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Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

  1. Nawin Sapchinda
    HD800 with Game and Movie Song is awesome
    Written by Nawin Sapchinda
    Published Oct 28, 2016
    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.
  2. Jeremypsp
    As many have said, "A Technological Marvel"
    Written by Jeremypsp
    Published Jul 26, 2016
    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
    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?
    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. 
    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.
    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, 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. 
    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. 
  3. uncopy87
    Written by uncopy87
    Published Nov 4, 2015
    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.
  4. smitty1110
    Picky, but worth it if you find good synergy
    Written by smitty1110
    Published Nov 14, 2014
    Pros - Detail , Soundstage, imaging, tonal balance
    Cons - They lay bare all the flaws of a recording, there is no isolation whatsoever
    Audio setup -
        FLAC files in Media Monkey -> Amazon Basics TOSLINK cable -> Schiit Bifrost w/Uber upgrade -> Knukoncept Shielded RCAs -> Project Ember with  new Tesla ECC802S
    Music -
        Nabucco, Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna State Opera Chorus conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, 1965
        Why So Serious, Hans Zimmer, the Dark Knight OST
    I got these barely used off of the classified forums, and I even got two Norne cables to go with them as part of the deal. For the purposes of this review I used the single-ended stock cable, but I plan on fooling around with the other cables in the near future, and probably giving them a write-up. I've been listening to them on and off for a few weeks now, so they're nice and broken in. Also, these are picky headphones. Looking around, you'll find how people talk about the huge amount of effort that went into assembling a system that really sounded well with them. I got lucky, things worked out really well with the stuff I had on hand, so keep that in mind. You will probably have to work a bit to get the most out of these cans. Now, on with the review!
    Listening to Nabucco  with these was a very interesting experience, even though I thought I knew the recording by heart. The tonality of the headphones is extremely neutral, but with the Project ember and most of my tubes it sounded a bit too bright. Since this is a bit of a well-known issue, I used my Tesla to roll off the highs and make it easier to listen to. This did the trick, and the cans sound more neutral than anything else I have. They also passed the bass test with flying colors, which is nice because my HD558's really struggle with that bass extension.  Listening to the funeral march with these headphones was similar to listening to it with my GS-1000's, a very wide and undistorted soundstage, but it also improved on the GS-1000 in that the soundstage had much more depth. Instrument placement is well preserved, and you can feel how some thing are further away than others. The other thing that's important to mention with respect to soundstage is that the presentation is not too intimate, but not really distant. It's like sitting 5-7 rows back at a concert, intimate but not in your face. The detail of the headphones is also great, you can really get a sense of things like the room reflections that the mics are picking up, and you feel like you're literally there. This also makes the imaging amazing because you get great instrument separation, especially with instruments like French horns where it's possible to even pick out individual instruments from within the group. Also, the detail was really a hit at a meet a few weeks ago, where people (myself included) were proven wrong about power cables making a difference with sound quality. That honestly freaked a few of us out. This is the major downside sonically, they're too good at revealing things in the music. A piece can sound great on every other set of headphones I have, but this will reveal mastering problems that
    Now for build quality and fit and finish on these phones are very nice. The Headband might have a lot of plastic, but it's very study. The steel added a nice touch, especially the laser engraved serial number. The headband and the supports on the cups really just feel solid, and you very quickly learn that you don't have to baby them. The earcups are also spectacular, and are the largest I've ever seen on headphones. They also don't grip too tightly, and the headphone's relatively light weight makes them very comfortable for long listening sessions, like listening to an entire opera. The only real complaints are that the membranes that make up the earcup look nice but still make me worry about keeping them intact, and the connectors for the cable. The membranes are fine, but there's always the paranoia in the back of my mind that makes me be very careful about gripping the cups. For the cable connectors, I love that the cable is detachable, but I don't like that a custom connector was uses. Mini XLRs would have been better, but since there really isn't a standard in this space. I would prefer to be able to use a cable with multiple brands to make comparisons easier, but that's probably a pipedream.
    In the end these are great headphones, probably the best for critical listening I have, but they're just too picky to get a perfect score. It takes a lot of effort to tweak your system to make the most of them, so just consider that before buying a pair. Once you do get some synergy going, it's totally worth it.
  5. ag8908
    Wow, amazing (but here's why you shouldn't buy it)
    Written by ag8908
    Published Feb 14, 2014
    Pros - Outstanding in every way, sound, comfort
    Cons - Nothing other than price
    Will fill this in later but based on the fact that it absolutely kills every single song and genre of music that I've throw at it, the final rating is clear.
    Edit 1: After listening to this and the Aude'ze LCD XC for four days, I've reached a point where I will never grab for the LCD XC if the HD800 are available. The HD800 simply sound more natural (all of the other headphones I have sound "synthetic," like they almost auto-tune or digitize the sounds very slightly if that makes any sense. With the HD800 it sounds like the band is singing and playing right in front of you.). The imaging on the HD800 is also incredible. It's like there are 10 speakers spaced all around your ears, each firing off in turn. Therefore, I called Aude'ze and the retailer and asked if I could please return them. The Aude'ze person said I would have to pay a 15% ($300) restocking fee, which I mention here only because it shows Sennheiser's superiority (they don't charge a restocking fee if you return the item within their 30 day money back guaranty period). Sennheiser is first class all the way.
    Edit 2: OK I found a design flaw. On the outside of the headphones, around the drivers, there is this very thin aluminum foil type cover/enclosure that I keep accidentally touching with my fingers when taking the headhones on and off, and which seems like a weak material that will eventually tear as a result of this touching.
    Edit3: To give you an example of the auditory magic performed by the HD800, open "the way you make me feel" by michael jackson, bad 25th ann. album, on spotify at 320 kbps. The whole song sounds great but focus especially on the drum that kicks in every 10 seconds or so. You hear this particular drum beat in the first four seconds of the song, at about 11 seconds, at 20 seconds, at 27 seconds. . . . The HD800 reproduces it amazingly, even providing that special and very faint echo that is produced by a real drum. If you can find a headphone that produces that drum beat better, please post it in the comments. The reason I like the HD800 is that it can make well recorded music like this shine like no other headphone.
    Edit4: On the other hand, with the HD800 you'll find yourself opening your favorite song from the past, hoping for the magic described above, only to discover that the song was poorly recorded. In these cases you need the right amp to mellow things down. Perhaps a tube; for me my Yamaha stereo receiver's output jack works well. But I am not going to ding the HD800 for making bad recordings sound bad, because I think it's solely the fault of the recording engineer but it's a complaint you'll hear from many HD800 users. Fortunately, there are enough very well recorded songs out there for me to enjoy the HD800.
    Edit5: I just discovered a great use for its super long wire, using it to listen to TV and movies! More outstanding sound.
    Edit6: One other advantage of this headphone is that, because its drivers are so far from your ears, there is less risk noise induced hearing loss.They are more like speakers in that sense.
    Edit7: Out of curiosity, I took the time to set up my stereo receiver properly in 5.1 surround mode. I used its microphone to perfectly calibrate each of the speakers, placed all around me, left/right rear each 3 feet away, and the others 10 feet in front, all perfectly calibrated so that no one sounds louder than the other. There is also a subwoofer in this mix. What did I learn? That this setup (which costs about $1,000 total including the receiver) beats the HD800 in every song. The HD800's benefit is that it sounds more "natural" and realistic than other headphones, but if that's what you want you should just stick with speakers, which offer better detail (and details are presented in proportion, not like headphones which make details sound louder than they should), better spatials, better sound -- just better. My conclusion from this is that although the HD800 are the best headphones I've ever tried, they can't beat a proper speaker system, which makes sense because no amount of magic engineering could turn a 1-2" driver into something that can compete with perfectly placed full sized speakers. I include this so that no one, who has the room and privacy to enjoy speakers, wastes their money on an HD800. Headphones are for people in apartments, people with families and people on the move. If you have the room, go with speakers.
    1. nigeljames
      I agree totally with your comments. I put off buying the HD800's for ages because people had said they were not good for rock/metal or for fast music.
      Now I just wonder what those people were smoking!! 
      nigeljames, Feb 15, 2014
    2. whitedragem
      Keep enjoying the low fidelity sources you seem to prefer.
      Glad the headphones you have decided to keep offer you a sense of superiority, (I had to read your review based on the smack talk you put on other members review')
      Based on what mistafuntasitco had to say regarding the same headset, basedon a year of use..
      Your limited real time, especially given you seem to be figuring out basic stuff like how to run a headphone amp from your laptop.. surely makes your experience definative.
      Whilst I have never been one to wish to bash, I just find the immaturity you bring to this forum kinda amazing. Ten drivers worth of amazing (in a well setup surround setup, speakers cease to have actual physical locations, and sound just extends seamlessly from the front plane around the room as programmed to do.
      There is no doubt that Jacksons music sounds phenominal.
      In fact many gold manufactured discs, oweing I believe to their higher reflectivity/ease to read, give phenominal,bass (the really long soundwave that errors in recreating will quite quickly diminish the integrity of).
      I hope that some time at headfi digesting some of the other passionate takes of similar hobbyists might widen your understanding significantly.
      Oh and I have little issue with compressed music (by file size) for some genres, as the playback has lost very little.
      I have no time, however, for mass market compressed (make the music louder to stand out equally well from the radio in the background) styles of music.
      headphones (great and small) benefit from great sources, being the file, the equipment and the user knowledge to match the right genres/recording with the right equipment.
      long time forum goers here, as well as people who have lived through the last four decades of format demise keep several setups to meet the needs of differing song requirements for enjoyable playback.
      Anyhow, I just hope you can chill out a little on a need to burn other people who's opinion differs to yours, no matter your level of expertise, cause even the 'lambs' need some helpful steering/honest answers to their quite often overwhelmed new experience and hobby.
      Outside of this forum some people just don't get that spending more than,$30 has any real worth to the audio. May the song remain the same...
      whitedragem, Feb 22, 2014
  6. guntur
    Written by guntur
    Published Oct 17, 2013
    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! [​IMG]
    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!! [​IMG]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 (!!??!!) [​IMG]
    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"!![​IMG]
    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![​IMG]
    Am sure I would be sharing more eventually!
    1. 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.
      AmberOzL, Oct 17, 2013
    2. 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.
      Sweden, Oct 17, 2013
  7. lightningfarron
    detailed and unforgiving headphone.
    Written by lightningfarron
    Published Jun 16, 2013
    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.
  8. Fidelity182
    The Optimum
    Written by Fidelity182
    Published Apr 14, 2013
    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.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. LoveKnight
      Well. May I ask what DAC and AMP do you use to pair with HD800 curiously?
      LoveKnight, Apr 16, 2013
    3. 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, Apr 16, 2013
    4. Fidelity182
      Have no chance to listen to ALO Continental tube amp as well, I suppose its similar.
      Fidelity182, Apr 16, 2013
  9. dan.gheorghe
    The best headphone I have heard to date
    Written by dan.gheorghe
    Published Apr 14, 2013
    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.


    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!


      Pidgeon likes this.
    1. Pidgeon
      Good review, thank you! :)
      Pidgeon, Apr 14, 2013
    2. dan.gheorghe
      Thank you, glad I could help!
      dan.gheorghe, Apr 15, 2013
    3. Arniesb
      Wow man, really good and entertaining review!
      Arniesb, Feb 14, 2016
  10. reeltime
    Expensive Cans Enjoy Expensive Power
    Written by reeltime
    Published Dec 29, 2012
    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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    2. 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.
      TheKillerPiglet, Dec 30, 2012
    3. 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...
      TheKillerPiglet, Dec 30, 2012
    4. 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
      Night Crawler, Jan 2, 2013