The (new) HD800 Impressions Thread
Aug 16, 2016 at 2:39 AM Post #23,311 of 28,529

Hansotek

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Can someone tell me how cables can make such big differnce like Danacable lazuli. I am speaking from experience from Moon Audio silver dragon v3 on Audioquest Nighthawks. Cable took NH to another level. Cables don't have drivers so I guess lots of info gets lost with cables?

I realize cables usually have diminishing returns. But lazuli is worth the investment? TY.


It has a lot to do with damping factor - the driver's ability to stop accurately. What makes an adequate damping factor is somewhat controversial. If you watched the video I posted a couple of days ago, Dana Robbins says you start to see more significant results with a damping factor over 90.

Lol, I don't know if "diminishing returns" is necessarily the right phrase for the cable conundrum, since there are people trying to rip you off at pretty much any and every price point.

In regard to your last question, it's hard to answer. Here's how I look at the DanaCables: the question isn't whether or not you will hear the difference. You will. The question is: is that difference worth the investment to you?

It's a tough call, because they are quite pricey. I can't make that decision for you. It is best to try and then decide, if possible.
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 7:23 AM Post #23,312 of 28,529

FLTWS

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In regard to your last question, it's hard to answer. Here's how I look at the DanaCables: the question isn't whether or not you will hear the difference. You will. The question is: is that difference worth the investment to you?

It's a tough call, because they are quite pricey. I can't make that decision for you. It is best to try and then decide, if possible.

Differences in the sound are why we're all here, right? Sometimes there are, sometimes there aren't. If there were no differences at all with any of this stuff there would be no reason for this hobby / forum / industry to exist. We'd all be listening to (___________).
 
My experience with cable swapping; I generally hear a difference. When I don't hear a difference I don't infer "they all sound the same", I figure that the two I'm comparing just have very similar sound signatures but may have got there with different materials and construction techniques. I find it's often the same with the electronics but there are always exceptions and often too close for me to call. It's the quality of the recording source and the transducer where things get different big time.
 
I have both DHL's totl and Black Dragon sets I can run balanced from my cd transport all the way to the headphones. The differences aren't a game changer but they aren't hard for me to distinguish either in the bass or mid-range between the two. But depending on which headphones I'm listening to there is no clear best overall, which further complicates matters.
 
I keep thinking about the DanaCable video demo and wondering if there are any flaws in the scientific method there, but I'm not that smart! LOL!
 
I think the fact that they offer a 30 day return policy speaks to their confidence that differences can be heard. Is it an improvement or just a difference with my gear? I'll figure that out after I settle on 2 more hi-ish end phones to add to my system and see if the differences justify the cost of the cable.
 
Hansotek, out of curiosity, are you running DanaCables just from the HP amp to the phones or throughout the chain?
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 9:41 AM Post #23,313 of 28,529

thefitz

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Simply re-positioning the headphone on your head will make it "sound different" (funny how people seldom say "better"). Tyll mentioned that in the article where he tested a half dozen cables that measured identically. A shame he didn't pick stuff that's a little fancier so we can see the measurable differences.
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 12:02 PM Post #23,314 of 28,529

Hansotek

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Hansotek, out of curiosity, are you running DanaCables just from the HP amp to the phones or throughout the chain?

 
I have the Onyx RCA, as well. I was trying to get rid of the last little bit of harshness in my system, and I determined the RCA was likely the weakest link. I had tried the DanaCable stuff at Axpona, and I approximated that was roughly the difference I was looking for. I also read Colin Flood's awesome review, where he noted that it performed on par with the far more expensive Clarus Aqua, so I felt pretty confident in what I was getting. I loved it, and I ended up buying a balanced cable for the HD800 a couple of weeks later when my Double Helix cable broke (it has since been fixed, so now I have two awesome cables.).
 
The rest of my cables are mostly a combo of DIY stuff and a few things from WireWorld. I just posted the whole chain in detail yesterday on the Focal thread, right here.
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 12:31 PM Post #23,315 of 28,529

fjrabon

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Simply re-positioning the headphone on your head will make it "sound different" (funny how people seldom say "better"). Tyll mentioned that in the article where he tested a half dozen cables that measured identically. A shame he didn't pick stuff that's a little fancier so we can see the measurable differences.

A big issue is that when people look at performance "objectively" on here they really only look at frequency response plots. In my experience cables very rarely change the frequency response (though they can change the perceived frequency response for reasons ill mention in a second). What cables do sometimes impact are: dynamicism, THD breakdown, crosstalk, and phase issues.

Dynamicism comes from the impedance issue Hansotek brings up. If a cable adds significant impedance, it can slow the headphone's ability to quickly rebound and accurately produce the next transient. This also inhibits the headphone's ability to be moved by the first milliwatt, which is where the micro-detail lies. This is the big flaw of the HD650 stock cable, ie the "Sennheiser veil".

THD breakdown is due to some cables essentially highlighting various harmonic distortions the headphone and/or amp has. This is how headphone cables are perceived as being bright or warm despite almost always measuring as flat against frequency response. If a cable accentuates the high order harmonic distortion, it's going to make the headphone be perceived as "harsh", "piercing" and/or "etched". This is the big flaw of the HD800 stock cable.

Crosstalk issues can arise in some particularly cheap cables, as the L/R wires aren't isolated well enough and some of each channel leaks in to the opposite side, thereby collapsing the soundstage's width.

Phase issues can arise when for some reason one side of the cable is different than the other. This has proven to sometimes be an issue for single side entry cables where the run to one cup is longer than the run to the other. The differences in length and impedance between the two sides can thereby get off and throw the signals out of phase, which destroys imaging accuracy and resolution.

This is obviously very simplified, but I hope it points out the flaw of "well, it didn't change the frequency response plot, so it must be a placebo and/or snake oil!"
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 12:52 PM Post #23,316 of 28,529

thefitz

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A big issue is that when people look at performance "objectively" on here they really only look at frequency response plots. In my experience cables very rarely change the frequency response (though they can change the perceived frequency response for reasons ill mention in a second). What cables do sometimes impact are: dynamicism, THD breakdown, crosstalk, and phase issues.

Dynamicism comes from the impedance issue Hansotek brings up. If a cable adds significant impedance, it can slow the headphone's ability to quickly rebound and accurately produce the next transient. This also inhibits the headphone's ability to be moved by the first milliwatt, which is where the micro-detail lies. This is the big flaw of the HD650 stock cable, ie the "Sennheiser veil".

THD breakdown is due to some cables essentially highlighting various harmonic distortions the headphone and/or amp has. This is how headphone cables are perceived as being bright or warm despite almost always measuring as flat against frequency response. If a cable accentuates the high order harmonic distortion, it's going to make the headphone be perceived as "harsh", "piercing" and/or "etched". This is the big flaw of the HD800 stock cable.

Crosstalk issues can arise in some particularly cheap cables, as the L/R wires aren't isolated well enough and some of each channel leaks in to the opposite side, thereby collapsing the soundstage's width.

Phase issues can arise when for some reason one side of the cable is different than the other. This has proven to sometimes be an issue for single side entry cables where the run to one cup is longer than the run to the other. The differences in length and impedance between the two sides can thereby get off and throw the signals out of phase, which destroys imaging accuracy and resolution.

This is obviously very simplified, but I hope it points out the flaw of "well, it didn't change the frequency response plot, so it must be a placebo and/or snake oil!"


Surely every.single.one.of.those.things.are.measurable.
 
If those are the things that really make a difference, and I'm not saying they're not, why aren't these graphs all over the place?
 
And maybe I missed it, but the "dynamicism" claim that the cable impedance impedes the input source not the headphone source, 1 ohm (was it full ohms?) was given as an example. Someone else said "well, 120 ohms (?) is a more accurate figure". Which is the accurate scale?
 
Interestingly, "dynamicism" is not impulse response, which is dead even, seen here:
http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/headphone-cable-measurements-part-one-page-2
 
And finally, on the HD800, THD is slightly over 0.1% from 200Hz and above, never getting worse than maybe 0.75%. Does anybody know what distortion audibility thresholds are? Also, don't cables mess up the top end more, where the least distortion is? I mean, fine - if a cable can get that 0.75% THD below 200Hz down to 0.1%, we may be onto something. Unfortunately, long cables transmit long-ass sine waves better than small ones. If anything, a cable would lower the 0.1% THD, no?
 
Double edit: would it be possible for a $40 3' cable to measure the above "well, it didn't change the frequency response plot, so it must be a placebo and/or snake oil!" figures better than a $400 12' cable?
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 1:22 PM Post #23,317 of 28,529

fjrabon

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Surely every.single.one.of.those.things.are.measurable.

If those are the things that really make a difference, and I'm not saying they're not, why aren't these graphs all over the place?

And maybe I missed it, but the "dynamicism" claim that the cable impedance impedes the input source not the headphone source, 1 ohm (was it full ohms?) was given as an example. Someone else said "well, 120 ohms (?) is a more accurate figure". Which is the accurate scale?

Interestingly, "dynamicism" is not impulse response, which is dead even, seen here:
http://www.innerfidelity.com/content/headphone-cable-measurements-part-one-page-2

And finally, on the HD800, THD is slightly over 0.1% from 200Hz and above, never getting worse than maybe 0.75%. Does anybody know what distortion audibility thresholds are? Also, don't cables mess up the top end more, where the least distortion is? I mean, fine - if a cable can get that 0.75% THD below 200Hz down to 0.1%, we may be onto something. Unfortunately, long cables transmit long-ass sine waves better than small ones. If anything, a cable would lower the 0.1% THD, no?

Double edit: would it be possible for a $40 3' cable to measure the above "well, it didn't change the frequency response plot, so it must be a placebo and/or snake oil!" figures better than a $400 12' cable?


Sure, all those things are theoretically measurable. The problem is that 1) for some, good measurement systems for them are outrageously expensive. 2) most head-fiers don't understand the measurements even when they're available 3) it isn't always clear what "better" means.

As far as ability to perceive distortion goes, your question as asked gives away the whole problem. THD isn't frequency based in the way you're talking about it. It doesn't stick at static frequencies. The 2nd harmonic distortion is at twice the frequency of the fundamental note, and thus when the fundamental doubles, 2nd harmonic distortion frequency also doubles.

As to what level is perceptible, higher order harmonics are much more perceptible and offensive sounding than lower order harmonics. This is where the issue you bring up with cables is exacerbating, rather than limiting, because cables tend to cause problems in the high order harmonics, which we find most grating. 0.8% THD in the 2nd harmonic isn't as bad as 0.1% in the fourth harmonic. This is something speaker aficionados and manufacturers have known for decades, but for whatever reason headphone people tend to think of all distortion as being the same. The way the THD breaks down is more important than how much is there (within normal levels at least).
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 1:56 PM Post #23,318 of 28,529

icebear

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Dynamicism comes from the impedance issue Hansotek brings up. If a cable adds significant impedance, it can slow the headphone's ability to quickly rebound and accurately produce the next transient. This also inhibits the headphone's ability to be moved by the first milliwatt, which is where the micro-detail lies. This is the big flaw of the HD650 stock cable, ie the "Sennheiser veil"....

 
Since this still is the HD800 thread (300-600Ohms) what is significant impedance in this context?
Any properly constructed cable with no cold solder connections will have less than 1 Ohm to add to the cable/headphone system.
 
And for the damping factor ... does it matter for a headphone driver membrane as much as for a 10" subwoofer speaker cone?
And even if it matters it will be in a range of >150 anyway in case of the HD800.
 
Btw: I stumbled over an interesting page looking for damping factor :
http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/damptoole.htm
http://www.roger-russell.com/wire/wire.htm
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 2:41 PM Post #23,320 of 28,529

thefitz

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Sure, all those things are theoretically measurable. The problem is that 1) for some, good measurement systems for them are outrageously expensive. 2) most head-fiers don't understand the measurements even when they're available 3) it isn't always clear what "better" means.

As far as ability to perceive distortion goes, your question as asked gives away the whole problem. THD isn't frequency based in the way you're talking about it. It doesn't stick at static frequencies. The 2nd harmonic distortion is at twice the frequency of the fundamental note, and thus when the fundamental doubles, 2nd harmonic distortion frequency also doubles.

As to what level is perceptible, higher order harmonics are much more perceptible and offensive sounding than lower order harmonics. This is where the issue you bring up with cables is exacerbating, rather than limiting, because cables tend to cause problems in the high order harmonics, which we find most grating. 0.8% THD in the 2nd harmonic isn't as bad as 0.1% in the fourth harmonic. This is something speaker aficionados and manufacturers have known for decades, but for whatever reason headphone people tend to think of all distortion as being the same. The way the THD breaks down is more important than how much is there (within normal levels at least).


True, odd and even order harmonic distortion does complicate things, especially if you introduce a headphone amp into the equation. Let alone tubes.
 
An an earlier post, I inferred you read that the impedance of a cable robs microdetail and flat-out is the cause of the "Sennheiser Veil". How come we keep glossing over that impedance clarification I pointed out? Isn't impedance very easy to measure?
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 2:42 PM Post #23,321 of 28,529

thefitz

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PS: your source impedance (e.g. output impedance of the headphone amp) is off, although I would approach this circuit as shown above.  The IEC standard is 120 ohms, and we are talking about a high impedance headphone (HD800), so 120 ohms makes sense here not 1 ohm.

This bit.
 
Everyone's been saying "cable impedance is irrelevant to driver impedance!". That was responded to with "it's about source impedance relative to cable impedance, not driver impedance relative to cable impedance!". That was responded to with "Your source impedance example was way off, it's still negligible."
 
Now we're back to driver impedance. Is it because the source impedance line of thinking's dead in the water?
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 2:49 PM Post #23,322 of 28,529

fjrabon

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True, odd and even order harmonic distortion does complicate things, especially if you introduce a headphone amp into the equation. Let alone tubes.
 
An an earlier post, I inferred you read that the impedance of a cable robs microdetail and flat-out is the cause of the "Sennheiser Veil". How come we keep glossing over that impedance clarification I pointed out? Isn't impedance very easy to measure?


I've seen where the HD600 stock cable was measured and suggests this impact, but I don't recall the particular details enough to discuss them here.  I also never believed in cables until the HD650 cable.  It's obviously subjective, but to me the difference there was pretty obvious.  The flip side is that with my HE400i, I've tried maybe 6 cables and never heard even the slightest difference.  I think it's also amp dependent as well.  Cables don't seem to make as big of a difference when the amp is high output impedance, but on a 0 output impedance amp I tend to notice the differences in cables more.  
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 3:03 PM Post #23,323 of 28,529

fjrabon

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  This bit.
 
Everyone's been saying "cable impedance is irrelevant to driver impedance!". That was responded to with "it's about source impedance relative to cable impedance, not driver impedance relative to cable impedance!". That was responded to with "Your source impedance example was way off, it's still negligible."
 
Now we're back to driver impedance. Is it because the source impedance line of thinking's dead in the water?


120 ohms for amp output impedance doesn't make any sense to me whatsoever.  1) Sennheiser engineers have stated that they designed the HD800 (and HD600/HD650) for amps with low output impedance.  Now, some people like the way it sounds with a high output impedance amp, but that doesn't change the fact that it simply wasn't designed with the IEC standard in mind.  In fact the IEC standard is wildly outdated and wasn't even really correct in the first place.  2) If we need more evidence that 120 ohms output impedance for the amp isn't correct, the HDVD800 is 16 ohms.  3) the new trend in amplifiers has been towards 0 output impedance amps.  Most of Schiit's new stuff is designed to run at sub 4 ohms, Grace designs their amps to run at under .1 ohms, etc.  
 
We should probably look at a rough average for what HD800 users are using, which would probably be around 10 ohms.  
 
This is further complicated by the fact that some amp topologies don't even really work this way.  OTC amps, for example, don't really work the same way in terms of damping factor as OTL and and regular solid state and hybrid amps do.  
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 3:04 PM Post #23,324 of 28,529

thefitz

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I've seen where the HD600 stock cable was measured and suggests this impact, but I don't recall the particular details enough to discuss them here.  I also never believed in cables until the HD650 cable.  It's obviously subjective, but to me the difference there was pretty obvious.  The flip side is that with my HE400i, I've tried maybe 6 cables and never heard even the slightest difference.  I think it's also amp dependent as well.  Cables don't seem to make as big of a difference when the amp is high output impedance, but on a 0 output impedance amp I tend to notice the differences in cables more.  


What's interesting is the article I linked precisely uses the HD650 cable as an example, and the only major variance was one channel of one of the two stock cables. The other stock cable essentially matched the others.
 
Would it be safe to assume that the larger the source impedance, the less relevant a cable is?
 
Aug 16, 2016 at 3:13 PM Post #23,325 of 28,529

FLTWS

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  Does anybody have any experience listening to cassettes with the HD800s? Is it a case of "bad in, bad out" or does the HD800 render all the harmonics and lovely crushed bass of tape nicely?


    Cassettes!!! Well, I can't answer that for you, but what I can say is I had a thorough week with the 800 (not the "S" version) in my home on my gear. I'm red book only, I knew I had a lot of good performances with problematic recordings from a technical standpoint. After a week with the 800 I realize the problem is worse than I thought and with a lot more recordings than I realized, even those recordings made in the last 20 years.
 
On the plus side for you, the F/R on a cassette may not excite the 800 bright spot so could be a match made in heaven. Not sure what will occur in the bass region. Do you have tone controls?
 
The 800 tells me more than I may want to know, but it is still on my short list with just 3 more candidates to audition.
 

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