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

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by shabta, Jan 19, 2016.
  1. mysticstryk
    The 800S clearly has more distortion in the bass compared to the 800. This is heard on even modest rigs if it is transparent enough.

    What's more, measurements outside of IF (why everyone tries to justify something based on just two people's measurements is beyond me) confirm this. Multitudes of subjective comparisons confirm this (including my own A/B comparisons, not just spouting what others are saying. I've owned both at the same time)

    PS - I actually prefer the 800S still, but this doesn't change the evidence we have. There are other ways the 800S can be better than the 800 for people (including me).

    Btw, Sennheiser is a site sponsor here. Food for thought.
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  2. SomeGuyDude
    "Measurements only count when they support what I think!"
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  3. swspiers
    Ha! Same as it ever was...
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  4. FastAndClean
    It's interesting how Jude is trying to convince us that something is not there in his super duper measurement rig when it's obvious for those who compared the two models that the difference in the bass response is there, advocate game similar to the mdr z1r "situation".
  5. wldcohso
    OMG y’all funny as heck. His report clearly shows no distortion and Sennheiser supports his research.. like get over it..
  6. mysticstryk
    When one measurement+impression goes against a dozen others, perhaps the one outlier should be re-examined.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
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  7. pietcux
    I think the whole situation, with unqualified people using measurement rigs that look absolutely unprofessional at first glance, kinda forced Jude to jump in and bust some myth.
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  8. dadracer2
    Well I own both the 800 and 800S does that make me an expert too............doubt it. My opinions are only as valid as anyone else's and since I am the one paying for my gear I will choose it on what I hear. Oh and just for the record I don't hear any increase in distortion on the 800S in the bass versus the 800. But the again my thoughts are of no consequence to you only to me.
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  9. jude Administrator
    I have not seen a dozen other such measurements, but you're more than welcome to post them here. (It would be helpful if you also included information on how the measurements were done.)

    Yes. See below:
    • Sennheiser HD800 unit 1 = 00279
    • Sennheiser HD800 unit 2 = 00342
    • Sennheiser HD800S unit 1 = 00205
    • Sennheiser HD800S unit 2 = 13134 (just arrived today, brand new in box)
    Following is the first FFT for the second HD800S (13134). NOTE 2018-01-03 17:37 EST: I could only run one seating and a 1.2M (averages = 1) for the moment, because we're in an industrial park, and there's a lot of traffic outside our office right now with people leaving work, and also trucks going by. While this hasn't had any significant effect on the fundamental (40 Hz sine), H2 (80 Hz), or H3 (120 Hz), it does raise the overall noise floor (mostly in the lower frequencies), and the different floor levels may confuse some. We'll run more measures later.

    Here is the HD800S versus similar 1.2M (averages = 1) FFT measurements of the first and second HD800 (00279 (first seating) and 00342 (second seating)--these are seatings I had 1.2M (averages =1) measurements for (the rest are 1.2M (averages = 3)). We'll do a comparison later when I can run a 1.2M-point FFT with averages = 3 (which takes minutes) on the new HD800S.


    (Above) HD800S (S/N 13134) and HD800 (S/N 00279):
    80 Hz (H2) Δ = 3.331 dBSPL (HD800S > HD800)
    120 Hz (H3) Δ = 0.598 dBSPL (HD800 > HD800S)


    (Above) HD800S (S/N 13134) versus HD800 (S/N 00342):
    80 Hz (H2) Δ = 1.920 dBSPL (HD800 > HD800S)
    120 Hz (H3) Δ = 3.611 dBSPL (HD800S > HD800)

    I think we have at least one brand new HD800 arriving soon, and possibly more used HD800's arriving over time. If you look at the collective measurements, perhaps you'll understand why it is the HD800 measurements that are of greater interest to me right now.

    Our measurements in this post were made using:
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2018
  10. headr
    Is that really clear? How many people read the early measurements of the 800S and then psychologically inserted what the measurements said into their impressions? Subjective bias is a tough (impossible) thing to beat.

    For the record, I never heard any distortion whatsoever in the bass region of the HD 800S. I always thought it was strange how many people claimed they could. It is also making me scratch my head when people call the HD 660 S "grainy" and "distorted" when it is none of those things. People seem to be repeating other people's flawed measurements/impressions as their own.

    I think people are losing sight of the forest for the trees.

    Time to get back to listening to the music.
  11. Thenewguy007
    How are the HD800S being driven when doing measurements?
  12. AxelCloris Administrator
    For our measurements, the HD 800 and HD 800 S were driven by the Audio Precision APx1701 test interface.
  13. greggf
    I think people are saying "more distortion in the bass" when what they should be saying is "bass sounds just a tiny bit different".
  14. jude Administrator
    As @AxelCloris mentioned, we use the Audio Precision APx1701 Transducer Test Interface. In short, the APx1701 has instrument-grade amplifiers, a signal-to-noise ratio of 134 dB, THD+N is ≤ -105 dB, output impedance is 0.13Ω, and it can drive up to 100W per channel into 8Ω. You can find out more information below.

    Actually, since most of you are probably not familiar with our audio measurement lab, here's more information about it all.

    UPDATE February 17, 2018: Following is a video showing how we position the headphone on our current headphone measurement fixtures, including the use of real-time instruments:

    If you can't see the embedded video above, please click here.

    We've been putting together our measurement systems and techniques for three years now, with a lot of help, knowledge, and feedback from industry mentors that include acoustical engineers and others who make their livings in/around audio measurements. There's always going to be much more learning ahead, no matter how much we do, how much we read, how much we're taught. Also, like anyone else, we've made mistakes along the way, and I'm sure we'll make more going forward -- and while we'll always try our best to avoid making them, we'll own up to them when we do, and learn from them as they're discovered by us or others.

    Here's the gear we're currently using in the audio measurement lab at Head-Fi's office for audio measurements:

    The Audio Analyzer: Audio Precision APx555 and APx1701

    At the center of our audio measurements -- whether we're doing electronic measurements (DACs, amps, etc.) or headphone measurements -- is an audio analyzer. The audio analyzer generates a stimulus of known characteristics, and then analyzes the response. (Wikipedia has an entry for "audio analyzer" which you can see at the following link for more general information about them: audio analyzer.)

    We use the Audio Precision APx555 audio analyzer. In terms of its analog performance, the APx555 has a typical residual THD+N of -120 dB and over 1 MHz bandwidth, which exceeds the analog performance of all other audio analyzers. It will also do FFTs of 1.2 million points and full 24-bit resolution. The Audio Precision APx555 is an incredible tool, whether we're measuring DACs and amps or doing electro-acoustic tests, which is obviously more relevant to this thread's topic.

    For some reading about the importance of low test system noise floor, Dan Foley from Audio Precision (one of my audio measurement mentors for over two years) wrote an article for audioXpress titled Test and Measurement: 'I Can Hear It. Why Can't I Measure It?' In this article, Dan uses headphones as a key example, as he discusses the human hearing threshold and how it relates to the noise floor of a sound card interface compared to an audio analyzer's noise floor. You can read this article at the following link:

    "Test and Measurement: 'I Can Hear It. Why Can't I Measure It?'"

    We've also added all of Audio Precision's Electro-Acoustic Test Options to the APx555 through their Electro-Acoustic Research & Development option (APX-SW-SPK-RD), which is a suite of measurements intended for designers and engineers who develop electro-acoustic audio products. You'll be seeing some measurements specific to this module from us in the near future, along with explanations of them, including waterfall (CSD) plots.

    We're also interested in testing wireless headphones, as that headphone category continues to explode, so another update we're making to our measurement lab very soon is the addition of Audio Precision's new Bluetooth Duo Module to the APx555 audio analyzer. This new Bluetooth module can act as source and sink for AAC, aptX, aptX-HD, aptX-LL, and SBC. Yes, I said aptX-HD, and yes I'm very excited about that. Last year we had two aptX-HD-enabled wireless headphones in our office. Now we have many more, and it will be exciting to be able to measure these headphones at their wireless best. We'll be covering this module more over time.

    EDIT 2018-03-12 10:16 EDT: We just received the APx555 back from Audio Precision, with the new Bluetooth Duo module installed (and the APx555 re-certified / re-calibrated in the process).

    In the photo above, the Audio Precision APx555 Audio Analyzer (bottom) and Audio Precision APx1701 Transducer Test Interface.

    For amplification (to drive the earphones and headphones), we use the Audio Precision APx1701 Transducer Test Interface. The APx1701's functions are directly integrated with and controlled by the APx500 audio measurement software and the APx555 audio analyzer (or other Audio Precision APx model analyzers).

    The APx1701 has instrument-grade amplifiers and microphone power supplies, but we do not currently use its mic power supplies (we use GRAS's power modules). The APx1701 is made to drive both loudspeakers and headphones, includes current-sense resistors in the amplifier outputs for impedance measurements, has a signal-to-noise ratio of 134 dB, THD+N is ≤ -105 dB, output impedance is 0.13Ω, and it can drive up to 100W per channel into 8Ω. Given the APx1701's fixed gain of 20 dB, we will sometimes use the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP headphone amplifier (set to unity gain) to drive more sensitive headphones and earphones.

    GRAS KEMAR, 45CA, Ear Simulators, and Pinnae / Canals

    For headphone measurements, we're working with a head or fixture with more or less fixed dimensions (defined by international standards) representing average human dimensions, and those are the GRAS 45CA headphone test fixture and the GRAS 45BB-12 KEMAR test manikin with anthropometric pinnae for low-noise earphone and headphone test.

    Head-Fi-Measurement-Lab-GRAS-45BB-12-inside-Herzan-enclosure_DSC00798.jpg Herzan-3.jpg
    In the photo (above left), KEMAR is face-forward in our measurement lab, inside a custom Herzan acoustic/vibration isolation enclosure (more information below).

    The pinnae / ear canals we use on the GRAS 45BB-12 KEMAR are anthropometric, based on 260 three-dimensional scans of human ear canals. These pinnae include the first bend and the second bend of the canals, with "flesh" all the way to the mics. Because they're more anatomically representative than traditional measurement pinnae, they have (among other features) a more realistic, more oval-shaped entrance point. Here's a photo of a standard measurement pinna:


    Here is a photo showing the new anthropometric pinna / canal:

    Another advantage of the new pinnae is their increased realism externally. If you've ever felt measurement pinnae, they're typically stiffer than human pinnae and don't readily compress against the head, which is why many who measure headphones often have difficulty measuring supra-aural (on-the-ear) headphones with them. (They can also present problems with measuring shallow-cup circumaurals.) The new pinnae feel and move much more like human pinnae and compress against the head much more like (most) people's pinnae do. Here is a photo I took of the supra-aural Audeze Sine on the standard measurement pinnae on a GRAS 45CA:


    Here's the same headphone on the new anthropometric pinnae on the GRAS 45BB-12 KEMAR:


    Where in-ears are concerned, we've found the new pinnae/canals to help tremendously with more realistic and consistent placement, as the pinnae/canals are definitely more human-like now. With this improved realism we've found, for example, that characterizing the differences between eartip types via measurements (relative to our subjective experiences) is improved.

    Additionally, I think the dimensional characteristics of the rig we're currently using (a GRAS KEMAR) might also contribute to some of the differences (especially versus the type of DIY rigs shown in the photos above). KEMAR has head shape characteristics that lead to more dimensional limitations on placement -- more human-like limitations, in my opinion. Whereas on a flat plate coupler you can place the headphone in any number of places and still maintain a seal (and thus maintain bass, the loss of which is one of the primary indicators that fit has gone wrong). On humans -- and on KEMAR -- if you go too far back, the curvature of our head can break the seal. Too far down on a human (and KEMAR) and you can also lose seal. In other words, the dimensional limitations of our anatomy -- and the larger the headphone, the more this may come into play -- play a role in guiding and limiting the placement range of the headphone over our ears in actual use. In the frequency ranges we're talking about (as the wavelengths get shorter), minor shifts in placement and dimensions can have substantial effects.

    Unlike most DIY measurement rigs, the measurement manikin (GRAS 45BB-12) and fixture (GRAS 45CA) use ear simulators to simulate the input and transfer impedance of a human ear. The GRAS 43BB ear simulators in this specific KEMAR configuration are quite different than standard 60318-4 simulators. While they still meet the IEC 60318-4 tolerances, the single high-Q resonance above 10 kHz is replaced by two more balanced, more damped resonances. The splitting of the one high-Q resonance into two low-Q resonances may present an advantage in decreasing the uncertainty in the measurements around the resonance (above 10 kHz). Also, the GRAS 43BB is highly sensitive, and very low-noise, and extends the lower dynamic range below the threshold of human hearing. Given its extremely low-noise nature, the 43BB can be used to measure and characterize things like the self-noise of an active headphone (both with and without active noise canceling), which is something we'll be increasingly interested in with the growing prominence of high-fidelity wireless headphones and earphones. It can also help in measuring low-level distortion in headphones and earphones. NOTE: One thing to consider with this low-noise simulator is that it's not suited to very-high-SPL measurements, with an upper limit of the dynamic range to about 110 dBSPL. This hasn't been an issue for us, though, as most of our measurements are set at 90 dBSPL (at 1 kHz), and we're also now incorporating additional ear simulators with much higher dynamic range upper limit (the GRAS RA0401, discussed immediately below).

    Here's a whitepaper about the GRAS 43BB Low Noise Ear Simulator

    In late 2017, GRAS announced still another ear simulator designed specifically for measuring high-resolution headphones. We recently took delivery of the new GRAS RA0401 High Resolution Ear Simulators, and we've installed them on our GRAS 45CA, along with the new anthropometric pinnae for the GRAS 45CA.
    GRAS-Anthropometric-Pinna_IMG_0156.jpg GRAS-Anthropometric-Pinna-and-GRAS-RA0401_IMG_0159.jpg

    This is still another very exciting development for headphone measurements, as obtaining meaningful measurements above 8 kHz with most systems can be enormously challenging. This new GRAS RA0401 High Resolution Ear Simulator also meets the IEC 60318-4 tolerances, but GRAS was able to design it so that its performance from 10 kHz to 20 kHz is substantially improved, that range through which it has a tolerance of +/- 2.2 dB. Here is a graph showing the RA0401's response (including the IEC 60318-4 tolerances) compared to a standard 60318-4 ear simulator:


    Again, meaningful headphone measurements above 8 kHz or 10 kHz have been a major pain point for decades, so I think these new GRAS High Resolution Ear Simulators may prove an important development in the world of headphone testing.

    Here's a whitepaper about the GRAS High Resolution Ear Simulator

    We've transitioned almost entirely to the GRAS 45CA with the RA0401 simulators as our primary headphone test fixture for now, and will keep it that way for the next couple of months, to build up a bigger database of measurements with these simulators. That said, we still have plans to take advantage of the GRAS 43BB low-noise ear simulators for more progressive measurements that their extreme sensitivity affords.

    Herzan Acoustic / Vibration Isolation Enclosure

    To help improve the quality of the measurements, we wanted to maximize environmental isolation. Though we obviously do not have the space (not to mention the budget) to build a full walk-in anechoic chamber, we still wanted to achieve as much acoustic and vibration isolation as reasonably possible. Skylar Gray (formerly of AudioQuest, now with Definitive Technology) recommended we contact Herzan. We worked with Herzan to carefully spec out a custom-built acoustic and vibration isolation enclosure. Our Herzan acoustic / vibration isolation enclosure has thick walls, made with 11 variable density layers of sound-damping material, and the interior of the enclosure is lined with acoustic sound absorption foam. This enclosure is (by design) fairly massive, weighing around 1200 pounds -- the more mass there is, the more energy it takes to excite the system. The enclosure has two cable ports, both covered with solid machined metal screw-down blocks that are damped, and also have soft gaskets that allow full sealing around the cables. (See photo below.)

    The headphone measurement manikin or fixture being used at the time is placed on a Herzan Onyx-6M vibration isolation table inside the enclosure to further help isolate the system from vibrations caused by foot traffic, HVAC systems, vehicle traffic, etc. The Onyx-6M is essentially a steel tabletop supported by pneumatic isolators, and with a resonant frequency of 3.5 Hz, it provides isolation beginning at 4.5 Hz (improving as the frequency goes up).

    Head-Fi-Measurement-Lab-cable-ports-closed_DSC00796.jpg Herzan-4.jpg
    (Above left) Closed left-side cable port on the Herzan acoustic/vibration isolation enclosure.

    Even with the Herzan enclosure, we still make sure to keep it as quiet as we can in the office while doing measurements. Both of the office HVAC systems are switched off when we measure. You'll frequently hear the tongue-in-cheek cry, "Measurement in in the hole!" before we start a measurement, and everyone remains quiet until an all-clear is given. We're particularly careful about this when using the GRAS 43BB ear simulators because, again, their dynamic range extends below the threshold of human hearing -- so even the very faintest sounds you can hear can be heard by the 43BB's.

    System Calibration

    Keeping all of the measurement equipment calibrated and maintained is obviously important. We do the calibrations we can do at the office. We use GRAS pistonphones to regularly calibrate the measurement microphones and systems. Ideally, we would do this before every measurement session -- we do it no more than once per month, corrected for temperature and ambient static pressure at the time of the calibration. We run Audio Precision's APx Self Test utility on the APx555 from time to time to confirm proper operation of its analog and digital sections. (We have not yet run that utility on the APx1701, which is still quite new.) We do occasionally measure the Neve RNHP on the APx555 just to confirm the consistency of its performance and to confirm unity gain. We intend to adhere to the manufacturers' maintenance and calibration schedules, and will send the gear to them for check-up and calibration accordingly.

    We're in the process of shooting multi-part Head-Fi TV videos to discuss the components of the measurement systems in Head-Fi's audio measurement lab, including some examples of them in actual use. One of the things I'm excited to show is the use of the real-time instruments available in the Bench Mode of Audio Precision's APx software to aid in headphone placement (for measuring). While others may use the instruments and techniques we're using to set headphone positioning, we're not specifically aware of anyone who does -- it is something we hadn't seen previously and something we've received positive feedback about from the engineers we've showed it to.

    Like I said earlier, there's always going to be much more learning ahead, no matter how much we do, how much we read, how much we're taught. And like humans do, we've made mistakes along the way, and I'm sure we'll make more going forward -- and while we'll always try our best to avoid making them, we'll own up to them when we do, and learn from them as they're discovered by us or others.
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2018
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  15. amartignano
    A quite strong "myth buster" post Jude! Thanks!
    My two listening cents, are that I'm not able to discern more bass distortion in the 800S vs 800. But I perceive a slightly more present and maybe "round" bass. But it's just slightly and the difference between the two headphones in this regard is less than the difference between two different seatings of the same headphone (800 or 800S).

    Given that this bass difference is commonly heard, where it come from? Maybe it's a brain perception due to the reduced midhigh level? Or the bass has some slight difference in the response curve?

    I gently ask if you can provide us with these 800 vs 800S overlays measured with your equipment:
    - percentage THD+N vs frequency
    - frequency response

    Thanks ! :)

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