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Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

Rating:
4.54386/5,
  • 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

Recent Reviews

  1. novisnick
    Our Review of the HD 800
    Written by novisnick
    Published Jan 5, 2019
    4.0/5,
    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
      Atgm1, volly and baseonmars like this.
    1. volly
      A great read and firm comparisons and opinions! Sounds like you have a very interesting collection of headphones, always a good thing! :wink:
      volly, Jan 6, 2019
  2. zellous
    A remarkable audio experience, truly amazing cans!
    Written by zellous
    Published Jun 4, 2017
    4.5/5,
    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.
      volly likes this.
  3. asymcon
    Expensive for what they're worth
    Written by asymcon
    Published Mar 10, 2017
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Good instrument separation, good efficiency
    Cons - Harsh in 6kHz region, more pronounced bass than reference
    With somewhat high expectations I auditioned a pair of original HD800 today for about 90 minutes (enough with correct test methodology).
    Just when the first track started, an idea came to mind that those sound close to modded AKG K702. Supposedly though, some headfiers refer to HD800 as being in "different league" and thus incomparable to headphones costing magnitude lower. Actually it was a very close call.
    I divided the listening test into 3 parts - listening without reference, headphone and source comparison.
     
    In the "just listening" part, HD800 did somewhat well, managed to uncover this "micro detail" of musical performance (classical genre tested), however, concluded in comparison with AKG K240DF and K601 had the same level of detail, in specific cases, even higher than HD800.
    Listening to HD800 becomes tiresome after just 20 minute session, the clamp force is okay, but ears become sweaty fairly quickly.
    What I also noticed is how more efficient HD800 were compared to AKGs.
     
    In spatialization aspect, they pretty much mimic K702, immensive width, shallow depth, thus poor mono performance (approx. 10% of the image). I prefer both K240DF and K601 in that aspect - circular "soundstage" not as wide, but with depth and good mono compatibility (20%).
     
    Extreme quiet listening (45dBA) surprisingly retained most of the qualities of the headphone.
     
    Bass (20-100Hz) is more pronounced compared to K601, but also less accurate. DFs are by design bass-light so no comparison there.
    Mid range (100Hz-1kHz) retains same qualities compared to AKGs albeit being approximately 2dB quieter
    Vocal range (1kHz-4kHz) this might be one of the stronger points of HD800, it's more neutral than AKGs
    Highs (4kHz-18kHz) that 6kHz 4dB bell gets tiresome quick, but unmodded DFs are suffering from the same issue. Mod should remedy this in both cases, however get much more complicated with HD800.
     
    In short, I enjoyed Music of the Spheres by M. Oldfield more on K601, where all parts of the spectrum played well with each other and still managed to extract all this "micro detail" same as with HD800.
     
    Moving onto source comparison (this'll be real quick). I tested Fiio X5II and Sansa Clip+, both direct and fed through TLE2062-enabled Objective2. Regardless of where I plugged the HD800 they sounded always the same. I also verified this with switchbox, where switch times are no more than 2mS.
    In conclusion, I wouldn't buy HD800 for the €1100 price tag. To me they seem to be worth €200 maybe €300. One could get similar sounding signature with modding K702's bass ports and K702 are nowhere near the MSRP for HD800.
      vapman likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Redcarmoose
      Read Stuart1927's post. We are really saying much of the same.
      I totally agree, still the higher end stuff is also incremental, it's just not all of a sudden $$$. Absolutely his words have merit and maybe even more so with-in a special equipment level. Maybe my most amusement comes with how the AKG k701 and k702 signatures are compared today to the HD800. In 2009-2010 there was a level of understanding which due to price and reputation didn't allow side by side comparison. When in reality looking back the signatures do seem closer to the same.
      Redcarmoose, Mar 11, 2017
    3. DoctaCosmos
      I couldn't agree more!!!!! That 90 minutes is enough to test with correct test methodology.......when your methodology actually is correct. Listening to hd800 through those two setups however is 100% a waste of 90mins.
      DoctaCosmos, Mar 16, 2017
    4. PETEBULL
      A greedy guy like me would rate every over 150$ headphones crap. Just because not worth it in any case.
      PETEBULL, Mar 18, 2017
  4. Nawin Sapchinda
    HD800 with Game and Movie Song is awesome
    Written by Nawin Sapchinda
    Published Oct 28, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound Quality comfort easy use
    Cons - too havy
    I am us this for Gaming and Movie is awesome
    1. branislav
      hd800 too heavy?
      branislav, Oct 29, 2016
    2. smial1966
      Most succinct review ever?!? 
      smial1966, Oct 30, 2016
      Atgm1 and Asymptote123 like this.
  5. Aornic
    Sizzling detail and otherworldly soundstage
    Written by Aornic
    Published Sep 21, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Analytical and detailed sound, vast soundstage for supreme instrument separation, light and comfortable, aesthetics, dynamic clarity
    Cons - Harsh treble (although recording dependent), not an all-rounder, thin sound due to lack of low-end and bass
    [​IMG]
     
    Background
     
    I would like to start this off by stating that this is not a review of the Sennheiser HD800, but rather a review of “possibilities.” Yes, this is not the stock HD800 I am going to be discussing, but rather one with the Superdupont Resonator mod installed. In short, the mod helps to tame a well-documented treble peak in the headphones that can put off many listeners.
     
    When I started in the headphones game, with my Beyerdynamic DT990 in 2012, it seemed that the HD800 was the most coveted headphones that I saw on internet forums amongst the mid-fi crowd. Due to Sennheiser’s place in the industry, it seems that there are three headphones that they have produced that have been in enthusiasts’ journey at one point or another: the HD600, the HD650 and the HD800. What is most interesting to me about this transition is that the HD800 could not be further from the 6XX series. Gone is the veil I heard when I had my HD600. Also, gone is the warmth and traditional design – for the HD800 is one of the most unique looking cans out there.
     
    Specifications of the Stock HD800
     
    Frequency response (headphones) 14 – 44100 Hz (- 3 dB)
     
    Frequency response 6 – 51000 Hz (- 10 dB)
     
    THD, total harmonic distortion 0.02 % (1 kHz 1 Vrms)
     
    Contact pressure ~ 3,4 N (± 0,3 N)
     
    Jack plug Jack stereo ¼” (6,3 mm)
     
    Cable length 3 m
     
    Weight Without cable: 330 g
     
    Nominal impedance 300 Ω
     
    Build, Design & Comfort
     
    I know people who would not ever think of upgrading from their Apple Earpods who have told me that the HD800 looks “cool.” It does indeed, incorporating a simultaneous industrial and futuristic design that showcases a large diaphragm surrounded by black and silver. Looking at it, I see it as an alien in the design that Sennheiser have gone for in everything from their basic models up to the Orpheus. The HD800 is like Roger from American Dad, obviously the outsider but one that demands all the attention of the audience.
     
    The comfort is absolutely stellar. I feel like I’ve been in a semi-abusive relationship with some headphones this year, or rather a love-hate relationship. I love, love the sound they emit but I hate how they fit and the comfort issues. The relatively low (compared to the others) weight is another big plus in my book, as I found the 330g weight a breeze compared to the likes of the Hifiman HE-500 in its full-metal glory. The earcup design is another innovative factor, as it is abundantly large and ear-shaped – due to which the HD800 simply disappears on my head. The headband does not have a high amount of padding, but it does not need it either. It does not slip or fall off my head either if I position them at an angle. Simply put, you can pull these on and not have to worry about them till your listening session is done.
     
    The trade-off of such comfort is the build quality. It is not flimsy by any means, but the low-weight was achieved by a design that could very well be damaged if you are not careful. I met a fellow at the London Can Jam who, like me, had brought his HD800 along in his backpack to try with the various amps. Sadly, it had knocked on something while it was in there and one of the soft areas on the diaphragm (in the area behind the ear) had dented inwards. Apparently he had recently bought it too, bad luck. I was already careful with mine, but that made me slightly paranoid going forward.
    I do not know where I had read that the HD800 earpad-removal was problematic because it just was not when I needed to give them a good scrub down. As they are so distinct, I cannot imagine mounting any other earpads (Alpha pads, ZMF pads, FocusA pads etc.) on the HD800. I am sure it has been done, but it does not seem all that viable and might be a detriment to the sound – as the padding is quite thin.
     
    Overall, a beautiful to look at and comfortable-to-wear pair of headphones and one that I can confidently say is one of the frontrunners in the audio community in this. However, that is not the reason this has been so well-sought for so many years.
     
    Sound
     
    Well, damn.
     
    The HD800 are nowhere near my sound signature preference, but they do so much so well that it is hard not to nod and appreciate the audio characteristics of these headphones. I generally prefer a denser sound, with a rich and warm midrange – something I glean from both the ZMF Omni and Hifiman HE-500. However, the HD800 had a leaner and cleaner sound to it – for better or worse depending on how you like your music.
     
    Before I dive into the subsections of sound, I want to state that this headphone is really sonically dependent on what you use as an amplifier, something I will address further down in the “Amping” section.
     
    The bass on the HD800 is both easy yet complicated to describe. If someone simply asks you “does the HD800 have a lot of bass?” you can just reply in the negative. If you strip away the layers behind that “no,” you’ll find an answer that goes far beyond a yes/no question. You won’t be listening to EDM on this, that is for sure, but I found the bass to be a superior listening experience than some other headphones with deeper reach and more body – with some genres only. Take classic rock, my “classic” example in my reviews, and stuff like Pink Floyd. I have not owned a headphone that can present Pink Floyd as incredibly as the HD800 for several reasons, but what I want to call attention to is the bass in those recordings.
     
    You see, if we talk about the instrument known as the “bass guitar” then the HD800 does a stupendously good job at reproducing the tones needed for a good listen. Not once have I listened to a rock song and thought that the bass guitar was too thin or low in the mix. Far from it, it sounded simply realistic. There is a sharpness to the sound of bass guitars with the HD800 that I have not heard yet in other headphones that I have personally owned – it just feels so tight and controlled. However, I did listen to the HD800S for a bit at CanJam and noticed that they have bumped up the bass to a level where it sounded more “musical” and bloomy – ever so slightly. However, that bump alone, while it may be ideal for more musical genre pairings, made the tight ship that the HD800 was running edge out of its seams a bit.
     
    If you throw synthetic genres, and I in no way say this in an elitist manner because I enjoy such music too, at the HD800 – you’re going to have a bad time. This goes beyond just the lack of sub-bass extension and into the territory of top-heavy analytical listening. You won’t feel the rush of the low-end in songs in such genres, so I would really not recommend it for them.
     
    The midrange of the HD800 is stellar in a way that is starkly different from how the midrange of the Omni and HE-500 are stellar. While it does not sounded forwarded or, the word I used to describe the HE-500’s midrange in my review, “syrupy” – it holds its own in a manner expected of a top-of-the-line headphone. As with the bass, the mids are leaner yet so much more controlled and accurate than many headphones out there. What really impresses me is how the separation finds different degrees to point directional audio in than what I’ve heard before – for the soundstage is simply vast and the imaging is everything you have heard about them. There is no lower-mids bloom that gives a realistic touch to instruments like acoustic guitars or male vocals, but there is clean reproduction among both instruments and vocals across the board. The transients are quick and relatively accurate, not laid back nor startling like electrostatic headphones.  
     
    Guitars and vocals shine so brightly on the HD800. A track I return to often, one I even did so for my recent time slot with the Sennheiser Orpheus, is the third chorus and beyond of Prince’s When Doves Cry. The vocal stacking is brought out so beautifully by the HD800 due to its penchant for detail, pulling out vocal harmonies that would otherwise be drowned out in headphones that push for more musicality over analytics. Following the chorus is a guitar solo that is panned slightly to the left of where I thought it was for so, so long. It stands out in the mix but does not overpower anything else, leaving Prince free to adlib all over the place.
     
    However, as nice as I find the presentation of this Prince song, it is helped by the fact that the vocal production is warm. As with the bass example above, your enjoyment of the vocals in songs depends heavily on if they have a natural tint or over-processed and digitised production and mastering. In the latter, it can downright hurt – even with the Superdupont Resonator mod helping to tame some of it. In songs with such mastering, even “ssss” sung will be felt harshly and, for your own sake, volume should be reduced.
     
    The treble range also puts it beyond other headphones I own currently. With the mod taming the 6k peak, the listen is far more enjoyable and you can really appreciate what it is exactly that the HD800 does in the top range. While there is the occasional sibilance, especially in the over-processed genres and recordings I mentioned earlier, a boatload of detail is brought forth due to the treble.
    The Fostex x Massdrop TH-X00, that I reviewed a few months ago, had some annoying treble peaks to my ears that would get fatiguing after a while. When I briefly demoed the Fostex TH900 at CanJam, I was hit over the head with what sounded like one consistent treble spike. What both lack, especially the TH-X00, is the trade-off – there simply is no immense detail up there that would make me take it in stride due to what it brought to the listening table.
     
    I have no doubt that it is the treble extension that is one of the primary reasons that the HD800 sounds as resolving and detailed as it does. Cymbals I never took notice of before in songs are suddenly at the front, and while it can get a bit jarring at times (especially if they sound sibilant), I appreciate that a more complete package of the song I’m listening to is presented. That being said, it almost feels too emphasized. I’ll be honest, there are times where I wonder if the people in the mixing room themselves wanted the cymbals to sound as front-and-centre as they do on some tracks – leading to a slight sense of artificiality.
     
    But if that is what it takes for this headphone to sound how it does, then I really can’t fault it. Yes, it sounds thin compared to the likes of the Omni, HE-500, Focal Elear and so many other headphones in this price range – but it offers something they don’t along with the control and analytics that even the HD800S toned down slightly to appeal to the wider market/more musical genres.
     
    The soundstage, as mentioned before, is just so vast…man. While I can’t put it in numbers accurately, I’ll just wing it and say that it scores a good ten percent lead over anything else I’ve reviewed yet. This is a level of soundstage that I did not hear in the Elear, the Focal Utopia or even the Orpheus. With so much shift going on in the electrodynamic headphone market currently, it’s safe to say that the HD800 still holds one crown at least – of soundstage and imaging. Best headphone I have heard yet for gaming, although not the most cost-efficient for such usage alone. You might have to turn it down lower than usual because those gunshots can hurt sometimes.
     
    Amping
     
    I roamed around CanJam London 2016 with my HD800 in my backpack. Why? Because I wanted to try different amplifiers and see how they paired. That is the reputation of the HD800. Literally everything you just read above was with the HD800 being run out of my Schiit Gungnir into my Cavalli Liquid Carbon - from which I have it connected with a copper balanced cable. While I personally really like this setup, it is not the best I have heard – but it sure as hell is better than me plugging it into my Magni 2 which just takes the harshly detailed nature of the Gungnir and pushes it at me. The Liquid Carbon, while being solid-state, has a warmth to it that pairs really well with the HD800. I wish I still had my Schiit Asgard 2 to try it with, for that too was warm and would have made for an interesting listen.
     
    The best pairing that I’ve heard yet would be how it sounded from the prototype of the Cavalli Liquid Tungsten, hands down. I would not say that it transformed the HD800 completely, but I did let out an audible “whoa” when I first plugged in. It added some body to the sound while maintaining its clarity, detail and precision. I was very impressed. I also had a really nice sound, with the top end a bit smoothed over, from the Vioelectric amps at their booth. Interestingly, they had a stock HD800 that sounded quite comfortable too so kudos to them for such an achievement.
    I don’t want to say that colouration is the name of the game, but it is something I have seen in some owners of the HD800 – that they seem to prefer tube amps to add some warmth and a bit of that coveted musical distortion. A linear amping experience, like the Magni 2 or the Rupert Neve amp I tried at Can Jam, will leave the treble unchecked and make certain genres just that much harder to listen to.
     
    As for volume, at 300 ohms it does require a good amount of power to get loud enough. However, I was most surprised by how it sounded out of my Venture Electronics RunAbout Plus – where it not only got loud enough but had a tinge of warmth to the mids. Where the portable amp falls short of the Liquid Carbon, however, is in the bass control.
     
    Comparison with the ZMF Omni and Hifiman HE-500
     
    [​IMG]
     
    Conclusion
     
    I really, really hope the day does not come around where I have to give up the HD800. A little backstory on me, I rarely am in the same place for longer than a year and this nomadic lifestyle makes it difficult to accumulate possessions. I recently moved and it was such a pain because I tend to break the rule of common sense and get a bunch of headphones that I switch between. I envy some of you who have wall hangars covered in headphones and a long line of headphone stands to pick and choose from. That being said, I do need to keep others in my possession (currently the ZMF Omni and HE-500 in the over-ear department) because I simply cannot get a well-rounded experience, for my library with its vast array of genres, from the HD800 alone.
     
    This headphone has its strengths, but I would not classify it as an all-rounder unless you only listen to a small number of musical genres with more “organic” recording methods in their presentation. I also notice that some HD800 owners were getting annoyed at the hype around the Focal Elear and Utopia being unveiled recently, with reviews saying that the Utopia provides incredible detail without the trade-offs of a thin and treble-heavy sound that the HD800 and HD800S provide. While that is quite true, it is $3999 and has a smaller soundstage than the HD800. The HD800 can be found for as low as $899 on Amazon US these days so, while I would not call it economical still for a majority of headphone users, it provides a great price-to-performance ratio for detail and an analytical sound. Simply put, these headphones all do different things – with the similarly priced Focal Elear said to sound like a “HD650 on steroids.”
     
    Definitely a keeper for me, barring unforeseen circumstances.
     
    Comparisons
     
    Bass Quantity: TH-X00 > Classic 99 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > K7XX > HE-500 > HD600 > HD800
     
    Mids: HE-500 > HD800 > HD600 > ZMF Omni > Classic 99 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > K7XX > TH-X00 > DT990
     
    Treble Quantity: DT990 > HD800 > HE400i > TH-X00 > K7XX > Classic 99 > HE-500 > HD600 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I
     
    Soundstage: HD800 > K7XX > DT990 > HE-500 > ZMF Omni > HD600 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > Classic 99 > TH-X00
     
    Comfort: DT990 > HD800 > K7XX > TH-X00 > HE400i > HD600 > ZMF Omni > Classic 99 > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE-500
     
    Aesthetics: HD800 > Classic 99 > TH-X00 > ZMF Omni > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > HE400i > DT990 > K7XX > HE-500 > HD600
     
    Lightness: HD800 > Classic 99 > K7XX > DT990 > TH-X00 > HD600 > HE400i > ZMF Vibro Mk. I > ZMF Omni > HE-500
     
    Thanks for reading, you can follow me at:
     
    Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/aornicreviews
     
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    Twitter: https://twitter.com/aornic1024
     
    Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jesuschristonxtc
     
    YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/aornic
      Asymptote123 likes this.
  6. Jeremypsp
    As many have said, "A Technological Marvel"
    Written by Jeremypsp
    Published Jul 26, 2016
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Sound quality, comfort, build quality
    Cons - Expensive(but great value when compared to other top-ends), paint chips off easily, requires good amplification to sound good
    BRIEF SUMMARY
     
    The HD800 has always been my goal ever since I started on my audio journey 5 years ago, but I was into portable audio back then and the price of the HD800 were fairly expensive so it was not something within my reach. But now 5 years later, I've gotten an UM miracle and thought I would concentrate on some home non-portable audio and the HD800 came back to me. I saw a fairly good deal, SGD$1250 used on carousell but were only about 2 months old then and in immaculate condition, and I'm in a better position to afford these than back then, so I thought to myself, why not?
     
    [​IMG]
     
    [​IMG]
     
    SOURCE
     
    As a general consensus, it is known that the HD800 does not run at close to full potential without an amplifier, and this rings quite true when I plugged them out of my iPad or computer with just an 1/4" to 3.5mm converter as it does indeed sound somewhat underwhelming. Not bad, but underwhelming. So what was the obvious step to do next? Right, buy an amp and a DAC and hope for the best. I was originally considering either the grace m9xx due to good pairing with the HD800 but since the transportable factor isn't going to do anything for me, I went with the Schiit Valhalla 2(due to rave reviews on pairing with HD800) + Modi 2U combo which costs about the same after shipping. 
     
    COMFORT
     
    Self explanatory, they are, I feel one of the only headphones out there that can feel like they disappear when on your head, yes they're that good, in my opinion of course.
     
    BUILD
     
    Although they're built quite well for a high-end headphone, while still being very light, it should be noted that the paint scraps off fairly easily, and it shouldn't really come as a shock if you do see some scratches after a while. 
     
    SOUND
     
    Sound, so how do they sound? Well as I do not have a disposable income I can only listen to them through the Schiit Valhalla 2 + modi 2 combo even though it is noted that these can sound very different through different amplifiers, so my review will be mainly based on this combo.
     
     
    Treble, ahh these are definitely where they shine, it extends really well and has a fairly huge amount of sparkle, any treblehead out there would probably be satisfied at the amount that these produce, as for those who hate treble, well too bad. That's not to say these are harsh as it does depend on your music and since they sound fairly true to source, they can sound harsh if it's intended to be harsh. 
     
    Mids wise you can hear the details really well. Vocals, especially female ones do shine and male vocals do not lack either. But after listening to a multitude of songs, I would say acoustic guitars sounds amazing on these, the amount of details outputted is just simply breathtaking and euphoric. While not being warm or musical, they are definitely good for those that want to get as many details out from their music as possible.
     
    As for the low end, don't expect much if you're a basshead, but these provide one of the most detailed, punchy and tight bass out there and simply is hard to beat and while not having lots of bass, they can still output it if that's what the song wants.
     
    So overall, they sound airy(not surprising for open-back, but still.), with an outstanding soundstage and effortless detail outputting and being very true to the source, if the source sounds bad it most probably sounds bad on these, and so on. While they're not the most euphoric headphones around, they do let you hear things easily that other high-end headphones have trouble showing, and that is in itself a bit feat. Also to note that 320kbps is the minimum required to not let your music sound underwhelming, while FLAC or ALAC is highly recommended. 
     
    CONCLUSION
     
    These headphones are very true to the source and absolutely a technological marvel as many would agree. They sound good enough on my Valhalla 2 + modi 2U combo and I have no plans on upgrading my source for years to come. While these are not for everyone like bassheads or people who think that beats are the best in the world, for everyone else they can be good enough to make a change in your life, as they did for mine. 
  7. Luric
    Using as a 'control'
    Written by Luric
    Published Jun 2, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Sharp, Clean, Quite Neutral, Wide Imaging
    Cons - This is a Machine not an instrument, I think.
    After I bought HDVD 800, it felt like I should change my control headphone. Sure, I was in love with AKG K812 for a long time. But, if using HDVD 800 as a main headphone amplifier and DAC, HD800 made me feel right. So I bought CH800S cables, too. (Oh, that was 'uselessly' expensive.)
     
    HD800 sounds really nothing with balanced connection. I mean, Nothing is Nothing. In my personal and subjective view, Highs too dry, Lows too simple. But why? It makes sense all the time. When I'm reviewing headphones, HD800 acts as a control with high satisfaction. This headphone tells you what is different and what is a character in other headphones.
  8. techboy
    I'd even say if they could take care of the bright treble of the old HD 800, it would be perfect.
    Written by techboy
    Published May 7, 2016
    4.5/5,
    Pros - fast, clear, excellent transients, huge soundstage, very real
    Cons - fatiguing and extreme treble, not as lush as HD 650
    Sennheiser's HD 800 - You nailed it Sennheiser!
     
    I'd like to clear a few things before you read the review.
     
    1. Sennheiser India was kind enough to lend me their HD 800 for a home demo, for an undetermined length of time. Knowing fully well that I won't be buying them. As I can't afford them at this point in time. So I'd like to thank you Sennheiser India for this kind gesture. 
     
    2. The demo unit is a piece from 2009. One of the first 250 HD 800 headphones that Sennheiser built. So it is the old version. And doesn't need more burn in either. 
     
    3. You'll be disappointed to know that most of the review was done with the Sonarworks Headphone Plugin. SW is a VST plugin that corrects the headphone's frequency curve to bring it as close to neutral as possible. I also enabled the Linear Phase option in SW alongside. 
     
    4. The reason for doing this was because in its stock form, the HD 800 was way too bright. And coming from the HD 650 I was unable to adjust. Nevertheless, the HD 800's sound fantastic even with SW enabled. 
     
    The Test Setup
     
    Headphones - HD 800 (old), HD 650 (2013 - silver), HD 700 - All burned in heavily due to their age.
     
    Amplifier - Project Ember Hybrid Tube Amp by Garage1217.com (with supercharger) -> Sylvania 6SN7WGT
     
    DAC - Asus Essence One Muses Edition
     
    Software - JRiver with Sonarworks for HD 800, HD 650 and HD 700 (HD 800 setting)
     
    Music - Recent Bollywood
     
    Now. 
     
    You should get ready to read the review. :)   
     
    REVIEW
     
    Long story short, you'll be delighted to know the HD 800 blows away both the HD 650 and HD 700. 
     
    The HD 800 is clearer, cleaner, faster, more detailed, has much less distortion and just better all around. 
     
    In comparison, the HD 650 sounds ***led and distorted. It almost seems like a toy compared to the HD 800. Now. You may not like to hear this. But this is indeed the truth. 
     
    The only advantage the HD 650 has over the HD 800 is that it is a touch more musical and lusher. But the HD 800 is plain and simple better. And so much better than you'll never touch the HD 650 if you buy the HD 800 once. 
     
    After hearing the HD 800 for a few days, I'm finding it really hard to go back to the HD 650. 
     
    You name it. Breaking through congested passages. A larger soundstage. Better sound isolation. The HD 800 nails it nearly every time. 
     
    Even with SW, the HD 800 is a bit brighter than the HD 650. But no big deal. Without Sonarworks, yes, you'll find it hard to listen to the HD 800 if you're not used to a bright sound. 
     
    But that too has perhaps been fixed in the 2013 revision of the HD 800, perhaps. 
     
    Anyway, both headphones were used with Sonarworks. 
     
    And there isn't much of a contest. 
     
    You should take the HD 800 over the HD 650 for anything and everything. For all types of music. 
     
    Comfort
     
    HD 700 >= HD 800 >> HD 650
     
    Both the HD 700 and HD 800 are very comfortable. The HD 650 isn't in the same league. Although it is pretty comfortable on its own. 
     
    Mids
     
    HD 800 is cleaner and clearer. HD 650 is lusher. But HD 800 is in a different league altogether due to its lower distortion. 
     
    Treble
     
    HD 650 has recessed treble. 

    HD 800 has forward treble. 

    With Sonarworks, I prefer the HD 650's treble over the HD 800's treble. But only because the HD 800 is still brighter. It is still better in every other way. 
     
    Bass
     
    Again, HD 800 has less bass. But better bass. You know that!
     
    Soundstage
     
    The HD 800 feels like it has a 50-100% bigger SS as compared to the HD 650. 
     
    Everything else
     
    The HD 800 is clearly a big step up. 
     
    To wrap it up
     
    I'd even say if they could take care of the bright treble of the old HD 800, it would be perfect. 
     
    The HD 800 deserves to be priced 3-5x the HD 650. IMO. Your mileage may vary. 
     
    And the above impression hasn't been formed over 10 minutes. Initially, I was a bit disappointed. But having heard the HD 800 for a while, going back to the 650 was shocking. 
     
    There is a big difference!
     
    I recommend the HD 800 wholeheartedly. To everyone. 
     
    P.S. HD 700 vs HD 650 review- 
    http://akshaytalwar.blogspot.in/2016/03/sennheiser-hd-700-sennheisers-queen-in.html
     
    Source:
    http://akshaytalwar.blogspot.in/2016/04/sennheisers-hd-800-you-nailed-it.html
  9. Modwright01
    Incredible soundstage but agressive treble
    Written by Modwright01
    Published Nov 26, 2015
    3.0/5,
    Pros - Widest soundstage ever
    Cons - Agressive treble. Unforgivable AT ALL. Forget about to listen bad and old records, bad mastering...etc.
    I had many many headphones, I had two sony R10, I listened to the best headphones ever made (qualia 010, orpheus...) and they are all amazing and they have soul and are really stellar for emotions.

    HD800 is unique. Maybe the most unique headphone ever created with the Qualia 010.

    The soundstage is the widest in the headphones history. It can be sometimes extraordinary, but sometimes it is a bad feeling because almost all the musicien will be too far from you. Especially with Rock/Pop, it can be a strange feeling. Don't expect to find intimate listening with it but it is the best simulation of a hifi speaker listening.

    To say it fast: the HD800 is one of the most neutral, analytical, unforgivable headphones you can fin in the history. But they are usually not fun, especially if you are listening old music which are very often badly mixed (most of Bowie are too on the high frequencies)

    In all the other cases, you HAVE to buy one and have one if you want to ear your records in a very special way. To me, the only one as detailed as the HD800 is the Qualia 010 and the LC4.

    If you can have it around 800 USD or less, go for it, you'll not regret if you understand what it is. I would not pay the brand new price to have one, simply because it is NOT an everyday headphones except if you are listening only masterpieces amazingly produced or use an equalizer for all the others .

    The treble is agressive, too much agressive unfortunately on most music...

    EDIT : Just equalize it at 6khz with -6.5db and the HD800 is transformed into a perfect headphone :)
    1. View previous replies...
    2. pbui44
      Of all the HD800 reviews I read, I have to agree most with yours with a few (costly) caveats: basically, you might have to spend some serious cash to make David Bowie recordings sound good on the HD800. A year ago I tried the HD800 with balanced cable (stock, I think) hooked up to a Ragnarok and Yggdrasil (or Ragy/Yggy) Schiit stack (control center, really) and MacBook Pro (~2013?) via USB cable (probably mono price).

      Listening to "Tainted Love" by Soft Cell, I could hear a very faint hiss in the background and very faint hum from the synthesizer they were playing, even on high noted samples. It seems pretty obvious that the band was using their own mic and synth for the recording, but I also heard both of the guys feeling much more comfortable playing thoughout the song. This would probably sound obvious with any HD800, but with the Ragy/Yggy stack, I could hear very technical stuff that only they could do, like the synth string during the "yearning, yearning" part and head movements from the vocalist from the "baby, baby" part. The song presentation was still rather bright, but I feel the Ragy/Yggy stack made the presentation made the the technical stuff more smooth, as I also heard this from the LCD-X.

      So because I feel that the HD800 is best as a critical listener's can, you can make it musical, just as long as you have some deep pockets.
      pbui44, Nov 27, 2015
    3. Hal X
      Having had these headphones for a year, I actually have to say that i don't agree on the "Truth" statement. I actually found the bass to be very well balanced, not lacking at all. What really I could not digest on the long run was the exaggerated sibilance and the glare that the treble had wich spoiled vocals and made the tone of some instruments artificial. On the other hand, build quality, soundstage , distortion properties, impulse response were all great but I just couldn't stand the peak at 6-7 khz.
      Hal X, Nov 27, 2015
    4. Peti
      Peti, Nov 27, 2015
  10. uncopy87
    amazings
    Written by uncopy87
    Published Nov 4, 2015
    5.0/5,
    Pros - clear
    Cons - expensive
    Im not good at reviewing, but its the best sounding headphone i have! I must say that although not all my friends think these are worth it, everyone can tell that its better than my hd598
      masterfuu likes this.

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