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Yet another HD800 thread...

  1. bigfatpaulie
    Hi folks!
    I reach out you for help....
    Okay - Did my research.  I read everything I could on this can.  I asked questions, took advice, weighed my options.  I went to different retailers and auditioned them - count it - four times.  
    I loved them every time.  I tried them on a cheap shelf Panasonic system to a Burson Soloist.  I liked them.  A LOT.  I tried T1's, HE-500's, TH900's, PS1000's and I hands down preferred the HD800's, every time to all of them.
    Months went buy and on black Friday I picked a brand new (SN26XXX) from my local Sennheiser dealer.  
    I got home and plugged them with great excitement (can you tell where this is going?)  and...  and...  Umm...  I don't really like them.  Listening to Turnadot [Sutherland/Pavarotti FLAC], I find the vocalists sound small and recessed.  I was looking the for the exact opposite.  I find his voice to sound lifeless by contrast.  What gives?  The HD800's are suppose to excel at this.  I prefer my HD600's.  I listening to the 800's now, missing my 600's.  I'm using a Speedballed Crack with an NFB12.1, so I realize it's not the pinnacle of gear, but should be at least 'alright'.  Now, I only picked them up last night, and they have been playing non-stop since.  At the beginning, I did not like the HD600's either, and they really got a great deal better, but still...
    I distinctly remember them sounding better (with inferior sources).  The sound stage is only marginally bigger than the HD600's.  
    The thing is the things I didn't like about the HD600's were the bass (too much, and too muddy), the treble (not enough or detailed), and the small stage.  The things I did like about the 600's was the mids and comfort.  The HD800's seems like a logical choice - no?
    Am I missing something here?  Am I just being sentimental as in, I am so used to the 600's that I have to adjust?  I can't believe that my chain is so poor - the SB/Crack is reported to pretty good with the 800's.
    Any thoughts on what is going on?
    -Dazed and Confused.
  2. TechNerd
    Like you, I'm a new HD800 owner. My experience has been pretty opposite to what you've encountered, especially when it comes to your comment that the HD800 had a small sound stage. Literally out of the box, from the first listening, the HD800 has - bar none - the widest and most open sound stage I've heard. No other headphone in my collection, including an HD600, can compare.
    What I can tell you that you may have read here on Head-Fi is that due to it's detailed presentation and neutral/detailed sound, the HD800 will make any coloration or changes in tonality introduced by your amp readily apparent. I have a several old and newer amps and the differences in sound signature between the amps is very clearly heard using the HD800. 
    With the other headphones I own, the differences between amps is much more subtle. However, with my HD800 I can clearly hear the differences. For example, the difference between my solid state Burson Conductor vs. my Schiit Lyr/Bitfrost is striking. The Burson is very energetic and bright, with a very forward sounding mid-range. The Lyr/Bitfrost is definitely warmer and fuller, with more of a recessed sounding mid-range but a noticeably wider sound stage than the Conductor.
    From what I've read, your Speedballed Crack should be a near ideal match for the HD800. What you may be hearing in terms of the reduced sound stage may be more due to the tubes your in Crack. So what sounded great on the HD600 sounds dull and closed on the HD800. It's been pointed out by others that the HD800 can be "finicky" in its pairing with certain amps. I can kind of confirm that's true, but it's equally true that in my case the HD800 still sounds better than any other headphone I own, including an HD650, regardless of amp. However, some pairings do sound better than others.
  3. bigfatpaulie
    Thank you for the reply.  What you are describing is more what I had experienced when demoing them and was hoping for at home.
    I know it sounds ridiculous, but could my pair be defective? 
  4. TechNerd
    Sure, anything is possible. But given that Sennheiser individually tests each HD800 and will send you the frequency response results for your set, I don't think they'd let a defective pair go out the door. 
    If you do some searches here on Head-Fi, a lot of people claim the HD800 needs massive amounts of burn-in time to settle down - like in the range of 200-300 hours. Others fault the stock cable and immediately re-cable with custom cables to modify the sound, which can go from $200 and up from some of the custom cable builders. Or you could look into a different amp to see if you get the listening results you were hoping for. 
    Lastly, you may just find you don't like the HD800 with your setup. That's fine too. HD800's hold their value pretty well so you could sell them and look into something else.
  5. wink
    The trouble could also be your source, i.e. what you're driving your amp with.
  6. Currawong Contributor
    You might want to fill in your profile with the gear you own, so we can get an idea what is going on. 
  7. bigfatpaulie
    I'm driving the HD800's with a Speedball Crack (stock tubes) with an NFB12.1 as the DAC connected by a pair of AudioQuest Golden Gate cables.  
    I've been running the 800's night and day 'round the clock since I got them in hopes of quickening the burn in.  They have at east 100 hours on them.  They have opened up a bit, and have 'come to life' to a degree.  Although, I am still not sure I prefer them to the HD600's, which is extremely disappointing considering the price difference.  The 800's sound further away, and the sound stage is bigger but only by a small margin.  It's frustrating, because the 600's don't do everything I would like and, on paper, the 800's should fit the bill.  If they aren't the right can for me, I don't know what would be.
    I wish I could be more articulate in the problem I am having with them.  My first post is as good as I can describe it, but they have improved in every way - but not enough.  I feel like, particularly with deeper male vocals they are extremely laid back.  Pavarotti's voice sounds thin on the 800's.  He should never sound thin.
    Curra, do you have any thoughts as to what is going on?  What other information can I provide to help?
    Thank you kindly.
  8. bigfatpaulie
    I hate to say it, but I think they are going back to the store tomorrow...  [​IMG]
    I've never wanted to love a product so much.  
  9. Takeanidea

    You only ever really know a headphone when you've used it at home for 100's of hours. I stuck with the HD800's for 100's and 100's of hours til they became truly great. You should too
  10. bigfatpaulie
    Thanks...  Seriously.  
    It's just such a disappointing experience, you know?
    It sounds like you had a similar experience to me (not liking the 800's at first).  What changed?  What is your other gear, did they continue to change their sound over time, or did you just get used to them?
    At the beginning, I didn't really care for the 600's either, and now I love them.
  11. Takeanidea
    I have a Fidelity Audio HPA2 SE headphone amp and a Cambridge Audio Dacmagic + DAC Paulie. I have had much more expensive DACs than this with the HD800s too. ALO PanAm, M2Tech Young DAC and HRT Streamer Pro and Audiolab MDAC.
    The HD800 took a fortnight of continual playing before I felt it warmed up properly. I upgraded the HPA2 to SE which changed things back again slightly for me. Now, A WHOLE YEAR on, there is nothing beats the Sennheisers for bass, imaging, soundstage, accuracy, anything I can think of. I've had LCD2s, 4 Stax Earspeakers, Beyer T1's, Denon AHD2000s.
    They've all gone because this is the one.
    I stick the HD800s into my AK100 DAP, my DX100 DAP, my Colorfly C4 Pro DAP, all superb, no complaints. In all respects the HD800 adds magic to the mix.
    They're not modified in any way, I've dropped them and the right cable has broken away from the metal housing and I've taped it back up. Makes no difference; they're still streets ahead. It's a waiting game; aknowledged by many as the best headphones out there irrespective of price, in a years time if you still cannot get used to their signature they will sell for a very good price
  12. bigfatpaulie
    Wow.  Okay.  Thank you, Takeanidea.  You must work sales [​IMG]
    Fair enough.  I don't want to give up on them.  I guess I can hold on to them.  They just have to be better than this - like you said, the whole community says so.  I suppose both them and I just need more time.  I very much appreciate the ray of hope you've given me!  
  13. Takeanidea
    Just keep em running while you're not using them, the drivers are seriously big and probably will benefit from being properly warmed through after being in packaging for a few months prior to being sold to you.
    We look forward to your observations in 6 months time
  14. bigfatpaulie
    Well, it hasn't been six months but you were right :)
    It did take a new DAC and amp for them to really hit their stride, however.  Thanks again for talking me into holding on to them.
  15. Takeanidea
    Gosh that's some expensive kit you've bought but if you're happy it's worth it. I've heard lots of other headphones and there's nothing better than the hd800s, just phones that sound different. After a while your ears prefer the sound signature of the sennheisers and nothing else quite measures up to them. I suspect your journey is ended too.

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