HD 800 impressions with entry level source
Oct 12, 2009 at 5:15 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 6

Morph

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Disclaimer:
- I am definitely not a HiFi freak, I do not care about 500EUR interconnects etc.
- This are just impressions, based on ~45 minutes of listening in a quiet room in an audio shop.
- I cannot refer to any other Top-End phones or other sources/amps as I simply didn't hear anything that is not in my sig (apart from X-Can V3+HD 600).
- enjoy some reading, maybe somebody will find it useful.

Today I took my equipment (laptop -> V-DAC -> GS Novo, everything stock) to check two things about HD 800's:
- whether there is any point in running them from entry-level equipment.
- whether they can be used for everyday music listening (variety of styles and often not too well produced albums)
I spent almost an hour with them, trying various songs. The tested pair had around 40-50h on them, so they may not have been burnt-in fully. I also tried them for a few minutes with Yamamoto HA-02 (not a good matching though).
My impressions are below:

Build quality
I must admit I was pretty unimpressed by the photos. They show HD 800 as bulky, plasticky huge-as-hell thing made from cheap plastic. When you see them however, they turn out to be much smaller and really well-built. Big w-o-w for the cable - thick, long and terminated with a monstrous plug. Box is really nice, however a pouch for them would be nice.

Comfort
It's the second time I almost forgot that I'm wearing headphones. I had this for the first time with HD 555 and I must say that HD 800 come really close, however my ears started to get a bit warm after around half an hour. Fit is simply perfect, and the adjusting system is really good.

Overall comments on sound
I was a bit worried that my gear won't give them a reasonable amount of "juice", but it turned out quickly that V-DAC and Novo are able to run them well and without any fuss (volume on Novo at 10 o'clock, 11 at most). The sound was full, with nice bass and treble extension and very detailed.

Bass - I wish it is a bit more present, I'd classify the amount of bass as "just enough", but the quality with which it is controlled is beyond words, they handle it like armatures (Triple.fi was my first thought). Still, this lacking in bass department somehow bothers me a bit (a very small bit though).

Mids - I'm a big fan of pronounced mids, like in my ATH-ESW9, and neutral mids aren't usually my cup of tea, but not in HD 800 case. The best word to describe mids in this case is smooth, VERY smooth.

Highs - well extended, yet with absolutely no sibilance or shrills, just like I want them.

Apart from that, I got absolutely fantastic soundstage (imaging is beyond words, full 3D
biggrin.gif
), wonderful musicality and splendid details.

Then I plugged them into Yammy and it was a big no. They gained a bit of bass, but the whole sound became slow and lazy, instantly putting me off. HD 800 + Yammy = big NO!

Songs
Sting "Desert Rose" (Brand New Day)
I love this song for the feeling of enormous space in it, and I like how it sounds on cans with a decent stage (I loved it on MDR-SA3000). HD 800 deals with it with best possible way. Big W-O-W.

Dead Can Dance "The Host of Seraphim" (The Serpent's Egg)
Spacious, yet intimate song. I never thought it could sound THAT great, I almost flied away while listening to this one.

Andrew Lloyd Webber "The Phantom of the Opera" (The Phantom of the Opera OST)
Almost every pair of headphones I tried this track on was unable to show the weight during the first seconds. The only cans I liked this piece with were HD 600's. And now also HD 800, the feeling of being "inside" the music appears more than often.

Jan Garbarek "In Praise of Dreams" (In Praise of Dreams)
and
Katie Melua "Spider's Web" (Piece By Piece)
Two of the albums I can truly enjoy only with my ESW9, I simply need "intimate" sound and AT's provide it. Their mids make the Jan Garbarek's sax and Katie's vocal simply stunning. Despite price difference and supposed engineering genius I wasn't expecting Senns to come anywhere near AT's. To my surprise, these future-looking-huge-open-cans-with-unbelievably-big-drivers actually can sound intimate and close to listener. Big plus for that, though I still prefer ESW9 here.

Massive Attack "Butterfly Caught" (100th Window)
The way Senn's deal with bass is unfortunately a big disadvantage when we need some beat, it simply gets a bit flat and looses itself.

Santana feat. Everlast "Put Your Lights On" (Supernatural)
Wonderful song, yet it needs some warmth to make my foot tap (so far only HD 600 and ESW 9 could do it). It's perfectly portrayed, but lacks some life.

Sunn O))) "Aghartha" (Monoliths & Dimensions)
Some drones, anyone? Unfortunately, again it turned out that HD 800 cannot render anything in a satisfactory way. Sound is refined of course, but this song is made to crush the concrete walls and here it didn't even make my skull vibrate.

Tool "Schism" (La-Te-Ra-Lus)
and
Danzig "Lilin" (6:66 Satan's Child)
and
Black Sabbath "A National Acrobat" (Sabbath Bloody Sabbath)
Some time ago I read "HD 600 are useless with hard rock or metal". So I borrowed them from my friend and they turned out to be the best rocking headphones I tried before I got DT880. Last week I read something like "HD 800 are good only for classical". So I played some Tool, a bit of Glenn and Sabbs on top of that. It turns out that, no matter how good (Tool) or bad (BS) the recording, these are simply BRILLIANT with heavy guitars.

Summing up:
- YES, I liked them.
- YES, they made my jaw hit the floor, however...
- ...NO, not always, there were also some concerns and spontaneous What's
biggrin.gif
.
- NO, it's not a perfect headphone.
- NO, it is not lifeless, it's simply neutral.
- ...and I'm definitely buying them soon (just need T1's to be out to compare)
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 7:43 PM Post #2 of 6

john53

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Interesting mini review,thanks.

My entry level equipment(x can v8 stock,sony dvd/sacd player,not expensive interconnects)also did a good job driving the 800's,with neutral balanced and detailed sound,open 3d soundstage and very good imaging,nice bass definition and extension,liquid natural mids with nice vocals,and nice treble without sibilance.(although a bit "metalic",but maybe it was my cables/source/stock tubes/synergy/something else?)

I found the bass to be better compared to my hd 600.hd 800 has about the same impact but is better defined with better extension.
 
Oct 12, 2009 at 7:53 PM Post #3 of 6

Mink

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I listenend to them on my entry level 1980's portable Audio Sonic casette player...they sounded crap!

Just kidding
smily_headphones1.gif
 
Oct 13, 2009 at 3:42 AM Post #4 of 6

Uncle Erik

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You can see how much of a difference the amp makes with the HD-800, can't you? I don't think it is necessarily a matter of cheap vs. expensive amplification. It's just that the amp has to be well-suited to the HD-800. The HD-800 is extremely revealing of what it is plugged into, which is why I think opinions have been so varied.

I'm interested in the T1, as well! It's tempting to put in an order, but I'm going to sit it out and wait for impressions and (hopefully) a chance to audition them before the end of the year.
 
Oct 13, 2009 at 6:50 AM Post #5 of 6

Morph

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Uncle Erik /img/forum/go_quote.gif
You can see how much of a difference the amp makes with the HD-800, can't you? I don't think it is necessarily a matter of cheap vs. expensive amplification. It's just that the amp has to be well-suited to the HD-800. The HD-800 is extremely revealing of what it is plugged into, which is why I think opinions have been so varied.


Agree, if I had to buy them only after listening on that Yamamoto, I would never buy them. I'm wondering how does HD 800 match with Rudistor NX-03 which will most probably be my next amp.
 
Oct 13, 2009 at 9:14 AM Post #6 of 6
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Speaking of the Yamamoto, I tried the same, and agree with you. However, the Elekit amp was completely different and sounded very good. I imagine it's because the Yamamoto was tuned towards low impedance headphones, such as ATs.
 

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