Sennheiser HD 800 S

General Information

A modern classic, Sennheiser’s reference class HD 800 headphones deliver sound that is as natural as possible and true in every detail. Improving on a seemingly perfect formula is not a task undertaken lightly, but Sennheiser’s engineers have succeeded in enhancing still further the sound reproduction in the open, circumaural HD 800 S.

The striking industrial design combines form and function seamlessly, the layered metal and plastic headband construction attenuating vibrations to the earcups while the handmade microfiber earpads offer exceptional comfort for even long periods of listening enjoyment.

Crafted for perfection, the HD 800 and the HD 800 S are precision-built in Germany from only the finest materials and components. The transducer is encased by stainless steel, while the headband and headphone mounting utilises the most advanced materials developed in the aerospace industry for high strength with minimal weight.

The new HD 800 S offers even better high precision connectivity options and is now supplied with two connection leads, a 6.3mm connector and a XLR-4 balanced cable to offer even better quality sound from sources with balanced outputs such as the Sennheiser HDVD 800 headphones amplifier.

Absorber technology of the HD 800 S
The enhanced sound reproduction of the HD 800 S is achieved through the addition of the innovative absorber technology that was pioneered in the Sennheiser IE 800 – a breakthrough that preserved the audibility of very high frequency sounds by eliminating a phenomenon known as the “masking effect”, where the human hear struggles to hear frequencies of sound when lower frequencies of a higher volume occur at the same time. By absorbing the energy of the resonance, Sennheiser’s patented absorber technology prevents any unwanted peaks and allows all frequency components – even the finest nuances – in the music material to become audible. This innovation was a key element in making the IE 800 the world’s best sounding in ear headphone, and in the HD 800 S it helps to bring even greater purity and precision.

Such enhancements build on the formidable achievements of the classic, with the 56mm sound transducer – the largest ever used in dynamic headphones. The unique ear cup design directs sound waves to the ear at a slight angle to create an impressively natural and spatial listening experience.

While much appears the same, the enhanced performance within is revealed by a distinctive new look, with the silver finish of the 2009 classic HD 800 making way for high-class matt black for the HD 800 S.


Further optimised reference class in wired headphones

Open, circum-aural dynamic stereo headphones

Enhanced sound reproduction achieved through absorber technology

Additional cable with balanced XLR4 connector

High-class matt black metal parts

Natural hearing experience - realistic and natural sound field with minimal resonance

Biggest transducers ever used in headphones including new innovative dynamic transducer design

Uncovered earcups for enhanced acoustics

Handcrafted ear pads, made of high-quality microfiber fabric

Metal headband with an inner damping element

Specially tuned balanced, impedance matching cable with low capacitance

Special high precision headphone connectors

2 year warranty

Latest reviews

Half Note

Member of the Trade: Tangzu
800S - The headphones to forget about headphones
Pros: Timbre is perfection

Detailed to the high heavens

The lightest headphones short of KPH30i's
Cons: Fatiguing treble without EQ

Heavy cable

Came without the factory measurements, even though bought brand new

Intro/disclaimer :​

- The unit was bought on my own, and long before I met anyone at Sennheiser.

I cannot post the pictures the way I used to, integrated int the review as I used to. So, until Head-Fi fixes this issue, here's a Imgur link :

# First Impressions :​

- Unboxing : Not as nice as the previous iteration of the 800S, the simple foam and packed cables is kinda sparse for a near two thousand euros product. The product itself is so well made though, it makes up for a big part of the experience. At launch, the box featured a velour pad to hide the foam, which I don't think is superfluous for this type of product.
- Comfort is one of the strongest points of these headphones : the clamp force is never a bother, the weight is so low you're never strained by it, and the pads are the perfect softness to stay put once you've sitted the headphones on your head. The adjustment mechanism for the length of the arms is very finely adjustable, making for a super easy fit. Very well designed through and through.

# Sound :​

- The tuning of the 800S is a reference point for me, and for many others as well. The balance is linear throughout the whole range, with an emphasis in the presence region to stick to the Diffuse Field target. Paired with the outrageously open nature of the headphones (the use of titanium wire mesh feels like there's no material around your head, don't ask it's engineering magic) makes for the best timbre I've heard in headphones to this day, even when comparing with headphones 30x the price. Yes, it's a bold statement. I listened to the HE-1 at Munich during the High End Festival, and yes it was an experience beyeond anything I'd heard previously, I prefer the balance of the venerable 800S.

# Tonality :​

- The bass of the 800S is sometimes refered to as lean, or lacking sub, or else. I totally disagree with these statements. It features a lean**er** amount compared to some other Audezes or Focals, on that we agree. But the Sennheiser approach is one focused on natural replay and accurate timbre. And on that front, it's highly accurate. The extension in the sub bass is brilliant, and I can hear notes as low as my hearing can perceive. If you've ever listened to a studio monitoring setup with multiple small subs, then you know what the 800S bass sounds like. But, substract 2 or 3dB from what you'd assume.

- The midrange. Oh, the midrange. This is by far the best part of these headphones for me. The degree of realism these headphones produce simply astounds me. The intro of the song Golden Age by the band Esprit d'Escalier always gives me goosebumps when I listen to it with the 800S. The replay of the singer's voice, the echoing reverbs, the layers of synth, it all comes together so well. I don't often quote my music choices to justify talking about products, but for this review I simply have to. Another track to seal the deal would be "It happened Quiet - live at The Current" by Aurora. The chills you feel when the vocal harmonies fly up in the register is something not a lot of speakers manage to make me feel, but it never fails to do so with these headphones. The linearity of the frequency response is, I think, the major contributor to this impression because you're solely engaging with the music and never notice and dip or bump in volume throughout the range.

- The treble of the 800S is maybe its most infamous trait, although I think some exaggeration has built up over the years. Without EQ, the presence region can overpower the rest of the mix and I'll agree on that front, given the record features prominent and harsh audio to begin with. I do not, however, agree with the complaints regarding sibilance and artificial timbre in this area. The 800S features exceptional extension in the highs, and never sounds distorted, grainy or artifical when fed quality source files.

It does excel in revealing flaws however, and I suspect that to be the source of all evil. Listening to compressed files such as Spotify music or mp3s is simply not pleasant. The artifacts stand out way too much.

But give it any good lossless material, or uncompressed WAVs, and things smooth out. You gain back the air that was cut off by the mp3 format, and once freed of the artifacts the treble reveals its utmost precision and unforgiving definition.

-> The HD800S will make you love your best recorded albums, and hate your poorly recorded ones. Because once you've enjoyed being part of the audience of a live classical concert, sat among the crowd in a theatre from the comfort of your couch, there's simply no going back.

# Technicalities :​

- Soundstage :
Known for it's spatialization capabilities, I'm happy to say that my unit delivers everything you've read about and more. Take the confines of your skull and expand them way out in every direction, and enjoy the 3D experience. You get to enjoy what feels like limitless soundstage compared to any other headphones, and precise imaging to pair it with. Depth perception is uncanny of realism and verticality very well transcribed.

- Detail retrieval :
For me this is the aspect that should stand out the most and not the soundstage when talking about the 800S. Since its release in 2009, the 800 series has met competition that has tried to rival with its psychoacoustic feats. But the detail retrieval you get with the 800S is almost never matched, and it baffles me why I don't see more people talking about it. Even with busy genres of music, the separation and detail given to each sound cue is of perfect accuracy.

- Transient response is a topic common to most if not all my reviews, because I value it to the same degree as tonality or spatialization. In a sense, it encapsulates dynamics and details, timbre and realism all at once. The perception of "speed" as is often referred to in the hobby comes from how close to real life these recorded transients can be reproduced. I've been a drummer for 17 years now, so I'm going to be bold and assume that I know what drums sound like in real life. I can discern a blunted snare hit from an accurately displayed one. Yes, I know, mixing & mastering engineers have acces to transient shaping tools, but I've been there and mixed too, used those tools as well and have acces to raw recordings of myself.

When I say that I hear exactly my drums, my mics and my preamps **and nothing more** when I listen through these headphones, I really mean it. The cymbal characteristics, the decay and harmonic clashes, nothing's left behind. So far I've only encountered one set of speakers that have the same abilities, even after High End Munich 2023 and the myriad of stands I've been to. So yes, I'm really impressed.

# Conclusion :​

- Final impressions : I've been using these headphones for a full year before writing this review. I may not be the fastest reviewer around, but I take pride in knowing full well what I'm talking about. I've been a musician for almost two decades, have mixed and produced songs, toured many a times and played many a great gigs, and listened to audiophile systems for even longer than that.

So I know the weight of my words when I write that these headphones are a perfect tool for hearing music the way I hear music in real life.
A human voice through an Aston Spirit microphone will come out to you as if the person is speaking directly to you, as if you were standing in front of him/her. It's as simple as that, the headphones are transparent. So, just like in real life, if the instrument is unpleasant to listen to (try standing next to a saxophonist playing full blast, or a bagpipes band without earplugs) then it'll be equally as unpleasant throught these headphones. Which is exactly what I look for, and maybe you don't.
If you prefer your bass louder than the original mix, if you want the harshness of the instruments taken away for you so it's never fatiguing to listen to, you're free to do so with any other headphones. Because the 800S will only do one thing, and whatever's been recorded. And perfectly faithfully so.
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Reactions: Rob49
Your review has almost convinced me to buy, to pair with my Sony DMP-Z1 player, although, i wasn’t looking to buy open back headphone’s.
Half Note
@Rob49 I wouldn't take these on a plane, but they sure are an incredible pair to have around ! They really reveal everything about your setup too, so if you like your player these could be a great addition.


Reviewer at
Sennheiser HD800S Review: The Critical Take
Pros: - top-tier detail retrieval
- excellent soundstage width
- reasonably balanced tonality
Cons: - slight cut at around 1-2kHz skews note-weight thin
- fatiguing, bright treble response
- general lack of dynamics
This review was originally published here on, but I am re-publishing it for readers on Head-Fi.


My history with the HD800S stretches back to roughly a year ago when I first heard it at the Sennheiser SF storefront. Even though the star of the show should have been Sennheiser’s HE1 (you know, just the world’s most expensive headphone) which I also got to demo, I still recall myself being attracted to the HD800S like no other headphone in the store. It had detail, clarity, and staging in spades, pretty much all my wholly inexperienced ears cared for. Still, I found myself wishing to evaluate it in a more quiet listening environment, so courtesy of, I’ve had the Sennheiser HD800S sitting on my desk for the last six months or so.

Yeah. It’s taken a while for me to get around to this review. That’s mainly because I’ve found my taste in headphones has skewed elsewhere and, frankly, I struggled to find the motivation to write it at times. Nonetheless, I’ll be sharing why that is the case; hopefully, my review can lend a more critical perspective to what is one of the most acclaimed headphones in the game.

This unit was provided for review by It will be returned at the end of the review period. As usual, what follows are my honest thoughts and opinions to the best of my ability.

Source & Drivability

Critical listening was done off of an iFi Micro iDSD Black Label > Macbook Air > Audirvana using lossless FLAC files. I used a variety of other portable sources to drive the HD800S without issue, and I have also heard it off of the Sennheiser HDV 820 at the Sennheiser SF store before. Unfortunately, I did not have access to a dedicated, desktop amp for listening at the time of this publication.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Review |

The Tangibles

The HD800S arrives in a gigantic black, hard-cardboard box. Inside you’ll find the HD800S nested in foam and with the following accessories:
  • 4.4mm 10ft cable
  • 6.35mm 10ft cable
  • Microfiber cleaning cloth
  • Microfiber baggy
  • USB Flash Drive
Sennheiser HD 800 S Review |

The HD800S sports a sleek, refined build with a silver and black, dichromatic aesthetic. It is largely constructed of plastic to cut down on weight, but does have metal hardware interspersed throughout. The build quality is excellent without creaking and inspires a sense of confidence. The included cables are shrouded in a cloth-like material with good tactility and plenty of length if you’re planning to move around your listening area.

Now honestly, I’ve never been much of a headphone guy. I’ve just never been able to get around the weight and discomfort that characterizes most headphones I’ve worn. But the HD800S is making me rethink that - if only a little. The largely plastic construction is predicated on making the headphone as lightweight and easy-on-the-ears as possible, which results in a lightweight 330 grams. Stack on cups that sink over my ears with ample breathing room and plush, microfiber contact points, and the HD800S is one of the few headphones that I don’t mind wearing for a couple of hours. For isolation, although it might seem obvious, there is zero isolation because this is an open-back headphone. No really, I state this just because of how many, ah, let’s just say interesting Amazon reviews I’ve seen of open-back headphones.

Sound Analysis

To my ears, the HD800S presents an analytical, reference-oriented sound. It is a highly technical headphone that has won no shortage of praise for its exceptionally open staging, clarity, and detail retrieval. That being said, it is a headphone far from being devoid of flaw; I’ll explore this further in-depth below.

So let’s just get this out of the way: the HD800S’s bass is where the headphone really pulls the short end of the stick. As is characteristic of Sennheiser’s headphones, it sounds linear until you go down shy of sub-100hZ; at which point, it sounds like the bass drops off a cliff. You’re not buying this headphone for rumble or slam. But it’s not just a matter of quantity, something that can be mitigated with EQ if one chooses, so much as it is the HD800S’s technical performance on this front. There is a distinct lack of tactility and “oomph” to the bass; I would go so far as to say that bass detail sounds like it’s being smeared over. I hear this against not just something like the Focal Clear, but even some IEMs that I have on hand. In short? I’m not too impressed - okay, more like not impressed at all - with the HD800S’s bass.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Review |

Conversely, the midrange of the HD800S is the most solid part of the tuning in my opinion. It is leaner, emphasizes a high degree of vocal intelligibility and, within the context of audio, invokes transparency in the truest sense of the word. Even on some of the questionably mastered K-Pop tracks I listen to (yes, I listen to a lot of what most audiophiles would call “garbage,” fight me) like Loona’s “Eclipse,” vocals cut through the extraneous synth-sounds with decided ease. But the HD800’s midrange is not without its drawbacks; to this end, it achieves this uber-clarity thanks to a couple of tuning tricks. First, of course, it’s aided by the aforementioned lack of bass which will inherently boost one’s perception of later frequencies. Second, there is a relative lack of energy from roughly 1-2kHz which cuts a good deal of body out of male vocals. Finally, I notice a certain straining effect - perhaps edginess - when high notes are hit with female vocals. I can’t help but wonder if this is a product of the frequencies infringing upon the HD800S’s 6kHz peak, similar to what I hear on the Focal Clear if not nearly to the same degree, thankfully.

And speaking of that 6kHz peak, let’s talk about the HD800S’s treble. The selling point of the HD800S - at least relative to the original HD800 - is the implementation of an absorber that serves to attenuate what could have otherwise been a quite peaky and bright treble response. The principle is (likely) similar to the SDR mod that many owners have taken to implementing on their HD800s over the years. I still have a love-hate relationship with the HD800S’s treble response. The 6kHz peak lends to backdrop percussive hits sounding like raindrops splattering on a tin roof, while more forward hits have a “clanky-ness” to them that can sound somewhat harsh on first listen. But hours of listening, brain burn-in or not, have me not minding as much as I did originally. It certainly does wonders for the HD800S’s perception of detail, and the quality - textural nuance - of the treble itself is exemplary.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Review |

Technical Performance

Who could deny the HD800S’s killer imaging and soundstage? Well...nobody except me. Where the HD800S stumbles - stumbles hard, I might add - is the center image. And I am a big stickler for center image. For those who might not be familiar with this term, it is a psychoacoustic illusion for headphones and IEMs; the product of having two channels in conjunction. When a transducer is able to also project the center image, it results in what I perceive as soundstage depth. Very few transducers I have heard make this distinction, and hours of listening have forced me to conclude that the HD800S doesn’t merit entry to those exclusive ranks - not by a long shot. Like so, there is the strong perception of vocalists being trapped inside one’s head, and the contrast to what is an otherwise extremely open presentation results in what I have heard best described as a “reverse cardioid” (yeah, just Google it, the image will explain way better than I can) soundstage.

Indeed, the HD800S has an incredibly wide soundstage, and for layering ability - the perceived sense of space between instruments - I have heard no other headphone with such stellar distinction. And the detail, can we talk about the sheer detail? The HD800S is incredibly resolving with notes in the midrange and treble fleshed out with terrifically defined transient attack. For microdetail - consonances, reverb trails, and the like - again, I’ve heard no peer to the HD800S, and it is a detail lover’s dream headphone. But it’s not all sunshine and daisies. I do not think that its microdynamic engagement - decibel fluctuations to said microdetail - is on the same level. Likewise, A/B-ing with the Focal Clear suggests that, while by no means compressed in the way it scales dynamics swings, the HD800S lacks the same level of visceral macrodynamic punch. This culminates in a decidedly more sterile technical showing.

Sennheiser HD 800 S Review |

The Verdict

To my ears, there is a general sense of the HD800S being a superstar in some respects, and in others, being more middling or simply falling flat altogether. Consequently, my relationship with the HD800S has been a fickle one. From being a possible endgame headphone to being a headphone that I see as far from perfect these days, listeners like myself who want a more natural, organic sound would be best suited by steering away or by only owning the HD800S as a reference headphone. But beyond the scope of subjective preference, I have no problem respecting the HD800S for what it is. It has top-tier technical ability and maintains a reasonably balanced sound signature. For the discerning listener who desires a tool to analyze musical nuance at the highest level, the HD800S is definitely a headphone that should be on the list - scratch that, at the top of the list. It certainly doesn’t hurt that, as a testament to its relevance and staying power, it remains the benchmark with which top headphones are compared to today.

Reference Tracks

  • Aimer - Hakuchuumu
  • David Nail - Let It Rain
  • Everglow - DUN DUN
  • Girls’ Generation - Galaxy Supernova
  • Illenium - Broken Ones
  • Joe Nichols - Sunny and 75
  • Keith Urban - Defying Gravity (2009)
  • Keiichi Okabe - Weight of the World (NieR:Automata Original Soundtrack)
  • Sabai - Million Days
  • Sawano Hiroyuki - Best of Vocal Works Remastered (2020)
  • Taeyeon - My Voice (2017)
  • Tiffany - I Just Wanna Dance
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Reactions: tesseus
You mention soundstage DEPTH. I'm interesting in this distinction. What other headphones do well for that, in this price range or lower?


1000+ Head-Fier
Pros: Exceptional build aesthetics, pinpoint accuracy and imaging, detail, bass quality and punch, clarity, weight, texturing, perfect for Diana Krall
Cons: Balanced cable is too long, treble is hot, lacks midrange warmth, unforgiving, bright side of neutral
The Sennheiser HD800 is a legendary headphone, even 11 years after its release. It's long been considered the last word about imaging and detail and the quality of an amp can be judged by how well it handles the HD800. It certainly had issues: the treble at 6k is sinfully hot, it's exceptionally amp-picky and the presentation is clinical and brighter than neutral.

The HD800S was released around 2016 with a tweaked black aesthetic, more Vader than USS Enterprise. More importantly, it came with a Helmholtz resonator in the driver enclosure to tame that 6k (There's a DIY mod - the Super Dupont Resonator - which attempts to address the issue, but as Tyll points out it's made of foam and may deteriorate with sweat) and a balanced cable.

I bought my own used pair about three weeks ago, and I've spent quite a bit of time with them since then.

Build Quality and Presentation
They're exceptionally built and feel like a very precisely designed headphone. It's light and made ofplastic but doesn't feel cheap in the slightest. Movement of the D-shaped cups is very smooth and tight, and once you have them placed they don't move. The connectors are a little lower than the center of the drivers, which relieves stress on the cable when they're hanging and reduces the footprint a little. Headband adjustment is smooth and sure. Position marks and "Sennheiser HD800 S/N XXXXXX Made In Germany" are etched on the metal. An extremely minor gripe is the balanced cable: it's way longer than necessary unless you need to walk across the room without taking off your headphones. Further, the mesh covering just makes plugging it into a locked XLR port harder.

Comfort and Isolation
Comfort is a little tricky on the HD800S: they're much, much lighter than the LCD-3 and have little clamp force, but the velour pads are harder and the effective headband area is smaller. If placed slightly off, the headband creates hot spots and the pads are uncomfortable. Once properly placed, however, the HD800S is superior in comfort to the LCD-3. Maybe someday we'll get Denon D7000 comfort in a TOTL can, but not here.

The HD800S has an analytical, bright-side-of-neutral signature. As with the LCD-3, I've been using the Audio-GD D27 as my amp/source which has a very neutral and flat response. A warm tube amp might make them a little more euphonic, but I don't believe in equipment or EQ that 'fixes' a headphone. The HD800S may be a tweaked version of the HD800, but from others' impressions of the latter it's not fixed. It doesn't have the romantic, laid-back character of the LCD-3 but it has the unique ability to make every piece of music sound unique. As if the headphone sounds like the music, rather than the music sounds like the headphone.

Soundstage and Imaging
Wide, expansive, realistic soundstaging and highly precise imaging are the biggest draw of this headphone. No matter the quality of the recording or the genre, instruments are astonishing in how precisely they're placed. String music is somewhat lacking in body compared to the LCD-3, as if the cello is a clear white line rather than an off-white line with resonating dust. Percussion is really something special because it has such clear body and place in every track, so much so that focusing on drums can immediately clarify chaotic music. Jazz music is my favorite genre with the HD800S; the soundstage has just enough width and separation to transform the experience. Diana Krall's 'Night and Day' is perfect. The LCD-3 handles Coltrane and powerful heavy metal much better, but nobody can touch the HD800S for Diana Krall.

The HD800S doesn't have the sub-bass energy or body of the LCD-3, but it has tightness and quality in the mid-to-upper bass region in spades. Slam can provide a euphonic character and I prefer the Audeze bass presentation, but the HD800S flavor makes classical music and more intimate vocal music balanced across the spectrum. Bass-heavy music is still fun due to their speed and punchiness even though it lacks a little in quantity. Case in point: Morbid Angel's album Illud Divinum Insanus has a lot of groovy bass rhythms that can get lost in the a powerful bass presentation.

The mids are accurate and have excellent clarity but don't have the body or naturalness of the LCD-3. Planars have better mids than regular dynamics in my experience, but the clarity and imaging of the HD800S makes them a close second. Vocals are balanced and clear but could stand to be more intimate on vocal tracks. This doesn't detract from their quality, however; it's a matter of unity between technical performance and sonic character. Classical music, especially with heavy cello presence, opens up quite a lot in the mids region. Opeth has an airy, ethereal quality that I appreciate very much.

Hot treble is never pleasant and it's certainly more emphasized in this headphone than Audeze, but the HD800S doesn't necessarily artificially enhance high notes. Heaven Shall Burn's album Iconoclast Part III is sinfully bright. On the Grado SR-80 and AKG Q701 it's just shy of a mess and may even be grating on even slightly bright sources, but the HD800S stays on the side of honest. The LCD-3, by comparison, is somewhat shelved down in the treble region which may explain its romantic character. With the additional clarity and imaging of the HD800S, saxophone and higher guitar notes aren't competing against a bass-heavy signature. I dislike bright headphones but find these a great complement to the LCD-3.

The HD800S is airy, revealing, detailed, fast, and very nimble. It pairs well with a dead-neutral amp like the D27, is built fantastically and provides an excellent complement to warmer or more intimate headphones. I haven't heard the HD800, but its tweaked younger brother embodies much of what I hoped it would. Comfort is iffy and the presentation (especially the mids) lacks warmth and romance, but the soundstage, imaging, and clarity are absolutely top notch. I recommend them very highly for someone who enjoys jazz and classical music, and even moreso to someone who enjoyed the Q701.
great review and spot on sir. These pair very well with the Bryston BHA-1 very well. Adding shorter cables with individual one for right and one for left balanced connectors increases the sound stage. Adding a Transparent Audio Powerbank 2 also adds a bit more bass. modern pop music songs very good, but if the music lacks significant bass it does show as you discussed.
Nice review! I’ll have to look up that Diana Krull song.
Cables are that long so they can reach from a HiFi setup (in America we have the home theater, in Germany they have dedicated listening rooms) to a couch. Personally, I bought a nice short (4 foot!) cable for use at my computer desk.
The Super DuPont mod works, but there is enough variance in materials and hand-cutting them that no two mods will sound alike, while the resonator does a great job of achieving the desired result without causing additional masking. I have an HD 800, but I would have an S model if I could. And if working from home has taught me anything, I could really go for the HD 820! (I live in a strip of townhouses, no basement).



100+ Head-Fier
I auditioned a pair of these, but didn’t end up getting them. The two things that I didn’t like, were:
- they seemed bright and lacking in bass.
- every time I took them off my fingers kept touching the silver part, part of the speaker? behind the plastic spars on the cups and found this very annoying.