Sennheiser HD 800 S

Average User Rating:
4.69444/5,
  1. Dobrescu George
    5.0/5,
    "The Brilliant Benchmark Headphone- Sennheiser HD800S"
    Pros - Sound, Soundstage, Treble, Bass, Clarity, Vividness, Details, Speed, Micro Details, Instrument separation, Tone, Comfort
    Cons - Price, Cables, Open, Very hard to drive, Complicated to carry around,
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
    Introduction
     
    Sennheiser HD800S is the successor to HD800 - one of the greatest headphones ever made. HD800 was the first headphone to actually WOW me hard with their soundscape kind of soundstage and crystal clear sound so I set my bars very high when I started to analyse HD800S. Those are true TOTL Eng - Game headphones, you either like HD800S's signature or not - but they do reproduce music in best of manners I ever heard. HD800 doesn't know what chill or relax is, they will recover every last bit of information that was in the song and they are going to bring it to your face. 
     
    Being presented with this level of details is shocking at first - but after you know that something can sound this way, it's really hard to return to lower end signatures. Listening to HD800S for a few hours can take a lot of the fun away from using chea(er) headphones and I found myself wishing for more of HD800S's sound. Like a very infectious disease.
     
    (Also, sorry for your wallet)
     
     
    About me
     
    My name is George and I enjoy music. I listen music while working, listen to music for enjoyment and listen to music while I'm gaming. Music is a thing that is everywhere around me, be it classical, pop, rap, metal, jazz or electronica. I also like to prepare long playlists to enjoy while working on my company's games. You can check out more on our pages here https://www.facebook.com/seventh.heart.studios/     and here https://twitter.com/7heartstudios . My love for music has had some impact on our games as we hold the music close to our hearts and we are committed to only use ogg -q10 as the encoding format for our music since it offers the best space to sound quality ratio.
     
    I have a pretty good hearing and the higher treble means quite a lot to me (8-18kHz area). Since I am not that old, the original HD800 was a bit bright at times.
     
     

    First Impression
     
    The first time I heard an HD800 was when AVstore was still in their old headquarters. They had an HD800 connected to a WA22, but I was able to easily switch the connection to FiiO E12, Matrix M-Stage and Chord Hugo. 
     
    My very first impression was that they are spikey. This lasted for half a minute after which I adapted to the signature. The original HD800 was pretty bass light and the spike in the upper registers made it slightly hard to listen. The torment and endless vortex of details that followed left me speechless for a while. Considering the low level of details that many headphones had before I tested HD800, to hear this all at once might be weird at first. 
     
    Fast forward to future, I heard that AVstore received a HD800S in their showroom. I knew that I had to listen to them and find out if they improved or how do they sound. HD800S sounded like a HD800 that improved in the exact areas that were problematic, without loosing any of the magic found in their original. That same level of details, same soundstage, fast transients and everything, but without that spiky treble and with a tad more bass made HD800S my new favorite headphone in less than five minutes (I've been an HD800 fan for a while now).
     
     
    Packaging
     
    HD800S comes in a really luxurious package and you do get a pair of HD800 and two cables. There is a manual and a cleaning cloth. To be honest, the box alone looks like it would cost at least a hundred $ to buy, and the XLR cable is placed in a pouch - very refined selection of both materials and presentation. The inner material is a silk / satin like material. There is a USB stick in the box, but no spare pads nor any other spare parts. I would probably liked to have a pair of pads, say if something were to happen, but the box is nice and presents the headphones well.
     
    The USB key includes a frequency response analysis, a copy of the authenticity certificate, and an electronic copy of the manual, nothing needed to actually run or use the headphones, but I appreciate the FR being included in the box. 
     
    I would had appreciated if the scale used for Frequency Response would had been finer (if the whole graph would had been between -10 and +10 dB), so it would had been easier to read it.
     
    Technical Specifications
     
    Impedance300 ohm
    Connector6.3mm/ XLR 
    Frequency Response4 Hz - 51.000Hz (-10 dB)
    Frequency Response 210 Hz - 44100Hz (-3dB)
    Max Sound Pressure (SPL)102dB (1Vrms)
    Ear couplingCircum-Aural
    Cable length3m Straight Cable
    Transducer typeDynamic transducer, open back type
    Power (load rating)500mW
    Weight without cable330g
    Passive noise attenuationZero
    Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)<0.03% (1kHz, 1Vrms)
    Contact pressure3.4 N approx.

     
     
    Build Quality/Aesthetics
     
    HD800S is one of the nicest looking headphones I had the please of laying my hands on. In fact, at first I thought that they look a bit alien and like a Sci-fi product of the future, but even in person they look well. The color black is much better than silver was on HD800 - I find it elegant, giving a sensation of luxury and high quality. 
     
    The adjusting mechanism is not overly smooth, but it's really well secured and it will remain in the position you place it. The headband padding and pads themselves are covered in a very high quality material, they feel nice on the skin and won't cause sweating or irritation, even after a few good hours of usage. 
     
    I would say that even though you won't get out of the house using HD800S, they seriously look like something you would feel good wearing outside. My personal definition of fashion might be obtuse, but I am content with their looks. I really like the details and writing on HD800S, and their build quality, but it looks quite frail and unfortunately I would have a hard time taking it out of the house and I consider it's transportation to be a problem as well. They are big and their case is even bigger, and quite thick. I can't just shove the whole box in my backpack like I would do with my daily drivers - Ultrasone Dj One Pro. 
     
    Where I had to add that HD650 plastic didn't feel that top notch, I actually feel that HD800S's plastic is top notch and has a secure feeling to it. The metal insertion in the headband adds to the style and feeling of a well built headphone as well. The cups don't move a lot and I would recommend not forcing the cups as I don't know how resistant to force is the mechanism, but they held pretty well on my head and moved just enough for me to adjust and feel them comfortable. Since the size of the cups was so big, I felt really comfortable without having to play around with the fit too much. 
     
     
    Comfort / Isolation
     
    There is no question about this; HD800S is the most comfortable headphone I had ever tested in my entire life. Like the absolute most comfortable headphone I had the honor of placing on my head. I have big ears and the cops are large and deep enough to allow for my ears to sit entirely into the cups - really really nice. The material on both pads and headband is comfortable as well, very fine texture, doesn't get hot and feels like something you can spend hours with. 
     
    The weight is not too high nor too low, due to the weight distribution system working really well you won't feel any fatigue from wearing HD800S albeit they weight a hefty 330 grams. I didn't experience any neck strain or fatigue even after hours of wearing HD800S. 
     
    Isolation is absolutely Zero. There is absolutely no attenuation from the outside noise; if you don't have any music playing on while wearing them, you're going to hear things almost as if you're not wearing them at all. This means that to fully enjoy HD800S you need both a very silent room / background and to be alone. Writing on the keyboard is slightly heard while wearing my Dj One Pro (well isolating) is on but music off, and writing on keyboard is inaudible while music is on. With HD800S, you either need to get an entirely silent keyboard or have the volume high enough for keyboard to not make a problem. The bright side is that if you buy HD800S and use it, you're probably not going to be writing at the same time - but this is good to keep in mind with entirely open headphones in general.
     
    Besides them being open back, there isn't much to actually say - they feel like wearing a few feathers on your head - their clamping force is not that high so you're probably not going to move too much with them on, but they stay pretty secured for walking and normal movements (won't fall from your heard with normal movements). HD800 has the largest ear cups / pads that I ever seen. This alone gets them to fit me very well and gets them to be very comfortable. Sony XB-1000 also has some of the biggest pads in the world, but they are not as comfortable as HD800S for me, thought XB1000 is pretty comfortable as well. Even XB700 is quite comfortable if we're talking about comfort alone. Audioquest NightHawk was similar to HD800 in comfort, but I spent far too little time with NightHawk to make a clear assessment of them in any way. 
     
     
    SOUND QUALITY
     
    HD800S has a clear, vivid, bright, neutral, natural, tight, solid, fast, precise, well separated, large sound. The tonality on HD800S is pretty much flat and neutral, with a smidgen of bass and a sprinkle of treble to it - but still not colored nor bass heavy nor necessarily bright. HD800S is extended well in both sides, having an incredible bass extension and treble extension. Their midrange is  (shockingly) only slightly recessed and the whole tonality would probably be very mid forward if it weren't for the open design that gives the mids a place more in the back, the whole construct leading to an amazing soundstage that I would even name a soundscape. 
     
    The FR as measured by Inner Fidelity, using their own equipment:
     
    Whole measurements made by inner fidelity on http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD800Ssn01067.pdf
     
    HD800S.png
     
     
     
     
    Channel imbalance
    Many analysis of the Frequency response made by professionals show channel imbalances in many headphones by I honestly never hear it or at least not on the model I have in my hands, so I will just say that there is not channel imbalance on my HD800S
     
     
    Bass
    Bass is solid and deep; It goes as low as 20Hz and it is not overpowered nor enhanced. It is a conservative but deep bass that covers the whole human hearing spectrum. The bass is so solid that it is going to reveal any kind of textures that are hidden within your music and it's decay is so short that you're going to have a hard time finding a faster and a tighter bass. HD800 is not made for bassheads and will not be for you if you're looking for explosions or for rumble, but it is going to be there and with some equalization it is going to be more than enough. Nevertheless, the bass didn't really distort even when heavily enhanced, but to get the best bass and control over it you need a good amp pairing for HD800S. Bass guitars have a faster transient sound and reveal far more details in the bass than I was used to hear with most headphones (ie800 actually recovers the same level of bass detail, but with more bass in quantity). The bass is so fast and tight that it is unbelievable at first since most other headphones have a natural decay. Without testing a similar headphone before, HD800S will sound strange at first, almost as if the bass has a whole new concept for resolution and detail. The clear transients of HD800S (best I heard to date) will make the bass an unforgettable experience that will actually change the meaning of music for anyone who hears it once. 
     
    While there is a slight mid bass hump and an ever so slightly enhancement of the bass, coming from ie800 makes HD800S sound linear and balanced. When compared to HD800, HD800S has ever so slightly more bass giving it a slightly fuller sound with a slightly stronger impact.
     
    Midrange
    The Midrange of HD800S is clear and vivid. It is a bit distant and shockingly the midrange is not diffused nor dispersed albeit it has the largest soundstage from everything I had tested. In fact, HD800S is my benchmark reference for soundstage and transients; Every single detail that exists in the music is brought forward, almost like extracted out of the background position, while the foreground is moved just a bit back leading to a well composed and well presented sound. When listening to Sonata Arctica, the violins for which I had to focus before, were upfront this time and really well expressed. The micro and macro details in the electronic and aggressive music of Mindless Self Indulgence were presented in all their might. While on this band in particular has a lot of details hidden in their tracks that can be heard much better with better headphones, HD800S is on an entirely new level, you are able to hear clear textures and dents in the waves. Mindless Self Indulgence combines certain saw sines and square sines to obtain their sound and while I don't know how those were mastered, they show only on revealing headphones, HD800 being at the top of the chain when it comes to this. Sennheiser's own ie800 does a very similar thing, being able to extract the last bits of details out of the same songs, in an in-ear model. 
     
    Female voices have a certain sweetness to them, air, and they come off as natural. After countless live performances, it's easy to tell that HD800S revives the experience of a live female voice down to the finest details. The balanced mid - treble - bass ratio gives a lifelike feeling to the voices, female voices being not too weighty neither too weightless. Male voices come with the texture presented in a live performance and HD800S was able to recover the correct weight to each octave type of male voice - which is amazing for any headphone - given how easily it is to overshot a bass male voice or how often a tenor sounds sibilant or weightless. The most impressive part is the detail that there is to it. I didn't know before that certain tracks had certain details. For example, there is a sound of more than one violin that builds the tension in certain Sonata Arctica songs and on most setups you barely hear one. There is a while going on with multiple guitar notes in Dance Gavin Dance and La Dispute compositions that otherwise come as a single guitar or a masked fuzzy sound. HD800 is amazing at recovering those details 
     
    If I would take the live experience of hearing a well balanced complex rock song, record that in perfect play conditions and playback through my Ultrasone Dj One Pro, it would sound live. Well, HD800S manages to playback even a normal track as vivid as a live track sounds on my Dj One Pro, and Dj One Pro is already the most detailed headphone in its class. Ie800 is about on the same level with HD800S when it comes to vividness, details and transients, but it is less expansive in it's soundstage size. 
     
    The midrange of H800S is absolutely free of color and HD800S is the most transparent headphone I tried to date. ie800 is more colored albeit I do like it's coloration of sound, but HD800 feels like the idea benchmark for a perfect colorless and transparent sound.
     
    Treble
    Treble is a true pleasure to listen to. When I listen to HD800S I hear the treble as the one of ie800, a well extended treble that goes as much as it should go, touches that point, then goes above. The treble doesn't have any hiss nor harshness to it, and it's exactly as much as it should be. Many (many) headphones are way too smooth and convey too little treble, especially the lower and upper treble, leading to a lifeless sound and while certain headphones can be equalized to solve the problem, not all can be and it is generally a gamble to find the headphone that can be equalized enough to get all the treble where it is supposed to be. With HD800S, the cymbals sound alive and any drummer who hears HD800S will tell you next second that this is how a cymbal should sound. This is the exact sound of a live cymbal. Depending on the song, it might need a little bit of equalization, but that is a problem with the song master, not with the HD800S itself. 
     
    If there is a badly recorded or badly mastered track, HD800S, like ie800, will expose that in a second, and without a second thought - so many recordings will sound off at first. After enough listening, it becomes far more apparent who invested more time and effort in their mastering or who wanted to get a certain type of sound since HD800S picks ever detail that is present in the track. 
     
    While many headphones might be forgiving about this, the combination of HD800S's perfect treble, air and details and my (still) young hearing results in a larger amount if information being kept revealed in the upper registers, enough to actually shock at first as without prior experience HD800S will feel bright. Especially when coming from smooth or rolled off headphones (many headphones out there are rolled off or smooth)
     
    To wipe off any confusion, HD800S is not harsh, sibilant or bright at all. IT is exactly how it should be, like ie800. This is what a natural treble sounds like when recorded and HD800S will render exactly what is in the recording. Nothing else, nothing more. 
     
    Soundstage
    The soundstage of HD800 is my personal soundstage benchmark. It expands over the horizon and encompasses you in a sphere of music, it's width id a perfect 360 circle and it's weight forms a perfect 360 circle as well, encompassing you in the music. There is no blind spot or space left unfilled with sound with HD800 and the depth is just as good. You will hear music coming from where it was placed relative to the microphone or where it was placed in the mix just as if you were there during the performance. The best part of this is an orchestra song, or music with soundscapes that expand further than they do with any other headphones. It's shocking when some songs that weren't that special become a true masterpiece when played back through HD800S and this effect works incredibly well with any type of music. I loved metal with HD800S as its given more life and a vividness to the guitars and to drums, HD800S has given raw energy to the voices and a lot attention to the details. I never knew how much was going on in the background of Protest the hero songs or in the background of even pop songs. Soundstage of HD800S is expansive, separation is good, the soundstage is vivid and detailed, depth, height and width are all incredible for a headphone. The whole soundstage is better than it is on most midrange speakers and only a high end speaker can truly compete with HD800S
     
     
    Drive factor
     
    HD800S is picky about it's amps and is hard to drive. I have used HD800S together with FiiO X5ii as a DAC or transport and E12, ifi iDSD, Chord Hugo, Wa22, and all my usual arsenal of amps. HD800S did sound best with Matrix M-Stage, ifi iDSD and Hugo. I think that HD800 sounded good with FiiO K5 as well. I won't really comment on Wa22 or tube amps as I didn't experiment enough with them to be sure of how I feel about them. 

    I would say that driving HD800S from Matrix M-Stage felt well enough for the price and HDVD8000 was probably my favorite amp to drive HD800S, somewhere on the level with Chord Hugo. I would love to get a Hugo 2 and see how the combination works out, but Hugo and HDVD800 were both great with HD800S 

     
    I tried driving HD800S from FiiO E12 and FiiO X5ii and while it was possible and it sounded pretty good, FiiO E12 was better due to more power, but I think that the new FiiO K5 would do an even better job given it's better power.
     
     
    Comparisons 
     
    Ie800 - HD800S and ie800 are similar in many aspects, similar levels of vividness, clarity , depth of soundstage. Ie800 is a smidgen better at instrument separation and has a softer / thinner treble while HD800S has a more matured tone and a larger soundstage. I use ie800 as my daily driver and it makes a perfect in-ear HD800. Ie800 has considerably more bass and the final sound is slightly thicker bit it's very agile and you won't miss any transient with ie800, though HD800 being even faster will provide even better details and transients. Both ie800 and HD800S are high end when in their entirety and both are end-game TOTL pieces of equipment.
     
    Dj One Pro - HD800S has a considerably larger soundstage, the sound is considerably faster in the bass area and mids are more detailed. I'm amazed what a good job Dj One Pro does considering their price difference, but HD800 wins in many aspects. Dj One Pro has more bass albeit a slower bass and less treble. HD800S has a clearer and more vivid sound than Dj One Pro in general, and Dj One Pro can sound veiled in comparation, but Dj One Pro makes many of it's direct competitors sound veiled. 
     

    LCD2 / LCD4 / HD650 - All of three have a smoother sound with some treble roll off when compared to HD800S. All three have a smidgen more bass when compared to HD800S, but to my ears HD800S is vivider and clearer - especially due to the better and more linear extension in the upper top end. Soundstage is considerably larger in all 3 axis on HD800S as well. 
     
     
    Value
     
    HD800S costs a hefty amount, about 1700$, but it is the last bechmark headphone you will need. Together with HDVD800 which is another 1700$, you get an end game setup after which there isn't that much more space left to explore. Their price is very high - ridiculously so - but so is their audio quality, so you're going to chose there. 
     
     
    Conclusion
     
    HD800S is probably the last headphone you'll need after you get one - especially if you're able to use open back headphones. I would love to get one for myself but I can only listen to an open back headphone at limited times of the day and HD800S requires quite a strong amplification to be driven well. This being said, HD800S has became my favorite headphone and my benchmark for testing headphones and will probably stay as such for a long time. Using it's in-ear version, ie8000, is a delight and I'm sure that anyone who owns both understands what I mean. For the answer to the question "What is the best headphone?", HD800S is probably the answer at this momment in time and space, considering their technical abilities and sound alone. They cost a lot to get them up and running, but there's not much more to get after you have a pair. I recommend using an amp with them, like FiiO E12, FiiO A5, FiiO K5, Matrix M-Stage ifi iDSD, Hugo, or HDVD800. All of those amps can drive HD800 well, but the sound will improve with better amps.
     
    Its transients are really fast, bass is clean and balanced, treble is clean and balanced, mids are clear and balanced as well. the sound is clear, vivid, lively, bright, fast, solid, precise; The soundstage is amazing, and instrument separation good. The only significant drawbacks are that they're open and some folks can't use an open back headphone and the price. The sound is better than I can express in words and it's something to look out for. Even if you aren't going to buy a pair, you can always take a listen as it'll be eye opening.
    Quinto and PanzerIV like this.
  2. intlsubband
    5.0/5,
    "Truly excellent headphone with endless details. Crisp and clear like I haven't heard before"
    Pros - Details, clarity, accessories, bass, and of course, more details!!
    Cons - For most people, the price will be a barrier
    First, I would like to thank White Lotus and Sennheiser Australia for including me in the Australian review tour!
     
     
    Background:
     
    If you’re reading this review, I would imagine that you already know all about the Sennheiser HD-800S. The company’s new top-of-the-line production dynamic-driver headphone is an update of the veteran HD-800, which has long been considered the “king of clarity”.
     
    While I only have limited experience demoing the original HD800 in the past, I have been using an HD-650 for many years. Other headphones I used for comparison was a modded Hifiman HE-500, and an Oppo PM-1. The HE-500 has been my personal favourite headphone for a number of years now, with the focus pads, headband padding and cable upgrades, this headphone has a winning combination of neutral sound signature with excellent dynamics. I personally prefer the HE-500 over a number of pricier headphones I had a chance to try, including the LCD-3.
     
    The Oppo PM-1 was received at the same time as the HD-800S demo unit, and was provided another good reference to the comparison and general impressions. I have been using the PM-3 as a portable headphone, and I was so impressed with the PM-3’s performance I ended up getting its “big brother” for a try.
     
    For this test, I used both tube and solid-state amplifiers. The tube amp is a Bottlehead Crack OTL with speedball, which goes very well with driving high-impedance headphones like the Sennheisers. The solid-state amp used is a Meier Audio Corda Concerto, a high-powered single-ended design that drives both high-impedance dynamics and lower-impedance planars with excellent clarity and authority. The source used is Schiit Bifrost Multibit DAC, fed music files (both lossless and lossy) via an AK240, a Denon CD transport, or a computer.
     
    Fit, comfort
     
    First, some words about comfort. The HD-800S has absolutely huge earcups. They don’t so much cover the ear and completely engulf it, and then some. The comfort was very good, except for some pressure on the bones under the year which was mildly uncomfortable after some time. Compared to the other headphones, it feels much lighter than the HE-500 both in the hand and on the hand, however the PM-1 and the HD-650 are both a bit more comfortable than the HD-800S, as these two are shaped just right to cover the ear and feel gentle / pillow-like pressed against the head.
     
    Accessories:
     
    I must say this is a pet peeve of mine to see a tremendous headphone with an after-thought of a cable, as was the case with the HE-500 and the HD-650. Not so with the HD-800S. True to its TOTL status, the cables supplied seem to be of very high quality, made of soft materials that was just perfect for prolonged uses. This is how a cable in a TOTL headphone should feel. Top marks also the Oppo PM-1 for having very good quality cables supplied.
     
    Sound:
     
    In order to get a good evaluation of the sound, played a large number of tracks through all headphones, stopping on selected passages and switching back and forth between the headphones and the amplifiers. After a few days, some things became apparent to me:
     
    1. Clarity: The HD-800S didn’t lose a beat with its complete authority over the minute details in any recording you’ll throw at it. As others have commented on their reviews, the main difference with the HD-800S seems to be the fuller bottom end, which is very apparent. However, this doesn’t detract from the fact that these headphones are perhaps the most detailed I have ever tried – certainly more than its competitors here. To compare, I would say that the PM-1 were next in line, having surprisingly detailed sound. The HE-500 follows very closely, with the HD-650 slightly lagging behind.
     
    1. Bass: The HD-800S’ main improvement over the HD-800. While significantly dependent on the amp, out of the Bottlehead, the bass was clear, detailed, yet still punchy and very much present. It is more detailed than the bass of the HE-500, but perhaps not as dynamic. The PM-1’s bass is very detailed but slightly disappointing in its impact.
     
    1. Mids: Despite the superior detail retrieval of the HD-800S, I think it’s very hard to topple the HE-500 when it comes to fluent, musical mids. This is especially the case in rock, blues, and soul music. The HD-650 with the Bottlehead produces some excellent mids as well, but its performance in this instance is seriously overshadowed by the 800S.
     
    1. Highs: I feel that this is the category that most clearly distinguished between all 3 headphones. The HD-800S is clearly at the top, with clear and vivid details, accentuating nuances that I never heard before in some of my music. It makes the sound really crisp and airy. On the other end of this scale are the HD-650 and PM-1, both with more of a rolled-off treble. The PM-1 still has more clarity in the treble over the HD-650, but both headphones come across as very smooth, compared to the crisp HD-800S. Right in the middle between these extremes sit the HE-500. It definitely has more treble than the smooth headphones, giving it nice space and airiness, but it is not quite as dominant as in the HD-800S. Personally, I like this type of balance, even though the details are a couple of steps behind the HD-800S.
     
    1. Dynamics: The HD-800S comes across as very dynamic, the strong top-end creates a great sense of space, drums and percussions come across with a realist conviction, as well as pianos and acoustic guitars. The HE-500 is stronger than the other two in this category, and I felt it is the best of all 4 when it comes to reproducing wind instruments and electric guitars.
     
    Conclusion
     
    To conclude, I would say that the HD-800S deserves the accolades it has received, and is more than a worthy update to the HD-800. I enjoyed testing it thoroughly, and in particular the level of detail and the clarity of its sound should be heard to be believed. However, its tonal balance may not fit each and every musical preference – in particular, for rock music I would still prefer the tonality of the HE-500. But for acoustic and classical music, or any music with a large number of instruments and complex passages, the HD-800S is a real joy to the ears.
  3. ryanjsoo
    5.0/5,
    "HD800S Review – This Is It"
    Pros - Soundstage, Soundstage, Soundstage/End to end extension/Bass texture/Resolving mids/Clarity without fatigue/Amazing comfort/Build is great
    Cons - Proprietary cable connectors/3M cable is a bit cumbersome even at home/Limited isolation/Require a solid source
    Introduction –
    For those who are just getting into audio or are not familiar with Sennheiser (you should be!), the HD800S are their flagship open back headphone that sit below their unobtainable Orpheus but above the vast majority of other headphones on the market. With an RRP of over $2500 AUD, they are very much a statement product, one that disregards all notions of value in favour of pure performance and excess.

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    But for those more familiar with audio, this review will be somewhat ironic; the Sennheiser HD800S needs no introduction nor do they really need another review, they are universally acclaimed (as they should be at this price). As someone who has never really owned a dedicated home headphone, I suppose you can take this as a more average listener’s subjective impressions of the audiophile lifestyle rather than a critical article; that is to say, what can the HD800S, a $2500 headphone, do for the average listener? While the Alessandro MS1’s that I recently reviewed mark the beginning of one’s entry into the audiophile lifestyle, the HD800S for many marks the end. Let’s see how the HD800S fairs in daily usage as an at-home headphone and whether they hold a notable performance advantage over other headphones in a similar class.

     

    Disclaimer –

    I would like to thank Sennheiser very much for providing me with a review unit of the HD800S and White Lotus for organising the Australian review tour. There is no monetary incentive for a positive review and I will be as objective as possible in my evaluation of the HD800S.

     

    About Me – Some background, Gear of choice, Preferences and Biases

    I generally prefer a slight v-shape to my sound, but still closer to neutral. I like a lot of detail and clarity, but can appreciate a smooth, laid back sound such as that on the X10`s. I prefer a more neutral midrange within a relatively tight tolerance, but I`m probably more forgiving of brightness over darkness. I`m not particularly treble sensitive and can tolerate large amounts without fatigue, though too much ruins the enjoyment. If I use a different eartip/pad/cover during the review I will note that and describe the sound changes.

    Read More

     

    Accessories –

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    The un-boxing is as sumptuous and extravagant as the price tag would suggest. The outer packaging is dark and subdued with low key renders of the headphones and the Sennheiser logo snaking along the bottom. The Hi-Resolution logo adorns the front denoting the headphone’s audio prowess, and I can assure you that it is very much deserved.

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    But within the cardboard exterior lies the true unboxing experience, a hard treasure chest like box that hinges open to reveal the headphones nested within a sea of dark velvet.

    [​IMG]

    A soft pouch contains the 1/4inch cable and just below sits the balanced 4-pin XLR cable underneath some protective foam. Both cables are 3M in length and feature a strong braid with fabric sheathing on top. But apart from the cables, Sennheiser don’t include any other accessories. While it would be great to see some more inclusions, maybe a third shorter cable for desk usage, being a home headphone, the HD800S doesn’t really require a travel case and everything that is included feels built to last.

     

    Design –

    [​IMG]

    The HD800S have a very distinct look and feature a darker colour scheme than the original HD800 which looks befittingly subdued and premium, I definitely prefer the darker tones of grey to the silver HD800. The open-back design showcases the very space age looking drivers and the fabric interior similarly impresses with embossed Senheisser logos. The subtly ridged silver accents really complement the grey frame and the matte finish doesn’t mark up nearly as much as other matte finished headphones I’ve owned. The HD800S also isn’t particularly prone to oil marks and scuffing which is surprising given the finish of choice.

    [​IMG]

    The HD800S have a level of design and finish that I haven’t seen on many, if any other headphones including those from Fostex and Oppo. Whilst they don’t quite match the feel of the wooden Fostex headphones and the fully metal Oppo’s, they are far more practical and comfortable in daily usage. They are also built to incredibly tight tolerances; everything from the headband adjustment slider to the spring loaded hangers just glide with perfect friction and tension. It’s hard to put it into words, but the build, while mostly a light polymer (doesn’t feel like plastic but is just as lightweight), is incredible; there’s not a creak nor feeling of hollowness despite the weight and construction of the headphone. In fact, the main points of contact and structure on the HD800S is actually a layered metal, the HD800S simply embody precision German engineering.

    [​IMG]

    They are also surprisingly simple in construction despite their more space age looks. Notably, the HD800S is very light (330g), especially considering the size of the headphone. As a result, the HD800’s are extremely comfortable even after long listening sessions for which they were intended.

    [​IMG]

    Part of this comfort stems from the wide, soft headband which is well shaped to make maximum contact with the top of your head, dispersing the weight force evenly to prevent hot spots. The headband also has a small notch in the centre which allows the headphones to rest on a stand/hangar without indents forming in the padding. It also helps to centre the headphones when placing them on the stand. I didn’t notice the indent during wearing, it did not affect the comfort at all.

    [​IMG]

    The same impressions extend to the similarly finished microfiber earpads. Whilst headphones with more padded earpads do have a more immediate impression of comfort, they also get hotter over time and can feel somewhat clammy. The flatter but thicker earpads on the HD800 did feel a little strange when first changing over from the more snug portable headphones I’m used to, but perfectly considered clamp force in addition to the spring loaded hangers create a very comfortable fitment; they are more comfortable than my Sony MDR-1A’s but also don’t feel nearly as hot over time.

    [​IMG]

    It should be noted that while these are home headphones, they have quite a stable fit on the head due to the large surface area of the pads and headband. Clamp force isn’t light but is on the lighter side and the HD800S will stay put when reclining in a chair or generally walking about, but lying down and more vigorous activities will cause them to shift, as expected. In addition, the earcups are absolutely huge, easily enveloping even the largest of ears. Mine don’t contact any part of the headphone’s inner surface which works wonders after a lengthy listening session.

    [​IMG]

    The included cables are very long at 3M, but are well suited towards home use, they give you some slack to move about and recline. It’s dual entry, attaching to both earcups via two proprietary keyed connectors. The connectors are all metal with gold plated terminals, they feel very solid and snug when inserted. I didn’t notice any intermittency during my testing so I can affirm that Sennheiser’s choice of connector is sound. Strain relief is excellent with long tapered rubber that is firm but still flexible enough to absorb lateral displacement stresses.

    [​IMG]

    The bulk of the cable is a thick fabric/kevlar sheathed design with a more conventional rubber cable above the Y-split. The cable is internally braided all the way through and remains about as supple as it could be considering its thickness. The cable terminates in a usual 1/4inch plug or XLR connector should you have a balanced source. Whichever cable you choose, the terminations is equally fortified as the cable itself and has almost excessive strain relief. I doubt the cable will run into any longevity issues at all but as far as usability goes, even for home usage, I find it somewhat cumbersome and the use of a proprietary connector does limit aftermarket options.

    [​IMG]

    While the HD800S is an open back headphone, they are not open to the extent of Grado headphones due to smaller rear vents. As a result, they also don’t leak as much sound and provide just a hint of extra isolation which helps maintain a coherent low-end response. The Oppo PM1’s by contrast leak slightly more and also isolate just slightly less, which does make that last bit of difference as even the confines of our homes are not perfectly silent. The open back design in addition to the microfiber earpads enable long-term comfort without heating the ears. The clamp force is noticeably constant throughout its range, usually headphones clamp stronger the further they are bent out, but the Sennheisers comfortably accommodate larger head sizes.

    [​IMG]

    So as you can see, the amount of thought that went into this design is simply phenomenal. Sennheiser went to extra lengths to ensure that the headphones would not only fit the vast majority of listeners, but also fit them with comfort and ergonomics (as seen by the earcups, headband tension and spring loaded hangers). Fit and finish is spot on and comfort is almost perfect, I’m glad Sennheiser stuck to their tried and tested design because it simply works exceptionally well.

     

    Sound –

    [​IMG]

    At this price you could find a really nice set of planar magnetics or even electrostatic headphones; both technologies that boast several inherent benefits over the traditional dynamic driver. So why is the HD800S, a headphones which uses a traditional 56mm dynamic driver, actually more expensive than headphones such as the Oppo PM1. Well, part of that comes down to the quality of the driver itself, even if it is more physically limited than a planar or electrostatic design, in addition to the meticulously thought out structures that surround it and allow its capabilities to shine. With the HD800S, much like the ie800, Sennheiser have implemented various technologies such as a Helmholtz resonator to dampen the 6KHz spike experienced within the ear canal that can mask higher frequency detail. While the effect isn’t quite pronounced as with the ie800, perhaps due to in-ears being especially prone to this phenomena, the HD800S does still have an incredibly resolving sound which reveals a similar amount of detail without fatigue. In fact, due to their vastly superior instrument separation, details retrieved by the HD800S are easier to discern even without being particularly forward, a very interesting characteristic. Ultimately, Sennheiser are masters of the dynamic driver and it was definitely a good idea on their part to stick with a technology they can draw absolute potential from. The HD800S is, to my ears, no less impressive than any of the planar magnetic headphones I’ve heard (though I haven’t heard any electro-static headphones yet).

     

    Tonality –

    Tonally the HD800S is quite balanced if not perfectly neutral; bass is a little punchier, the midrange is slightly brighter and the high end has an extra hint of crispness over more balanced headphones such as the Oppo PM3. But that’s not much of a surprise, good sounding headphones are always relatively balanced, rather it’s the way the HD800S retains Sennheiser’s house sound whilst also maintaining balance that sets them apart from other headphones that sound flatter but less engaging or more coloured but perhaps overly so, limiting versatility. Like the ie800, the HD800 pursues a slightly bright sound that emphasises clarity but retains a full-bodied low end that still never sounds even slightly muddy or boomy. Sub-bass sits behind the mid-bass but has surprising authority when called for, mid bass has slight emphasis and upper bass is similarly quite neutral. Mids are quite even for the most part, more so than the ie800 for sure, they are less bright and lower mids have more presence. Treble is interesting, it’s very crisp and very clean but not as emphasised as the ie800 or HD800 that came before it. I hear quite an organic, natural but resolving treble response that never encroaches upon fatigue or any semblance of harshness. The HD800S is slightly brighter than neutral overall but due to their very linear sculpting, I still wouldn’t consider them a bright headphone, especially with Grado and Alessandro headphones out there.

     

    Drivability –

    [​IMG]

    At 300 ohms, the HD800S is not easy to drive but is still more efficient than most of the planar magnetic headphones on the market. For instance, my HTC 10 will drive them to adequate volumes, if barely (and I’m a low volume listener). Of course, quality does suffer considerably from a smartphone, even a very good one, as opposed to a dedicated source, but anyone with enough economic bandwidth to invest $2500 in a set of headphones will no doubt have the budget to purchase a dedicated amplifier of some sort. For instance, my Oppo HA-2, an accomplished portable amplifier but one that doesn’t nearly meet the power output of a dedicated home amplifier, provides plenty of power to the HD800S with enough volume on high gain to become almost unbearable to me (I use around 2/5 on high gain, source at maximum volume). The HD800S also sounds much more dynamic, extended in either direction and the soundstage expands considerably when running out of the Oppo. I have no doubt that the HD800S will scale incredibly well with an even better source, but for now, this is best I can provide. That being said, even from my HTC, the headphones sound outstanding, it just goes to show that the headphones are fully equipped to take advantage of whatever you throw at them. Those with a good source will have a great time with these headphones and those with an even better source will have an even better experience.

     

    Bass –

    Bass is not particularly accentuated, which is a surprise coming from Sennheiser, but is very linear and really digs deep without any sort of roll off. The low end is closer to neutral (but not neutral), well balanced with the midrange and never draws absolute attention (you can take that as a positive). Sub-bass extension is fantastic as one would expect from a $2000 headphone but sub-bass has a softer character, it’s not as impactful as the closed B&W P9 for example. This is likely due to the open back design, and while plenty of closed headphones do have this same kind of diffuse bass response, similarly priced models such as the Fostex TH-900 do tend to sound more bottomless and full if at the expense of the unrelenting texture and resolution of the HD800S. To put it simply, the sub-bass on the HD800S sounds like a good set of 2.0 speakers but lacks the outright slam of a well integrated 2.1 system.

    This does allow the listener to focus on the mid and upper bass frequencies and thankfully, these responses are impeccable in every regard. Bass response has immense amounts of texture and resolution. In addition, due to the exceptional soundstage, complex passages are reproduced with ease and refinement; the HD800S oozes that character of effortlessness that is often only glimpsed by lower end gear. Of course, sub-bass and bass overall are exceptional, but I do have to be a lot more critical when judging high budget flagship products. For my preferences, that little extra punchiness is spot on and bass can generate huge authority and rumble when called for in the track but similarly get out of the way during calmer passages.

     

    Mids –

    One aspect of the ie800 that has always impressed me is the lower midrange; it’s so delicately balanced between being full-bodied and clear, there’s a quality to male vocals that I rarely hear from other gear. That being said, I’ve always found the lower midrange on the ie800’s to be slightly recessed. The HD800S take that same quality and balance but also brings male vocals just a little more forward in the mix, perfect! The upper midrange tells a similar story. Female vocals have wonderful presence and clarity without becoming overbearing, there’s no sibilance but distortion from low bitrate files is quite prevalent. When fed with high-bitrate and lossless files however, the sound really is sublime. Clarity is boosted slightly, not to ie800 levels, but enough to dispel the veil in poorly mastered/older recordings without further hardening the brighter mastering techniques of more modern music. The HD800S really works with any genre of music, providing insight into the smallest nuances through immense separation and agility. Detailing is fantastic and micro-details are brought forward if not quite to the extent of the brighter high-end Grado headphones. Movies and games are both ideal as well due to the sheer resolving power of these headphones. Again, the enormous soundstage really does grand action scenes justice whilst slightly accentuated clarity illuminates quiet dialogue. So while the HD800S has the same kind of contrasted sound as the ie800 (that really draws attention to the extremities of its FR), the midrange performance is equally as impressive as the bass and treble. For my preferences, I wouldn’t even call the midrange recessed but it definitely sounds a little more sculpted than the Oppo PM3 even if quality is superior.

     

    Treble –

    Treble is quite natural overall, it has been toned down from the original HD800 through a similar Helmholtz resonator as used in the ie800 (ironic since the ie800 has quite a pronounced treble response) which is used to absorb certain frequencies; in this application the treble spike at 6KHz. While the treble doesn’t seem as immediately resolving as the more forward ie800 (an earphone that exaggerates the detail and clarity in music like the HD800S exaggerates soundstage space), overall detail retrieval is just as impressive and presented in a more natural manner; it’s up there with the best in terms of resolution. While I’m sure many will prefer the treble response on the ie800 and original HD800, the HD800S doesn’t exhibit that splashy character that affected the ie800 and, while still ever so slightly on the thinner side, treble remains far more consistent; it just takes a few hours of adjustment coming from brighter headphones/earphones and vice versa for darker gear.

    Quality is impeccable as expected, cymbals are incredibly textured and shimmer without raspiness. The refinement of the HD800S’ treble response was particularly apparent to me when listening to Radiohead’s Paranoid Android, a song that is particularly revealing of a harsh or raspy treble response. The HD800S reproduced the various synthesised effects and atmospheric tone with great composition. Listening to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon revealed similar findings. The HD800S did an exceptional job taming the honkiness of the trumpets and sibilance in the vocals whilst providing a truly toe-tapping sense of rhythm. Higher strings are similarly flattered, they are not overly forward in the mix and have a pleasing timbre and sense of dynamics; the HD800S is therefore a perfect companion for classical. The HD800S also does exceptionally well with higher volume listening, they are surprisingly unfatiguing despite their resolving nature and just as their comfort permits lengthy listening sessions, their marvellous sound is sure to prolong them.

     

    Soundstage –

    Soundstage is without a doubt the strongest aspect of the HD800’s sound; it’s the largest, most separated sounding headphones that I have ever heard. The Fostex TH-900 used to hold that crown for me, but the HD800 takes soundstage space to the next level. Another headphone with a standout soundstage around this price (that I’ve heard) includes the Bowers and Wilkins P9, but being closed back, it also doesn’t quite reach the scale of the sound produced by the HD800. In addition to having exceptional space, the soundstage is also very well rounded between width and depth making imaging razor sharp. Whereas with most headphones I feel that they detract more or less from the space already within the recordings of songs and especially live performances, the HD800’s are spacious to the point that they almost sound exaggerated. Studio recordings have the same amount of space as live recordings do on lesser gear and live performances are simply spectacular. Listening to a live recording of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and the amount of space portrayed was almost akin to being right there in the crowd.

    While I had a hard time believing those comments on the internet comparing the HD800 to listening to a good set of bookshelf or home theatre speakers, in usage, the headphones exaggerated imaging and soundstage performance does these exaggerated comments justice. And I think the soundstage rounds the exceptional tonality off perfectly, this is their raison d’etre in the fierce market of established headphones utilising physically superior drivers and psychoacoustics.

     

    Verdict –

    [​IMG]

    It’s easy to see why so many like the HD800S so much; they are impeccably engineered and transparent but also remain natural and inviting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the HD800S is the ultimate headphone, Sennheiser themselves make the Orpheus, an even more extravagant headphone at an equally unobtainable price tag of $50,000. But the HD800S is honestly the most resolving headphone I’ve ever experienced and happens to be very comfortable to boot, something I prioritise very highly; so many high-end headphones are simply unlivable and this physical discomfort detracts from the listening experience.

    [​IMG]

    I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this in another review, but I believe that the hallmark of a great headphone is its soundstage. Any headphone can nail tonality, reproduce sound in great quality and look good doing it, the Oppo PM3 is a great example and it only costs $400 (comments on price are relative!). But ultimately, the soundstage is what puts the listener in the music, what immerses you in the performance. The HD800S nails all of these aspects and has a soundstage that is truly ethereal. Yes, I would like a fraction more sub-bass slam (likely would improve if I had a proper desktop amplifier) and maybe a tad more treble sparkle too. But at the end of the day, as human beings, we seek to be moved; moved by sound, by motion, by music and the HD800S provides a truly involving experience that puts the listener right in the audience. If that isn’t the ultimate happiness of an audiophile, I’m not sure what is. The HD800S from Sennheiser provides a resolving, engaging and immersive audio experience in a comfortable and practical form factor.

    Accessories – 7/10, Great quality cables with fantastic strain-relief and connectors. Packaging is truly an experience, understandably, the headphones were not designed for transit so few accessories are included. Would have like a 1.8M cable for desktop usage as the 3M cable can become cumbersome.

    Design – 9.5/10, Very aesthetically pleasing design, perfect build quality. No creeks, squeaks or feelings of hollowness despite light-weight. Adjustment mechanisms are perfectly weighted, the headband has very consistent pressure. Very breathable micro-fibre ear pads, wide, well-shaped headband. Extremely comfortable. Cables use proprietary connectors but are of great quality.

    Bass – 9.75/10, Very extended, softer, more diffuse sub-bass tone. Nice rumble and texture down low, outstanding resolution and definition to the mid and upper bass responses. Slightly punchier than neutral but otherwise very well judged.

    Mids – 9.75/10, Geat clarity, amazing detail and nice presence, does not sound recessed but in harmony with the rest of the spectrum. Male vocals very rarely sound recessed.

    Treble – 9.75/10, For my preferences, the treble performance is essentially perfect. Resolution is spectacular, texturing and body is spot on. Harshness and sibilance are delicately avoided but intricacies are still brought to the fore.

    Soundstage, Imaging and Separation – 10/10, I can’t imagine having more soundstage space, the HD800S is not even limited by the space recorded in the media you are listening to. Very well rounded, almost perfect imaging and class-leading separation. Although perfection does not exist (it is an inherently subjective term), I am not afraid to give the HD800S a perfect 10.

    Overall – 10/10, Another perfect score of 10! I’ve only given one before and that was to the Envaya Mini. While one can comment on limited practicality and value, I would levy that at this price, such things are inconsequential. The HD800S is a statement product much like the Orpheus above it. It’s a headphone that employs cutting edge design and material through a culmination of engineering perfection and passion. At $2500 Sennheiser better deliver and fortunately, they do, very much so. The design is flawless and actualized through perfect manufacturing. Comfort is impeccable but the cable does get cumbersome at times. Sound is phenomenal, they do justify their lofty price tag with a clear advantage over $1500 headphones such as the B&W P9’s and Oppo PM1’s. Honestly, I do love the TH-900 from Fostex and the P9 from Bowers and Wilkins, but if I had to live with one headphone, the HD800S takes the cake. The HD800S turns sounds into music through character and resolution and provide the most uncompromised listening experience of all the headphones I’ve tested. For that, I feel some subjectivity and a score of 10 is warranted.

    *Edit: Updated photos!

    Thanks for reading! This review was taken from my website, please have a look for more articles just like this:

    https://everydaylisteningblog.wordpress.com/2016/12/19/hd800s-review-this-is-it/ 

    MaxPowerZ likes this.
  4. emptymt
    4.5/5,
    "Legendary Headphone On Steroid"
    Pros - Extremely natural sounding mids, clarity, detail, soundstage and imaging on another level, tight bass, very comfortable, accessories
    Cons - still needs more bass, finishing prone to scratch, proprietary connectors, ear pads is a dust magnet
    Hi everyone, Before I start the review, I would like to thank Sennheiser for making this awesome headphone, and also to @whitelotus for letting me in the tour.
    Sorry for the photo quality, I'm still using iphone 4 and my photo taking skills are quite poor T_T
     
    INTRODUCTION
    I'm an Indonesian working as a Web Developer in Melbourne, Australia.
    Other than programming/coding, listening to music is another one of my hobby.
    When I start my headphone hobby, music listening has been a very rewarding experience for me and has helped me in many aspects of life other than music enjoyment, although, with the booming price of high end headphones/IEM atm, it has become a bit of a heavy hit on my wallet >_<.
     
    Starting from almost 2 years ago I've been really hooked by metal music, and nowadays my everyday music listening always incorporate metal tracks, I guess you can call me a Metalhead, I also listen to other genres occasionally.
     
    I don't actually listen to all kinds of music, lets say for example Classical, therefore it is important to understand that this review is based on my observation on the kinds of musics I like, and those are mainly:
    - Metal (many kinds, mainly the extreme kind)
    - Rock (mostly Porcupine Tree, Steven Wilson, Radiohead or something like it)
    - Pop (90s stuff)
    - EDM (Mostly trance)
    - Jazz (Norah Jones, Diana Krall and the likes)
    - Indonesian Song (it's basically the Indonesian version of pop, guitar used is mostly acoustic guitar, sounds natural and relaxing however, mastering of the song is usually poor, this is good to test how good a headphone/Iem handle poorly recorded material)
    - KPOP
    - JPOP and JROCK/ Visual Kei, whatever
     
    I used the HD800S for 7 days not including transit times everyday at work and at home on weekend, I will also make some comparisons to Mrspeakers Ether Flow which has been my daily driver for about a month now, and maybe to the old HD800 to a certain extent(I auditioned this a lot of times but never come to like it).
     
    PACKAGING
    The box came in a classic sennheiser style slip on cover, and underneath the cover you will find a box containing the headphone, 1/4 inch single ended cable and also the balance cable.
    The box is very nice and can be used as a presentation case other than for storing the headphone of course.
    IMG_0768.jpg
     
    IMG_0770.jpg
     
    ACCESSORIES
    In the box/presentation case, you will find:
    HD800S headphone
    1/4 Single ended Cable
    4 pin XLR balanced cable (not included in hd800 purchese but it is there for the 800S, the price jump cover the cable as well)
    pouch to store cable
     
     
    IMG_0772.jpg
     
    IMG_0773.jpg  headphone and 2 cables
     
    IMG_0781.jpg  the dreaded proprietary connectors
     
     
    The HD800S
    The headphone itself is not much different from the HD800, the only difference here is the color, instead of all silver finish, we got a matte black/silver combo for the coloring.
    Another difference is in the driver assembly, where you can find a little donut shaped rubbery thing covering the center hole.
    Many have believed that this hole is the culprit of the treble spike which is a really famous problem of the old hd800, this modification is supposed to fix that problem, and I think it does.
     
    IMG_0775.jpg  the black finishing
     
    IMG_0779.jpg
     
     
    BUILD QUALITY
    The Build Quality is good, with an excellent choice of materials for the earpads and headband. The earpads is very comfortable to the skin and is not hot however it is a dust magnet.
    The Headphone itself is made from plastic I believe with some Aluminum kind of mesh covering the headphone for styling and providing more protection.
    It has a matte black finish for the ribs and this is the downfall of the build in my opinion, The unit that I receive for review has a few scratch on the finish and you can see it quite easily, it seems like the paint is prone to scratch and won't last well if not protected.
    Cable quality is also very good with good length and not microphonic.
    The headphone is very light due to its excellent design and material choice and is very comfortable.
    To summarize, the design is superb considering that they came up with it about 7 years ago, but the durability is a bit of a concern  
     
    IMG_0774.jpg   Some dinks on the finishing on the top side of the ring
     
    IMG_0777.jpg  Look at the dust and all those foreign particles on it!
     
     
    Fit, Comfort and ease of use
    The fit and comfort of the HD800S is superb and dare I say that it is the most comfortable headphone I've worn, Sennheiser used this special kinds of synthetic foam for the headband and also the earpads, It feels good in the skin and never gets hot at all.
    I find wearing the HD800s for hours an easy task, it is light and comfortable with just the right clamping force, no comfort issues occur after a long listening session.
    Sennheiser really did an excellent job designing this headphone, the shape of the headphone when worn on the head provides even pressure and basically just conforms to your head.
    I believe the key thing to this is the headband hinge design, you will find wearing this headphone comfortable even after hours of listening session.
    IMG_0776.jpg
     
     
    FIRST IMPRESSIONS
    My first impression of The HD800S was excellent, I believe that the modification made to the driver tame that treble problem on the old HD800, Soundstage is noticably large compared to all full size open that I have ever used except for the old HD800, this is definitely the largest and is as close as it can be to the "out of the head experience" right now.
    Comfort is also really good with ample openings for the ears, my ears never touch the pads and stays cool most of the time.
    Bass is more than the HD800 but I still want more, some metal recording feels a little weird at first because of this.
    The rumble of the sub-bass is also missing for this type of music.
     
    SOUND ANALYSIS

     
    The Signature
    The sound signature in my opinion leans to the analytical side, bass is there and it is tight albeit a little anemic, mids is very realistic and natural sounding, Treble is detailed and airy.
     
    If I have to compare the quantity of the signature, it will be like this: Treble > Mid > bass
     
    the signature itself works very well with acoustic instrument, Porcupine tree sounds really clear and airy.
    I find that it works very well for Jazz, Rock and classical music.
    For modern musics though, this will not work well due to the bass being on the lean side.
     
    The tonality of this headphone is not tuned to play well for all genres of music, however with the right music, it sounds excellent.
     
    The Bass
    The bass is tight with good extension, it is very fast but a little anemic, when I listen to "Forget Not" by Ne Obliviscaris, there is this part where the drum hits gets super fast, it will usually sound less distinct with other headphones and IEM, but The HD800s handle this with ease, every hit can be heard and distinguished easily.
    It has the common mid-bass bump that Dynamic Driver often has, but the hits is really snappy and satisfying, so I don't mind this at all.
    Sub-bass is a bit too rolled off due to open design, it is okay but, don't expect this to work nicely for rap and EDM.
    It has a fast decay on the beat, however because of this it can sound thin at times depending on your music and needs a little more body for added musicality, but overall it is good.
     
    The Mids
    The mids is very clean with insane amount of clarity, very natural and detailed.
    You can listen to many variety of vocal with this and it can only be great.
    As a metal-head, I often listen to song where the singer use scream and growl for their vocals, this can be harsh on bright headphone sometimes, but I find it is fine and detailed on HD800S and is enjoyable.
    I can hear a little sibillance here and there, I'm not sure if it is in the recording or not, but this a pretty detailed and analytical headphone we are talking about here, It will expose everything in the recording to you whether you like it or not.
     
    I found both male and female vocals is being represented very well and there is no distinction where male vocals will sound better or vice versa.
    Vocals sound very natural as if the person is right there singing for you, on top of that all the detailing of lip smacking, drawing breath, etc makes the whole experience even better!
     
    Guitars sounds really good on this, the bite is present but never too harsh for me.
    Many old metal recordings were not mastered very well, on this occasions the guitar can be harsh and shrilling, but with good recordings, the details just come out and it sounds really good and inviting, like you wanna hear everything in the recordings.
    Overall Guitars both electric or acoustic, sounds excellent on this.
     
    I really like the mid on The HD800s, especially due to its ability to portray vocals so clearly and naturally.
     
    The Treble
    Treble is very clean, and analytical. It is present in the music and is very airy.
    It is sparkly but not to a fault like the HD800 where it can get too strident for my taste. It has an excellent extension exposing all the details as much as possible to the listener.
    It sounds lively and energising, providing the engagement factor on each track that I played. 
    Violin and guitar solos sounds good on this (again with good source), especially on progressive rock, the sound will get your attention to it straight away.
     
    The Soundstage, Imaging and separations
    The soundstage on this is the best in class, I've never heard a headphone with bigger soundstage than the HD800 and HD800S.
    It truly is an experience to be had if you are a headphone enthusiast like me, It is super spacious and never get congested at all, like at all!!
    Imaging is excellent with pin-point accuracy for each instrument placement, you can single out all the instrument very easily.
     
    If you are a soundstage addict, this is the headphone to buy.
     
    Pairing
    I only test the HD800s using my destop set up which is:
    Laptop -> Chord Mojo -> Cavalli Liquid Carbon -> HD800S
    With this set up, I thinkthe warmness of The LC and mojo helps the bass a bit and add some body to the HD800S, The LC has a little bit of a laid back treble, and this is probably why I find the HD800S to be enjoyable for metal, as the synergy is very good and helps a lot in this scenario.
    I strongly recommend warm source for the HD800S to make up for it's shortcomings (lean bass and sometimes too analytical, needs more musicality).
     
    Comparisons
    Mr Speakers Ether Flow

     

    Comfort
    About the same, for me The HD800S is a little more comfortable for me due to the bigger ear openings but pads is so cushy on the flow, it may vary from person to person.
     
    Durability
    Ether flow is just more robust IMO, with very flexible headband and better cosmetic finish IMO, but The HD800S is no slouch either.
     
    Bass
    Bass is more prominent with the flow with better sub-bass extension and excellent body to it while still being tight, HD800S is just a little too lean for my taste.
    Both shows no sign of bass bleed into the mid to my ears and are very fast, they keep up easily to super fast blast-beat drum attack.
    Dynamic are excellent, both has good dynamics however the mid-bass hits is snappier on The HD800S,  on The Flow, the sub bass rumble can be heard more and each attack is more meaty.
     
    Mids
    The Ether flow is a little U shaped in its signature, while the HD800S is more neutral along the treble.
    I feel that the clarity is about the same however due to that signature on the Flow, I feel that the HD800S is a little clearer, could be because of the signature and lean bass of The HD800S .
    Both sounds natural to me however the Flow's mids is lusher than the HD800S.
    Details are very good for both, but I still give the nod to the HD800S as it is still more detailed to my ears but it can expose the weaknesses of the recording while the Flow is smoother and more forgiving between the two.
    Sibilance is more exposed on the HD800S.
    The Ether flow has more body to it's vocal and can be more emotional and musical while The HD800S is a little analytical and not as musical exposing details.
     
    Treble
    The Ether Flow's treble I feel is quite bright but not as harsh as the HD800S, HD800S is more detailed but can be harsh on some occasions.
    Clarity is about the same, both are really clean and clear, But I think the Ether flow can sound more splashy at times.
    The Ether flow has more spark than the the HD800S to my ears, but both are sparkly.
     
    Soundstage
    HD800S is just better in any way, It is wider, deeper and taller. The Ether Flow has good soundstage too, but nowhere as big as the HD800S, however this can provide a more intimate presentation if it is your thing.
     
    Imaging
    About the same, both are really accurate on it's placing, although I have to say that I think The Ether flow sounds more diffused than the HD800S.
     
    Summary
    The HD800S is a headphone design and tuned specifically on a certain goal. This is not the headphone to Use if you listen to Rap, Hip Hop and EDM, where bass performance is really important.
    The main selling point of this headphone is it's ability to portray sound naturally and it's huge soundstage, the biggest I know.
    This is an excellent headphone to buy if you are a soundstage fanatic and is always hungry for details.
     
    Pricing is Okay for me, even though it is expensive, it kept up with pricier competition very well, with great comfort.
    You also get 2 cables (Single Ended and Balanced), although I prefer to be able to chose which I want and save more money.
  5. Currawong
    4.0/5,
    "The Sennheiser HD800 S brings a more pleasant sound signature in exchange for technical accuracy."
    Pros - Profoundly large soundstage. Accurate imaging. Fantastic comfort. Light weight. Easy to drive.
    Cons - Stock cable is expensive and, IMO, degrades the sound. Ear pad and head pad materials are not very robust.
    [​IMG]

     
    As the first truly new high-end dynamic-driver headphones to hit the market in quite a few years, when Sennheiser's HD800 was introduced at CES on the 8th of January 2009, they caused a massive storm. Since the last truly high-end pair of dynamic driver headphones at this level had been, arguably, Sony's R10s (the Qualia 010 is another matter altogether) and the only equally expensive headphones available at the time were Ultrasone's Edition 9s, it became something of a  re-awakening of the high-end headphone market, which subsequently exploded with Audeze and HiFiMan's planar headphones.
     
    Not only is the design technically fantastic, but the large cups and light-weight design makes them highly pleasant to listen with, even for long periods of time (issues with the frequency response not withstanding). They copped some flak for the plastic used, even if it was intended to minimise vibration, and distortion. The head pad and ear pads are not the most robust and may require replacement after some years, which is thankfully not that costly, unlike the cable!
     
    Seven years on and the only thing that had been added or changed with the HD800 was the introduction of an optional balanced cable to go along with Sennheiser's headphone amplifiers, the headphones themselves still highly competitive with everything out there, though arguably with careful amplifier and cable considerations, or possibly damping mods, depending who you ask. 
     
    So it was at the 2016 Spring Fujiya Avic festival that was I heading into the building with Jude, who told me he had to drop something off to Axel Krell of Sennheiser. That "something" was a pair of HD800 S, prompting me to ask for a quick video. 
     
    [​IMG]

     
    It wasn't until recently that I actually had a chance to sit down and have a proper listen with a pair, and only thanks to Anakchan offering to lend me his pair.  
     
    The HD800 itself is quite unique in the world of headphones, including for Sennheiser. When an image was leaked, pre-announcement, nobody believed it, as the design looked more like something Sony would make. This makes the most sense if you've seen the Qualia 010. 
     
    As it is, they are still the only pair of headphones to use a ring radiator driver, which is shaped like a donut on one side, rather than a disk, with a hole in the centre. That hole has been the centre of attention, pun very much intended, as it holds the secret to the difference between the HD800 and HD800 S. 
     
    Before explaining more, it is worth re-visiting the original model and some of the good and arguably less good aspects of its design. 
     
    The HD800 uses a ring radiator driver -- basically a shape that looks like one side of a donut with a hole in the middle. Being a fairly large diaphragm and the cups being large, the result is quite a large presentation of the music. Despite this, there is sufficient bass, though something of a drop-off towards the deep bass. 
     
    Dynamic drivers typically have a drop-off in the deep bass to avoid distortion which increases rapidly at very low frequencies. This is, to a degree, why planar magnetic headphones have become popular, as they can avoid this. Regardless, the HD800 did better than average. 
     
    HD800vsHD800modvsHD800SvsHD600_FR.jpg

    Sorrodje's measurements of the headphones from here. Note that they cannot be compared with anyone else's measurements. Note the drop in the HD800 S (blue) in the treble compared to the HD800.

     ​

    sennheiser_hd_800_frequency_response.png


     
     
    The mid-range is somewhat recessed, increasing the sense of space. However the treble is where things were somewhat unusual. Most headphones have a peak in the treble between 8-10 kHz, giving instruments, which usually top out much earlier, a sense of "air". Without this peak the music can sound muffled, such as with V-MODA's LP series which was designed without the peak for listening loudly to club music. 
     
    The HD800 has a peak at 6.3 kHz, lower than most, and making them sound brighter than average. This became problematic with some music as, say, the Cowboy Junkies famous song Sweet Jane, becomes SCHWEEEEEEEET Jane, which is unpleasant to listen to.
     
    This lead to people often pairing the HD800 with warmer-sounding tube amps, as well as re-cabling them to try and tame the peak. Eventually people such as Jazz Casual began sticking things inside the cups to see if the sound signature could be improved. 
     
    Inside the cups, under the fancy two-layer dust cover there are plenty of surfaces which can reflect sound and potentially introduce harshness, such as the metal ring securing the driver, the metal back grill and the plastic surfaces. Covering these surfaces to varying degrees with felt, foam or perforated non-slip matting seems to improve things considerably, reducing the internal reflections. I tried this myself with non-slip matting I bought in my local hardware store.
     
    However, not everyone likes the improvement, even if it does result in a more precise sound, and sometimes one with a bit more bass. The theory I have behind this relates quite a bit to live music, and how we listen to music in general. 
     
    I recall, many years ago, when I first heard one of my favourite bands at the time, Massive Attack, played on a high-end system instead of from a radio or other cheap stereo. The clarity was unexpected, which while good in some ways, felt odd. Likewise, when most people hear live music it is at a concert or less than ideal venue, where the sound is reflected off everything. Even a classical music concert in a properly designed hall presents most of the music with carefully tuned reflections.
     
    In contrast, I used to sing in a boys' choir, where our venue for practice was sometimes in the recording studio in the School of Music. That room had perf-board walls to damp sound, and we'd always enjoy the weird feeling of an over-damped room which, even upon entering, would mess with our voices. If you've ever been inside an anechoic chamber and had someone speak to you, it is freaky how their voice will come very directly from them, with no reflections at all. Most importantly, being inside these rooms feels unnatural to us, as we're used to hearing sound reflected around us. 
     
    Similarly, some damping mods to the HD800 can have a similar effect, making the music sound too accurate. While it has been shown to improve them on a technical level, like an anechoic chamber, it can end up with something that sounds unnatural to us.
     
    That leads us to the HD800 S.  The primary physical difference is that in the hole in the middle of the driver is what appears to be a Helmholtz resonator -- a device that is used to either reduce or emphasise selected frequencies. In the HD800 S, it has been shown in measurements to reduce the bothersome 6.3 kHz treble peak. Additionally, the drivers have been tuned to have more low bass, but with the consequence of more distortion. 
     
    Sennhseier_HD800_S-5510.jpg

    The HD800 S cups, showing the small donut-shaped resonator in the centre hole.

     
    This makes them more sonically pleasing for many people, especially those who like the HD800, but find it too bright. However when I first put them on and listened, the sensation of listening to the mid-range felt very odd, and it took me a while to figure out exactly what was going on. 
     
    Listening to Macy Gray's latest album, recorded binaurally by Chesky Records, Macy herself appears dead centre, while the instruments of the band are quite strongly either on the left or the right. With the HD800, my mental image of the sound is of Macy's voice in the centre, tapering off sharply and then echos of her voice off the surrounding walls and objects, then the instruments sharply in focus in their respective positions. 
     
    With the HD800 S, where the image is the same, the in-between echos of the surrounds of the building seem to be less prominent, increasing the contrast of the direction her voice is coming from and the direction the instruments come as well. It is as if the sound has been damped and the natural echo of the building reduced or removed to a significant degree. I believe it was that which made me feel that the sound was unnatural at first. 
     
    However with a lot of music that sounds a bit too thin through the HD800, the S is more pleasant to listen with. Now we have a better balance between the huge spaciousness of the sound and the enjoyable warmth so many of us prefer and would compromise with via tube amps and re-cabling. 
     
    Unfortunately, even to the point when people had convinced me it was impossible, I can't enjoy listening to either pair of headphones with the stock Sennheiser cable.  I've been through a bunch of cables, for which I have a dedicated thread, so I wont go further than to say that, for reasons I can't explain, even if it doesn't change their frequency response, I find that the stock cable does something I can't explain that makes even the HD800 S sound thin and unpleasant to me. 
     
    As for gear, the cost of getting good listening from the HD800 S is a lot cheaper than it was when the HD800 was released. A Chord Mojo or even a Schiit Vali 2 (preferably with a better tube) are a couple of my favourite which have given me much listening pleasure, even if they don't bring out all the detail they are capable of retrieving. Likewise, ALO's Continental V5 makes for a fantastic booster for any DAP that doesn't quite get up the voltage swing to be ideal, such as Soundaware's M1. On the other end of the scale, Woo Audio's WA8 has the most syrupy delicious presentation, and my peak amp for both dynamics sounding pleasant is ALO Audio's Studio Six. Sometime I'll have to try them on Schiit Audio's Ragnarok and the new Cavalli amps, if not a Chord Dave.
     
    In the end, the HD800 S, when combined with good equipment, can be an amazingly pleasant pair of headphones to listen with.   After I got over that initial period of weirdness, and started doing comparisons, I would pick it up over the HD800 to listen with, and that is where it really counts.
     
    Sennhseier_HD800_S-5506-Edit-Edit.jpg

     ​

    Thanks to Anakchan for the headphone loan, and to Kimber Cables for the cable.
     ​

     
  6. Brooko
    5.0/5,
    "Sennheiser HD800S – “End Game”"
    Pros - Imaging, sound-stage, tonal balance, clarity, bass extension, versatility, build, comfort
    Cons - Expensive (but IMO worth it), cable relatively heavy and prone to twisting
    hd800s38.jpg
    For larger views of the photos (1200 x 800) - please click on the individual images
    INTRODUCTION
     
    I can remember when I first joined Head-Fi, I started with some pretty cheap gear, and I remember looking at the signatures of some of the long-time posters, and marvelling at some of the gear they had available to them. Over the next few years, I bought, sold, and slowly worked my way through a lot of former flagships in order to find out what sort of signature moved me.
     
    In that time, I got to hear and own the AKG K701/702, DT880, RS1, SRH1840, HD700 and HD600. Then things changed when I bought the Beyerdynamic T1, and all of a sudden it was time to thin down the number of headphones I owned, and concentrate on what I really liked. From that point – most of my listening was with either the T1 or HD600. This was mostly thanks to Head-Fi friendship with a fellow NZer (Rizki – I still owe you), when I finally got to hear the legendary HD800 and also AKG's new K812, and compare them with my set-up at the time. For anyone wanting to read about my findings then – try here and here.
     
    After spending some good quality time with both headphones, I ended up keeping the T1 and HD600, and although I knew one day I'd probably end up with an HD800 – I really didn't feel the need to move onward and upward at the time. In fact this year, the T1 has had very little head time, and it has predominantly the HD600 which has stolen all my leisure listening time. The HD600 remains for me the one headphone I've consistently gone back to, and that never ceases to wow me. It has also slowly become my main headphone by default. Until now that is.
     
    Cue Jensy (Head-Fi's “White Lotus”) sending me a PM asking if I'd like to take the new HD800S for a spin for a week, and write a review based on what I'd heard. Of course I jumped at the chance, keen to hear what changes Sennheiser had made, and what the initial fuss was all about.
     
    So a week ago I received the HD800S, and since then I've been steadily putting them through their paces, and in that time they've made me completely change my idea of what my audio chain will look like in the long term. So if you don't mind accompanying me on a little journey, we'll take a look at the HD800S and why (for me) it has become end-game.
     
    ABOUT SENNHEISER
    I'm not going to go into too much detail in this section – because I'd imagine practically everyone must know who Sennheiser is. The company was formed in 1945 by Fritz Sennheiser and seven fellow engineers, and their first product was actually a voltmeter. In 1946 they built their first microphone, and by 1955 the company had grown to 250 employees. As the company grew, so did their product range, and in 1968 they have been credited with introducing the world's first open headphones. Sennheiser has been a pioneer in high end audio, always pushing the boundaries, and several of their products have reached legendary status over a number of years – especially the incomparable HD600 and HD650 (still popular almost 2 decades on), the HD800 (widely regarded as one of the World's best dynamic headphones, and of course the Orpheus (1 & 2) – statement electrostats built with no budget restraints and designed to be the best headphone the world has experienced.
     
    Sennheiser now has more than 2700 employees globally and an annual turnover of almost 700m Euro. Not bad for a company that started from such small beginnings just 70 years ago. And the vision that drives the company is still as strong today:
    We are shaping today the audio world of tomorrow - that is the ambition that we and our company live by from day to day. This vision statement describes what we are hoping to achieve together. The foundation for this is our history, our culture of innovation and our passion for excellence.
     
    DISCLAIMER
    I was provided with a tour review sample of the HD800S by Sennheiser and facilitated by Jensy for the purposes of review. I am not affiliated with Sennheiser in any way, nor do I make any financial gain, and this is my honest opinion of the HD800S after just over a week with them. The HD800S will be returned this week to the next tour recipient.
     
    PREAMBLE - 'ABOUT ME'.
    I'm a 49 year old music lover. I don't say audiophile – I just love my music. Over the last couple of years, I have slowly changed from cheaper listening set-ups to my current set-up. I vary my listening from portables (including the FiiO X5ii, X3ii, X7, LP5 Pro and L3, and iPhone 5S) to my desk-top's set-up (PC > USB > iFi iDSD). I also use a portable set-up at work – usually either X3ii/X7/L3 > HP, or PC > E17K > HP. My main full sized headphones at the time of writing are the Beyerdynamic T1, Sennheiser HD600 & HD630VB, and AKG K553. Most of my portable listening is done with IEMs, and lately it has mainly been with the Jays q-Jays, Alclair Curve2 and Adel U6. A full list of the gear I have owned (past and present is listed in my Head-Fi profile).
     
    I have very eclectic music tastes listening to a variety from classical/opera and jazz, to grunge and general rock. I listen to a lot of blues, jazz, folk music, classic rock, indie and alternative rock. I am particularly fond of female vocals. I generally tend toward cans that are relatively neutral/balanced, but I do have a fondness for clarity, and suspect I might have slight ‘treble-head’ preferences. I am not treble sensitive (at all), and in the past have really enjoyed headphones like the K701, SR325i, and of course the T1 and DT880. I have a specific sensitivity to the 2-3 kHz frequency area (most humans do) but my sensitivity is particularly strong, and I tend to like a relatively flat mid-range with slight elevation in the upper-mids around this area.
     
    I have extensively tested myself (ABX) and I find aac256 or higher to be completely transparent. I do use exclusively red-book 16/44.1 if space is not an issue. All of my music is legally purchased (mostly CD – the rest FLAC purchased on-line). I tend to be sceptical about audiophile ‘claims’, don’t generally believe in burn-in, have never heard a difference with different cables, and would rather test myself blind on perceived differences. I am not a ‘golden eared listener’. I suffer from mild tinnitus, and at 49, my hearing is less than perfect (it only extends to around 14 kHz nowadays). My usual listening level is around 65-75 dB.
    For the purposes of this review – I have used the HD800S out of many sources – including my iDSD (desktop), FiiO X7, L&P LP5, and utilised both solid state amplifiers (FiiO K5 + E17K, and iFi iDSD) and tube amplifiers (LD MKIV and Venture Electronics Enterprise. This is a purely subjective review - my gear, my ears, and my experience. Please take it all with a grain of salt - especially if it does not match your own experience.
     

    THE REVIEW

     
    PACKAGING AND ACCESSORIES
    hd800s01.jpg hd800s02.jpg freqresp_high.png
    Outer box - front cover
    Outer box rear cover
    Certificate of authenticity + diffuse field frequency response

     
    The Sennheiser HD800S come in an unmistakably Sennheiser box, consisting of outer printed sleeve / box over an inner protective case. The outer box measures 273 x 350 x 150mm, is relatively thin cardboard, and is all black except for the distinctive Sennheiser blue logo on the lower front. The front also features in image of the left hand ear-cup, and the simple slogan “crafter for perfection”. There are some barcodes on the back and sides, along with logos for the Hi-Res Audio standard and their own 2 year warranty.
     
    hd800s03.jpg hd800s04.jpg hd800s05.jpg
    Outer box
    Inner box
    Manual and cleaning cloth

     
    Opening the outer box/sleeve reveals the inner case, which is essentially a well internally padded hinged lid hard case. Also revealed are the comprehensive manual, a cleaning cloth, and USB key which has an electronic copy of the authenticity certificate and frequency response, and also a full electronic copy of the manual. The manual also contains full specifications and other information (in multiple languages) about the HD800S – and I've quickly photographed the English section in case anyone is interested.
     
    hd800s06.jpg hd800s07.jpg hd800s08.jpg
    hd800s09.jpg hd800s10.jpg hd800s11.jpg

     
    Opening the case reveals the new look HD800S in all its glory, safely nestled in a form fitting foam enclosure covered with black satiny material. There is a balanced cable in another bag, and also the main single ended cable nestling in its own indentation (which is covered by its own foam cover – to keep everything snug and secure).
     
    hd800s12.jpg hd800s13.jpg hd800s15.jpg
    First opening
    Single ended cable exposed (balanced is in bag)
    Cable bag - both cables and USB key

     
    The overall package is simple yet elegant. Unfortunately I have no balanced amp which can utilise the balanced connection – but for some this will be an added bonus.
     
    TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
    (From Sennheiser)
     
    RRP
    Normally 1700 USD – currently at USD1579 (Amazon)
    Type
    Circum-aural dynamic stereo headphones
    Driver
    56mm ring radiator transducers
    Frequency Range
    10 to 44100 Hz (-3 dB), 4 to 51000 Hz (-10 dB)
    Nominal Impedance
    300 ohm
    SPL at 1kHz
    102dB (1 Vrms)
    THD
    < 0.02% (1 kHz, 1 Vrms)
    Weight
    330g (headphones only)
    Cable Material
    Silver plated OFC, balanced, shielded, para-aramid reinforced 3m
    Cable - Termination
    Two - 1 x 6.3mm gold plated SE and 1 x XLR 4 balanced

     
    FREQUENCY GRAPH
    Unfortunately I have no way of properly measuring the HD800S – my measuring system is only designed for IEMs, and I would not attempt to try for crude measurements on such a precision headphone. Lucky for me, Tyll (Innerfidelity) has already measured them, so I have included their graphs for both the HD800 and HD800s. For more on Tyll's methods of measuring, please visit the Innerfidelity website, which is an absolute wealth of information regarding measurements, what they are, and how to interpret them.
     
    HD800Sgraph.png HD800graph.png
    HD800S graph courtesy of Innerfidelity 
    HD800 (original) graph courtesy of Innerfidelity

     
    The graphs are provided merely as a point of discussion, and later in the review I've included comparisons to other headphones also using Tyll's graphs for similar reference.
     
    What I’m hearing from the HD800S:
    1. Excellent sub-bass extension which has enough slam to clearly rumble, but is in perfect balance with the rest of the spectrum.
    2. Slightly elevated mid-bass with enough punch to be highly enjoyable, but not enough to dominate. Again the bass sounds perfectly natural to me – if maybe slightly elevated.
    3. Crystal clear mid-range which equally portrays amazing timbre and depth in both male and female vocals
    4. Mildly emphasised upper mid-range which gives a slightly euphonic and sweet air – particularly to female vocals. This adds some euphonic warmth, but does seem to overly colour the sound.
    5. The lower treble may be slightly elevated, particularly around 6 kHz but to me it is not overdone at all, and the clarity and extension of the treble overall is quite breathtaking.
    6. Overall the HD800S is a headphone which has amazing levels of vocal clarity, but also enough bottom end to sound completely natural, and maybe ever so slightly warm. And this is the strength of the HD800S – the clarity, speed, timbre and depth of the bass, yet the presence, air and clarity of the mid-range and lower treble – without any perceived masking at all.
     
    BUILD QUALITY / DESIGN / TECHNOLOGY
    The overall look of the Sennheiser HD800S (which is a continuation of the HD800 and to a lesser extent the HD700) could be described as futuristic, perhaps slightly sci-fi, but always distinctive. I know people who regard it as a bit pretentious, and others who love the unmistakable design. I fall very much in the latter camp – and the one thing I always liked about some of the Colour-ware HD800 mods was how good the black looked. Well this time The HD800S frame is primarily in black and to me it looks gorgeous.
     
    hd800s24.jpg hd800s25.jpg hd800s26.jpg
    Stainless steel band with engraving
    Headband padding thickness
    Better view of padding

     
    The build is really good too, and a lot of the things we don't see all ultimately deliver sonically. Starting with the headband assembly, it consists of a 22mm width of sprung stainless steel which has the serial number and model designation engraved in it. This sits atop a 45mm wide and 10mm high padded underside with microfibre covering. It is very soft and very comfortable, and for me has good weight distribution. What you don't see is the layered metal and plastic construction is especially designed to dampen or attenuate vibrations to the ear-cups – so that the drivers are completely isolated from unwanted distortion.
     
    The extenders look at first glance to be plastic, but research into the construction reveals that they are actually a special polymer initially developed within the aerospace industry, with the sole purpose of contributing qualities of high strength and at the same time light weight. The yokes are made from the same material, and are hinged to allow the cups to swivel on 4 axis. I have no problem adjusting quickly and easily for a fantastic seal.
     
    hd800s23.jpg hd800s27.jpg hd800s28.jpg
    HD800S side on
    Extender looks like plastic but is in fact a high-tech polymer
    Yoke assembly with 4 axis swivel

     
    The cups themselves are D shaped, with the ear-pads well padded and covered by the same extremely comfortable micro-fibre outer. They measure externally 120mm high and 110mm wide at the outer pads. Internally the pads have 75mm of available height and 60mm of available cavity with a depth of approximately 25-30mm, so my ears never come close to touching either the edge of the pads or the protective mesh over the transducer.
     
    The transducer itself is 56mm (which Sennheiser tells us is the largest to be used in a dynamic headphone), is a ring radiator design, and is encased in stainless steel for further dampening of unwanted vibration. Sennheiser also goes on to describe their new absorber technology innovation which is designed to absorb resonance so that bass will not mask higher frequencies, and also prevents any higher peaks in the lower treble. The inner cup is also designed so that sound waves will enter the ear on a slight angle to enhance the perception of spatial awareness, and create a more natural 3D sound.
     
    hd800s29.jpg hd800s30.jpg hd800s31.jpg
    Interior of the cups
    Right hand ear cup
    Closer view of the driver enclosure

     
    The outer cup is made of the same high grade polymer, with an inner fine silver mesh to protect the transducers and allow the headphone to breathe. And there is a final black honey comb mesh directly over the drivers for protection and ideal airflow.
     
    Each of the yokes has a left and right designator printed in silver on the rear, and adjacent to this is the cable socket. These connectors are a barrel type which is unique to the HD800 and HD800S, and consists of a single male plug (on each side) with two recessed pins, which fits perfectly into a slotted receptacle socket on the HD800S. When mated, they fit extremely firmly together.
     
    hd800s21.jpg hd800s18.jpg hd800s19.jpg
    Connector and connector socket
    Single ended cable
    Jack and connectors

     
    The cable is 3m long (there are two of them), and both utilise silver plated copper wiring which is in balanced configuration (separate signal and ground for each side). The wires are then shielded and covered with a para-aramid outer sheath (so it is either Kevlar or Twaron fibres) which provides and exceptional strength to weight ratio. There is extremely good cable relief at both the earphone connectors and at the single-ended or XLR jack.
     
    hd800s16.jpg hd800s17.jpg hd800s20.jpg
    Balanced cable
    4 pin XLR connector
    Close up of headphone male connector - "L" marking

     
    The build on the HD800S is exceptional, and I can't see any flaws
     
    FIT / COMFORT
    I've already covered the cup dimensions and covering, and apart from one small issue, they are quite possible the most comfortable headphones I've worn. Unfortunately I wear glasses and the clamp force (while by no means excessive) is enough to force my glasses onto the bridge of my nose. If I take the glasses off, the comfort is quite simply amazing – good distribution of weight, really soft pads, and the sort of headphone I can quite literally wear for hours.
     
    The answer to the glasses issue is of course to slightly bend the headband to relieve a little of the clamping pressure – but unfortunately for now (because it is a tour unit) I've had to persevere with the slight discomfort. Not Sennheisers fault, and very fixable if it was my own pair. Something to note anyway.
     
    SOUND QUALITY
    The following is what I hear from the HD800S. YMMV – and probably will – as my tastes are likely different to yours (read the preamble I gave earlier for a baseline). Most of the testing at this point (unless otherwise stated) was done with my iFi iDSD both as DAC and amp.
     
    For the record – on most tracks, during my listening evaluation the volume level on the HD800S measured at the ear was around 60-70dB A-weighted. The room was fairly quiet, and I simply had no reason to add more volume (there was enough clarity definition not to look for any more volume). Tracks used were across a variety of genres – and can be viewed in this list http://www.head-fi.org/a/brookos-test-tracks.
     
    Relativities
    1. Sub-bass – well extended, and able to stretch to extremely low frequencies in a sine sweep. Slightly recessed comparative to mid-bass, but enough presence for rumble, and very good impact.
    2. Mid-bass – slightly elevated compared to sub-bass and lower mid-range, but a natural hump which doesn't sound too boomy or over done. No bleed into mid-range, and speed is amazing. Impact is very good. Adds some warmth to the overall signature – but again very natural sounding.
    3. Lower mid-range – sounds reasonably flat to me (which is good). Might be the slightest bit recessed compared to slightly elevated mid-bass but in perfect balance. Texture and tonality with vocals is incredible, as is clarity.
    4. Upper mid-range – elevated compared to lower mid-range, but utilising the natural rise which lends to great cohesion between upper and lower mid-range. Clarity and air carry incredible detail, and female vocalists in particular have a touch of euphony in their presentation. For me the mid-range on the HD800S is simply sublime.
    5. Lower treble – detailed, extended, maybe slightly on the bright and airy side, but not peaky at all, and in perfect harmony to the rest of the sonic signature. Cymbals especially are a joy to behold, with the decay from hits, or softer brush strokes (Jazz) sounding very alive, and definitely realistic.
     
    Resolution / Detail / Clarity
    1. I have heard nothing with this level of clarity whilst maintaining a balanced overall signature.
    2. Cymbal hits and decay on cymbals have life-like presence, no early truncation on decay.
    3. Excellent portrayal of both texture and tone throughout the spectrum
    4. Micro details clearly presented – from the sounds of fingers sliding on strings through to singers drawing a breath. Life-like.
     
    Sound-stage, Imaging
    1. Again I'm lost for superlatives here. I haven't heard anything which images quite like the HD800S (maybe the original HD800). The word which keeps coming to me is precision.
    2. Directional queues are stunning, and portrayed outside the periphery of my head space with binaural tracks – excellent width and depth. I should note here that I have heard headphones (AKG) which portray more width with Binaural tracks, but the actual impression is wrong because the instruments simply aren't as far away as portrayed. I use Amber Rubarth's binaural album Sessions from the 7[sup]th[/sup] Ward, and I know from video footage how they've positioned the instruments. The HD800S manages incredible realism with Amber's tracks, and for me that is far more important than the illusion of width that isn't really there.
    3. Completely spherically presented stage with impressive width depth and height
    4. Holographic and compelling sense of immersion both with applause section of Loreena McKennit's live recording of “Dante's Prayer” (the HD800S has me sitting in the crowd with the applause washing around me), and also the very spatial “Let it Rain” from Amanda Marshall.
     
    Other Strengths
    1. Tonality and timbre are incredible. The only other headphone I have heard which comes close to the overall tonality and timbre of the HD800S is Sennheiser's own HD600. My mother played both violin and piano, my brother and I both played guitar (he was actually in a band in his younger years), and I have grown up around live instruments and live performances my entire life.
    2. One of my mother and grandmother's favourites piano pieces was Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. I have Wilhelm Kempff's excellent performance, and what I'm hearing takes me back to my youth (just the player and the actual instrument are clearly superior).
    3. Likewise with guitar – as a self taught amateur, I am intimately familiar with how a real acoustic guitar sounds – and especially the realism of fingers on strings, the sharp edges of a picked string, and even the rap of fingers on the body. With Nils Lofgren's Acoustic Live album, it is as though I am in the room with him – and it is completely realistic.
    4. Brilliant with both male and female vocals
    5. Excellent with dynamic music – especially if it has some bass slam (incredible with rock)
    6. Genre master – I enjoyed it with all genres tested – from classical, jazz and blues to electronic, grunge and pop. I haven't heard a better headphone with my favourite band (Pearl Jam). Eddie's voice has perfect timbre and texture, and the detail in the cymbals and acoustic guitar in “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter ...” is utterly addicting.
    7. My favourite though is female vocals – they have been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, and it is this area which for me personally I have not heard any IEM or headphone portray more perfectly than the HD800S. It's really hard to describe simply how good the HD800S is – but for me when listening to an artist like Sarah Jarosz (if you haven't heard her before be sure to check out “Build Me Up From Bones”), the mix of realism and detail without the cost of pure tonality – for me it is end game.
     
    Weaknesses
    1. Sonically I haven't been able to spot any in my week with this headphone. Perhaps I need more time.
    2. This is a question which may be asked so I'll pre-empt. The HD800S doesn't mask sibilance – it will portray it if it is in the recording. But that's all it does – portray honestly – neither enhancing or masking. I don't see this as a weakness of the headphone
    3. Apart from sonically – the only other weakness is the initial clamp force – which can be easily alleviated by adjustment of the headband.
     
    SOURCE / AMPLIFICATION
    The HD800 was always described by others as needing a synergistic source and amp combo to get the best out of them. And I have to admit when I originally spent time with the original HD800, I liked it best out of my LD MKIV OTL tube amp. Interestingly enough when I had it at a NZ Head-Fi Meet a couple of years ago, there were two sources at my table which proved very popular with the HD800 – the Little Dot, and also the L&P LP5 DAP. I tried various amplifiers (properly volume matching with an SPL meter and test tones), with the aim at seeing what level of amplification was required, and what (subjectively) I preferred with the HD800S.
     
    Desktop
    For a desktop solution, I tried Venture Electronic's $800 Enterprise tube amp, and also my LD MKIV. Both sounded incredible with the HD800S, a good sense of dynamics and detail, but both were also a little softer in presentation – almost relaxed compared to my initial testing with iFi's iDSD. Later during my comparisons with the T1 and HD600 it reinforced that I still prefer both with an OTL tube amp (especially the HD600 + Enterprise pairing), but with the HD800S I've been finding that consistently I'm preferring the SS iDSD's amplifier section over the use of tubes. The presentation of the iDSD is similar, but there seems to be slightly sharper and clearer definition, and for me the HD800S is perfect as it is without any extra smoothing. Swapping rapidly between the two was easy too – as I was simply using the DAC section of the iDSD for both, so once volume matched it was simply a matter of hot-swapping.
     
    hd800s36.jpg hd800s35.jpg
    HD800S and Little Dot Mark IV
    HD800S and VE Enterprise

     
    My next test as a desktop was to utilise FiiO's K5 – first with the E17K (real budget set-up), and then with the X7. The K5 + E17K was a revelation on how good the HD800S could sound on a relatively modest set-up, and is more a testament to the versatility of the HD800S. This time when switching between LD MKIV (or Enterprise) and the K5 + E17K there was very little noticeable difference. Both sounded very good, very clean, and slightly on the smooth side. However neither matched up to the overall definition and tonality of the iDSD. Keeping the K5 and switching to X7, and this time a little more depth and overall definition was present, but again fast switching with the OTLs yielded little significant advantage.
     
    hd800s34.jpg hd800s37.jpg
    Unlikely combo - HD800S + FiiOs K5 & E17K
    My preference - HD800S and iFi iDSD

     
    The tough part was trying to compare the iDSD to the K5 + E17k or X7 – it just took too much time to swap out the sources. But the one thing I kept coming back to was the overall tonality of the iDSD by itself. For my tastes it is a perfect pairing with the HD800S and one that I feel no need to look at upgrading. This suits me perfectly as it it the ultimate small form factor for a desk set-up which keeps clutter to a minimum. So my subjective desktop rankings from the gear tested – ranked from top to bottom would look like this:
    • iDSD + HD800S
    • iDSD + LD MKIV/VE Enterprise + HD800S
    • K5+X7 (with or without the OTLs) + HD800S
    • K5+E17K (with or without the OTLs) + HD800S
     
    Edit 28 Sept - My own pair of HD800S arrived, and I spent a couple of hours with them and the Enterprise.  If anyone wants an idea of how revealing the HD800S are, I finally noticed a low level bit of noise with the Enterprise and no music playing. Basically the amp is picking up some USB noise from the mouse.  Spent the next 2 hours trouble shooting - including changing cables.  Suddenly had a brainwave and removed the iPurifier 2  from the iDSD (I won one in a competition, and thought - why not?).  Not sure if the iPurifier2 is faulty - but suddenly the distortion was gone, and everything is back to crystal clear again. Retried some of my comparisons, and now I'd put the HD800S + iDSD, and HD800 + iDSD + Enterprise on the same plane.  They are both excellent - slight variations in tone - but both incredibly transparent. And in this scenario, the Enterprise pulls ahead of the Little Dot as well.
     
    New order of preference (desktop)
    • iDSD + HD800S = iDSD + VE Enterprise + HD800S 
    • iDSD + LD MKIV + HD800S
    • K5+X7 (with or without the OTLs) + HD800S
    • K5+E17K (with or without the OTLs) + HD800S
     
    Portable Devices
    You're kidding right Brooko? No actually – the HD800S is a pretty benign load if the player has a half decent amplification system, and one of the things I love doing is trying it with a reasonable portable source.
     
    First up was the FiiO X7 – with the AM3 module – but running single ended. I realise the AM2A and AM5 modules are more powerful – but I just like the linearity of the AM3 module better and think it pairs far better with the HD800S. At a volume level of 70-75/120 on low gain I am getting my target SPL of 60-70 db A-weighted, with peaks around 75 dB. The sound is incredibly well layered and dynamic, and this set-up would be perfect for taking the HD800S to another room or outside on the deck during a quiet sunny day.
     
    hd800s33.jpg hd800s32.jpg
    Another surprising combo - X7 + AM3 and HD800S
    HD800S and Luxury & Precision LP5 = sublime

     
    Next was the Luxury & Precision L5 Pro. Approximately 40/60 on high gain (it still has another gain level to go) nets around the same volume as the X7 + AM3, and again this presentation is eminently listen-able and thoroughly enjoyable. Compared to the X7, the LP5 Pro is perhaps a little smoother overall, and maybe also a little more laid back. The dynamics and depth of presentation are alls till there – but for my tastes, it is just a little behind the X7 in terms of overall fidelity with the HD800S.
     
    Lastly was the TOTL Luxury & Precision LP5. And it is with this DAP that the HD800S absolutely shines. I'd taken this DAP to a meet previously – and had a couple of HD800 owners tell me that it rivalled their home desktops systems. Unfortunately the pot doesn't have markings but I'd estimate I'm only at ¼ of the overall pot for similar volume levels. And I have to agree with the others who tried the original HD800 with the LP5 – it truly is fantastic sound, and when I eventually get my HD800S, this is the combo which I am likely to use often when I'm not at my desktop. The sense of depth and immersion is every bit as good as the iDSD – phenomenal performance for a transportable set-up.
     
    OTHER USES
    This is getting a little long, so I'll try and be a little more concise with this.
     
    Gaming
    Truly excellent – especially with FPS. The first thing you notice is the clarity, the second is the completely 3D imaging and positional awareness. But its the third factor which really drew me n, and that is the overall tonality. The bottom end of the HD800S is truly magnificent and very much immersive – but it does this without masking detail of what is happening around you. I also used the HD800S with Darin Fong's Out Of Your Head low latency gaming preset, and that simply further added to the overall sense of space. Thoroughly recommended, although it is clearly a expensive option for a TOTL gaming experience.

     
    Movies
    Again I combined the HD800S with the iDSD and Darin's OOYH and settled down to watch “Inception”. I love this move both for it's score, and also some of the dramatic and dynamic audio moments in the movie. With this set-up, the movie was totally immersive, and TBH I'd prefer utilising the HD800 than using our modest Sony speaker set-up at home. Again – recommended.
     
    COMPARISONS
    For this section I only really wanted to compare the HD800S to my two favourite open headphones – the legendary HD600 and the Beyerdynamic T1 (original).
     
    All of these comparisons are very subjective – and influenced by my own preference, physiology and bias. Comparison was this time with the iDSD and also the LP5. All comparisons were volume matched with a 1 kHz tone and using a proper SPL meter first.
     
    HD800S vs T1
    HD800Sgraph.png
     
     
    BeyerT1graph.png
     
     
    hd800s40.jpg
    HD800S and Beyerdynamic T1 graphs
    The HD800S and Beyer T1

     
    These two TOTL dynamic headphones both have impeccable build and overall comfort, although for subjective looks, I'd probably take the sleek black look of the HD800S if I had the choice. In terms of sonic ability, the T1 is slightly brighter and peakier overall – with the HD800S having no less clarity and resolution, but a more balanced signature overall. And that is where the HD800S strength lies for me – brilliance in overall resolution yet without the overall brightness which now seems a little unnatural with the T1. Bass is actually very similar, although the HD800S bass seems to have a little more body, and a litle more extension. In terms of imaging, they both perform incredibly well with very precise positional cues – but the HD800 has a slightly larger sound-stage in terms of width, depth and height. The other big difference comes down to price. If we look at the 2[sup]nd[/sup] hand market, you can pick up a T1 nowadays for around $550-$600 USD, and an equivalent HD800S would be just under double that price.
     
    So is the added fidelity and tonality worth the outlay? I guess that is a personal question for each of us. If you don't mind a brighter signature, and this is your first foray into the upper tiers of dynamic headphones, the T1 represents incredible value for money. I still very much enjoy what it brings to the table. But the HD800s for me brings those last illusive traits to the table – true tonality and timbre. And for me personally it does represent end-game, so it is with regret that the T1 will move on.
     
    HD800S vs HD600
    HD800Sgraph.png  

    HD600graph.png
     
    hd800s39.jpg
    HD800S and HD600 graphs
    The HD800S and legendary HD600

     
    Hardly a fair fight I'd imagine a lot of people are thinking – yet I think in the retuned HD800S, Sennheiser has actually created a sonic signature very much akin to the HD600's overall tone, timbre and texture. If we look first at the two in terms of build and comfort, the HD800S is clearly the better built headphone, but you really can't fault the HD600 for its modularity, and also for its ability to withstand the test of time. Mine is probably more than 10 years old, and apart from changes in pads, headband padding, and one failed driver, it is still in incredible condition. For comfort overall, I rank a well broken in HD600 and HD800 pretty similar. The secret to both is relaxing the clamp. The HD600 is definitely lighter, and this may appeal to some.
     
    In terms of tonality the two are very similar with the HD800S having more bass extension, better bass definition, and better impression of overall speed and precision. The mid-ranges are similar, yet also different – with both having similar tonality, but the HD600 appearing just a little hazy in comparison. And the mid-range is where the definition and clarity of the HD800S again shows its strengths – but it is the HD600 which appears brighter, and also appears slightly less natural (in the vocal presence area), and its the first time I think I've ever said that about the HD600. The HD800S just sounds more life-like. In terms of imaging and sound-stage, the HD800S again is more expansive, clearer, and more defined – but these are not massive differences. Finally again we look at price, and this time the difference is a gulf with the HD800S being 4-5 times the price of an HD600 on the used market.
     
    So again, is it worth the outlay? Well considering I said last time (after my 3[sup]rd[/sup] purchase of the HD600) that this time they were keepers, I now find myself eating my words. Someone else will end up getting a well loved but in great condition HD600, and I will move onto the HD800S. And although I will look back fondly on the HD600, and I still truly believe it is one of the greatest dynamic headphones Sennheiser has released, ultimately the HD800S moves me more. For my tastes it does everything perfectly.

    SENNHEISER HD800S - SUMMARY

     
    And here I am at the end of my time with the HD800S, and it hasn't been a “wow” experience over the last week, but instead a growing realisation that for my tastes, this headphone does very little (if anything) wrong, and everything (for my tastes) right.
     
    From design and build through to fit and finish, the HD800S is definitely TOTL and one of the best dynamic circum-aural open headphones you can buy today.
     
    Whilst we all know the previous strengths of imaging and sound-stage from the original HD800, the thing Sennheiser has addressed with this updated version centers more on tonality and balance. With added extension (particularly into the bass, a touch more warmth, and a reduction in the peak at 6 kHz, Sennheiser has addressed some of the perceived shortcomings of the earlier model. This feels like more of a music lovers headphone as a result, and for me personally seems more like a vastly improved HD600. Overall the balance, tonality and timbre are simply sublime, and all I could personally want in a headphone.
     
    One of the best things about the HD800S is that its not particularly picky (IMO) regarding source or amplification. It sounds really good out of practically everything I've tried, and sublime out of the iDSD and also the LP5 – which really was a clincher. So for me, my time with tube amps is essentially over for now. There is a certain romanticism with tubes which I will miss, although I’m going to love having a little more space on my desk again.
     
    I mentioned in my previous comparison of the T1 and HD600 vs the original HD800 that it was probably a headphone that I'd end up getting long term – but that it wasn't a priority issue at the time. The HD800S moved me in a way that the HD800 original failed to do – and as a result this afternoon I managed to find a nearly new HD800S locally, and have purchased it (waiting shipping advice now). All that is left for me to do now is sell my T1, HD600 and AKG K553 + likely the Little Dot, and whatever else I need to sell in order to get back on-side with my lovely wife again.
     
    Its very hard to look at assigning a ranking for this review because it is a large sum of money to outlay, and because comparatively there are cheaper options out there which deliver a lot of what the HD800S represents. But value will be relative to individual perception, and as I stated in my title – these are end-game for me (essentially they tick every one of my boxes). I've heard many fine headphones in my time on Head-Fi – including the LCD2 and 3, top line Grados, and many others – particularly at our local meet. For me nothing has captured me like the HD800S has. It is very hard to find real faults with it. Yes it is expensive, but to me it is utterly worth the outlay.
     
    I'd like to end by thanking Sennheiser for the chance to review the HD800S, and also Matt for making it possible.
     
    HD800S. End Game. Definitely.
     ​
    hd800s41.jpg
  7. fradoca
    4.5/5,
    "A mastering grade dynamic headphone"
    Pros - Speed Clarity Imaging and finally bass!
    Cons - You have to build a proper audio chain to unleash its full potential
    Introduction
     
    Everyone knows that the main purpose of any company is to sell as much as possible, in the most convenient manner, to the largest number of consumers. Therefore what does a product need to be successful? It should definitely be reliable, with high performance, at the best price and with an appealing aesthetic. Features in short, that are not only valid for any commercial proposal, but in particular for those that are part of the audio universe, whether consumer or professional.However, this world in particular can often lead us on to rough terrain, where supporters on one side or the other will always look at each other with distrust and suspicion deeming the views of the other party unreliable. Nevertheless, sometimes, however, there can be points of contact that can create an agreement between both audiophiles and audio professionals. We refer in particular to a product that created a bridge between both sectors, a headphone, or rather THE headphone against which all others must be measured and compared to. In short, we are talking about the Sennheiser HD 800 that for almost ten years has been the flagship of the German company, a model that has brought a real revolution in the universe of dynamic headphones and adopted by a large number of people, both for professional purposes and for pure entertainment. Around it were spent dozens of words, articles and reviews, with a commercial success that perhaps even Sennheiser never expected considering the quite challenging price of their flagship. But you know, progress moves faster, the market evolves and also the needs of customers. In this regard, we can safely say that, despite the high performance of the HD 800, it has always been a headset that only really unleashes its full potential if placed in certain conditions. According to our direct personal experience, the Sennheiser top of the range, may prove to a normal user, a tough headset to be correctly driven.At first glance in fact, the all too clear tone and some bass lightness, may turn up the noses of more than one user particularly when used with inadequate reproductive tools or connected to the headphone output of a normal iPod or DAP. This common problem has caused several manufacturers, including the same Sennheiser, to fill up the market with: dedicated headphone amplifiers, both tube and solid state; aftermarket headphone cables with generous section to try to emphasize the bass response, to the point of heavy tuning deployed by some American users. This last sequence of events in particular has sparked in various consumer forums and otherwise, the most diverse troubling threads even involving some influential journalists in the industry and making comparative graphs of the frequency response that the HD 800 offers before and after the changes spring up like mushrooms. Besides that, we know that the serious audio professional prefers to base his work on his own experience and the real practical value of the product used without listening in the slightest to audiophiles’ opinions or the empirical results of DIY. However, given either the logic of the market, or the evolution of the competing technologies, the manufacturers’ marketing policies have become more easily influenced and the actual sonic validity for these changes, must surely have reached the ears of Sennheiser. Everything has evolved from constant complaints over the years by many users in regards to a 6 kHz annoying peak and a modest fullness of low frequencies that make the response of the headphone a little unbalanced and highlights its difficulty to be used for some musical genres that are neither classical or jazz music. To overcome all of this and because, you know, the customer is always right, given the strong success of the 50,000 units sold, Sennheiser wanted to update the HD 800 project and give life to a new top of the range headphone that can be considered as its natural evolution i.e. the HD 800 S the object of our test.
     
     
    Design
     
    Aesthetically, the new HD 800 S doesn’t differ much from the previous one. It’s just more easily recognizable thanks to the outside black colour of the pavilions and the headband where there is always written HD 800 together with the serial number. The package supplied with the headset has written HD 800 S in silver at the center. The luxurious black case contains, in addition to the headset, two cables, 2.5 meters in length made of silver plated copper with a diameter of 36 AWG. While one of these is terminated with the classic 6.3 mm jack, and the other one is terminated with a 4-pole XLR balanced male connector to be used with balanced amplifiers. The instruction manual completes the package. The headphone pads are upholstered in Alcantara, a superb suede fabric, which is quite hard but it is very comfortable and water resistant. The rest of the headphone frame is made with aerospace approved materials, which contributes to make the HD 800 S acoustically inert. Being a fully open dynamic headset, it’s not recommended for outdoor use or in very noisy enviroments. The new top of the line adopts 56 mm drivers as did the previous one but the differences are not just aesthetic or monetary.The Sennheiser technicians were actually pretty uncooperative in giving us information about the differences between the two models, but much of the work done on HD 800 S derived from the test and the technologies implemented on the in-ear headphones IE800 on which a structure has been applied to reduce resonance and obtain a more balanced frequency response. The HD 800 S is referred as having a frequency response from 4 to 51,000 Hz (-10 dB) while the HD 800 is 6 to 51,000 Hz. Both with a nominal impedance of 300 ohms and a sensitivity of 102 dB. This difference in frequency, although it seems a minor detail on paper, as we will see, it’s rather the expression of an update that has greatly benefitted the product in terms of pure performance. The update uses an Helmholtz resonator to dilute the peak on the 6 kHz and adds a second harmonic at the bottom in order to make the yield of these frequencies more substantial and convincing. In essence, it has been usefully used a resonator with an anti-resonance function. It’s well known that the Helmholtz resonators can be used to amplify or cancel particular frequencies and this is the purpose of the small cylindrical resonator that has been placed within each of the headset drivers. It may seem very simple and even trivial, but as we have heard during our test it proved to be a very effective solution. The changes that at first have been developed and applied in an amateurish way by more savvy users, have been refined and applied ad hoc by the Germans in-house Sennheiser technicians. All of this has helped to ensure that the new top of the line has a well-defined sound character and a different one from the previous model.
     
     
    Listening Test
     
    As with every serious test carried out in our studio we left the headset to burn-in for a full week before doing any critical listening. We also wanted to use, for a comparison on equal terms, the previous HD 800 just to give an account of the actual differences between the two models. In addition to the cables supplied with the headphones, we wanted to use a couple of our balanced cables specifically built with military standard materials and of course we included the complete fleet of the amplifiers in our possession: the Lake People G-100, the iFi Audio iCAN SE, the Audio-GD Master 9 and the QES Labs HPBA-2 S that was specially built for this headphone according to our specifications. The peculiarity of the HPBA-2 S lies in the fact that besides being a dual-mono balanced current-driven amplifier, it has an output impedance that exactly follows and matches that of the HD 800/HD 800 S. This allows the Sennheiser flagship to express its full potential and make the most mainly as linearity in the upper part of the sound spectrum and as a transient response at low frequencies. We used ,as source, our DAW connected via USB and via S/PDIF to the two DACs in our studio, the Tobby by Firestone Audio and Stereo 96 by Mytek. As audio players we used JRiver with Fidelizer and Process Lasso Pro. All power and signal cables are custom design. The music used for the test included different genres with different resolutions and bit-depths. Starting from matching the G-100 with the HD 800 S with its unbalanced stock cable, we immediately noticed a greater depth and density of low frequencies combined with a higher linearity of the high frequencies. The annoying peak on 6 khz seems to have disappeared. The soundstage, which was one of the strengths of the old HD 800, remained unchanged. When moving on to use the iCAN SE with the stock unbalanced cable, the listening becomes more interesting as the higher output power of this amplifier shines thanks to its greater precision and focus when compared to the G-100. Everything becomes more appealing, more natural and the low frequencies acquire greater depth.These first hours of listening make us therefore understand that HD 800 S is definitely a big step forward compared to the previous model, and if we were to define this new headphone we would frankly say that this is a plug and play product. The HD 800 S gives us the impression of being more easily controllable and less picky in combinations with different amplifiers than the previous HD 800. Although to be honest, we are not particularly impressed by the performance of the enclosed cables; wires which in our opinion have a section that is too thin and can’t get a proper sound for the headset to express its fullest potential especially in the lower part of the sound spectrum. Also, in the same way as all the high-impedance headphones by Sennheiser such as the HD 600, HD 650 and HD 800 also the HD 800 S benefits from being driven in balanced mode thereby acquiring body, speed and accuracy during the sound reproduction when connected to a balanced amplifier with appropriate cables. In this regard, the balanced cables in our possession have sections of 18 AWG and 21 AWG that allow the HD 800 S to be more efficent at bass frequencies. However, the best is yet to come : we went even further by connecting the headset to our balanced amplifer the Master 9 by Audio-GD. If before we had only been able to guess the reproductive capacity of the new top of the line, thanks to the balanced connection and the more reproductive refinement, we were able to make the solid step forward that the new project called HD 800 S aimed to achieve. The new headset can be finally used to listen to various musical genres. The rock and electronic music records were faced and reproduced without any fear and without that sense of inadequacy that had characterized the previous HD 800. The basses are all there as well as the speed in the transient response, while the playback lets you enjoy no sound coloration of the entire sound message from the source in particular.Of course we can’t say the same about the impact on the lower part of the sound spectrum that distinguishes a headset like the Audeze LCD-X but we can safely place this HD 800 S, performance wise, with the HE-6 HIFIMAN detecting a greater sense of balance in timbre response compared to the latter, together with a greater ease of use. We shouldn’t define this new top of the line as a domesticated version of the previous HD 800, but we believe it’s more easily usable both by the audiophile and the more demanding professional. Regarding the professional use, we have been able to verify in the field that, in the same way as the previous model, also this new HD 800 S can be perfectly used in audio mastering sessions or critical listening tests. Especially if coupled with the HPBA-2 S balanced amplifier which is produced by the Italian company QES Labs according to our precise specifications and that drives the headphones in current mode. On more than one occasion we have recommended to other worldwide audio professionals, the pairing between the Sennheiser flagship and this amplifier and had always received thanks for this valuable advice. Also we have often used this combo for the mastering of different records with satisfactory results. Now with this new HD 800 S the circle can be defined as complete as this headphone has kept all the positive aspects of the previous one while filling up the gaps left by the old one. So we still see the main strengths, i.e. transparency, speed, soundstage, sound of voices, acoustic instruments, reproductive realism, but also the ability to detect problems such as saturation, silbilants, excessive compression and dynamic unbalance of the sound spectrum. If with the old HD 800 you had to, albeit with some difficulty, somehow calibrate your ears on the low yield, now everything becomes more immediate, more simple, especially if you are struggling with a recorded tune that has problems in the lower part of the sound spectrum. The balanced current driving of the HPBA-2 S and the impedance output curve which follows exactly the one expressed by the headphone, gives the HD 800 S the full potential of making us not regret the old top of the line at all while allowing us to be more confident in the process of audio mastering or critical listening of a song. It’s, according to our point of view, an important number of factors that push all audio professionals in favour of it, especially those who are looking for a reference system for their headphones listening chain where the HD 800 S, plays the main role offering great satisfaction in the configuration we used.
     
    Final Thoughts
     
    We are convinced that this new HD 800 S constitutes the perfect point of contact between the audiophile and the professional audio world. It’s a headset that doesn’t want to invade the territory of the best ortho-dynamics, but it’s definitely a product that, if put in a position to unleash its potential, can safely say it all. Like all the best products marketed by Sennheiser, the HD 800 S has a wide scalability in terms of performance especially if combined with the right amplifer. As we have heard during the long listening test, it completely undermines the old HD 800 from its throne of Queen of dynamic headphones going on to fill most of the gaps that the previous model had demonstrated. If we had to resort to a slogan to classify this new top of the line by Sennheiser, besides the aforementioned plug’n’play, we could say that listening pleasure meets precision. Of course for the price at which it’s sold maybe we can’t define it as a headphone for every pocket even considering the fact that, however, to play properly, it requires a reproductive sound chain of a certain level in terms of quality and money to be built around it. But sometimes in life you have to dare without fear and we put ourselves in the position to highly recommend it to both audiophiles and the most demanding professionals. Well done Sennheiser!
     
     
    Personal Opinion
     
    To be honest after purchasing the Audeze LCD-X and the Audio-GD Master 9 I stopped using the HD 800 and HPBA-2. In fact, I was working with a sound system that fully satisfied my business needs. However after the circulation of the first articles over the net about the changes of the HD 800, and especially after the official marketing notification by Sennheiser of a revised version of their flagship, I wanted to re-use what I had set aside for a while . So I did upgrade my HPBA-2 amp to the S version, and as soon as I got hold of HD 800 S I had to change my mind, falling completely in love at first listen because this new top of the line is really able to improve the performance in so many ways. The placement of the instruments and the amplitude within the soundstage is very precise as well as the neutrality of the sound message. The HD 800 S/HPBA-2 S combo is mind blowing for the performance it provides and frankly I think it’s hard to do better at least with regard to the use of a solid state balanced dual-mono amplifier combined with this new HD 800 S. Even a test with a Woo Audio WA5, a heavily modified tube amplifier, offered a very engaging and exciting listening thus confirming the quality of the product. That’s why I consider the HD 800 S a remarkable headphone, the best dynamic headphones that are currently sold on the market. Sure it does not guarantee the material impact of a LCD-X, in the bottom part of the spectrum or the fluidity of the LCD-3F on medium frequencies, but is definitely part of my set of tools for audio mastering and critical listening sessions, combining the pleasure of listening with precision. Two concepts that fully describe the characteristics of the HD 800 S and finally create a point of contact between the professional and the audiophile world.
    Dsnuts and fapman like this.
  8. sharon124
    5.0/5,
    "HD800S –No words ---Premium Audio "
    Pros - Clear Premium sound/ come with additional 4 pin Balanced XLR cable /comfort/look/top end separation.
    Cons - headphone side cable connectors are slightly wobble.(however I confirm with sennheiser technical support that it is normal)
    Actually it is a premium headphone and sound quality is amazing.
    If you are going to buy HD800S , you have to strictly think about what are the other components you have to couple it with because just out of the box and just connect to PC you cant get maximum potential of HD800S.
    So rather doing review I take this opportunity to share my experience with you guys regarding this HD800S and other components and environment you have to think about.
    I share it with you question and answer method to provide far better idea to you guys.
     
     
    1).When we are talking about AMP everyone knows that it will amplify whatever signal which we input to it. But what actually physically feel us when we use AMP with HD800S?
     
    Actually this is question in my mind before I buy HDVA600.And to answer this question is bit difficult because you have to experience it by yourself to get better idea. But I try my best to explain it to you. If you don’t have amp, you can experience it by doing below experiment. Connect your headphone to DAC or PC or i device (iphone /ipad…ect) and open whatever equalizer APP or softwear. Then increase every bars to 5~6dB or   if your app or software have PREAMP settings increase it 5~6dB.Then you will realize that sound dynamic range slightly increase (also you will begin to hear some small sounds you didn’t heard before) and also you realize that it is not the effect you feels when you increase your volume. Please keep in mind that this is very primary experiment and it doses not exactly replicate amplifier effect. Because very high quality AMP (HDVA600) will do this job very far better than that. And difference it Day vs Night.
    Before I get my HDVA600, I use my HD800S, directly connect to MOJO and mojo is connect to my IPAD pro 9.7 and I use ONKYO player. And most of the times I feel that songs dynamic range is far below (vocals and some instruments sounds seems very low) even increase the volume of chord mojo. Then I use ONKYO player equalizer to enhance the gain of some frequency range. Then iam bit happy with the sound.
    Then finally after I buy HDVA600 I fully realize that now I don’t want any kind of equalizer settings and sounds have FULL DYNAMIC range. Also after adding HDVA600 to my system I realize that how HUGE potential have my HD800S.As simply said adding HDVA600 , brings my HD800S to big step forward.
     
     
     
    2) Is every AMP will provide better sound?
     
    NO. Amp must be symmetrical and must have premium components (resisters/transistors…ect) with premium design.
     
    NOTE:
    Senhizer HDVA600 uses Alps RK 27 Quad components which ensures that the volume will have precise control all of the time. Besides having a great feel, the volume control can be adjusted in precise increments because of these components. When you look through the glass panel at the various electronic parts, you can see the cooling elements, audio relay and other components. Even the resistors are of the highest quality as they are MELF resistors. These are of superb construction. Every one of these components was put through rigorous testing before Senhizer decided to use them in the HDVA600.
    Pls read below article carefully.
    http://www.stereoadvantage.com/blog/rays-review-sennheiser-hdva-600/
    I personaly, 100% agree with above article as a owner of HDVA600.
     
     
    3).Is CHORD MOJO really enough to drive HD800S?.If you already Own CHORD MOJO what should be your next upgrade option, Either HUGO TT or high end AMP (Senn HDVA600)+CHORD MOJO? What is the BEST OPTION?
     
    I can fearlessly say and confirm that CHORD MOJO really NOT enough to drive HD800S.When I connect HD800S directly to MOJO can realized that MOJO can provide enough volume to drive HD800S. But it is lack of dynamic range. Please again read my answer for question one(1). Then you will realize what iam said.
    So actually before buying HDVA600 , I plan to buy CHORD HUGO TT as an upgrade for MOJO. And after doing so many research and technical studies I found that it is totally Waste of money. So optimum solution is connect very high end AMP (HDVA600) in between Mojo and HD800S, Since DAC wise CHORD MOJO is excellent enough. Also eventually you can get advantage of Balance XLR (because HDVA600 have two, 4 pin Balance XLR outputs.)
     
     
    4).Is there any significant sound different between Single ended cable VS Balance cables for HD800S?
     
    Yes. There is slight different. I have compare moon audio BLACK dragon premium single ended vs Sennhiser Balance cable. And found that Senn. Balance cable further improve dynamic range and provide very clear sound.
     
    5).Some people said that after adding high quality USB cables to connect MOJO to PC (or i devises with Apple CCK) can get improved sound quality. Is that really true? What is the technical clarification for that?
     
    YES!!..It is true. I also feel some difference (improvement in sound quality) when I replace default USB cable with Moon audio Blue dragon USB cable.
    There's a common misconception that DACs and digital cables have an easy job- all they have to do is tell if a signal is a one or a zero, right? It's not that quite that simple. In wide-bandwidth data applications, the ones and zeroes have to be bundled up into packets, and these packets are passed at blindingly high frequencies through send/receive chipsets and across cabling. Every small impedance mismatch, and every bit of power supply noise,EMI, RF NOISE that travels along with the data… in our case, music, creates errors that can cause audible problems.
    On the other hand I send email to CHORD MOJO technical support and ask them when sending data from MOJO via USB whether it use error correction or retransmission. And from email they confirm me that CHORD MOJO didn’t use error correction or retransmission when connect via USB.
    So now I believe now you can clearly understand the reason for using high quality USB cables.
    By the way ROB WATTS (the designer of MOJO) also mention that it better to use Ferrite chork for USB cable to eliminate RF noise come from host device.
     
     
    6).If we use JRiver Media Center 22 what are the optimum parameter settings to get premium quality audio?
    Please find below attached word document.
     
     
     
    My final setup details can summarize as follows:
    Windows 10 PC with JRiver Media Center 22-->Moon Audio Blue dragon USB A to USB micro B cable-->Chord Mojo--->Moon Audio Black Dragon Stereo to RCA Cable--> Senn HDVA600 amp -->Senn Balance Cable->Senn HD800S
     
    As per my experience above setup is the TOP NOTCH you can reach if you own HD800S!!!!!!!!!
     
     
     
     
    IMG_2227.jpg
     
    IMG_2240.jpg
     
    IMG_2242.jpg
     
    IMG_2244.jpg
     
    IMG_2271.jpg
  9. Schopenhauer
    4.5/5,
    "HD800S: A Comparative Review"
    Pros - I prefer the HD800S to the HD800. This is on account of the marginal increase in perceived bass and the marginal decrease in energy in the 6k region.
    Cons - If one is an orthohead, it’s possible that the HD800S’s sound – like practically all other dynamic headphones – will not be finally satisfying.
    Thanks to @Todd for putting together the loaner tour and for including me. @Todd’s contributions to the community are considerable. I bought one of my first higher-end headphones from him – a Grado PS500 – when I got into the hobby.
     
    For a while now I’ve been looking for a headphone that strikes a balance between the LCD-2.2’s bass resolution and the HD800’s treble resolution. Given that the natural, realistic bass timbre of the LCD-2.2 can be attributed – I take it – to the planar driver, it’s possible that a dynamic headphone may not be able to recreate that timbre. That’s reason enough to think there might not be a perfect headphone for me. Although the HD800S does seem to improve on the HD800 as far as bass is concerned, while taming in some measure the lower-treble glare, it’s not my perfect headphone. That said, it’s nonetheless a truly remarkable headphone.
     
    Primarily, I used my UHA-6S.MKII and a friend’s Benchmark DAC1 to drive the HD800S. Occasionally I switched to my EF-6 to experiment with the balanced cable. I want to put the cable question to one side. Still, I preferred the HD800S out of the Leck. If I need to adduce a reason for this preference, I’ll say that the EF-6 seemed to impart a bit too much upper-mid/lower-treble energy, or that the transients became a bit too etchy. It’s something like that – whatever it is that explains my preference. I should also note that I used Spotify as my source and a GO450 as my DAC, and that I tend to listen in the 70dB to 85dB range.
     
    Bass
    My understanding is that Sennheiser has worked to increase the amount of perceived bass in the HD800S by boosting harmonic distortion. From what I can tell, they were successful. A friend of mine – who happens to own the HD800 – and I directly A/B-ed the HD800S and the HD800. In this case, we used his Benchmark DAC1 as amp and DAC. We both thought there was an increased perception of bass presence. The increase was marginal, however, and did not create the impression of listening to a pointedly different signature. To me – and perhaps to my friend – the impression was that of listening to refined signature. Because I generally prefer a forward bass presence, I lean toward the HD800S here (although I wouldn’t describe the HD800S as “bass forward”).
     
    6k spike
    The HD800S’s putative drop in lower-treble energy wasn’t immediately obvious in direct A/B testing against the HD800. Neither I nor my friend had much to comment on this point. The decrease in energy was perceptible across longer, non-A/B listening sessions. This is shown, I think, in the fact that I’m actually able to listen without fatigue to the HD800S for longer periods of time than the HD800. This conclusion is, of course, subjective as it’s grounded in my personal tolerances. But I tend to be a bit sensitive to a hot treble; the fact that I’m not particularly sensitive to the HD800S makes me think the treble has been successfully moderated. And because I generally prefer a relaxed treble presence, I lean toward the HD800S here (although, again, I wouldn’t describe the HD800S as having a “relaxed treble”).
     
    HD800S vs HD800
    I think the supposed improvements of the HD800S over the HD800 make for a marginally better headphone. I say “marginally” so as not to overstate the difference between these two headphones. The HD800S is still obviously the HD800. If you like the HD800, I would find it surprising that you don’t like the HD800S. On the other hand, if you don’t like the HD800, I wouldn’t find it surprising that you like HD800S – provided that your problems with the HD800’s signature aren’t profound.  
     
    HD800S vs. LCD-2.2
    While there are dynamic headphones that can recreate the tonality of planar bass, I have yet to find a dynamic headphone that can successfully recreates its timbre. At the same time, I’m not sure I’ve heard a planar headphone that successfully recreates the HD800S’s (or the HD800’s) treble timbre. It’s entirely possible that choosing between the two will engage one’s personal preferences. In my case, I prefer planar bass timbre to dynamic treble timbre. It seems in my experience that one might not be able to enjoy both in a single headphone. If this is the case, I will naturally tend to prefer planar to dynamic headphones. If this isn’t the case, one day I will perhaps find a headphone that is, ceteris paribus, perfectly suited to my taste.
     
    As it happens, the HD800S isn’t perfectly suited to my taste. By that I mean it isn’t the perfect headphone for all of the music I like. (Of course, what headphone is?) It doesn’t excel with EDM-leaning electronic music, although it does excel with IDM-leaning electronic music. It’s possible that I could come to prefer the HD800S to the LCD-2.2 with respect to IDM. In that event, I would have a use for both headphones. It’s probable, however, that I would come to see the HD800S as simply an alternative to the LCD-2.2 with respect to IDM. The HD800S would allow me a better view, as it were, of the upper register of music I already enjoy with the LCD-2.2, albeit with a worse view of the lower register.
     
    I would be remiss not to mention something about the respective comfort of these headphones. While I don’t find the LCD-2.2 to be an uncomfortable headphone, the HD800S is far and away more comfortable. My ears touch no part of the headphone; it weighs noticeably less; it better retains its position through calm head-bobbing.
     
    Conclusion
    I can say that I prefer the signature of the HD800S to the HD800. This is on account of the marginal increase in perceived bass and the marginal decrease in energy in the 6k region. If I were to pick one, I would certainly pick the HD800S. The HD800 has been, and remains, a headphone that is to me just barely bright and barely thin. I’ve been able to enjoy it in small doses, short listenings. The HD800S allowed me to listen for 2+ hour sessions without fatigue.
     
    Considering the unparalleled imaging and the resolution of detail of the HD800S (and, for that matter, the HD800), the headphone strikes me as a very solid choice. Of course one should first listen to other potential endgame headphones. If one is an orthohead (like myself), it’s possible that the HD800S’s sound – like practically all other dynamic headphones – will not be finally satisfying. I couldn’t own the HD800S by itself; the LCD-2.2 would be a necessary accompaniment. At the same time, I could own the LCD-2.2 by itself.
     
    Supplemental: Sample music
    boerd, Dwaal
    Reso, Ricochet
    Scuba, Update
    Sieren, Transients of Light
    Submerse, Awake
    Tsaik, Lemon
    franzdom, ecapsretliab and trellus like this.
  10. Kon Peki
    5.0/5,
    "My favorite headphones to date"
    Pros - Clarity, detail, soundstage, imaging
    Cons - A little bass shy, slightly recessed upper mids
    I've only had these headphones for a few days, so these can be considered preliminary impressions.
     
    Using Spotify Extreme with Equalify plugin -> Schiit Bifrost Multibit -> Violectric V200 -> HD800 S
     
    Build quality seems as good as I would expect from Sennheiser for the price.  Comfort is very good, though the fit isn't quite as good as HD600.
     
    I'd rather see them make the balanced cable optional if that would lower the price a bit.
     
    Without EQ, I find the bass and upper mids both to be just a little lacking and prefer the sound I get from my HE-560.  
     
    With EQ, the HD800 S sound is the best I have heard to date.  Brings together the best aspects of my HE-560 and HD600 while improving on soundstage and imaging.
     
    Here are the EQ settings I'm using at the moment:
     
    hd800seq.jpg
     
    Bottom line for now: Top notch build, comfort, and sound.  Well worth the price IMO.