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Are there no cheaper alternatives to the HD 800s?

BingaMoon

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Every single post about headphones on every single website so far I've read has something along the lines of "They're good but they're no Sennheiser HD 800 S" The only exception is when talking about electrostatics. Is there no budget alternative to the HD 800s? Surely there has be one headphone to compete with the 800 S that doesn't cost over a grand.
 

Jimbob54

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Every single post about headphones on every single website so far I've read has something along the lines of "They're good but they're no Sennheiser HD 800 S" The only exception is when talking about electrostatics. Is there no budget alternative to the HD 800s? Surely there has be one headphone to compete with the 800 S that doesn't cost over a grand.
Tricky, because that means defining the characteristic(s) that make people say that. Then metrics to allow comparisons of those factors.

I suspect the combination of supreme comfort plus imaging and soundstage are the main factors. But I can't tell you how they can be reliably measured or compared.
 

maverickronin

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What attribute are you talking about specifically? Like @Jimbob54 said, their most notable characteristics are the soundstage and comfort.

If that's what you mean, the Phillips SHP9500 is kinda the poor man's HD800. A few bands of EQ really brings the soundstage to a level few other headphones match. Not quite as comfy though.
 

BoredErica

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Slightly off topic, but can we even be sure electrostats are even that good? Might just be all placebo and hype for all I know.

I'm not exactly sure what 'competes with' means. If you mean 'on the general level', I think many headphones EQed to Harman Target sound better than HD800s out of the box and are perfectly enjoyable. Provided distortion is not crazy and comfort is fine etc.

Often when people say 'competes with HD800s' and such they mean nebulous things like 'detail' or 'smoothness' or 'microdetail' (whatever that means) and other such words that make me very skeptical they're hearing anything special anymore at that point.

(ps: My HD800 sound kindda bad out of the box.)
 
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BingaMoon

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What attribute are you talking about specifically? Like @Jimbob54 said, their most notable characteristics are the soundstage and comfort.

If that's what you mean, the Phillips SHP9500 is kinda the poor man's HD800. A few bands of EQ really brings the soundstage to a level few other headphones match. Not quite as comfy though.
I don't know I haven't listened to any high end headphones and don't know anything about measurements. It seems to be entirely based on soundstage as if the HD 800s is in it's own tier entirely and other headphones with great soundstage and aren't even close. Even if these same headphones might be comparable to the HD 800s in other ways.
 

Graph Feppar

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For me the defining characteristic of HD800 are:
1. Super wide soundstage.
2. Precise imaging
3. Fast decay ( no ringing).
4. Smooth frequency response.
5 Good bass distortion and excellent mid & highs distortion.
6 Huge earcups.


Smooth doesnt meant no peaks, the HD800 has peaks but they are smooth and easily equalized. Also another defining characteristic is clean CSD waterfall, that is fast decay. The decay speed is directly linked to FR smoothness so its mathematically redudant to list it independently yet I do becose not many people know this. Imaging is also result of smooth frequency response, therefore points 2 and 3 are really just different effects of point 4.

Soundstage too is result of frequency response, theoretically you could give any headphone any soundstage width with right EQ but I never got soundstage as wide as HD800 with EQ. I managed to widen my HD58X but it wasnt "super wide".

HD800S is overhyped, it has far inferior distortion to HD800 and the high frequency peak can be easily modded or EQed. The HD800 has one of the best dynamic driver distortion levels, out of full sized DD open back headphones, I only saw it get beaten by Focal Utopia and its cheaper derivates and 50mm biocelluIose driver headphones like Audioquest Nighthawk but those are more of semi open.

I love the huge earcups, its like cavern for ears, there is nothing else like it. HD800 is extremly unique headphone, there is no cheaper alternative, however I do have some cheaper similiar-ish suggestions.

1. HD560S, pretty wide soundstage, smooth FR fast decay. Its kind of like HD800 but not as low distortion and not as wide sounstage, however at 240 g weight and 150€ price, its great choice.

2. AKG K701, a budget headphone with super wide soundstage. Distortion is worse than HD58X & HD560S, about as good as HD600 in bass, it has spike in midrange distortion. Frequency response sucks balls and is pretty rough. Its dirt cheap and comfortable. K7XX, 712 PRO and K702 65th Anniversary have superior distortion but different pads which to me completly ruin soundstage making it about as wide as cheap closed on ears.

3. HD700, I tried them sadly after I got sudden permanent hearing loss so I dont know how they sound. From reading alot, they seem like little less wide HD800 with HD650 like distortion and very unpopular ear piercing harsh FR. I say, go with HD560S, better distortion, lighter and better comfort, better out of box FR and far cheaper. Maybe HD700 is little wider but for that price I would get used HD800.

The Philips Fidelio series is said to have wide soundstage, the distortion is very bad, I have never tried them. They are inexpensive and people seem to like them alot.
 

FrantzM

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Hi

Going on a limb... Flamesuit on :)
I have only heard the HD800 for a very brief time.. Without EQ. .. less than 15 minutes. It doesn't hold a candle to the HifiMan HE6. Objectively the HE6 is superior anyway.
In term of the famed soundstage the HE6 does the same trick but is much less confortable. The HD800 is a tad more spectacular as I heard it without EQ.
in my honest opinion the HE6 is the superior headphones here... Is it is more difficult to procure and about the same price. I may have to acquire the HE6SE as back-up. just in case.
I were to go by Amir review, the HE6SE is similar to the HE6... in which case it is a better deal than the HD800s and frankly one of the best headphones reviewed here. Top 5.

Peace
 

devopsprodude

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I would put the $350 Hifiman Sundara cans to the Pepsi challenge with the HD800S, no problem. They are a real joy to listen to when properly EQ'ed.
 

Jumbotron

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One alternative is trying to get the HD 800 (the previous model) in the second-hand market. I got mine some days ago after winning an auction on eBay and I have been using them since then.

Currently, I have them equalized to the Harman target provided by Oratory1990. They are comfy, but so far I am not really impressed by their sound, truth be told. It is probable that I end up switching to my DCA Aeon RT (closed).
 

brimble

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Another one to consider is a second-hand Sony MDR-F1, which achieves a great soundstage by having angled drivers, like the HD 800 series, and which is super super comfortable. I've never heard an HD 800 or 800S so I can't make a direct comparison though.
 

Nango

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For me the defining characteristic of HD800 are:
1. Super wide soundstage.
2. Precise imaging
3. Fast decay ( no ringing).
4. Smooth frequency response.
5 Good bass distortion and excellent mid & highs distortion.
6 Huge earcups.


Smooth doesnt meant no peaks, the HD800 has peaks but they are smooth and easily equalized. Also another defining characteristic is clean CSD waterfall, that is fast decay. The decay speed is directly linked to FR smoothness so its mathematically redudant to list it independently yet I do becose not many people know this. Imaging is also result of smooth frequency response, therefore points 2 and 3 are really just different effects of point 4.

Soundstage too is result of frequency response, theoretically you could give any headphone any soundstage width with right EQ but I never got soundstage as wide as HD800 with EQ. I managed to widen my HD58X but it wasnt "super wide".

HD800S is overhyped, it has far inferior distortion to HD800 and the high frequency peak can be easily modded or EQed. The HD800 has one of the best dynamic driver distortion levels, out of full sized DD open back headphones, I only saw it get beaten by Focal Utopia and its cheaper derivates and 50mm biocelluIose driver headphones like Audioquest Nighthawk but those are more of semi open.

I love the huge earcups, its like cavern for ears, there is nothing else like it. HD800 is extremly unique headphone, there is no cheaper alternative, however I do have some cheaper similiar-ish suggestions.

1. HD560S, pretty wide soundstage, smooth FR fast decay. Its kind of like HD800 but not as low distortion and not as wide sounstage, however at 240 g weight and 150€ price, its great choice.

2. AKG K701, a budget headphone with super wide soundstage. Distortion is worse than HD58X & HD560S, about as good as HD600 in bass, it has spike in midrange distortion. Frequency response sucks balls and is pretty rough. Its dirt cheap and comfortable. K7XX, 712 PRO and K702 65th Anniversary have superior distortion but different pads which to me completly ruin soundstage making it about as wide as cheap closed on ears.

3. HD700, I tried them sadly after I got sudden permanent hearing loss so I dont know how they sound. From reading alot, they seem like little less wide HD800 with HD650 like distortion and very unpopular ear piercing harsh FR. I say, go with HD560S, better distortion, lighter and better comfort, better out of box FR and far cheaper. Maybe HD700 is little wider but for that price I would get used HD800.

The Philips Fidelio series is said to have wide soundstage, the distortion is very bad, I have never tried them. They are inexpensive and people seem to like them alot.
Fidelio only good for gaming and cinema.
 

maverickronin

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I don't know I haven't listened to any high end headphones and don't know anything about measurements.

The best thing to do is just listen to a bunch and see what you like. If you're lucky a nearby store might have stuff on demo, but if not then you should keep an eye out for local meetups. Then you can start comparing your experiences with the measurements and experiment with EQing to different target curves.

It seems to be entirely based on soundstage

IME that's the part which actually real. A lot of people like to go on about things like "microdetail" and other more ridiculous terms which are far more poorly defined than soundstage and imaging.

as if the HD 800s is in it's own tier entirely and other headphones with great soundstage and aren't even close. Even if these same headphones might be comparable to the HD 800s in other ways.

IME, the HD800 is overall the best soundstage I've heard, but there are plenty that are at least in the same ballpark.
 

virtua

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Beyerdynamic T1 2nd gen. Generally you'll find them at a much lower price in the used market. It's a headphone people compare to the HD800/S often as it has a similar frequency response and is known for having a wide soundstage (not quite as wide as the HD800 though).
 

Loomynarty

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For me the defining characteristic of HD800 are:
1. Super wide soundstage.
2. Precise imaging
3. Fast decay ( no ringing).
4. Smooth frequency response.
5 Good bass distortion and excellent mid & highs distortion.
6 Huge earcups.


Smooth doesnt meant no peaks, the HD800 has peaks but they are smooth and easily equalized. Also another defining characteristic is clean CSD waterfall, that is fast decay. The decay speed is directly linked to FR smoothness so its mathematically redudant to list it independently yet I do becose not many people know this. Imaging is also result of smooth frequency response, therefore points 2 and 3 are really just different effects of point 4.

Soundstage too is result of frequency response, theoretically you could give any headphone any soundstage width with right EQ but I never got soundstage as wide as HD800 with EQ. I managed to widen my HD58X but it wasnt "super wide".

HD800S is overhyped, it has far inferior distortion to HD800 and the high frequency peak can be easily modded or EQed. The HD800 has one of the best dynamic driver distortion levels, out of full sized DD open back headphones, I only saw it get beaten by Focal Utopia and its cheaper derivates and 50mm biocelluIose driver headphones like Audioquest Nighthawk but those are more of semi open.

I love the huge earcups, its like cavern for ears, there is nothing else like it. HD800 is extremly unique headphone, there is no cheaper alternative, however I do have some cheaper similiar-ish suggestions.

1. HD560S, pretty wide soundstage, smooth FR fast decay. Its kind of like HD800 but not as low distortion and not as wide sounstage, however at 240 g weight and 150€ price, its great choice.

2. AKG K701, a budget headphone with super wide soundstage. Distortion is worse than HD58X & HD560S, about as good as HD600 in bass, it has spike in midrange distortion. Frequency response sucks balls and is pretty rough. Its dirt cheap and comfortable. K7XX, 712 PRO and K702 65th Anniversary have superior distortion but different pads which to me completly ruin soundstage making it about as wide as cheap closed on ears.

3. HD700, I tried them sadly after I got sudden permanent hearing loss so I dont know how they sound. From reading alot, they seem like little less wide HD800 with HD650 like distortion and very unpopular ear piercing harsh FR. I say, go with HD560S, better distortion, lighter and better comfort, better out of box FR and far cheaper. Maybe HD700 is little wider but for that price I would get used HD800.

The Philips Fidelio series is said to have wide soundstage, the distortion is very bad, I have never tried them. They are inexpensive and people seem to like them alot.
I think you're missing a large part of headphone metrics that contribute to their technical ability. Imaging is much more closely related to driver and phase matching. Soundstage is also related to the aforementioned aspects as well as group delay and pinna interaction/HRTF. Frequency response does contribute some to those but it's not the primary cause.

As for a poor man's HD 800, I've heard good things about the DT 880 w/ EQ.
 

BoredErica

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For me the defining characteristic of HD800 are:
1. Super wide soundstage.
2. Precise imaging
3. Fast decay ( no ringing).
4. Smooth frequency response.
5 Good bass distortion and excellent mid & highs distortion.
6 Huge earcups.


Smooth doesnt meant no peaks, the HD800 has peaks but they are smooth and easily equalized. Also another defining characteristic is clean CSD waterfall, that is fast decay. The decay speed is directly linked to FR smoothness so its mathematically redudant to list it independently yet I do becose not many people know this. Imaging is also result of smooth frequency response, therefore points 2 and 3 are really just different effects of point 4.
I mean the distortion shouldn't be audible either way...

And I wouldn't call this good FR either:
index.php


That 6khz is pain.
 

Pearljam5000

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The Soundstage and instrument separation alone is worth the price
So unfortunately no, no cheap headphone can touch it.
 

Graph Feppar

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I think you're missing a large part of headphone metrics that contribute to their technical ability. Imaging is much more closely related to driver and phase matching. Soundstage is also related to the aforementioned aspects as well as group delay and pinna interaction/HRTF. Frequency response does contribute some to those but it's not the primary cause.

As for a poor man's HD 800, I've heard good things about the DT 880 w/ EQ.
No, all soundstage characteristics including imaging are result of frequency response at the eardrum. With just EQ, you can give any headphone any soundstage including making HD800 sound like Etymotic or making Etymotic have soundstage of HD800.

Frequency response and phase response are same thing. You can predict phase response from frequency response and vice versa. You cant change frequency response without changing phase response.

Its like waterfall plots and impulse response, we measure both, talk about both but they are in reallity the same thing. In terms of soundstage, frequency response is all that matters, phase ofcourse follows the FR. Any complex analysis of the physical configuration of the driver and earcup is unnecessary since it all comes down to frequency response.

And, yes, I am aware phase shifting filters and linear phase filters exist, these dont occur in real world headphones or ears.
 

adama99

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Soundstage too is result of frequency response, theoretically you could give any headphone any soundstage width with right EQ but I never got soundstage as wide as HD800 with EQ. I managed to widen my HD58X but it wasnt "super wide".

Interesting. What EQ changes did you make to your 58X to widen the soundstage?
 
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