The Spectacular Sennheiser HD800
It’s been a while since my last post. I have been really busy lately and I really missed writing here. Fortunately the last weeks I have gathered some thoughts to write about. The most important thing I want to write about is the Sennheiser HD800. I know I wrote about it twice now, and in both cases compared to Audeze LCD2.
My last post is the most relevant between the last two. That is when Sennheiser HD800 really impressed me a lot and changed my thoughts about it drastically. I loved them so much as a few weeks ago I bought a pair.
Since then, the HD800 have grown on me even more. These headphones are absolutely spectacular on the right gear, in my case the Burson Conductor .
These headphones deserve post of their own. I almost feel responsible doing this, as I feel that I haven’t done them justice in my first post and I have to make up for it.
Lets take this from the start.
In my opinion they look quite nice and I really enjoy their futuristic design.
Every time I put them on I feel like this:
How I actually look like:
However, they seem really fragile to me. I have touched the silver grill by mistake and left a print there. My hands were clean, but still managed to do that. I couldn’t remove it so it is still there and it bugs me . Audeze LCD2 feel like a tank compared the senns.
I liked the stock cable from HD800. The build quality seems to be very good and it looks nicer than the usual stock cable ( LCD2 for example ). One thing I don’t like about it: the splitter seems to be made from cheap plastic and the cables that go from the splitter to the cups don’t look like high quality to me. Actually, I know a friend that had some problems with that portion of the cable, meaning that in time it opened up. This seemed to have happened to more owners.
I feel I really must be extra careful and treat them with more care. Don’t put them directly on your desk as the paint may chip off. I always put them on something more cushy and not directly on a hard surface.
On the comfort side, I don’t think I have ever wore a more comfortable headphone. I really forget they are on my head after a while.
So let’s get to the most important part, the sound. So many things to say and so few words to express all I would like to say about these headphones.
I will tell you my impressions on a few songs.
ACDC – You Shook Me All Night Long
The first thing that struck me was the bass and the guitars. The bass is not at all shy. It is very present with a very nice punch and tightness. Of course the sound was multi layered and very airy. The PRAT was awesome and toe tapping. One thing I had to do while listening to the song was to lower the volume as the treble got a little too tiresome. The fact that I lowered the volume was not quite a bad move as I really got to enjoy the song like this with no problems. Yeah you heard me, I like rock on HD800. It is a little bright sometimes but lowering the volume solved the problem. It was quite ok as I can really enjoy music at even lower volumes with HD800 .
Pink Floyd – Dark Side of the Moon – Time
Damn… The bells at the beginning were absolutely awesome. Every bell was so clear and so well defined in its place. The sounds came from all directions and you could easily concentrate on each and get it’s original location. The sound was pouring effortless and the dynamics were incredible. The soundstage is exceptional and you forget you are listening to headphones.
Infected Mushrooms – IM The Supervisor – Noon
Dat bass… Yes you heard me… Who said HD800 hasn’t got bass, clearly didn’t hear it on proper setup. The bass is so punchy, so deep and so damn fast. The PRAT on this song was awesome. The instruments were very detailed, excellent placed in space and very present throughout the song. The sound came effortless and HD800 handled it with extreme ease.
Tristania – Illumination (symphonic gothic metal)
One word. Excellent! The bass is superb. It really hits you with force and real impact. It is so punchy and so present. The sound was very opened and all the instruments were so well separated and well placed. The sound is multi-layered and not one instrument blended in with another. The voice could use a more natural tone but overall I really loved the song on HD800.
Andre Rieu (Dreaming) – Air (J.S. Bach)
The sound-stage is amazing. The sound is so opened that if you close your eyes you forget you are listening to headphones and that you are at home. You can see yourself in the concert hall, you can see the orchestra and pinpoint every instrument there. The details are amazing and the dynamics are the best I have ever heard in a headphone.
Leonard Cohen – The Traitor
The instruments in the beginning of the song are awesome. The details really tickle your ears. Again the instrument separation is absolutely beautiful. There is so much air between the instruments. You can hear everything and you can easily concentrate on the furthest instrument and still hear it clearly. The voice is quite nicely reproduced and has an excellent texture. It is not as natural as on LCD2, but the reproduction was still awesome.
These headphones are the best headphones I have heard to date. The soundstage and openess of the sound is exemplary on them. I sometimes really forget I am listening to headphones. The sound is so multi-layered that on the the most crowded songs I have listened to, never did I found, not even once, that two instruments blended in the same layer.
The imaging and sound positioning is excellent and you can really pinpoint the location of any sound with great ease.
They truly are detail monsters. The get all out of that recording. I expected to be annoyed by lower resolution files, but I enjoyed them greatly even on some mp3s I had listened to. Sometimes I got scared, as I thought some sounds came from my room and I was preparing for battle if any intruder had broken in my secret audiophile lair:
Ok, the bass…These headphones DO NOT lack bass! I repeat…they DO NOT lack any bass! Their bass is awesome, actually. It is very punchy, very fast and knows how to jam.
The mids are top notch too. The instruments and voices have a wonderfully detailed texture.
The voices are well reproduced but they could use more body and a more natural tone.
I did not find the HD800 to be bright headphones. They are very neutral to me. The times I thought them to be bright I realized the song was at fault being a bright recording. When something was bright on HD800 was even bright on LCD2. Be careful as there are many bright recordings out there. So the treble is very very well defined and is very sparkly when it is needed to. Unfortunately the sound is a slight sibilant but usually when it got too sibilant it was the recordings fault as well.
The dynamics & micro-dynamics on these headphones are excellent . I can really listen to lower volumes with HD800 and still be fully satisfied.
I have used it on some movies as well. They excelled here as well. In crowded open spaces you really feel that you are in that place. It is quite incredible.
I am going to give you a little advice: Don’t use them on a HD horror movie if you have heart problems!
Thanks for the great review. I have the HE-500’s but just ordered the HD800’s to give them a test with my setup for a few weeks.
I tried the LCD2’s but didn’t care for them. They were a bit too dark and the headband really bothered my head after 1-2 hours. But that said, how does the bass on the HD800’s compare to the LCD2’s in your opinion? The LCD2’s had the best bass I’ve heard on any headphone. Very warm and punchy.
Sorry for the delayed answer. I was away for 2 weeks. HD800 has a very very good bass as well when properly amped. Actually the bass is more detailed than lcd2s’, but LCD2 has more meet, more impact overall.
Usually I don’t read post on blogs, however I wish to say that this write-up very pressured me to take a look at and do so!
Your writing style has been amazed me. Thanks, very nice article.
Thank you for the kind words.
noon is AWESOME on hd800, i thought that electronica was the last genre to use to evaluate a hifi headphone….but i was totally wrong.
which serial is your hd800? my new hd800 is not bright or sibilant at all, maybe it’s a conductor “issue”
Partly it is conductor’s fault, especially the DAC unit. Since then I have listened to hd800 in many combinations and it is quite ok regarding the sibilance/brightness.
For example on analog dac it sounded absolutely excellent and it scaled so much I couldn’t believe it.
However, because of the peek it has on 6-8k if I remember correctly, on some songs it could get some sssses still, but I agree that in many cases that is the fault of the recording itself.
I used to have one of the first models of HD800 and it was totally different sounding, that’s why i asked for the s/n, mine is 28xxx.
It has been a surprise, there is no sibilance, brightness, harshness, peaks or whatever.
in the past the 90% of the album I own (more than 1Tb of music and 400cds) where bright or sibilant (just like the dt880 for example), with the one I bought few days ago there is no trace of that, sibilance is there on some recordings (for example freddy mercury voice) but is not a troublesome o painfull sibilance, and i have no need to low the volume level. my he500 is less forgiving in this regard. my rig has always been the same, so sennheiser have made somenthing to the hd800 for sure
Mine is 189xx. I don’t think it is related to this, as the model variance of HD800 is quite small.
And don’t get me wrong, I have listened to HD800 in setups where it is quite ok with sibilance and brightness, but they are more picky than other headphones in this regard.
thank for sharing, the bass really impress. It’s a good review. price in currently ?
It is a very good bass. Detailed controlled and very good impact. However it would need more body to make it a whole.
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I do think that the snap of the snare with HD800 wouldn’t be so alive without the 6kHz peak – tweaking this lower, as some would suggest, resulting in a lifeless rendition, to my old ears at least. It heavily depends on the mastering engineer choice, apart from the ear configuration. The trumpet, the horn is just not the same without it. I guess it has to do with the sensitivity necessary in this area to reproduce the higher order harmonics that results in a correct rendering of the timbre, on one hand and with the dynamic boost necessary to reproduce high slew rate signals that are particularly interesting in this area on the other hand – talking technicalities with no psychoacoustics implied. I’m always puzzled by this debate, that’s why I needed to write about it, exposing the best possible my wannabe-audiophile inner beliefs :-). My 2 cents.