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The (new) HD800 Impressions Thread

Discussion in 'High-end Audio Forum' started by valentinhogea, Feb 10, 2013.
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  1. Maxx134
    IMO, all of the new Headphones out are getting closer, but still not reaching the HD800/Utopia/Stax level of resolve.
    I believe when a headphone becomes such a reference level, it will not be forgiving and show everything, and so why it can be disliked.
    I myself bought and sold it 3x in past.
    Last edited: Dec 3, 2019
    dmdm and omniweltall like this.
  2. G0rt
    HD800/SDR is, for me, endgame. Clear, resolving, jaw-dropping. Period. Dekoni Hybrids, Norne Draug 2.

    All the time? Hardly. Much of the time, I find HD700 more fun, more engaging, more forgiving, but with huge stage, detail and dynamics.

    All the time? Nope. Sometimes, I want to relax and not be challenged, much, and reach for HD660S...

    All the time? :D
    afgmjkl, Ichos, omniweltall and 2 others like this.
  3. JaZZ Contributor
    I apologize if I sound(ed) like ctiticizing your mods and your approach, that isn't my intention... should't be, would be unfair – just because we have a different sonic ideal, at least in this case. In fact I admire your passion with which you try to find your personal optimum, without too much respect for the designer's sonic concept.

    Sorry, but the resolution of your CSD graphs is way to coarse to see anything, for comparing it with the somewhat higher-resolution reference graph; they don't even show time coordinates. Also, even if there were measurable vibrations within the frame, they wouldn't show up in classic CSD graphs, which aren't resolving enough either. Best to use some acceleration sensors for that purpose. BTW, if you see some improvement with the 6-kHz resonance, it could very well be caused by the ring-shaped absorber around the driver preventing the strongest near-field reflections (and not necessarily material resonances).

    Here's where we have the biggest conflict: I don't want smeared transients in the interest of the amplitude domain. The latter can be fixed, unlike the former. And I don't want an artificial soundstage created by the headphone – I prefer unmasked spatial cues on the recordings.

    I see – misinterpreted one of your mods.

    My two different sounding pairs (with identical JaZZ mod) sound significantly different from a stock HD 800 – drier, less sparkly and warmer. BTW, I wasn't saying «my damping mod will kill all reflections», but in fact the opposite, if you read the complete sentence.

    ...which is very welcome, since the «upper treble air» exclusively consists of parasitic reflections. I want my headphones to add and subtract as little as possible.

    I don't believe a single isolated frequency-response graph – it takes three or five (with their inevitable gross deviations) for forming a passably valid opinion –, and yours is way too much smoothed anyway. But maybe it really represents the resulting sound, who knows!

    Using horns and waveguides as a reference for headphone designs is a bad idea. Horns cannot be used for headphones, since the desired smooth course of acoustic impedance would find an abrupt break at the listener's head and ears. So the sound waves are reflected back into the horn, which is extremely unwanted, as it leads to a chorus-like multipath effect. Fortunately the HD 800 doesn't resemble a horn system apart from the (more than semi-)permeable steel mesh, and I can't see why absorbing sound waves at the frame bars destroys a wanted horn effect.
    Yes, the Qualia was a headphone apparantly designed with a horn in mind. I haven't heard it, but wondered how it sounds. Some liked it for its extreme detail, and those who didn't reported an irritating hollowness – which I can absolutely reproduce. I once owned the SA5000 and liked it a bit, but not enough to keep it. There was no design feature on it that reminded me of a horn function, though. The same applies to the Utopia: What may look like a horn (to you) is just an acoustically transparent metal grid.

    Speaking of horns: When I was into speakers (many years ago) there was a phase when I liked them, owned a few and built a few myself during my intensive hobbyist speaker-builder era. I never considered them natural sounding, though – the horn reflections were permanently audible, although they sometimes sounded seductive.

    Indeed. And here's where I have to apologize again: With our headphones we usually listen to recordings made for speakers – which would call for room reflections to complement the relatively dry recording characteristic. Moreover listening to headphones isn't exactly a natural sensual experience, that's why there's some tolerance in view of other unnatural effects implied by the headphone design, such as multiple reflections between driver/housing and ears – and even worse with closed-back headphones: between driver/membrane and rear wall. Hence portraying my own puristic concept as the only valid approach would be arrogant. So I content myself with informing people with similar sonic ideals that there are other approaches (e.g. mine, with the black-velvet mod and equalizing as obligatory tool for optimization) that may suit them better.
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
  4. JaZZ Contributor
    I'll be so bold as to contradict again: My (equalized and lavricabled) HE1000se is about half a class above my modified (equalized and lavricabled) HD 800 in terms of soundstage, resolution, detail, instrument timbres, low-frequency extension and distortion... I've heard the Utopia, but not in my system, and like it, but don't think it is just as good (→ soundstage!), let alone better, and my (excellent!) electrostats are just third choice, since they're electrostats by nature.
    Maxx134 likes this.
  5. johnjen
    One thing that strikes me as rather significant about modding the 800's is that we are able to change the basic nature of this HP.
    And yes it isn't a night and day difference but is a series of refinements, some of which can be VERY significant.

    And unlike speakers where for the most part it's the crossover that can be modded, 800's are being tweaked in a variety of ways to suit the end users sonic preferences. Of course the counter point is that they 'Need' to be fussed with in order to let them 'sing' instead of merely 'play the notes' so to speak.

    Even so the 800's lend themselves extremely well to this level of tweaking, whereas most other TotL HP's, simply don't.

    And in my approach to dialing them in, I agree that the 'trapezoid' needs to have it's reflective surfaces damped/dealt with as they add far to much smearing to the waveform that reaches our ears.
    And my goal for tweaking them is aimed specifically at the overshoot issue, which seems to be an 'overlooked' issue as something to directly address.

    And I have had it 'verified' that this overshoot issue was deliberately designed into the 800's.
    And it would appear it is widely used as a sonic character enhancing technique.

    I wish they (the manufacturers) would dial it WAY back and use 'just enough' instead of over doing it and using it as a Sales Enhancement Technique.

    As I said in my write up "Granted they may not be as initially spectacular, but SotA HP’s DON’T need all that sizzle, we want the steak."

    JaZZ and omniweltall like this.
  6. Maxx134
    Thank you but no apologies necessary, I enjoy the technical interaction.
    All members have invaluable information to absorb whether technical or experience. Threads are great interaction tools from people otherwise impossible to reach.

    I didn't post any CSD hear so interested members would be inclined to search web for the many CSD out there on the HD800

    The 6k ring shows up as a ringing trail on the CSD plots. It is this that creates the artificial diffuse effect of a larger soundstage.
    In my experience, elimination creates a lazer like pinpoint focus of the sonic image, but also that loss of haze...

    I Agree fully !

    I agree as well, which is why I looked into the design, because without the 6k ring, I noted the observation of being able to hear its enclosure dimensions...
    I solved this issue partly by enhancing its design with the Dekoni pads.
    The Dekoni ferenstrated leather pads sounded best, but it was the thicker padding (from stock) which gave more internal volume and more space for the driver to do its thing, to produce a larger image..
    Wave propagation:

    I like your approach to touching on the main issue to me, which was the stock metal ring around driver ( not being very effective.)

    Sure no prob, I can send you the REW file for your own comparisons, if you use that.

    Yep that was a very rough analogy.
    I don't believe thats what is actually happening with those Headphones.

    It was one of the best sounding Headphones ever made.
    It had more speed and cleaner sound than both the HD800 & HD800S I compared it to that one time I heard it.
    It was fast and tight like an electrostat.
    I heard it and it is eye poping amazing.
    Very large sound.
    Unfortunately, it was very cumbersome to put and fit on head, and was a bit lean on bass, but really above almost all in clarity.

    No apologies needed. I was raised on speaker rigs and yes its a different world but I feel a top headphone will bring you closer to the event than a speaker setup.

    Yes I felt that way as well with my HEKv2.
    It has the clarity and really bottom depth of bass, but only when you put it up against the Susvara, do you notice it also has a bit of bass coloration and that bit less of midrange realism.
    The Susvara is really a true end game can.

    You should try my port mod on your HEK to bring it a notch closer to Susvara, as I discovered the frontal ear cup pressure had a limiting & suction effect on the driver membrane, so it impeded it's natural motion, so you end up with less rounded or holographic natural mids.
    Opening a port also brings more effortless depth of space.
    But I not want to sidetrack so I will point out that the HD800 climbs with speaker amps just like the Susvara.
    Very few headphones can handle speaker amps due to the noise floor, yet the high impedance of the HD800 makes it immune..
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2019
    dmdm likes this.
  7. Maxx134

    Every headphones have different impulse, but what I have noted that is "worse", is the stax 009 impuse response.
    It has zero negative peak after the initial rise.

    This is not normal for a driver.
    A normal impuse has both positive and negative peaks to complete natural motion in a speaker, as can be googled.
    So what I observe from this is it's uncanny speed and, to me, "artificially" detailed electrostatic sound, when you compare to a different and more natural sounding planar like Susvara.
    As The exciting and realistic as the 009 sounds, it still loses some bit of depth of image, because of this, in my comparisons.

    The reason I mention all this, is because the HD800, as you have noted, also specifically designed its impulse, which I believe was intentional.

    These designers measure everything before its made.
    Those guys may be gone now but what an amazing feat the HD800 is to still be a standard above most others.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2019
  8. johnjen
    In my post about my mods to the 800's, I surmised that it was the marketing dept. that made the decision to 'tailor' the step response to the 800's, which was later confirmed. This means that the designers were not given a 'free hand' to design the 800's to be 'ideal' transducers, rather they were designed to 'sell' to the target audience, ie rich(er)/older HP users.

    This to me is a sad state of affairs in that the 800 is a tour de force in terms of materials, along with the depth of the design itself.
    But the end results were deliberately marginalized which led to our desire to 'fix' their 'flaws' as the HP community has attempted to do.

    And what is telling to me is, that the majority of the HP's for sale all employ this 'trick' of adding overshoot (to varying degrees) to their designs as well.
    And if this Sales Enhancement Technique was re-focused to achieve a more accurate and articulate acoustic presentation, at least for the TotL HP's, I do believe we would enter into an era of truly stunning SQ from HP's, instead of all these variations of the same degree of SQ, that we now observe.

    Fortunately the 800, as mentioned, does lend itself to being tweaked, so to varying degrees we can undo the marketing dept's misguided attempts to "make it' sell well, instead of making them sound exquisite and let them sell themselves.

    dmdm, Maxx134 and omniweltall like this.
  9. JaZZ Contributor
    I don't think so – a single sharp resonance can't simulate or increase soundstage. Speaking of the long ringing: it strongly reminds of a typical membrane resonance induced by standing waves through inner reflections. It's barely possible for a relatively solid piece of plastic (even with a metal plate on it) to create such a long lasting and pure ringing.

    That's something I like to try as well. I just ordered the fenestrated sheepskin pads plus a pair of the velour pads from Audio Sanctuary. That said, erroneously I selected the standard sheepskin pads, hopefully they can change it tomorrow (price is the same). This was inspired by exchanging the relatively old and flat Sennheiser pads on my older pair for the fresher ones from the newer pair, which resulted in a significantly airier sound. The two pairs do sound different independent of the state of the pads, though, but now I even prefer the signature of the older pair. I think some more distance to the ears can indeed be beneficial.

    I still suspect the hyper detail could be the result of a «chorus effect» from (let's say «controlled») multipath sound-wave propagation which seems inevitable in such a design.

    Actually I'm fairly optimistic that my EQ curve has fixed those issues, at least to a large degree (can't really reproduce them as I don't have a Susvara at my disposal). All HE1000 versions had slightly too much bass to my ears, and the «se» is no exception, although it surprisingly benefits from some mild sub-bass boost nonetheless.

    The thing is, I wear glasses – most of the time. And they make no difference to the sound. I also feel that there's always an opening at the lowest point behind my ears, so I'm far from an airtight seal. Given that, an additional port would be pointless. Maybe what your mod does is reducing the bass? Which is a good thing in my book and beneficial for midrange and soundstage.

    BTW, I soon will have to send my HE1000se in for an exchange – the paint on the magnet bars is flaking off. And this now that it looks as if my constant pad-deterioration problem has disappeared. HiFiMan makes some of the best sounding headphones in my book, but build quality lets a lot to be desired. Even and especially with their top products. That said, the older of my two HD 800 looks like it had been eaten by a dog; reselling would be impossible. And the newer one is about to look the same in a few years. However, I will have to live with my HD 800 as my main headphone for a few weeks – which is absolutely fine with me.

    Thank you for agreeing with me!
    I'm not sure what measurement graph you're referring to when you're speaking of the «overshoot». Looking at the Inner Fidelity measurements, there's certainly a massive overshoot at the start of the square wave cycles at 30 Hz and 300 Hz, but that is a common feature of all headphones there. As I see it, Tyll has used «uncompensated» signals for the impulse measurements, which by nature have an upper-midrange hump. Additionally most of the test subjects also show some high-frequency accentuations. Both features will reflect themselves in the square-wave responses as an accentuated initial impulse – within the relatively low-frequency square waves. An overshoot – or any square-wave/impulse shape – always has a connection to the amplitude response, and the 6-kHz peak followed by a still somewhat elevated upper treble will definitely find its corresponding expression in impulse diagrams of any sort.

    I don't believe the 6-kHz peak is really intended by Sennheiser. Headphone developers don't have total control over the sound, otherwise someone would have designed the perfect sounding headphone. Most likely they found it to be bearable or even attractive for a large public. If it's really caused by inner reflections between membrane and magnet system (my suspicion), it's hard to avoid in such a ring-membrane design.

    Could you show which graph you're referring to? The ones from Inner Fidelity show no such irregularities...

    SR-009 impulse response.JPG

    ...except for reversed polarity.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2019
  10. johnjen
    When I looked into the earcup and saw those (relatively) large, flat, reflective surfaces, I knew they needed to be addressed. And the driver mounting ring being a flat metal resonator/reflector pointing directly at my ears was also in need of attention.
    And I wasn't alone in recognizing these as issues to be addressed.

    Many attempts of material choices and configurations later, I had come up with a 'passable' solution dealing with these reflective aspects to the design, but it hadn't 'solved' the primary issue that I heard, namely Listener Fatigue.
    I later began calling it tLFF (the Listener Fatigue Factor) and I had drilled down into it enough to be able to track changes and determine improvements, or not.
    And I was able to quantify my results well enough to see correlation between my experiments and the results such that I became 'clued into' what the benefits and net effects were.
    This helped me in dialing in what changes to try next and to more quickly determine what truly was 'better', or not.
    And this was all well before I began directly addressing and fussing with the overshoot issue.
    And the prevailing understanding all along was, and remains, that the 6 to 7KHz 'spike' was the culprit.

    And yes I used the leading edge of a 20Hz square wave/step response as the single measurement to address this overshoot issue.
    And yes again, I do agree that overshoot is a designed in aspect and has been widely adopted as a desirable performance characteristic by many manufacturers, in that it is the exception to NOT see considerable overshoot on the leading edge of a square wave/step response.

    So my experimentation shifted gears and I started finding ways to reduce the amount of overshoot.
    It took a couple of years and many thousands of hours of listening, to find the right combination of materials and configurations to significantly reduce the amount of overshoot, AND not mess with the rest of the 800's desirable characteristics.
    My latest (and final) Gen-6 results, which have been nicknamed the 800-J-mod, has greatly ameliorated the tLFF issue, for the better.

    And what I have also determined is that the 6 to 7KHz treble peak is NOT a problem that needs to be addressed, as the PRIMARY problem in order to 'solve' the tLFF issue.
    It's the extra added 'unnatural' energy generated at the leading edge of any steep rise time wave form that is the primary source of tLFF.
    It is irritating, especially at elevated listening levels.

    Indeed, I have applied 'corrective' EQ (both before and after Gen-6 results were obtained) and it makes very little difference in terms of not just tLFF but also to the overall SQ that has been achieved.
    And to the point I no longer use ANY EQ, except for the extreme bottom end (12Hz to ≈100Hz) which is a mirror reflection of the 800's natural roll off.

    And one of the unexpected benefits of lowering the amount of overshoot is an increase in the LEDR (Leading Edge Dynamic Response), meaning the acoustic sound pressure that is heard and FELT when a percussive impact is played, has taken a decided step up, which is oh so appreciated.
    So instead of acoustic sound pressure being generated where it shouldn't be, along with it's dissipation thru time, a more precise waveform is created with a more 'natural' dissipation thru time.

    And as I stated in my write up, the results I have obtained thus far could be taken to whole new levels of performance, given the necessary tools and resources, in order to 'nail' the amount of both overshoot and undershoot in order to better 'square off' the response to a square wave signal.

    But after I had achieved Gen-6 performance, I don't feel the need to spend any more $$$$ in order to explore this one set of experiments any further, as there are other avenues and experiments that are in need of exploring.

    IOW tLFF has been reduced to the point that it no longer is an issue for me, it no longer 'sticks out' enough that it needs to be fussed with, and along with the unexpected improvements that were also noticed in,
    Moar is Less (The DRC (Dynamic Range Control) goes up but it doesn't get louder, there is just MOAR there),
    REALNESS The acoustic presentation becomes all the more REAL,
    HMMAIAA (Hearing My Music As If Anew Again, hearing additional nuances and subtleties etc.),
    HE (Hear Everything, as in the entire acoustic space, all of the 'voices' (any source of sound), massed instruments with greater individuation etc.),
    and as such I have declared 'victory'.

    Which in turn, has allowed other projects and experiments to move to the front burner.

    Last edited: Dec 6, 2019
  11. ruthieandjohn
    Wouldn’t it be great, if someone took up the business of buying a stock HD800, putting in these mods, and reselling it, much as I think ZMF sells modded Fostex headphones. Is that what Sennheiser themselves have done to get to the HD 800S?
  12. P+D-MI
    That's the I thought I have every time I read johnjen's posts about the hd800. If it's really all that I would think somebody would want to bring it to market.
  13. johnjen
    I have toyed with the idea of 'offering' an upgrade 'service', but the math ($$$$'s) and liability (If I screw up someone else's 800's) make this idea somewhat impractical, at least for me alone to initiate.
    At least if the idea was to keep the cost of such a service 'reasonable'.
    Not to mention my house is small and there really isn't room to handle the 'production' requirements (the space, tables, keeping track of who's 800's are who's etc.)

    And I have added these mods to 2 other sets of 800's besides my own, and it isn't all that hard to do, IF you're handy with tools and know your way around doing mods etc.
    The trapazoid treatment and the hardwiring of the cable do add more complexity and considerably more fussing, not to mention the added time and parts, a few of which are not easy to source.
    But for an experienced DIY'r the 3 mods that make up the 'full meal deal' of the 800-Jmod are not all that difficult.

    I do wish that Senn would wake up to the fact that their marketing Dept. needs to take a major step back and consider using WAY less overshoot, along with all the other manufacturers (with a few exceptions).
    This one factor alone could lead to a MAJOR step up in SQ for EVERYONE, especially in the TotL HP market where accuracy and tonal precision are much more valued, and expected.

    I know they have the technical capabilities and know how to dial all of this in and make truly spectacular sounding HP's.
    I know this because even my DIY'r efforts have resulted in substantial improvements that are simply amazing.
    And as I have mentioned my mods could easily be taken to levels way beyond this, but the $$$$$$ required are far beyond a DIY'rs budget, but NOT beyond what capabilities the manufacturers already possess.

    And indeed it takes considerable expertise to add overshoot and not screw up other functional aspects of the design and final SQ.
    And so foregoing the SET (Sales Enhancement Technique), at least to the degree they use it now, would be a MAJOR step up, in and of itself.
    Let alone letting the design Dept. have a 'free hand' and deliver an accurate, precise, articulate set of HP's, rather than offering the eye candy bling, 'targeted' to an audience that marketing wants/thinks it needs to sell to.

    And yeah they ARE in business to make money etc, and the 800 was a HUGE success, now they just need to learn the lesson about how detrimental this entrenched marketing influence truly is.

    IOW, we, the DIY'rs, shouldn't have to re-engineer their own flagship products in order to let them truly sing in the 1st place.

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  14. omniweltall
    Well said, JJ.
  15. johnjen
    Thanks! :ksc75smile:

    One last thing.
    Sennheiser COULD offer a retrofit 'kit' to make the majority of the improvements I have come up with.
    With the exception of hardwiring the cable, and since those teeny tiny connectors are an abomination, and an expensive one at that, I found it good idea to get rid of them along with those itsy-bitsy wires.

    They could even offer a 'Trapazoid Treatment Kit' (TTK, yes I do seem to like acronyms don't I? hahahaha) for little cost as well.

    But sadly since the HD800 is out of production it would seem these 2 ideas are not likely to ever see the light of day.
    Mores the pity.

    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
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