German Flagship Battle: The HD800 and the T1

As of 2010, these are the two flagship models being offered by the two of the biggest headphone company in the world, Sennheiser, and Beyerdynamic. Both offers the latest technology in their drivers. Ring shaped driver in the Sennheiser HD800, and a Tesla driver in the Beyerdynamic T1. Certainly, the engineers at the respective companies believe that their product is the best the world has ever seen. And while I was reading the press releases of both headphones, my imagination really led me to think that the sound out of these cans would be nothing like I’ve ever heard before.

Having both cans in my possession right now, hooked up to a fairly premium system comprising the Grace m902 and the Burson HA-160 amplifier, I can tell you that the two flagships sound pretty much like, well, headphones. Yep, no sugar coated review here, and I can understand if your spouse questions the logic behind a $1,000 pair of headphones. Unless you play for the NBA, or you manage some big private equity funds, or you come from a royal Arab family, the price tag may not make a lot of sense. But it’s good to be able to taste what the best sounds like, and if I can’t yet afford a Mercedes SLR, a flagship German headphone is good enough for the time being.

The two headphones carries a noticeably different sound signature from each other. They are quite balanced sounding in their own sense, but the minute you wear them on your head you’ll notice that the two is very different. Both headphones are clearly very good, and they both deserve the flagship status of their respective brands. The T1 has a great feel of clarity that lets you vision the music better, while the HD800 has a smooth and analog sound that lets you get a better mood of the music. Of course both headphones are not the ultimate, end-of-journey headphones. And as you will see when I started comparing the headphones on different CDs, the T1 will excel at one music, where the HD800 will excel at another.

Holding both headphones in your hand, I have to give the extra credit to the folks at Sennheiser. Regardless of your personal preference in aesthetics and design, it is not an easy thing to design a new housing from scratch, especially considering the high acoustic expectations that’s placed on a flagship headphone like the HD800. The Beyerdynamic T1 does come in a premium build quality and craftmanship, and in some ways, it feels more solid than the HD800′s. But there is no denying that Beyer took an existing housing from the DT880 series, and sort of added the “premium package option” on an old chassis. Both headphones are comfortable on my head, but the HD800 scores an extra two points in comfort ahead of the T1. What’s important to mention is that both headphones have the driver placed in an angle to the ear, instead of the usual straight orientation. While this technology has existed in the lesser Sennheisers (HD555/595, for instance), I believe this is the first implementation by Beyer.

I think the build quality of both headphones are high enough, and I really have no complain with either one. However, they do cost quite a sum at $1295.00 and $1399.95 for the T1 and the HD800, respectively, and for the sake of the review, I think they deserve a closer scrutiny.

The alcantara fiber material found in the HD800 earpads and headband is definitely more luxurious than the leather and verlour pads found on the T1. The alcantara is very soft, and the feeling of it touching your skin feels very luxurious. The pads adjustment mechanism is also fancier and more precise on the HD800, while on the T1 is more or less the same as the lesser DT880 model. On the cables, the T1′s cable is very beefy and each channel runs on individual lines throughout the length of the cable. The HD800, however, is more luxurious, with fiber sleeving and the custom 1/4″ jack as opposed to the standard mass produced 1/4″ Neutrik on the T1. Again, just nitpicking here, as they both do a great job of serving as a conductor. I really can’t comment on the sound quality of the cables, but it’s nice to have removable cables like on the HD800, as I can swap the stock cable to aftermarket ones fairly easily and get an instant boost on sound quality.

When I first received the T1, the pads were a little small and somehow they didn’t accomodate my ears too well. My ears were pressing against the pads, and also the pressure of the headphone was a little uncomfortable. After roughly a week of intensive listening, the pads must have adjusted and now the T1 is quite comfortable, but it still doesn’t match the much superior comfort of the HD800.

In case you’ve been asking, which is which: The silver color is the HD800, the champagne color is the T1. Anyway this shot shows the housing size difference, the HD800 being much larger.


For this comparison, I used a very neutral system that has no strong colorations to get the best view of each headphones’ personality. For personal listening, of course you can match them to amplifiers and source with certain characteristics to better match your music. The source I use this time is the Grace m902 DAC with the Ipod Classic and Onkyo ND-S1 dock as the transport. The amplifier used is the Burson all discrete solid state amplifier, the HA-160. In comparison to the Grace m902′s amplifier unit, the Burson HA-160 exhibits better imaging performance and so I did not use the m902′s amplifier unit.

The amplifier requirements of the two headphones are quite medium to high. The Sennheiser HD800 is 300Ω and the Beyerdynamic T1 is 600Ω. As long as your amplifiers have enough gain, it should be good for the two headphones. So in a sense, you don’t really need a lot of current like on the orthodynamics like the Hifiman HE5. They are very revealing of the component behind them, and so, make sure that your amplifier can produce good and clean signals, because any kind of distortions will sound ugly on these headphones. But far more than the amplifiers, the source requirement, I believe is even higher. And the better your source is, the better these two headphones will shine. I wouldn’t be surprised to see these headphones being paired with $2000+ sources.

I need to give credit to Hadi, one of our contributors, who helped me a great deal during the period of the review, and I definitely appreciate his inputs on how to put what we hear into words. He suggested that it’ll be a good idea to include a comparison notes, since these two flagship headphones rightly deserves a deeper scrutiny than the usual review format. And so I did. This is the first review that I wrote that includes comparison notes.


  • Ypocaramel

    I'm going have to pour myself some tea. It's a very interesting approach, especially because these two headphones have been covered technically before. Most people need to pay more attention to their preferred genres the impact that has on their perceptions too.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Let me know when you've finished reading through the 7 pages! :D

  • Frank

    Very nice review! It was fun to read!

    You could add a well recorded piece of organ music to this comparison, too.

    I have owned both headphones together with an outstanding Meier Audio headphones amp. As I do listen very much to classical music, the T1 had to leave me after a while, because the HD800's sound was often more realistic and involving to me.

    The final decision whether to keep the HD800 or the T1 came through listening to some peaces of organ music. Here the HD800 beats the T1 in nearly every aspect. The HD800's sound is so good that I was able to separate the location of different organ pipes in some well recorded pieces. I never heard this before, except from live performances in different churches. Neither the T1 nor any other headphone I've listened to so far was able to do such a thing. Also the bass is far more realistic presented by the HD800.

    So my opinion is:

    For classical music the HD800 is the overall better choice. For organ pieces it's possibly the best choice of all headphones on the market today.

    The HD800 beats the T1 on:

    organ music,

    orchestral peaces for big orchestras (Symphonies),

    operas

    For chamber music both headphones are to recommend.

    Rock and other kinds of popular music, I use to listen to with some Grado headphones. They make more fun when it comes to those types of musical genres.

    Greetings,

    Frank

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Frank,
      I can imagine how the HD800 will play a good organ recording. It would be much better at pipe organs than the T1. Unfortunately I gave the last good organ recording CD I have (besides, it was a DVD-A) to a friend.

      Also, I know that I can't possibly include every type of instruments on the comparison notes. I wanted to include some wind instruments and trumpets, and an opera, but it would make the article way too long.

      Thanks for the comments!

  • a_tumiwa

    hi,

    i love your website and review, very detail and complete.

    Thanks,

    Tumiwa

  • Gen

    Yes! I knew it! HD800 always the best headphone! Finally a real fair enough review out!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Gen,
      Thanks for the comments. It’s good to hear some comments from Japan. :)

  • Quokka

    Is the Burson HA-160 amp really the best amp to use with the T1 & HD800? Some reviews have found the treble to be overpowering and suggest this amp is better suited to darker sounding headphones. A more neutral sounding amp would tame the treble issues found with both these headphones.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Some reviews have found the treble to be overpowering and suggest this amp is better suited to darker sounding headphones. A more neutral sounding amp would tame the treble issues found with both these headphones.

      Hi Quokka,
      As I’ve mentioned in the first page of the article, the objective of the comparison is to find out the true character of both headphones.
      The Burson is actually a very neutral sounding amplifier, and it serves that purpose very well.

      If I had paired the T1 with a darker sounding amp, it may sound better, but then the evaluation won’t be as honest. With a darker sounding amp, I may report that “the T1 has a very balanced sound signature with no hint of hot treble”, while the reality is, it does have a tendency for a hot treble.

      It’s like using a very warm tube amp for a review. Then every headphone that we review will sound nice and warm, while in reality, they are not, and the warmth is caused by the coloration of the amplifiers.

      I hope you understand. These pairings are in the best interest for the review.

      By all means, you’re free to pair the headphones to any amplifier you want and get the kind of sound you want.

      Cheers.

  • Quokka

    Hi Mike
    Thanks for your reply. I found your review very helpful as I am currently looking at buying either the T1 or the HD800.
    My current source & amp is the DacMagic with the Talisman T-3H amp so I suppose I will need to try both headphones with my own gear before I buy.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Quokka, a personal audition is always best for making these kind of a decisions. :)

      • Quokka

        Thanks Mike

        I've just bought the T1.

        Didn't get a chance to hear the HD800 but had a good long listening session with the T1. Sounds fantastic with my Talisman T-3H amp and DacMagic.

        Cheers

  • HC

    Greetings Mike,

    Thank you for the detailed comparison between two great headphones.
    It’s a very interesting article.

    Would like to know if there are any plans to make it a 3-way competition between these 2 cans and the new HE6 from Hifiman?

    Cheers!

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi HC,
      We would love to review the HE6 and perhaps against the LCD2 headphone as well. But for the next two-three weeks, we are taking a break from high end headphones, and focusing more on the more mainstream products with the double drivers IEM comparison, single driver IEM comparison, and the closed headphones comparison. Those are three big articles, and I'm focusing my time on them at the moment.

      Here is the thread for the closed headphones comparison: http://www.headfonia.com/bbpress/topic.php?id=44. :)

      • HC

        Greetings,

        I see, thank you Mike.

        Looking forward to your impression with them. =)

        Cheers!

  • Rosmadi

    Nice write-up! Looking forward to your next review :)

  • Shahrose

    Hey Mike. Nice review. Didn't you have a CEC CD player and Beta22 that you originally used for your reviews? I was disappointed to find you using the Burson to test these cans.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hey Shahrose. I’ve had three different Beta22 builds till now, first a 3ch, then a 4ch, and now a 2ch. The fact that I’m using a Burson in this review should tell you of its performance. :D

      • Anonymous

        Hi mike, I’m new on here and I just stumbled across this article very well written by the way. I’m probably going to buy the Burson HA 160D in the near future and plan to eventually mate it with the Senn 650 HD, Grado PS 1000 as well as the T1. My main genres of music is classic metal (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest) modern metal (In Flames, Insomnium, Arch Enemy, etc) as well as everyday mainstream rock (High Holy Days, I Mother Earth, Linkin Park, Our Lady Peace etc) and classic rock (Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones, Journey etc). Over the last few months I’ve started to also get into Jazz (Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis) and the odd R&B/Soul/Rapp song (Seal, Akon, Snoop Dogg, Ludacris).

        My question to you is considering the treble on the T1 can be hot should I maybe forget about the Burson and find another alternative for driving my future headgear. Once I get the Burson HA 160D I was planning on slowly buying my cans starting off with the Grado’s then eventually getting the Senn’s in a year or two. Eventually once I get all the cans I want I was thinking of maybe experimenting and giving a good tube amp a shot (Zana Deux, WA2). I probably wouldn’t be getting the T1′s for a good 3 or 4 years. Whats your advice on the matter should I make the plunge and go with the Burson?

  • Dadab12

    Great review mike, I’m about to buy the HD800 for mostly jazz, acoustic and classical.
    though I havn’t decided on an amp yet, any suggestions ?

    • Anonymous

      The HD800 is extremely revealing, hence merciless to bad recordings. Although you can get solid state amps with better technicalities, I find that Eddie Current’s Zana Deux to be one of the best pairing with the HD800 as it allows me to enjoy many older ADD and AAD recordings that I otherwise wont be able to listen with the HD800. Most of the Jazz great artist also had relatively mediocre recordings, including Coltrane, Miles Davis, etc, and the Zana is again good for these reasons.

      Technicalities wise, the Zana is weak on low bass, but the Impact is still good for Symphnonies. Although the soundstage width is not very wide, I find it to have one of the best soundstage imaging, depth, and ambiance. It is one of the amps that can make me forget about the technical stuff and just enjoy the music.

      Another amp that pairs with the HD800 very well is the Manley Neo 300-B preamp, but it is $6,000.

      • Dadab12

        Thanks mike, unfortunately I won’t be able to spend that much on an amp. I’m getting the HD800 for a cheap price hence the will to buy it.
        I was looking at the 600$ price range though are there any good amps that are worth to couple with the HD 800?

        • Anonymous

          Ummm the HD800 is very demanding of a good amp… i actually would recommend the hd600/650, sony z1000, or the orthodynamics if you can’t swing the budget for the high end amps.

          At the very minimum, get the woo6. I think it is the cheapest amp that I can live with the HD800.

          • Dadab12

            I decided to go with the SPL Auditor, I hope I made a good choice.

            • Anonymous

              Okay, good choice. Very neutral and colorless amp.

              • Dadab12

                Thank you, you have an experience with it ?

  • Dadab12

    Thanks you recommend the Woo audio 6 over the Burson 160?
    and how does the M3 compare to either of them?
    I hope I don’t get screwed with an amp though

  • Matt

    Hi Mike,
    What a great comparison!
    In your opinion, which of the HD800 or the T1 has richer vocals and more mids presence?
    I’m leaning toward the HD800 at the moment because of its impressive 3D soundstage & imaging.
    Thanks.

    • Anonymous

      The HD800′s vocal is mellower and warmer, but I think the T1 has a more spot on presence, though it is crisper in vocal quality. I like the T1 for rock vocals that need to be more lively, where the HD800 is better suited for the mellower, warmer vocal stuff.

      • Matt

        Okay, I got your points Mike.
        What’s your opinion of the T1 against the LCD-2 for mainstream pop & rock?
        Cheers.

        • Anonymous

          Mainstream Pop and Rock. Go with the LCD-2.

          • Matt

            Thanks.
            I also listen to many live recordings. Which of the T1 or LCD-2 has wider, deeper and 3D soundstage? Or maybe Hifiman orthos better-off in that regards?

            • Anonymous

              The LCD-2 has a wider and deeper 3-D soundstage than the T1. The Hifiman
              orthos are not that good with soundstage (the HE-500 is the best so far,
              but still not on par with the LCD-2, T1 or HD800).

              • Matt

                OK Mike.
                So the HE-500 is even smaller and less 3D than the T1? That would be a big no then.

                Do you think the LCD-2 has better pinpoint precision and separation than the T1?
                Which of these two is more forward-sounding?
                Thanks a lot Mike.

                • Anonymous

                  Hi Matt,
                  I never said that the HE-500 is even smaller than the T1.

                  The T1 has a more precise pinpoint imaging and is also more forward sounding than the LCD-2.

                  • Matt

                    Sorry Mike, my bad.
                    I assumed based on your comment that the HE-500 is still not on par with the T1 soundstage-wise.

                    • Anonymous

                      Bigger sound stage, but not as pin point as the T1.

                      What music do you listen to?

                    • Matt

                      Live pop recordings. Looking for a headphone that not sounds in-your-head.
                      I love lush vocals too, that’s why I asked you the HD800 vs T1 question days ago.

                      I’m a bit concerned that the LCD-2 overpowering bass might impact its midrange presence, not to mention its dark signature.
                      But from what you stated already, it seems that the LCD-2 probably have better soundstage than the new HE-500.
                      Big thanks Mike.

                    • Ivan

                      What if I listen to a mix of concerto and metal? Which can would better suit that mix, HD800, T1 or HE-6?

                    • Anonymous

                      What kind of a concerto?

                      I am not so sure about metal though… either the LCD-2 or the T1.

              • Tony

                Greetings Mike. Is it safe to say the LCD-2 has bigger 3D soundstage and better precision imaging than the HE-500? Cheers.

                • Anonymous

                  Hi Tony,
                  Better precision imaging yes, but smaller than the HE-500.

  • Gary

    Hey Mike, I’ve heard that the HD800 is very revealing of bad recordings. However, what exactly is a “bad recording” ? Has it anything to do with bit rate?

  • Teo

    Hey Mike, do you think the T1 sounds recessed and distant in regards to its midrange? Thanks buddy.

    • Anonymous

      The upper mid is quite forward actually, the lower mid is not so forward
      but it’s definitely more forward than say a DT880. I think what people
      may miss in the T1′s mids is that it doesn’t have the thick and/or full
      midrange body that you hear *usually* on warmer sounding cans.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347080445 Jackson Taylor

    Mike/anyone else, the HD800 sounds like my cup of tea after reading this review, and the HD650 isn’t, and the 800 looks like it has a very different sound than the 650. I listen to both a little metal, jazz, blues, RnB/Soul, and hip hop. The ?HD800 bass sounds like it is for me, and the T1s without the such hot treble sound like they are for me.

    Do you think the treble on the T1s would be a lot better and mids/bass would be a lot better with a tube amp? It sounds like it after reading.

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jackson,
      I still think that the HD800 is not a headphone that you get and expect it to sound good with different recordings/genres. Most recordings are very bad in quality and the HD800 just doesn’t play well with those recordings. The T1 on the other hand plays better with those different recordings, even the sub-par ones, though technically the HD800 is still the better headphone.
      And moving from the DT990, perhaps the T1 would be the more natural upgrade for you.
      Recently I made a similar suggestion on the HD800 and the T1 comparison. You can read it here: http://www.headfonia.com/what-ive-learned-two-years-writing-for-headfonia/

    • Anonymous

      Hi Jackson,
      I still think that the HD800 is not a headphone that you get and expect it to sound good with different recordings/genres. Most recordings are very bad in quality and the HD800 just doesn’t play well with those recordings. The T1 on the other hand plays better with those different recordings, even the sub-par ones, though technically the HD800 is still the better headphone.
      And moving from the DT990, perhaps the T1 would be the more natural upgrade for you.
      Recently I made a similar suggestion on the HD800 and the T1 comparison. You can read it here: http://www.headfonia.com/what-ive-learned-two-years-writing-for-headfonia/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1347080445 Jackson Taylor

    Mike/anyone else, the HD800 sounds like my cup of tea after reading this review, and the HD650 isn’t, and the 800 looks like it has a very different sound than the 650. I listen to both a little metal, jazz, blues, RnB/Soul, and hip hop. The ?HD800 bass sounds like it is for me, and the T1s without the such hot treble sound like they are for me.

    Do you think the treble on the T1s would be a lot better and mids/bass would be a lot better with a tube amp? It sounds like it after reading.

  • Naim Choudhury

    Hi Heafonia, firstly, massive commendations on a truly thorough and expertly written article and comparison. One of the best I’ve read.

    My question is whether or not there’s a chance you could test the new version of the T1 in similar fashion. Based on the pictures, you tested the older revision of the T1, which has a slightly different driver and headband. The newer one is a little less treble hot or bright, and has slightly punchier and greater bass quantity. I feel the balance is much better with the new revision (serial number beyond 4XXX or close), and it would be great to see the comparison re-done to test the differences.Many thanks
    -N-

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      There is a new version of the T1? Are you sure about this?

      Anyway if you read on the comparison article, the differences between the HD800 and the T1 is really ultimately a difference of sound signature and presentation that results from the different drivers and the different housing design. The HD800 has its own way of presenting things, and likewise the T1. While the changes you mentioned seems to be just a slight change in frequency response.

      • Naim Choudhury

        I’m not sure I would call it new per say, but from what I have read at Head.fi, the newer version has a different headband and driver cover (a new film over the drivers). I have only used what others refer to as the updated version, but some Head.Fi’ers claim the newer one not only sounds different (less bright and more bass heavy) but also looks different on frequency graphs as well. 

        It’s something I unfortunately do not have the resources to test myself, but I’m certainly intrigued by it. If you ever get a chance to test the newer version I’d love to hear your thoughts on any potential differences.

        http://www.head-fi.org/t/542487/beyerdynamic-t1s-headband-exchange

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          That’s really interesting and thanks for letting me know. I’ll try to find one to check out.

  • Dan

    What a helpful review.  I am for the first time seriously considering headphones and this was most helpful not only because of the two models being reviewed but also because it provides a good idea of what to listen for.

    I listen primarily to jass and classical.  I have a Simaudio Moon 3.3i CD player and a Simaudio Moon 340i amp – connected with balanced cables from the transport to the amp.  My speakers are Vienna Acoustics “Mozart” speakers.  

    I have two questions.  Which headphones would you recommend for my configuration and the styles of music I like?  (Of course I love the speakers but sometimes my wife would prefer to be listening to something else or watching the TV so I need headphones so I can listen “in private”.

    Second, you make a number of comments about good and bad recordings.  (I appreciated your points on what makes a recording good or bad.)  My question is, where do I find the “good” recordings?  When searching for music of the type that I like how can identify those recordings that will sound the best given my setup?

    Thanks!

    Dan

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Dan, 
      I still think that Classical is best with the HD800. For Jazz, the T1 is also pretty good, though again I still think the HD800 is best for that. The HD800 is weaker for Rock and Pop stuff, where the T1 is much better for those genres. In short the HD800 is more specialized, where the T1 has a wider genre bandwith. 

      Now where do you find good recordings. 
      For classical it’s simpler. The majority of classical recordings from the major labels are good. Some are better than others, but the majority is good. DDD stuff tend to be best, but the newer ADD recordings are also pretty good. AAD recordings usually are horrible for headphone listening as they contain so much noise. 

      For Jazz, it’s trickier. First you have the audiophile Jazz recordings. Generally excellent recording quality from the usual labels like Stockfish, 3 Blind Mice, Telarc, Chesky et cetera. Audiophile recordings usually have stuff like “superior recording”, “24-Bit mastering”, and all sort of recording technology terms text plastered on the front cover. The artists are usually not that well known in the mainstream Jazz circle, and the CDs sell for quite a premium over regular Jazz stuff.

      Then you have the regular Jazz recordings, famous artists like Coltrane and Miles Davis. Recording quality usually is not too good and it would be good to have a smooth tube amp to mellow out the noise and cracks in these recordings. 

  • Dan

    Hi Mike
    Were both the headphones tested using the stock cables or whiplash audio TWag V2 cables?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Dan,
      They were tested with stock cables.

  • Laurencewayne

    Mike-The Ety4PT + digiZoid is a winner-just as your review indicated.  But…I just can’t give up on my HD800.  I did Tyll’s mod (which seemed to do more for the bottom than the top) and have an Emmeline 2 Raptor; ALO cables going out AND on the HD800…and it still seems harsh.  As you said, especially with poor recordings.  But, I too appreciate Horowitz et al and am pursuing the ideal match.  Question, what amp will give the  smooth response over all?  Up to &2500?  Or, as you previously thought, my Raptor should do and it’s just me?  Thanks for the great assistance-gosh the digiZoid is fun!  (Maybe that’s the answer with the HD800?)

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Laurence,
      Out of all the amps I’ve tried, the Zana Deux is the most tolerant of bad recordings. I was listening to old AAD recordings on the Zana + HD800 pairing, something that I can’t imagine doing with any of the other amps. I believe it’s priced at $2,300 and you should be able to get it for less than $2K on Head-Fi’s 2nd hand gear forums.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Windsor-McGilvray/728850109 Windsor McGilvray

    Hi Mike - 

    I received an HD 800 (sn 02***) a few days ago and am really, really enjoying it for all applications so far.

    I’ve saw it written that the earlier production models of the HD 800 differ in sound to later models, which have a slightly warmer sound that is fuller in the bass section. Have you heard anything about that?

    Best wishes, 
    Windsor

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Windsor,
      I have tested two HD800s two years apart in production and heard no difference, except for the difference due to the pads.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/ARATZ3ATTMQZ4EHYHSWOFCCA64 MC

    Hi Mike

    I would really love to hear your opinion on my planned HD800 setup. Do you see a weak link in this chain from source to ear?

    - Apple Lossless file like Beatles remastered
    - Onkyo ND-S1 digital media transport
    - USB B-B cable (nothing fancy)
    - Lehmann Black Cube Linear amp
    - Sennheiser HD800
    - Ear :-)

    Hope you’ll comment.

    Michael

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      HI MC,
      First you can’t hook up the Onkyo to the Lehmann. Have to go through a PC for it to work. And while you’re at it may be cheaper to just use the stock Ipod USB dock cable > Laptop > Lehmann.
      Second my friend who owns the USB Linear amp says that the DAC is just okay.
      Thirdly with the Beatles remastered I’d rather have the Zana Deux amp. The Lehmann is good for modern classical/Jazz digital DDD recordings.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/ARATZ3ATTMQZ4EHYHSWOFCCA64 MC

        Hi Mike

        Thanks a lot for your comments. I really appreciate them. I guess the Onkyo is a missing link and not a weak link. That is a disappointment to me, because according to the product description the Onkyo can “Send the audio digital signal you’ve extracted to a better DAC (digital to analog converter) … with full-resolution file formats such as Apple Lossless and WAV… the dock can also be used as a standalone device alongside any AV receiver/amplifier or a suitable standalone DAC.” I thought that would include the Lehmanns build in Burr-Brown PCM2702E. Too bad :-(
        Two elements in the equation are already present: the Lehmann amp and the HD800 :-) And I am trying to figure out how to get the most out of their potential. I’ll try running the iPod signal through the laptop. But if the Lehmann DAC isn’t the best, a decent CD player might be the answer I’m looking for. Any suggestion on how to make the most of my equipment or how to best feed my amp is more than welcome.

        Michael

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          I’d skip the CD player and get the best USB DAC you can find. Much better performance for the money.
          Either the HRT MS2+ or the Dacport LX for ~$300
          Or the Kingrex UD384 for ~$600.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Windsor-McGilvray/728850109 Windsor McGilvray

    Hi Mike – I’ve been with the HD 800 for a few weeks now. I’ve been listening at moderate volumes and for some reason am finding that I have slight ringing in my my ears afterwards, so I’m thinking about getting an HD 600 again to make it easier on my ears. Do you think that the ringing could be due to the HD 800′s plentiful treble?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Yes the HD800 is very picky of the recording and gear you use it with. The HD600/650 are easier to enjoy.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Windsor-McGilvray/728850109 Windsor McGilvray

        Update: I bought a used white driver HD 600 today and I love it!

        I also realise that the treble issues I experienced with the HD 800 were due to listening too loud. Since reading into that, I’ve changed my listening volume to ~80 dB and problem I had with the HD 800′s treble seems to have noticeably diminished – I still hear the HD 800 as slightly treble-centric and wouldn’t be surprised if the issues many people have with the HD 800 arise from listening too loud (if you listen too loud with it or any other headphone, it will hurt!)

  • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

    Thanks for posting, Windsor.

  • AlonditeMX

    I’m having trouble figuring out why there’s repeated mention of the HD800 not being able to maintain the pace on faster tracks when it’s easily the fastest dynamic driver in the world; ludicrously “black between notes.”

    Seriously, they are estat-fast. All the measurements back it up too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nana.brenu.9 Nana Brenu

    Hello Mike, I have just finished going through all the pages. What a review !! You have convinced me to get an HD800. I hope i dont sound like a broken record asking this question: i know you are a big fan of the Bottlehead crack amps, but are there any tube amps you can suggest for under $1000? lets say your top 5 choices?

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Thanks, Nana.

      Under $1K right now I’d still get the Crack and the best quality DAC I can afford for the HD800.

      • http://www.facebook.com/nana.brenu.9 Nana Brenu

        which DAC amps would you recommend?

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam
          • Trent_D

            Or here is Mike with similar material.
            http://www.headfonia.com/source-recommendations/

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

              Really the sub $500 range you have the few usual suspects, slightly higher up you have the KingRex and beyond that you’re always spoilt for choices considering money isn’t an object :S

        • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

          DAC for the HD800? Kingrex UD384 is very nice with the UPower. That’s about $700. If you can afford more, try the Neko D100 at around $1,500.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

      If you really don’t want to DIY the Crack, also try the LF339 which L. reviewed recently. It gives the clinical HD800 a little more warmth and musicality perhaps?

      The problem with the Crack is that, it makes all the other sub 1k amps not worth their price and the only tube amps that are arguably better in the sub 1k price range is the LF339 and WA6 while carrying a higher price tag. And when I say “arguably”, I’m implying that their sound is also different. Really depends on what sound you’re looking for.

      • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

        That Crack messes up the price performance table really bad. ;)

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=692862021 Nick Tam

          Indeed. It’s just too bad some people are afraid of a soldering iron =P Yet, the sound of Crack made the process of building it SOOOOOO satisfying

          • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

            Mike built mine, very satisfying too!

  • http://www.facebook.com/bennyaims Benny Aims

    Hi, i’m a music producer of electronic music and wanted to know which would be better for techno, electro, house and hip hop etc.? Including amp

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      Hi Benny,
      I’m not too experienced with producing electronic music. I asked my friend Moko who produce music as well and he told me he’d go with the Beyer. For the amplifier, if you want something accurate, try the SPL Phonitor/Auditor.

      http://www.headfonia.com/spls-phonitor-and-auditor/

  • ryan

    Hey Mike, I just got the HD800 last week but I just got time to listen to it now. There is some sort of creaking sound coming from the left driver. Is it a driver issue or due to insufficient burn-in? I can keep it for another week to listen if the creaking sound goes away. Otherwise I will be exchanging for a new pair

    • dalethorn

      Where did you buy it? What’s the serial number? Did it come with the freq. response curve certificate?

      • ryan

        I bought it from a local headphone store. SN17495. It didn’t come with any certificate.

        • dalethorn

          So then it’s used and the source of the problem could be anything. The problem I would have in seeking repairs outside of Sennheiser is driver matching. The HD800 is truly a precision instrument, and any fix to one driver or other part on one side only could unbalance it. BTW, here’s a picture of my certificate: http://dalethorn.com/Photos/Leica_X1/Headphone_Sennheiser_Hd800_Certificate.jpg

          • ryan

            Hey dale, how do you know it’s use? If it’s faulty, I will exchange it for another new pair, not getting it fix.
            The local store doesn’t have one in stock, they contacted the local Senn for one

            • dalethorn

              To me, not used means new, unopened, with the certificate that comes with it in the package with the books. The HD800s aren’t mass produced like most headphones, so they are individually tested very thoroughly before they leave the manufacture site. It seems extremely unlikely for a brand new HD800 to fail right out of the box. I’ve bought 100 headphones, most of which were mass manufactured, and none of them failed. It’s probably difficult to tell whether an HD800 is unused, since they aren’t sealed in the kind of tamper-proof plastic containers that most consumer products are enclosed in.

              • ryan

                It comes with the books except for the certificate. It seems that you need to email Senn for the certificate to be sent to you.

              • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                When I bought mine, it didn’t come with a frequency response curve either. I had to send a letter or some sort to Sennheiser (I can’t remember if it was an email or an online registration or some sort) before the frequency response curve arrived a month later.

                • dalethorn

                  That sounds right. I wonder if the cable connections might be loose, or some other part that could be put back by hand.

                  • ryan

                    After unplugging and plugging the cables back, the creaking sound seems to go away. Got to monitor a few more weeks to see if everything is okay

                    • dalethorn

                      Try to wipe down the cable ends and maybe brush any debris or loose dirt out of the sockets using a clean cloth or brush. The reason I say that is I’ve owned the 565, 580, 2 600′s and 2 650′s and the 800, and all of the headphones from the 565 to 650 would develop loose connections in the cable sockets. So I would pull them out and wipe, then plug them back in and problem solved. I knew other owners of 600 and 650 who were ready to buy new cables, and I showed them what to do – they were amazed.

                    • ryan

                      The problem comes back again…

                    • dalethorn

                      Well, since Sennheiser charges a staggering amount of money for replacement parts, you would not want to take any chances with a flaky headphone.

                    • ryan

                      Yes, I am gonna exchanged it for another new pair. I having sleepless nights and I am not going to live with this.

                    • ryan

                      The cause of the problem is the cable connector from the headphone side, when the connector is push forward.

                      Future HD800 owner, please take note of this.

                    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                      Thank you, Ryan.

                      To be honest I’ve never heard of any HD800 having that problem. Yours is the first I’ve heard.

                    • ryan

                      It’s a manufacturing defect, I have already exchanged for a new pair :)

                    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                      Nice, what serial number?

                    • ryan

                      The new pair is 15xxx.

                    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

                      Nice. Jaben guys told me the numbers above 10k have more bass and more relaxed treble.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      That shouldn’t be a burn in issue, I think something is not right.

      • ryan

        I feel the same way too. I gonna get it exchange next week

  • Andy Q

    Hi Mike,
    Which of the T1 and HD800 would you recommend to combine with a Neko D100 Mk2 and a Crack Speedball. I had previously owned the T1 but found the treble too much and that after the initial 10 minutes where I was amazed by the clarity of the sound that it wasn’t practical for a prolonged listening session. I have since sold my T1 but now that I have picked up a Neko on the cheap I was considering buying the T1 for another go since the Neko is known to tame the treble down a bit. However after reading your article I am wondering if perhaps a HD800 might be better suited to me. I like technicalities but I also like to enjoy the music. What are your thoughts on that particular setup? Thanks Mike.

    Andy.

    • http://www.headfonia.com Mike

      The T1 is like that. The neko can help but I don’t know what recordings you play. If your recordings are bright then the Neko may not do much.

    • dalethorn

      My impression of the T1 is the treble issue is a fairly narrow peak, and just reducing that peak some would get you a marvelous sound you might like a lot better than the HD800. Just a thought.

  • Andy Q

    Just a quick update. I finally got the neko going to a crack speedball to a T1 with Whiplash hybrid v3 cable. Love the sound. Can listen to it all day. Treble under control and a good serving of bass (previously lacking from the T1). I tried a TH900 with this setup and it was too bassy for me. My friend’s wolfson based audio-gd nfb2 -> crack speedball -> th900 was excellent however.

    • http://www.headfonia.com/ L.

      That’s nice to hear andy. thanks for sharing