New HD800 user! Just a few questions.
Apr 24, 2015 at 8:44 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 15

-Malevich

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Hi everyone. :)

I just picked up some beautiful HD800's, and I just have a few questions.

I mainly bought the HD800's for music and gaming. I know gaming is not the best use for these headphones, but I was really impressed with this review that boasted a very large soundstage for gaming and music -- even without a standalone AMP and DAC.

I upgraded from the Sennheiser G4ME ONE headphones. I'm currently using the HD800's in conjunction with a Sound Blaster ZXR sound card. I know that missing an external dac and amp is far from ideal, but the Soundblaster ZXR is considered to be a great sound card and I wanted to at least try it out before buying a dac and amp. I did some reading on this forum, and some people said that the ZXR can drive the HD800's.

Unfortunately, the sound is not that impressive, and I don't think I'm getting the big soundstage that everyone loves. With the ZXR, I'm not noticing much of a difference between the HD800's and my G4ME ONE headphones. 

Now onto my questions:
 
1. Are there any settings with the soundblaster ZXR that should be changed to give optimal performance with the HD800's?

2. I am using the high gain 600ohm setting on the ZXR. I spoke to a really nice Sennheiser rep, and he told me that it was fine and won't damage the headphones.... But for additional confirmation, what do you think? Can this damage the headphones?

3. Do I buy an AMP, or a DAC and an AMP? I hear the ZXR has a fine DAC. 

4. Do the DAC and AMP replace my sound card? Can I use my ZXR in conjunction with an external DAC and AMP, or is that not recommended?

5. If I do need an external DAC, AMP, or both, which ones are recommended for my budget? I wouldn't want to spend over $200 for each unit. 


Thanks very much. Hopefully I can learn enough to contribute to this forum someday. :)




 
 
Apr 25, 2015 at 8:15 PM Post #3 of 15

peanuthead

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Check out Schiit Magni or Vali + Modi combo.
 
Apr 26, 2015 at 3:18 AM Post #5 of 15

Me x3

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The soundstage is very recording dependant. Try well recorded music like those binaural recordings from Chesky records.
(Search for binaural on HDTracks,
Amber Rubarth or Alexis Cole, both great albums)

ZXR should drive the HD800 just fine. There are more refined devices, sure, but don't expect night and day differences among solid state amps. Some tube amps make the HD800 fuller sounding. For soundstage and imaging, stcking to solid state seems to be a safer way.

Best Luck!
 
Apr 26, 2015 at 4:17 PM Post #6 of 15

LNuneek

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If I were you and bought a headphone that was somewhere in the $1500 range and not satisfied when comparing it to something that is around $300 I would probably return it. Over a grand more and the gains are minimal for you? Pretty much a waste, unless money is no object and you roll in it for fun and light cigars with $100 bills. If not then stick with your G4ME ONE.
 
Apr 26, 2015 at 4:26 PM Post #7 of 15

Music Alchemist

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The HD 800 is an audiophile headphone intended primarily for music. Kind of overkill for gaming...
 
Anyway, the Schiit Magni amp and Modi DAC series are well regarded. I used to own a Magni 2 Uber and Modi 2. The HD 800 is notorious for being tricky to find a good amp/DAC pair for it...but I don't know how true that really is.
 
If an amp doesn't help, I agree with @LNuneek. Might as well return it if you don't get an improvement.
 
Apr 27, 2015 at 1:03 AM Post #8 of 15

jodgey4

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Modi + Vali is probably your best bet. But yeah, pretty intense diminishing returns past $300. Post in the HD800 forums for a cheap setup for a big soundstage and you should be good to go.
 
Apr 29, 2015 at 10:28 PM Post #9 of 15

-Malevich

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Thanks for the recommendations. I ultimately went with the Desktop Objective 2 with ODAC.
 
I listened to some .flac files of nirvana, Led Zepplin, Slipknot, and some Hip-Hop instrumentals.

The DAC and AMP definitely improved my sound quality, but I'm still not getting the euphoric "soundstage" that everyone claims to love. I've read a lot of the reviews of the HD800, but I'm hardly blown away like everyone else is.

I could return the HD800's, but I need to know if I'm doing something wrong first
 
Apr 29, 2015 at 10:35 PM Post #10 of 15

jodgey4

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You didn't spend $10000 on a silver and gold hybrid cable assembled by hippogriffs in the Forbidden Mountains, using dragon flame treated plugs and unicorn blood solder. Duh :wink:.
 
The G4ME Ones don't have the worst soundstage, so you may just be experiencing diminishing returns and unmet expectations. It happens to us all. If returning them is what you want to do, then do it. HD800's are a lot of $$$!
 
Apr 29, 2015 at 10:52 PM Post #11 of 15

-Malevich

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  You didn't spend $10000 on a silver and gold hybrid cable assembled by hippogriffs in the Forbidden Mountains, using dragon flame treated plugs and unicorn blood solder. Duh :wink:.
 
The G4ME Ones don't have the worst soundstage, so you may just be experiencing diminishing returns and unmet expectations. It happens to us all. If returning them is what you want to do, then do it. HD800's are a lot of $$$!

I'm just confused as to why so many people say that these headphones are amazing. They truly must be if they got so many rave reviews. Some people even go as far as saying that it sounds like the musicians are playing in front of you, but I haven't had that feeling at all when listening with the HD800's. It just sounds like higher quality music but nothing mindblowing

I'll keep listening to music and let you know if the audio meets my expectation
 
Apr 29, 2015 at 11:27 PM Post #12 of 15

peanuthead

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  I'm just confused as to why so many people say that these headphones are amazing. They truly must be if they got so many rave reviews. Some people even go as far as saying that it sounds like the musicians are playing in front of you, but I haven't had that feeling at all when listening with the HD800's. It just sounds like higher quality music but nothing mindblowing

I'll keep listening to music and let you know if the audio meets my expectation

Immerser yourself in music with HD800 for the next 2-3 weeks (before the return period is over?) and get back to us.  If you still don't like it at that time, go ahead and return it - HD800 is not everyone's cup of tea...
 
Apr 30, 2015 at 1:23 AM Post #13 of 15

Me x3

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  I'm just confused as to why so many people say that these headphones are amazing. They truly must be if they got so many rave reviews. Some people even go as far as saying that it sounds like the musicians are playing in front of you, but I haven't had that feeling at all when listening with the HD800's. It just sounds like higher quality music but nothing mindblowing

I'll keep listening to music and let you know if the audio meets my expectation


Have you tried an AKG K702? Very nice soundstage and much cheaper than HD800.
Still a very good looking headphone as well. Harder to drive than HD800 but nothing the O2 can't handle.
 
The newer siblings K712/ K7XX have more bass and a less analytic presentation.
 
Apr 30, 2015 at 1:44 AM Post #14 of 15

Redcarmoose

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The HD800s are very amp dependent. They also are going to show you everything about your source and music files. I was set on getting them when they first came out and spent a day with them. In the end I purchased the Denon AH-D 7000s and am happy. The HD800s are not for everyone still they are amazing for what they can do.

It is really important to have the complete set-up at a certain level for the HD800s to reach their full potential. The O2 should be fine but I personally have not heard the combo.


It is best to try and change the headphones to a couple different set-ups just to hear how they react. The world of high end stuff around here really can get you only a little farther up the scale due to the concept of diminishing returns.

People love the HD800 for games, just their ability to pinpoint stuff and make an alternative reality works for many.


Headphone listening is also very psychological and if something is super built up over time folks can actually be let down as the sound is not up to the expected level even though it is world class.
 
Apr 30, 2015 at 8:47 AM Post #15 of 15

Music Alchemist

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  Thanks for the recommendations. I ultimately went with the Desktop Objective 2 with ODAC.
 
I listened to some .flac files of nirvana, Led Zepplin, Slipknot, and some Hip-Hop instrumentals.

The DAC and AMP definitely improved my sound quality, but I'm still not getting the euphoric "soundstage" that everyone claims to love. I've read a lot of the reviews of the HD800, but I'm hardly blown away like everyone else is.

I could return the HD800's, but I need to know if I'm doing something wrong first

 
If you really want soundstage, go with speakers. In my opinion, the difference between the smallest and largest soundstage in headphones isn't that large.
 

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