Review: Sennheiser HD800s Headphones
All of my listening was through the balanced XLR4 cable, using a wide range of sources and music - but mostly using a FiiO X7 as a DAC, feeding into either the Sennheiser HDVD 800, or a balanced Matrix Quattro amplifier. Both of these sources were able to drive the HD800s perfectly.
I also tried the unbalanced cable straight into the X7, but whilst it was (just) capable of driving the HD800 to sufficient volumes, it didn’t have the same flexibility or dynamic ability that the larger amplifiers offered.
When listening for the first time, the incredible sense of stereo width was apparent. The perceivable soundstage is especially wide, and stereo placement within it is pinpoint accurate. Well-produced binaural recordings are a real treat because of this - the sense of realism is uncanny.
Reaching nice and low, there were no apparent spikes or humps in the lower register. Bass feels mostly linear across the whole spectrum. There are no drastic differences in volume between 40hz to 70hz, and there is a slight step-up around 100hz, which continues to slope upwards through to the lower-mids.
Bass has a respectable amount of presence, pressure and impact - whilst remaining controlled. The lower notes and bass hits are precise, and are driven with authority. Research has come out indicating that this perceived authoritative bass feeling is due to added second harmonic distortion to the lower register. Some may not be a fan of this - but I personally welcome it with open arms. The increased warmth of the headphone opens up the versatility of the HD800s to a lot more types of music than the HD800 was originally capable of handling.
It’s exactly what the original HD800 needed.
This is where the HD800s excels. Accuracy and neutrality are the main strengths that come into play here - and paired with pinpoint stereo placement, these make for a very strong contender in the high-end market. Vocals shine through accurately, without any awkward dips or spikes throughout the range. The angle and distance of the drivers also give a sense of realism that is often not felt with headphones. A truly “out-of-head” stereo experience, with a flawless midrange reproduction.
As accurate as they ever were. The highs are notably detailed without being sibilant - the HD800s can be listened to at decent volumes without severely piercing the ears. The famous 5.5-6k peak has been finally smoothed out, which leaves an overall smoother listening experience. The famous crisp and detailed highs of the HD800 still remain, and compliment the rest of the spectrum perfectly.
I trekked down to Melbourne's headphone specialist, Addicted to Audio in order to compare the HD800s with other premium headphone offererings.
When going head-to-head, the first noticeable quality is that the two headphones have the exact same feel, build and weight. If the HD800 fits you nicely now, the HD800s will be the same in this regard.
The HD800s has a noticeable amount of increased sub and mid-bass compared to the original 800. This brings a perceived overall warmth to the signature, and brings a lot more versatility to the headphone. With the reduced 6K peak, the HD800s has slightly less edgy treble as well - which thankfully hasn’t had any affect on the soundstage.
With the two minor drawbacks of the original HD800 resolved in the HD800s by increasing the bass and removing the 6kHz peak, it appears Sennheiser has been listening to their fanbase, and have acted accordingly.
Whilst the HD800s RRP is $600 higher than the original HD800, it’s worth mentioning that the HD800s now comes with two cables - one of which is the balanced $479 XLR4 cable.
Audeze LCD 2.2 (Pre-fazor)
The Audeze LCD 2.2 has a darker sound signature overall, with a more narrow soundstage. The entire bass register is elevated on the LCD 2.2, and it serves up more impact and thump as a result - and can be listened to at louder volumes comfortably. However, the highs on the HD800s provide more depth and realism to the signature, and the LCD 2.2 falls short in clarity, realism, depth, and soundstage. The HD800s feels more accurate and brighter overall, and remains a good “partner” for the LCD 2.2.
Beyer DT880 600ohm
The DT880 bass is a little more forward in the mix. The HD800s have fantastic imaging and much wider soundstage, and this might partly be due to the distance between the ear and the driver.
Detail seems fairly similar between the two, but the HD800s is slightly hairier, and the upper mids push through a little stronger.
On the other hand, DT880 is also easier to listen to at heavy volume, and is easier to drive (but not by much).
The Sennheiser HD800s is both capable and versatile. The tweaks that Sennheiser have administered to the HD800 have resulted in an overall superb headphone - one that is able to adapt to a wide range of listening habits and music genres. The famous clarity and soundstage of the HD800 remain, but now with some added bass presence and less peaky sibilance.
The RRP for the HD800s at time of writing is $2,599. This is not a budget headphone by any means, and is a premium offering. Whilst there is a jump in price between the original and the updated HD800s, it must be remembered that they now comes standard with the XLR4 balanced cable included - which alone costs $479.
If you’re a fan of the previous high-end Sennheiser offerings, and you have the budget available to you - you won’t be disappointed with this new flagship model.
For more information visit Sennheiser Australia.
Constantly keeping himself busy, Matthew is a production manager, Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt, Head-Fi fanatic, coffee enthusiast and all-round cool Dad.
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