Sennheiser HD 800 Headphones


New Head-Fier
Pros: Flawless sound reproduction and very comfortable
Cons: A bit pricey
Worth every penny 


New Head-Fier
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..."
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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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.


Headphoneus Supremus
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.


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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How did they sound with your Soloist Covenant?
Hi treebug, I do not actually own the HD800; the pair used for the above review was a loaner.


500+ Head-Fier
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.


New Head-Fier
Pros: Open, detailed sound out of the head. Balanced mid and base
Cons: Need custom cabling
Love 'em:)


500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Wonderful, cohesive sound with great soundstage.
Cons: none
The HD800 is the finest headphone sound that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. I put over 100 hours on them before giving them a serious go. Over the past week I have listened to a wide variety of music on them, from jazz and classical to rock and country with a little blues thrown in when the mood struck. The Senns reward great recordings with terrific detail, sparkling treble, rich full mid-range and a solid bass foundation. They do not add or subtract anything from the recordings, they are very neutral and natural sounding. I have paired them with several amps, including the Schiit Vahalla and Asgard, but they shine with the Burson HA-160. 
On good jazz recordings you can clearly hear each individual instrument. The acoustic bass sounds very deep and detailed. Pianos sound realistic with a profound sense of the body of the instrument on display. Drums kick hard and resonate. Guitars are stunning, both electric and acoustic. The high hats are clear but never harsh or in your face. On orchestral music, the sound captures the full sweep and beauty of the orchestra. Rock and country sound great, and a well recorded blues disc puts you there. In particular I was struck listening to the Beatles remastered discs, as well as several remastered Elvis Presley cd's from the 60's and 70's. Today I rocked hard with the latest cd from Tom Petty, MOJO, which had all the right stuff going on. Vocals, both male and female sound superb.
In summing up the HD800, I only have the strongest praise for this marvelous piece of headphone engineering and would strongly recommend them to anyone considering them.
I also paired my AKG 702's with the Burson and that combo was also stunning. But the Senns truly shine.
how were the 702's with the asgard, iv'e heard some complaints that the asgard started to damage the reviewer's 702's by acting up with the driver. Did you find that same problem?


Headphoneus Supremus
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). :)


100+ Head-Fier
Need to update when they arrive this friday, will have multiple sources to test them out on.


100+ Head-Fier
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. 


New Head-Fier
Pros: With modification: Extremley neutral and true
Cons: Possibly price compared to materials. (more case)

A way to Truly real sound.

There has been many headphones over the year to come closer and closer to The "Non plus ultra" of headphones (terms ex: timing and power).
This headphone has come so close to the most accurate results both technically and audibly wich will be explained below.

The Initial impression

At first this headphone was pretty extraordinary in Detail.Transparency.Attack.Stability.Comfort and overall close to all aspects of it. It was a few places even in this great headphone that could use a slight improvment though.
Treble some people have reported problems with and what not. I myself found that compared to most other phones this was a pretty small problem. Since there was not much else to say besides that some might not like the massive soundstage, It was really only a slight bit of focus and treble "smoothing" that might have been necessary in order to achieve close to Total perfection.

The second impression (Mod).

A very detailed modification was done later to it that completely removed all of the troubles that had been found in the headphone before.
It now had a much better focusing of the sound imagein all areas, together with a treble with 0 indication of +/- audible deviations or any hars sound.
There was now also even greater detail and attack than before completed with a much more natural response overall in the frequency range. With this mod that was done to the custom built amplifier and a certain material that was put inside the earcup, (sadly not able to go into much more detail due to not enough info), The phone was now so natural and transparent, Nothing I have heard from neither headphone nor speaker came close no matter the price range. ( 138.11- 1381100 dollar).
This truly is the most perfect audio I have ever experienced in my life in terms of neutrality and transparency.





1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Bass, Mids, Highs, Soundstage, Solid Construction, Supreme Comfort
Cons: Needs better cable to excel, paint job a little fragile
[size=small]What is there to say about the new flagship Sennheiser that hasn't already been said over the past year.  With that in mind, I will give my impressions about this headphone and why I believe that most people that don't like it haven't listened to it properly amped and for long enough time.  This is a headphone that easily wows for the first few minutes you try it on....often blowing away any other headphones you've heard before.  However after that initial honeymoon is over, many are very bothered by the highs, lack of bass, large soundstage on certain kinds of music, and being overly analytical.  To me, the HD800 is very much of a Chameleon, like the Stax SR-007 Omega, meaning that even though they are easily amped, they are extremely revealing of the power, source, cables, amp, etc. and will drastically change in sound signature depending on what equipment you have them hooked up to.[/size]
[size=small]As other have said, these are probably the biggest and most comfortable headphones you'll try on.  They are so airy that you don't feel that your ears are enclosed inside the cup of a headphone.  The construction is impeccable with perfect weight distribution and styling to match.  The cable / connectors are very well designed for a stock cable and reeks of quality.  I upgraded mine eventually and found there to be positive benefits.  Otherwise, the paint can get slightly dinged up over time, but that is nitpicking.[/size]
[size=small]These headphones are ruthless (much like the Stax O2) and have caused me to upgrade my source to a Perfectwave DAC and my amp to a Woo Audio 5.  Even then I wasn't content and had to roll in a bunch of tubes until I found the ones that had the best definition, bass, and impact.  Because of the difficult nature of these, I've had a love hate relationship with them but believe that I've recently built my system such that I'm extremely happy with them with almost all music I listen to.   I have tried the HD650, Denon D7000, Beyerdynamic T1, Hifiman HE-5, and Stax Omega 2 hoping that they will displace my HD800s, but at the end none of those were good enough in my eyes to keep.[/size]
[size=small]For people that own HD650s, you will be in for quite a change of sound.  Gone is the Sennheiser veil and the enclosed soundstage, but the mids in my eyes are pretty close to the signature Sennheiser sound.  When not amped properly, these will sound thin, sibilant, with too much instrument separation.  When properly amped with an amp that has enough power and has a sound signature that will complement the HD800s, they will have the deepest bass you will hear (if the song is meant to have bass), wonderful instrument separation and soundstage, and beautiful highs without being sibilant or shrill.  Because they have such an amazing dynamic range, songs are rendered beautifully, with good timbre, and with a ton of impact.  Songs that have acoustic passages like jazz or guitars are the best I've ever experienced by far.  Granted they are not bassy like the D7000s, but in my eyes those are overly bassy even on songs / passages that aren't meant to be.  On a good system play "Hyper-Ballad" by Bjork and you will be amazed by how deep these headphone can go, its astonishing![/size]
[size=small]With all of this said, I highly recommend these headphones only if you are willing to invest in the rest of your system to make these shine.  There are easier headphones out there such as the T1, but in my book the HD800 rewards extremely well as your system progresses up.  I also suggest that you don't look into too many people's impressions of these based of a few hours of listening because they require a whole lot more time to adjust to and fully appreciate.  As for price, based on the recent trend of headphone flagship pricing (Audeze LCD-2, Stax O2, AKG K1000, Beyer T1, W5000) I think they are very appropriately priced for their amazing technical proficiency that I find unrivaled, especially in the dynamic headphone arena.  Good job Sennheiser!! Its pretty obvious that you have spend countless years of R&D to make these headphones just right!![/size]
These are pretty great headphones and I really love them!


Cavalli Audio Spiritual Advisor
Pros: Best dynamic available
Cons: VERY picky about the amp and cable
Let's start with my long love for all things Senn, from my first hd545, to hd600, not so much the hd650, but back again with the he60 (electrostat) and now the hd800.
The search for amps started with a balanced Bijou, where I thought a tube amp would be just the ticket with a SS source (Cambridge 840c), but, not quite. I also tried them balanced with a Little Dot Mark IV... just wasn't quite there.
Keeping with a SS source, I then looked at push-pull amps, where the jury is out, mainly by not having the amp fully functional for a long enough time.
So, I completely switched gears, through an odd congruence of events. First, I upgraded my source significantly, and changed topology to tube from SS. This, combined with a bjt SS amp (a commercial prototype) has given me the answer. With this combination, the hd800 is on par with the he60 (driven with eXStatA, that has better synergy with the he60 than does the BH), but with FAR better bass. Not that the he60, properly driven, is at all bass shy, but the hd800 really makes bass happen. True bass heads will now actually seek out the hd800 with an amp such as this (or KG's dynafet) because this is bass you feel, not just hear.
In fact, I (as a life long bass player) assert the hd800 has BETTER bass (quality and quantity) than the L3000, with FAR better control. Want to hear the timbre of a Fender Precision, or the sharpness of a Jazz, then contrast with an Alembic? This is the headphone for you.
Midrange is the patented Senn sound - nothing better for guitar and piano.
Now, where the discussion will be the most intense is around the higher frequencies - my bias is far away from that region, almost to the enxtent of dismissing it entirely, so I'll leave that for others.
PRaT is dead on, whether it's DEVO, Radiohead, Rhianna, or AC/DC. For the longest while I thought I'd have to get some HE-5 (or whatever the latest flavor) to really make headphones boogie again. Nope, the hd800 is up to the task, with the right supporting cast.
This will be available for listen at CanJam. See for yourself.
No mods per se, but I do have an APS v3 cable, balanced.
The strongest possible recommendation I can give the hd800 is that it would make me find the he60 idle and extraneous, and, I am ALMOST there.


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Comfortable, detailed, big soundstage
Cons: Artificial sounding, anemic in the bass, can be too bright, overpriced
I have listened to the HD800 twice, and I never really warmed up to it. And to clarify, they were not casual listening sessions--I took my time and did the listening under the following condition:
-In a controlled environment without distraction and noise
-Used high-end audio source and gears in the signal chain
-Had other flagship headphones there to do direct comparisons with
-Had ample time to do the listening tests, and took as long as I wanted
I should also clarify that I'm an audio professional (composer, songwriter, sound designer) that have worked in both high-end recording/mixing/mastering studios, as well as have built my own studio twice in two different countries (the first one was build completely from the ground up, with my own design in construction and acoustic treatment). I have extensive experience measuring, testing, assessing audio on a critical level, and when I say I "listened" to the HD800, what I mean is I actually tested it used audio test tones (sine wave tones at different frequencies, pink noise, log sweep) and a carefully selected playlist of musical material that I know like the back of my hands that spans many musical genres, and used them to assess specific capabilities of the headphone.
My overall impression of the HD800 was that Its clarity and resolution sounded artificial to me instead of natural (a spike in the upper mids region), and it had no authority in the sub-bass region. I'm one of those people who simply cannot consider a pair of headphones to be "amazing" or "the best of" if it's lacking neutrality in a chunk of the frequency range.
A amazing pair of headphones should sound like a full-range speaker system that reaches down to at least 30Hz and remains substantial and authoritative--anything less than that is not "amazing" to me. Now, pardon me for turning into a pig for a moment and fall back on the classic but eyebrow-raising comparison to a woman. It's sort of like if a girl is really hot with an awesome body, but her ass is flat, barely able to fill any pair of jeans--would that still be considered an amazing body? (This comparison is actually quite fitting in a humorous way, since low frequency in audio is often referred to as the "bottom-end.") Even the HD650 has more sub-bass extension and weight, and it costs far less than the flagship model.
I understand that there's a portion of people whose idea of neutral bass is in fact anemic bass to me, but most people have no idea what a neutral frequency range sounds like, because they have never heard true full-range sound before. Anyone who's ever heard a full-range speaker system that reaches down to 30Hz or lower while maintaining ± 3 dB, will know that neutral bass in in fact quite authoritative and substantial.
There are headphones out there that can reach down low and feel very authoritative--for example, the Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3, Stax 009, 007MKII, Denon AH-D7000, D5000, D2000, Audio-Technica ATH-M50, etc, so it's not like the HD800 is somehow limited by physics--it was a choice the engineers at Sennheiser made. (These days, more and more headphones on the market can reach down that low and sound authoritative in the sub-bass region, and it's now starting to become the standard. Flagship headphones that can't achieve a proper sense of weight in the sub-bass are now becoming more rare, and sticks out among all the other flagship headphones that could.)
If the lack of full sub-bass was the only issue, I'd have been fine with the HD800, but it is also overtly bright in the upper mid-range, which can be shrill/sibilant on some material, and that breaks my number one rule of audio: "First, do no harm." When any audio gear produces sound that is too bright, it becomes grating and it hurts your ears, and when that happens, it's a deal breaker for me.
Many defenders of this attribute of the HD800 will go to lengths to remedy the problem by buying stupidly expensive headphone amps or other unnecessary audio gadgets to tame that brightness, and they would proclaim that if one used a sufficiently high-end tube amp, the HD800 will sound much better. Really? It appears the marketing department of high-end audio gear companies are doing a damn fine job selling absurd diminishing returns. A pair of headphones is not supposed to have inherent problems that needs to be fixed with yet another piece of expensive gear in the first place. If someone tried to pull that in the professional audio world, they'd get laughed out of the marketplace. This isn't to say there aren't too-bright sounding professional monitor speakers, but at least they were designed with onboard EQ's and measuring mics to adjust according to the room acoustics. If you want to alter the sonic signature of any audio gear--use an actual EQ, not an expensive amp used like a single-preset EQ. 
Some people say the HD800 is very revealing, like a sonic microscope. Well, so were the Yamahama NS10's--the legendary monitor speakers that's dominated the pro audio world for decades, but they were used only in the context of being a mixing/mastering tool, and only for troubleshooting potential problems. No one uses them for leisurely listening or a balanced overall presentation, because they were too bright and lacked authoritative sub-bass. If you're not using the HD800 in that way and are listening for pleasure, I think you can find aural bliss in another pair of high-end headphones that doesn't do as much harm and has a more full-range sound.
@TadCat - Modern entertainment has ample sonic information down low near 30Hz, such as movie and video game sound effects and soundtracks. Because of that, I think most people should care whether their headphones can product low sub-bass with enough power and control, and today's headphone manufacturers should strive to reproduce sonic information as low as what is common in movie and video game audio production. 
I agree. For example Pink Floyd 'welcome to the machine' and the intro to Dark Side of the Moon both have a lot of energy below 30hz. I now this as I can drop it out on a 32 band graphic and can tell it has gone (in my Stax 009s). This is a really old recording. Modern recording have even more information and texture going on in the sub registers.
The other thing is, if you take away that foundation, like building a house on sand, the whole thing sounds hollow and weak. It is absolutely required IMO.
I used to be a DJ in clubs, and club mix vinyl had a lot of energy below 30hz, it was enough to vibrate the building, so don't tell me it is not here please...
this review is spot on. Probably the best review I have read on Head-fi tbh


100+ Head-Fier
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
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!
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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.
Trolls are not funny anymore.


1000+ Head-Fier
Just a short review to add my experience of the HD 800.
There are times when I am simply startled at the aliveness of the music.  There will be silence after a musical passage or between pieces, and when the music starts up again, it's like when someone walks into a room and you don't hear them and then they start talking to you.
The sound is so real, so natural so alive, for that moment it is as if the ensemble were next to me.
I did jetteson the stock cord and replaced it with a Cardas single ended for better results.
I am very happy I got them.


Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Excellent sound, very comfortable, excellent sound stage and bass extension
Cons: Are quite big and are expensive if you wont to properly frive them (amp, dac etc).

The Monkey

Monkey See, Monkey DAC
A really sick dud
Pros: Similar speed and agility to stats
Cons: No soul
An expensive, technically proficient headphone that has no soul.  Does mate well with the Luxman P-1 or P1-u, but at that point, why not go electrostatic, which is what these are trying to be in the first place.  Kudos to Senn for innovation, but these are just too steely for my tastes.


New Head-Fier
Pros: Certainly Unique, Nothing else like it , however,
Cons: Sure have my "personal preferences" these aren't quite,,
Have tried them all now, after reading all of your fine reviews,,,,, whew,,, what an experience!  HD-650, DT-990, AK-702, AD-2000, AH-D7000, and of course the HD-800.  First, I am in complete agreement with SKYLAB's review,, remember it's mostly positive and I will write more later.  My initial impressions?  Give me the AH-D7000 with it's wonderful smooth, articulate mid definition, and a bit less "over" bass, give me the even consideration of the DT-990 with more of the air that the HD-800 offers and a whoop of the .AH-D7000 bass, and finally, please give me the HD-800 with all it's own built in delivery,,and a bit more of the wooomfy 7000 bass so low, even some of the even, comfortable wallowing serenity of the DT-990 upper mid definition ( that freq isn't  there in the other cans?)  and ,,,, I will have the perfect headphone!  I will sans comment on the AK-702 and the HD-650, neither of which I believe can provide anything near the "overall" package of the aforementioned.  The HD-800 is quite breathtaking, yet lacks in just these few areas. A bit anemic in the bass department, although very well defined. A bit over concerting in the high end register, just enough to muddle the middle a bit, enough to confuse it's awesome soundstage a bit.  Since I can't have it all? For the money. I'll take the DT-990, wire it up, amp it up and have a whole lot of fun and money left over. For a lot more money, give me the AH-D7000's too.  I'll still have some left for  an amp, and some extra cans for my girlfriend,  I am an retired sound engineer/recordist and performer, forced to headphones by proximity.  My Hi Def sound is in the closet.   DP
ps: something of interest,, the AH-D7000 is an awesome headphone but can be overbearing on BASS material.  try this, flip the left with the right and voalla!  Less boom and still excellent!!. It's that pointed driver config? Like having 2 headphones?


Reviewerus Prolificus
Pros: A world-class high-end headphone from Sennheiser
Cons: Expensive; can be a little bright
REVIEW: Sennheiser HD 800



Reviewing a statement product is tough – especially one that was as highly anticipated as the HD800. There is already a huge buzz on head-fi about them, and many have already declared them the best dynamic headphone on the market. But most of these proclamations have been from owners, One potential difference between my listening to the HD800 and other people's so far is that I am fortunate to have been loaned a pair for a fairly lengthy period (1 month) - I did not buy them. So I do not have to deal with either buyer's euphoria, or worry about remorse, coloring my view on the headphone's performance. While I admit I *want* to like these, as I would like another pair of really great headphones, and I could afford to buy them if I liked them enough, my intent in listening to them is to analyze them with no pre-conceived notions, and since I have nothing to lose either way, it allows me a certain freedom to be scrutinize them very carefully, as I believe a "statement" product from a company like Sennheiser should be.

Please note that I am NOT saying that the views of the people who own them are not valid, or any less valid than my opinion. ALL opinions are equally valid. But mine does come from a slightly different point of view - not as an owner, but purely as an analyzer. I do want to add that initially I was considering buying them if I liked them enough. I'm not sure whether that has any bearing on my comments, but I am a big believer in full disclosure, so there it is.

Review Methodology

I spent a LOT of time with the HD800 in a wide variety of contexts. All my comparisons were done at my calibrated listening level of 80dBA (using the Rives Audio Test CD and my SPL meter for calibration).

And just so folks do not think that what I am hearing and have described below is either a factor of my amps, my cables, my sources, or my recordings, let me say this: I used 6 different sources (all with their own set of high-quality cables), 9 different amps, and lots and lots of the world's finest recordings . 3 of my sources are one-time Stereophile Class-A rated - two digital, one analog (the cartridge). I have amps from $400 - $1200 that I played them on, both tube and solid state. Sources included the Denon DVD-5900, Sony SCD-555ES, and my Vinyl rig of Benz-Micro Wood L2 on Denon DP-59L > Audio Electronics PH1 DJH. Amps used were SinglePower Extreme and MPX3, Decware CSP-2, Graham Slee SRG w/PSU1, and Audio-GD C-2-C.

Further, and unlike other headphone reviews, I also used my speakers for reference for this review. I also decided, in addition to other headphones, will that the very, very natural sounding but highly detailed B&W Nautilus 800 Signatures would be valuable in getting a good handle on the HD800’s performance. So I compared the sound of the HD 800 to the B&W N800’s as well as the JVC DX1000 and the Beyer DT880.

Also, I used truly excellent recordings in my evaluations, of wide variety. I've listened to my audiophile standards, which include a lot of jazz, some folk and bluegrass, and some extremely well recorded pop/rock records. I have developed a list of such recordings for evaluation use over the years, as many of you have.

I find Patricia Barber records, for example, excellent evaluation tools, as they are extremely well recorded, have both female vocals and piano, and have both quiet and explosive (for jazz) parts, and wide dynamics. Some of my initial concern about the HD800's treble was a result of listening to Patricia Barber's new record.

I believe this is more than sufficient to eliminate the other variables, and to decide what characteristics belong solely to the headphones themselves.

The Sound

The Midrange

The midrange on the HD800 is fantastically good – the best I have ever heard from a headphone. It is just as full-bodied as the DX1000’s, and yet lacks the DX1000’s very slight coloration. The mids are incredibly open and transparent. They are, to me, the “rightest” mids I have ever heard in a headphone. They make the Beyer DT990’s slightly recessed mids sound just silly by direct comparison (and I like the DT990 overall – a lot).

Mary Fahl and Julie Flanders’ harmonizing in October Project’s “Ariel” (from their eponymous record) is just as engaging as can possibly be. The mids are just slightly forward, but not ever congested. Male vocals are very natural and not overly chesty, or dry. The midrange has great body, but it does not have any noticeable coloration that I can hear. Many cans with body in the midrange accomplish this with a coloration which benefits some music more than others. To an extent the JVC DX1000 are like this, although over time I have grown to love the DX1000’s mids. But the HD800’s are better. The midrange performance is just beguiling. For some, it may be worth the price of admission all by itself.

Just listen to Joan Osborne’s vocals on her cover of The Grateful Dead’s “Brokedown Palace” (from “Pretty Little Stranger”) – I have never heard her voice sound so natural – it’s effortless, unstrained, and has a presence to it – it sounds like a read voice coming from a living, breathing woman, not a 2-D facsimile.


There is also no doubt in my mind that the HD800 are the imaging champs of the dynamic headphone world. I have owned or heard almost every significant dynamic headphone there is – Sony R10, At W5000 and L3000, Senn HD650/600, Grado RS1 and GS1000, all the ones I currently own, and many, many more I have owned and sold. And I have never heard a headphone image like the HD800. Depth is phenomenal, and somehow width is even better. I really feel like the sound is IN FRONT of me, not stuck “inside my head” like with so many headphones. The soundstaging is better with the HD800 than with the DX1000, and that is saying something – I think the DX1000 image sensationally. But the HD800 is terrific in this regard.

With the HD800, it is easy, not “work”, to imagine real performers in real space. It’s very tempting to keep closing my eyes when listening to them, because the imaging is so convincing. For anyone who has avoided headphones because they don’t image like speakers, spend some time with the HD800. No, they don’t image like speakers – but I can’t imagine anyone who would CARE, because the way they do image is just spectacularly enjoyable.

Simple Minds’ “See the Lights” presents the band in a perfect half-circle around you. I saw them live in their heyday, and hearing them on the HD800’s really brought me back to that show in a way that was almost startling.

The HD800’s have the LEAST amount of isolation of any headphone I own. I wonder if this is a factor in their great soundstaging? Not sure, but however they did it, this is quite an achievement, and here again, maybe worth the price of admission by itself.

The Treble

So we have established that the midrange is terrific, and the soundstaging is amazing. But the treble...ummmm...well...this is more problematic. IMHO, the HD800 has a slightly hot treble. Hundreds of hours of break-in has not changed this. I hear it on some vocals as a pronounced sibilance that I don't think should be there, and I hear it on cymbals that have a slightly over-exaggerated splashiness.

I want to make clear that the treble is extraordinarily clean. There is no grain, spit, grit, or (god forbid) “veil” of any kind here. The treble is very pure in nature, and it has no texture that detracts from transparency. In fact, I would classify the treble as being astonishingly transparent (which is different from being neutral).

When I began to listen to the HD800, and I began to examine the transparency, versus the linearity, and I spent a lot of time trying to determine what was going on, because this is very difficult to accurately assess. How is one to know if the HD800 is just being accurate about the recording, or over-emphasizing it? So I had to listen very carefully to a LOT of music, and do a lot of comparison, to nail it down. Some examples:

> “Burn Down This Town", by Roseanne Cash, from Black Cadillac. The HD800 are over-emphasizing the sibilants on this recording, IMO. An over-emphasis on sibilance, it is very important to understand, is the symptom, but not the "problem".
>“Out of the Woods” by Nickel Creek, from their eponymous album, there are some additional emphasis on Sara Watkins’ sibilants that I do not believe to be an accurate reflection of what is on the recording – this is a very smooth SACD, and it should not have sharp sibilants on it when played back, but they are there with the HD800.
>“So Far Away” by Dire Straits from Brothers in Arms - there is a crispness to the attack of the snare that I think is artificially crisp, and the song in general has an aggressiveness that I don’t think is an intrinsic part of the recording, based on how it sounds on other transducers.

These are just a few examples. It's easy to say "well it's just on the recording" if one does not have any other high resolution transducers with which to determine whether that is the case. But in direct comparisons I have done with the ultra-high resolution B&W N800's, I come to the same conclusion that there is some extra treble energy on the HD800's. This might be something people like – heck maybe even the majority of people, and that is fine, but in the context of a very expensive headphone, I would be happier if the treble were more neutral even than it is.

I don't want to make too big of an issue with this, but it is a real phenomenon that multiple people have noticed. At a minimum, it points to the need for very careful system matching to get the most of out the HD800's, although anyone buying $1,400 headphones should be carefully considering system matching anyway. But if you have a bright source and/or amp, you could be in trouble.

I definitely prefer the treble of the JVC DX1000, which I find to be smoother. The DX1000 are very slightly rolled off in the extreme upper treble - they have a roll-off above 10kHz. That is the VERY upper end of the treble range, and does not affect the area where the HD800 is hot to me, which is more in the lower-to-mid treble. The DX1000 are not rolled off there, but they are flatter versus the reference 1kHz level in the mid-treble than the HD800. If the HD800 were only tipped up where the DX1000 are rolled off, this would just lead to a little more "air". But that is not what I hear going on.

The HD800 has even a little hotter sounding mid-treble versus the DT880, which are *far* from rolled off in the treble - in fact they are sometimes criticized for having too much treble themselves. But the DT880 does not have quite the same problem that the HD800 has with treble (although the DT880 is a little hot in the treble for sure). Their treble flavor is different. This can be seen in the HR Frequency response graphs:


The DT880 actually has less of a treble peak, versus the level at 2 or 3kHz than the HD800 does, and the DT880’s peak is above 8kHz, versus the HD800’s being at 6. So not surprising that they sound different in the treble. Interesting that the HD800 frequency response, in the Headroom graph, certainly doers correlate very strongly with what I seem to be hearing. That is a very noticeable peak of almost 8db at 6 kHz versus 3kHz. I cannot see how anyone can argue that such a peak won't have SOME audible consequence. Of course headphones like the Grados have even peakier treble, but there is no argument that Grados have a hot treble.

It’s important to note that measure headphones is tricky, and while Headroom knows this and does a lot to minimize the issues, one cannot make judgments about a headphone’s sound based on looking just at frequency response charts. In this case, though, there does seem to be a correlation.

So on this issue, I have concluded that, at least as I hear it (but also seemingly supported by the frequency response and by the experience of some others), there is a treble coloration with the HD800, in that more than being just "very revealing”, the HD800 has an elevated treble response that is a departure from neutral . Yes, this may periodically enhance sibilance, but it has other effects, like a little extra sizzle on cymbals (which I have also noticed), and generally delivers a slightly “tipped-up” sound. For many, this will come across as just a “revealing” nature, but for others, it will be bothersome. I found it to be enough of an issue that it has dissuaded me from buying them, given the asking price.

And again, to try to minimize the ruffled feathers - this is all in the context of a $1,400 headphone, which I believe deserves microscopic scrutiny given the asking price. I'm already willing to state that the midrange and soundstaging are the best I have ever heard in a dynamic headphone. But the treble performance is still a slight disappointment for me given this is an expensive, "statement" headphone.’

None of what I am hearing will mean that there won't be LOTS of people who will LOVE what the HD800 does in the treble. Heck, there are some headphones that are KNOWN to be terrifically bright (the AT W5000 come to mind), and yet they have a lot of fans. Given that what we are discussing is such a small thing, relatively, there will be some people who won't be at all bothered by it, and some who will indeed LIKE it. But from what I can hear, it's there, and it should be known.

The Bass

I find the bass quantity to be slightly on the light side. The QUALITY of the bass is stupendous – very well defined, tight, and with great definition and attack. But the DX1000 manage this trick at least as well as the HD800, and manage to have bass weight as well. I find the bass weight of the HD800 to be similar to that of the DT880, which I personally always wish had more bass. I am willing to accept that this is may be just a preference for me, but it nonetheless is something to be aware of – if you like a punchy sound, the HD800 are not always going to please you.

Again let’s look at en example. Listen to “A Secret Place” from Megadeth’s “Cryptic Writings” – the kick drum simply lacks impact. Listen to this track on even $500 speakers – it will sound more like at least I think a kick-drum should. It isn’t imactful on the HD800 – it’s overdamped, and subdued, versus what it sounds like through the N800’s, and the DX1000. It only sounds similar on the DT880. Yes, the impact of the striking of the drum is VERY clean, and very tight, but the drum itself seems to lack body.

The bass is also definitely less than the HD650, and based on my brief comparison, also less than the HD600. Some people may prefer the HD800’s bass performance. It may be "better" bass on the HD800 than the 650, but it is less for sure.

I think it’s very possible that the overdamped bass is what actually makes the treble stand out a little. Or maybe it’s the other way around. But there is a well known trade off there. The famous loudspeaker designer Henry Kloss once did a demonstration where he took a speaker that people thought had too little bass, and he padded the tweeter down by 2db, and all of the sudden – WOW – bass. No change was made to the woofer or the woofer level.

The HD800 have a very tight-fisted punch in the bass – but they punch at something like bantam-weight or junior welter-weight at most.

On the issue of amplifying the HD800

Much has been made about the inductance of the HD800, and the need for certain types of amps. Some people swear they sound great on tube amps, and some insist that due to the inductance, any amp with a high-ish output impedance will not sound as good as they should, and that this includes many OTL tube amps. It's a complex issue, and that doesn't mean the HD800’s *won't* sound good on any given OTL amp. But on the SinglePower Extreme, the treble emphasis was slightly worse that it is on the SS Audio C2C, which I would not have expected. I have never considered the Extreme to be at all rolled off, and of course I cannot measure its output impedance, although SP claims it to be 20 ohms, which isn’t very high, so it's likely IMO that the amp isn't contributing to the treble emphasis I hear, and that the slightly laid-back C-2-C might be masking the HD800’s treble list slightly.

I also tried the HD800 with the Darkvoice 337 ( Tung-Sol mesh-plate 6SJ7GT + GEC 6AS7G) and the 336SE (Shuguang Treasure CV181 + Sylvania 6AS7G). In both cases the treble emphasis was just a tiny bit more obvious, and just slightly more pronounced, than with the SS Audio-GD C2C. I tried the Graham Slee SRG+PSU1, and the treble was between the Extreme and the C-2-C, but on all of these amps, the feeling of a bit too much treble energy never went away. On the other hand, I felt the treble performance on the Decware CSP-2 was basically identical to the C-2-C. So in the end, I think too much was made of this issue of amp type (as is almost always the case).

The HD800 do not, IMO, change their own character radically from amp to amp. Being as revealing as they are, the HD800 certainly will let you know the difference in the sound of different amps, or different tubes. And of course it is difficult to generalize about tube amps, since you can often get the exact sound you're looking for by tube rolling. For example, if I took the 5998's out of the Extreme, and put in RCA grey-plate 6AS7G's, the sound would be very different, and I probably wouldn't notice any treble elevation in the HD800, since the RCA is a soft-sounding tube.

So the point is that with OTL designs there is a potential issue that should be noted - nothing more than that. And since one can alter the sound by using different tubes, tube amps still offer nice flexibility in this regard, and a great tube amp can still sound great with the HD800. My favorite combo ended up being the Decware CSP-2 and the HD800. The Decware, with Amperex 6DJ8’s and a Sophia Princess mesh-plate 274b, when combined with the HD800, provided enough lushness that the sound was just beguiling, and I didn’t worry much about the tipped-up response – the music was enthralling.

Build Quality and Fit

I found the HD800’s very comfortable to wear for long periods of time. They are big, and they were right at the limit of earcup size for my head, but they were within the limit. I of course heard the “pinging” of the spring that people have commented on, but I wasn’t bothered by this. The cable isn’t at all microphonic, which sure is nice.


I've been living with the HD800 for a couple weeks, and I while I think they are truly excellent in many ways, there are some things that bother me in the context of a $1,400 headphone. After several hundred hours of burn in, and hours and hours of listening and comparing, on a very wide variety of amps, I still find the treble to be a bit too aggressive, and the bass to be a bit polite. This is a flavoring, and many will like the flavor. But it is a flavor, and it's not going to be for everyone.

That said, the soundstaging and midrange are so good that the slightly tipped-up response, for many people, will be worth overlooking, and some people will of course LIKE the slight tip-up. And with the right system matching, it might be a non-issue. For me, they are not more enjoyable than the DX1000, and so I’m not going to be buying a pair, given that they cost $1,400. But for you, dear reader, they might be just exactly what you are looking for, and they are certainly world-class performers that have some incredibly special qualities.

I’m sure I’m going to suffer many slings and arrows for criticizing these, even though anyone who actually reads the whole review will see that I’ve actually RAVED about the HD800’s in MANY ways – best mids and imaging of maybe any headphone currently made; crystal clear treble; super-tightly define bass. I simply don’t think they are completely free from personality. As always, this is only my opinion, but it was very carefully arrived at, if nothing else. In the case of a headphone that costs $1,400, I think we have the right to expect a lot; I don’t think we have the right to expect universal perfection, as there is no such thing. So what I have done is tried to describe the flavor of the HD800 as I hear them. Perhaps at least to a few people, this will be of some small help.
How well does EQ work on the HD800? Do they distort if you add bass and sub-bass?
@catspaw Yes, you can make the HD800 distort like any other driver if you make it hit it's max throw. I've done it by accident playing around with absynth tools on my PC.
Even though I've no intention of buying these (I never fell in love with the Hd 558 or HD 650), it was a pleasure reading one of the most detailed yet easy to read reviews I've viewed on Head Fi. I'm trying to work on my vocab for a future review of the LZ A4 IEMs, and this review is a step in the right direction. It's excellent.
Pros: Huge soundstage, high speed, great with all types of music. Very comfortable.
Cons: Very picky about source and amp. Cable is arguably poor, so overall expensive to get the best results from. The painted plastic frame is a bit tacky.
I'm going to borrow a quote from jpelg who sumed them up nicer than I can in one of the meet threads:
After finally hearing the HD800's (both balanced & SE), I can understand the varied impressions that resulted from these this past year. They are quite the chameleon, sharing qualities with the venerable HD650, as well as electrostats. Again, the reference quality is clearly evident, and they are very sensitive to changes in associated gear. I'd even go as far to say that they are a bit finicky, because one errant piece of gear, or even recording, can cause them to lack a certain cohesiveness. Still, they are top cans, and worthy of spending time & money building your system around.