Audiophile Ear Canal Headphones

Sennheiser IE 800 S

Rating:
4.75/5,
  • - Refined version of Sennheiser proprietary Extra Wide Band (XWB) 7mm drivers
    - Patented dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) system
    - Modular cable design with a standard 3.5mm and a choice of cables with 4.4 mm Pentaconn and 2.5 mm balanced connectors

    What's in the box?
    • IE800S
    • Connectivity cables:
    • 3.5 mm Standard
    • 2.5 mm balanced
    • 4.4 mm balanced Pentaconn
    • Ear tips (pairs):
    • 3 x Silcone S, M, L
    • 3 x Comply™ S, M, L
    • Manual
    • Transport leather case
    • Micro fibre cloth


    product_detail_x2_desktop_Sennheiser_IE_800_S_Product_Stage2.jpg
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Recent Reviews

  1. crabdog
    Dynamite single dynamic IEM
    Written by crabdog
    Published Mar 19, 2018
    4.5/5,
    Pros - Organic, cohesive sound
    Stunning build quality
    Lightweight & comfortable
    A versatile modular cable system
    Cons - Non-detachable cable
    Cable noise (microphonics)
    DSC_1715[1].jpg

    What is a juggernaut? According to the Oxford dictionary, it's "a huge, powerful, and overwhelming force or institution." When I think of Sennheiser, that's one word that comes to mind. So welcome folks, to my review of the Sennheiser IE 800 S. Recently Sennheiser released an upgrade to their venerable IE 800 in-ear monitor and that is what we're looking at today.

    For a long time, Sennheiser has indisputably been one of the top names in the audio world and that doesn't look to be changing anytime soon. From entry-level to top of the line, they have earphones and headphones (amongst other things) to suit every budget and need.

    Just a short time ago, they released a new closed-back headphone, the Sennheiser HD 820, which contains some very interesting new technologies. So it's great to see that Sennheiser are still actively researching and innovating in the audio space, which is one of the reasons they're still leaders in the industry.

    The IE 800 S can be purchased from the Sennheiser website and Amazon.

    IE 800 S specifications
    • Impedance 16 Ω
    • Frequency response (Headphones) 5 to 46,500 Hz
    • Frequency response diffuse-field equalized
    • Max. sound pressure level 125 dB at 1 Vrms
    • THD, total harmonic distortion < 0.06% (1 kHz, 94 dB)
    • Weight approx. 8 g (without cable)
    • Attenuation -26 dB
    Price $999

    Package & Accessories
    DSC_1698.jpg

    The Sennheiser IE 800 S box comes wrapped in an outer cardboard sleeve. The sleeve is predominantly black, with a large image of the IEM on the front. On the rear of the box, the usual features and extra marketing speak are strangely absent, leaving it mostly bare.

    Underneath the outer sleeve is a dark grey box that has a nicely textured surface. Unlike the sleeve, the inner box looks and feels premium and has a lovely, soft texture. It's unmarked except for a single Sennheiser logo on the top.

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    Opening the box gives you your first glimpse of the earphones within, along with the carry case. Both the earphones and the case are seated in a sheet of soft black foam. The first impression is a simple one but it's quite effective in conveying the premium status of the IEM.

    Lifting out the top foam layer reveals another one beneath, which has 4 recessed compartments that hold the rest of the accessories. Here comes the list:
    • IE 800 S earphones
    • PU leather carry case
    • 3 x pairs of silicone eartips (S, M, L)
    • 3 x pairs of Comply™ eartips (S, M, L)
    • Shirt clip
    • 2.5mm cable extension
    • 3.5mm cable extension
    • 4.4mm cable extension
    • User manual
    • Microfibre cloth
    Eartips
    Because the IE 800 S uses proprietary eartips, I was a bit concerned that none of them would fit in my bigger than average ear canals. Luckily, with the shape, size and angled nozzles of these earphones, the large tips turned out to be a perfect fit.

    The eartips have a metal mesh built in which acts as a wax guard. Interestingly, there's also one in the nozzle itself, so effectively you get a double layer protective mesh. This should ensure that no debris finds its way into the shells so the drivers will be protected.

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    Carry Case
    The provided premium leather case is a great addition and a welcome one. After all, with an earphone costing this much you really want to have somewhere safe to store them when not in use. The front flap is held in place magnetically and on the inside of this flap is a metal plate with a serial number.

    There's a foam spool with a cutout section to hold the IEMs in place and a channel to lead the cable down to the outer spool. Wrapping the cable around the spool is easy and on each side, there are several holes cut in the foam where you can secure the plug.

    The case is roughly the size of an average men's wallet. it's perfect for keeping the earphones safe when you're on the go.

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    Cable
    The cable has a black, rubberized sheath and is very smooth and supple. It doesn't have kinks or memory so it sits nicely without any bounciness. It is a little on the thin side but feels robust and durable, which is important considering the top part of the cable is non-detachable. While it would have been great to see a fully detachable cable, I don't think it was possible for Sennheiser to implement one because of the very small shell size.

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    It's a modular design, meaning that while the top section is secured to the IEM shells, the bottom part can be switched out for use with different plug types. On the top secured section, there are coloured strain reliefs (red for right, black for left).

    Versatile connection options
    Along with the standard 3.5 mm jack, the IE 800 S also comes with a 2.5 mm and 4.4 mm Pentaconn balanced plugs. These interchangeable extensions connect to the cable just below the Y-split. The main cable has a 2.5 mm termination and the cable extensions connect to this via a 2.5 mm socket.

    All 3 of the extension cables terminate in an L-shaped or right-angled plug. These plugs have a rubberized coating that matches the material on the cable. Each of the variants has a good rubber strain relief.

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    I actually like this cable a lot. It's very similar (albeit thinner) to the one that came with the DUNU DK-3001. There is one major drawback though, and that is the excessive cable noise (microphonics). It's likely caused by the shells being so small and I wish that Sennheiser had been able to lessen it somehow.

    Perhaps if the strain reliefs were softer and more flexible the microphonics could have been reduced but of course, that might mean less durability of the cable itself. Bit of a catch 22 there. However, using the included shirt clip greatly reduces the cable noise so I would strongly recommend using it. I have tried wearing the cable over-ear style but it's not quite long enough for me to be worn that way comfortably.

    Build & Design
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    Made from a matte black scratch-resistant ceramic housing, the IE 800 S has a minuscule but very attractive design. The build quality is sterling, as you would expect. Within the tiny housings are Sennheisers proprietary Extra Wide Band (XWB) 7 mm transducers.

    Along with the XWB drivers, Sennheiser has incorporated their patented dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) system which they claim:

    "overcomes the "masking effect", where low-volume components of a sound are obscured by much louder sounds in a lower frequency range occurring at the same time."

    They say the D2CA also helps to create a superior soundstage. I'll cover this later in the sound section.

    The shells are very lightweight and taper down towards the back; a bit like a fish' tail. At the back are two acoustic vents which, fortunately, don't seem to have much impact on noise isolation.

    On each side of the earphones, the Sennheiser 'S' logo has been tastefully etched into the shells but is only noticeable on close inspection. There is beauty in the simplicity of the housings' exterior and I think they look great.

    Overall the design of the IE 800 S is excellent and the build quality of the shells is unquestionably good. My only concern would be the durability of the fixed cable. While it seems solid now, only time will tell how it holds up to prolonged use.

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    Comfort & Isolation
    With the diminutive shell size and angled nozzles, the IE 800 S is an extremely comfortable IEM. The housings practically disappear into your ears and I have worn them for several hours at a time without any discomfort whatsoever.

    While I can think of a couple others I have that are as comfortable, I cannot think of anything that surpasses this one in that regard.

    Noise isolation is actually quite good for such a small IEM. The two acoustic vents don't seem to let any extra external noise in and even when playing music very loudly there is hardly any sound leakage at all. So these are great for just about any situation, whether it be in noisy public transport or in a quiet office environment.

    Sound
    The IE 800 S has a stately, transparent signature that is fairly linear in its presentation. One of the things that immediately stands out is the natural tonality and coherency produced by the single dynamic driver.

    Unlike some hybrid models, the IE 800 S exhibits a sound that comes across unquestionably as a united entity. What I mean by that is the separate elements (lows, mids and highs) blend naturally, rather than sounding like separate objects that have been stitched together. It's obvious that the D2CA system is working as intended.

    However, the dual-chamber absorber system might, at times work a little too well; The dynamic range feels a little restricted which can lead to a lack of enthusiasm and excitement on certain tracks.

    There's a touch of warmth and weight in the bass, a fairly neutral midrange and a smooth but clear treble. The resulting effect is a sound that's reasonably light and non-fatiguing but never lacks substance or body. It also means that these in-ear monitors exude detail without having to resort to the common trick of simply boosting the upper midrange or lower treble.

    Bass
    Here lies one of the IE 800 S' greatest strengths. The bass has all the healthy characteristics that I look for in a quality earphone. It delivers a sensation of impact and authority without coming across as being intrusive or dominating. It's nimble with a reasonably fast attack and well-defined edge that provides punch but has a natural decay, giving it a tangible overall body.

    Sub bass reaches deep and even manages to cause some resonance in the solid ceramic shells. The IE 800 S maintains a masterful control here, again bringing authority to the low end. It doesn't need to raise its voice but delivers a menacing utterance which is truly enjoyable.

    If there was any doubt about the 7 mm drivers being able to 'bring it' in the bass department, a listen to Daft Punk's "Lose Yourself to Dance" will let you know these little guys are more than up to the task.

    Mids
    The midrange on the IE 800 S is near neutral but with a little extra body that carries over from the bass. It's enough to add some natural weight and richness to the lower mids and keeps them from being too dry. As a result, the tonality remains very accurate but still has plenty of organic warmth.

    Getting in the mood with "Spend My Life With You" by Eric Benét (feat. Tamia), the IE 800 S handles the vocals of Eric and Tamia masterfully in their buttery smooth duet.

    There's a slight dip in the frequency response around 300 Hz - 600 Hz before it starts to rise again, peaking around 1.5 kHz. This allows it to avoid those edgy peaks and stay true to the tonal accuracy. Male and female vocals both get the same generous treatment as well, neither gets preference over the other and both sound fantastic.

    Treble
    When doing casual listening, the IE 800 S' treble might seem unremarkable. However, upon close inspection, the fact that it doesn't draw attention to itself is actually what makes it so remarkable. The IE 800 S provides pristine, clear treble notes that have a wonderful extension but are buttery smooth.

    Due to the overall fairly lean nature of this IEM, the treble doesn't need to be shouty to be heard. There's no harshness or sibilance present and it's like smooth sailing over a crystal clear, deep blue ocean on a sunny day.

    In Blackfield's "This Killer" from the Blackfield II album, the IE 800 S does an exquisite job on the cymbal throughout the song. It's just so clean with a wonderful, natural sheen. As far as my ears are concerned, this is treble done right.

    Soundstage
    The soundstage is very wide indeed and these earphones present a large space. There's more width than depth, so it doesn't create the most immersive 3D staging but is still impressive for single drivers in such a small housing. Positional cues are well defined from left to right but less so in terms of depth. Overall, the positioning is fairly precise with excellent instrument separation.

    Pairing
    The IE 800 S is easy to drive but I found that it scales really well with a good source. While a simple smartphone won't have any problems, a great DAC or DAP will certainly bring out the best in this earphone.

    Arcam irDAC-II
    This is a killer combo. It's powerful, so detailed and delivers extra richness and liquidity to the sound. Add to this a wide soundstage. The irDAC-II fills out the bass a little more adding some extra body. This pairing not only shows what the IE 800 S is capable of but also highlights just how good the irDAC-II is which becomes more evident when used in conjunction with an IEM that scales this well.

    Acoustic Research AR-M20
    Not a great match. This combo comes across a bit flat with limited dynamic range. It's quite strange because I haven't come across this with the AR-M20 and it's usually my goto DAP for IEMs. However, for some reason, the synergy with the IE 800 S isn't ideal. Soundstage remains wide but loses some of its depth. Overall sound loses some of its engagement and sounds a bit dull, perhaps due to a less forward upper midrange.

    ATC HDA-DP20
    There's a great synergy here and the IE 800 S finds a great partner in the ATC HDA-DP20. Soundstage is large and immersive. Dynamic range is improved, bringing more engagement and excitement. Dreamy, clear treble notes add airiness and space. Excellent layering and instrument separation. Fantastic weight in the mid and sub-bass adds some fullness. The upper mids gain a boost as well, giving them a more tangible presence and breathing extra life into the IEM.

    Aune X1S
    Wonderful detail retrieval. Transparent and resolving. Improved soundstage depth and imaging. Instrument separation and layering are very impressive. Vocals are a bit more intimate. Deep, rumbling sub-bass and punchy, clean and relatively fast mid-bass. Crisp and airy treble notes. The upper midrange has noticeably more bite (where'd that smoothness go?) The Aune X1S is definitely a good matchup, particularly for getting the utmost in detail retrieval from the IE 800 S.

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    Sennheiser IE 800 S Conclusion
    After hearing praise of the original IE 800 for so long I was really curious to know how the new Sennheiser IE 800 S would perform. Needless to say, I was not disappointed. This single dynamic driver earphone delivers a resolving, coherent and smooth/non-fatiguing sound that is sure to please.

    The ceramic shells are extremely rugged and durable, yet they're delicate and minuscule in your ears, promising hours of comfort and enjoyment. For some, the fixed cable could be a negative point; I would think the cable noise certainly is but, of course, using the shirt clip greatly mitigates that issue.

    Sure, the IE 800 S doesn't come cheap, and only dedicated audio enthusiasts will be willing to pay that kind of price for an IEM. Having said that, however, it's not difficult to find other flagship earphones that cost as much as double the price. Not only that, but Sennheiser is a name that people are familiar with and can trust; none can dispute their contribution in the audio space.

    So, if you're looking for the best of the best in-ear headphones then you should definitely consider the Sennheiser IE 800 S. Even more so if you demand the organic nature and cohesiveness of sound that only a single dynamic driver can provide.

    *This review was originally posted on my blog. You can see my other reviews at Prime Audio.
      zardos, B9Scrambler and Sennheiser like this.
  2. audio123
    Sennheiser IE 800 S - Remarkable Rendition
    Written by audio123
    Published Mar 18, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Organic, Details, Control
    Cons - Cable might be too short for some
    Introduction

    Sennheiser is a German company that specializes in a wide range of audio products from in-ear monitors (IEMs) to speakers. They have released the IE80S and IE800S recently as the successors to IE80 and IE800 respectively. In this review, I will be reviewing the IE800S. I would like to thank Sennheiser for the review unit of the IE800S. At the moment, you can purchase the IE800S from https://en-us.sennheiser.com/in-ear-headphones-earphones-ie-800-s-ceramic .

    [​IMG]

    Specifications

    • Driver Configuration: Dynamic
    • Impedance: 16 ohm
    • Frequency Response: 5 – 46500 Hz
    • Max Sound Pressure Level: 125 dB at 1 Vrms
    • THD, total harmonic distortion: < 0.06% (1 kHz, 94 dB)
    Unboxing & Accessories

    The IE800S comes in a black package inside a protective box that sports image of the iem, brand name and model name. The black package has the brand logo printed on it. After opening the package, there are the iem and transport leather case. There are instruction manual, micro fibre cloth, connectivity cables (3.5mm standard, 2.5mm balanced, 4.4mm balanced Pentaconn) and ear tips (3 x Silcone S, M, L & 3 x Comply™ S, M, L). With the amount of accessories provided, it is a complete package.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    IEM Build & Design

    The IE800S has a premium scratch-resistant ceramic housing and it has a smooth matte black finish. The housing is small which allows me to fit in my ears comfortably. On each side of the IE800S, there is the brand logo. At the back of the IE800S, it features Sennheiser’s patented dual-chamber absorber (DC2A) system. The nozzle is rather short with a metal mesh for earwax prevention. There is solid build quality.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG][​IMG]

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    Cable Build & Design

    The cable is black in color and it is not braided. There is strain relief on each side. The blue and red colour of the strain relief represents the left and right side respectively. The cable has a black squarish chin-slider. The y-splitter has a black circular housing. At this point, it features a modular cable system for usage with different digital audio players (DAPs). The top part of the y-splitter has a 2.5mm balanced straight jack while for the bottom part of the y-splitter, it features a female 2.5mm balanced socket. There is strain relief. Lastly, the jack is 3.5mm standard, 2.5mm balanced or 4.4mm balanced Pentaconn right angled. The jack has a circular black housing with strain relief.

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    Sound Analysis

    Lows

    The IE800S has a good amount of sub-bass quantity with the ability to extend greatly. There is a smooth and confident delivery which is able to create a pleasant engagement that is not too aggressive. The rumble is controlled and comes with a natural feeling. The bass texture is rendered in a velvety manner. Bass decay has a moderate speed to it with agility. There is a high level of command as the bass reproduction maintains a strict tightness throughout. The mid-bass has a moderate quantity and it is able to express the slam with a nice weighted feel. There is a nice punch and it brings a more impactful sound. The IE800S showcases a skilful execution in the bass reproduction. The transition from the lows to the lower mids is seamless.

    Mids

    The midrange is excellent with a good balance of musicality and technicality. There is a moderate level of transparency and cleanliness is expressed well. It is able to tackle busy tracks too with minimal congestion. The lower mids has a moderate quantity and there are no signs of nasal/dry feeling. The body benefits male vocals greatly with naturalness. The upper mids has a forwardness with strong mastery. Female vocals are presented in an intimate and organic manner. The IE800S demonstrates a good standard of details retrieval. There is a strong finesse and vocals presentation has nice emotions.

    Highs

    The treble is extended well and there is no sibilance and harshness. The IE800S is able showcase a good technical aspect. The amount of air rendered has a moderate amount with nice crisp and sparkle that helps to inject some excitement into the sound. There is good clarity shown while details are expressed in an effortless manner. It ensures a fatigue-free listening session and provides an excellent definition.

    Soundstage

    The soundstage is able to give a spacious feel. There is a natural expansion which improves the musicality. The width magnitude is fantastic which provides an outstanding openness. The depth is slightly closed in with a moderate amount of space rendered. It is able to increase the intimacy level. Positioning of vocals and instruments is precise.

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    Comparisons

    Sennheiser IE800S vs Beyerdynamic Xelento

    The IE800S has less sub-bass quantity than the Xelento and the Xelento is able to exert its sub-bass greater. The sub-bass on both extends with a similar magnitude. There is an additional presence of rumble for the Xelento. Each bass note on the Xelento is articulated with a stronger hit while on the IE800S, it is articulated well with more smoothness. There is good accuracy on both whilst keeping a tight control. The bass decay on the Xelento is slightly quicker while the IE800S excels in a velvety bass texture. The mid-bass on the Xelento has slightly more body and the weight helps to increase the slam impact, thus increasing the engagement level. There is extra punch. The midrange on both has great transparency and cleanliness. The lower mids on the IE800S is very similar to the Xelento and there is sufficient body to tackle male vocals. The upper mids on the Xelento is slightly more lively and female vocals benefit from it with an increased engagement. The treble on both has very similar extension with good crisp and sparkle. The IE800S has more air rendered at the top end which helps to give an airy feeling. There is no sibilance and harshness for both. The details retrieval has a high standard. Lastly, for the soundstage, both expands naturally. The IE800S has a greater width while the Xelento is able to render more depth.

    Sennheiser IE800S vs Campfire Audio Vega

    The Vega has more sub-bass quantity than the IE800S and the sub-bass reproduction on the Vega has greater impact. The Vega is able to extend deeply with a strong hit. The IE800S presents it in a more controlled manner without as much aggression as the Vega. The bass texture on the IE800S is rendered more smoothly while the bass decay on the Vega is quicker with agility. The mid-bass on the Vega has extra quantity and the Vega is able to create a more impactful slam. The IE800s is able to maintain mastery here. The lower mids on the Vega has more body than the IE800S and the thicker approach accentuates male vocals reproduction. The upper mids on the IE800S is presented in a cleaner manner with good transparency shown. The forwardness on both is around the same. The midrange on the IE800S has a good balance without sounding too dense and this will result in minimal congestion. The treble on both has great extension with the IE800S displaying more crisp and sparkle. The Vega tends to express its treble in a harsher way and the IE800S shows great finesse. The IE800S is capable of achieving a good balance. Lastly, the soundstage of the IE800s is wider than the Vega and the Vega has better depth. Positioning of instruments and vocals is more accurate on the IE800S.

    Sennheiser IE800S vs Sennheiser IE80S

    The IE80S has more sub-bass quantity than the IE800S and the sub-bass reproduction takes on a fuller approach. The bass texture on the IE80S has a nice smoothness which is enhanced by the body. The IE800S has agility and thrives with a quicker bass decay. The mid-bass on the IE80S has more body and it gives a weighted feeling to its slam. There is greater punch from the IE80S but it might add a dense feel to the overall sound. Each bass note on the IE800S is articulated with more precision and there is a clean hit. The bass reproduction on the IE800S commands a stronger control which results in an unrivalled tightness. The lower mids on the IE80S has more body which results in a moderate thickness to improve male vocals. The upper mids on the IE800S has slightly more forwardness and it is presented cleaner. Female vocals are expressed in a clear-cut manner with intimacy. The treble on the IE800S has slightly better extension with a higher level of definition. It is able to render a greater amount of air which helps to minimize congestion. The IE800S presents extra crisp and sparkle. Lastly, the IE800S has a superior soundstage width with a natural expansion while the depth is similar with the amount of space rendered.

    Conclusion

    The IE800S is Sennheiser’s latest flagship in-ear monitor (IEM). It has the ability to produce a natural sound with a good balance of musicality and technicality. There is a brilliant execution of its bass reproduction, organic midrange and crisp treble. The soundstage gives a spacious feel. In addition, it has top-notch build quality and comes with various connectivity cables for different digital audio players. The Sennheiser IE800S is the successor to the popular IE800 and it is an outstanding upgrade by achieving a fantastic balance overall.

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    For more reviews, visit https://audio123blog.wordpress.com/ .
      Moonstar and B9Scrambler like this.
  3. subguy812
    The Word in German Audio Engineering
    Written by subguy812
    Published Mar 13, 2018
    5.0/5,
    Pros - Wonderful sub bass, small size, natural and organic tone
    Cons - Cable microphonics, frustrating case
    20180208_211533.jpg

    Sennheiser IE800S


    IE800S
    Sennheiser - Direct link to USA

    A Little Technical Stuff:
    • Impedance - 16 Ω
    • Frequency response (Headphones) - 5 to 46,500 Hz
    • Frequency response - diffuse-field equalized
    • Max. sound pressure level - 125 dB at 1 Vrms
    • THD, total harmonic distortion - < 0.06% (1 kHz, 94 dB)
    • Ear coupling - In-Ear
    • Weight approx. - 8 g (without cable)
    • Attenuation - -26 dB
    • Earpad size S, M, L (Silicone and Comply™)
    • Transducer principle (headphones) - dynamic, closed
    Sennheiser IE800S
    -MRSP: Universal fit $999.95 USD

    20180115_163843.jpg

    I was contacted by Sennheiser directly and asked if I had any interest in reviewing the IE800S and obviously I did or I wouldn’t be writing this review, thus they supplied me with the IE800S for purposes of the review.

    Sennheiser is one of the few companies that is known to mainstream consumers, casual listeners and audiophiles. They sell their products through a wide range of outlets and honestly have something for everyone. Clearly, Sennheiser is one of the top names in the industry and have been on the cutting edge of technology for quite some time. I have had a couple of Sennheiser products along the way myself. Momentum, Momentum 2, the venerable HD650, just to name a few. This would be my first foray into a Senn IEM. Their TOTL offering the IE800, was released sometime around the end of 2012. It was just one of those earphones that I never got around to trying. Honestly, if Senn hadn’t reached out to me I am not sure I would have tried the IE800S. It would have been one of those IEM’s that would pique my curiosity but there are also a lot of wonderful TOTL options available in the market, particularly in 2017, which in my opinion was a wonderful year for IEM’s.

    The IE800 has been quite a success story for Sennheiser, there are still current and active threads in the forums for the IE800 as it is still a benchmark that many use for comparison. At quick glance, almost six years after release the IE800 the price has dropped to somewhere in the $500’s on Amazon. It really is pretty amazing the staying power the IE800 has sustained in the ever changing consumer gadget market.

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    Enter the IE800S! It is refreshed, updated and ready for business. I wish I could give you some comparisons between the IE800 and the IE800S but as I previously stated I have never heard the IE800 so this will be a review based on what I hear and experience with this new iteration, the IE800S. There are plenty of reviews and threads that talk about the IE800 and I encourage you to read those and compare to the IE800S.

    A Little Marketing Hype:

    Sleek and compact, the IE 800 S is a giant where it really matters: in reproducing music. Featuring a refined version of our proprietary Extra Wide Band (XWB) drivers, it redefines the benchmark for crisp and clear in-ear sound performance. The extraordinary musical capabilities of the IE 800 S are complemented by a perfect fit thanks to Comply™ foam ear tips. A cool and attractive look tops off this handcrafted piece of aural excellence.

    An in-ear masterpiece

    Incorporating the next evolutionary step after the groundbreaking IE 800 ear-canal headphones, the IE 800 S contains great technology within a very confined space. Fitted with pioneering solutions like the proprietary 7-mm transducers that create an almost unbelievable sound stage and our patented dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) system, the IE 800 S conquers new aural territory for high-end in-ear headphones.

    The music unfolds inside your mind

    Strikingly rich in detail, the IE 800 S generates a stunningly lifelike sound image. Offering brilliant trebles as well as a precise and improved bass sound, these in-ear headphones create the most beautiful musical landscapes for your mind to wander around in. Explore your music in all its glorious depth.

    A brilliantly engineered sound experience

    The IE 800 S features our patented dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) system. This innovation overcomes the "masking effect", where low-volume components of a sound are obscured by much louder sounds in a lower frequency range occurring at the same time. Removing the energy from any masking resonances to prevent unwanted peaks, the absorber system makes sure even the finest nuances of sound become audible – enabling a truly high-end listening experience.

    Custom-made wearing comfort

    Supreme sound can be best enjoyed when it comes with supreme comfort. Thus, with the IE 800 S we introduced ergonomically designed viscoelastic memory foam ear tips from Comply™. They shape themselves to each individual’s ear canal for a custom fit, providing great comfort as well as excellent attenuation of external sound.

    Attractively handcrafted in Germany

    Engineered and handcrafted in Germany, the IE 800 S looks as immaculate as you would expect: modern, elegant aesthetics with an attractive matt black finish to its premium scratch-resistant ceramic housing. The IE 800 S even shows its style when it’s not in use, with the newly designed premium leather case for easy storage on the move.

    With best connections

    In the world of high-end sound quality, which is definitely the world of the IE 800 S, details can make a significant difference. The cable connection, for example. So, in addition to the standard cable with a 3.5 mm jack, the IE 800 S comes with a choice of cables with 4.4 mm Pentaconn and 2.5 mm balanced connectors.

    WHAT’S IN THE BOX:
    • IE 800 S
    • Connectivity cables
    • 3.5 mm Standard
    • 2.5 mm balanced
    • 4.4 mm balanced Pentaconn
    • Ear tips (pairs)
    • 3 x Silicon S, M, L
    • 3 x Comply™ S, M, L
    • Manual
    • Transport leather case
    • Micro fiber cloth
    Unboxing and Accessories:

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    The unboxing is pretty straight forward it has a Sennheiser cover box with a picture of the right-side monitor of the IE800S. I would say that they are intentionally showing the right side because it is color coded red at the stress point where it enters the monitor itself. I searched for the IE800 and confirmed my suspicions that the right side was not color coded on the IE800. Inside the cover is a black box adorned with the Sennheiser logo. Those of you that follow my reviews know I don’t get too excited about boxes and unboxing…meh! I have pictures I will include in the review so you can see the box and inside contents. I will say that inside the black box there is a foam padding with cutouts for the IE800S and its accessories.

    I included a nice tidy list of pack-ins above but I will elaborate on some of the various items included.

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    The case is kind of a peculiar case. It is a leather exterior with the Sennheiser logo emblazoned on the bottom front of the cover. It is a bi-fold type of case that once opens on the left side of the inside cover has a metal plate identifying the model of the IEM(IE800S), listing Sennheiser and states Made in Germany. Also, on the metal plate is a unique serial number. On the right side of the inside cover is a kind of “spool” that you use to wrap the cable around and a cutout to insert the IEM. Honestly, it is a strange case, as strange as it sounds for me to try to explain. In my opinion this is one of the least practical cases I have ever tried to maneuver. The end of the detachable cable that holds the monitors is short and has a 2.5mm female connector. That end wraps around the spool fine and the cover of the case closes. When I try to leave the long end of the cable connected to the short end and wrap it all around the spool that is when I realize that patience is not my best quality. Without pulling the cable tighter than I wish to do I could never get a good wrap job and could never close the cover of the case completely. I refuse to allow my patience and dexterity be challenged by an IEM case so I don’t use it as often as I would if it were simple, convenient and didn’t cause unnecessary stress on the cable. Anyone with a bit more mechanical aptitude than I please feel free to let me know the secret code to this Rubik’s cube. This, for me, would be a strike against the IE800S and a strike against my dexterity, a minor one but a strike.

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    The cable is a fairly unique design but unlike the case it is a positive uniqueness. The cables are detachable, not from the monitor as they are non-removable, but are a detachable cable at the base of where the short cable “Y”s. These are an extension type of cable that connects to ends with a 2.5mm connection. The extension cable not only has the single ended 3.5mm connection but includes 2.5mm and 4.4mm. This is actually a pretty cool cable system. Whereas the Dita Truth uses different connector tips, by screwing them on, to the main cable the IE800S uses this extension cables with different connections. It is really pretty intelligent and an efficient way to provide the consumer with multiple connections, German engineering.

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    The cable itself is a thin, rubber coated cable. It is flexible and has no memory wire as the design is actually designed to be worn down. The strain reliefs are color coded, Red for R and Black for L. There is also an R or L on the relief but my old eyes clearly can see the color a heck of a lot easier than I can the letter.

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    I have not been able to locate any information as to the makeup of the wires so I would rather not speculate.

    While this system of cabling is cool there is one downside the IE800S cable. When wearing the cable as designed, in the down position, there is a great deal of microphonics in the cable. I have seen online where people are wearing them over ear, but the found the top portion of the cable to be a little short for my big head. The simple solution is to wear the included shirt clip when wearing them during activity. I wear the shirt clip close to where the two sections of the cable connect to help with weight. The cable is very lightweight and comfortable. Another wish would be to have a detachable cable but it doesn’t so why dwell.

    The included eartips are 3x Silicon and 3x Comply both in S, M and L. The housing of the monitors is very small and the nozzle is very short. The included eartips are the only ones I used because the eartips have a slight nozzle extension and are notched so that they lock on the nozzle. Fortunately for me the large silicon tip seal perfectly and are very comfortable. The monitor itself has wire mesh on the opening of the nozzle but there is also wire mesh on the extension portion of the eartip itself. I have never removed the eartip since putting them on the IEM for fear that the “lock” might loosen up from removing and installing many times and not maintain it’s snug fit on the IEM. As far as using the Comply tips I can tell you I have never been a fan of them as they tend to increase the bass response and lessen the amount of sparkle in high end. The IE800S has a wonderful smooth treble and I certainly didn’t want to diminish that in any way so the Comply tips have been stored.

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    Build and Quality:

    The IE800S is a premium scratch-resistant ceramic housing that is a matte black. They are really small with two “vents” on the backside. As would be expected there were no blemishes or flaws in the tiny shells. The housings weigh in at 8 grams and are very very light weight when in your ear. I like the look as they are very inconspicuous in the ear. They do not sit flush in the ear they sit straight in the ear with the “vents” sticking out of the ear. I have never tried to sleep in them but I can’t imagine they would be very comfortable for sleeping as they do no sit flush. Based on the size of the housing would be my clue as to why they do not use a cable that can be disconnected from the housing as it would add size to include connector. As with any non-removable cable the end user must be aware not to tug or pull on the cable itself. I find them comfortable for long listening but the isolation could be a touch better.

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    Review Setup:

    My review was written utilizing three sources, Opus #1S and LG V30 and Shanling M3S. Sorry my Opus#2 is out for repair. Opus #2 returned the same day I published the review so I have added brief impressions. Stock tips and stock cables were solely used during the review. I listened using the 3.5mm SE and 2.5mm balanced connections. My sample music consisted of 320kb and FLAC as well as streaming Tidal.

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    Moving on to the sound section….

    Where to begin with this wonderful IEM? I was very excited to give the IE800S some extensive listening time. I have always been rapt with single driver IEM’s compared to high driver count units and am especially a devotee to dynamic drivers as their bass is devine. Having heard some wonderful single DD IEM’s, Dita Dream for example, I truly understand the capabilities inherent in that driver, of course with proper tuning. Most of the IEM’s in my collection are multi driver BA’s.

    My initial sound impression of the IE800S is that its intonation is superb if you enjoy a smooth natural tone. The tuning is articulate and meaningful, all in all very coherent with a slightly warm organic presentation. It is a sound signature that I really enjoy, and with time the IE800S has started to ascend my favorites list and is clearly near the top.

    Presentation

    To elaborate more on the presentation, the IE800S has a wonderful smooth tone with an organic presentation that at times has a warmish cast because of the DD bass. The overall tone has a slight V shape and is relaxed, never fatiguing to my ears. I don’t want you to think that the mids are distant in the mix but they are slightly pulled back. There are couple of incongruities that I wrapped my head around. The sound is not the most airy or transparent and certainly not to the level of an Empire Ears Zeus, which is the transparency king. The IE800S does not excel at layering either. With the average air, transparency and layering one may think that the sound is constrained and congested but one would be wrong, there is no congestion and no veil to the details. This is not an analytical or micro detailed IEM but the details are extant in the signature.

    The spaciousness within the soundstage is impressive as it has quite a wide stage. When listening to the 24bit/192khz David Chesky Jazz in the New Harmonic- Primal Scream, the width of the stage is immense. It also gives a surreal depth as well, I did not really experience that same level of holographic display with all of my recordings but I certainly did with Chesky. With some of my recordings there was an intimacy in the depth but always substantial width. It is very easy to discern where the instruments are placed in the stage, when you close your eyes it is very simple to imagine their placement thus the imaging is very good. Both male and female vocals sound very natural and smooth and it is easy to envisage the singer standing at the mic or sitting in the studio recording the music. The isolation is not the best but when music is playing it does a sufficient job of blocking ambient noise.

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    Bass

    Each time I review an IEM with a DD I realize why I love the DD, it is because if the IEM is tuned properly the bass is sublime. Overall, the bass is south of neutral. It is not a bassy type of IEM that annoyingly bleeds into the mid-range but the bass is certainly prevalent. There is plenty of heft in the sub bass as it rumbles deep. The bass is textured and has authority and that authority is also prevalent in the mid bass range as it delivers a punchy presentation. I feel the Dita Dream and it’s single DD had more control in all ranges of the bass and was tighter in delivery, but the IE800S has a natural tone to its bass. The speed of the bass is about average. The natural tone, decay and richness of the bass adds to the smoothness that is the IE800S. With some burn-in time I found the bass to become tamer and slightly more controlled. Out of the box the bass was predominantly displayed. Decadently enjoyable is how I would describe the bass. I would like to mention that it is the type of bass that creates a shroud between the music and outside, everyday commute noise. With their delivery you will find they maintain an excellent level of sound quality in al conditions.

    Mids

    The mids in the IE800S are slightly retracted. It is a mild V-shape and, in my opinion, the mids infuse so well that it creates a wonderful coherent sound, do not think the mids are lacking as it is only a mild V-shape. As I mentioned above, the sound is not congested and without veil. There is not a lot of air between notes but the wide stage creates an illusion of a more spacious sound. The lower mids are close to neutral with the needle moving a bit north and with some added body. The remainder of the mid-range exude the natural and organic tone that is ubiquitous to the overall sound. Not stale, analytical or micro detailed but there is a certain translucence and resolution that can be enjoyed. I love how the vocals are displayed and feel there is a large amount of realism and fervor in the vocals. Rich and tonally smooth vocals are so alluring. Listen to some Sade and you will feel the sexiness in her tone.

    Treble

    I have perused the forum threads and found a recurring theme with the original IE800, that the treble could be a bit sharp and peaky to some owners. Meanwhile, the IE800 treble was not as offensive to other listeners. When I first plugged in the IE800S I felt that the treble had a slight peak that did not agree with me on certain musical tracks. Many IE800 end users have stated that the IE800S is somewhat similar but with a more refined sound. After 3 or 4 days of allowing music to play through them at high volume, it appears that the IE800S treble has chilled out, and actually extends well with a wonderful smoothness. Not to mention I have logged many hours of listening time now, not just for the purpose of burn-in but because they are that addictive to listen to. I now find the treble to have a well above average extension and smoothness, the harshness has gone. At the northern end of the treble spectrum there is vitality, a twinkle. The cymbal strikes and ticks in Dave Brubeck’s iconic Take Five can be heard in all of their realistic timbre and resonance.

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    Pairings

    The IE800S do appreciate some power. It was not as if any of my sources had an issue driving them but when given power they transcend into another level. My two favorite sources to pair with the IE800S are the Shanling M3s and the LG V30. *Opus#2 pretty much kicked butt!

    LG V30 – wide soundstage, average depth. Pushed the mids slightly more forward with large doses of transparency and clarity. The overall signature was very crisp and a touch more balanced.

    Shanling M3s – wide stage, mids were slightly back compared to the V30. Overall clarity is superb. Added air to the notes with great resolution.

    Opus#2 - soundstage has plenty of width and depth, you could feel the bass roar, this was the most detailed pairing. The mids are slightly forward but clear and detailed. The Opus#2 is my reference DAP and unfortunately most of the time I have had the IE800S my Opus#2 was not functioning, it was returned to me the day I published the review so I snuck in a little listen and as is always the case it didn’t disappoint. A fantastic pairing!

    Opus#1S – I wasn’t sure how this pairing was going to work out. You have a rich and full sounding IEM and a rich and full DAP, logic would tell you it would be too warm. Not so, the pairing yielded very good results. Yes, the sound was full, but the details shimmered through effortlessly. The bass was not as layered as in the Opus#2 but it delivered a satisfying bass tone. Overall the tone was very smooth and rich. The mids were maintained in their mild V shape.

    Comparisons

    I compared different sources, a multi genre, multi format playlist, while testing IEM’s for their characteristics.

    IE800S VS. FIBAE3

    Soundstage in both units is very wide and I would venture to say it is almost equal with the F3 being a touch wider. The depth of the IE800S is slightly greater but the F3 has more a more holographic stage at times. The bass of the IE800S is deeper and has more of a rumble and better textures in the other bass ranges. The F3 has more transparency and clarity in its mids while the IE800S has more richness. The IE800S mids are smoother with zero harshness. The IE800S has an overall smooth, full signature while the F3 is known for its clarity, transparency and sub bass. The treble extends well on both IEM’s but what we are talking about is a tale of two very different IEM’s. I tested the F3 using the Ares II cable. I have not completed my FIBAE3 review as of yet so I do not want to give more detail.

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    IE800S VS. FIBAE2

    Soundstage has an equal width with the IE800S having more depth. The FIBAE2 has a more fun, musical characteristic while the IE800S is more tonally accurate. The bass of the IE800S goes a little deeper and has more rumble, but the F2 is no slouch. IE800S bass has more layering and texture due to the DD. Both IEM’s have polite mids with the IE800S adding a richer lower mid-range, and a more natural tone belonging to the IE800S. Both are detailed in their mids with the F2 being brighter. The IE800S has that touch of twinkle at the upper range of the treble while both extend very well there is that certain treble tone to the IE800S which sounds more natural and organic.

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    IE800S VS. EM10

    The IE800S has a wider soundstage with the EM10 sounding more confined and narrow. EM10 is more balanced across the board and reveals itself as smooth throughout the spectrum. IE800S has more texture in its bass and rumble in the sub bass. Both IEM’s have mids that are slightly retracted, neither are an aggressive V but a mild v, with the IE800S having more natural mids with better detail retrieval. Again, the tone of the IE800S is more natural and realistic. The treble extends further in the IE800S and with more detail and sparkle.

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    IE800S VS. Zeus XR

    Both have a wide soundstage and are about equal in depth. In terms of overall sound, the Zeus(XIV) mids are more forward with greater transparency and layering and superb detail that best the IE800S The IE800S has a less harsh tone and more richness in its mids which may appeal to more to some. The Zeus bass appears when called upon and has great layering and transition but the IE800S always has more weight and it has the sub bass the Zeus lacks in comparison. The Zeus is an overall brighter IEM not known for its warmth, but that is not what it excels at. The IE800S treble extends well but the Zeus treble has better extension but at times it shows its brightness where the IE800S has the twinkle in the upper range.

    In Closing

    With the IE800S at nearly $1000 it may be a bit pricey for some, especially since Sennheiser reaches out to the masses not just the audiophile crowd. The audiophile crowd would certainly not be scared of the price tag knowing that today many of the TOTL offerings are above $2500. I would like to see the masses take the leap of faith and purchase the IE800S as these could easily be end game for most consumers.

    The cable needs some work as I like to use my IEM’s on the go and without the shirt clip the cable noise is annoying. Many are using them with the wire over the ears but I found the cable too short for me to use them in this fashion. Although, it is pretty cool that the IEM’s come with 2.5mm, 3.5mm and 4.5mm connector cable to be utilized with a full range of DAP’s. The case design could be better so that it is not necessary to wrap the cable super tight to make it work correctly, thus potentially causing extra stress on the cable.

    They are light weight and comfortable and come stock with Comply and proprietary locking silicon tips which I found to provide an adequate seal.

    There have been stories circulating that the IE800S has tuned to resemble one of their latest full-sized headphone offerings, that I can’t verify. I do know that they are rich and full with wonderful rumble in the sub bass and an incredibly wonderful natural, organic and smooth tone.

    I personally walked away impressed as hell with the Sennheiser IE800S, this is a wonderful single DD.
      volly and Sennheiser like this.
    1. colonelkernel8
      So did they let you keep them after you were done reviewing them? This is important.
      colonelkernel8, Mar 26, 2018
    2. subguy812
      colonerkernel..to this point I still have them in my possession, but they can ask for them to be returned at any time. So they will remain in my possession until that time. Thanks
      subguy812, Mar 26, 2018
  4. twister6
    Coherency of German Engineering!
    Written by twister6
    Published Dec 27, 2017
    4.5/5,
    Pros - very natural tonality, coherent tuning, tiny ceramic shells with 7mm XWB dynamic drivers, modular cable design with 2.5mm, 3.5mm, and 4.4mm terminations.
    Cons - cable is not detachable, microphonics wearing cable down (but not up), short nozzle with custom eartips (though, standard Comply supported)


    The product was provided to me free of charge for the review purpose in exchange for my honest opinion. The review was originally posted on my blog, and now I would like to share it with all my readers on head-fi.

    Manufacturer website: IE800S.


    Intro.

    After so many multi-BA and hybrid IEM reviews, I found this year (2017) to be quite eventful for single Dynamic Driver flagship discoveries. I also found that after every DD IEM review, I received many requests with a question how it compares to IE800. Coincidentally, back when I used to review full size headphones, I also had many requests asking me to compare to Senns HD-series cans. IE800 and HD600/650/800 have a huge fan base where it seems that many audio enthusiast own at least one pair of either ones, which leads to many requests for comparison using Sennheiser headphones as a reference.

    Now, 5 years after its original release, Senns is ready with a refreshed IE800S version, and I finally got the opportunity to test this update. I won't be able to compare it to the original IE800 since I don't have access to it, but so far I heard a number of impressions where many refer to IE800S as a refined version of IE800. Don't want to speculate about the changes, and instead will focus on what I hear, how it compares to competition, and how it pairs up with different sources. So, let's find out what this new single DD flagship from Sennheiser brings to the table.

    *** edit *** I was able to get IE800 loaner sample after the review, and updated Comparison section with my findings.

    Unboxing.

    Unboxing experience of IE800S was very straight forward with a colorful packaging sleeve over a giftbox-quality all black storage box. I do like the soft texture finish of this storage box, makes it more premium to the touch. The packaging sleeve has a very similar picture angle of IE800S dual-chamber shell as I have seen in IE800 packaging, but here Senns made sure to differentiate the design with a focus on the new cable and red (right side) strain relief.

    Inside the box, you have a secure soft foam lining with a cutout for IE800S shells, storage case, and other accessories, including a little plastic back plate with all eartips sorted on display.

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    Accessories.

    The accessories include 3 sets of detachable extension cables (2.5mm, 3.5mm, 4.4mm), 3 pairs (S/M/L) of genuine Comply Comfort eartips with a wax guard, 3 pairs (S/M/L) of silicone eartips with a built-in nozzle extension and a mesh guard, a shirt clip, a storage travel case, and a manual.

    Eartips.

    Carried over from the original IE800 design, S version has the same very short nozzle design with silicone eartips that latch on to the lip of the nozzle. These eartips have a built-in nozzle extension with a metal mesh and the silicone eartip over it. The latch connection is relatively secure, and as long as you are not disconnecting it daily, in theory shouldn't wear off too soon. Just make sure you choose the correct eartip size for a tight seal with your earcanal - that will yield a decent sound isolation, something I was worried about due to 2 large vents in the back of the shell. I'm very satisfied with a sound isolation wearing IE800S with a wire up over my ears using the largest silicone tips.

    Comply tips are the standard ones, with a typical thick inner rubber core, going over a short nozzle stub of IE800S and staying secure without a problem. This gives a hope that you can find other silicone tips with a stiff inner core and a small enough diameter to stay secure. Personally, I prefer the silicone tips over Comply because, in case of IE800S, these foamies do boost low end (which is ok with me) and also attenuate treble (not ok since it kills the treble sparkle). Some might find this useful for fine tuning of the sound, but not for me since I wanted more top end sparkle.

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    The case.

    The included case feels like a real leather material with a fine textured finish. On the inside of the cover flap, there is a personalized metal plate with S/N. Inside, you have a rectangular foam spool with a cutout for IE800S monitors and for the cable to wrap around the spool. While this looks practical for shells with its attached cable down to y-splitter, when you also have a removable part of the cable connected - it becomes a little tricky.

    The main part of the cable has a short wire with a straight 2.5mm modular connector termination, thus not an issue wrapping it around the spool. The removable part of the cable has L-shaped connector where the only way to get it right is to make sure the cable wraps VERY tight around the spool. It took me a few tries to get the connector around the corner, putting some strain on the wire. It's definitely doable, but time consuming, thus not as practical.

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    Cable.

    This is not going to be my typical cable review section because I don't know much about the wire material of the included cable and can't use the replacement cables from my review collection. I can speculate that IE800S cable uses higher purity copper wires, instead of some cheap OFC, but I don't know for sure.

    The cable itself is very soft, thin, flexible, no memory effect, and with a rubbery all black jacket. At the shell joint, there is a durable but short color-coded strain relief, with red on the right side and black on the left side. You will also find imprinted R/L letters on each strain relief piece, as well as a little bump on the left side for a blind ID, though I would have liked for this bump to be bigger.

    The cable design is modular where above the y-splitter with a chin slider you have about 10" of wires, and below the y-splitter you have about 39" extension. The upper part of the cable above y-splitter has 2.5mm balanced termination, and the lower part of the cable extension has female 2.5mm balanced socket on one side and right angled connector with either 2.5mm TRRS (BAL), 3.5mm TRS (Single Ended), or 4.4mm TRRRS (BAL) terminations. In all 3 extensions, the right angled headphone connector has a rubbery housing with a nice grip and a decent strain relief. A good grip is especially important when dealing with a tighter fit of 4.4mm jack.

    The y-splitter modular 2.5mm interconnect, which is about 2" in combined length, has a very tight and secure fit, looks slim, and doesn't weight down the cable. So, either if you wear the cable wire up or wire down, it works just fine. The only issue, wearing wire down introduces a lot of microphonics. You can use included shirt clip to help with this problem, but the best way is to wear IE800S with the wire up over your ears. I have an average size head, and found the wire above y-splitter to be long enough for over ears fit, even with about an inch of margin for chin slider. But at the same time, wire up can put more strain on the cable at the shell joint.

    I don't know the exact reasoning behind the design decision of why IE800/IE800S cables are not detachable. In theory, you can add mmcx connector, but that could affect the size of the ceramic shell and offset the acoustic balance of its dual chamber absorber system.

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    The fit.

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    Design.

    Based on all the pictures and info I read about the IE800 model, seems that IE800S kept a lot of the original design elements, from a proprietary 7mm Extra Wide Band (XWB) dynamic driver to a dampened dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) system which utilizes a unique tapered shell design with 2 vents in the back. According to Sennheiser, D2CA will neutralize the so-called "masking effect" of overlapping high/low frequencies at different volume levels by removing unwanted peaks from any masking resonance.

    Original IE800 design.

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    To some people, the description above will sound like a mouthful of marketing hype you put on a product brochure. But once you start listening to IE800S, you will quickly realize that Sennheiser is putting their money where their mouth is. I will go into more sound analysis details and comparison in the follow up sections of the review, but do want to mention that to my ears I found IE800S to have a very impressive natural resolving tuning without any distortion or artificial peaks.

    Going back to the design, the shells are very small, approximate 8g of weight (without a cable). Despite a small size, these won't be comfortable to go to sleep with you ear on the pillow, though they do nearly disappear in your ears. The finish of the shell is matte black with a premium scratch-resistant ceramic housing, an upgrade from the original IE800. And as it was mentioned before, the cable is still not removable. Considering how much effort Sennheiser put into the design of every single element, I'm sure the wires of the cable were hand picked for the best audio performance. But my concern remains about the cable joint at the shell which I consider as a single point of failure in the design, since the cable can't be replaced.

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    Sound Analysis.

    IE800S has an impressive coherent tuning with a very natural and smooth tonality that has a mildly v-shaped sound signature and a bit laidback presentation where mids are just slightly pulled back. What strikes me the most about the tuning is the combination of transparency and resolution while still being smooth and natural in tonality with a nice body to the sound that gives it a touch of a pleasant organic warmth.

    Another interesting observation, the overall sound is not necessary very airy or super transparent, but it never gets veiled or congested. As a result, the layering of sounds is just average, yet separation of instruments and vocals is very distinct. The dynamics of the sound goes along with its layering which results in more laidback presentation and less dynamic expansion of peaks.

    Soundstage feels holographic with a remarkable width and a little more intimate depth, stretching in elliptical shape around you. Soundstage does expand nicely in depth, but not too far out of your head which gives the sound more intimacy. As a result of this more stretched holographic expansion, the imaging is very good with an accurate placement of instruments and vocals, and relatively accurate position of the sounds that surround you.

    In more details, starting with low end, sub-bass goes deep with a smooth textured rumble that adds some weight to the bottom end, but not overwhelming. Mid-bass has a nice, slightly elevated punch, definitely above the neutral level. It's not too fast when it comes to the speed, and has a more natural decay, yet still being well controlled without spilling into lower mids. The bass is relatively articulate, well controlled, not super tight; it's just a good example of a less aggressive dynamic driver performance.

    Lower mids are neutral, maybe a little north of it with a nice body they give to the sound, but the sound itself never gets congested or bloated. Upper mids are oozing with natural tonality, being very organic and at the same time having natural transparency and resolution. Don't expect micro-detailed analytical sound, but the combination of naturalness and retrieval of details is very good. Both, male and female vocals sounded very realistic, very emotional.

    Treble has an excellent extension, but at the same time a moderate airiness. Treble has a nice sparkle, well defined, and has a nice level of non-fatigue crunch. I actually noticed that out of the box the 10k peak was a little more aggressive, but after 100hrs of burn in, the peak got attenuated, and I'm not talking about the brain burn-in because I had IE800S set aside, playing standalone for over a week.

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    Comparison.

    For this test, I used various DAPs and different music genres to derive a common performance difference between IEMs under comparison, where each pair was volume matched.

    *** edit *** IE800 vs IE800S Comparison:

    When it comes to a soundstage expansion, both models are nearly identical in width and depth, which still continues to impress me considering these are single DD "closed back" in ear monitors. I didn't notice too much of a big difference in positioning/imaging of the sounds, though IE800S brings vocals a little more forward. Also, you can expect a similar layering, separation, and dynamic expansion of the sound in both IE800 and IE800S.

    Sound signature does vary, where the original IE800 has a more pronounced v-shaped tuning, while IE800S is less pronounced, being mildly v-shaped, closer to balanced.

    Starting with sub-bass and mid-bass, I find it to be nearly the same between IE800 and IE800S. And that's where all the similarities end. Between my FR measurements, full frequency sweep, and extensive listening analysis, I found the mids region of IE800 between 400Hz and 5kHz to be more attenuated down, not by a lot, but noticeable. As a result, the lower mids of IE800 are more neutral with less body and less warmth, and upper mids are a little thinner and brighter in comparison to IE800S where mids have more body and sound a little warmer and smoother. With IE800 mids being scooped out more, there is a perception of a stronger mid-bass impact, though in reality mid-bass quantity is nearly the same between these two. When it comes to lower treble, it's the opposite, where the original IE800 has a little more energy with more sparkle and sharper definition in comparison to a little smoother IE800S which still sounds crisp and airy, but scaled back in comparison.

    Overall, IE800S doesn't stir too far off the original tuning of IE800, but you can definitely hear the difference. It's not exactly an upgrade or a side-grade, but more of a sound refinement with a smoother and fuller mids body and a more natural treble tonality.

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    IE800S vs Campfire Audio Vega - IE soundstage is wider while Vega has a little more depth; IE sound is more balanced while Vega is more L-shape (actually, reversed J-shaped) in comparison. Vega has a higher quantity sub-bass with a more pounding mid-bass while IE bass, though a little elevated, more balanced, more linear, and with a better control, especially when it comes to a cleaner separation with lower mids. Vega mids have a little more body vs more neutral lower mids and more resolving/transparent upper mids in IE. Both have a crisp treble, but Vega could get a little harsher with poorly recorder tracks (due to 7k peak). Overall, Vega is tuned warmer, less resolving, and with a bigger bass slam, while IE is more resolving, more transparent and more balanced in comparison.

    IE800S vs 64 Audio TIA Fourte - both have a very similar soundstage expansion width, while Fourte projects further with more out-of-your head depth; IE is more balanced in tuning while Fourte edging more toward the J-shaped signature with more emphasis on upper mids/lower treble. Both have a very similar bass quality and quantity, though Fourte has a faster and tighter mid-bass. Lower mids are very similar, tuned more neutral, while upper mids in Fourte have more forward presentation in comparison to IE upper mids which are slightly pulled back. Here, another difference is in tonality where Fourte is brighter, more analytical, a little colder, while IE is smoother, more natural, and with more warmth. Both have excellent resolution and transparency, but Fourte has more separation and better layering. Treble in Fourte is more aggressive, crisper, brighter, while IE is also crisp and well defined but sounds less fatigue, smoother, and more natural.

    IE800S vs HiFiMAN RE2000 - both have a very similar soundstage width, while RE has a little more depth; in terms of a sound, RE2k is more v-shaped in comparison to mildly v-shaped IE where mids are slightly more forward. RE2k has a deeper sub-bass with a little more rumble, while both have a similar tighter well controlled mid bass. Both also have similar lower mids, while upper mids and treble is where they differ. IE upper mids, besides being a little more forward, are warmer, more natural, with a little more body while in comparison, RE2k is thinner, colder, brighter, and more analytical. And you can also hear a better separation with more air between the layers in RE2k, while IE is smoother. Similar to Fourte comparison, IE is crisp and well defined with a moderate airiness, while RE2k is crisper, brighter, thinner, and more airy. As a result, IE is less fatigue and more natural in tonality.

    IE800S vs Beyerdynamic Xelento - in this comparison, I hear IE having a wider soundstage, while Xelento has a little more depth with a farther extension. They have similar signature, with a slightly v-shaped sound, but Xelento has more tilt toward the low end. They both have a tight, well controlled, articulate bass, but Xelento has more sub-bass rumble and stronger mid-bass impact. But from there, both lower and upper mids are nearly identical, being natural, resolving, not as layered. Treble is also very similar, being crisp and well defined, though IE has just a touch more sparkle, giving the sound a little more airiness.

    IE800S vs Ultimate Ears UERR - Soundstage width and depth are very similar. In terms of an overall sound, UE has mids which are a little more forward in comparison, making its sound sig more balanced, vs IE having mids a little pulled back. IE has an advantage of bass going deeper with more sub-bass rumble and more weight in mid-bass punch, while UE has a more neutral bass in comparison. Both have close to neutral lower mids, but IE has a little more body while UE being slightly south of neutral. Uppers mids in UE are slightly more revealing while IE is a little warmer and smoother in comparison, while treble is very similar. Overall, I'm hearing IE as having a little more body in sound when compared to UE.

    IE800S vs Westone ES80 - IE has a wider soundstage while ES is a little narrower but with more depth. Both have a neutral sound signature, though IE has more body in lower mids and being a little warmer in overall tonality. With bass, IE has more sub-bass rumble in comparison to ES having low end extension more neutral in quantity, both have articulate well controlled mid-bass where IE has a little more quantity in comparison to a more neutral and faster ES mid-bass punch. With lower mids, ES is a little south of neutral while IE has more body, being a little north of neutral. Upper mids are strikingly similar, maybe with ES being a touch more forward. Treble also has a lot of similarities in terms of extension and definition and moderate airiness (not too much), while IE has just a little more sparkle.

    IE800S vs IE80S - I thought some might enjoy this comparison, even though there is quite a noticeable gap in sound tuning. IE800S has a lot wider soundstage in comparison to IE80S, while depth is similar. When it comes to sound sig, IE80S is a lot more v-shaped in comparison to a mildly v-shaped sig of IE800s. There is also a very noticeable difference in sub-/mid-bass, where even at a minimum setting, IE80S has more sub-bass rumble and a lot stronger mid-bass slam which is more bloated in comparison. Lower mids have more body in IE80S, while 800S is more neutral. Both have natural smooth upper mids, where IE800S is a lot more transparent and resolving in comparison to IE80S which is more congested and smoother, including a more pronounced 6k peak. IE800S also has a better treble definition. Overall, IE80S is more fun-tuned iem intended for bass lovers and non-audiophiles who want to enjoy their music on the go, while IE800S is more balanced tuned (in a relative comparison) for audiophiles who want to analyze their music in more details while enjoying it on the go.

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    Pair up.

    With its 16 ohm impedance and average sensitivity, IE800S is very easy to drive from any source.

    Cowon Plenue 2 - very wide soundstage with a nice depth, mildly v-shaped signature, being closer to balanced. Nice sub-bass rumble, articulate mid-bass with a moderate speed and nice control, neutral lower mids, very transparent, natural, resolving upper mids, crisp well defined treble, moderate level of airiness.

    Sony WM1Z - very wide soundstage with a nice depth, mildly v-shaped signature, being closer to balanced. Great sub-bass extension with textured rumble, faster bass with an articulate well controlled mid-bass, neutral lower mids, a transparent, natural, resolving upper mids with improved layering, crisp well defined treble which has a little more airiness and more sparkle.

    iBasso DX200 w/amp4 - very wide soundstage with a nice depth, more balanced sound, closer to W-shaped since I hear upper mids being a little more forward. Great sub-bass extension with a textured rumble, average speed (not too fast or too slow), articulate, well controlled mid-bass, neutral lower mids, a little more forward, very transparent, resolving upper mids with improved layering, crisp well defined treble, a little more airiness and more sparkle. Very similar sound to WM1Z, except upper mids being a little more forward in DX200, while the overall sound being a little smoother with 1Z.

    Lotoo LPG - wide soundstage with a nice depth, more balanced sound, closer to W-shaped. Good sub-bass extension, punchy, articulate, well controlled mid-bass, neutral lower mids, resolving, transparent, natural, smooth upper mids which have a more forward presentation and good layering (not on the same level as 1Z or DX200, though). Treble is crisp and well defined with a moderate airiness.

    FiiO X7ii - wide soundstage with a nice depth, mildly v-shaped signature, closer to balanced, Nice sub-bass rumble, articulate mid-bass with a moderate speed and nice control, neutral lower mids, transparent, natural, resolving upper mids, crisp well defined treble, moderate airiness. Very similar sound to P2, just with a touch more sparkle in treble.

    theBit Opus#2 - wide soundstage with a nice depth, more W-shaped signature, with a little more sub-bass rumble, similar to other DAPs, tight, articulate mid-bass, neutral lower mids, and upper mids being a little more forward, still transparent, resolving, a little more layered. Treble has more sparkle and airiness, a little brighter in comparison to other DAPs.

    Samsung Note 4 (smartphone) - wide soundstage with a nice depth, mild v-shaped sound, being closer to balanced, nice sub-bass rumble, and punchy well controlled bass, a little less articulate in comparison to dedicated DAPs, but still impressive. Neutral lower mids, natural, resolving upper mids, with a nice transparency but not on the same level as DAPs, a little smoother and less layered in comparison. Treble is crisp and well defined, with extra sparkle. This pair up was definitely a surprise to me.

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    Conclusion.

    I can't speak for the original IE800 model or how it compares to the new IE800S, but I can say how impressed I was listening to what Sennheiser accomplished using just a single 7mm dynamic driver. Of course, it's not a generic off-the-shelf transducer, but rather a custom Extra Wide Band driver coupled with a dual-chamber absorber system used to shape the sound. But nevertheless, it's the kind of a sound I would expect from fine-tuned multi-BA IEM, not a single driver unit.

    In theory, a single driver tuning should be coherent, yet, some other single DD flagships I tested before felt like I'm listening to a hybrid IEM with a DD bass and BA mids/treble. Here, even with a mildly v-shaped tuning, the sound is still linear, expanded, flows smoothly without too much emphasis on lows and highs, very natural, detailed, transparent, and just relaxed and non-fatigued. Once you start listening, you forget that you have a pair of tiny ceramic shells in your ears because it sounds like a pair of full size headphones.

    So, is IE800S a total perfection? That will depend on your sound preference, of course. If you want the sound with more bass impact or a more aggressive treble, these might not be for you. But one thing for sure, IE800S stands out with a unique tuning that doesn't overlap but rather compliment many of my other flagship IEMs. The only concern I have is the cable with its permanent attachment to the shell. To minimize microphonics, I prefer to wear IE800S with wire up over the ears which can put a little more strain on the cable joint. But, at least Senns 2-year warranty should give you a peace of mind. And another important factor to mention that while many of today's flagship IEMs are priced around $2k, Sennheiser still delivers TOTL flagship performance for under $1k.
      Moonstar, Sennheiser, RuiPP and 16 others like this.

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