Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones - Reviews
Pros: Fantastic Curves & Design, Amazing Clarity, Perfect
Cons: The price for sure. Cant carry them everywhere!
Well Gents! I finally took the plunge after buying quite a few headphones! And at 1500 $ I must confess it is a pretty deep one!

 
I am still gasping for breath as it is the most expensive headphone that I ever bought!
 
The HD800 is surely not one that you would carry on a bus or train or plane. I was told that it is strictly for home use unless one spends most of his/her time in the office.
 
Unfortunately I am yet to inform my wife of this rather big purchase and so using it at home is out of the question!!
I am into marketing and so don't spend too much time at the office. I do spend a lot of my time driving and so I have been listening to my amazing HD800 in the car during extended lunch breaks and late evening marketing meets (!!??!!)

 
I do use my other headphones but I cannot but admit that the HD800 is the best of the best! The bass rich, closed Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro, the lovely and true faithful Audio Technica ATH M50, the stylish VModa Crossfade M-100 and last but not the least the Bose QC 15 are all wonderful headphones and have given me a lot of pleasure over a period of time and will do in the future as well. But the HD800 reigns supreme over all of them, without any doubt whatsoever!!! Now to take another plunge! I will soon be looking to the forums to find information to buy a steeply priced (seems inevitable) headphone amplifier! The one that I currently use is not bad. Its a FiiO E12 which I bought for my Beyerdynamic DT 700 Pro 250 ohms.
 
I am afraid that I am now very slowly moving into the "not so desirable 'audiophile' world"!!

 
I am now so much in love with the 800 that I miss them badly if I am not able to hear them at least once in a day! God Bless Sennheiser!

 
Am sure I would be sharing more eventually!
AmberOzL
AmberOzL
Get Centrance Hifi M8, it is one of the a few amps that can drive HD800 perfectly, and it is a portable amp, well rather transportable actually.
Sweden
Sweden
I suggest looking at tubes for the HD800. If you are on a budget and can use a soldering iron look at the Crack + Speedball + upgraded tubes.
That new Schiit Vali might be a really cheap alternative as well.
Otherwise are Decware CSP2+ and DNA Sonett 2 great match with the HD800, but I have only heard the Sonett.
Amping the HD800 right makes a huge difference.
Pros: Crisp, Clear, Detailed, Neutral, Amazing soundstage
Cons: Bass is light, Price
I recently spent about a month with a pair of HD800s.  I was immediately more impressed with these upon my first listen than with any pair of headphones ever.  The amound of detail these present is just unreal.  The sound is VERY neutral, true to the recording, and because of this bass can seem a bit lacking.  To be honest, even with bass-heavy music these are a bit lacking.  However they have the fastest, most detailed response I have ever heard from a pair of headphones.  Midrange and highs are the best I have ever heard on any headphone without a doubt.  Soundstage is quite expansive, they sound very "open" and airy with outstanding clarity.  They are hands down the most comfortable headphones I have ever worn.  My one complaint with the design is how easily the paint chips, as many have said before.  They are expensive, and I while I feel that they beat my LCD-2's in every single way possible I still prefer my D7000s to these.  I guess it just comes down to personal taste.  If you like a robust bass response like I will admit I do, these won't be for you.
xkonfuzed
xkonfuzed
Would you mind posting your source and amp ?
Sweden
Sweden
This looks like a review where they used a SS amp with the HD800, prove me wrong any time.
Still I would probably think a Fostex TH-900 would be a better choice for you.
vinokurov
vinokurov
My experience was different: I was very fond of my d7000, but after buying HD800 find D7000 pretty rough. LCD-3 I did not like because of the low resolution and a claustrophobic effect. FostexTH900 - kitschy perfection for house & dub step music lover. Stax009 - watercolor painting, but very expensive with a good amplifier. So my unconditional choice - HD800. This is headphone-Stradivarius!
Pros: imaging,soundstage,detailed high,mids and lows,smooth,comfortable
Cons: unforgiving on poor recording or wrong equipment.
The HD800 is my first expensive headphones.
its really comfortable to wear it and sounds great through my Fostex HP-A8.
the treble is smoother than i first thought it would be but its still considered an bright and detailed headphone. bass is very neutral and punchy and mids is also very natural and uncoloured in my opinion.
some people may find it too bright or not enough bass when paired with the wrong amp.
the best part that i find with the hd800 is its imaging. i feel like band is playing in an nice big stage in front of me and every instrument is seperated and can be heard easily.
Pros: Extremely comfortable especially you need space, or if yo have a big head, drop in feels just nice.
Cons: None
Airy, extremely transparent, silky and fluid sound.
LoveKnight
LoveKnight
Well. May I ask what DAC and AMP do you use to pair with HD800 curiously?
Fidelity182
Fidelity182
I am using just an Ipod Touch, pair it wit my newly purchase Port Tube, goes a little hot when its heated up, but who cares? The little fellow can push almost any headphones with 300ohms impedence effortlessly.
You you like Jazz, or soundtracks, this combo, with the HD800 is one of the best I have own. The Ultrasone 10 Ltd edition is another, just as good, but much cleaner.
Both deliver layering effect, holograhic feel, fluid sound.
Fidelity182
Fidelity182
http://govibeamp.com/
Have no chance to listen to ALO Continental tube amp as well, I suppose its similar.
Pros: Amazing soundstage & instrument separation, detail monster, awesome PRAT and bass, top notch mids
Cons: Sometimes sibilant, very fragile
Hey guys,

The last time  I listened to HD800 impressed me so much that I had to buy a pair for myself:



Since then, the HD800 have grown on me even more. These headphones are absolutely spectacular on the right gear, in my case the Burson Conductor .

These headphones deserve  post of their own. I almost feel responsible doing this, as I feel that I haven’t done them justice in my first post and I have to make up for it.

Lets take this from the start.

In my opinion they look quite nice and I really enjoy their futuristic design.
Every time I put them on I feel like this:


How I actually look like:


However, they seem really fragile to me. I have touched the silver grill by mistake and left a print there. My hands were clean, but still managed to do that. I couldn’t remove it so it is still there and it bugs me . Audeze LCD2 feel like a tank compared the senns.


I liked the stock cable from HD800. The build quality seems to be very good and it looks nicer than the usual stock cable ( LCD2 for example ). One thing I don’t like about it: the splitter seems to be made from cheap plastic and the cables that go from the splitter to the cups don’t look like high quality to me. Actually, I know a friend that had some problems with that portion of the cable, meaning that in time it opened up. This seemed to have happened to more owners.



I feel I really must be extra careful and treat them with more care. Don’t put them  directly on your desk as the paint may chip off. I always put them on something more cushy and not directly on a hard surface.



On the comfort side, I don’t think I have ever wore a more comfortable headphone. I really forget they are on my head after a while.

So let’s get to the most important part, the sound. So many things to say and so few words to express all I would like to say about these headphones.

I will tell you my impressions on a few songs.

ACDC – You Shook Me All Night Long

The first thing that struck me was the bass and the guitars. The bass is not at all shy. It is very present with a  very nice punch and tightness. Of course the sound was multi layered and very airy. The PRAT was awesome and toe tapping. One thing I had to do while listening to the song was to lower the volume as the treble got a little too tiresome.  The fact that I lowered the volume was not quite a bad move as I really got to enjoy the song like this with no problems. Yeah you heard me, I like rock on HD800. It is a little bright sometimes but lowering the volume solved the problem. It was quite ok as I can really enjoy music at even lower volumes with HD800 .

Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon – Time

Damn… The bells at the beginning were absolutely awesome. Every bell was so clear and so well defined in its place. The sounds came from all directions and you could easily concentrate on each and get it’s original location. The sound was pouring effortless and the dynamics were incredible. The soundstage is exceptional and you forget you are listening to headphones.

Infected Mushrooms – IM The Supervisor – Noon

Dat bass… Yes you heard me… Who said HD800 hasn’t got bass, clearly didn’t hear it on proper setup. The bass is so punchy, so deep and so damn fast. The PRAT on this song was awesome. The instruments were very detailed, excellent placed in space and very present throughout the song. The sound came effortless and HD800 handled it with extreme ease.

Tristania – Illumination (symphonic gothic metal)

One word. Excellent! The bass is superb. It really hits you with force and real impact. It is so punchy and so present. The sound was very opened and all the instruments were so well separated and well placed. The sound is multi-layered and not one instrument blended in with another. The voice could use a more natural tone but overall I really loved the song on HD800.

Andre Rieu (Dreaming) – Air (J.S. Bach)

The sound-stage is amazing. The sound is so opened that if you close your eyes you forget you are listening to headphones and that you are at home. You can see yourself in the concert hall, you can see the orchestra and pinpoint every instrument there. The details are amazing and the dynamics are the best I have ever heard in a headphone.

Leonard Cohen – The Traitor

The instruments in the beginning of the song are awesome. The details really tickle your ears. Again the instrument separation is absolutely beautiful. There is so much air between the instruments. You can hear everything and you can easily concentrate on the furthest instrument and still hear it clearly. The voice is quite nicely reproduced and has an excellent texture. It is not as natural as on LCD2, but the reproduction was still awesome.

Conclusions

These headphones are the best headphones I have heard to date.   The soundstage and openess of the sound is exemplary on them. I sometimes really forget I am listening to headphones.  The sound is so multi-layered that on the the most crowded songs I have listened to, never did I found, not even once, that two instruments blended in the same layer.

The imaging and sound positioning is excellent and you can really pinpoint the location of any sound with great ease.

They truly are detail monsters. The get all out of that recording. I expected to be annoyed by lower resolution files, but I enjoyed them greatly even on some mp3s I had listened to. Sometimes I got scared, as I thought some sounds came from my room and I was preparing for battle if any intruder had broken in my secret audiophile lair:



Ok, the bass…These headphones DO NOT lack bass! I repeat…they DO NOT lack any bass! Their bass is awesome, actually. It goes very very deep, it is very punchy, very fast and knows how to jam.

The mids are top notch too. The instruments and voices have a wonderfully detailed texture.

The voices are well reproduced but they could use more body and a more natural tone.

I did not find the HD800 to be bright headphones. They are very neutral to me. The times I thought them to be bright I realized the song was at fault being a bright recording. When something was bright on HD800 was even bright on LCD2. Be careful as  there are many bright recordings out there. So the treble is very very well defined  and is very sparkly when it is needed to. Unfortunately the sound is a slight sibilant but usually when it got too sibilant it was the recordings fault as well.

The dynamics & micro-dynamics on these headphones are excellent . I can really listen to lower volumes with HD800 and still be fully satisfied.

I have used it on some movies as well. They excelled here as well. In crowded open spaces you really feel that you are in that place. It is quite incredible.

I am going to give you a little advice: Don’t use them on a HD horror movie if you have heart problems!



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Pidgeon
Pidgeon
Good review, thank you! :)
dan.gheorghe
dan.gheorghe
Thank you, glad I could help!
Arniesb
Arniesb
Wow man, really good and entertaining review!
Pros: Accuracy Comfort(moddable with 30 minutes fully reversible work)-revision Nov 2015-rev 2016 Bass lifted treble spike toned down
Cons: Price- First hours of listening were a little worrying-(treble may eventually grate)Revision Nov 2015 new rev Nov 2016 grating treble all but gone
Hi there,
This review is based on my honest impressions of the HD800. I have no technical background little technical knowledge but I listen to music an awful lot. This comes from the heart and I in no way intend to cause any personal offence to any of the gear anyone else has. I simply wish to put on record what my personal findings have been on this set of phones and the reader can compare to other reviews out there.
First of all, I have to say it has not been possible to find a way to give you an unbiased comparison of these headphones against any others on the market. This is because double blind testing only works when you are using ancillary equipment.
If you know your existing headphones then you know how they feel on your head so this immediately destroys any chance of knowing what the true differences are. Leaving aside all the tricks your ears can and will play on you....
This is a good and a bad thing. On the one hand it gives reviews like this an added importance to the prospective buyer and on the other hand theee is no esy of proving whether any of this is correct.
The closest one might get to a really good comparison would be those people lucky enough to have a sound card dac or headphone amplifier that had 2 headphone outputs. Switching between headphones could therefore be done faster and the memory of the sound characteristics of each arguably clearer in one's mind. I believe jude has a benchmark dac that has this facility. The added complication is that every headphone has a slightly different sensitivity so volume matching is arguably needed. I have not got these facilities they are more suited to the regular reviewers out there.
I have had the hd800s since early December 2012 so have listened to them for several hundred hours. I have owned denon ahd2000's westone um2s shure ecl5s ue triple fi 10s monster gratitudes klipsch x10is srx mk3 pros and audeze lcd2's during this time. A comparison between these headphones is all I can do. There might be headphones out yhere that blow the hd800s out of the water for the type of sound quality I like but that's the mystique of our hobby- we will never truly know what the best out there is. David Mahler must be getting there with the number of top end phones he has I guess. But for mere mortals....
The hd800s are my favourite headphones. Whatever I plug them into whatever music I listen to. When it is practical to listen through them (they leak a huge amount of sound) they're amazing. The music is reproduced in a way I never believed was possible until I heard them. The audeze lcd2's are renowned for the live feel and the bass they produce and their beautiful finish. All of this I believe to be true from the time I owned them. My ears much preferred the sound of the hd800s and I will try to explain why.
There is something about the precision of the mix of the music the wideness of the sound that I have not experienced with any other headphone in the same way. The hd800s to my ears excel in this aspect. You will read numerous articles which will make you think twice about spending so much money on these phones. I have read they need hugely expensive headphone amplifiers , dacs, cabling, modding, 100s of hours of burn in time, special recordings, special ears probably. The list is endless. Who knows maybe some of that stuff is right especially for those who have pursued those paths to the nth degree.
Some of these paths are expensive toll roads, from my viewpoint I think I'll catch the bus :D
I am therefore not going to describe the hd800s as having shortcomings of needing any of the above because my ears are telling me they don't. Which is surely good news if youve just spent $1500.
Other criticism I've read is that they sound harsh or the treble has too much 'sparkle'. Not to my 46 year old ears they don't. Not one bit. The higher frequency stuff sounds just great. Another criticism levelled is that they lack bass. Again, I have found this to be untrue. All instrumemts are presented accurately so if there's metallica softly tapping way at the drums on enter sandman or the orchestra limbering up on jeff waynes the eve of the war it's worth taking some time out to hear it if you haven't before.
The only detrimental thing I can say beyond the obvious that they leak sound is that when I first listened to them out of the box they sounded very thin and strained like a cheap pair of iems. This was quite worrying to me. They started to improve after a few minutes and certainly gave me a sigh of relief after 30 minutes when I realised my new phones werent broken. Whether this phenomenon was what is described as burn in or whether it was down to the headphones being cold having been stored in a box for a long time I could not tell you. I left the phones connected to an ipod night and day for a week listening to them when I had a chance. This was just as much to make absolutely sure there wasn't a manufacturer fault than it was to burn them in and it did the phones no harm at all in the process. In hindsight I had nothing to fear but for those of you buying new I would advise it for the peace of mind that you haven't got a broken pair
I find most of the headfiers out there are on a budget. Am I right? If I had a budget of $1500 and I wanted to get the best sound quality I could I would buy a pair of these 2nd hand and spend the rest on wine, women (your loved ones deserve a treat for letting you get these), and song.
I hope I have not trodden on anyone's toes or caused anyone any upset in writing this. It was a simple impulsive wish to share some of the pleasure I have had in owning this amazing set of headphones. :)

AMENDMENT 10/11/15


I thought I would tell you of what life is like after a few years of use. I have dropped these phones a few times and had to repair the stock cables at the termination, they have been taken around with me during my journey to and from the various places I live so they show signs of wear.


Terminalrepair1.jpg
Terminalrepair2.jpg


The HD800s still live up to their initial impressions, I have bought and sold many other phones; LCD2.2, T1, Stax Sigma Pro, IE800, X11i, Alpha Dog, Encore Pro Studio, Stance S1,T20 etc. I have listened to many other phones including the SR009, Orpheus, K1000, Abyss, GS1000i, PS1000, Ultrasone, Noble, LCD3,W1000,HE560 and HE1000. Whilst some of these have been better sounding to me (SR009,K1000,HE1000,Orpheus,Abyss,HE560) I have not been tempted to spend those sorts of sums on replacement.
Some 2 months ago I decided to mod the HD800 using the Anaxilus Mod. I was really disappointed with the results, to me they sounded muffled, lost too much of their soundstage and were too prominent in the bass. Rather than discarding all the research and damping material I decided to tone down the effect of the mod. I put wool felt over the metal rings of the driver reducing the thickness of the original mod by a factor of two thirds.


FeltMod1.jpg
FeltMod2.jpg


The cutting is crude, the felt doesn't 100% cover the surface of the ring. It doesn't even stick hard and fast the surface. Yet the felt does what it needs to do.
This has made a noticeable difference in bass response and ringing around the upper treble region, although a word of warning ; the upper mids and treble region is where I believe the magic of the illusion of the huge soundstage is created. Of course the size and angle of the drivers plays a part in the soundstage too , the mod does pull it in. The soundstage is further refined and pulled in with an EQ I have set up on my Audivarna Plus music player.


ScreenShot2015-11-09at14.04.55.png


I am reaping the fruit of my labours with these phones, in spite of the HD800S launch. The S Model is intended to rectify some of the perceived shortcomings of the 800 Model, I have to say I have changed the stock sound of mine using damping and eq to the point where I have no interest in replacing them with the S Model.
There has been one recent major purchase; this is the HE6 and a huge speaker amp based on the First Watt F6, @dill3000 diy built "The Mini Beast". More on that in another review. The HE-6 is a different tone and the soundstage is altogether different. The HD800 is still with me and enjoying a new lease of life despite the HE-6.

Revision Nov 2016
More modding
The half felt half lambswool has now been replaced with a full lambswool layer to the ring around the drivers of my HD800.
IMG_20161123_153647000_HDR.jpg

Listening to the S model made me realise there was still more that should be done with these phones. My friend @dill3000 pointed out to me @Sorrodje had another layer of sophistication to add to the mods already done out there.
[VIDEO]https://youtu.be/Ydot90j8gmo[/VIDEO]
Dillan got some resonators and I set to work on the drivers. 10 minutes later and I was finished. They work! Wonderful work @Sorrodje. Thank you. You have made the great even greater.
The HD800 , at £1099 , is looking at ever more of a bargain. Although , even with the mods , I would put my money on the S model for the extra £100. the soundstage is not quite so wide and the imaging perhaps not quite so pin sharp, but I think the tonality still just edges it.
aizik1992
aizik1992
my question is how they work on bus,street any public place i believe they would still sound great but is it worth the price? and if they aren't too loud from the outside?
guntur
guntur
Well. I am sure these are meant to be used at home. Though I do wish we could carry them everywhere!! It would be worth the price if you can carry these babies everywhere 'carefully' and secondly find a place where you wont be disturbing others and where others don't disturb you!!
reihead
reihead
Love this kind of review revisions after some months or years
Thank you very much
Very informative
Pros: Sound Stage Presentation, natural balance and tone, generally top notch sound quality
Cons: They are way too expensive for just a pair of headphones
Like with the HiFiMAN Headphones these are tantalising. If they cost 400 squid and could be driven well by a smart-phone or laptop headphone output, I’d buy them on the spot. At three times the price and only suited to home use, I can neither justify the expense nor do I have the slightest inclination to do much headphone listening at home. And I want the “magic” the HiFiMAN planar’s weave too.
 
Combine the best of the Sennheiser and the HiFiMAN Phones, sell them at £ 700 and there is a good chance that the queues in front of the headphone shops start approaching those in front of Apple stores when a new iPhone comes out.

Read the whole review here:

 
http://www.head-fi.org/t/648968/a-headphone-shootout-from-a-speaker-listener-testing-eight-headphones-from-80-to-1-200#post_9114896
Pros: It makes my LCD2.2 leave in dust
Cons: It keeps me away from other flagship headphones for certain period
But why i give 4.5 stars?
 
Because Stax009 is better to my ears.
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XxDobermanxX
interpolate
interpolate
This is not Facebook. Geez it reminds me of the iVerge forum. 
YoengJyh
YoengJyh
I have been using my HD800 more than 3 years now. HD800 is the only headphone on my head at all times. Thanks Sennheiser!!
Pros: 21st Century Design. Detail Kings. Soundstage Kings. Comfort Kings.
Cons: Price. Needs Expensive Amplification.
Not that there haven't been a hundred thousand things written on this most-controversial headphone-- but what the heck are we here for if not to give our opinion, right?  So sit back with a cup of coffee, while I'll tell the story of my HD 800 experience.
 
It's funny-- there's a growing Apple-Microsoft type environment growing in the Head-Fi community.  It's between HD 800 owners and fans, and Audeze owners and fans.  If you read any forum with the omni-present headline "Which Headphone Should I Buy?" the two sides make themselves known in subtle ways.  "Well if you're looking for comfort, you can't go wrong with the HD 800," writes one post.  "Way more comfortable than the LCD-2."  Next post: "What?  You're crazy!  I've had my LCD's cranked on my head for like 10 hours today.  Look!  There's still on my head and I didn't know it!"  "Well Sennheiser has been around for seven hundred years.  You know they'll be here after the world explodes and you need new earpads after the firestorm scorches them."  "At Audeze, they hand craft every single component and skip Valentine's Day because the love goes into their products."  And on and on the debate goes. 
 
Point is-- Everyone is going to be predisposed to one type of headphone or another.  I haven't owned an Audeze headphone yet.  I will in the next year or two.  Right now I'm still finding the edge of the envelope for the HD 800, and it's getting interesting.
 
I started my Head-Fi journey in the shallow end.   I needed wanted a custom in-ear headphone which really blocked out sound, so I stumbled across Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors and went through the process of acquiring a pair.  Amazed by the fidelity, I started looking for opinions and found Head-Fi and Headfonia-- which led me to the Slim Pico Amp.  Impressed, I thought I'd try an open ear set of cans for home-- so I bought the HD 650.  Then I thought-- let's put some power down-- so I bought a Burson 160D.  Great, but lots of treble-- let's find a smooth tube amp!  Enter the Woo WA6.  Then I rolled a thousand+ dollars in tubes into it-- and bought the HD 800.  You can already see-- this story isn't going to end well. 
 
The HD 800 out of the Burson and the WA6 were a subtle upgrade over the HD 650.  The bass was certainly tighter, the soundstage wider, but honestly-- the change between the two wasn't all that remarkable.  Still, I kept the HD 800 figuring I can scale them up if I wish, and they were more comfortable on my head than the HD 650-- so the HD 650 were sold so my wife wouldn't murder me.
 
Sure, there were other headphone purchases-- Audio Technica ATH-50s (those still live at work), Grado SR225, Beats (yes, Beats-- wanting to see what the fuss was about-- that's another review), and some in-ears-- Shure SE425 (still for sale), Klipsch, HifiMan, among others.  But the main focus now was my home rig and bringing the best out of my HD 800.
 
The WA6 tube rolling experiments got all the way to a NOS 1957 GZ34 rectifier with a metal base, which cost around the price of the amp-- The HD 800 responded every step of the way.  The bass deepened as the headphone broke in, I upgraded the cable to Toxic silver (exciting another debate over whether pure copper is a better match for the HD 800).  Things were improving but the knock still was that the sub bass wasn't kicking, and the highs out of the Burson made that combo particularly bright to my ears-- damn near to the point of sibilance.  
 
In October, one Head-Fier suggested-- maybe you should think about more power for the HD 800, suggesting a move to the WA6-SE.  I started an eBay search.  This wasn't going to be pretty.
 
After losing a few auctions-- something really bad happened.  A Woo WA5LE appeared-- and no one was bidding.  Yep.  That was the winner.  $1800 dollars later I started looking for FedEx trucks everywhere I went.  
 
This was a major change in the HD 800.  The full range of the audio spectrum was now pumping through my skull.  It was like getting a much-needed pair of glasses after years of squinting.  I never realized how power hungry this headphone really was.  Sure, I can drive the HD 800 with a Fiio E17, they are efficient headphones, but to bring this set of cans to life, it wants pure, clean power, as much-- and as clean-- as you can muster.  
 
I'm not talking about a marginal improvement anymore.  Here's my best analogy:  Say I purchased a Ferrari.  I get behind the wheel and take it for a spin.  Well, it's a Ferrari, so I'm going to be impressed.  What I didn't know-- is that the car came only with a four-cylinder engine.  And while I thought I was getting this good performance, when I dropped a (edit) Prat & Whitney jet engine in, suddenly you are holding on for dear life.  Everything about the car's characteristics changed.  The car can move with the four-banger, but it was really made to handle a lot of power.  Same goes with the HD 800.
 
Now here's another problem with this new system-- every musical flaw is up front.  Putting MP3 files through it-- you hear every artifact and dropout.  It's brought the worst out of the Burson's DAC stage.  So much so-- I'm now selling the Burson for a cleaner DAC.  
 
Stepping back for a second-- you have to wonder-- what was wrong with the HD 650 and the WA6?  Nothing.  I'm crazy.  I admit it.  
 
But for folks who complain that the HD 800 lacks sub-bass, my first question from now on is going to be-- What are you using to drive it?  Because with the right power, you understand why this is a $1500 dollar headphone.  It's the closest thing I've ever heard to sonic perfection-- yet I'm still rolling thousands of dollars in tubes through the WA5LE, to see where the edge of the envelope is with the HD 800.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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TheKillerPiglet
TheKillerPiglet
I still have to get used to the idea of 6SN7's as power tubes, they have been pre-amp tubes in my mind for so long. There's a certain appeal to a head amp that burns these You see, I have another "world may explode" stash of American 6SN7's. Somewhere. Not sure where. Somewhere.
That's the danger with tubes: you have to be careful what you listen to. Once one comes across a set that just lights up in particular circuit, it is hard to pull away. I have a couple of Cuban cigar boxes full of European e88/6922 types. Sadly, I only have two spare sets of 60's Siemen's CCa's and one pair of Telefunken <> (<> is not an emoticon). Last totally silent set of grey plate CCa's went into the AN DAC last year along with one of the Bendix rectifiers. Ten years use on the Bendix, 8 on the CCa's before one got a little noisy, power on 24/7.
Would it be possible to live with the Amparex's, Valvos, Mullards? Well, unless I have horribly miscalculated and/or there is a substantial increase in life expectancy during, well, during my lifetime I may never find out.
KP
TheKillerPiglet
TheKillerPiglet
Ah... see what you have done?
I just dragged the big Audio Note off the music room rack, cleared my desk, move my monitors. Nothing fancy: feeding it SPIDF RCA from motherboard, going the the V200, HE500's... but this, this is the "why" of tubes...
....this story isn't going to end well...
KP
Night Crawler
Night Crawler
reeltime, you certainly weren't kidding. I received my first ever HD800's today, and came to the very same conclusion. The HD800 is very source dependent! Most of my amps left me completely underwhelmed, save for two in particular. The first is my DACmini PX, which has served as my all time favorite amp for notably the LCD2 and HD650 (among a few other cans I own). Suffice to say, the HD800 sounds simply incredible with the PX. The second amp will take many by surprise, and while I'm sure there are a 100 better, much more powerful alternatives out there (for which I care not at this point in time, lol), the Headstage Arrow 3G has never once ceased to impress me. In fact, before the PX, it was my most preferred go to amp for the HE-300, HE-400, HE-500, and HD650, and to this day it remains one of my absolute favorites. Reason being, the Arrow not only packs enormous power (considering it's size), it also features one of the cleanest bass boosts I've encountered, period. That's inclusive of the Zo (both the original and second generation), I might add. In any case, the Arrow serves as merely a portable solution, whilst the PX is my official at home, go to amp for the HD800. In either case, I'm very content with how the HD800 sounds. Now, my only other concern is which of the three (HD650, HD700, HD800) I intend to keep. :p
Pros: natural bass, build quality, comfort, fast and detail, alike high end stats.
Cons: peaky treble, highs can be slightly bright on some tracks, paint chipping, may be expensive for some
The HD800's has been around a long time so I'm going to wrap up this review in a few paragraphs. 
 
Having owned 3 HD800's at one stage, Serials 51**, 136** and Purrins 103**. 
 
Going through all 3 before selling the first two and keeping only Purrins HD800 I bought off him, the early serial based HD800's are to my ears a bit more bass light and more warmer then my original serial 136** and purrins 103**.
 
I ended up selling mine and the early serial based HD800 and was thinking of selling purrins one due to moving onto speakers but I thought maybe I should keep it because its got the magical touch from purrin due to all the CSD plots he does LOL.
 
Anywho, the HD800 paired with my Beta22 amp sounds extremely good, revealing some detail that I've never heard from my tracks similar to the amount of revealing detail some Stax rigs I've auditioned and owned. Certain music can sound slightly too bright, some music with vocals can result in the voice sounding like it's pronouncing everything with a "Sssss".
Following the threads here or Innerfidelity (thanks to Tyll), performing the Anaxlius mod with a thicker but more denser felt material can fix the treble problems a bit, generally a bit of eq can fix this problem.
 
Most people say the HD800s are too bass light or no bass at all, but with proper amping, you can put on some bass heavy tracks and put your hands over the outside filter dome and you can really feel the bass vibrations. I actually gave the bass of the HD800's a pro because it actually sounds very natural, if I wanted bass, I'd just grab my LCD2's or some of my other bass heavy can's. 
 
Surprisingly for a plastic build, it is surprisingly well built and durable, the only thing I can complain about it really is the paint chipping problems that people have, the silver paint really is prone to chipping off no matter how much care is taken with the headphones, which is why I'm in the process of repainting mine through a professional painting service, unfortunately I've emailed Colorware before to do a one off type of job and they said the reason they stopped the custom painting services through Colorware is due to warranty problems and modded headphones.
 
Other then that there really isn't anything else to say about these headphones, if there is one headphone you should try before moving onto high end electrostats it is the HD800's as there detail, accuracy and speed of its dynamics are similar to that of high end stats like the 007 MK 1/2's. etc.
 
Pair the HD800 with a top of the line solid state amp such as the Beta 22 and you will be wowing at every song you re-listen to that you've heard probably heard a hundred times.
Pros: OVERALL SOUND QUALITY & SIGNATURE, WEARING COMFORT, OPENESS, BUILD QUALITY, MADE IN GERMANY, ALCANTARA, ETC.
Cons: PAINTING, PRICE OF SPARE PARTS, SOMETIMES PIERCING HIGHS

ACHTUNG!

This is a completly subjective

-or let's say in some aspects probably "subjective-neutral"-

review.

 
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The HD800

A condensed account after nearly two years of daily use

 
 ​
My setup:
 ​
Denon DVD-3910 SACD/DVD-A/HDCD/CD/MP3-Player ->
Sommer Cable SC-Classique ->
Meier Audio Corda Cantate.2 ->
Sennheiser HD800
 
 
 
BAD:
 
- relatively high prices for spare parts (a pair of ear pads costs about 75 EUR)
 
- relatively damageable silver paint
 
- not comfortable for (very) small heads
 
- sometimes piercing highs in bad recordings
 
- not suitable for music that requires tons of bass
 
- not suitable for music files encoded with a low quality
 
- not suitable for very bad sources and amps
 
 
NEUTRAL:
 
o very wide soundstage
 
o futuristic design/look with nice Volkswagen silver metallic paint
 
o technical ability
 
o mainly plastics, some metal
 
o the price might seem to be high, but compared to e.g. SR009, it's kind of a steal
 
o unique ring transducer
 
o somewhat unforgiving sound
 
o diffusfeldentzerrt (just a joke, because it's a normal feature and I like this German word...
)
 
 
GOOD:
 
+ easy to clean inside and outside
 
+ washable and replaceable pads
 
+ spacious earcups (the ears stay fairly cool)
 
+ nice feeling Alcantara fabric
 
+ luxuirous wearing comfort (for large and medium head sizes)
 
+ detachable cable
 
+ overall good haptic, finish and build quality
 
+ very good cable quality
 
+ can easily and reversible be modded with foam, felt or slices of wood, to raise the bass level, tame the highs and very slightly change the sound signature, too
 
+ "Made in Germany" (Hooray!!!
-  no patriotism, I only want to express, that it's not "Made in China" like most audio/video products [even expansive ones of well known Western/Japanese/South Korean brands] today)
 
+ overall very pleasing sound quality and general sound signature
 
+ the Neumann/Klein&Hummel monitors sitting on your head
(Sennheiser = Neumann/K+H)
 
+ one of the best headphones for classical music (opera, chamber, big orchestra, organ, etc.) and jazz
 
+ suitable for audio mastering
 
+ absolutely stunning with good audio recordings
 
+ also pleasing with medium quality rock/pop/some electro/"whatever"
 
+ analytical sound with a fun factor
 
+ extraordinary nice voice rendering
 
+ overall relatively balanced sound
 
+ no audible resonances
 
+ low distortions
 
+ very open and airy sound
 
+ holographic sound image (deep and very broad)
 
+ (somewhat) natural sounding coloration
 
+ excellent instrument separation
 
+ extended, detailed and fast bass
 
+ natural and detailed mids
 
+ very resolving highs
 
+ no artificial sound (like e.g. some "Ultrasones")
 
+ superb and refined detail retrieval
 
+ absolutely controlled sound (manages e.g. Richard Wagner's Götterdämmerung perfectly)
 
+ very good positioning in width and depth
 
+ very good at lower volumes
 
+ is able to play very loud, paired with the right amp
 
+ better than the best of DT880/600, HD600, HD650 and K701 together
 
 
A last thing to mention:
Believe me or not, the HD800 can be perfectly driven by a Meier Audio Corda Cantate.2 and does not need recabling! (IMHO, because I tried out several setups and a highly recommended aftermarket cable and the very good results offered by the stock HD800 didn't get any better this way)
 
THE END
 ​
PS: Sorry for every textual mistake in advance!​
Dennis
Dennis
*Drinks Coke*
mharidas
mharidas
This has to be the worst review of the lot, so many distracting lines and poorly formed descriptions. I had to login just to mention how bad this review is. Maybe you will take this feedback and put a better one together.
Rianoris
Rianoris
::Still eating popcorn:: O_o
Pros: They look like something out of TRON
Sold me Edition 9's because of these because they deliver a bigger sound stage and all that compared to the Edition 9's. Maybe it's because the Edition 9's are closed headphones. Whatever they're my 2nd favourite headphone after the SR-009.
Snake Eyes
Snake Eyes
"Ed.9 is closed but the HD800 is better, just not as good as the HD800"
"Just not as good as the HD800" is an understatement. Ed.9's are NOWHERE near as good as the HD800's. But then again everyone's different and maybe they'll float your boat. When I first heard them they were like that to me but when my HD800's came around I tried the Ed.9 again and my Ed.9 boat was nothing but an irrecoverable wreck. Anyway for the price of $1450 USD buy them if you want to stay dynamic otherwise save up, sell a few organs or whatever and go electrostatic like me. Even better... Visit someone who has both setups and then decide what you want other than taking a risk because that's a lot of money (to normal people like me anyway).
ardilla
ardilla
Haven't sold any organs yet - but I've sold off the HD800 ,) I found it too bright and lacking in bass quantity..
Snake Eyes
Snake Eyes
OK then and good luck in finding a headphone that meets your needs ;o) (if you haven't already)
Pros: Massive soundstage. Very high-resolution sound with low resonance. Very comfortable. Quality construction.
Cons: Not natural sounding; the tonality is bright with a lack of proper body and weight to the sound. Paint job fragile. Overpriced.
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I purchased this headphone for full retail price a couple of years ago, and in the beginning, I felt very positive about it. But things change, and as I got to try many other high end offering by other manufacturers, as I got to try this headphone with different amps, sources, cables and so forth, I have come to the conclusion that this headphone is perhaps the most overhyped piece of audio gear in the head-fi industry. The truth hurts, but you learn from your mistakes. 
 
As controversial as it may be, I felt the need to change my positive review and write what I feel about the HD 800s.
 
To start with the positive, build quality and ergonomics here are great. This is a very cool-looking, precisely designed headphone that makes a luxurious impression, especially when resting in the storage box. The headband adjustment mechanism feels very well constructed. The earpad/headband material attracts dirt and dust like crazy, but feels great to the touch and is very comfortable against the skin for extended listening sessions. The plastic doesn't feel as great as the aluminum on the STAX SR-009, but is really solid nonetheless. I'm a bit sceptical about the paint job though; the finish is fragile and will tear if you don't treat the headphone carefully. 
 
The cable is very well made; thick, non-microphonic, with a really hefty, quality 6,3mm plug at the end. 
 
Comfort is absolutely first rate. The headphone is a bit on the heavy side and after several hours, the headband starts to feel uncomfortable on top of my head, but that may just be me. The earcup pressure is just perfect and the headphone almost feels like it disappears from your head after a while. The large space inside the earcups coupled with the open design makes sure you never get hot or annoyed wearing them.
 
So far, everything is good.
 
Sound wise, this is a very clean sounding headphone. Sennheiser did a great job designing a headphone with minimal resonance factor and muffling of the audio. As a result, the HD 800 is very resolving and therefore picky about the source gear, and especially recording quality. Lesser recordings simply will not do this headphone justice. Of course, this resolving sound signature will allow for very crisp detail. 
 
Those large, angled ring-drivers also provide a very large soundstage, with great sense of depth and layering. Room acoustics come through very naturally and the headphone is very good at separating dense, orchestral music. 
 
BUT, the tonality just isn't realistic. The overall signature is a bit bright - especially in the 6khz area - which gives the impression of more details, but becomes tiresome to listen to after a while. Cymbals sound to splashy, violins sound to shiny, sibilant sounds are over-accentuated - things just *don't sound like real life*. (Granted, like most Sennheiser headphones the HD 800 is laid-back and quite smooth sounding, so it's not biting or piercing the way Ultrasone and Grado headphones tend to be.)

The same goes with the bass. I find the bass very tightly controlled, but neither well extended nor impactful. There isn't enough punch and weight to it, and there's not much warmth either. Drums sound pathetically weak for a headphone priced at $1500 and the midrange suffers from this lack of body. 

Just try to listen to a live jazz band performing, and then go listen to the HD 800. It doesn't sound AT ALL alike. The string bass sounds present, full and thick in real life. It sounds thin and lifeless on the HD 800. 
 
The midrange could've been so good if the frequency extremes were more natural, because the openness of the HD 800 really allows for a very airy, clear midrange. But instead, things sound dry. Even with great recordings, there's always a certain degree of thinness and brightness to the music, with some grain and sharpness to the upper midrange. You hear the guitar very clearly, with excellent crispness, but the sound of the box of the guitar is subdued. Female vocals, a particular weakness of mine, sound a bit articifical, if only slight. But at this price, "slight" turns to "significant". 

With a Cardas cable, the sound gains a bit more body and slightly less glare to the treble, which is a good thing. But it still doesn't make the headphone entirely neutral, and let's face it; why in the name of god should you have to buy an aftermarket cable for hundreds of dollars to get the sound right with your $1500 high-end, flagship headphone from a large company like Sennheiser? 
 
There is a lot of talk around the forums that the HD 800 really needs a great tube amp to sound it's best. And that's true. I've heard the HD 800 with the Leben CS300 and while the combo didn't win me over, it sounded very good. Much more body and no treble glare left to speak of. But my opinion is this: if you have to use a tube amp to *change* the sound of the headphone in order to make it sound good, then that ruins the idea a bit. A tube amp like the Leben colors the sound; it adds distortion, makes things different than what's originally intended. This goes against my idea of high-end hifi: a clean path through the entire audio chain. I think the source chain should be as neutral and as transparent as possible with minimal distortion, in order to make the headphones themselves shine through fully and display their respective strengths. This is the proper way of judging the sound of a headphone, isn't it? 

If you have two really expensive cars, you should use a track that's optimal for them to achieve high performance. If both cars have their different weaknesses, no modifications should be enabled to each, and no changes should be made to the track to cover up those weaknesses. That would be cheating! 

And that goes here as well, it's just that instead of two cars you have two different sounding headphones and instead of track you have your source chain. This is, of course, my opinion only. But I hope it's a reasonable explanation to why I don't think a tube amp should be used to judge a headphone. I feel you should judge the original, intended sound of the headphone. 
 
And driven from a neutral system, the HD 800 fails to impress. My positive impression of it has gone colder and colder, and I have now sold it. The sad truth is that not only do I prefer pretty much every STAX headphone made, the Audeze LCD-2 and the Beyerdynamic T1 to the HD 800 - I even prefer many cheaper headphones to the HD 800, like Sennheiser's own HD600, HD650 and even the portable momentum, which is a fantastic sounding headphone and my only headphone at this time. No, the Momentum, HD 600, HD 650 and even the LCD-2 don't have the openness and crispness of the HD 800, but they are all more neutral, easier on the ears and more fun to listen to. The HD 800 just comes down dull and clinical compared to most. 
 
It's a shame, but it's what I honestly feel. And no matter how many people who will hate me for saying it, I think the HD 800 is a failed, if ambitious, achievement by Sennheiser. The HD 700 made the sound fuller and warmer, but instead made the treble even brighter end quite edgy, so that one wasn't right either. If you want the best from Sennheiser, the HD 600/650 with a replacement cable and a great system is what you want. 
 
If you want better options at this price, the Beyerdynamic T1, LCD-2 and the cheaper STAX offerings are recommended. 
 
 
 
MarcadoStalker7
MarcadoStalker7
lol, Bing Translator are not so good, sorry for that.
Good review, anyways, and good point on the colored sound, audiophiles hates hear real things about audio like the one you said...
riverlethe
riverlethe
I think I agree with most of this review, although the LCD-2 is definitely not a neutral headphone. The frequency response graphs of the HD800 I looked at don't really explain what you describe, except for the 6khz spike. The HD800 has more "bass extension" than the HD650. I wonder if it's the lack of resonance you mention that makes this headphone sound so unnatural.
jdpark
jdpark
All amps "change" the sound of the headphones, but some do it better than others, and some compliment the strengths and weaknesses more than others. I wouldn't take this review to the bank, since others found amps that made the HD800s sing. Unfortunately, by the time you get a 2000-3000 dollar amp, and a source for that much, plus your 1500 cans and the 300 cable upgrade, I cannot see why on the good lord's green earth you wouldn't be spending that money on a speaker system. Honestly, there's a limit to value in headphone systems, and if you're spending 6000 dollars for one---unless you operate a nuclear submarine and literally cannot play music from speakers ever--you really should have spent that money on a real hi-fi stereo (and music). Otherwise, if you just happen to have 6k lying around, I suppose having the best of the best headphone system ain't so bad...
Pros: Sound Quality... everything.
Cons: Pinch on the jaw.
All I have to say is that their awesome pair of headphones. Great sound stage, vocals are a bit too strong, you can feel the bass other than hearing it, and great for movies. Comfort is 4.5 because there is a bit of a pinch on the end of the jaw part, but you get use to it so... yeah. Still, overall, 5.0 rating.
XxDobermanxX
XxDobermanxX
:) still the king, but you paid a lot for it i thought it was at max $1500
Pros: extreme detail retrieval capabilities; vast soundstage; very comfortable.
Cons: possibly the price; some may prefer a more coloured sounding headphone.
Intro: my first encounter with the HD 800
 
IMG_5421.jpg
 
A few months after discovering the world of high-end headphones I auditioned two of Sennheiser’s HD series, the HD 600 and the HD 800, side-by-side in a local hi-fi store. From the first moment I listened with the HD 800, I was amazed at how deeply I was able to peer into my favorite recordings and hear new details like never before. Though the HD 800 initially sounded a little bit bright to me in relation to what I would describe as ‘natural,’ I found its pristine sound reproduction to be a revelation, and for about an hour I listened in awe with the two HD series headphones.
 
Following that initial listening session, I wasn’t completely sold on the HD 800. Yes, it sounded like a fantastic musical microscope, but I thought it seemed expensive and a bit too thin sounding and treble-centric for my preference of totally natural sounding instrumental timbres and decided to leave the HD 800 alone for a while…
 
Reacquaintance with the HD 800
 
Eighteen months after my first encounter with the HD 800 and with more listening experience - including time with some of the world’s finest headphones - I found myself having the Audez’e LCD-2 as my main headphone, meticulously EQ’d by me to a more neutral response that revealed more of the upper level details that the LCD-2 seemed to lack in stock format.
 
As I continued to browse in the head-fi and related community, I discovered an article by Tyll Hertsens in which he rated the HD 800 as one the best headphones on the planet, and that the implementation of a simple mod alleviates the treble issues that many people experience with the HD 800 (more on that later). That was all I needed to see - my curiosity for the HD 800 was reactivated in that moment, and within a few days I had visited a hi-fi store in Germany (where I was on vacation at the time with family and friends) and given the HD 800 over an hour’s listening time. I really liked what I heard this time.
 
When I got back from Germany, I A/B’d my custom EQ’d LCD-2 with an HD 800 and was so suitably impressed that I decided to buy a used, next-to-new condition HD 800, and I’m very glad I did.
 
IMG_5227.jpg
 
Equipment used during this review
 
All listening tests referred to in this review were done using the HD 800 and – unless otherwise indicated – either 320 kbps MP3s, lossless audio files, or CDs, fed via a JPS Labs Optical Cable to the Lavry DA10 DAC/Amp. At various times I had a number of other headphones on hand for relative comparisons inc. the Audez’e LCD-2, the Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 25, another HD 800, and the Grado PS1000. I often switched between them but there were other times when I just listened with HD 800 for extended periods.
 
Packaging and comfort
 
The HD 800 comes stored inside a black cardboard storage box similar to those of Sennheiser’s HD 6x0 headphones, but the HD 800’s box is lined with black satin and feels much more luxurious. Reading the HD 800 manual gave me a much greater appreciation for the craftsmanship of the HD 800 and Sennheiser’s meticulous creation standards. Though I was impressed by what I read and felt reassured that the HD 800 is an exquisitely constructed product, it seemed obvious that the proof of the pudding would be in the listening with the HD 800.
 
In terms of comfort, the HD 800 is probably the most comfortable headphone I have ever worn. It is light to wear and disappears from my awareness after a few minutes, revealing just the music/recording.
 
IMG_5407.jpg
 
HD 800 listening experiments
 
Here are some of my findings about how listening with the HD 800 sounds to me:
 
Being used to the Audez’e LCD-2, which is a slightly dark-sounding headphone with emphasized bass presentation by default, I found listening with the HD 800 being like lifting a veil from what I was used to hearing with the LCD-2. When it comes to detail retrieval, the HD 800 is simply unmatched by any other flagship headphone I’ve yet heard.
 
On another note, when listening with the HD 800 since receiving it, I’ve often found myself audibly exclaiming the word ‘amazing’ quite a lot. It’s a welcome bonus and a ‘wow factor’ that I seem to experience relative to the clarity and precision of the HD 800, which to me is not the cold, soulless listen that many make it out to be. In my experience, when our thinking clears and we just listen, what we listen to always clearly speaks to us.
 
IMG_5419.jpg
 
Soundstage and instrumental definition
 
No other headphone that I’ve heard has a soundstage as expansive as the HD 800’s - it’s wide, very deep (from back to front as well as from top to bottom), and very immersive for the listener. Every instrument on any recording I’ve played with the HD 800 sounds clearly positioned in the mix.
 
Hearing so much sonic detail presented at once can be a lot of information to take in may be quite fatiguing for casual music listeners used to a less revealing headphone-based listening experience. But the extensive detail revealed by the HD 800 is very impressive.
 
it’s clear to me why the HD 800 is considered a top choice for many audio professionals who work with open headphones: if it’s on the recording, the HD 800 will reveal it.
 
When listening to a recording of a live session I participated in a few days ago, I initially reached for my stalwart LCD-2. Then, when some instrumental details on the recording seemed to elude me, I switched to the HD 800 and almost immediately, what was muddy and unclear on the recording with the LCD-2 became clear with the HD 800. There was no harsh brightness and no colourations, just what’s on the recording. It was a very welcome surprise.
 
That realization confirmed for me that any excessively undesirable colourations that I’ve heard with the HD 800, such as overly bright and grating treble, must have been to an extent due to the recordings played. And it seems obvious that for an optimal listening experience with the HD 800, high quality recordings are a must.
 
That said, I do not find the HD 800 to be colourless, it clearly sounds like is has a slightly brighter, treble-happy sound than what sounds ‘natural’ to me i.e. the sound I heard when a musician performs in front of me.
 
IMG_5425.jpg
 
Bass
 
In terms of bass presentation, I initially thought the HD 800 sounded very anemic, but after some more listening it was clear that bass with the HD 800 is fully represented, ultra clear sounding, and extensive, and, due to the HD 800’s design, delivered in a less intense way than the LCD-2, which seemed to thrust the sound upon this listener’s ears with weightier sonic heft than the HD 800, which has a more delicate and articulate way of delivering sound.
 
When A/Bing the HD 800 and LCD-2 it was clear to me that whilst the HD 800 is a less weighty-feeling/sounding listen than the LCD-2. The bass of the HD 800 is clearer than that of the LCD-2 in a very similar way to how the HD 600 has a clearer, more well-defined and less bloated bass presentation than the HD 650; the bass presentation sounded leaner with the HD 800 yet still very full.
 
Another factor contributing to both the bass quality and quantity of the HD 800 is most definitely the recording fed to it, which is something I’ve already touched on briefly. When listening to the HD 800 in Germany and exploring a pile of CDs in the shop there, I noticed that the audio quality I was hearing changed greatly from disc to disc. At another time, when listening to the Steely Dan back catalogue, I noticed there was a huge difference between the sonic quality of Can’t Buy A Thrill (1973) and Two Against Nature (2000), with the latter sounding much larger, weightier, and clearer.
 
Lastly, for those in doubt of the HD 800’s ability to deliver much bass, I recommend listening to a recording with plentiful bass in the recording, such as the track One More Time by Daft Punk. That’s all the proof I need to know that the HD 800 is capable of delivering very deep and satisfyingly full-sounding bass.
 
Mids
 
The midrange of the HD 800 is very clear and sounds more ‘etched’ than the LCD-2, which has a smoother and more liquid midrange presentation that’s also more intimate than the HD 800. When listening to Dave Grohl’s vocals on the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light album, his voice sounded smooth and rounded with the LCD-2, but more jagged, cold, and acerbic at times with the HD 800. To my ears the HD 800 don’t reproduce instrument sounds with as natural-sounding a tone as the LCD-2 do, but the HD 800 reveals many more of the sonic nuances of Dave’s vocals on the same track due to the HD 800’s ultra detailed, and prominent treble presentation.
 
IMG_5424.jpg
 
Treble
 
I find this can be the strongest/weakest point of the HD 800 depending on how it is perceived. First, the HD 800’s treble is very fast and clear. To me it often seems as though it can extend upwards indefinitely, which to me seems partly due to the HD 800’s vast soundstage. On Donald Fagen’s Morph The Cat album, the air/ambience around drummer Keith Carlock’s hi-hat playing on the opening track was clearly revealed by the HD 800; in fact, every articulation on every recording I listened to with the HD 800 is as clear as a blue sky on a cloudless sunny day. That’s quite an achievement from Sennheiser!
 
However, such extreme clarity can have its drawbacks. First, since the HD 800 reveals everything on a recording, if there are flaws present in a recording you are listening to, the HD 800 will lay them bare. This could detract from listening enjoyment for some listeners, in which case a headphone more forgiving of low-quality recordings, such as the HD 600, HD 650 or the Audez’e LCD-2, may be a better option. But that said I have yet found that the HD 800 has prompted me towards appreciating quality recordings more, in harmony with the musical message being expressed.
 
If recordings fed to the HD 800 are bright and edgy, bordering on harsh for artistic effect, such as on the Foo Fighter’s Wasting Light album, or, to a greater extent, Tool’s Lateralus album, listening with the HD 800 can be quite hard on your hearing. If you listen to a lot of recordings of the aforementioned nature or similar, the HD 800 may not be the right headphone for you, but that said, there are workarounds for the HD 800’s prominent treble, a few of which I’ll now discuss.
 
Taming the HD 800's treble
 
The HD 800’s treble has been the most frequently occurring issue that I have seen people express about the HD 800. So far I have found a few ways around it:
 
Damping
 
As soon as I read about the Anaxilus mod (nicely collated here) I wanted to try it, so I did. After applying it, I thought that the mod tamed the HD 800’s treble to the point where it is still very clear but not to the point of sounding as harsh as it did when the HD 800 was unmodded. I also saw that to be true when I A/B’d my modded HD 800 with an unmodded demo HD 800 - to me, the anaxilus mod has the effect of adding slight veil to the HD 800’s treble, resulting in less air round instruments in the upper treble region and a slightly thicker sounding bass presence.
 
IMG_5415.jpg
 
EQ
 
Using a parametric EQ applied to my Mac’s system audio, I EQ’d the HD 800 to a more neutral response, in accordance with the headphone.com website’s suggestion of the ideal frequency response for headphones being a flat line descending from 1 kHz down 10 dB to 20 kHz. The result of such EQ with the HD 800 was like adding a veil to the sound of the standard HD 800. The overly bright treble was gone – and in synchrony with that the clearly etched definition of instruments was reduced – and listening to recordings with the EQ felt like a more casual and perhaps carefree experience, a bit like I recall listening to music with the HD 600.
 
Cable
 
I’ve heard from other head-fi members that using an aftermarket cable can tame the HD 800’s treble, and based on my own previous experiments with cables, I’m sure a cable could definitely soften the overall sound of the HD 800. I’ve not experienced that first hand, but I am due a loaner cable that is currently in the post to me from another head-fi member (thanks).
 
Amp
 
Using an amp that softens the sound of the HD 800, such as a tube amp, is the most commonly suggested solution I’ve seen to that, but I’ve mainly being using the Lavry DA10 which is a wire-with-gain type amp that is quite colourless and precise sounding. It doesn’t tame the HD 800 treble though.
 
Cross-genre suitability of the HD 800
 
IMG_5427.jpg
 
I know that many people want the ultimate headphone, the ‘one set of cans to rule them all’ and have just one headphone. Depending on your preference the HD 800 may or may not fulfill that purpose.
 
The HD 800 excels at accurately presenting the overall relative tonal balance of the recordings it is fed and in that case will work well with any recording on a technical level, provided the source doesn’t get in the way.
Treble-lovers will be in heaven with the HD 800, and music such as classical, jazz, and acoustic-based forms will sound crystal clear, as clear as the recordings. Bassheads may be better offlooking elsewhere, unless their ideal definition of bass is clean, clear, deep, and articulate sounding, in which case the HD-800 could be a really interesting and welcome point of interest.
 
Listeners of electronic music may simply want a headphone that has more bass weight for such styles of music, and I’m grateful that I still have the LCD-2, however I didn’t find the HD 800 to be lacking in bass as what’s on recordings is accurately represented, but given the choice I most probably prefer the HD 800 more if it presented bass frequencies with extra weight.
 
With most pop/rock/metal music I fed it, the HD 800 sounded very clear but lacking in weight and true to life timbre whilst being slightly brighter than ‘natural.’ A more weighty-sounding headphone such as the LCD-2/3 or the Grado PS1000 may be a better choice for pop/rock/metal listeners.
 
Summary
 
The HD 800 is a landmark in headphone craftsmanship that, from the completely new design of the driver housing to the ring radiator drivers to the cable connectors, is a musical microscope that often reveals recordings with the utmost precision in a way that sounds slightly brighter than natural to me. (If timbre is your highest value in headphone election then you may be satisfied with the HD 800, but you may prefer something slightly darker sounding, relatively, like the LCD-2/3.)
 
Due to the HD 800’s ability to retrieve the smallest details on a recording, its sound signature can be quite demanding for the listener and most probably won’t be to every listener’s preference as some listeners just want a headphone that is ‘fun’ and not overly analytical. But to those who enjoy the HD 800’s sonic footprint, it may be the only headphone you ever need.
 
Those who appreciate the HD 800 in some ways and not others could sell it or keep it and supplement it with a different, perhaps warmer sounding headphone that’s still of decent quality such as the Stax 007, Audez’e LCD-2 or, Sennheiser HD 650.
 
Overall, I truly recommend the HD 800 as a world-class headphone suitable for the most discerning of ears, and for those who want to go deeper into exploring the recordings they know thought they knew, and love.
 
 
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lovleylady
lovleylady
Nice review mate.
Cheers!
YoengJyh
YoengJyh
I fully support your whole statement as mentioned above after i bought and listened to HD800.... WOW!
starstern
starstern
how in compare the dt 880 ?
I was addicted when I heard it from a audiophile show in Hong Kong, the sound was completely different with other headphones. It sounds gorgeous, easy, natural, same as the approach of high end audiophile equipment. It is pricey, although not the highest in market nowadays. But it worth every cent you paid, if you have a set of good equipment to pair with it.
Many people complained its sound like lack of weight in bass, but my experience is due to not yet burnt in and the balance of whole the system.
It took me around 12 months to burn in. Therefore, if anyone wants to go for it, you need to have sufficient knowledge, experience, suitable equipment and patience.
 
XxDobermanxX
XxDobermanxX
Sennheiser FTW
Pros: Flawless sound reproduction and very comfortable
Cons: A bit pricey
Worth every penny 
Cons: lispering
I totally agree with the review of Skylab; what a great and honest review!
The reason I'm not really happy with the HD 800 is because I bought it as a reference headphone.
After listening to the recording of my choir (professionally recorded) I noticed that all of the
consonants 'S' sung by the female voices didn't sound natural at all; they sound like they were 'lispering'. I really thought there was something wrong with my headphone; but after googling for a solution for this, I found this review by Skylab that explained the problem. I listened to another choir recording (the third part from the Gloria from John Rutter sung by the Cambridge singers) with this lyrics:  
"quoniam tu solus sanctus tu  solus altissimus, tu solus Dominus, Tu solus Altissimus Jesu Christe..." http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUoN27W6hQ4
It's a pain to listen to those 's' sung in this case by boys ...
I think this isn't acceptable for a reference headphone with this price ...
 
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vinnievidi
vinnievidi
Interesting. I sold my HD800 because I had trouble listening to Natalie Dessay (my favorite soprano) recordings with them. It seemed disembodied and unnatural, and the sung S's were just odd.
[size=large]Introduction[/size]
I’ve been a “headphone audiophile” for the better part of 5 years now, searching for the elusive holy grail of headphone systems. During that time I’ve had the pleasure of auditioning some of the best headphones from every significant manufacturer, including the AKG K701 and K1000, Beyerdynamic T1, Stax Omega 2, Sennheiser HD600/HD650 and HE60, Grado RS-1, PS-1 and GS-1000, Audio-Technica W5000, W11JPN, and L3000, Ultrasone Edition 9, and others. Some of these I’ve even owned myself for periods of time.

Audio nirvana is a very personal thing. What sounds magical to me and sends chills down my spine might well sound artificial and grating to another. That is the nature of this hobby. With almost every top-tier headphone system I have tried, something has been lacking. Sometimes this “something” could be quantifiable – overly harsh treble response, lack of bass impact, flat or unrealistic soundstaging, and so forth – but often it could not be. The headphone simply didn’t move me, didn’t connect with me emotionally throughout the gamut of diverse musical genres I listen to. The Sennheiser HD800 is one of the very few headphones that have done so.

I have very eclectic musical tastes, ranging from psytrance and electronica, to Celtic and new age, metal, pop, progressive rock, modern jazz, and even some blues and easy listening. Sting and The Corrs are frequently queued right alongside Tool and Shpongle on my playlist, for example. Any headphone that aspires to a long term place in my rig, therefore, needs to be first and foremost a capable all-rounder. One-trick ponies often have a big initial “wow” effect; “The bass on these is incredible!”, “I’ve never heard so much detail before!”, and so forth. This kind of focussed excellence is often found in high end headphones whose manufacturers are known for having a “house sound” that appeal to a niche market. Grados, for instance, tend to excel at rock. Their unique combination of lush, tonally rich midrange and fast, well-textured bass impact make them ideally suited to the genre. But you won’t often find a classical music lover relying on the RS-1 as their primary headphone. Grado have addressed this in their own way, with the GS-1000 being the soundstageous departure from their typical house sound, but such an approach doesn’t appeal to me personally. I’m not a headphone collector, and I don’t want to be reaching for a different headphone every time a new song starts on my playlist. Is a headphone that excels at everything and has no glaring weaknesses an unrealistic expectation? Not any longer.


[size=large]Build quality and comfort[/size]
An aspect of high end headphone listening that’s often overlooked is comfort and build quality. To me, this area is every bit as important as how a headphone sounds. What good is it to find a headphone that sounds sublime, only to be prevented from losing yourself in it because your ears are being rubbed raw?

The HD800, thankfully, doesn’t suffer from this shortcoming. In fact, it’s one of the most comfortable headphones I’ve ever worn. It might lack the luxuriance of leather padding found on some high end Ultrasones, or even the Denon imitation pleather, but it makes up for that with huge earcups that do not touch the ears at all. And despite the size of the headphone, the HD800 is remarkably lightweight, which contributes to the feeling of the headphones simply disappearing when one puts them on.

The stock headphone cable is also one of the very few that I’ve actually liked. It seems very resistant to kinking, is not microphonic at all, and is lightweight enough not to cause cable drag. A cable that gets out of the way and doesn’t remind you it’s there is a good cable.




[size=large]Listening Impressions[/size]
It’s far too easy to simply forget about critical listening with the HD800 on, and just enjoy the music. However for the sake of this review I’ll bust out the reference tracks and see how the headphone performs when put under the microscope. The HD800 was burned in for at least 100hrs prior to critical listening, and run through the following system:

Foobar configured with WASAPI for bit-perfect output, playing FLAC > HeadAmp Pico DAC > Jaycar 80W pure class A discrete amplifier > HD800 with stock cable.

First up is Shpongle’s Dorset Perception, a complex electronica passage that excels at testing a headphone’s imaging abilities. Throughout the intro of this track the HD800 keeps up with the increasingly chaotic soundstage, isolating each musical image in its own space and minimising “bleed” between them. I was able to take in the whole picture, as well as isolate and listen to each individual instrument in the soundfield without much effort on my part.



Moving on to Porcupine Tree’s Heartattack In A Layby, a test of ambiance and midrange presence. There’s a deep reverberation present in this track that underlies the vocal, and the challenge for a headphone is to present this reverberation in such a way that it emphasises the vocal rather than swamps it. Again the HD800 performs admirably, Steven Wilson’s voice rendered faithfully amidst the layers of electric guitar. More importantly, the overall emotional message of the track is communicated, creating an eerie feeling of transposition out of oneself and into the story of the music.



Alright, let’s try something with some grit. Onto Metallica’s Enter Sandman, from their celebrated Black album. An unhealthy few decibels of increased volume later and I was out of my chair yelling “Eeeeexit light! Eeeeenter night!”, much to the annoyance of my neighbours I’m sure. The power metal of Hammerfall was likewise rendered with sufficient crash-of-rhinos impetus to get me head banging. Sure, the Denons and Grados can rock harder, let that never be questioned. But the HD800 CAN rock, and it can rock well.



Lastly, Loreena McKennitt’s The Highwayman to test the HD800’s capabilities with female vocals. Her sweet, effortless voice is rendered with such conviction on these headphones that this proved another moment of eerie transposition for me. The palpability of Loreena’s voice, combined with the wide, holographic soundstage of the HD800’s transport me to the lonely road in the moonlight, up to the old inn door... linked arm in arm with Loreena as she sings the story of the Highwayman. I do not feel the HD800 lacked anything in conveying the atmosphere of this track.



[size=large]Conclusion[/size]
The HD800 is one of the best all-rounder high-end headphones I’ve heard. To my listening experience, it has 3 main competitors – the Stax Omega 2, the Sennheiser HE60, and the bass-heavy AKG K1000. All of them perform similarly (or even slightly better) than the HD800, but all cost considerably more, only one of them is still in production (the Omega 2), and they all demand very specialised systems to drive them. This is not to say the HD800 isn’t a picky beast to drive as well, because it certainly is. Sennheiser designed them to be as open a window into the music as possible, and that goal is what they have achieved. If anything is lacking in your connected equipment, you’re going to hear it.

Regardless, anyone who (like me) values a headphone which excels at many things rather than one, and has the ability to connect the listener to the emotional message of their music definitely owes it to themselves to try the HD800. I doubt you will be disappointed.
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treebug
treebug
How did they sound with your Soloist Covenant?
Covenant
Covenant
Hi treebug, I do not actually own the HD800; the pair used for the above review was a loaner.
Pros: World-class headphones.
Cons: None
After almost 2 years of having them, I am still thrilled with their sound reproduction. Does need a very good and powerful tube amp.
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