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Sennheiser HD800 S Impressions Thread (read first post for summary)

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by shabta, Jan 19, 2016.
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  1. sheldaze
    Completely different. Here is a good option for your HD6XX: https://www.ebay.com/itm/SENNHEISER...able-For-HD-650-HD-600-HD-660-S-/302037349462
    Note you can see the headphone termination in the picture.
    joseph69 likes this.
  2. exdmd
    I know Focal is the flavour of the month right now but I consider it an egregious mistake that Tyll removed the HD800S from the Wall of Fame recommended components reason given:

    Nothing could be further from the truth. The HD800S is extremely revealing but care needs to be taken with component matching. I designed my system around the HD800S and there is nothing thin and analytical about the sound at all. You must have a good tube amp even a Vali 2 will get you started. I hate to think of how many readers went out and bought Elears and will never know the joy the HD800S can bring in a properly matched system.
    Wesbound, trellus, Quinto and 4 others like this.
  3. Hifiearspeakers
    Well said.
  4. devilboy
    I agree.
  5. joseph69
  6. joseph69

    I just ordered the last cable in stock, and yes, I clearly see the difference between the connectors.
    Thank very much again, I appreciate it.
  7. ezekiel77
    I have a solid state and and even then HD800S gets driven very well. Nowhere thin and analytical unless everything you've been listening to are warm cans.
    swspiers and Hifiearspeakers like this.
  8. Swiftfalcon
    Mr Hertsen is probably one of the most revered headphone reviewers out there but I personally disagree with his tastes. I am still surprised elear has survived this long on his innerfidelity wall of fame. And seeing the Hifiman HE 400S rather than 400i on the same list...yeah I factor in his peculiar taste when reading his reviews. He has recently given an interesting review of sennheiser HD 660S but considering the above mentioned, I still have hope for the 660S.
    swspiers likes this.
    Note when buring in for who may care about. This is my pain.
    I burn it by group of tracks/ file :
    Each is 60s long
    Sweep 20-20k.wav is 2min long
    Sweep 20-20k 15min long
    White nois.wav 60s long
    Silence.wav 30s long.

    I set that list and play in repeat mode. Result : less bass and less warmth !
    I belive mistake was to use low freq in burning. Total duration low tone is quite much.
  10. Brooko Contributor
    You realise its all in your head - right? Even Sennheiser says that they don't have a "stance" - quite diplomatically really
    The key message is this from their engineers though:

    Don't you think if there was a required burn-in period, Sennheiser would list it. And don't you think that if doing the burn-in ritual could adversely affect your headphones, Sennheiser would be posting warnings? My advice - forget the mythical thing you're trying to do, queue up some good music, and enjoy one of the finest headphones in the world ......
  11. TYATYA
    I want to "forget the myth" or fool my self. I wonder where bass goes at day 5th( 5x8h =40 hours). Each day I heard it a bit but don't found the change until that day. That was not clear to make a conclusion but I can feel.
    Until yesterday I listen to a same my system of other person : Tidal@laptop - Usb cable (Nortstone) - hdvd800 - (xlr4)hd800s and use a same track I usually listen to.
    It push me closer to a conclusion.
    PS : that 800s has just take out from box to become a demo unit of shop
    Last edited: Dec 18, 2017
    Swiftfalcon likes this.
  12. JohannLiebert
    Best Headphone ever for Soundtracks, Orchestra, Electro and Movies. The soundstage is really out of this world.
    I thought I was an IEM guy. Beyerdynamic T90, Amiron and Shure 1840. They all did not convince me to buy fullsize over in ears.
    The Sennheiser introduced me into a whole new world And I am so glad abou it.
  13. Arniesb
    Fully agree, its like oculus vr for music
  14. simorag
    Hi guys, this is a follow-up to my previous post, I hope it can be of some use to anyone looking to further improve over the mighty HD800S.

    I have immensely enjoyed my HD800S for almost one year now. They have exceeded my expectations about what I could get from headphone listening, to a point where I was thinking they could easily be my endgame hp.

    Then, the audiophile disease known as acute upgraditis, combined to an engineer’s over-analytic brain started to focus on some small issues here and there, and the search for an even better experience started (sorry for you, my dearest wallet).

    These small issues were:

    1. Some glare, or excess of treble energy, around vocals, especially female;
    2. Sibilance, again mostly on female vocals;
    3. Lack of sub-bass (say, under 60-80Hz);
    4. Exaggerated soundstage width.

    While being occasional and not overly apparent, these issues were conditioning my choices about what music to listen to, as I could ecstatically enjoy chamber music, baroque, acoustic guitar, some instrumental jazz, but not as much so with large orchestral compositions (where are the double basses?), organ, grand piano, rock, electronica, vocals.

    Not sure how much of the above is related to the HD800S, and how much to the remaining components of my rig (see signature), or to the recordings, or to my subjective hearing and liking, but when I tried the Audeze LCD-4 at home (see my previous post), I found that all these “problems” went away.

    This first-hand experience, which matches some other user’s feedback about the HD800S, made me think that I should look for a new headphone before looking into other upgrades (source, DAC, amp, cables, ...).

    Unfortunately, I did not like the LCD-4 presentation in some key areas (e.g. transparency, PRaT), so the quest continued.

    As many of us, I do not have the chance of doing a proper audition (i.e. for several days, at home) of other TOTL headphones before buying, therefore the only viable option was to rely on reviews, advice from forum users more knowledgeable than me (thanks @bigfatpaulie and @TheAttorney !), and to luck / instinct.

    Finally, I decided to buy the Abyss AB-1266 Phi a few weeks ago, after a lot of hesitation due to price and fit / comfort.

    I am still under 100hr of listening on the Abyss Phi, so perhaps still in the burn-in period, but I am happy to say that all the issues mentioned above have been fixed or improved, with the exception of sibilance, which is still there, with no drawbacks or significant trade-offs on the strengths of the HD800S (for me, transparency, imaging, separation, out-of-the-head experience).

    Also, I have no problems whatsoever with comfort, after playing with all the frame / pads adjustments for a while.

    I am going to post my impressions on the Abyss thread in the next future, but as long as the comparison with the HD800S is concerned, here is what I think at this moment.

    The overall presentation of HD800S and Abyss Phi is not so different, in my opinion (apart from the added two octaves in the 20-80Hz range), and this was good news for me. Abyss Phi keep the cinematic, detailed, transparent and resolving character of the HD800S and add a subwoofer to them, and I would recommend them to anyone like me who is looking for and improvement over the Sennheisers within a similar sound signature.

    Abyss Phi sound BIG, perhaps overly so. The size of the soundstage is even larger than the HD800S, not ideal for intimate listening and not realistic for closely miked recordings. I still think they provide an improvement over the HD800S because the size grows not only in width but gains significantly in depth, so the soundstage, while being as overinflated, is now more three-dimensional.

    When listening to romantic symphonies, this BIG sound and 3D stage provides a phenomenal experience.

    Feeling you are inside a Steinway grand piano still feels odd, however...

    Sibilance issues are still there, and in some recordings, I am feeling that the Abyss Phi are even brighter than the HD800S. Again, perhaps this is due to other components of my chain, which I will discover soon as I move on with my further upgrades.

    Fortunately, the diffuse glare I sometimes heard on the HD800S around the vocals is gone with the Abyss, and both female and male voices seem more natural and full bodied. That said, LCD-4 had IMHO something special with vocals, which is unmatched by any other headphones I have heard.

    As for the bass, boy this is by far the most impressive improvement. By playing with EQ I was able to find some reasonably good settings with the HD800S for most music genres, but I was still feeling something was lacking. With the Abyss Phi it is, as I wrote above, like adding a subwoofer to a good pair of loudspeakers: the sheer physical impact of the lower notes (unfortunately limited to your eardrums and skull for obvious reasons) is an experience in itself. I am no basshead, but I know what an organ sounds like, or what you feel when a grand piano plays its lowest notes, or when the double basses suddenly attack on a Wagner or Beethoven piece. This part of the spectrum of my emotional involvement in the music was largely missing with HD800S and it is now there with the Abyss Phi.

    To summarize the long write-up, I would say that, if you like very much the sound signature of the HD800S, like I do, and look for improving over them without trading-off their magic spots (transparency, imaging, etc.), the Abyss Phi are really worth auditioning.

    To me, they have provided what I was looking for, as I can now fully enjoy all the music genres I listen to, from chamber music to rock or even hip-hop with no need to EQ or trade-offs, while not being the “perfect” headphone (if such thing will ever exist).

    The price factor is largely against the Abyss though, because if you are like me you will hear a marginal (while clearly recognizable) improvement in several areas, being the sub-bass response the only real outstanding plus. So, in the end it depends on how much you value these extras based on your musical tastes, personal preference and budget availability.
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2017
  15. jude Administrator
    In another thread here at Head-Fi, someone said that harmonic distortion was deliberately added to the Sennheiser HD800S (versus the HD800). That statement was only one of many (made in the past couple of years) stating the same thing. I had also assumed this to be true, only because it has been repeated so many times here and elsewhere that it's become a generally accepted truth about the HD800S. But is it, in fact, true?

    Last summer, while doing measurements of several headphones, I measured the Sennheiser HD800 and Sennheiser HD800S on the GRAS 45BB-12. As I had also assumed the aforementioned theory to be true, I fully expected to see higher 2nd order harmonic distortion with the HD800S versus the HD800. However, any increase in harmonic distortion was minor (HD800S versus HD800), and I didn't see anything in the distortion product ratio plots that supported the theory / assumption. Further, when I brought up this topic with Sennheiser's Axel Grell in London (at CanJam), he was not surprised by our measurement results, as he said there was no deliberate distortion added to the HD800S.

    Things got busy at the show, and I hadn't given that specific topic a lot of thought since, until I saw it stated as fact again the other day in another thread, where a few of us then discussed it briefly (see quotes immediately below):

    So I decided to examine this further here, with the HD800 and HD800S we have, and using a completely different measurement head fixture than I used when I did the measurements last summer (details of the measurement system used can be found at the bottom of this post). Here's what I did:

    • Guided by the FFT plot at InnerFidelity, where we first read about this theory / assumption, I first I did a quick FFT plot of the HD800 (16,000 points, no averages), playing a 40 Hz sine wave. I ended up with a plot that looked somewhat like this:


      As you can see, that's not particularly detailed, so I took advantage of our audio analyzer's ability to do extremely detailed FFT's, opting for 1.2 million points, and doing three averages. Setting it to 1.2 million points provides a much more detailed plot, and the averages help remove random noise (better revealing the actual noise floor, too). Without having moved the HD800 from the above plot, here's the FFT re-run with 1.2 million points with three averages:


      And here are the two overlaid:


      NOTE: The examples above are actual measures of the Sennheiser HD800, but these were just quick preliminary measurements done without turning off the building's heating / ventilation systems. Even though we do employ a lab-grade acoustic and vibration isolation enclosure, the measurement gear is obviously very sensitive, so we still turn off the HVAC systems when we're doing audio measurements to lower the noise floor. As a result, the example measurements above may have a higher noise floor than the measurements that follow (which were done with the building's HVAC systems turned off).
    • Again, the above measurements were just done as examples of two different FFT resolutions. Now let's get to the actual comparisons of our HD800 and HD800S. Following are FFT spectrum measurements from the first seatings of the Sennheiser HD800 and Sennheiser HD800S, set to 1.2 million points and three averages, and playing a 40 Hz sine wave. I made the plot lines a bit thicker (and different colors) to try to make the two plots easier to distinguish from one another:


      Here (below) is the same plot with cursor lines showing the difference at 80 Hz (80 Hz being the second harmonic of the 40 Hz sine wave fundamental tone, since we're examining the theory that the Sennheiser HD800S's richer sound is due to (as quoted above) deliberately added 2nd harmonic overtones/distortion):


      The difference between the Sennheiser HD800 and Sennheiser HD800S at 80 Hz (H2) is only 2.783 dBSPL. Keep in mind that the center of this 2.783 dBSPL difference is occurring around 45 dBSPL lower than the fundamental tone. While the Sennheiser HD800S unit we have here does (to my ears) sound like other HD800S's I've heard (richer than the Sennheiser HD800), I do not believe this measured difference at 80 Hz suggests deliberately added 2nd harmonic overtones/distortion (to the HD800S versus the HD800).

    • I decided to do a second seating of both headphones, also increasing the size of the headband for both headphones by one click on each side. Here (below) are the FFT spectrum plots from the second seating:


      Again, this time (below) with cursor lines showing the difference between the two in this seating at 80 Hz (the second harmonic of the 40 Hz fundamental test tone):


      The difference in this plot at 80 Hz is lower than the previous one, measuring only 1.673 dBSPL. As above, the center of this difference is about 45 dBSPL below the 40 Hz fundamental tone.

    Again, keep in mind we only have one Sennheiser HD800 and one Sennheiser HD800S here at this time. I may measure more. (NOTE 2018-01-02: I did measure another HD800 later, and you can see it by clicking on the following link: Additional Sennheiser HD800 FFT measurements.)

    Based on discussions with Sennheiser and the above measurements of the Sennheiser HD800 and HD800S we have on hand, it does not appear there was any deliberate addition of 2nd order harmonic overtones/distortion to the HD800S as has been the common theory for the past couple of years.

    If you have any other suggested tests you'd like to see performed on these two units here that you think might generate different results, let me know. That said, based on the THD measurements I posted in this thread earlier, and other measurements we've performed on these two headphones (also on the GRAS 45BB-12), I'm not surprised by the above results.

    The measurements in this post were made using:

    NOTE 2018-01-02: We measured a second Sennheiser HD800 and (with those measurements) offer a possible explanation for how this theory of deliberately-added higher 2nd order distortion in the Sennheiser HD800S may have come about. Long story short, our measurements so far do not support the assumption that Sennheiser added 2nd order harmonic distortion to the HD800S, which is also consistent with feedback from Sennheiser. You can find out more at the following link: Additional Sennheiser HD800 FFT measurements, as well as a closer look at the measurement that started this assumption nearly two years ago.

    NOTE 2018-01-03: We received a brand new Sennheiser HD800S (S/N 13134) from Sennheiser and measured it. I also posted the serial numbers of all the Sennheiser HD800's and HD800S's measured to date. You can see the brand new Sennheiser HD800S's FFT and the serial numbers of the other units at the following link: Brand new, unopened Sennheiser HD800S measured

    NOTE 2018-01-04: I posted with more information and details about our measurement systems. You can read that at the following link: The Audio Measurement Lab at Head-Fi HQ

    NOTE 2018-01-04: I posted a link to more information about (and photos of) the DIY headphone measurement rigs from which many (perhaps most) of the headphone measurements you see on the web are made. You can see this at the following link: DIY Headphone Measurement Rigs

    NOTE 2018-01-04: We take a closer look at the InnerFidelity FFT that led to the nearly two-year-old theory that perhaps Sennheiser deliberately added 2nd order harmonic distortion to the HD800S to tune its fuller sound (a theory that our measurements so far do not support). I think more interesting than the HD800S measurement is the HD800 measurement which shows higher H3 than H2 (which seems to be largely responsible for the difference at H2 between these models in this one measurement). Was the HD800 in that original FFT measurement modified? The HD800 labels on it read "HD 800 DP Mod," whereas the HD800S labels read "HD 800S." Here's a link: Taking A Closer Look at InnerFidelity's Original HD800/HD800S FFT

    NOTE 2018-01-04: @daltonlanny asks why I'm not depending on distortion measurements from DIY measurement rigs (shown in a link above) to get us closer to answering this. I discuss this, including a link to an article by Audio Precision's Dan Foley that covers (among other topics) the importance of instrument precision in measuring distortion. Here's a link: Should We Count On DIY Headphone Measurement Rigs For THD Measurements In This Discussion?

    NOTE 2018-01-08: I was at ALMA International's annual conference last weekend. (ALMA is the International Association of Loudspeaker Manufacturing & Acoustics.) I gave a talk at the conference to an audience consisting mostly of audio industry acoustical engineers, discussing consumer-facing measurements, DIY measurements, and our measurements. Among other things, I showed them videos explaining how we measure headphones -- specifically, how we place headphones on the fixtures for measurement. I'll post more information and videos here on the forums after CES, going over the placement technique and tools we use here when we measure

    While at the conference, I visited the exhibits of Brüel & Kjær (B&K) and Audio Precision (AP) to measure HD800 (S/N 00342) and HD800S (S/N 13134) using their headphone test fixtures. Again, these measurements are consistent with our findings so far, and do not support the original theory (that Sennheiser deliberately added H2 distortion to the HD800S). Here's a link to those measurements: HD800 and HD800S FFT Measurements From ALMA International's Conference

    NOTE 2018-05-19: A gentleman on reddit (username "oratory1990") posted measurements of his HD800S and a friend's HD800 on reddit. I was pointed to his thread there and asked to respond, which I did (here). You can read my response (and additional details and measurements) at the following link: More HD800 and HD800S Measurements At Higher SPL And Lower Frequency (20 Hz)

    Last edited: Jun 1, 2018
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