Audiophile Ear Canal Headphones

Sennheiser IE 800 S

Rating:
4.5/5,
  • - 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
YoengJyh likes this.

Recent Reviews

  1. 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.

    senns_ie800s_01.jpg
    senns_ie800s_02.jpg
    senns_ie800s_03.jpg
    senns_ie800s_04.jpg

    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.

    senns_ie800s_05.jpg
    senns_ie800s_06.jpg
    senns_ie800s_07.jpg
    senns_ie800s_08.jpg
    senns_ie800s_09.jpg
    senns_ie800s_10.jpg
    senns_ie800s_11.jpg

    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.

    senns_ie800s_22.jpg
    senns_ie800s_23.jpg
    senns_ie800s_24.jpg
    senns_ie800s_25.jpg
    senns_ie800s_26.jpg

    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.

    senns_ie800s_12.jpg
    senns_ie800s_13.jpg
    senns_ie800s_14.jpg
    senns_ie800s_15.jpg
    senns_ie800s_16.jpg
    senns_ie800s_17.jpg
    senns_ie800s_18.jpg
    senns_ie800s_19.jpg
    senns_ie800s_20.jpg

    The fit.

    senns_ie800s_37.jpg

    senns_ie800s_38.jpg

    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.

    ie800x.png

    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.

    senns_ie800s_28.jpg
    senns_ie800s_29.jpg
    senns_ie800s_30.jpg
    senns_ie800s_31.jpg
    senns_ie800s_32.jpg
    senns_ie800s_33.jpg
    senns_ie800s_34.jpg
    senns_ie800s_35.jpg

    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.

    senns_ie800s_21.jpg

    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.

    sennheiser_ie800_vs_ie800s-01.jpg
    sennheiser_ie800_vs_ie800s-02.jpg
    sennheiser_ie800_vs_ie800s-03.jpg
    sennheiser_ie800_vs_ie800s-04.jpg
    sennheiser_ie800_vs_ie800s-05.jpg
    sennheiser_ie800_vs_ie800s-06.jpg

    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.

    senns_ie800s_27.jpg

    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.

    senns_ie800s_36.jpg

    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.

Comments

To view comments, simply sign up and become a member!