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Sennheiser HD800S Review (Headphone)

buz

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For all the raving about how comfy these are, I sadly can't wholly agree. After about an hour the headband starts to exert uncomfortable pressure spots on the top of my head...

I don't seem to get the same issue with hd600 so not quite sure what is going on.

Is there some mod for the headband that adds more cushioning?
 

Spyart

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Today I've heard it and love it. Punch, low end, 3d and super comfort - all in. Despise now hd650 in all aspects)
 

bboris77

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Today I've heard it and love it. Punch, low end, 3d and super comfort - all in. Despise now hd650 in all aspects)
I still like my HD600 ;)

However, I agree about the low end - I was shocked to hear that the HD800S actually had a healthy sub-bass and bass as well. Reviews generally focus on its soundstage and airiness which may lead people to believe that it is bass-light which it is DEFINITELY not. The HD600 has a bit of upper bass bloat, but is clearly missing the lower bass and sub bass that the HD800S brings to the table.
 

Spyart

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I still like my HD600 ;)

However, I agree about the low end - I was shocked to hear that the HD800S actually had a healthy sub-bass and bass as well. Reviews generally focus on its soundstage and airiness which may lead people to believe that it is bass-light which it is DEFINITELY not. The HD600 has a bit of upper bass bloat, but is clearly missing the lower bass and sub bass that the HD800S brings to the table.
Exactly my thoughts! I think sub plays well because of the ear cup size, it's gigantic and push the skull not so hard at the same time. Also ear does not even try to touch the driver's surface, that's cause proper mid bass, it's starting to create a scene similar to studio room slightly separate all sounds in the mix but still keep overall picture in the place. Fantastic performance! Wanna steal it from the store but just leave it with a joy haha
 

echopraxia

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I've now compared my Drop Sennheiser HD6XX vs Sennheiser HD800S, both with the corresponding Oratory EQ filters applied!

With both EQ'ed, they do sound quite similar in overall tonal character, but there are definitely noticeable differences, and the HD800S still wins my preference by a good margin! There's a large soundstage, clarity, and 'openness' improvement from the HD800S, as well as being the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn.

I suppose it's possible that the frequency response of the HD6XX does not match the HD650 close enough (I think they're supposed to be the same headphones just rebranded, though) for the Oratory EQ filters to work at their best. However, the fact that the appropriately EQ'ed sound signatures of each headphone sound very similar seem to suggest they're at least partially applicable to the Drop.com Sennheiser HD6XX.

I'm not sure what explains why the HD800S sound so much better, but perhaps they have lower IMD or something like that? Or perhaps the location and angle of the drivers relative to the ear? In any case, the results are fantastic and I will be keeping the HD800S as my new primary headphones :D The HD650/HD6XX have been my only tolerable long-term listening headphones for over 10 years since I discovered them, and only now thanks to the very effective EQ filters I can replace them with the HD800S (which otherwise are painfully bright, so much as to fatigue my ears almost instantly).

The HD800S equalized is definitely the best sound quality I've ever heard from a headphone, and comes quite close to the overall experience of some of the best speakers (like my Genelec 8351B's) minus the tactile fully-body bass sensation of course, and is surprisingly speaker-like in its soundstage (though of course a headphone can never perfectly match that aspect of actual speakers).
 
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solderdude

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I'm not sure what explains why the HD800S sound so much better

Very, very different drivers.
Driver-ear difference is very different, driver angle is different, amount of air inside the cups is very different, venting the front of the driver is very different, pads are very different, distortion, ringing, frequency response (don't expect measurements/EQ to be exact, regardless who makes the measurements) also differ.
The only things they have in common are the brand and the HD*** designations.

And yes, I agree. Even when you get them tonally the same they don't sound the same. This despite people saying you can take the cheapest headphone and EQ'ing it will give the same results.
 
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echopraxia

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Very, very different drivers.
Driver-ear difference is very different, driver angle is different, amount of air inside the cups is very different, venting the front of the driver is very different, pads are very different, distortion, ringing, frequency response (don't expect measurements/EQ to be exact, regardless who makes the measurements) also differ.
The only things they have in common are the brand and the HD*** designations.

And yes, I agree. Even when you get them tonally the same they don't sound the same. This despite people saying you can take the cheapest headphone and EQ'ing it will give the same results.
Yeah I know they basically share nothing in common -- I was just alluding to what you describe in your last sentence, which is that there is clearly a LOT more to headphone sound quality than what frequency response and harmonic distortion currently seems to be able to measure.

It almost seems as if you'd need a Klippel-like sound field to truly understand headphone sound quality, given that if the sound field is very inconsistent you could have a headphone that sounds amazing to one person but very different to another depending on simple position variations of the cups over the ear -- even if both measured 100% identically with a single mic position.
 

solderdude

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Positional changes, seal, hair between ears and drivers, listening SPL, preference, recording quality, mood, comfort, time of day also add to the entire experience as well as circumstances and comparing to headphone X.

Yes, it certainly is not only FR.
FR is the most important factor though when it comes to tonality.
 

Jimbob54

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And yes, I agree. Even when you get them tonally the same they don't sound the same. This despite people saying you can take the cheapest headphone and EQ'ing it will give the same results.

There seems to be a reluctance to accept this in some quarters. Without ever having had the more expensive headphones on their head.

Does anyone say a "good" pair of £500 speakers sound the same as a "good" £5000 pair both EQ to the same room?
 

Inner Space

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... amount of air inside the cups is very different, venting the front of the driver is very different ...

... there is clearly a LOT more to headphone sound quality than what frequency response and harmonic distortion currently seems to be able to measure ...

I'm a reluctant, situational headphone user - only when I have to - and I vastly prefer the 800S (and the 800 before it) because the fit is light, secure, cool, comfortable and unobtrusive, certainly physically - but also acoustically. Imagine a trial where you wear the headphone for two hours without any music playing. I think the 800s would get much closer than most to a kind of natural, real-world awareness of the space around us, because of its openness. Does that matter when the music is playing? I think perhaps it does, in a deeply psychoacoustic way.

I would like to see measurements of how various phones alter incoming external sounds ... maybe there would be a correlation to perceived SQ - or maybe not, in which case I'll crawl back under my speaker-loving rock.
 

MayaTlab

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there is clearly a LOT more to headphone sound quality than what frequency response and harmonic distortion currently seems to be able to measure.

Even with two decently engineered headphones, if equalised to the same target from third party dummy head / test rig measurement, the FR is likely to still be different at your eardrum. Most likely less so than before if two headphones diverged significantly, but probably not quite enough less so to be inaudible. This can be fairly easily checked below 1kHz with binaural mics (an illustration of that phenomenon here : https://www.head-fi.org/threads/the...-at-a-breakthrough-value.943107/post-16300055).
Above that... it's more complicated.
So it could still be possible that it's still all about FR... since it remains an uncontrolled variable.

Now some headphones have unEQable aspects to their performance, but if it isn't because of the form factor (on ears and sealing issues for example), it's usually because of engineering shortcomings, so why even bother buying them if you want to apply EQ and if these shortcomings are too significant...

If you want to know I personally went the opposite way a few years ago (kept my HD650, sold the HD800) after I started to become a bit better at using PEQs to tune to my own taste. Mainly because the HD650 was less uneven on my head past a few kHz and as a result easier to EQ overall (EQing trebles by ears is very difficult IMO). But it's quite possible that someone else would have a different experience in the trebles.
 

Robbo99999

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I've now compared my Drop Sennheiser HD6XX vs Sennheiser HD800S, both with the corresponding Oratory EQ filters applied!

With both EQ'ed, they do sound quite similar in overall tonal character, but there are definitely noticeable differences, and the HD800S still wins my preference by a good margin! There's a large soundstage, clarity, and 'openness' improvement from the HD800S, as well as being the most comfortable headphones I've ever worn.

I suppose it's possible that the frequency response of the HD6XX does not match the HD650 close enough (I think they're supposed to be the same headphones just rebranded, though) for the Oratory EQ filters to work at their best. However, the fact that the appropriately EQ'ed sound signatures of each headphone sound very similar seem to suggest they're at least partially applicable to the Drop.com Sennheiser HD6XX.

I'm not sure what explains why the HD800S sound so much better, but perhaps they have lower IMD or something like that? Or perhaps the location and angle of the drivers relative to the ear? In any case, the results are fantastic and I will be keeping the HD800S as my new primary headphones :D The HD650/HD6XX have been my only tolerable long-term listening headphones for over 10 years since I discovered them, and only now thanks to the very effective EQ filters I can replace them with the HD800S (which otherwise are painfully bright, so much as to fatigue my ears almost instantly).

The HD800S equalized is definitely the best sound quality I've ever heard from a headphone, and comes quite close to the overall experience of some of the best speakers (like my Genelec 8351B's) minus the tactile fully-body bass sensation of course, and is surprisingly speaker-like in its soundstage (though of course a headphone can never perfectly match that aspect of actual speakers).
I'm not surprised by your observations comparing HD6XX with HD800s, I came to the same conclusions as you but this time re my HD600 vs my K702....I'm not surprised one bit, good observation from you I would say.
 

Robbo99999

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I enjoy reading everyones thoughts on these. Thanks. They’re currently the only $1K+ headphones I’d consider buying.
I agree, I think they're the only pair that could be worth it for $1000, because of the soundstage. For everything else (other enjoyment factors in music) you can get there with EQ on some good quality reasonably priced headphones. Not that I'm gonna be buying them though because I suspect my K702 gets there or thereabouts re soundstage for only £109 whilst EQ'd.
 

frix

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Good comfort is very important as well. The HD800 is not super light but the weight is nicely balanced across the head. Also my average ears have so much room they aren't touching anything. Combined with the pads and the airy constructuon this headphone is non sweaty and useable even during hot summer days.
 

kith

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For all the raving about how comfy these are, I sadly can't wholly agree. After about an hour the headband starts to exert uncomfortable pressure spots on the top of my head...

I don't seem to get the same issue with hd600 so not quite sure what is going on.

Is there some mod for the headband that adds more cushioning?

I used ZMF padding pilot pads, i also has same experience like you, now it's better than ever, no more issue
 

roskodan

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For all the raving about how comfy these are, I sadly can't wholly agree. After about an hour the headband starts to exert uncomfortable pressure spots on the top of my head...

I don't seem to get the same issue with hd600 so not quite sure what is going on.

Is there some mod for the headband that adds more cushioning?
HD800 headband comfort cover. A layer of microfiber cloth under the headband and another bigger one that wraps everything together, with two paperclips to hold it. Cut to size with a scalpel. Took 5 mins. Works really great. Looks cute too. Can't go wrong with the sporty neon lime green. :p
11466671.jpg
Tip: when removing, pull the top cloth piece out from underneath the clip, don't try to pull out the clip itself, as it will pierce the cloth and get stuck. ;)

p.s. it also increases the headband on head stability
 

Robbo99999

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The soundstage is the primary reason (for me) that I think these may be worth a try.
Yep, because in my experience EQ on good quality headphones (EQ'able frequency responses & free from major bass disortion issues) can give parity/equality amoungst good quality headphones apart from the soundstage factor, which seems to be baked into the headphone design itself to a large extent
 

roskodan

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Depends on the DSP used. Some DSP that use impulse response, BRIR, can make a headphone sound any way you want, even like speakers in a room (Impulcifer).

Even PEQ can improve dramatically how sound stage (head stage?) is perceived. My LCD2C without PEQ correction have an abysmal presentation (forward mids, heavily recessed presence region), but when both LCD2C and HD800 are corrected to Harman (AutoEQ oratory1990), the difference is not so drastic anymore. The LCD2C improve substantially while the HD800 perhaps lose some of that extra treble "explosion".
 
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