Specs, Build Quality & Looks
Spec-wise the new HD800S, according to Sennheiser, 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
Frequency response : 4 – 51,000 Hz (-10 dB)
THD, total harmonic distortion: 0.02 % (1 kHz 1 Vrms)
Contact pressure: ~ 3,4 N (± 0,3 N)
Price: € 1598,00
I love how the H800 and HD800S look and beside the obvious color changes of the material used, there hardly is any difference between both of the units. Even the silver colored plate on top of the headband containing the serial number doesn’t state it is an “S” version. You either like or hate the industrial and other-way-round design of the HD800(S) but you can’t ever deny that both units are built to perfection. “Deutsche Gründlichkeit” is what it is called. They both come in a really nice box but the HD800S now also comes with a balanced cable, one I gladly used on the original unit as well.
Later this month I’ll be going on a Sennheiser factory tour and I look forward to see how they are developing all their top quality headphones in my neighbor country. Then it’s off to IFA where Sennheiser will be showcasing the new Orpheus (again) and their AMBEO 3D audio. Comfort wise almost all Sennheiser headphones score very well but the Sennheiser HD800 still is one of the most comfortable TOTL headphones. The pads are large and soft, the weight of the headphone is evenly distributed by the headband and the used mechanism allows very precise changes left and right. It’s still not perfect – as I can see people with smaller heads disagreeing – but it’s as close to perfection as it gets for my head.
The funny thing is that I have seen several websites announce the new HD800S as the perfect mix between accuracy and pleasure and that’s exactly what I meant earlier with my comment on the extra bass. You won’t ever hear me say that the original HD800 isn’t a pleasure to listen to and that it sounds cold without emotion but I can see why some people would. It’s clear to me that Sennheiser wanted to convert this group of people to HD800 fans as well, and so the tuning of the HD800 was (slightly) altered. I first expected Sennheiser to just touch the treble part but that wasn’t the case, instead they chose to modify the lower range as well.
Over the years people have been using the HD800 as an example to describe other headphones. The HD800 is known as one of the very best headphones for what transparency, detail, layering, neutrality and positioning are concerned. It has one of the widest and deepest sound stages you’ll ever hear but the treble section – because of its analytical character, extension and peak – can sometimes sound a little harsh. That however does also depend on the amplifier and source you’re using and it of course depends on your own ears. I won’t deny that treble can sometimes sound a little harsher but it doesn’t really bother me at the same time.
In short the new HD800S is easier to like and it unlike the HD800 doesn’t need the best amplifier to sound really good, even though a better amplifier will make your HD800S sound even better. The biggest change you will hear when switching from the HD800 to the HD800S is the difference in how the HD800S presents the bass section and the lower mids. A part from that and the softer treble the HD800S, to me, has changed very little in the mids but the bass/body modification certainly impacts other parts of the HD800S’ sound and – in single ended mode, to me – not always in a positive way.
A few things the HD800S will keep showing you are a very wide sound stage with great instrumental separation, a spacious and real sound like no other headphone has and a level of precision, clarity and detail that can hardly get any better with today’s technology. The main difference now is that the HD800S’s bass has more amplitude/impact and that it combined with a thicker and slightly smoother lower mids part is “easier” to listen to. At the same time the downside is that this increase in bass body and smoothness now kind of covers up the excellent detail, depth and layering the HD800(S) in the bass and lower range has to offer. Yes it’s easier to like and listen to from any source or with lesser quality files but I can’t keep but feeling I’m missing something now compared to the original. Treble wise the HD800S seems to have gotten rid of the peak and combined with the new lower tuning the HD800s simply is a more musical and easier to listen to headphone that still has an incredible level of everything. With the original amplifier/system synergy was very important but with the new HD800S this is less the case, allowing a whole lot more people to love the Sennheiser.
While the HD800S no longer absolutely requires a great setup, it still is a headphone that improves with a higher level amplifier and for testing it I used a whole bunch of amplifiers from several price ranges in balanced and single ended mode. Now here’s the exciting part: When you switch to balanced mode on solid state amps, the HD800S loses a bit of the new added bass impact and it actually becomes the almost perfect HD800(S) with a musical presentation AND the clarity, precision and layering the original unit is known for. In balanced mode the things I don’t like in Single Ended mode (solid state) are less present and the HD800S becomes extremely good. Sennheiser clearly didn’t add that balanced cable just for the heck of it. If you can go balanced, I strongly suggest you do as the HD800S will blow you away. And then there’s how perfect it sounds with tube amps…
More on sound on Page Three, after the click HERE or below