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Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones

  1. clohmann
    With after market cables, you can have audio heaven!
    Written by clohmann
    Published Nov 25, 2013
    Pros - The DH800s have a great ability to show how good your upstream components can be.
    Cons - You MUST use aftermarket cables to make them sound their best!
    It took two months of burning in and finding the right aftermarket cables to make these my desert island cans! My system is made of an old Rotel cd player(9 + years) for digital out put and my pc with JRiver Media Center for flac files of my cd and vinyl recordings and high res audio files. I have had my Melos SHA-1 tubed headphone amp/preamp for almost 20 years! Transparent Audio Super cables for interconnects and Ultimates for speaker cables. From my PC to Pangea USB to my M-Audio Fast Track to Tara Labs RSC digital into my Bryston BDA-1 to said Melos SHA-1 headphone amp. I have HD600s, 650s as well as the 800s for ear pleasure. Recommended Moon Audio cables are use with all my 'phones. Audio Prism mkII power conditioner and Tara Labs, PS Audio and Cardas cables for power cords. I use Mapleshade Isoblock equipment stands. Speakers by Eggleston Isadoras and power amplification by Balanced Audio Technology's VK100. I've been a sound head for 30 years. I always have played with cables to get my sound as full and accurate as possible.
    The music I listen to goes from David Sylvian, Brian Eno to Coltrane and Shostakovitch...
    After my DH800s broke in with their stock cables I figured it was time to see if I could get them to sound fuller and less over bright. I shopped around until I found Drew Baird's website moon-audio.com, man was I impressed. Not only are his cables made of impressive materials but the terminations and construction quality are the absolute first class. I think I could use these cables for many, many years to come! With his Black Dragon cables sourced for the HD800s I was able to get very rich, warm and accurate sound from these cans! The highs were put into place with liquid highs and warm linear mids to full bodied bass(maybe not the end all bass but...). Image separation is amazing and the depth presented is unbelievable!
    So it's happy ending for me. Don't wanna know 'bout the latest plannar Magnetic cans out there. I'm done,,,,, for now!
    1. LoveKnight
      Hi ya,
      I have a question sir. Does your new HD800 Black Dragon cable support full balanced amplifiers? I heard many good compliments of Moon Audio cables and want to purchase ones for my future headphones.
      LoveKnight, Nov 26, 2013
    2. clohmann
      Hi LoveKnight,
      Yes the Black Dragon supports full balanced connections.
      clohmann, Nov 26, 2013
  2. MickeyVee
    HD800 - An Emotional View
    Written by MickeyVee
    Published Oct 22, 2013
    Pros - Soundstage, Detail, Layering, FR Response
    Cons - Unreleting Accuracy
    There are so many review of the HD800 and for my review, I wanted to take a different approach, a more personal, emotional view.. YMMV.. here we go..

    First, let me address my POV on some of the key points of other reviews/comments/forum posts:
    1. Sibilance/ 6Khz peak:  I simply don't hear it.  I came from the HD700 and definitely heard the treble peaks there.  The HD800 seems pretty flat to me across the spectrum. I'm definitely going to try the Anaxilus 2.0 mod, but I'm in no real hurry.
    2. Source/Amp Dependant:  Oh Yes.. maybe thats the magic behind the HD800.. they definitely scale up.  They're listenable through something as simple as the AudioQuest DragonFly and scale way, way up form there.  Give that, my thoughts are based on the HD800 and Woo Audio WA7 combination.  This is as much a review/thoughts on the WA7 delivers as it is specifically to the HD800. 
    3. MythBuster: You don't have to have TOTL source/DAC/Amp to enjoy the HD800! I won't recommend a FiiO E10 with them but in the $1K range, you can start to hear the potential. Choose carefully and you will be rewarded.
    4. Cables: Although I have the fabulous Q silk cable, I decided to conduct this review with the stock cable.  This provides a better baseline. USB cable is the NuForce USB and that's about it.
    5. (Update) Source: 2012 MacMini with Audirvana Plus on top of iTunes.
    There are two district areas of my home office. The main setup is my desk with my MacMini, Woo WA7 and HD800 where I generally hang out listening to music while surfing, working or processing pictures in LightRoom and the other side where I have my recliner and immerse myself in the music with the lights out and the room lit by a single candle and the glow of the WA7 fireflies.  In my office chair, I can get analytical and pick apart my system and in my recliner I can just sit back with a dram of Single Malt and just enjoy.  This review is about the latter.
    My HeadFi journey has been relatively short compared to others and I feel like I'm reaching my end state. Not quite there yet, but I feel like I'm getting there. For me, the HD800 is about the music, it's layers, depth, air, detail and how the music was recorded along with the artists individuality. The only way I can explain this  is by my reflections of some of my favourite songs.  So, here it goes..
    The Longest Road, Deadmou5 ReMix by Morgan Page (iTues download).  The song start with a brilliant baseline centre stage and brings in keyboards escalating and surrounding it in multiple dimensions.  The vocalist, Lisse, is dead centre stage during the main parts of the song and moves off to both sides for the chorus.  Her voice is haunting and I can imagine see her face and expressions throughout the track. The music, it's dimensionality and simple layers takes me beyond the music into another world.  I can feel and almost see her passion and know that she's having fun with this.  Yes, its an iTunes download and I wish the bass was smoother and more solid but there's more to it than the technicalities.
    Somewhere Down the Crazy River, Robbie Roberstson (CD rip to Apple Lossless).  Robbie's voice is deep and passionate taking me down deep into the souther states somewhere down the crazy river right into Nick's Cafe. He tells the story and I'm right there.  The music is dimensional all around me while with the voice and lyrics paints a realistic visual picture for me.
    Adele 21 (CD rip to Apple Lossless).. what can I say.  This lady has been hurt bad and is reflected in her voice and music.  Simply Brilliant.
    Eva Cassidy  (CD rip to Apple Lossless)... simplicity, brilliance and one of the greatest voices I have ever heard.  Her voice music is dreamy and suck me right in. Could listen to her forever.
    Black Magic Woman, Patricia Barber (SA/CD rip to Apple Lossless).  This has to be one of the best recorded tacks I have ever heard.  Sexy and sultry voice with a band that is as incredible as she is.  I'm not a musician and don't know instruments very well but when I listen to the track, I can envision the bass player, the organist and guitarist, hear/see their fingers as they finesse their instruments all in harmony making great music.
    The Girl From Ipanema, Frank Sinatra (CD to Apple Lossless).  Wow!  I had no idea that recording were that good in the 50's.  Frank has to have one of the greatest and smoothest voices ever recored.  The guitar, piano and string are simple in structure but definitely realistic and enveloping. I can listen to each individually or bring my self back to hear the entire ensemble. 
    One More Night, Cutmore Club Mix, Maroon 5 (iTunes download).  Ok, I just want to crank it, get up and dance when this track is on.  Not a great recording but the bass is powerful and the passion comes through in the lyrics.; probably because I can relate.  Who gives a cr@p about the technicalities, this is just fun! Absolutely love it!!
    Fleurs Du Mal, Sarah Brightman (CD to Apple Lossless): As much as I love her voice and the symphonic rock melody of this track, the recording just sucks.  What a pity!  This could be a reference track for the HD800 but the poor recording/mixing is evident. The HD800 brings out every poor detail and that can be said of most poorly recorded tracks. Congested and distorted. The HD800 lays out the simple truth.
    I could go on and on with other examples with some of my favourites being Dire Straits, Enigma, Moodswings, Supertramp, Loreena McKennitt, Michael Buble and more. 
    For me, the HD800 is about the emotion it brings it like no other headphone I have owned.  I love to hear and listen to the different layers in complex music as well as appreciate simple compositions.  I love the ability to pick out and place voices and instruments in 3D space and then move back and hear/see how they come together in a great song. I could listen to a single track and get something new out of it each time I hear it be it 10 times or 300 times. 
    Sometimes is just about listening beyond the technicalities. For example, I probably have similar comments with the HiFiMAN HE500 which is a brilliant headphone but somehow comes across dry and unemotional.  The music is there, it's good but just sounds like a good recording.. something is missing for me.
     Is the HD800 perfect, not really.  I find it lifelike and deeply immersive with the right type of music.  The air, detail, layering and soundstage all contribute but taken as a whole, there is something special there.  This is the first headphone that I have owned where I can listen at low volumes and hear everything or just crank it and have fun without fatigue.
    At times, I'd like to get the feeling like I was in a club back into the 80's dancing to When I Rome (The Promise), Frankie goes to Hollywood (Relax), Simple Minds, Pet Shop Boys.. or just losing myself in Deadmou5 or Lindsey Stirling… you get it. The HD800 does not do that (so much) for me so I'll be looking for a compliment to them. Maybe different source/amp or another pair of complimentary headphones depending on my budget.  For everything else, they're definitely a keeper for me. If you've got the budget to tailor your source/amp to your liking, this could be pretty much an end game.
      theheadfier likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. Takeanidea
      Am glad you mentioned about the HD800 at low volumes being so good. That's something that I always noticed but don't think it's raved about enough.
      Takeanidea, Oct 24, 2013
    3. Takeanidea
      Am glad you mentioned about the HD800 at low volumes being so good. That's something that I always noticed but don't think it's raved about enough.
      Takeanidea, Oct 24, 2013
    4. Dionysus
      Knowing that you come from the HD700 and moving up to the 800 gives me an excellent insight to the upgrade. I am currently giving the 800 a lot of consideration, your review is again insightful thanks.
      Dionysus, Feb 8, 2014
  3. Takeanidea
    The HD800 before and after - now lambswool modded and Sorrodje SuperDupont Resonator modded
    Written by Takeanidea
    Published Mar 25, 2013
    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.


    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.


    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.


    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.

    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.
    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.
      gevorg, pedalhead, Wilashort and 7 others like this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. 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?
      aizik1992, Apr 16, 2013
    3. 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!!
      guntur, Oct 17, 2013
    4. reihead
      Love this kind of review revisions after some months or years
      Thank you very much
      Very informative
      reihead, Dec 2, 2015
  4. bedlam inside
    Amazing headphones, very capable, yet they cost more than a good pair of speakers...
    Written by bedlam inside
    Published Mar 17, 2013
    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:

  5. YoengJyh
    HD800 is my DieHard Headphone for now
    Written by YoengJyh
    Published Mar 3, 2013
    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.
      jtinto likes this.
    1. View previous replies...
    2. XxDobermanxX
      XxDobermanxX, Mar 7, 2013
    3. interpolate
      This is not Facebook. Geez it reminds me of the iVerge forum. 
      interpolate, Jun 20, 2015
    4. 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!!
      YoengJyh, Jul 25, 2015
  6. DefQon
    When amped properly, sounds excellent!
    Written by DefQon
    Published Aug 13, 2012
    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.
  7. Covenant
    Sennheiser HD800 Review
    Written by Covenant
    Published Aug 2, 2011
    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.

    Build quality and comfort
    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.


    Listening Impressions
    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.


    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.
      DavidMatlab likes this.
    1. treebug
      How did they sound with your Soloist Covenant?
      treebug, Sep 23, 2012
    2. Covenant
      Hi treebug, I do not actually own the HD800; the pair used for the above review was a loaner.
      Covenant, Sep 23, 2012
  8. .Sup
    Written by .Sup
    Published Oct 22, 2010
    So finally some impressions from me heh
    For the past two weeks I'm listening to HD800 exclusively, I needed a month to adapt to the different sound signature of 800s. At first I was very annoyed about the lack of bass they have compared to HD600 (and some people say HD600 don't have enough bass already) but now I don't miss it, there's plenty now, its tight but not as deep as HD600. I understand why Sennheiser would want to reduce bass, in my opinion because everything else is now more forward sounding, more open, vocals wouldn't be as realistic as they are with more bass impact. 
    I have to repeat I don't miss any bass and I have tried them with variety of music. They work great even with bass heavy Trance and Electronica. R&B sound fantastic as well and my favourite Jazz is jaw dropping. 
    Some say HD800 are bright headphones but I disagree, they are however very detailed and certainly not veiled in anyway like the HD600. I have to admit vocals were never so close to reality before and soundstage is just amazing with HD800. Its like music is floating in my cans. 
    The first thing I noticed when I put them on my head is how much heavier they were compared to HD600 which are my reference cans. They aren't too heavy just heavier, noticeable. I used to say HD555s were the most comfy cans. Well I have a new reference when it comes to comfortability. These are huge and my ears don't even touch the cans. 
    The pads don't seem to be velour and are of much high quality and more skin friendly-they don't itch. Build quality is decent but in time the build flaws become apparent. The cable is very nicely build, don't know how many strands it has but its twisted and I don't see myself buying a new one unless I go balanced someday but that doesn't seem to happen any time soon since I enjoy them a lot with my current setup.
    My setup is as follows: ND-S1 dock (which is the most neutral transport I have ever heard besides my Yamaha S-1000 cd transport) then the setup continues in either DacMagic with RA PSU>Auditor or Audio GD Ref5>LD IV SE.
    I mostly use the 1st setup as its much more musical but the Ref5 has the detail. Interesting how some components just don't have synergy. LD IV with DM is grainy while REf5 and Auditor are harsh with HD800.
    HD800 need a nice stand as they are very fragile cans. What more can I say, people who listen to them are jaw-dropping and I, myself now enjoy these fully. Are they worth the money? No, hugely overpriced, HD600 offer much more value at 1/5 of its price (Europe) but I don't imagine my setup without them (HD800). :)
  9. poikkeus
    The classic Sennheiser
    Written by poikkeus
    Published Aug 28, 2010
    Pros - Detailed, balanced, powerful
    Cons - Somewhat heavy, warm, expensive
    I haven't had the chance to audition the new Audeze phones, but it would difficult to fault the sound and build quality of Senn's HD800 - a model that has been praised by some as the best dynamic headphone, ever. Given its reputation as top of Sennheiser line, and considering its price, it's a good idea to elevate expectations. This is a fine headphone - but there's a lot to expect. However, instead of regurgitating a fine review like Skylab - whose systematic evaluation covers the important points - it may be just as important to provide a more personal review of these phones.
    What I Didn't Like
    1. Weight. While I've owned heavier headphones (including all-wood designs), the HD800 is modestly heavy. Some of the wood/leather models compensate with a luxurious look and feel; that said, one can easily imagine wearing the HD800 for extended periods of time. Compared to the lightness of, say, an AKG-K701, which can be used alternately as ear-muffs, the HD800's heft leaves one feeling comfortable but truly comfortable.
    2. Comfort. There's no question, Sennheiser has done an impressive job balancing sound and comfort. The padded cups don't exert too much pressure - but don't expect the feather lightness of a DT880 or AKG-K701. Your ears might feel a little hot after an extended listening session.
    3. Cost. I don't intend to harp over the "value" issue; if you're paying a grand and a half for headphones, value probably isn't a paramount issue. That said, I believe you should at least sample the phones before making a decision. You might find that a dramatically cheaper phone would be more to your liking.
    What I Liked
    1. Detail. These phones emphasize quality bass and detailed mids, giving a convincing sense of accuracy. The more you spend on a pair of headphones, the more subtle the differences in sound; however, with the HD800, one comes away with the feeling that the music takes priority. It's detailed, but truly a generalist's headphone.
    2. Brightness. It's easy to fall into the trap that the HD800 is a lighter-sounding headphone - when in fact it's extremely accurate. Don't expect a boomy bass; the HD800 sounds remarkably like well-mastered studio recordings. 
    3. Build. As you'd expect, the HD-800 has a rock-solid build. To be honest, I'd prefer real metal over faux metal, but in terms of overall quality, these phones are reassuringly strong.
    There's probably no such thing as a "perfect" headphone, but the HD800 renders a variety of genres very well, indeed. 
  10. stainless824
    Smoothing out treble and giving more bass
    Written by stainless824
    Published May 21, 2010
    Get a different cable. One fault is the stock cable of the hd800, it's 36AWG, perhaps the bottleneck you are finding with this headphone. Get a different cable because the anemic bass and the hot treble on this is mainly due to this fault in engineering, using 18awg will make it a lot better
    1. View previous replies...
    2. nicholars
      Maybe you should go and work for Sennheieser and inform the engineers what they are doing wrong... All that R&D and they used too thin cable! Solved!
      nicholars, Jun 24, 2013
      basdek likes this.
    3. DarKen23
      Theres nothing wrong with the stock cable. Does it fair better with aftermarket, sure. Doesnt mean the stock is bad. Go stick the 1/4' plug into a vintage pioneer receiver, I doubt youd shame the stock cables again.
      DarKen23, Aug 31, 2013
    4. Headzone
      Trolls are not funny anymore.
      Headzone, Nov 5, 2013