Sennheiser IE 800 S

General Information

- 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


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Latest reviews

Deezel177

Reviewer at The Headphone List
Pros: Excellent technical performance
- High resolution
- Wide, open stage
- Organic tonality
- Great coherence
- Excellent nuance and micro-detail retrieval
- Value, relative to most flagships nowadays
- Build quality
- Size and ergonomics
Cons: Instruments may come across too small and nonchalant-sounding
- Bass and midrange may lack wetness for genres like jazz or blues
- Treble may come across a bit glare-y with certain material
- Detachable cable mechanism could be improved upon
- The cable is too microphonic and too short
- Storing the in-ears in the included case may prove cumbersome
DISCLAIMER: Sennheiser provided me with the IE800S in return for my honest opinion. I am not personally affiliated with the company in any way, nor do I receive any monetary rewards for a positive evaluation. I’d like to thank Sennheiser for their kindness and support. The review is as follows.

Sennheiser are bonafide industry legends. From headphones, to in-ear monitors, to microphones, to wireless systems, it’s impossible to ignore the legacy they’ve built on a global scale. The company is no stranger to innovation, which their monumental Orpheus systems will attest to. Their HD800S headphones have also proven their tact in remastering their greatest hits. But, nowhere are both qualities more clearly exemplified than in their flagship in-ear monitors: The IE800S. With refinements in driver tech, acoustics and damping, how does the IE800 successor measure up in today’s landscape?

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Sennheiser IE800S
  • Driver count: One dynamic driver
  • Impedance: 16Ω
  • Sensitivity: 125dB @ 1Vrms
  • Key feature(s) (if any): Proprietary Extra Wide Band drivers; patented dual-chamber absorption system
  • Available form factor(s): Universal in-ear monitor
  • Price: $999.95
  • Website: en-us.sennheiser.com
Packaging and Accessories

The IE800S arrives in a black box sleeved within high-resolution prints and metallic silver text embossed along the front. It’s a more commercial aesthetic than the more boutique custom IEMs I’ve reviewed recently, but it’s flawlessly executed nonetheless. The inner box is satin-grey with the Sennheiser logo on top – reminiscent of the cases that house their HD headphones. Underneath, the monitors are stored snugly within foam cut-outs, plus the leather case and accessories.

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The leather case is a wonderful inclusion; showcasing the luxury and class befit of a $1000 price tag. It adopts a subtle aesthetic, which emphasises its exceptional construction – cut, stitched and engraved with precision. It comes equipped with a magnetic latch, a metal badge with a serial number and a solid foam insert. The insert has cut-outs and ridges for the earphones and cable, respectively. Although the solution is secure, some may find it cumbersome to wrap the cable around the entire enclosure in order to store them. An additional, compact zipper case would be ideal in this scenario.

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Below the earphones and the case are the IE800S’s suite of accessories. These include a selection of foam and silicone tips, as well as termination options for the cable, which we’ll get into later. The tips are individually seated on a plastic card of sorts with lettering engraved to denote the tips’ sizes. This is a vast improvement in organisation over the cheap, plastic baggies I’ve seen with monitors in the past. This benefits security too, as you’re less likely to lose the tips when they’re securely seated like this. The tips all come equipped with wax guards too to maximise longevity and hygiene.

Cables and Build Quality

The IE800S maintains the original IE800’s semi-detachable cable system. Instead of the more common philosophy where the wire detaches completely from the monitor’s housing, the IE800S’s cord detaches at the Y-split in a 2.5mm plug. This can then be adapted into a wide range of terminations. Sennheiser has included three by default: 3.5mm single-ended, 2.5mm balanced and 4.4mm balanced. I appreciate the sentiment of at least a semblance of a swappable system, but I wish Sennheiser had committed to the more common ideology and separated the entire cable from the housing. This would allow further customisation, potentially removed a risk of failure and solved a few quirks the cable currently has.

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An example would be length. The wires between the earphones and the Y-split are awfully short. The Y-split sort of sits at the neck rather then the chest when wearing them down. This design is infinitely more comfortable on-the-go with the cable running down the back. Another major issue is microphonics. The IE800S’s cable is terribly noisy. The slightest bit of contact with any part of the wire sends an irritating noise that disrupts the listening experience. The IE800S is best heard when stationary or with the included shirt clip to keep the cable still. In 2018-2019, these issues are disappointing oversights in my opinion. And again, these problems would’ve easily been solved with a fully detachable cable system.

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But, with that said, I must give Sennheiser utmost praise when it comes to the earphone’s build quality. The matte-black ceramic housings are as robust as they are breathtakingly gorgeous. Although the in-ears are small, never once have they felt fragile, light or insubstantial. They truly look and feel like quality products, and I have no complaints whatsoever here. In terms of wearing comfort, they excel as well. They’ve maintained the original IE800’s self-adjusting system where they seat themselves in place no matter how deep you try to force them in. I’ve found this system to achieve a consistent fit with utmost security and comfort, so kudos to Sennheiser again here. With the silicone tips, isolation is perhaps not the best, but that’s to be expected with the acoustical technologies at hand. The Comply’s are best for noise isolation.

Dual-Chamber Absorber System

Aside from the refined XWB drivers, the IE800S also features Sennheiser’s patented dual-chamber absorber (D2CA) system. This was first introduced on the original IE800, then incorporated into Sennheiser’s acclaimed open-backed flagship HD800S. According to Sennheiser’s website: “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.” In the next page, you’ll see some parallels between this quote and what I’ve written about the IE800S’s midrange. Although the lower-midrange harmonics are more reserved, they are resolved expertly well. I believe this has much to do with D2CA.

Presentation

The IE800S possesses a spacious sig with strong emphases on cleanliness, detail retrieval and refinement. Instruments sound compact, snappy and clear, set against a holographic, well-layered and precise stage. In addition, the earphone positions its instruments neutrally on the stage – neither too intimate, nor too distant from the listener – with heaps of air and space between them. Because of this, its soundscape constantly possesses an open, free, voluminous profile. But, the single-driver configuration preserves coherence and unity, so zero listening fatigue is provoked along the way.

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The IE800S’s overall tone is neutral. There aren’t any obvious peaks aside from a hint of mid-treble glare. With tracks like Ariana Grande’s Imagine, the ‘s‘ notes may stand out. It’s not harsh per se, though it does get hot. But, aside from lemons like these, the IE800S possesses a mindful balance between smoothness and articulation. As mentioned, the IE800S’s instruments are compact and tight. This isn’t a signature for audiophiles who prefer warmer, mushier, more intimate-sounding monitors. But, they aren’t withdrawn either. Sufficient midrange presence generates the vibrance needed to complement the extremes – resulting in a dynamic monitor with an ear for detail that does not compromise coherence.

Bass

As expected from a dynamically-driven low-end, the IE800S’s bass possesses great physicality – doling out solid, meaty punches without having to overdo quantity. This is done through extension, which the IE800S excels at. The mid-bass may sit in line with the midrange and treble, but you can still feel the impact coming through clearly and unobtrusively. In that way, you get the best of both worlds. A downward slope from the mid- and upper-bass is what gives the IE800S its clean, black background. The sub-bass makes its presence known in hip-hop tracks like Royce da 5’9″‘s God Speed. In fact, the low-end’s darker tone meshes beautifully with the whole genre – clean and defined, yet visceral all the while.

For genres like jazz, I’d personally prefer a bit more warmth to the bass. Contra basses like the one on Michael Bublé’s rendition of Song For You may lack a bit of resonance. It isn’t the most musical or emotive low-end. Instead, it’s more matter-of-fact. But, where this benefits is in its delivery of texture and detail. Bass instruments are excellently resolved to the minutest of nuances, allowing the listener to analyse to their heart’s content. However, the low-end does not sound sterile or dry in the least, because of the aforementioned extension andimpressive sub- to mid-bass balance, respectively. The dynamic driver exhibits outstanding authority over the low-end, resulting in marvellous headroom. So, this detail and energy is delivered effortlessly with zero bleed upstream, and with impact, physicality and verve to boot.

Midrange

The IE800S’s midrange rides the line well between body and definition. It does have the common lower-midrange dip to maximise cleanliness as naturally as possible. But, the dip isn’t egregious, so instruments maintain enough integrity to sound realistic. Returning to Imagine, Ariana Grande’s crisp articulation is noticeably louder than her deeper, chestier overtones. But, the latter still come through with authority and resolution, so her voice never sounds thin or incomplete. The same goes for snare drums. The dominant sound is the snap and crackle of the drum, but enough body is retained to do lower-tuned snares justice too. This is because of a gorgeously-tuned 1-2kHz rise. It gives instruments this density, roundedness and heft that – when paired with the IEM’s uncoloured tone – strongly evokes pristine, refined neutrality.

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This is further bolstered by the midrange’s technical performance. The IE800S maintains its excellent composure and resolution here. No matter how crowded arrangements get, the image remains stable and the black background still comes though. Instruments are clean and well-separated, but not clinically so. There’s a warmth to them that prevents any plasticity from settling in. When combined with the aforementioned resolution, it creates a presentation that’s both precise and organic. Sennheiser doesn’t really commit to the former nor the latter, but striking that in-between makes the IE800S a very versatile monitor. Those who prefer a more upfront, intimate presentation may prefer more energy around 3-4kHz. But, for 95% of my library, it’s a difficult midrange for me to fault – coherent, full-blooded and clean.

Treble

The top-end is where the IE800S is most energetic. Articulation, clarity and air are all emphasised via peaks along 6kHz and 10kHz. The former compensates for the upper-midrange dip by giving instruments a vibrant, punchy pop. Although they’re neutrally-positioned on the stage, they still project with liveliness and sheen. The 10kHz peak sharpens transients and gives every note a crisp leading edge. With most tracks, it pairs perfectly with the 1-2kHz rise, complementing that meatiness with clarity and definition. But, with others, there can be a bit of glare. An example is Pusha-T’s DAYTONA album, except for the track Infrared. So, it may inch towards brightat times, but it remains composed for the most part.

In terms of technique, the top-end performs just as skilfully as the rest of the ensemble. Marvellous extension gives the IE800S lots of headroom. This is what allows that black background to constantly come through in the loudest of mixes. And, this is also what keeps the bass authoritative and composed. Although the treble is prone to the aforementioned glare at times, those brighter notes never linger for too long, because of the top-end’s admirable speed. It isn’t as fast as the balanced-armatures or electrostats I’ve heard lately, but they’re fast enough to prevent any fatigue from setting in. Finally, the treble delivers spatially as well. The diagonals are well-defined, allowing panned percussion to have genuine depth. Stereo separation impresses too, solidifying the IE800S’s precise imaging and its immersive, holographic stage.

General Recommendations

The IE800S’s designated timbre allows its technical performance to take centre stage. But, the density it’s allowed to possess at the same time gives it versatility as well. Here are three qualities that best encapsulate the IE800S’s fortes:

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Crisp, clean, clinical neutrality: The IE800S is exceptional at segregating instruments and giving each their own pocket of space. In addition, the line between instrument and space is extremely well-defined and crisp. It easily produces the giddying sensation of instruments popping out of nowhere all around you, whilst remaining refined at the same time.

Top-class separation and resolution: Thankfully, the IE800S doesn’t tighten its notes and push its top-end just to fake a perception of clarity. Its resolution comes from genuine extension, so all that detail is easy on the ear and comes with headroom. Unlike less-capable IEMs, the lower harmonics are resolved fully (and not abandoned) on the IE800S as well.

A balance between crispness and body: Despite the IE800S’s bias towards compactness and separation, it possesses a fair amount of meatiness too from a 1-2kHz rise. Instruments have density and integrity, so they sound fully-formed whilst being clean and crisp at the same time. So, the IE800S is ideal for those who crave detail without sacrificing structure.

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However, that very same signature does accept several compromises in order to bolster its separation, cleanliness and clarity. If the three aspects below are what you’re looking for in your next in-ear monitor, the IE800S may not be for you:

Warmth, wetness or euphony: The IE800S is a mostly neutral monitor, but its timbre tends to lean more towards tightness. Instruments don’t necessarily bloom or radiate warmth. Rather, there’s an effort to limit that sort of wetness as much as possible. If you prefer your monitors sounding less stringent and more loose, the IE800S isn’t the best option for you.

An intimate vocal presentation: U-shaped is an apt term to describe the IE800S’s vocal positioning. Even though they’re well-resolved and fully-formed, they’re positioned further back on the stage. And, they’re smaller in size too. The IE800S definitely isn’t a monitor to relish your favourite vocalists on, unless clarity and air are very high on your list of priorities.

A smooth, relaxed or rolled-off top-end: The IE800S’s top-end is crisp, airy and articulate. Although it’s been refined to remove as many bright spots as possible, it can glare or bite with inherently hot recordings. The clarity it produces is integral to the earphone’s signature, so if a softer, mushier top-end is your cup-of-tea, the IE800S likely won’t be.

Select Comparisons

Astell&Kern Rosie by JH Audio ($899)

The Rosie is a six-balanced-armature monitor designed by JH Audio. Like the IE800S, it’s a sub-$1000 in-ear aimed at redefining what’s possible at that price range. And, I believe both companies have made truly admirable efforts. The Rosie possesses a balanced signature with a neutral tone, but it differs from the IE800S in note structure and top-end timbre. Unlike the IE800S’s upper-mid dip, the Rosie possesses great vibrance around 2-3kHz, which adds a wetness to instruments like electric guitars and horns. Those very same instruments sound more compact and less playful on the IE800S. But, they sound cleaner on the latter. This is also because of the IE800S’s noticeably sharper top-end peaks.

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The IE800S possesses a more prominent upper-treble. Aside from the crisp transients that produces, it also accentuates the contrast between the notes and the background. So, you get sharper, more dynamic and clear-cut instruments with the IE800S, while they’re more laid-back on the Rosie. Finally, that top-end energy highlights the air between instruments as well, which enforces the IE800S’s perceived separation. On the other hand, the Rosie comes across more linear and more even-handed. Its transients aren’t as energised as the IE800S’s are, so they’re easier on the ear. Of the two, Rosie has the edge in long-term listening. Plus, the Rosie’s impressive extension allows it to achieve similar levels of resolution without forcing the top-end. It can’t achieve the IE800S’s level of contrast, but it gets close with less tonal compromise.

64 Audio A6t ($1299)

64 Audio’s A6t follows a similar tonal direction as the IE800S. It’s neutral and clean-sounding with full-bodied, meaty and dense-sounding instruments. In addition, it’s muscular and powerful down low as well. Although they strike similar hues, they do differ in presentation. The IE800S compacts its notes and emphasises the spaces around them, which highlights separation, cleanliness and background blackness. The A6t possesses larger, wetter, more vibrant instruments that play and intermingle with each other. Although it resolves just as well, the A6t webs them just enough to form an engaging, interweaved wall of sound. So, it wins points in musicality, long-term listening and fun. Conversely, the IE800S distances its instruments as far as possible. So, it has the edge in organisation, left-right separation and background blackness.

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The A6t possesses more bass presence, which adds a great foundation to tracks like Lake Street Drive’s Good Kisser. The IE800S’s low-end is tighter and more authoritative, but that’s a given considering the technology at play. In timbre, it’s aimed more towards retrieving nuance and dissecting mixes, but the extension it possesses gives it the ability to be fun-sounding as well. The A6t’s low-end isn’t as clinical, but it’s more pleasurable to rock out to with genres like hip-hop and modern pop. Vocals are positioned further forward on the A6t. The IE800S’s midrange is comparatively leaner. How tight those notes are certainly help bolster the IE800S’s separation and clarity. But, they may come across small at the same time. The A6t’s livelier images are more actively engaging, but less surgically precise. So, it depends on the presentation you prefer. The top-end is crisper on the IE800S for utmost clarity, while the A6t’s is thicker and more linear to my ears.

EarSonics EM64 (€1140)

The EarSonics EM64 is somewhat of a bridge between the 64 Audio A6t and the IE800S. It shares its neutrality with both monitors. All three are tonally well-balanced and refined. With the A6t, the EM64 shares its vibrance and note size. The images within the EarSonics monitor’s stage are large, lively and engrossing. But, it terms of segregation and the ratio between instrument to background, it has more in common with the IE800S. So, the EM64’s instruments are tighter than the A6t’s, but less clinical than the IE800S’s. In terms of stage construction, it’s certainly more akin to 64 Audio’s A6t. The IE800S’s stage is clean and clinical, but a hair deeper than it is wide. The EM64’s image is more carefree by comparison with more forward instruments. However, its resolution is in the ballpark, even if its notes aren’t as surgically separated.

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The EM64 is most like the IE800S in top-end timbre. There’s a touch more crispness on the latter, but both trebles are crisp, airy and articulate, yet infinitely refined as well. Both possess excellent headroom, which allow whatever bite-y notes there are to breathe. The IE800S does have a brighter low-treble, which makes it more susceptible to glare with less ideal tracks. Despite this similarity, the EM64 is the more coherent monitor overall because of its fuller midrange; the upper-mids, specifically. The IE800S’s 3-4kHz dip creates a slight gulf between the lower- and upper-ends of the spectrum to achieve its separation. It’s not egregious enough to be harmful, but it’s noticeable. The EM64 bridges more effectively. Stereo separation may not be as high, but the edge in linearity can certainly end up being more appealing.

Verdict

Sennheiser’s IE800S is a technical triumph. At $999.95, it offers a great value for neutral in-ear monitors that emphasise separation, clarity and resolution without compromising bass performance, coherence and organicity. The definition it possesses makes it ideal for audiophiles who love dissecting mixes and discovering nuances. The black background and stability it exhibits is top-notch. But, the meatiness and unity that single dynamic driver brings allows all of it to come through as naturally, effortlessly and refined as possible. If you like your monitors warmer, wetter or more intimate, the IE800S won’t perhaps be your cup-of-tea. A couple issues with the cable threaten to bring it down too. But overall, I believe the IE800S to be a very impressive performer that exemplifies why Sennheiser are the icons they are today.

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crabdog

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Organic, cohesive sound
Stunning build quality
Lightweight & comfortable
A versatile modular cable system
Cons: Non-detachable cable
Cable noise (microphonics)
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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
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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.

audio123

Reviewer at audio123
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 .

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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.

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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.

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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/ .
dhruvmeena96
dhruvmeena96
Once you try the old IE800, you will change these stars to 3...

Old one was like what Senn did with HD600 and new one is like what they did with HD800
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