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Sennheiser HD 800 S Reference Headphone System
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- Open-back, circum-aural, reference class dynamic stereo headphones.
- 56mm Ring radiator transducers are the largest drivers ever used in dynamic headphones.
- Innovative absorber technology reduces unwanted frequency response peaks allowing all the music nuances to become audible.
- Unique ear cup design directs sound waves to the ear at a slight angle to create an impressively natural and spatial listening experience.
- Includes two connecting cables: Single ended 1/4" and Balanced 4-pin XLR
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From the manufacturer
Sennheiser is shaping the Future of Audio – a vision built on a 70-year history of innovation and a continued drive for excellence that is woven into our company’s DNA and culture. Around the world, our employees share this passion in the pursuit of the perfect sound, creating products that exceed expectations and set new benchmarks in audio.
Meet the Sennheiser HD 800 S
Sennheiser 800 Series headphones were created with a singular goal: The pursuit of perfect sound. The HD 800 S redefines the audiophile listening experience. It’s capable of breaking down the barrier between audio recording and playback equipment connecting the listener directly to an artist’s original performance. In doing this, the power of emotion is delivered through music.
The patented Ring Radiator transducer is central to the exceptional performance of the HD 800 S. This innovative 56 millimeter diameter driver is the largest used in dynamic headphones. The 40 millimeter aluminum voice coil is driven by a 42 millimeter magnet structure. The transducers diaphragm has two contact points (instead of one used in traditional drivers), at the inside and outside of the ring. Greater surface area coupled with enhanced control of two contact points deliver truly exceptional performance.
- The open back design architecture contributes to exceptional clarity, detail and dynamics.
- Angling the transducers forward of the listener ears helps deliver a wide and open spatial presentation unlike any other headphone.
- Sennheiser’s patented absorber technology absorbs unwanted resonance energy smoothing high frequency response while enhancing low frequency extension to deliver an exceptional musical presentation.
Ergonomic Ear Cups
Innovative, ergonomically designed ear cup frame is crafted of Leona, an ultra-lightweight, non-resonant material with titanium like strength. Stainless steel mesh protects the transducers. Both contribute to wearing comfort and acoustic performance.
The metal headband is 'sandwiched' between several layers of resonance dampening polymers to eliminate unwanted vibrations from being transmitted to the headphone mountings and ear cups.
Luxurious Ear Cushions
High quality, easy to maintain and durable microfiber ear pads provide extreme comfort ensuring hours of listening pleasure.
Ring Radiator Transducer
The patented 56 millimeter ring radiator transducers are the largest dynamic driver used in a headphone. It delivers rich, full sound and reduced distortion by effectively controlling the oscillating surface.
Two Cables Included
Two impedance matched, low capacitance cables are included, one terminated with a 6.3 millimeter connector, the other with 4-pin XLR balanced to take full advantage of balanced output capability of amplifiers like the HDVD 800.
Made in Germany
Manufactured in Germany using handcrafted, artisan assembly complimented by state-of-the-art electronic production and testing equipment.
|HD 800||HD 800 S|
|Frequency Response||4 – 51,000 Hz (-10 dB)||4 – 51,000 Hz (-10 dB)|
|Impedance||300 Ohm||300 Ohm|
|Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)||<0.02% (1 kHz, 100 dB)||<0.02% (1 kHz, 100 dB)|
|Sound Pressure Level (SPL)||102 db (1 kHz, 1 Vrm)||102 db (1 kHz, 1 Vrm)|
|Contact Pressure||~ 3.4 N (± 0.3 N)||~ 3.4 N (± 0.3 N)|
|Transducer Principle||Dynamic Open||Dynamic Open|
|Audio-XLR connector||6.3mm||6.3mm and XLR4|
|Weight w/o Cable||11.6 oz. (330 g)||11.6 oz. (330 g)|
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|Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping||FREE Shipping|
A modern classic, Sennheiser's reference class HD 800 headphones deliver sound that is as natural as possible and true in every detail. Improving on a seemingly perfect formula is not a task undertaken lightly, but Sennheiser's engineers have succeeded in enhancing still further the sound reproduction in the open, circumaural HD 800 S. The striking industrial design combines form and function seamlessly, the layered metal and plastic headband construction attenuating vibrations to the ear cups while the handmade microfiber ear pads offer exceptional comfort for even long periods of listening enjoyment. Crafted for perfection, the HD 800 and the HD 800 S are precision-built in Germany from only the finest materials and components. The transducer is encased by stainless steel, while the headband and headphone mounting utilizes the most advanced materials developed in the aerospace industry for high strength with minimal weight. The new HD 800 S offers even better high precision connectivity options and is now supplied with two connection leads, a 6.3mm connector and a XLR-4 balanced cable to offer even better quality sound from sources with balanced outputs such as the Sennheiser HDVD 800 headphones amplifier.
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I work in the musical instruments (high-end electric guitars) and music (artist/band management) industry so I'm around high-end gear and people who take sound very seriously all the time. When it comes to sound people can be very opinionated and one cannot prove or dispute that one piece of high-end gear is better or worse than the other at relatively similar price points. And as we get to higher and higher price points, we are sure to find more and more people arguing about the justification of such prices.
Some new custom electric guitars can cost $5000 and up. Does that make a custom guitar from company "A" twice as good as a custom guitar from company "B" that's priced at $2500? Of course not. This also applies to amplifiers, speaker cabinets, effects pedals, cables and everything else involved in producing a good sound. Ultimately, all that matters is that the gear you choose works for you.
Obviously, this applies to audiophile gear as well. I've had some good headphones from the likes of AKG, Grado and Sennheiser and I've noticed that all manufacturers have their distinctive sonic stamp. For me, the Sennheiser's character seemed to suit me best as I highly value clarity, balance and prefer "brilliance" over "mellow" and "warmth". Again, it's personal taste and I perfectly understand why some people would prefer more bass or mellowness. I, for one, do not like bass to be emphasized at all and despise boomy bass that overwhelms all the other frequency ranges.
So I decided that I could afford to splurge on the one "ultimate" (for me, anyway) over-ears open-back headphone that I've always wanted. After going over various options, I settled on the HD800S and I can honestly say that I'm very pleased with what I'm hearing. I use it with Chord Electronics' Hugo and Mojo DAC/headphone amps and they match up perfectly. I only play ALAC, high-res FLAC and DSD files to listen to my favorite music with a heavy emphasis on classical music and jazz. For rock, metal and modern pop, ALAC in my iTunes library is fine but for classical and jazz that have much greater dynamic range I definitely prefer high-res FLAC and DSD.
The soundstage of the HD 800S is superb - extremely broad but also with detailed depth that I have not heard from my previous headphones. There is a three-dimensional quality in where the instruments are placed in the stereo spectrum - not only left to right but front to back. It's by far the largest soundstage I've heard from a headphone but it should be noted that high-res FLAC and DSD files along with a superb DAC like the Chord Hugo have a lot to with that as well. To get the most out of a headphone like the HD800S, you do need other critical components to work in conjunction with it.
As for the overall sound quality, it is what I expected out of Sennheiser - bright and super clear but not strident, firm and defined lows, rich mids that are beautifully balanced but with a tad bit more emphasis on the high-mids. I can understand why some would consider this kind of "voicing" to be too bright and prefer something more mellower and warmer but, as I said before, everyone hears things differently. I love the clarity and the definition of the HD800S but also the smoothness of the highs. I haven't heard the 800 but I can say the 800S' highs are silky smooth - especially the string sections of an orchestra which, to me, is the benchmark to check during listening tests.
The lows are big and firm but play more of a "supporting" role to everything else than being out at the front which is, again, exactly the way I like to hear things. Listening to some techno-electronica kinds of stuff, the bass has more than enough punch with plenty of definition along with a nice smooth balance amongst the bass frequencies. The truly beautiful thing about the HD 800S sound is its smoothness across the entire sonic spectrum without any noticeable peaks and valleys. It's not just a matter of balance but a very musical "sheen" around the edges.
The all-critical mids where the ears naturally tune into is rich but super clear with excellent separation between instruments (including voice) across the stereo field. Whether it's Beethoven's 'Eroica' symphony or Miles Davis' 'Kind of Blue' or The Rolling Stones' 'Let It Bleed', I'm hearing details that I've never heard before in all their sonic glory and every one of those little details sounds sublime.
Yes, the HD 800S is certainly an expensive piece of gear but if music and sound quality matter that much to you, it's worth a shot. I certainly didn't expect a $1600 headphone to sound "three times" better than a $500 headphone (and I've had a few in that range). Anyone who expects that doesn't understand the law of diminishing returns when it comes to high-end gear. But in the end, if that last 5~10% in greater clarity, depth and detail can be experienced over the previous headphone and greatly increases your overall enjoyment of the music, then it becomes worth every extra dollar and penny.
It's easy to feel a sense of "buyer's remorse" after purchasing a headphone like this. Expectations can be too high. I had very realistic expectations and in which areas I expected to hear improvements. In those areas, the HD 800S actually exceeded all my expectations and sounds even better than I thought it would. And, as expected, the sound keeps improving as I'm only now reaching the 100th hour with it. It's a great audio device - one of the best I've ever owned and heard. The industrial design and the workmanship are about as good as they get but, ultimately, it's the sound and the HD 800S really delivers like none that I had ever heard.
Addendum: I believe my HD 800S now has surpassed the 150-hour mark. It really does sound so much better than the first few hours. The bit of stiffness I heard around the edges of the notes is now gone. I can sense more "elasticity" in the way the different frequencies and instruments interact with each other. The highs sound smoother, the lows have more bounce and the mids sound richer with even greater detail. The first 100~120 hours really do make a big difference. It just keeps sounding better and better and that's a mighty good thing.
The thing about these beauties is the ridiculous sound stage. Listening to rock, you can hear each individual guitar and every note played. You can tell which drum the drummer is hitting and you can figure out where the lead singer is standing. With classical you can hear exactly where each instrument is located. Heck, sometimes you can hear someone screw up in the woodwind section, that's how accurate these are.
Build quality is superb. This is by far one of the highest build quality of any item I have ever purchased in my life. Nothing feels cheap and it is well built, almost too well built. Definitely some good German engineering at work.
These are very comfortable, sometimes I cannot even tell that they are on. The ear pads are large, however may interfere if you wear glasses.
Remember, this is a headphone for the years to come. People spend $1,500+ on computers that get outdated after a while with a huge price depreciation. 5+ yrs from now these cans will still be worth $1,000+ used as the resale value is incredibly high.
If you work overnights and need something other than a speaker setup, these are the cans to get. Or if you want the best of best, go for the HD800S.
I'd made my peace with the comfort question and was on the verge of spending, for me, a significant amount of money on a new headphone amplifier that I hoped would deal with the "in your head" issue, but in reading about the various amplifiers available people kept referring to the Sennheiser HD 800Ss as setting a new standard for both comfort and fidelity. Pricey, but still cheaper than the amplifiers I was considering. So I decided to try them.
The rest is history. Sennheiser says the HD 800Ss need about 150 hours of playing time to break in, and sure enough, when I tried them right out of the box they sounded terrible: thin, metallic, cold, horrible. But they warmed up after a day of playing CDs through them while they sat on a shelf, and now, maybe 100 listening hours later, I don't know how I lived all these years without them.
Comfort is easy to describe; they're very light, but also the headphone cup itself is ear-shaped, rather than circular, like every other pair of headphones I have. And they're circumaural, which just means they press against your head, not your ear. The combination is terrifically comfortable.
And the sound quality is like nothing I've ever heard before; there may be speakers that can recreate the specific tone and timbre of individual instruments as clearly as the HD 800Ss, but if they exist, I could never afford them. The soundstage is wide, with instruments so precisely located that you can follow individual parts. And the "in your head" quality is simply gone; you're listening to music that sounds as though it's being played in a real, three-dimensional space. They're really quite astounding, as close to listening to a live performance as it gets.
For the record I should say that I listen mostly to classical, some jazz, and some opera, and that the other components in my system are a Cayin CD player (with built-in D/A converter), a Schiitt Lyr amplifier, Pangea Audio power cables, and MIT 330 Plus interconnects. The HD 800Ss come with both single-ended and balanced headphone cables; I'm using the single-ended, which is what the Lyr will accept, and they seem to be of pretty high quality.