The Titans are Back : Sennheiser HD800 vs Audeze LCD2 & Burson Conductor
This post is really a special one. I have once listened to HD800 with Burson Conductor and I and i really liked the sound, as it was a few classes over the the sound given in combination with Burson HA-160ds.
For some while I thought of re-evaluating the sound of Sennheiser HD800, and DarKu was kind enough to lend it to me again. When I went at his place to get the HD800, I went with my Chord Silver Plus cable to show him the difference it makes. He listened to Infected Mushrooms – “Noon” with the stock usb cable and then he Chord Usb Silver plus. The song begins with strong bass after a few seconds. Before the bass kicked in, he was tapping on the rhythm of song . The bass began and he suddenly stops moving and then he looks at me:
Yeah, the bass increased quite a bit, and the sound was a little warmer, and also more detailed.
If you remember, in my last comparison, I used Burson HA-160DS as source and amplifier.
The first thing I must say to you guys it is that at that moment I haven’t listened to Senheiser HD800 close to its’ real value, far from it actually.
Don’t get me wrong, as I really love the Audeze LCD2 headphones, and I don’t regret the choice I have done at that moment.
I responded to him truly that both headphones are wonderful and they are very good yin and yang to each other. They are so different and so beautiful in their differences, as I enjoy them both and each one keep me strapped to my computer. I have listened to the same song on both headphones many times and managed to enjoy the song almost just as much on both headphones, even though their presentation was so different.
The bass is amazing, and I started feeling the HD800s does nat lack bass , and its’ sound is quite pleasing, detailed, revealing and smooth compared to the time I heard it from Ha-160ds .
The difference is quite amazing. I started liking rock with HD800, and much more. The prat is amazing .
When I think of HD800 this is the first thing that pops into my mind (precision, detail and tightness):
When I think of Audeze LCD2 this is the first things that pops into my mind ( Power, smoothness and “magic”):
I will now attempt to do a little comparison on some songs:
Before I start the comparison I will talk a little about the naturality of the sound. As I was listening to both headphones I observed that Audeze LCD2 seemed much more natural to me and I have always considered it to be a natural sounding headphones.
One friend of mine, Traian says to me one day ” How do you know what is natural? What is your point of reference?” . He was right. That was just my personal impression, but it was not tested.
I thought about this a little and then it struck me. I had a way to test this.
If you remember my “Return of the King: Audeze LCD2″ post, I have a friend that sings at the national opera in Bucharest, and I have very nice interpretation of his : “Tosca”.
I know him since we were kids, and I have heard him sing live lots of times. This was the perfect test. With Audeze LCD2 I felt he was near me and it was exactly as I know his voice to be. I always liked the warm and engaging tone of his voice and the LCD2 did an awesome job reproducing it.
With the Sennheiser HD800 his tone was changed. It was not as full and warm as it is in reality, added some noticeable sibilance to it, which I can guarantee it does not exist in his voice at all, nor on the reproduction with LCD2.
I have also been to one of Leonard Cohens’ concert and I must say the voice seemed much more natural with Audeze LCD2.
Tiamat – Judas Christ “Sixshooter”
The bass on this track with HD800 was very impressive. It is very impactful, fast, deep and detailed. The hoarse voice was very nice reproduced and very well textured, but lacked a little in naturality. Actually I almost have nothing I don’t like about this song with HD800 and I loved its intepretation.
Ok…the bass…the bass is awesome and goes incredibly deep. It clearly has more body than HD800 and this gives me the impression that it goes deeper. The voice is more present and natural on LCD2. I amost felt his breath in my ear.
Chesky Vivaldi , The Four Seasons – “Andante”
The instruments sounded very natural and had a very nice body, but I felt it lacked some air and it was a little crowded.
Ok … the moment I put them on I heard more details, starting with the breath of the conductor and some cars passing by the hall the track was recorded. If you concentrate, you can hear them with LCD2 too, but they are more apparent with HD800. There is clearly a lot more air between the instruments, the positioning was better and overall it was more enjoyable on HD800.
Vivaldi – Flute Concerto in D-21 – The Conneticut Early Music Festival
The spatial impact was again very nice with HD800, and brought you more into the concert hall. The flutes were very detailed and present. The details in the treble are amazing. Also the separation of instruments is done extremely well.
Ok, the cellos in this track were awesome with LCD2. You can feel their full extension and their body. The flutes, even if not as detailed as with HD800, were more natural to my ears. I also heard a truck passing by the studio with both headphones this time, but it was more present with LCD2, as I think it was a heavier truck and LCD2 has a more present lower sound. Even though i loved both presentations I liked LCD2‘s more on this one.
Chesky Vivaldi , The Four Seasons – “Allegro (La Caccia )”
I loved LCD2’s interpretation as all instruments sound so warm and natural. The violins and cellos sound absolutely amazing. The instruments meant to have lower tones were excellent presented by these headphones, as you could really feel their body.
The first thing that struck me again was the accurate spatial sound and the air between instruments. It helps you more to imagine yourself in a concert hall. Eventhough, again, I loved both presentations. LCD2 had a more natural and full bodied sound that made you feel you were in the middle of the orchestra. Really loved both presentations.
Coldplay – Spies
The guitars and mids are amazing. The voice has a nice airiness attached to it, but it is a little sibilant. The drums very impactful and the PRAT is very nice. At the end the song becomes a little hot on the treble. The bass is very impactful and clean. I did not feel anything missing.
Even though the details seem to be much more present on HD800, I don’t feel LCD2 misses something when I listen to them. It has as much details as you need. The guitars sound a little different and more engaging with LCD2. The drums and the bass are more present with Audeze of course. When the song become to hot on the treble with HD800, it also became tiresome with LCD2, a little less hot, but still this proved it was also the recordings fault. The voice was more present and natural with LCD2.
AC/DC, Highway to Hell -” Beating Around the Bush
Ok. This was a surprise. HD800 really did well on this song. The PRAT was very nice and the song was very very engaging on HD800 too.
Dream Theater – “The Glass Prison”
Even though I loved HD800s‘ interpretation I still prefer LCD2 with this song, as it has a more intimate sound which is better for rock, the drums were still fast and more impactful with lcd2 and the electric guitars sound better with it. You just cannot love the LCD2 with rock man, you just can’t. However, I really liked HD800 with it too.
Infected Mushrooms – “Noon”
The bass in this song is amazing and the LCD2s really hit it with this: fast, deep, impactful engaging
Though it did not had as much body as LCD2, the bass presentation of HD800 was absolutely amazing. The bass felt faster than with LCD2 and more punchy. It did not have as much slam but it was amazing. I cannot treat HD800s‘ bass without respect, as it really knows how to hit it fast, low, deep and from every direction :)) .
Sirenia -In my darkest hour
This song is very crowded and full of instruments. It is a little too crowded for my tastes, but it was a good test here. On HD800 the sound was more 3d, it had more layers, and you can understand more of all the instruments that did not blend in in the same layer as with LCD2. This is where HD800 shined and proved easily to be more technically advanced than the LCD2. Even if it was kind of sibiliant this song was absolutely awesomely rendered by HD800.
Even though the sound was more engaging, it had almost no sibiliance (the recording was a little sibiliant by nature), all instruments blended in in the same layer and the sound was kind of 2d compared to HD800. Amazingly I ended up liking HD800 more with this song.
I have understood now why Sennheiser HD800 is considered to be the neutrality king. The sound it produces depends a lot of your system actually. If your system is bright, its’ sound will also be bright, if your system is warm, you will get a warmer sound. It is brighter than other headphones but I must admit that with Burson Conductor the level was within tolerable levels. Actually i did not find HD800 to be a bright headphone at all. It is neutral, and when it sounds bright it was because of the recording.
It is also a very pretentious headphone, as with some amps it could sound bad, and it is harder to hit the right spot.
You can get a nice sound from LCD2 easier than with HD800, but the last one scales more than most headphones.
Bass -HD800 really has a very nice bass. It is very punchy, it is very fast and detailed and can go very deep, and I think almost as deep or actually as deep as LCD2.
Lcd2 however has more body in the bass and it is unique in its presentation. Although I have nothing to criticize about HD800s bass, I still like LCD2s’ meaty bass a little more.
Mids – Both headphones have very nice mids and very detailed. However LCD2 has a smoother, warmer presentation that I really love.
Treble - HD800 has a very nice and detailed treble, but sometimes it can get a little tiresome. Even-though I heard many say LCD2 lacks in treble, I have never felt that. I think its treble is very nice, not as detailed as HD800s‘ but enough to make the songs enjoyable and more suited for longer listening sessions. However I sometimes miss the sparkle and details in HD800s treble. Don’t get me wrong. When HD800 seems to be bright it usually is because of the recordings not because of it.
Details – Overall HD800 is a more detailed headphone, but sometimes LCD2 seems to have a more detailed lower sound, as it has more body, and some details from the bass and lower midrange are easier to pick with LCD2. However, HD800 is still overall a lot more detailed, as the details & micro-details are really amazing on it.
Also the dynamics and micro-dynamics are far better with HD800.
HD800 is also more precise than LCD2. It’s imaging is better and you can easily pinpoint a location of a sound. It has a lot more air between the instruments, so the separation of instruments is quite better. Soundstage wise this headphone is amazing. I sometimes crave for its open sound, as you sometimes crave to open the window and when you open the window you start hearing all that happens outside.
LCD2 has a very warm and engaging sound, which fits most genres. I even like it a lot with classical music ( It does a wonderful job with orchestras that have instruments which reproduce sounds from the lower spectrum). Its’ sound is very natural and it reproduces voices in an extraordinary manner. Leonards Cohens’ voice is magical with LCD2 for example. However, I still prefer HD800 for classical and instrumental music.
Both headphones are unique and I really like them a lot. Even though I still prefer LCD2, I think HD800 would be a very nice complementary headphone. I think these 2 headphones would bring you most of there is to bring from music and this hobby. ( P.S. LCD-2 became the complementary headphone in a relatively short time, but then LCD-3 came in…)
It would be no surprise if, someday, you will see me with both :D . I sometimes prefer the sound of HD800 over LCD2 and the way around and I often found myself reaching for HD800, as its’ airiness and clean sound is like fresh glass of cold water in a hot warm summer, or like a deep breath of fresh air.
I even like them more and more every day as sometimes the technical superiority of HD800 is making it hard for LCD2 and in time I wouldn’t know which of them will become the complementary headphone.
Comfort wise, even-though I haven’t got any problem with Audeze, and the grip and the weight does not bother me, with HD800 sometimes I forget I have them on my head. I almost left the chair with them on my head.
Build quality wise, the LCD2 seem to be more sturdy, and HD800s‘ paint chips off in time, even if you treat it carefully. Cable wise, I like the looks and built quality of HD800s‘ cable more than LCD2‘s cable that really looks like a 10$ cable(except from the jack, where both have nice ones).
One thing there is to add here again is that I am really amazed by the Burson Conductor again, as it did a A+++ job with every headphone I have thrown at it, from IEMS to AKG K550, Sennheiser Momentum, Sennheiser HD800, Audeze LCD2, Audeze LCD3.
Also the Chord USB Silver Plus was a very good addition to the system.
I actually told my wife that I loved these new headphones as well. She looked at me, and said “I presume you are still talking about the lcd2s and you are not talking about the new headphones you just borrowed”.
My spider-man danger sense expected a moment similar to this if I go on:
…so I backed up a little and said ” Of course those are still my favorite ones!”.
I am expecting the Toxic Silver Widow cable soon, so the journey continues…
DarKu pointed out something very interesting about HD800.
If you look at the impedance graph from innerfidelity, you can see that for lower frequencies, HD800 requires ~640 ohms. So if you don’t have a capable amplifier that can handle 640 ohms, well….you won’t get satisfying bass.
In short time after the review, HD800 became my favorite headphone over LCD, but then I started thinking of LCD-3. And so, the journey continues…
In time I observed that HD800 scales enormous with DACs/Amps. Actually, I think that they are the best dynamic headphones out there.