordings.
3. Build. As you'd expect, the HD-800 has a rock-solid build. To be honest, I'd prefer real metal over faux metal, but in terms of overall quality, these phones are reassuringly strong.
There's probably no such thing as a "perfect" headphone, but the HD800 renders a variety of genres very well, indeed.
Pros - With modification: Extremley neutral and true
Cons - Possibly price compared to materials. (more case)
A way to Truly real sound.
There has been many headphones over the year to come closer and closer to The "Non plus ultra" of headphones (terms ex: timing and power).
This headphone has come so close to the most accurate results both technically and audibly wich will be explained below.
The Initial impression At first this headphone was pretty extraordinary in Detail.Transparency.Attack.Stability.Comfort and overall close to all aspects of it. It was a few places even in this great headphone that could use a slight improvment though.
Treble some people have reported problems with and what not. I myself found that compared to most other phones this was a pretty small problem. Since there was not much else to say besides that some might not like the massive soundstage, It was really only a slight bit of focus and treble "smoothing" that might have been necessary in order to achieve close to Total perfection.
The second impression (Mod). A very detailed modification was done later to it that completely removed all of the troubles that had been found in the headphone before.
It now had a much better focusing of the sound imagein all areas, together with a treble with 0 indication of +/- audible deviations or any hars sound.
There was now also even greater detail and attack than before completed with a much more natural response overall in the frequency range. With this mod that was done to the custom built amplifier and a certain material that was put inside the earcup, (sadly not able to go into much more detail due to not enough info), The phone was now so natural and transparent, Nothing I have heard from neither headphone nor speaker came close no matter the price range. ( 138.11- 1381100 dollar).
This truly is the most perfect audio I have ever experienced in my life in terms of neutrality and transparency.
Pros - Bass, Mids, Highs, Soundstage, Solid Construction, Supreme Comfort
Cons - Needs better cable to excel, paint job a little fragile
What is there to say about the new flagship Sennheiser that hasn't already been said over the past year. With that in mind, I will give my impressions about this headphone and why I believe that most people that don't like it haven't listened to it properly amped and for long enough time. This is a headphone that easily wows for the first few minutes you try it on....often blowing away any other headphones you've heard before. However after that initial honeymoon is over, many are very bothered by the highs, lack of bass, large soundstage on certain kinds of music, and being overly analytical. To me, the HD800 is very much of a Chameleon, like the Stax SR-007 Omega, meaning that even though they are easily amped, they are extremely revealing of the power, source, cables, amp, etc. and will drastically change in sound signature depending on what equipment you have them hooked up to.
As other have said, these are probably the biggest and most comfortable headphones you'll try on. They are so airy that you don't feel that your ears are enclosed inside the cup of a headphone. The construction is impeccable with perfect weight distribution and styling to match. The cable / connectors are very well designed for a stock cable and reeks of quality. I upgraded mine eventually and found there to be positive benefits. Otherwise, the paint can get slightly dinged up over time, but that is nitpicking.
These headphones are ruthless (much like the Stax O2) and have caused me to upgrade my source to a Perfectwave DAC and my amp to a Woo Audio 5. Even then I wasn't content and had to roll in a bunch of tubes until I found the ones that had the best definition, bass, and impact. Because of the difficult nature of these, I've had a love hate relationship with them but believe that I've recently built my system such that I'm extremely happy with them with almost all music I listen to. I have tried the HD650, Denon D7000, Beyerdynamic T1, Hifiman HE-5, and Stax Omega 2 hoping that they will displace my HD800s, but at the end none of those were good enough in my eyes to keep.
For people that own HD650s, you will be in for quite a change of sound. Gone is the Sennheiser veil and the enclosed soundstage, but the mids in my eyes are pretty close to the signature Sennheiser sound. When not amped properly, these will sound thin, sibilant, with too much instrument separation. When properly amped with an amp that has enough power and has a sound signature that will complement the HD800s, they will have the deepest bass you will hear (if the song is meant to have bass), wonderful instrument separation and soundstage, and beautiful highs without being sibilant or shrill. Because they have such an amazing dynamic range, songs are rendered beautifully, with good timbre, and with a ton of impact. Songs that have acoustic passages like jazz or guitars are the best I've ever experienced by far. Granted they are not bassy like the D7000s, but in my eyes those are overly bassy even on songs / passages that aren't meant to be. On a good system play "Hyper-Ballad" by Bjork and you will be amazed by how deep these headphone can go, its astonishing!
With all of this said, I highly recommend these headphones only if you are willing to invest in the rest of your system to make these shine. There are easier headphones out there such as the T1, but in my book the HD800 rewards extremely well as your system progresses up. I also suggest that you don't look into too many people's impressions of these based of a few hours of listening because they require a whole lot more time to adjust to and fully appreciate. As for price, based on the recent trend of headphone flagship pricing (Audeze LCD-2, Stax O2, AKG K1000, Beyer T1, W5000) I think they are very appropriately priced for their amazing technical proficiency that I find unrivaled, especially in the dynamic headphone arena. Good job Sennheiser!! Its pretty obvious that you have spend countless years of R&D to make these headphones just right!!
Pros - Best dynamic available
Cons - VERY picky about the amp and cable
Let's start with my long love for all things Senn, from my first hd545, to hd600, not so much the hd650, but back again with the he60 (electrostat) and now the hd800.
The search for amps started with a balanced Bijou, where I thought a tube amp would be just the ticket with a SS source (Cambridge 840c), but, not quite. I also tried them balanced with a Little Dot Mark IV... just wasn't quite there.
Keeping with a SS source, I then looked at push-pull amps, where the jury is out, mainly by not having the amp fully functional for a long enough time.
So, I completely switched gears, through an odd congruence of events. First, I upgraded my source significantly, and changed topology to tube from SS. This, combined with a bjt SS amp (a commercial prototype) has given me the answer. With this combination, the hd800 is on par with the he60 (driven with eXStatA, that has better synergy with the he60 than does the BH), but with FAR better bass. Not that the he60, properly driven, is at all bass shy, but the hd800 really makes bass happen. True bass heads will now actually seek out the hd800 with an amp such as this (or KG's dynafet) because this is bass you feel, not just hear.
In fact, I (as a life long bass player) assert the hd800 has BETTER bass (quality and quantity) than the L3000, with FAR better control. Want to hear the timbre of a Fender Precision, or the sharpness of a Jazz, then contrast with an Alembic? This is the headphone for you.
Midrange is the patented Senn sound - nothing better for guitar and piano.
Now, where the discussion will be the most intense is around the higher frequencies - my bias is far away from that region, almost to the enxtent of dismissing it entirely, so I'll leave that for others.
PRaT is dead on, whether it's DEVO, Radiohead, Rhianna, or AC/DC. For the longest while I thought I'd have to get some HE-5 (or whatever the latest flavor) to really make headphones boogie again. Nope, the hd800 is up to the task, with the right supporting cast.
This will be available for listen at CanJam. See for yourself.
No mods per se, but I do have an APS v3 cable, balanced.
The strongest possible recommendation I can give the hd800 is that it would make me find the he60 idle and extraneous, and, I am ALMOST there.
Pros - Comfortable, detailed, big soundstage
Cons - Artificial sounding, anemic in the bass, can be too bright, overpriced
I have listened to the HD800 twice, and I never really warmed up to it. And to clarify, they were not casual listening sessions--I took my time and did the listening under the following condition:
-In a controlled environment without distraction and noise
-Used high-end audio source and gears in the signal chain
-Had other flagship headphones there to do direct comparisons with
-Had ample time to do the listening tests, and took as long as I wanted
I should also clarify that I'm an audio professional (composer, songwriter, sound designer) that have worked in both high-end recording/mixing/mastering studios, as well as have built my own studio twice in two different countries (the first one was build completely from the ground up, with my own design in construction and acoustic treatment). I have extensive experience measuring, testing, assessing audio on a critical level, and when I say I "listened" to the HD800, what I mean is I actually tested it used audio test tones (sine wave tones at different frequencies, pink noise, log sweep) and a carefully selected playlist of musical material that I know like the back of my hands that spans many musical genres, and used them to assess specific capabilities of the headphone.
My overall impression of the HD800 was that Its clarity and resolution sounded artificial to me instead of natural (a spike in the upper mids region), and it had no authority in the sub-bass region. I'm one of those people who simply cannot consider a pair of headphones to be "amazing" or "the best of" if it's lacking neutrality in a chunk of the frequency range.
A amazing pair of headphones should sound like a full-range speaker system that reaches down to at least 30Hz and remains substantial and authoritative--anything less than that is not "amazing" to me. Now, pardon me for turning into a pig for a moment and fall back on the classic but eyebrow-raising comparison to a woman. It's sort of like if a girl is really hot with an awesome body, but her ass is flat, barely able to fill any pair of jeans--would that still be considered an amazing body? (This comparison is actually quite fitting in a humorous way, since low frequency in audio is often referred to as the "bottom-end.") Even the HD650 has more sub-bass extension and weight, and it costs far less than the flagship model.
I understand that there's a portion of people whose idea of neutral bass is in fact anemic bass to me, but most people have no idea what a neutral frequency range sounds like, because they have never heard true full-range sound before. Anyone who's ever heard a full-range speaker system that reaches down to 30Hz or lower while maintaining ± 3 dB, will know that neutral bass in in fact quite authoritative and substantial.
There are headphones out there that can reach down low and feel very authoritative--for example, the Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3, Stax 009, 007MKII, Denon AH-D7000, D5000, D2000, Audio-Technica ATH-M50, etc, so it's not like the HD800 is somehow limited by physics--it was a choice the engineers at Sennheiser made. (These days, more and more headphones on the market can reach down that low and sound authoritative in the sub-bass region, and it's now starting to become the standard. Flagship headphones that can't achieve a proper sense of weight in the sub-bass are now becoming more rare, and sticks out among all the other flagship headphones that could.)
If the lack of full sub-bass was the only issue, I'd have been fine with the HD800, but it is also overtly bright in the upper mid-range, which can be shrill/sibilant on some material, and that breaks my number one rule of audio: "First, do no harm." When any audio gear produces sound that is too bright, it becomes grating and it hurts your ears, and when that happens, it's a deal breaker for me.
Many defenders of this attribute of the HD800 will go to lengths to remedy the problem by buying stupidly expensive headphone amps or other unnecessary audio gadgets to tame that brightness, and they would proclaim that if one used a sufficiently high-end tube amp, the HD800 will sound much better. Really? It appears the marketing department of high-end audio gear companies are doing a damn fine job selling absurd diminishing returns. A pair of headphones is not supposed to have inherent problems that needs to be fixed with yet another piece of expensive gear in the first place. If someone tried to pull that in the professional audio world, they'd get laughed out of the marketplace. This isn't to say there aren't too-bright sounding professional monitor speakers, but at least they were designed with onboard EQ's and measuring mics to adjust according to the room acoustics. If you want to alter the sonic signature of any audio gear--use an actual EQ, not an expensive amp used like a single-preset EQ.
Some people say the HD800 is very revealing, like a sonic microscope. Well, so were the Yamahama NS10's--the legendary monitor speakers that's dominated the pro audio world for decades, but they were used only in the context of being a mixing/mastering tool, and only for troubleshooting potential problems. No one uses them for leisurely listening or a balanced overall presentation, because they were too bright and lacked authoritative sub-bass. If you're not using the HD800 in that way and are listening for pleasure, I think you can find aural bliss in another pair of high-end headphones that doesn't do as much harm and has a more full-range sound.
Get a different cable. One fault is the stock cable of the hd800, it's 36AWG, perhaps the bottleneck you are finding with this headphone. Get a different cable because the anemic bass and the hot treble on this is mainly due to this fault in engineering, using 18awg will make it a lot better
Just a short review to add my experience of the HD 800.
There are times when I am simply startled at the aliveness of the music. There will be silence after a musical passage or between pieces, and when the music starts up again, it's like when someone walks into a room and you don't hear them and then they start talking to you.
The sound is so real, so natural so alive, for that moment it is as if the ensemble were next to me.
I did jetteson the stock cord and replaced it with a Cardas single ended for better results.
I am very happy I got them.