Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

General Information

There has always been a debate between electronic reproduction and natural sound. The Sennheiser HD-800 is the headphone that has been specifically engineered in replicating the basic acoustic conditions of natural hearing. This level of performance has yet to be matched by any competitor. The HD-800 is the ultimate headphone to deliver nature.

More than 60 years of ingenious headphone engineering has been applied into the new HD 800. Incorporating Sennheiser's most advanced driver technology, these open, circum-aural dynamic stereo headphones redefine what reference-level audio is all about. You will form an altogether new height of sonic perspective as you experience a high-fidelity natural hearing experience. Premium parts have gone into their production - the transducer is encased by a precision material made of stainless steel; ear pads are made of special high-quality Japanese Alcantara; while the headband and headphone mounting utilizes the most advanced development from the aerospace industry.

In terms of connectivity, these headphones utilize specially designed, four-wire, high-performance connections with Teflon insulation. These headphones have been developed to provide the closest match to "being there" than any other available headphone. The Sennheiser HD-800 is for the discriminating audiophile seeking the best and most natural sound available. From rich bass lows to definitive highs, the Sennheiser HD-800 headphones deliver the exclusive sound that nature had intended.

Frequency Response - 14 - 44,100 Hz (- 3 dB)
Nominal Impedance - 300 Ohms
Contact Pressure - 3.4 N (+- 0.3 N) approx.
Transducer Principle - Dynamic, open
Thd - =0.02 % (1kHz/1Vrms)
Characteristic Spl - 102 dB (1kHz/1Vrms)
Cable Length - 9.84 feet (3m)
Oxygen Free Cable Adapter - 1/4 (6.3 mm) stereo jack
Sennheiser 2 year warranty

Latest reviews

Pros: God tier clarity (especially for the price)
Bright sound signature can be fixed with EQ
Wide stage
Cons: Lean bass
Slightly sharp timbre
Mixed bag in terms of comfort
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The Sennheiser HD800 - God tier clarity. Is this an "affordable" end-game headphone 11 years after its release?

The short answer is pretty much yes but it depends on your sound signature preference and whether or not you’re willing to use EQ. See, the HD800 is a fairly controversial headphone, which is seemingly either hated for its bright sound or adored for its benchmark levels of clarity and detail for the price. Seeing how cheap it is on the used market, these are undoubtedly the best bang for your buck, especially if you’re willing to EQ them. With this mini-review I’m attempting to dispel some of the myths surrounding this headphone and to perhaps give more evidence (anecdotal/subjective nonetheless) of its strengths. I am going to start with the most important aspect which is sound.

The HD800’s stock sound signature is actually fairly balanced save for two main flaws, namely the infamous 6K(ish) peak and the slow build up to the 3K ear resonance peak, which give this headphone a somewhat sibilant sound with mids that are a bit withdrawn compared to most headphone targets. The sound target that I prefer is the Harman over-ear response, albeit with a less extreme bass shelf and a bit more upper treble above 10K. The oratory1990 EQ profile for this headphone provides that with some minor tweaks (my personal EQ profile that’s based on oratory’s will be attached to this post) and I also like how it doesn’t touch the upper treble because I think that’s the hardest part to EQ and it’s probably best left untouched on this headphone even though the treble at 10K and above is likely the source of some additional sharpness but also great levels of detail.

It’s worth noting that plenty of people enjoy this headphone without EQ and I honestly expected it to sound a lot harsher than it does based on most people’s impressions but perhaps I’m not as treble sensitive as I thought. However, I strongly recommend trying the oratory EQ, perhaps tweaking it to your liking, to make this headphone sound even better. Much better. This is one of the best headphones to use with EQ seeing as the unit to unit variation of the HD800 is very minor (in terms of frequency response) and there is no “detail loss” or “distortion” increase caused by the careful tweaking performed by this particular EQ profile (just don’t overdo the bass shelf and lower the gain to appropriate levels to avoid clipping). High end headphones like the HD800 respond very well to EQ and the difference between my profile and the stock sound is quite noticeable. The thin bright highs are mostly gone and the mids and upper mids have the proper levels now and render vocals and acoustic instruments with impeccable clarity. I am now going to give a more in-depth description of the sound properties of this headphone and my impressions are mostly based on my usage of this headphone with EQ, so bear in mind that the perception of detail can improve quite a bit when a headphone is tweaked to have a more agreeable frequency response.

One of the first things that struck me about the sound of this headphone the moment I put them on was the impressive clarity that they provide. It’s a bit difficult to describe but they have this seemingly unique ability to render instruments and voices (especially post EQ) in an unadulterated way. I noticed this a lot even when watching YouTube and listening to random people talk into high quality microphones. It feels like their voices are physically there and nothing else is “added” to them. No warmth or other artifacts that are FR related. Just pure sound. My other similarly priced headphone purchase was the Audeze LCD-2 Fazor, which will be the main point of comparison for this review, but the clarity on those with oratory’s EQ, which attempts to bring all headphones to a common sound target (i.e. the Harman OE target), was nowhere near as good. I think Audeze headphones have this inherent warmth to them that’s impossible to EQ out which prevents them from sounding as clear as the HD800 even though they might have similar detail capabilities (or better even). I’m guessing it has something to do with the big leather pads. The HD800 earpads are much much thinner and are made of some type of microfiber as opposed to leather and they probably influence the sound a lot less as a result. It probably also helps that the HD800 driver enclosure is a big open space but the metal mesh inside is credited as the culprit of the treble resonances that this headphone has.

Funnily enough, the $300 Etymotic ER4 is the closest thing in my collection to the HD800 in terms of clarity, but it achieves this because it is a deep insertion in-ear headphone with a highly neutral frequency response, albeit slightly on the dark side of neutral with treble that is not as “airy” as most open-backs. In my estimation, the ER4 achieves about 50-60% of the clarity and detail of the HD800, which is very impressive considering that the former is about 1/3rd to 1/5th (based on the original $1500 HD800 price) of the price of the latter. The LCD-2, while it was more detailed than the ER4 by a significant margin, had a warm/muddy sound that I couldn’t adequately fix with EQ and perhaps no one could. It’s quite bizarre to listen to a headphone that’s clearly very detailed but also lacks clarity at the same time. It had in fact significantly worse clarity than the much cheaper ER4, especially in the upper treble, hence why I decided to sell them and look for something else. My attention was naturally directed towards the HD800 next since it is in a similar price range to the LCD-2 and whilst I’ve never personally heard another Sennheiser other than the HD600, I decided to buy a used HD800 on a whim to see if they are as good as people say or perhaps as bad as others say. The truth is bound to be somewhere in the middle.

The bass response and bass detail of the HD800 are actually surprisingly good for a dynamic driver headphone, especially an open-back one. It extends about as deep as your Audeze planars but it rolls off a bit in the lowest range. For that reason, I use a conservative 3 dB bass shelf at 100 Hz to elevate the sub bass a little. The oratory EQ recommends a slight removal of upper bass (above 150 Hz) to get that flat response that’s more common on planars. Dynamic drivers typically have some kind of “hump” in that region that gives them a bit of extra warmth that you may or may not like. I didn’t find the stock HD800 upper bass to be as warm as the HD600 and the detail and distortion characteristics (at least as far as they are audible) are rather excellent. In fact I’m not even sure if the LCD-2 had better bass in any sense of that word. It had flatter bass, sure, and it was also thicker/bigger sounding but was it more detailed than the HD800’s bass? I’m not sure but I would have to compare them side by side to have a better idea (my LCD-2 has left a while ago to meet its new owner). I do, however, remember the LCD-2 bass sounding a bit weird. Like the rest of the LCD-2 range, the bass seemed to lack a bit of clarity and oratory pointed out to me in my short chats with him that the strange Audeze mids might have contributed to this thick bass timbre that I don’t experience on the HD800 even with some bass boost. The HD800 bass sounds significantly clearer (especially when it comes to bass drums) and more “directional” as opposed to the big “ball” of bass on the LCD-2. In measurements, you can see that the LCD-2 and other planars have significantly lower distortion (0.1%) than the HD800 but it’s hard to assess how that translates into perceived bass quality. Perhaps with the flat tuning and low THD on the Audeze you get bass that is a bit more transparent (i.e. true to the source) but the timbre thickness added on top of that kinda negates that advantage seeing as the clarity of the HD800 is insanely high, from top to bottom. In terms of bass impact, I’ve had conflicting views on the two. On some songs that leverage the sub bass extension of the LCD-2, the Audezes seem to have more impact but on less bassy songs, I find that kick drum impact in particular is more evident on the HD800. So which one has more dynamic impact? I would lean towards the HD800 honestly. Don’t let that rolled-off bass fool you. These still have a good amount of bass presence even in stock form (i.e. no EQ) and I can still hear the deepest bass on movie soundtracks for instance. Funnily enough, it seems that while sine sweeping in the bass I could hear the very low bass better on the HD800 (below 30 Hz) than on the LCD-2. Perhaps the increased distortion on the HD800 enhances the bass a little but its superior clarity is also responsible for it.

The mids and treble of the HD800 are a bit more contentious but they can be relatively easily fixed with EQ in my opinion and the results are stunning. The levels of clarity that the HD800 drivers provide are completely insane. I’ve found myself really enjoying 80s heavy metal for instance with these. Once you correct the response of this headphone with EQ, the mids and highs really shine on well recorded acoustic and heavy metal music. The clarity of guitars, electric guitars, cymbals, and yes, voices, is incredible. You really can’t help but bang your head to the music. As far as detail is concerned, things get a bit more confusing. I think the LCD-2 had smoother sounding mids and treble which translated to softer sounding vocals and cymbals/hi-hats, but the HD800 has its own flavor of smoothness that is occasionally disturbed by its unrelenting sense of clarity and peeping upper treble sharpness.

The LCD-2, with its significantly subdued mids and treble, provided a softer less offensive sound at the cost of ultimate clarity. Yes, even with EQ, the LCD-2 didn’t fully recover from its warm/dark stock sound so its more forgiving presentation led some people to believe that it was more detailed as a result (rather paradoxically). Hence why people describe the LCD-2 drivers as having better “decay”. It seems to me that this sense of speed or decay is largely influenced by a headphone’s stock frequency response. The LCD-2 appears “quicker” precisely due to its holes in the treble that can’t be completely filled in with EQ. It’s weird that people describe them that way because the HD800 sounds snappier to me due to their clarity and essentially zero holes in the treble with its stock response that’s more easily fixed with EQ while preserving clarity. Cymbals and snare drums in particular sound very precise and articulate on the HD800 as a result and have more impact and presence than the darker sounding EQ-ed LCD-2. Although, as I mentioned before, the HD800 retains a bit of its sharpness even post EQ, but too much EQ would undoubtedly be detrimental to the clarity of this headphone, so I prefer not to EQ the upper treble.

I think in reality the LCD-2 would have been closer to my preference with EQ (I prefer a warmer neutral sound) had it not been for its glaring flaws, namely the 0.9-1K resonance that most Audezes share (probably due to the thick leather pads) and the “fuzzy” sounding upper treble that provided less clarity than my much cheaper ER4 IEMs. I just couldn’t get along with them because they sounded too muddy for the price and resonant in the mids (even post EQ), which made them annoying to listen to even on good recordings. I am much more willing to accept the slight sharpness of the HD800 since its clarity and upper treble detail is so much better. I think that the LCD-2 drivers had a lot more potential, perhaps there was more detail lurking behind that dark/warm sound signature, but it was ultimately spoiled by the weird tuning. So the HD800 is effectively more detailed because it has such superior clarity overall. My $1K (or below) headphone recommendation for its sound with EQ goes to the HD800 as a result even if its bass might be a little weaker than planar bass in terms of extension. I also believe that the HD800 timbre with EQ is only slightly sharper than the stock HD600. I didn’t like the HD600 too much on modern music due to its brighter and “grainier” upper treble but they had OK detail capabilities for $300 (less than the darker sounding ER4 in my opinion).

In terms of soundstage and imaging, the HD800 is definitely superior to most things though from memory, I would say it only sounds about 20-30% wider than the LCD-2 on recordings that really leverage that width. On most other recordings, it’s actually harder to grasp how wide they are. In fact the LCD-2 was in some sense more immersive with its bigger images that are likely the result of a bigger driver. For image/instrument separation, things are again a little weird. The HD800 has separation that’s more comparable to speakers. It doesn’t necessarily have the same kind of separation that planars have (perhaps because the LCD-2 enhanced its separation abilities with the holes in the treble) but you can hear every instrument very clearly and they are well defined within the soundstage. Depth is quite a bit better than the LCD-2 as well, no doubt the result of the superior upper treble detail and clarity. The HD800 has a much better ability to project a coherent soundstage in front of your face (or more often, right in front of your forehead), especially on songs that have a lot of echoes and reverb in them (things that enhance the cues about the location of sounds in space). The claims about this headphone having a “holographic” sound are a bit exaggerated in my experience but they do actually work really well with binaural recordings. I didn’t think they sounded diffuse or anything like that. There is a limit to how well a headphone can image and these headphones are not far from that limit I think. All in all, these get a high recommendation from me for soundstage, imaging, and depth. They are very immersive as a gaming headphone and that constitutes at least 50% of the reason why I bought them haha but there are aspects that I wish could have been improved in terms of comfort.

I actually quite like the design of this headphone overall. It kinda has an early 2000s futuristic look to it that I enjoy (because it reminds me of that time period) but it is a bit more fragile than the LCD-2 in terms of build. The metal parts can scratch quite easily and the headband is still made of plastic. The pads also wear out fairly quickly (I’d say they probably need to be replaced every 2 years with moderate usage) like most Sennheiser pads do, but it shares spare parts with the HD800S so you won’t have any issues finding some, at least for a few more years if you buy a used HD800 (they’re not made anymore). The cable is annoyingly long and heavy and it is a bit of a chore to use as a result. Anything above 1.9-2m is too long for me but perhaps people in 2009 didn’t sit at a desk like I do now and they needed the extra length.

The comfort is a bit of a mixed bag for me. The pads are very large and will accommodate ears of any size essentially but they do sit a bit awkwardly on your face, like someone is gently cupping their hands over your ears. They don’t get as sweaty as the LCD-2 but the headband is where my real problem with the comfort of this headphone begins. I don’t know what it is about Sennheiser headbands but they seem to have a tendency to KILL the top of my head after 30-60 minutes of usage. The weight distribution seems to be concentrated mostly on the top part of my head which makes them quite painful to use (for me) for extended periods of time. The HD800 comfort is bad enough that it occasionally even makes me nauseous if I also happen to have a bit of a headache prior to wearing them. Moving the headband back and forth does little to alleviate this issue. So if you’re thinking of buying a pair bear in mind that the comfort may not be the best. I found the twice as heavy LCD-2 much more comfortable overall because it had a better headband (the 2017 one) that evenly distributed the weight thus avoiding any problematic hot spots on top. However, given how much I like the way the HD800 sounds I am still trying to adjust to the comfort problems and perhaps taking them off periodically to avoid the pain is not such a bad thing.

As for power requirements, these are not especially hard to drive in my experience. They are slightly easier to drive (it seems) than the LCD-2 despite the 300 ohm impedance and also easier to drive than the HD600. So you COULD essentially power them off of a phone but you probably shouldn’t. I would recommend getting something like the JDS Atom amp and DAC stack at the very least to get the most out of these headphones. They likely benefit from an amp in the bass and (perceived) dynamic range in particular though I didn’t find their sound to change drastically from a solid state source to another like some people are suggesting. Instead of chasing the perfect source I would much rather use EQ where things can DRASTICALLY improve if it’s done properly.

In conclusion I would say that these are terrific value for the money under $1K used but mostly if you use EQ, otherwise you might have to audition them first (its stock bright sound isn’t for everyone). The clarity and detail of this headphone has definitely stood the test of time and they still compare favorably to other much more expensive headphones and thus they have earned their permanent spot in my headphone collection. I will at some point hopefully have the chance to compare them against other flagships like the LCD-4 or the STAX 007 but until then these are more than satisfying for me in most regards.


FR and tweaked oratory EQ profile.

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Pros: Fast, revealing and accurate!
Should be in your HP stable
Cons: Treble may be a bit much for some, bass isn’t always present
Sennheiser should do better
47447914-1FCD-449B-808D-1C5710FC76A1.jpeg 86C4F40F-4C74-4F4E-90A4-81B130A4D95D.jpeg 23F49D95-1DAE-4313-835B-0221F441F416.jpeg Sennheiser HD 800 review by novisnick


A very kind benefactor has been so generous to loan me his HD800 so I could determine whether or not they are right for me and to write this review. Thanks you kind sir!


Shipped to me in their original packaging but with an upgraded cable with the Venus Audio branded name in which I’m not familiar with. This is to be expected as I’m pretty new to quality HP’s and their accessories. I’ve spent most of my 40 years of audio with speakers of assorted manufacturers.

The cables are very light and seem to be of very high quality. They appear to be four cables of twisted copper as viewed through the clear plastic covering which is also twisted about themselves. They are terminated with a balanced four pin connector.


The headphones themselves are of a silver color and look rather futuristic in appearance, very stylish to me. Lightweight and comfortable upon my head yet at times the ear pads have caused some discomfort in longer listening sessions. The construction had made it difficult at first to determine how best to put on and take off these HPs as they have limited hard spots in which to grasp. The drivers are exposed somewhat and the soft outer area appears to be easily damaged. I took extreme care in how I handled these HPs. In all other aspects these HP's seem very well constructed. Eventually I determined the best places to put my fingers was at the top slider of each ear and the hard spot next to the cable plugs into which they are attached. Easy enough now that I've found the safest way to handle the HD 800s.


I think it’s important that you know what gear I’m using for this review. I’m from a speaker background so it’s important that I be able to easily switch between speakers and HP use. This is mostly accomplished via my Brooklyn DAC/preamp which pushes 4 watts of solid state power out of a balanced connection for HPs. Enough to drive the most demanding HPs IMHO.

I’ve incorporated a SOtM sms-200 Ultra se, a NAA (network audio adapter)

to serve my digital library and Tidal streaming service.


A note of clarification before I start my listening review, I am not, repeat, NOT versed in the standard definitions of the words most often used to to describe the sounds of music by most reviewers. Please bare with me. I'll try to use them as I can, I do have a glossary of the words but I'm learning. Hence my handle being novisnick,as I am a novice in so many ways.



The Sound


My first listing session I found a very different type of HP then I've ever experienced. Detailed and harsh with glare were my first impressions and I was ready to box them up and call it a review. This wouldn't be fair to my friend, Sennheiser, my readers or myself so I retired for the evening after a few hours of varied music. From Eric Clapton's Unplugged to Dave Brubeck's Take Five along with Norah Jones and Diana Krall. Just wasn't feeling any joy at all. I bid them good night. To settle myself for an evening of slumber I donned my ZMF Cocobolo Auteurs and then my Focal Clears and listened to the same tracks to cleanse my mind and soul. Much better for my taste, tomorrow will bring a renewed enthusiasm to try again.


I renewed myself and cued up a random mix of music, from Hugh Laurie to Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful Life. The Beegie Adair Trio followed by Vince Guaraldi Trio's, A Charlie Brown Christmas. My brains started grasping what the HD 800s were revealing from the music. Something very new and different then I'd experienced before. This was much more enjoyable then my first evening with them and I'm very glad I didn't box them up and give up on them. Piano as well as the double bass was starting to talk to me in a rather different tone then other sets of cans. I had stated how sterile they were to me at first! No life or body in the music but they're more refined than at first glance. Maybe I'm trying to say, an acquired taste for these HP's. They are faster than most any cans I've ever heard too.


Tonight was some electronic music mostly from the Digital Empire: Electronica's Best recording from my HDD. I think these cans excel with this type of music. Take California by The Propellerheads is an example of the tonality the 800s prefer to produce. Clear and refined in presentation and scope. Stage isn't huge but listening to Symphony No. 6: IV. Finale, just swapped from 800 to Clear. 800s have more treble and a little less midrange but clarity is just a little more defined... more commanding sound and horns are a bit better with the Clears. Flute isn't lacking with either HP.


I've heard more than once that the HD 800s aren't lacking in bass but they are, in the midbass to bass I've not found them resolving. Their bass is well defined but it doesn't show up at the right htz for me. Not soon enough, so it's being missed in tonality for me. The Clears have an advantage IMO here. See below about tubing with 800s.


Auteurs just bitch slapped the HD 800 and Clear HP's. What's the technical word for that? The instruments sound like they should with their full body tone and presentation.


Theme from Somewhere in Time by John Barry, one of my very favorite songs I know. Horn into harp followed by a body of violins to piano follower by flute. Almost the full gambit of sound. And then a single piano. Fluid in sound and tone. Beautiful love song.


Comparing the three Headphones


The Auteurs are rich and add some color? Toning down of the sharp treble would be a better description. Transitions are smooth and enjoyable. These seem to grasp the mood of the music and convey it accurately. The Clears had bigger sound? Not necessarily a bigger soundstage though. Better highs with the mid-bass a little more narrow. Bass is right on, just like the Auteurs. The HD 800s are showing what a true beauty they are But, the treble is a little too much for me, almost uncomfortable at a few points but other then that they shine very well. Mid-bass was smooth and extends too deep as to rob the bass of this region. Bass is there but I don't think the tuning targeted this area for accuracy as they did with the treble and upper mid-bass. Don't get me wrong, bass is well defined just starts too low for me. Maybe its the transition from mid-bass to bass that has me befuddled.


My wife and I are both audio and video enthusiast as well. Her thoughts agree with mine on this trio of headphones, mostly . We spent hours with multiple types of music and have placed them in our order of which we would keep as our favorite to our least favorite amongst these.


All three HP exhibit fast speed and attack of the music.


First to be sold would be the Focal Clear according to the Mrs. as for me the HD 800 are out the door first for the same reason the Mrs preferred them, the treble., a most enjoyable and comfortable sets of headphones but one set had to go first.


The winner by a long shot and with the best sound in our opinions is the Auteurs. We again agree that the ZMF offering is the best headphone we've ever heard, hands down.


I'd like to add at this point that Mrs. Novis has no idea how much any of these HP's cost, so there's no bias from that point of view.


With Tubes


The lack of linearity in the bass response is just as bad as the inability of Sennheiser to not fix the treble spike after ten years. Just a real shame, the HD 800 could have been the ultimate end game for so many more!


Enter my beloved McIntosh C220 tube preamp. What I'm hearing from the HP's are different degrees change in each set. The Auteurs just seem to climb to the top of my end game list! Without a doubt, what they do with the Brooklyn SS and 6 watts is extenuated with the tubes. More of everything the Auteurs do right.


The Focal Clears were more themselves though. Didn't really feel a greater joy from them as I remember.


Sennheiser HD 800s just became a favorite HP to me,Almost, and my Mrs fell deeper in love with them and the Mallard tubes flavor / drive! The refined clarity of these headphones is not lost but they gain so much when matched with the C220. Some claim that the McIntosh brings its own coloration to sound but I've found it to be minimal. The HD 800s spring to life in the mids and bass! Full bodied bass, that to me was missing. Good defined slam in some of the music that asked for it. Mouth agape, I listened as a very nice smile grew on my face. Still had its faults in responsiveness but all and all I believe the 800s should be matched to tubes, at least this preamp.


Conclusion


I’ve tried to convey my thoughts and opinions of these three HP’s with an emphasis on the HD 800s. I hope you've made it to this point and haven’t been bored to tears. I’m sure you've heard all or part of this before as this model Sennheiser HP has been on the market forever and has just pretty recently been replaced by the HD 800 S and HD820. I sure hope Sennheiser addresses the shortcomings of the 800s and produces a headphone for the ages, somehow I doubt it as they've failed to do it with the 800s for ten years.


When most everybody praises a product there is little to motivate change.


If you've reached this point please don’t hesitate to critique, add or disagree with my opinion as its just that, my opinion. I’m learning daily the terminology to address this community so please bare with me.


Gear involved in this review


Mac Mini with 4T HDD

Roon & Tidal server

NETGEAR ROUTER 6300

SOtM sms-200 Ultra se

SOtM SMPS-500 SMPS

Mytek Brooklyn

McIntosh C220 w Mallard tubes

Sbooster MK II LPS

Sennheiser HD 800

Focal Clear

ZMF Auteurs,Cocobolo
volly
volly
A great read and firm comparisons and opinions! Sounds like you have a very interesting collection of headphones, always a good thing! :wink:
Pros: Imaging, sound stage, expansive, revealing, precision, separation, detail, accuracy, highs, treble, clarity, definition, mids (generally), deep bass, musical, captivating, comfortable, build quality, replaceable parts, many reference attributes
Cons: Sometimes recessed mids, lows not as meaty and weighty as other cans, fragile steel mesh/lining, sometimes sounds congested, some negative resonance and sibilance, picky and too bright for some
My audio set up & connective trail:
16 & 24-Bit WAV lossless files,
Foobar2000 with WASAPI event output,
Cambridge Audio DIG300 digital optical toslink cable,
iFi iPower 12 volt 1.8 amp power supply,
Fostex HP-A4BL balanced DAC and amplifier,
Sennheiser CS 800 S balanced 4 pin XLR cable.

Where do I begin with these cans?
So much has been written about them, the "great and legendary" HD 800. So much contrasting views, opinions, reviews and articles.
I might keep this one short...
I think the question you must ask yourself before hearing them is: how much information and data can I handle sonically?
These cans are like nothing else I've heard, they create otherworldly sounds.
The sound stage and imaging are without question the best I have ever heard, they create such an arena for your ears that it's almost like wearing closed back cans with gigantic ear cups.
It's just so expansive and revealing, oh my Lord is it addictive!
The separation, the detail, the precision, the accuracy... It's truly world class.
I promised myself that I would not change my audio set up for a headphone, I said no. My set up is pretty good, so a great headphone should sound good. And the HD 800 sure did, really.
I read so many people saying that these cans are extremely revealing and demanding of source, gear, equipment and cables. People have built expensive audio rigs around this headphone, to get the best out of them.
Personally I wanted a balanced sound set up to hear the cans at their best, so annoyingly I changed my set up and tested a few amps and DACs (check out my profile for previous gear).
I settled for the Fostex HP-A4BL DAC & amp and I'm really enjoying it, especially with the iFi iPower upgrade : )
The HD 800 has great, deep rumbly bass when called upon.
The mids are rarely recessed but are fantastic overall.
The highs are the best I've ever heard, EVER! Outstanding with crystal clear definition.
The HD 800 are musical, captivating and technically brilliant.
They may not be as light as the Grado GS1000 but the weight is distributed well and they are extremely comfortable, no fatigue whatsoever. They are also very well made but the soft steel mesh/lining is not practical and a bit fragile. People have pressed in on them when handling.
Almost forgot, I listen to my HD 800 without the fabric dust protectors installed inside. I prefer nothing getting in the way between my ears and the drivers, maybe a few people will call me crazy ; )
I really like the fact that the ear pads, headband and cable are replaceable.
For me, these are the most amazing and astonishing cans I have but I still just prefer my Grado's, they never get overwhelmed or congested and I prefer their weighty and meaty bass response. They also never have negative resonance and sibilance.
I would recommend anybody with ears to hear them if they get the chance, it sure is a wonderful experience. And that's what it's all about right? To enjoy high end sound, listening to well known songs in ways you've not heard before and in turn, creating great memories...

Update 1.

I have to be fair to my other reviews so I'll adjust this one.
Over time I have gained even more experience with more headphones.
I have to deduct half a star off the rating because it is pretty bright, too bright for some.
This is one of the most picky and demanding headphones there is, but there is a reason why so many people build and create setups around it.
I recently heard it with a single ended Graham Slee Solo headphone amplifier with PSU1.
I believe it has many reference qualities, I will try to list them:
detail,
precision,
definition,
clarity,
imaging,
sound stage,
separation,
resolution,
accuracy,
maybe airiness and spaciousness.
The bass is pretty deep with good extension and texture but it is not as present as other cans, it lacks a little impact and slam.
The vocal sound powerful and stunning and the mids are just brilliant.

Feed this legend a warm DAC and/or a warm headphone amplifier and use copper cables and this combination will be very difficult to beat.
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CT007
CT007
" I listen to my HD 800 without the fabric dust protectors installed inside. I prefer nothing getting in the way between my ears and the drivers, maybe a few people will call me crazy"

That mesh is supposed to improve the sound, by filtering out resonance, IIRC, but maybe you had still removed them with that knowledge. Nice review. Did you test them with games..?
Sayed2020
Sayed2020
Hey CT007, thanks for that. I didn't test them for gaming but many have said they are probably the best headphone for gaming because of it's fantastic sound stage, imaging and separation qualities.
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