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454 of 488 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dream the music
I am not a golden ear audiophile. I don't know what it means to hear "the air between the strings" and other such audiophile descriptions. More power to those that can -- I am simply not able to do so. I do however know that music is and always has been my greatest entertainment, and that as I have grown older, my ability to pay higher dollar for my equipment has also...
Published on October 15, 2009 by Timothy Barrow

versus
33 of 46 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars broken after 9 months
Good sound but I expected more for the price, headband started popping off occasionally after 3 months not a big deal just annoying then cable broke after 9 months right where the the connecter meets the cable on the left ear side so now makes popping sounds if I move it, $300 for a replacement cable. Warranty doesn't cover "wear and tear" expected better quality for...
Published 24 months ago by Mnivivi


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454 of 488 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dream the music, October 15, 2009
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Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
I am not a golden ear audiophile. I don't know what it means to hear "the air between the strings" and other such audiophile descriptions. More power to those that can -- I am simply not able to do so. I do however know that music is and always has been my greatest entertainment, and that as I have grown older, my ability to pay higher dollar for my equipment has also grown. No way could I have had these headphones in past times. No way could I have justified their cost. Other priorities would have always taken precedence over these. But now that I can afford them, I still debated and agonized over the cost, but in the end decided I would go for them. Am I glad? Absolutely. They are without question the best sounding headphones I have ever heard. I could hear the difference straight out of the box, I did not even do "A to B" comparisons to know how good they sounded. I did do comparisons with my HD600 to HS650 upgrade and was never sure I heard much difference. Not so with the HD800s.

Here is the best way I can describe them. When I was young, I would listen to a lot of music particularly nice in headphones. I am talking Yes, King Crimson, Pink Floyd and many others. I am a child of the 60's/70's so I would often be a bit "altered' while listening. In those days a pair of Koss headphones, a little "substance", and the latest King Crimson album would lend to a headphone experience whereby I would believe I was literally dreaming the music. (A very nice state). But as time went on, the subtances went away, the latest King Crimson album I had in mind (Larks Tounge in Aspic) is almost 40 years old now, and my hearing ain't what it used to be.

All that was said to lead up to this. With these headphones on (no substances), I am dreaming the music again. The above mentioned artists, and now with music such as Chick Corea and Miles Davis thrown in the mix, sounds like they are in and around my head like they have not been in those 40 gone by years.

I would conclude that these headphones are worth the cost if you are in a position to put out that kind of money AND you really love your music. But be warned --- once you hear these, there's no going back to lesser headphones.
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284 of 322 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Effortless, powerful, and supremely musical; one of the best!, June 7, 2009
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
SHORT VERSION:
The Sennheiser HD800 sets a new metric against which every other serious headphone or transducer must be judged. I've heard too many "breakthroughs" that just couldn't deliver the goods. This product is different.

It's hard to describe a piece of gear which, upon first listen, sounds different than anything you've heard, yet sounds so completely effortless and musical that you're left with the singular impression that the previous way you've listened to music is somehow incomplete, a wrong path if you will, and that this is clearly a better way.

I can't imagine anyone buying these and not being thrilled. They are a rare product indeed -- one that adds a significant new dimension to recordings you may have owned for years and thought you knew.

LONG-WINDED VERSION:
First some background. Music is very important to me; I played the cello for many years, currently sing in a gospel choir, and now do my own audio recordings of choirs and other groups. I spend a lot of time with these tracks, during both the editing process and for my own personal benefit. I often pore over recordings to try and learn the nuance and details of each part.

In this regard my playback system is crucial. I record using a Sony PCM-D50 with a variety of microphones, my favorite being a RODE NT4. I edit these on my Mac and use a Grace m902 for D/A conversion and to drive my headphones. I switch back and forth between AKG K701 headphones (now replaced by the HD800) and a pair of GURU QM10 nearfield studio monitors. With that out of the way let's get to the heart of the matter...

The HD800 is beautifully designed and artfully executed in regard to materials and construction; these headphones are beautiful to look at and handle and are supremely comfortable to wear.

As to performance? The Sennheiser HD800 sets a new metric against which every other serious headphone or transducer must be judged. I'm sorry if that sounds like so much hot air, but I honestly didn't expect to be so impressed -- especially out of the box with no break-in. I've heard too many "breakthroughs" that just couldn't deliver the goods. This product is different.

It's hard to describe a piece of gear which, upon first listen, sounds different than anything you've heard, yet sounds so completely effortless and musical that you're left with the singular impression that the previous way you've listened to music is somehow incomplete, a wrong path if you will, and that this is clearly a better way.

I won't get into the finer points of tonal balance, sound-staging, imaging, or brightness/darkness. All I can say that these headphones are very natural in regards to spatial presentation, in a way that I find entrancing. Their response is smooth and well-balanced at both extremes. I don't know what else to add, besides the fact that they are reproducing music more naturally and effortlessly than any one piece of gear I've added to my system over the past decade.

A great example of what the Sennheisers contribute to my system comes when listening to recordings of the human voice:

ARETHA - LIVE AT FILLMORE WEST on MFSL:
Track 9 "Spirit in the Dark" with Ray Charles
Aretha is in such total control of her voice that she (rather infamously) never sings a song the same way twice -- she is completely improvisational depending on how the spirit moves her.

Listening through the Sennheiser HD800 gave me a far greater sense of what this recording actually sounds like. Previously, I'd been disappointed by the quality of this recording. After hearing it anew via the HD800 I am ready to admit that, despite the blemishes, this recording now has a sound that matches what must have been one massively impressive musical experience. The performance was always there, it's just that now I can hear a new level of detail that was lost.

On this particular song the patter between Aretha and Ray Charles is very cleanly revealed and every nuance is easily distinguished. Each microphone buzz, every shout-out from the crowd, and every detail is now very clearly revealed. However, none of this is to the detriment of the music; to the contrary, it makes the performance that much more complete. It's not as though these things are exposed or laid bare; the fact they are rendered so accurately just seems to add to the fullness and emotional impact of the event.

Bass lines are also very clearly revealed when listening through the Sennheisers; in this respect the AKG K701 is simply out of its' league. The HD800's bass is in NO way emphasized, but it is clear, fast, and a constant force that propels the music.

It's wonderful to hear Aretha's soulful sense of time, of which she is the undisputed master -- she can delay a beat, twist a phrase and bend time, yet once you think she's lost she always brings it back (often at the last instant) in perfect sync. Her rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is an amazing example of this. This particular song has particularly complex vocals on her part, where time gets compressed and she squeezes a lot of syllables in very quickly, to catch the beat at the end of a line or phrase. On most every system I've listened to this recording on, you simply have a difficult time distinguishing every nuance of her phrasing and modulation. Listening through the HD800, you wonder how you never caught these details before.

GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by THE BLIND BOYS OF ALABAMA:
Track 1, "Last Month of the Year"
If you sing this type of music you spend a lot of time trying to clearly hear each vocal part; this is part of a tradition in Gospel music where learning is often by hearing, rote, and repetition. The HD800 has tremendous resolving power in this regard; never before have I been able to distinguish each of the seven members' voices so clearly.

Additionally, at the very end of this track there is some interesting modulation from the electronic organ on the last 18 seconds of the cut; I've never heard this so clearly rendered from beginning to end.

CHILL OUT by JOHN LEE HOOKER:
Track 6, "Tupelo"
Track 6, "Tupelo"
On this track you can clearly hear John's toe-tapping and how it resonates and decays in the studio space. His guitar is beautifully rendered, yet his more aggressive playing never sounds as edgy as with most systems. His humming is clear whether he is doing it loudly or softly. He talks a lot of this song, and I've never heard his voice sound as clear and full.

Track 8, "Annie Mae"
The piano on this track is conveyed better than I've ever heard it before. Listen for John's brief conversation with the pianist at the end of the track; it gives you a great sense of the resonance of the studio and, through the HD800, it's easy to believe you are right there with them.

MY OWN RECORDINGS:
I've also been astonished to hear things on my own recordings (mostly of choirs and vocal groups) that were buried just beneath the surface, things that I didn't fully grasp were there. Subtle sounds from the crowd, a soft whoosh from a ventilation system, the rustle of papers or sound of remote footfalls -- it's all there. Since I have spent many hours editing and polishing these tracks, this struck me as a significant surprise. To hear something on one of your own recordings that you'd never heard clearly before -- that says it all to me. The HD800 is the Hubble Telescope of the audio world when it comes to clarity and resolving power.

One thing is important in this regard. Many products are ruthless when it comes to how they lay bare whatever is on a recording. Many times this leads to the "garbage in, garbage out" conclusion, where we assume that a poor recording alone must be the obvious reason that something sounds the way it does.

Somehow the Sennheisers have both superb resolution, excellent and extended response, AND a wonderful sense of sweetness and "rightness" that isn't explained by charts and specifications. Do terrible recordings still sound that way on HD800? Yes, to a degree, but here's what distinguishes the sound of these headphones. I believe the Sennheisers are pulling more details and artifacts out of bad recordings, and that this adds a depth that makes these recordings more pleasing to listen to. It's not because of any euphonic colorations or something the HD800 is adding to the music.

One more thing anyone considering these headphones should know; it is critical to have a great headphone amp if you are going to get the best out of this product. Comparing the Sennheisers to my AKG K701s (with each driven by my Grace m902), the HD800 requires roughly 20% more gain on the volume pot to reach the same level. The Grace m902 never runs out of steam or sounds as though it's not up to the task, but I can't say anything regarding how these headphones might sound on lesser equipment.

So, with that one caveat, I can't imagine anyone buying these and not being thrilled. They are a rare product indeed -- one that adds a significant new dimension to recordings you may have owned for years and thought you knew. I can't find anything to complain about yet. I have a big head and rather large ears and can't wear my AKG K701 for more than an hour without feeling some discomfort. While writing this I've been listening to the HD800 for nearly four hours, with only a brief break in the middle (a guy has to eat, after all). There is no trace of pain or fatigue; these are, without a doubt, the most comfortable cans I've ever worn.

Are they worth the price for you? It simply depends on your expectations and how you view this type of thing. As a reference tool that allows me to improve my recording and editing skills, there is little doubt they are worth it to me.

If you are someone who doesn't have the space or funds for a high-end system with speakers, I would suggest the HD800 may actually be a bargain. I don't think there are any speakers close to this price point that will offer you a more satisfying glimpse into recorded music. With a good digital source, a decent D/A converter and a good headphone amp, you could have a very nice listening system for $2,000 to $2,500. There aren't many stand-alone systems with speakers that would touch the sound quality of such a system, and it's important to note that speaker set-up and the balancing of room acoustics are now removed from the equation.

Lastly, please remember that these are simply my thoughts and opinions. You may feel very differently about some of my points and be convinced that I am dead wrong. If this is the case please remember that everything in my review is predicated on the concept of "what works for me, in my system, for my purposes, and for my unique ear/brain combination". There may well be an "Absolute Sound", but we all perceive it differently. As long as your system brings you musical enjoyment, I don't care if it's an AM table radio or a roomful of gear.

I hope this review is a useful tool for anyone considering these headphones. Happy listening, regardless; after all, there is so much music and so little time...
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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Standard is Born, December 15, 2009
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
For a number of years the standard among many in the price vs performance was the HD 600's, edged out slightly by the 650's. Even today a pair of these high quality headphones represent some of the best money one can spend compared to the return in performance.

Currently there are a number of great headphones out there in the $300 range (Shure SE530's, Beyerdynamic DT 880's, AKG 701/702's, Dennons AH-D2000) which all offer a similar level of performance that the above mentioned models deliver. So now the choice on most counts comes down to a matter of taste and want each individual cares to have with their primary headphones. With all these great choices out there why would anyone in the right mind spend over $1300 on a pair of cans, is what most regular people are going to say?

1) Ability to produce a sound stage. These headphones have this in spades.

This has to be one of the best strengths that I have encountered with these headphones. One of the main dis-tractors of headphone use for many is the 'in your head' issue and listener fatigue that comes with this, not to mention being further exacerbated by low quality headphones. These cans continually carry me outside of my head. There are many tracks that I have been listening to and it is like I am hearing the sound coming from outside and not from the phones. Open and Wide are good descriptions for these headphones. Listening is a pleasure mainly due to the fact that the music is so open, with a large sound stage before me and much less of the 'in your head' feeling.

2) Neutral. You only hear what is there.

All headphones have a character of their own, not to mention all associated equipment that goes with it. Some will be better for people who want to hear a lot of bass while others will care for something else. These cans are fantastic in giving you what is on your CD/Vinyl/Hard drive. Studio quality comes to mind. Want to hear want the artist/mixer/engineer of your music wanted you hear ? Get these headphones.

3) Quiet. Hear me out on this one, no pun intended.

One of the indicators of the quality of equipment related to music is how well it does quiet. Yes, quiet. Timing is also related to this. The space between your music, the gaps, the different instruments and the sound around them. How those instruments sound when they start and when they end, all make up the music you love. These headphones get out of the way and just let you hear the music. Deep and quiet.

4) Clarity. At 1400 bucks they better be clear.

You ever heard a song and could not make out what was being said by the artist ? A particular line or chorus ? It will not happen here. At least not if you are listening with a high quality headphone amplifier and source component. Yes, everything is crystal clear. No further explanation on this needed.

I must state that to truly realize what these headphones can do, it is mandatory to have them paired with a headphone amp of high caliber. Without, you will be wasting your money.

5) Comfort. Sennheiser headphones have always been the king when it comes to comfort with their top of line phones. No expense was spared on these in this department also. They are comfortable.

Making this type of purchase should not be made lightly no matter how flush with cash you might be. Something at this level should be thought of as a long term investment which will give you continued pleasure for many years to come, not some new flavor of the month. My old HD 600's have gone on to another via eBay after many years of enjoyment and I now have a new set of cans that will provide me with many great new listening experiences.

My headphone listening has gone up a lot since my purchase which is another indicator of how much I am enjoying them. I have had several 'high end' headphones in the past but I have not listened to half as much, in as little time as I have with these headphones.

These headphones do all of these things mentioned above remarkably, extraordinarily, well. Leading you to a wonderful musical experience with your favorite music and a greater understanding of the artists you love and the music they make. I love music. These headphones have been getting me closer to, enjoying my music more and on a deeper level than I ever have before.

If you want a better performance from headphones you will have to spend thousands more on a pair of Stax headphones perhaps. Yes the cost may be considered steep by many but the price vs performance is high, making them a great value.

Thank you Sennheiser and all the remarkable engineers who helped in developing these fantastic cans. A First Class Product.

Sennheiser have set a new standard to which other headphone manufactures will have to meet.
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73 of 83 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Headphone Nirvana!, August 1, 2009
By 
D. Macnaughtan (Polmont, Stirlingshire Scotland) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
I believe I am the very first person to have the pleasure of owning these phones in the UK (Scotland). They are not available yet via Amaxon UK, hence my review on this site. It took 10 weeks of very considerable pressure (via my good friend Mark, at HiFi Corner in Falkirk!) to persuade the powers that be in Sennheiser to ship me a set. These finally arrived on Friday 24th July. All HD800's are uniquely set up and have their own serial number engraved on the head band (mine is 01327). The come in sumptuous packaging!

To get the best out of these phones, you are well advised to invest in a serious headphone amp (I use the Lehmann Black Cube Audio) and some decent interconnects (Chord Anthem 2) to whatever your source is (Sony CDP - 3100 broadcast player). The sky's the limit to the kit you can connect. These phones will not win you friends on the bus or plane - they are open-backed, so very noisy. You need to get away from the world! These are man-size phones. They touch no part of your ear and have just the right pressure on your skull. You can wear them for hours and forget you have them on. You also need to burn them in for at least 100 hours (although they are great, straight out the box). So far, so good!

I have a long history with Sennheiser phones, having worked my way up through HD 25 and HD 650's. Having read all the rave reviews from you lucky people in Obamaland, I was at a loss as to what to expect when I had my first listen. Having been used to very high quality reproduction from the 650's, it was difficult to see where we would go next.

I decided to auditiond a track from a carefully chosen disc on the 650's (Verdi Requiem - Robert Shaw and the Atlanta Symphony), then play it again on the 800's. Very first impression was surprise at how little difference there seemed to be. I tried various favourite tracks and the picture started to become clear.

The difference with the 800's is much more subtle but significant. You only really notice it big time, when you go back to the 650's and appreciate how two-dimensional they are, against the 800's. After an hour or two (and you just want more!), I would sum up the difference - with the 650's you listen to the music while with the 800's you're part of the performance. Nothing is spectacular - everything is natural and real. There is no distortion, no matter what you throw at it. This is honest reproduction. They make bad recordings sound bad and bring out the very best in the stars of your collection. Recordings that you know better than your wife, will suddenly have added elements. Others that you pass by (you know, all these ones on the shelf that you never listen to?), they suddenly come to life. There are not enough hours in the day - you have to sleep sometime!

These phones are for the long haul. They will just get better, the more you play. There is no fear here. You suddenly realise that for years you have been making allowances for bits of recordings that previous kit could not quite handle. These phones are a match for everything in your collection. Be careful with the volume nob - your ears will bleed before these phones struggle!

It is early days yet and I still have so much more listening to do. In 10 years, when Sennheiser release the new HD1000's, I shall no doubt be at the head of the queue. It is difficult to imagine what they can seriously improve - but we've been saying that for 100 years! I suppose we're down to fractions of one percent now.

Should you buy these phones? If you really love your music, you owe it to yourself. If you have been using mediocur kit and want to really hear was recorded at that concert or in that studio - now's your chance. If you want to walk down the street with these plugged into your iPod (you'll need an adaptor!) you've got more money than sense! Yes, it's a big investment (not to mention the kit you really need to appreciate them) but the end result can take you places you never knew existed!

Go for it - and tell me how you got on!

Happy listening

Douglas Macnaughtan ([...])
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Audio perfection at a price, March 18, 2013
By 
David Pitchford (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
I've been a Sennheiser fan for over four years ever since a pair of HD555s changed my life and got me into headphones. So, of course, the HD800s have been my dream headphones for almost as long. Billed as the "world's finest headphones", constructed with laser-precise engineering and innovative ring-shaped drivers, looking like no other headphones in existence (the HD700s weren't out yet)--I knew that someday I would own a pair of my own. When I got my first bonus at work, my first thought was, "Finally, I can buy the pair of HD800s I've always wanted!" So I did. So, after all the anticipation, how do they sound? In a word: perfect. Sennheiser's flagship headphones are everything I hoped for and more.

The following impressions are all based on driving my headphones with a HRT MusicStreamer II+ DAC and a Bottlehead Crack OTL amp with the Speedball upgrade.

When I A-B tested them with my HD650s, I could have sworn someone had snuck into my apartment and switched them with cheap knockoffs. I could barely believe how the HD650s, which I had previously considered to be fantastic, reference-grade headphones, seemed so fuzzy by comparison. I finally understood what people meant by the Sennheiser "veil" by experiencing some headphones that tore it away. With vanishingly low harmonic distortion, he HD800s put nothing between you and your music--for better or for worse. They also have distinctively angled drivers that present sound to your ears at a more natural angle, resulting in the best, widest sound stage I've heard from any headphones.

The frequency response of the HD800s is the most neutral I've ever heard. With less of an emphasis on the mid-lower end than the HD650s, I was worried the lows would sound somewhat thin or weak by comparison. They do sound a bit less "meaty" than the 650s and aren't "bass-head" headphones by any stretch of the imagination, but what bass they do have is tightly controlled and clearly-presented. I listen to lots of metal, and the bass guitar and double kick-pedal drumming come through loud (but not too loud) and clear over them.

The mids are excellent, as I'd expect from any Sennheiser headphone worth its salt; guitars, voices, and other tones are clearly defined and take center stage, not in loudness but in perception as they should to avoid a "boomy" or "tinny" impression. The highs are similarly balanced, allowing me to savor every cymbal hit and pluck of the guitar strings without becoming overpowering or sibilant as my DT990s tend towards.

I was a bit worried that the HD800s would be uncomfortable compared to Sennheiser's other audiophile cans, but these turned out to be unfounded. The HD800s are not only the best-sounding headphones I've ever heard (except maybe some Stax I heard at a meet), they are also the most comfortable. They have the same split-band design of the HD650s to avoid putting pressure on the sensitive middle of the scalp. The enormous earpads are made of soft, foam-like fabric and are the only ones I've found that go completely around my ears without touching them at any point. They are relatively light, with solid construction, and exert considerably less caliper pressure than anything in the HD5xx or 6xx lines. I don't want to take them off--and not just because of how they sound.

I realize I'm almost sounding like an advertisement for the HD800s, or the glossy, 12-language booklet that comes with them praising their engineering and design. These really are the finest headphones I have ever experienced and I can't seem to spend enough time listening to them. The downside is, of course, the eye-popping price tag. I got them with what was essentially free money, so I don't regret my purchase at all, but if you are on more of a budget, I will concede that for costing three times as much as the HD650s, they don't necessarily sound three times as good. If you just want fine, audiophile-quality headphones, there are plenty of cheaper, more cost-effective ones out there. But if you're willing to spend the cost of an old car in order to explore the heights of headphone engineering, you can't do much better than the HD800s.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible headphones, March 9, 2010
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
I made a big decision and spent the money to try a pair of these. I have owned Sennheiser HD 600s for many years and liked them, but always thought there could be improvements. I also have a pair of Denon 5000s. I went back and forth between the 2 quite often. I liked the impact of the Denons but listening fatigue would get to me after a while. The Sennheisers would not give me said fatigue but some recordings just sounded flat with them.

When I put the HD 800's on with albums I have listened to many times with the other 2 headphones I immediately heard....well... MORE. When I say more I mean more of what was in the recording itself. Not just more bass, not just more treble, I felt like I was hearing more of what the producer and engineer wanted me to hear. Everything is so balanced- there is not booming bass covering up little details of the music like in the Denons. The highs sparkle more than the HD 600 but not too much. Simply put these headphones will let you know which albums are recorded badly- because you will hear exactly what is on tape. The HD 800s are the most accurate headphones I have ever heard. They are also the most comfortable- my ears are totally swallowed up by the huge earcups- nothing touches them. The headphones rest against your head not on your ears. This seems to create a bigger soundstage as well.
Like other Sennheiser models these headphones are rated at 300 ohms so they take a bit of power to drive however I have not had trouble getting a comfortable volume level off my pc sound card.
These are the most expensive headphones I have ever purchased but I also feel they will probably be the last pair I ever will need to buy.If that is the case then the money was well spent. Sennheiser is really behing these and individually hand builds and marks each driver with a serial number and notes the specifications so if they ever have to replace parts they can pull up the performance of the exact pair of phones you own. I am looking forward to hearing all of my favorite recordings again and discovering new details. (both good and bad)
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42 of 47 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HD800 Expensive, but Great Sound, September 20, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
The HD800 is amazingly comfortable, hardly notice that I have it on. Much better than my HD650 which itself is quite comfortable.

The sound: Better than the HD650, especially the separation. I can hear each instrument and each voice distinctly from its own different place. Some of the vocals are so intimate that you have the illusion of being a couple of inches from the singer. A downside is that defects in the recordings are more noticeable.

How much better than the HD650? Noticeably better than the HD650, but not a mind-blowing $1,000 better. Still, I am delighted with the HD800 and use it everyday, do not regret the purchase at all. I just don't advertise what I paid for the indulgence.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding headphones, February 22, 2010
By 
Aman George (Falls Church, VA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
The HD800 is an excellent can, and certainly the best that I owned at the time of this review. They have no apparent flaws to my ear, but I must also add that I don't think that the gulf between the 800 and the other two cans I owned, the K701 and the CD3K, was massive. I spent a decent chunk of time during the holidays listening to the three of them and taking notes with a variety of music, and came to the conclusion that the HD800 is truly terrific, but not so good that other excellent headphones are unlistenable by comparison.

Areas where the HD800 was dominant:
-Bass: more bass slam, texture, and extension than the other two cans. The CD3K has decent slam (but worse than the Senn), but less extension; the K701, by contrast, has relatively less slam but excellent extension and texture. Neither one can really hold a candle to the HD800 in this area, though.
-Tonality: The tonality of the HD800 is consistently spot on, and sounds generally very smooth but realistic. The CD3K, by contrast, can sound slightly hollow/plasticky with the wrong instrument, while the K701 can sound grainy and a little harsh.

Areas where the HD800 was close to or slightly better than the other cans here:
-Soundstage and imaging: The HD800 is consistently excellent here, but the gap isn't huge, especially between the HD800 and the K701. In fact, at times, the K701 sounded slightly airier than the Senns in my system (most noticeably with sparse mixes).
-Detail retrieval and speed: All three cans are excellent in this regard. The CD3K may be fractionally slower than the other two, but if so it comes off as sounding as if it has a slightly sweeter decay than actually sounding slow to my ears.
-Vocals: Vocals sound more lush out of the Senns than the other two cans, but more forward with the K701s. Tough call which I like better - the smoothness/sensuality of the Senns is really nice, but the K701 vocal presentation is very engaging in its own right.

Area where the HD800 was bested (slightly):
-Dynamics: I find that the dynamic swings in the K701 sound more dramatic and powerful than they do with the HD800. This was apparent when listening to Beethoven's 9th, when the huge crescendos just sounded slightly more satisfying out of the AKG.

In the end, I ended up selling my K701. A few weeks later, I got a pair of vintage Stax Lambdas, and ended up selling the HD800 as well. I was listening to the Stax much more, and there was no point in a $1,400 decoration, so the Sennheiser had to go, but I will probably continue to regret not having its stunning capabilities at my fingertips anymore.
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71 of 84 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best dynamic headphone so far, August 13, 2009
By 
Pseudonym (San Francisco) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
In general, the more money you spend on a pair of headphones, the more you experience the law of diminishing returns. That's why many dedicated headphone users like keeping at least two different models to complement different musical spectra.

The Senn HD800 comes the closest to my experience at producing a sound that would satisfy a variety of tastes - in one headphone. The sound complements classical and jazz, but renders rock and electronica with surprising authority. I listen to a variety of music in a single listening session, so the HD800 is also extremely convenient; the sound favors mid-range detail, but has accurate quality lows and highs that a few may find too revealing. Although somewhat hefty, they're well-padded and have a velvety comfortability. Even in hot weather, these phones are cool and easy to wear; unlike some phones, these provide a pleasing sound without the use of an amplifier (though a good amp will make most decent setups even better.) It's hallmark clarity is bolstered by its sound: anchored by a full bass, crystalline highs, and a midrange that has definition without being too forward.

The HD800 come in a padded presentation box, a full-color, multi-language booklets, and a voucher from Sennheiser; after contacting them, they'll mail you a certificate of the headphone's EQ readings.

- The primary construction of the HD800 is plastic, though it does have faux aluminum fittings. But the choice of materials is well reasoned; even aluminum adds considerable weight to a pair of headphones, while good quality plastic is relatively light, durable, and is sonically pleasing.
- The HD800 has solid construction, no question about it. They're made to last, and resist chipping, scratching, and bending.
- While an amp is recommended to extract the best sound quality, I've used it primarily with an iMac - not the ideal source, but it's more than sufficient to power these headphones and render a full, balanced sound.
- Pricing can vary. Depending on the seller, new HD800s sell for $1499; new users might be able to get the headphones custom painted by Colorware - for no added charge - a great deal.

Several premium headphones in the price range, including gear from Grado, Audeze, and AKG, have outstanding sound. But the Senn seems to have the pleasing combination of accuracy, depth of sound, and comfort. For under $400, you can purchase a fine headphone that can easily fill most people's musical needs; but if you want the whole package, the HD 800 may be a good investment, despite the hefty price tag.
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33 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding Headphone, August 22, 2009
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Sennheiser HD 800 Over-Ear Circum-Aural Dynamic Headphone (Electronics)
Received these today and have been listening to a wide variety of source material. These phones are outstanding even without a separate headphone amp. I listened to orchestra, classic rock, and jazz and these phones sound good on everything. Of course they sound best with SACD or vinyl but even redbook CD sounds wonderful. Just for fun I tried connecting to ipod and they sound OK although volume level is low because iPod just doesn't put out enough power. The bass, midrange, and highs are all there and the frequency response at least to my ear sounds pretty flat. There is a lot of air on most recordings. For the absolute best reproduction connect to a quality headphone amp and you will probably not believe your ears.

I must confess that when I ordered these I thought I would end up sending them back because I doubted reproduction would be great enough to justify the cost. These babies are not going back. I have never heard a better sounding phone. I was never much a fan of HD 650 like a lot of people were. These phones are far less colored and just a whole lot better.
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